Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saladin Book 7. Jerusalem and Chivalry

“What is Jerusalem worth to you?”…Count Balian of Bouillon

Balian of Bouillon, the last defender of Christian Jerusalem

Balian took up the helm that passed to him on de Chateurnay’s death. His first act was to promote all remaining warriors in Jerusalem to knighthood! It was outrageous and opposed by the original knights, but Balian would not hear of it. Like a madman, he personally knighted every warrior, squire, and boy of fighting age. But morale amongst these men improved massively. Now, they had honor, and honor above all was what they fought for. Balian knew that knighthood meant nothing if they were all killed in Jerusalem that day, and if they survived against these odds, then surely, their valor deserved them to be knights. He silenced the opposition, “Once I too was a mere blacksmith, yet today, you follow my lead in the war against the great Saladin and his hordes.”

Our men tried to take Jerusalem in a storm, but it was never meant to be so easy. During the parley, Balian had secretly sowed the lands in front of Jerusalem with caltrops. These devices, invented by the Romans many centuries ago, had four spikes on all side. Regardless of how they fell, the sharp side would rise against the hooves of horses and the foot of men. Many of my men were injured by caltrops. I myself was personally scarred.

When we finally got through the field of caltrops with much difficulty, Balian ordered hot water and sand to be poured on my men, even as archers shot down. Scaling the walls of Jerusalem was tougher than a cliff, and I cursed Nizam for ever losing the city in the first place.

But soon, our numbers and perseverance won. Many brave men had died, but Balian was running out of both food supplies and clean water. He would have to negotiate truce, or all his men would die, so he agreed to meet me in front of the city gates…alone. To honor him, I too didn’t bring any warrior. We were here to speak of truce, and for two noble men, there would be no treachery.

Saladin: “What is it you desire of me, Balian?”

Balian: “I shall surrender Jerusalem to you, in return for safe passage of all men and women of this city who are Christians and those who chose to follow us.”

Saladin: “Very well, I grant you my word. Many years ago, in Tripoli, a prince called Bohemund the Giant spared me, and today, I will return the favor to my enemies.”

Balian saw the nobility in my eyes and nodded in agreement. As I walked back to my men, he asked, “Saladin, what is Jerusalem worth to you?”

Saladin: “Nothing.” Then, I walked a few more steps and told him, “Everything”

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