Peter the Hermit incites the Christians against the Turks
And after our audience with the Sultan, Father and I travelled to the city of Tarsus by the western Sea, for it was Mother’s idea to buy some dates and pomegranates there and some harmless handiwork that was beautifully done by the infidels who lived there. These infidels called themselves Christians and worshipped the Prophet Jesus Christ. Though we too believed in Jesus, he was certainly not Christ and in no way superior to the Holy Prophet Muhammad. And in this respect, the Christians were different from us.
It was a good day in the Tarsus market. Ripe dates and plump pomegranates were abundant that day, and it was a wholesome experience. The sun was out, but it was not too bright or hot, and the light breeze was refreshing. Men were brightly dressed as they sifted through the piles of goods they searched for.
Suddenly, the sound of hooves bustled through the market in a noisy rush. The men on those horses wore rags and looked no better than beggars. It was clear to us that all of them were Christian infidels. We had lived in peace with these people for many years in the Empire. They were always humble and submissive, and it never occurred to me how they even possessed the horses. My only deduction is that they stole them from their betters.
Father would not let them have their way, and so he stood up against them and slew a great many. But they were too numerous, and most of the People were not armed like him to resist the attack. Suddenly, a ragged Christian cut him down with a sword, and proclaimed, “Know that I am Peter the Hermit, and this is God’s Kingdom from now on.”
I picked up Father’s sword and fought with them. If I were to die in Allah’s name today, let me at least do so with the honor and dignity worthy of the Sultan’s trust. I fought well and survived for some time.
Suddenly, a large army of Seljuks appeared behind us. The general in front proudly proclaimed, “I am Nizam al-Mulk, Lord General of the Sultan Malik-Shah. Come to your deaths, infidels!”
And Peter the Hermit, despite being outnumbered, pointed a wretched finger against the noble general and shouted, “Do not fear him, Crusaders. What is the sword of man against the will of God?”
And so, the Crusaders marched out against the Sultan’s men, and they were easily cut down. Soon, the Seljuks trapped Peter the Hermit and made him a prisoner. The second leader of the Crusaders was about to flee. He was dressed in even worse rags than Peter the Hermit, and Prince Nizam ordered me, “Boy, capture that man!”
My desire for revenge and my sense of duty conflicted me. I was now a man sworn to the service of the Sultan, and I would not put my personal agenda before that of His Majesty’s. So I pursued the ragged Crusade leader and challenged him, “State your name, and fight me if you are man.”
“I am Simon the Penniless, and God has delivered your Kingdom unto me. Even if we all perish today, your hold of the Holy Lands will not hold for more than a few years.”
Simon was more preacher than fighter. My feints got the better of him, for I was swift with the sword even at that young age, and soon, I injured and arrested Simon, bringing him to the presence of Prince Nizam.
Nizam: “Well done, lad. What is it that you desire in return for this service? Tell me and I shall grant you.”
Sala-hu-din: “These men murdered my father. I wish for their lives.”
Nizam: “It is not mine to give. Peter the Hermit and Simon the Penniless have incited the Christian vagabonds to take arms against our Sultan, and I have orders to capture and enslave them. Ask for something that I may grant you.”
Sala-hu-din: “Then, I wish to be of your service. I am a Prince of Kurdistan, from the small but proud clan of Ayyubids. Let me hold a sword and vanquish the Christians, for if I can not have Peter the Hermit’s head, at least let me throw my vengeance against his fellow infidels. May the will of Allah be praised.”
And though I was but a boy, Prince Nizam saw the determination in my eyes. Though from a minor clan and a Kurd at that, I was still a royalty, and the Empire would not want undue unrest from the Ayyubids from a prince whose honor was snubbed, so Nizam appraised me and said, “Very well, noble Prince. From today onwards, you enter the service of Nizam al-Mulk, but know that military discipline is a harsh thing. And a prince is no different from the commoner he fights on the field.”
Sala-hu-din: “I would expect no less, my liege.”
And so, in this manner, at the age of thirteen, I entered the service of Prince Nizam, the most powerful general in the Empire. My heart burned with vengeance against the Crusaders that I could not kill, but there was nothing I could do. I vowed that one day, I would set sail to Europe and bring blood and death to their Kings, but little did I know that it was unnecessary. The Crusaders were bringing the war to our lands, and so I waited for them, not with fear, but with anticipation.