Post-classical history

§ A Lone Knight Thwarts the Army of Mawdud

Here is an example of a lone man’s advance against a large group. On Thursday, 9 Rabi’ al-Awwal of the year 505 (15 September 1111), the isbasalar Mawdud103 (may God have mercy upon him) encamped in the hinterland of Shayzar after Tancred, the lord of Antioch, had marched against him at the head of a large force. So my uncle and father (may God have mercy upon them both) went out to Mawdud and said to him, ‘The right thing would be for you to break camp (for he was encamped to the east of town along the river) and encamp instead in town. The army can set up its tents in the various open areas in the city and we can then go and encounter [69] the Franks after securing our tents and baggage.’104

So Mawdud decamped just as they suggested. The next morning, they went out to join him along with five thousand well-armed infantrymen from Shayzar. Mawdud was overjoyed at this and his spirits rose. He too (may God have mercy upon him) had some excellent men with him.

They positioned their ranks along the southern side of the water, while the Franks were encamped on its northern side. All throughout the day, they prevented the Franks from drawing water or even approaching the river. So when night fell, the Franks broke camp and withdrew to their territory, with our men surrounding them. They encamped at Tall al-Turmusi, but our men prevented them from approaching the river, just as they had done the day before. So they broke camp again during the night and made for Tall al-Tulul,105 where our army closed in on them and prevented them from moving, surrounding the water and thwarting their approach. Faced with this situation, they decamped during the night and made for Apamea. Our army rushed at them and surrounded them even as they marched. Suddenly, a lone Frankish horseman came forth and charged our men until he got right into their midst, so they killed his charger and wounded him mercilessly, but he continued to fight on foot until he made it back to his comrades. Mawdud (may God have mercy upon him) then withdrew to Damascus.

After a few months, a letter from Tancred, lord of Antioch, was delivered to us with a knight accompanied by servants and companions. The letter said, ‘This is a much-revered knight of the Franks who came on pilgrimage but who now wishes to return to his own country. He has asked me to send him to you so that he might observe your own knights. And so I have sent him and ask that you treat him well.’

He was a good-looking, well-dressed youth, only he bore the marks of multiple wounds and his face bore the mark of a sword-blow that cut him from the top of his head to the middle of his face. I asked about him and they told me, ‘This is the knight who charged the army of the isbasalar Mawdud. They killed his horse, but he fought them until he was able to get back to his comrades.’

Exalted thus is God, who accomplishes His will how He wills it! Fate is not slowed by being faint of heart, any more than it speeds for those who do their part.

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