I hope you enjoy this chapter because this idea took a long time to write for me. I don't know if it was the ambush style of the battle or the fact that the battle was rushed and confusing, even for me. I admit I didn't even know what was happening for a while.
I don't know if I'll make the Crusades a series like the Scotland-England war or the Peninsular war, but I'm open to suggestions so please let me know if you want to see more battles in the Crusade era.
I hope you enjoy the story.
Jerusalem had fallen.
The combined forces of the first Crusade had finally seized their capital, destroying the Muslim defenders and carving out a European state in the Holy Land. Blood had been spilled, and countless attackers and defenders alike had fallen during the siege, but when the cross was lifted over the city's gates, the hearts of every soldier lifted as well.
News of other Crusader sieges brought victory as the city of Antioch became a Crusader principality and the Hospitaller knights began to control the area, and more knights were pouring into the Middle East from Europe.
Now, was the time for defense as the Crusaders awaited either Saladin's next move or a sign from above for their next move.
In Jerusalem's largest building, a council of war was held.
Godfrey of Bouillon, commander of the forces in the Holy Land, looked around the table at the other sergeants, mercenaries, and leaders. These men had battled alongside him to take the city, and now it was time to govern it.
"Our territory in Antioch is nearest to both the Turkish armies and Saladin's main force, and the city needs more men to defend it. If the Muslim forces attack, Antioch will fall and our conquest shall be for naught." A French Knight growled, slamming his fist on the table. "Godfrey, you must spare some men to travel towards our borders."
"Still!" A Norman mercenary protested "My men aren't leaving this city without pay, and you all might be doing this for your God, but we're in it for the money."
"European forces are moving into the Holy Land as we speak, and if we wait…"
"Enough!" Godfrey snapped, lifting himself up over the squabbling soldiers "We do need to secure our borders, and with more reinforcements to replace those lost when aiding Antioch. I believe we can spare the men. Our knights shall stay and defend this city, along with the Frank forces and your mercenaries, but the French and Italian contingents shall march to Antioch to support them. We will send additional armies toward our borders when we move to do battle with Saladin's men."
His eyes looked around the room, searching for any signs of hostility or acceptance from his forces, the tactics he had learned in the throne rooms of Europe serving him well in his search for loyalty.
"Good," He said after a moment, "Dismissed and get the men on their way."
There was a fair amount of grumbling when the men heard they had to leave the city they had fought for to travel across the desert to a smaller city, but the grumbling soon faded when they heard about a chance for further bloodshed and glory against the enemy.
Now French and Italian soldiers marched through the gates, leaving their victory behind as they made an impromptu caravan, laden with supplies and goods as they headed towards Antioch.
Ranks of spearmen and archers marched in columns, moving behind oxen drawn carts as they coughed on sand kicked up by their fellows. Three ranks, each commanded by a group of men, guarded the front, middle, and rear of the carts.
The European forces were armed with spears and swords, along with shields painted with their kingdoms' emblems, and their armor shone bright in the sun. Protection was the main advantage the Crusaders had against their enemies, as their armor could turn aside even the strongest storm of arrows, making the enemy archers useless.
Still, that protection came at a cost, and their armor was cooking them alive. The hot sun beat down on them like a warhammer, causing them to shift uncomfortably as they marched. The lucky men without armor wiped their brows and faces clear of sweat as they blinked in the sunlight, trying to avoid the helmeted stares of their fellows.
Sand swirled around them with every step as each soldier looked around. Their hands gripped their weapons tightly… they knew from experience that swirling sand dunes often concealed Egyptian horsemen or archers, and ambushes were likely.
The men uttered prayers as they kept going, mile after mile, praying that the light of their Lord would root out the cowardly enemy and make them come to battle.
Captain Moise of the French kingdom walked forward at the head of the caravan, checking his map with a huff. "If these enemy forces don't kill us, this damnable heat will! We're still five miles from Antioch and some of our forces are lagging behind." He growled, "Lord get us there without trouble!"
Unfortunately, a shadow moved behind a sand dune, ready to bring trouble for the Crusader forces.
Sunlight flashed on mirrors as sand coated figures rushed towards the back of the caravan, smiling eagerly as most of the guards were near the front. The forty Egyptian skirmishers drew back their bows and took aim, their eyes adjusting to the sunlight easily as their arrows gleamed in the sunlight.
The archers then waited for the wind to pick up to a low whistle before a tense command made them release their bowstrings, the hissing of the arrows disguised by the wind as they fell among the backs of the Crusader forces.
They smiled like jackals as the unprepared forces screamed at the attack, several falling dead or wounded to the sand as the remainder turned around. Weapons were drawn as the Egyptian forces loosed another salvo of arrows, screaming war cries and snatches of prayer as they attacked again.
As the Crusaders struggled to raise their shields and swords, their bodies exhausted by the heat and the march, the missile attack again sent them reeling as the skirmishers reached behind them to draw swords and charge. Their lighter armor and leather shoes allowed them to run forward on the sand as they fell upon the exhausted and surprised Crusader forces.
Their swords clanged and clashed against the Crusaders who were lucky enough to parry the blows, and they sliced open skin and pierced the armor of those too tired to raise their arms in defense. They laughed and smiled as they killed, taking revenge for the massacres at Jerusalem and Antioch, and letting the forces of Europe writhe and suffer before them.
As the dead mounted in heaps near the back of the caravan, one wounded spearman struggled to get away. Clutching his wounded arm to him, he moved forward, sighting the backs of his fellow soldiers.
They were so far away….
The heat burned down on him, sand was blowing into his face and wound, and the cries of the dying Crusaders and the laughter of the Egyptians filled his ears as he stumbled forward.
He wasn't going to get to them, but they had to be warned. Numbly, his fingers grasped an arrow, fitting it to his bow as he took aim at the cart. As the cries of the Egyptians became louder, they sighted him and rushed forward, leaping over the corpses they had made.
With a twang, the arrow arced upward, just as the last survivor fell to the blood-stained sand, killed by an Egyptian sword.
The cart rumbled onward as the crusader guards looked around, mostly towards their front and sides as they remained ready for an ambush. Spurring the oxen forward, the men slogged through the desert, with the heat beating down on them and the sight of endless sand blinding them to the events occurring behind them.
If any man heard the sounds of battle, they simply dismissed it as a myth… until the arrow thudded against the cart.
"Ambush! Egyptians are attacking!"
The cry snapped them back into their training, the training with the honed fighting skills that they always depended on, as the soldiers rushed through the sand. Spears gleamed and shields were raised as a wall was formed, deflecting the rain of arrows the Egyptians sent their way.
"Get your bows! Get behind the shield wall and return fire!" Someone screamed, coughing as sand was kicked up by the running Crusaders.
More arrows smashed and splintered in the cart as the Crusader forces huddled around it, letting the Egyptians get closer with their swords as the storm of arrows intensified.
Spears poked out from behind the shield as the Crusaders charged, screaming war cries as they attacked. Spear points smashed into stomachs and chests as the Egyptians retreated, attempting to break the wall apart through sheer surprise and muscle.
Sword blades clashed, spear points ripped, and the forces of Egypt and the armies of the West tore at one another in the desert. Sweat poured down faces and bodies as they clashed and hacked, ripping at one another as the Egyptian forces slowly hemmed them in, preventing them from even moving backward towards Antioch.
These Egyptians were ready and able to move in the desert, and as more and more Crusaders were overwhelmed by their opponents and the heat, they began to laugh and cheer again. Cries of their Sultan's name mingled with the death screams and gasps of the wounded as more Egyptian Skirmishers sprang from hiding, shooting arrows into the thick of the fray and cutting the cart off from the rest of the caravan.
At the head of the caravan were the soldiers who were keeping the biggest lookout, and Captain Moise turned at the sound of battle, grumbling to himself. "I swear if those damned Italian knights picked a fight with our Frenchmen… as if this journey ain't hell enough!"
He looked over at the battle, seeing the cart had stalled, but the expected battle of knights vs knights wasn't happening… instead, the Crusaders were surrounded by brown robed fighters… and they definitely weren't Christian monks!
"Hold! Fall back all men, the caravan is under attack! We've been ambushed!"
He drew his sword, running forward as his guardsmen followed him, cursing up a storm. "Damn fools! We were bloody had on this road!"
As the soldiers rushed to aid their besieged comrades, the Egyptians turned their bows on them too, moaning in dismay as their arrows embedded themselves inside their shields or simply bounced off the armor.
The Crusaders brought the wrath of their God down upon the Egyptian ambushers, hacking their way through with a desire for glory and a thirst to avenge their fallen comrades.
Captain Moise lunged forward, his sword knocking an Egyptian blade aside as he stabbed forward, slaying him a fierce swing. His own personal guard moved alongside him, and the Crusaders cheered at the sight of their leader.
The elation of victory filled them as the Crusaders shook off the surprise of the attack and railed to him, regaining the fighting spirit that made them the conquers of Jerusalem. New strength filled their limbs despite the heat as they cut down the skirmishing force with a vengeance.
The last few archers cursed as their arrows pinged off the shields of the Crusaders, and they scattered as the vengeful forces cheered and called down curses upon them.
As the last enemy soldier blended into the sand dunes and escaped, Captain Moise, nodded to his men, before casting his eyes back on the trail of fallen soldiers, Crusader and Egyptian alike. "We have to keep moving towards Antioch with what we have…" He ordered, hating both the enemy and himself for his decision. "We'll collect their bodies when we return to Jerusalem."
His men nodded and moved forward, already getting the caravan ready to move again as they kept their eyes away from their dead allies, every man knowing that by the time they returned, either the Egyptians or the desert itself will have picked the bodies clean.
Now all they could do was keep moving, hold the territory they had, and then destroy Saladin's forces once and for all to free the Holy Land.
And then, when the last Turkish and Egyptian force fell before their armies and the Holy Land was free for Christendom… then they would mourn their dead.
Thank you for reading this ambush and please let me know if you like more ambush style battles or pitched battles.
As always please leave a review, feel free to check out my other works, and have a great day!