THE FLORENTINE VAMPIRE: LOVE IS THE DRUG THAT KILLS YOU by Francis-Marie de Châtillon

Chapter 6.

When all this started I was Guy de Nanterre and I was married to my beautiful wife Othenin de Villefranche. I was the lord of Nanterre, a rich man but not overly opulent in my life-style. Pious? Of course. A true believer? Yes. And in love? Oh yes, yes! I’d gone off to Crusade as was expected and found the situation one of great alarm. The Mussulmen, by the 1170s, were uniting against us and Saladin began expanding his power from Egypt and had started to surround the Holy Land. The result? The Kingdom of Jerusalem was being encircled by a unified enemy for the first time in its history. Saladin attacked the Crusader state in 1177 but King Baldwin saw him off at the Battle of Montgisard. In the wake of the battle we had an uneasy truce. And with it, as the Mussulman states were uniting, there was increasing tension and argument in Jerusalem. Then Guy de Lusignan came to the throne in 1186. He was supported by a Raynald de Chatillon, a loose cannon if ever there was one. Raynald—I knew him well—attacked any trade caravan he could, provoked Saladin on every occasion and turned his castle at Kerak into a pleasure dome. In saying all this, he was also a very competent military commander and not a bad man really, in my opinion. In any event things came to a head when his men assaulted an especially large trade caravan, and in the fighting his troops killed many of the guards, captured the merchants, and stole the goods. Well of course. Normal. Now Saladin, operating within the terms of the truce, sent envoys to Guy seeking compensation and redress. Reliant on Raynald to maintain his power, Guy was forced to send them away unsatisfied. This meant war. To the north, Raymond of Tripoli elected to conclude a separate peace with Saladin to protect his lands. This was a mistake and he shouldn’t have done it. The deal backfired on him when Saladin requested permission for his son, Al-Afdal, to lead a force through Raymond’s lands. See the problem? Raymond saw 7,000 men enter Galilee and defeat a Crusader force at Cresson on May 1st. Guy got windy and called his allies to assemble. He hoped to strike before Saladin could invade in force. Raymond renounced his treaty with Saladin and joined Guy and a Crusader army of around 20,000 men near Acre. I was in that army with my two hundred or so men. Advancing, we occupied a strong position near the springs at Sephoria.

Possessing a force nearly the size of Saladin’s, we had defeated earlier invasions by holding strong positions with reliable water sources while allowing the heat to cripple the enemy. It was a good tactic and one we owe to Raynald. Saladin sought to lure us away from Sephoria so that we could be defeated in open battle. To do this, he personally led an attack against Raymond of Tripoli’s fortress at Tiberias on July 2nd while his main army remained at Kafr Sabt. That night, we commanders held a war council to determine our course of action. While the majority was for pressing on to Tiberias, Raymond argued for remaining in the position at Sephoria, even if it meant losing his fortress. Guy, a hasty man prone to jump at his own shadow, elected to push on in the morning. Marching out on July 3rd, our vanguard was led by Raymond, the main army was led by Guy. Balian (a manipulative bastard at best) had the rear along with Raynald and I and the military orders. We moved slowly as we were under constant harassment by Saladin’s cavalry. I remember reaching the springs at Turan six miles away around noon. It was blisteringly hot and we needed water badly. And this is where it all went tits up. Though Tiberias was still nine miles away, with no reliable water en route, Guy insisted on pressing on that afternoon. Under increasing attacks from Saladin’s men, we reached a plain by the twin hills of the Horns of Hattin by mid-afternoon. Advancing with his main body, Saladin began attacking in force and ordered the wings of his army to sweep around us. They surrounded our thirsty men and cut off our line of retreat back to the springs at Turan. Under increasing pressure we, the rear-guard, was forced to halt and give battle. This stopped the entire army’s advance. And now you’ll see Guy for what he was. Though advised to fight on to reach Tiberias and water, he decided to halt the advance for the night. We were surrounded by the enemy and possessed one dry well. Got it? One dry well! The next morning we awoke to blinding smoke. Saladin had set fires to screen their actions and increase our misery. Guy broke camp and ordered an advance towards the springs of Hattin. But despite having sufficient numbers to break through the Mussulmen lines, fatigue and thirst badly weakened us. We were in the shit, as they say. 

We advanced and Saladin counter attacked. Two charges by Raymond saw him break through the enemy lines, but once outside the Mussulman perimeter, he lacked enough men to influence the battle. As a result, he retreated from the field. Desperate for water, much of our infantry attempted a similar breakout. It failed. Forced onto the Horns of Hattin, the majority of this force was destroyed. And without infantry support, we trapped knights were unhorsed by Mussulmen archers and forced to fight on foot. We fought long and hard but were driven onto the Horns. It was during one of these fights that I got bitten in a grapple with a Mussulman who just refused to die. I eventually severed his head, but by then it was too late for me. I was infected. And after three charges against the Mussulmen’s lines failed, we were forced to surrender. This was on the 4th July, 1187. I shall never forget it. Among those captured were Guy, Raynald, and me. Guy was treated well but Raynald was personally executed by Saladin. I was taken as a prisoner and eventually ransomed by my family. Others were not so lucky. Their families would not pay to get them back. We lost the relic of the True Cross which was sent to Damascus. Saladin then quickly went on to capture Acre, Nablus, Jaffa, Toron, Sidon, Beirut, and Ascalon in rapid succession. Moving against Jerusalem that September, it was surrendered on October 2nd. So there you go! Now you know!

CONTINUES NEXT MONTH

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