Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Battle of Dorylaeum, 1097AD

Teaser for the upcoming historical novel Sons of God:

Synopsis:  On 1 July, 1097AD, the Christian forces of the First Crusade fought their first ever major field encounter with their Islamic opponents.  While minor in scale compared to some of the later engagements fought during the course of that epic pilgrimage, it was a watershed moment for both the "Franks" and the armies of Islam.  Before 1097AD, the Seljuk Turks - a ferocious steppe people that had become some of the more ardent converts to Islam, had enjoyed total battlefield domination over the ever-weakening Byzantine Empire and had seized much of Asia Minor in the process.  After the Byzantine disaster at Manzikert in 1071AD, the Papacy in Rome heeded the pleas of their Eastern brethren, often with the pious hope of reuniting the Latin Church to her Orthodox half in the course of combating a common foe.  The dream was finally realized in 1095AD when Bl. Pope Urban II delivered his resounding call to saintly arms at Clermont and the nobles, knights, and pilgrims of the First Crusade set off to the East.
However, a vast majority of the Crusader leadership did not share the Pope's warm feelings towards the Caesar in Constantinople and the relationship between the host and their Eastern advisors was tense, to say the least.  After crossing into Anatolia and recapturing the city of Nicaea (which secretly surrendered to Byzantine officials instead of the Crusaders - intensifying the Frankish distrust for Greek involvement in their pilgrimage), the Crusader host found itself split into two elements.  The lead element was lead by the legendary Bohemond of Taranto and his Italio-Normans, along with significant Frisian, Flemish, and Franco-Norman detachments (the Franco-Normans being led by another son of a famous warrior, Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror and first Norman king of England).  Following behind was the rest of the host and the other main Western leadership, Godfrey of Boullion, Raymond of St Gilles, and Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, the papal legate.  Shadowing the armies was the tested Seljuk warlord, Emir Kilij I "Arslan" ("the Lion") of Rum, who sought to fall upon the separated hosts and pick them apart as his ancestors had done at Manzikert just a generation ago.  The battle that was fought and will be portrayed below was crucial in that it marked the first time a Christian Western army met and defeated a Turkish host on Islamic territory - an event that would have lasting consequences for the rest of the Crusade and ever after.

Now, without further ado, I offer this teaser for your enjoyment.


~Bohemond – 1 July 1097 A.D.~

                The sun hadn’t even risen over the distant peaks of the Taurus Range yet and already a bead of sweat was running down Bohemond’s neck as he stood, frowning, inspecting the hills surrounding his makeshift camp.  The scouts were still bringing back reports of Turkish horsemen trailing the army from practically every direction – those scouts that had returned, anyhow.  Men can be swallowed up in an instant out in this hellish place for a host of reasons; heat, thirst, a Sipahi’s arrow … all the more reason for the armies to stay as close to each other as possible.
            The last thought only deepened the frown.  Tatikios’ decision to split the armies still gnawed at Bohemond’s mind – and inflamed his temper.  What made it worse was the other lords’ naïve overreliance on their Byzantine advisor.
Warfare out here is an entirely different animal and none of the other lords have a clue what they’re up against.  Nicaea was nothing – a siege is a siege, both opponents always know where to find the other.  It’s the open spaces like this that can evaporate an army like the desert sun evaporates water.  You can’t just line your horses up in a nice neat rank, level your lances, and charge your way to victory like back in the old country – a Sipahi would put an arrow through your throat and vanish before you could realize what hit you.  They all saw the bones back there in the passes, the sad monuments to that fool Peter’s mob of martyrs.  With Godfrey and Raymond over half a day’s hard ride behind us, our odds of ending the same way are increasing.  And they know this, lurking in their hills just out of sight, waiting for their chance to sweep in and pick us to shreds – what did the Greeks say his name was?  Emir Kilij?  They said his people call him “the Lion” – “serpent” would be more accurate.  The only other question would be whether that damned little Greek knows this as well.  One can only imagine how much more soundly the Holy Caesar in Constantinople would sleep if the report came that his former barbarian guests - most especially the son of Guiscard - had been conveniently wiped out and left to rot in the sun.

Bohemond spat at his feet.  “Little swine.”
“Easy on, uncle,” said a strong but playful voice coming from behind, “I haven’t even wished you a good morning, and already you’re insulting me.”
Bohemond turned to see Tancred with his hands on his hips gazing at the hills, wearing only his breeches and shirt.  “Have the heathen cowards attacked yet?”  asked Tancred through a yawn.
“Don’t you think you would have known if they had, fool?”  the warrior snapped back, “And why isn’t your armor on?”
Tancred gave an unconcerned shrug.  “Too hot to sleep in,” he replied, “besides, has there been any report of battle lines being formed?”
“There won’t be any battle lines,” Bohemond replied stonily, “those animals will hit us when we least expect it, maybe as we rouse, maybe later as we begin to move.  Whenever it happens, we all have to be ready at all times – including you.”  He paused for effect and shifted his huge frame to stare hard at his young cousin.  “I believe I said something about your armor – make it happen.”  Tancred flushed, dropped his arms from his side, then spun angrily and marched back into the camp.
“Tancred,”
The younger man stopped and looked back, anger simmering behind the dark hazel eyes.
“See to it that our Normans are roused and ready as well.  We may be moving soon and I need you to take charge in this.”
“Of course,” Tancred replied brusquely.
His uncle watched him trudge back up the plateau.  Little whelp, thought Bohemond with a slight grin.  He’s a good fighter and a good Norman, he just needs to grow up – probably the very reason why his father even allowed him to come in the first place.  Besides, Italy’s too small and too dangerous for someone with his ambition.  Bohemond cracked a smile as he recalled his own father saying precisely the same thing about himself.  The growing bustle from the camp behind him broke his thought and he turned to ascend the plateau himself.  As instructed, most of the host had slept clothed and armored – no tents had been pitched and no fires made.  This had only been a “moving rest,” a full pitched camp would have been suicide.  The circled baggage train was still at the center of the plateau, oxen and mounts were tethered in place.  Across the sea of people, priests could be heard chanting Lauds, a few children were crying to be fed, and men grunted tiredly in a variety of tongues as they prepared for the long road ahead.  The pilgrims were exhausted, but nothing could be done about it here.  Bohemond continued through the crowd towards where the leaders’ mounts had been tethered.  Neither Lord Robert nor the little Greek was there.  Annoyed, Bohemond turned and grabbed a spearman he overheard speaking Flemish to his mates, “Where’s Lord Robert, soldier?”
“Over at the rear of the host, sire, with Lord Tak … Takt …”
“The Greek?”
“Yes, sire.”

Bohemond picked his way through the crowd again to see Robert surveying the plain below, surrounded by his own household knights.  All of them were armed and armored – only Robert’s helm was removed, the light from the rising sun highlighting the streaks of grey in the Duke of Flanders’ otherwise auburn hair.  Bohemond was glad to have another seasoned warrior with him.  Robert may not know the East, he thought, but he knows how to fight, how to take orders, and how to leave his ego out of the equation.  And he’s trustworthy, which was more than could be said of some others.   Bohemond came up beside him.
“Lord Bohemond,” he said, bowing slightly, “a good morning to you.  My Flemish and Frisians will be ready to move when you are.  Any new development as to our eavesdroppers?”  He motioned with his head towards the hills.
“No, my lord,” Bohemond replied, “three days of shadowing us and still they hold back.  They’re waiting for us to either expose ourselves or for the distance between us and the others to become too great.  Young Curthose is out there with some of his men, scouting out that valley that lies towards the south.  Are the riders I asked of you still ready?
Robert nodded, “Four of my best with captured Turkish mounts, awaiting your word.”  Turning back to the surrounding hills, he added, “Do you think we’ll need them?”
“Definitely,” came the reply, “if we are engaged, our success will depend on how fast Godfrey and the others can get to us.  Without that … we’re on our own.”
“Lord Tatikios believes the Turks will hole up behind their walls and try to wait us out,” Robert ventured a glance back towards Bohemond and cracked an understanding grin, “I sense you have your reasons for disagreeing with him.”
“Several,” growled Bohemond, “one of them being that ‘Lord’ Tatikios has been far more victorious in the gossip halls of Constantinople than he ever was in the field against the Turk.  To expect the Seljuks to hide away in cities and let a horde full of infidels – most of whom have never even been far outside their huts and hamlets in Europe – blunder through their home is sucidally ludicrous.  But of course, walls – and the lands that surround them – are the only reasons the Holy Caesar gave his reluctant blessing to our pilgrimage, so it surprises me not that those are foremost in the Greek’s mind.  My only question regarding the Turks is why they haven’t yet attacked us.”

“Perhaps, Dux Marcus, some understanding of local politics could shed some light on the matter for you.”  The somber, nasally voice that came from behind the two men made Bohemond instinctively grit his teeth.  How long had he been skulking behind us, thought Bohemond.  Just like a damned, scheming little Greek.  He turned in time to see Tatikios slowly come abreast between them, the drooping eyelids and the false silver nose, held in place with silken ribbon, giving his face an artificial and disturbing appearance - like one of those masks of the Greek dramas from the heathen days.  He was a short man even compared to the Duke of Flanders, but next to Bohemond’s enormous frame, he seemed a dwarf.
“The Emir Arslan is but one lord among many in Anatolia,” Tatikios droned on in heavily accented Latin, “He has many kinsmen and consequently many competitors.  Allegiances and kinship are fickle things to the Turk …” and to the Greek, thought Bohemond “…and he must secure his own standing with his fellow warlords before risking an engagement with the foreigners.  Any sign of weakness and ‘the Lion’s’ reputation would be irrevocably diminished – he will need any support he can acquire.  Most likely, he will go to his kinsman, Ghazi, of the Danishmendid - a dangerous people in their own right.”
“More than one kind of Turk?” queried Robert with a slight grin, “That’s disheartening; I thought one would be enough to trouble the unhappy world.”
“As with many things, Lord Flanders,” the Greek replied in a monotone that carefully betrayed no emotion whatsoever, “there is never only one kind of trouble.”  Bohemond felt his teeth clench tight again.  “However,” Tatikios continued with a ghost of a smile while toying with the purple silken cords woven through his polished lamellar armor, “I would not worry too much, Lord Flanders, as the negotiations will likely take some time.  I recommend that we move our force directly to the nearby fortress of Dorylaeum and begin a siege.  We should have it before Arslan arrives.”  Bohemond squeezed the grip of his sword so hard his knuckles went numb.
“We are in no position to lay siege to anything right now and you know this,” Bohemond snapped, calling upon every reserve of self-control he could muster to keep from sending his mailed fist through Tatikios’ mask of a face, “Our best course of action is to hold up and wait for the distance between us and the other army to lessen or at least to push hard into Cilicia where the Armenians can provide us some protection.  Out here, we’re naked and unless it is the will of your Holy Caesar that we all be slaughtered here we will continue moving!”
The two men continued to face each other off as all around them fell silent.  Bohemond, a towering fiery inferno, glowered over Tatikios’ little pillar of ice.  Despite his fury, he didn’t miss some of Tatikios’ Varangians, who must have heard the outburst, begin lumbering towards them with their massive axes.  He also sensed some Normans of his own who had been nearby coming up from behind with ready hands on ready swords.  Just then, the impasse was interrupted by a sudden flurry of riders and horses stopping hard.  The other Robert, young Normandy, and a handful of his knights had just returned from their scouting mission.  Curthose dismounted quickly and approached while removing his helm, oblivious as usual to the tense scene he had just stepped into.  Bohemond thought he heard Flanders exhale.
“I was searching for you for an hour at least,” said Curthose through labored breaths and wiping sweaty grime off his dirty blonde brow, “then your nephew pointed me this way.  Did I miss something?”  Robert Curthose was the image of his great father in many ways, but he possessed next to none of the Conqueror’s famed savvy for intrigue – something that his brothers never ceased to exploit and that Bohemond found annoyingly apparent.
“No,” Bohemond coldly replied, still glaring hard at Tatikios,” What did you find out there?”
“The southward route is surely the straightest road out of this bowl,” said Curthose, “but they seem to know that as well and were closing fast even as we turned back.  Had to dodge a few arrows even.”   He held up his kite shield to show the Norman lions on the red field had been marred by two long gouges that crisscrossed each other.  All turned towards him.
“How many were there and where were they coming from?”  Bohemond asked quickly.
“Only a handful,” Curthose replied, “They didn’t really come from any particular direction, but rather, they were using the hills for cover, especially that small collection of hillocks to the southwest.”
“Lord Normandy,” came the calm nasally voice of Tatikios, “Did they fly any particular banner?”
“None that we could see,” said Curthose as one of his knights handed him a water skin, “seemed like common brigands to us.”  The Greek turned back to Bohemond.
“As I suspected, we are merely facing local resistance that we can easily push aside with an appropriate show of force.  I would advise placing your heaviest knights in the vanguard and we should advance to Dorylaeum – we have nothing to fear from Emir Arslan.”  With that, he turned with a flourish that made Bohemond sneer, muttered something in Greek to his Varangian guardsmen who fell in around him as he strolled away.  Curthose turned towards Bohemond and Robert after a long drink.

“Is that true?”  If Curthose was oblivious, at least he was honest about it.  However, even Flanders looked at Bohemond with doubts wrestling behind his face.
“Of course not,” Bohemond replied in a lowered tone, “Listen, this is what always happens.  It will seem like just meaningless skirmishing at first, then their full force will hit you all at once.  That’s how they did it against the Greeks at Manzikert and it’s how Peter’s pilgrims met their end.  They’ll lure us into one of those valleys and come down on all sides.  What we need to do is move slowly to allow Godfrey and Raymond to close up with us.  Get your best and heaviest knights to push out towards our flanks, Flanders, take the left, Curthose take the right.  Mine will be in the front, as my men have seen this kind of fighting before.  My intent is that, if we engage their main host, we will dismount and create a defensive line with the baggage and pilgrims in the center.  The secret to fighting the Turk is if you can wait him out until he’s out of arrows even the wealthiest Sipahi isn’t worth a damned in hand-to-hand combat with our knights.  Our armor and weapons are better – as long as we can hold ourselves from rushing out towards them.  If we do that, we’ve already lost.  Are we in agreement?”
Flanders and Curthose quickly glanced at each other, then nodded at Bohemond.  There had to be a leader in all this and Bohemond prayed that he had just established himself as it.
“Good, I will need you two out there if we are to …” Just then, screams from the far side of the host reached them.  Everyone turned towards it.  It was from the vanguard that faced south and Bohemond felt a chill jolt pass through him despite the morning’s heat.
“Curthose, you said the Turks you encountered were south of us?”  Bohemond asked, trying, but failing to hide the urgency in his tone.
“Yes, but none of them followed us.”  Curthose replied as Bohemond was already pushing past him towards where the screams originated.
“Fine, get back to your men and do as I said – heaviest knights out front, foot and followers behind!”  Bohemond shouted back.  It can’t be now, he thought, it’s too early and we’re not even in formation.  We’re not in anything right now, we’re just a giant mass of targets.  Voices all around him were begin to chatter and shout in Norman, French, Frisian, Flemish, Italian – a whole host of languages all expressing the same thing.  Panic.  A few more screams, this time mixed with some deeper shouts and a strange humming, sounded again in front of Bohemond.  He should have been exhausted from running that distance with all his arms and armor on, but he wasn’t – that strange rush was already upon him and he could feel nothing.  Bohemond had come to know that feeling well as it had been with him in all his previous battles.  A kind of interior prelude to blood, pain, and death.  Like it or not, he thought to himself, the battle is here.
As Bohemond made it to the scene of the screams, he found three women and a knight struck down by arrows.  Two of the women, still clinging to their water skins, had been hit in their throats and were killed instantly.  The other woman and the knight who had clearly tried to save them had an arrow in the gut and shoulder, respectively.  Bohemond’s mind already began to turn like a commander’s – where the cold facts of combat and death overcome any compassion or human sensibility.  He might survive his wound, but she wouldn’t, the deep red blood was already bubbling out of her mouth as she whimpered to a monk who held her.
“They were coming back from fetching water, Sire,” said a younger Norman knight, his voice shaking with fear and anger, “About a dozen riders came from over those small hills to the south, chased down their companions, and slew them with arrows.  Only these made it back and even then, those bastards kept shooting.  Before we could give chase, they were gone.”
“Right,” Bohemond shouted for all to hear, “No one is to leave the lines, no matter how close they get!  Pull all the women and children towards the center!  Knights, stay close by your steeds!  Footmen, fall in behind!”  He gently, but firmly gripped the monk holding the woman, her face now pale and her eyes glazed over in death.
“Monk, say your prayers for her elsewhere and find something to defend yourself with – many more are going to need your prayers today.”  The humming sound passed over again, this time about 20 meters to the left, followed by the loud rattling of shields being hit mixed with screams, curses, and horses whinnying in pain.  Arrows.   Bohemond pushed forward to catch a glimpse of their shooters, but saw only a dust clouds about fifty meters to the south and east.  He had to see, curse it all, he must see where they’re coming from.  The humming began to increase along the entire south side of the camp and everyone began scuttling around hunched over, dodging arrows both real and imaginary.  Everyone, that is, except Bohemond.  There wasn’t any time - a commander doesn’t have the privilege of self-preservation, he remembered his father telling him.  He found the nearest wagon and leapt to the top.  All to the south, dust clouds obscured the view into the valley.  Out of the dust, a line of riders, tiny in the distance, would emerge – twenty to thirty at a time.  Arrows would be loosed then the entire line would turn in unison and disappear back into the clouds.  Memories of Dyrrhachium, Patzinak mercenaries, and of a much younger self flashed for an instant through Bohemond’s mind.

Suddenly, the tall hills to the east and the clouds to the south resounded with the harsh calls of hundreds of Turkish horns.   The glint of arms amongst the eastern hills caught Bohemond’s gaze as thousands of riders streamed in rivulets down the slopes.  A dark mass began to loom through the translucent dust to the south and a single solid line of at least a thousand Turkish horsemen emerged, flying banners of a crescent and star on a red field and black banners with Arabic scrawled across them in white.  These weren’t simple brigands anymore – Kilij “the Lion” had come to claim his revenge for Nicaea, and much too soon.  For an instant that seemed like an eternity, Bohemond froze.  The humming of arrows, the screams of the wounded, the shouts, the curses, all the chaos – Bohemond became deaf to it all except the sound of his own deep breathing.  What do we have here, Mark - he thought to himself in his father’s voice - what do we have here that we can use?  You’re already on top of a hill, the ground slopes away from you in every direction – use it.  The marsh to your right guards your entire flank.  That only leaves them your front and left.  What if they get behind us, Bohemond heard his own voice ask.  Worry about that if and when that comes, they are not there now – focus on where they’re at now.  You already know what to do.  Get out there.
Bohemond opened his eyes.  “Soldiers!  Knights!  Christians!” he roared above the chaos below him, “rally around the wagons in the center of the camp!  Get the women, children, and wounded underneath them!  Knights, dismount and form a line out front!  Footmen, fall in behind the knights!  Anyone else, prepare to fight to the knife, either we hold or we die here!”
“Lord Bohemond!”  Robert of Flanders reined his horse hard in front of Bohemond, “My men are deploying as you said and my couriers are ready.  What message do you have for them?”
“Tell Godfrey and the others if they want to fight, then come like men!”  Bohemond replied, “And get off your mount, Robert, it makes you more of a target and I need you alive today!”  Robert vanished and Bohemond turned to see mailed bodies of helmeted knights pushing forward to the front.  A trail of dust that shot out from the line to the left caught his eye.  A party of mounted knights had rushed forward to chase a few retreating Sipahis.
“Idiots,” Bohemond growled as he launched himself off the wagon.  A good commander can’t and shouldn’t be everywhere, old Guiscard’s voice continued again in his mind, only be where you’re needed; where the heat of battle is greatest.  The rest you should just know, you should feel what’s happening without actually being there.  Bohemond grabbed the shield harness of one of Tancred’s men as he began to mount.
“All of you!  Dismount, you dogs, that’s an order!” Bohemond bellowed, “You’re needed alive here, not slain out there!”  Men practically dove out of their saddles when faced with Bohemond’s wrath.  The knight he grabbed was transfixed, his eyes wide as saucers in fear.  Bohemond shoved him towards the front.  He found himself standing at the confluence of Robert’s line of Frisians and Flemish facing the east and his and Tancred’s own Italian Normans facing the south.  The arrows were coming in thick now, clanging off shields and armor like a rain of steel.  Knights were packing in tight with each other, locking their long kite shields.  The footmen were cowering behind, some using rudimentary wooden shields, others with no shield or armor at all.  Most of the casualties will be there, Bohemond thought, there’s nothing more we can do for them.
“What’s this, uncle, hiding behind the lines on foot?”  The strong voice from earlier in the morning shouted above him, “Well, my men and I will chase those dogs from the field!  Perhaps I will bring back some infidel heads for you!”  Tancred’s smile turned to shock as Bohemond, in a single fluid motion, grabbed his belt, lifted him from the saddle, and tossed him to the ground in a heap.  Tancred looked up, white with rage, in time to see four arrows sail down directly towards them both.  Bohemond kept him pinned to the ground with his sword arm and covered him with his shield.  Two arrows struck the shield hard enough to shiver Bohemond’s arm and the third embedded into Tancred’s saddle.  Bohemond lifted his now awestruck nephew to his feet.
“If you want to live to see another morning,” Bohemond growled while wincing in pain, “then keep off your damned horse!  Now, get back to your men and lead them, I’m counting on you!”  Still in awe, Tancred nodded, grabbed his sword, and pushed his way to the front of the Norman line.  Bohemond reached behind his left shoulder and pulled out the fourth arrow that was stuck fast there.  It had embedded in the chainmail and had been stopped by the thick padded gambeson below, though he would have a wicked bruise underneath tomorrow.  He examined the mangled broadhead.  Soft iron, weaker than our hardened steel rings and helmets.  We might just outlast this, he thought.  Bohemond slung his shield back behind him and pushed through to the front of where the Italio-Norman line curved and met with the Frisian line facing east.  The Turks were now close enough to see and hear their shouting in both their strange Turkic dialect and Arabic.  Arrows flew thick from the swirling dust as their light steppe ponies rode in fast little circles.  If only they could get close, the fight could be ours, he thought.  He turned around and saw a spearman huddled just behind one of the knights on the line.  Bohemond grabbed his spear, it was tall with a thick shaft – almost a pike like the ones the Flemish favored.
“What was your profession before today, soldier?”  Bohemond asked above the din.   He recognized the spearman as the same he had encountered earlier in the morning.
“I was a clerk, sire,” he replied timidly in a thick Flemish accent, “at the priory in Bruges.”
“A clerk!” Bohemond replied with a grin, “No wonder you were holding this thing like a pen.  Let me show you how to really use this.”  Bohemond stepped out of the front line and calmly walked a few meters out in front.  Bohemond smiled as he knew that all eyes were fixed on him as he casually strode out in front of them.  A great part of being a good leader, he remembered his father saying, is pure showmanship.  He turned left and faced into one of the dust clouds swirling in front of him.
Merhaba!”  He roared as load as he could, “Any of you pigs of Mohammed want to kill an infidel face-to-face?!  Here is one!”  From inside the cloud, two arrows whistled out in quick succession which Bohemond caught on his shield.  A Sipahi burst out in full gallop, unsheathing his light curved sabre.
Allāhu akbar!”  the Turk screamed as he bore straight down at him.  Bohemond timed his distance perfectly.  Just as the Turk was upon him, Bohemond dodged sideways, drove the butt of the spear in between the horse’s front legs, and sent the Turk and his mount sprawling into the dirt behind him.  He turned to see the Sipahi struggling to rise when one of his own Normans bounded forward, swung his sword in a cross loop across his body, and brought it down full force on the Turk.  The blade caught him on the back of the head just above the ear and clove a bloody canyon of flesh that exited out the mouth.  The Turk’s head and body twisted grotesquely and he was dead before he crumpled to the ground.  Bohemond and the knight nodded to each other.  The knight’s smile vanished and he shouted, “Lord Bohemond, behind you!”
Bohemond spun as he felt the ground beneath him shake with the hoof beats of a horse that was very close behind.  He fluidly arched backwards as far as he could in time to see a curved Turkish blade pass his face by inches.  He already had the spear in his hands at the right angle and landed a sharp blow across his attacker’s face that sent him flying backwards from his saddle.  When Bohemond recovered, the Turk was scrambling on all fours towards his fallen sword.  Bohemond landed a powerful kick to his exposed ribs and flipped the man – a noble, by the looks of his costly lamellar armor - onto his back.  Planting his foot squarely on his prostrate body, Bohemond flipped the spearhead downwards and drove it into the Turk’s chest as hard as he could.  The entire spearhead punched clean through the horn plates straight through to the ground and the Turk’s final scream was cut short as he convulsed and frothy pink blood shot from his mouth and nose.  Bohemond pulled out the spear and turned back towards the line.
“Soldiers and Christians!  Let us all unite in Christ's faith and the victory of the Holy Cross, for, God willing, today we shall all be made rich!”  The entire line erupted into cheering as Bohemond walked back towards the line.  They were still cheering even after he reached the Flemish spearman in the rear.
“Clerk,” he said as he handed the weapon back to its awestruck owner, “your spear.  Perhaps someday you will be back in Flanders with your pen and you may even write of that happens here on this pilgrimage, but today, you are here with this spear.  Use it like that and we may just survive to return home.”  Bohemond pushed back towards the rear of the line to see if he could find Robert or Curthose.  His eyes met those of Malatesta glaring at him in mock disapproval.
“I thought I might find out here doing something cosmically stupid, my lord,” he said with a wry grin.
“If I had needed a wet-nurse,” Bohemond replied in equal jest, “I would have brought one with much better breasts than your shriveled ones, fool.”
“Now that’s hurtful, my lord,” Malatesta replied, “what exactly are you doing back here, now?”
“Have you seen Lord Robert or Lord Curthose ... and how’s Tancred doing?”  Bohemond asked quickly.
“I have not seen any of the lords, but I heard Curthose pulled a stunt similar to yours over on the right and his Normans and Frenchmen are holding well,” the old jester replied, “Young Tancred is doing fine, a little injured pride, but that’s good for one his age!”
“Good, stay with him and I’ll find the lords.  By the way,” Bohemond shout back over his shoulder, “where’s the little Greek pig?”
“I think his Worship has holed up his purple-cloaked arse in the center near the wagons,” Malatesta shouted back, “give him my regards, will you, sire!”

Typical, Bohemond thought bitterly to himself.  He marched towards the center of the camp and, just as he had been told, found Tatikios sheltered behind a large wagon and surrounded by his Varangians.
“Lord Tatikios,” Bohemond shot angrily, “we could desperately use these men on the line.  Perhaps you would care to assume some leadership in this fight?”
“That will not be necessary, Dux Marcus,” the Greek replied in a tone as calm as a pool of oil, “these men are sworn to protect the Holy Caesar and his household.  Their place is with me and me alone.  Besides, I see the fight is progressing better than I would have expected.”  It was all Bohemond could do to keep from slaying him on the spot, but his judgment prevailed.
“Very well then,” he said through clenched teeth, “enjoy the spectacle.”  Bohemond turned and left quickly before his temper erupted.  There were wounded pilgrims and soldiers everywhere, some would die today, many more would die later.  The women and children were passing water skins back and forth underneath the wagons and tending to the injured as they came in.  He had to find the other lords and check on their progress.
He found Lord Robert first.  He too had dismounted and was near the front of his line, encouraging knight and commoner alike.
“Lord Bohemond!” he shouted as Bohemond approached.  Both men held their shields aloft as they conversed catching arrows that still came in thick.
“I lost several knights who had tried to pursue the Turks, but the rest I was able to control,” the Frisian said, his breath already labored, “what we need right now is water, the dust is causing a terrible thirst in my men.”
“I’ll do what I can,” Bohemond replied, “keep holding.  Hopefully your riders have already gotten through to Godfrey and they should be here in a matter of hours.”
Deus vult!” Robert replied before he turned back to the line.  A good soldier, Bohemond thought, pray God nothing happens to him today.  As Bohemond passed back through the camp to reach Curthose on the right, he stopped by a group of the women who were huddled together under various wagons.  The one who turned to face him had her raven hair turned up in an unusually comely manner.  Despite the chaos, it appeared that they were styling each other’s hair.
“Madam, can you and your women get water down to the men on the line?” he asked, “They’ve already worked up a powerful thirst.”
“Yes, sire,” came a shaky reply.  Bohemond noticed her shoot a glance at the rest of the women behind her and an air of hesitancy seemed to float amongst them.
“Is there something wrong?” Bohemond asked, trying to mask the mounting annoyance in his voice, “What’s happening here?”
“We hear the Turks have an eye for beauty,” she replied, her voice quivering slightly, “we decided to make ourselves sightly so that perhaps the Turks will spare us and take us captive.”  Bohemond stood and stared at her in silent shock for a moment.  Her eyes, hazel and flecked with green, gazed back into his and seemed to read his thoughts.  In the moment, this nameless frightened girl was the most beautiful, vulnerable thing he had ever seen in his life.
“Madam,” he replied with a firmness that made even the other women stop and listen, “that will not happen.  You have my word.”  The fear seemed to leave her eyes.
“Our men will not have long to wait for water, Sire.”
After hastily nodding his thanks, he finally reached the Franco-Norman line and found Curthose directing his line from horseback.
“How goes the rest of the line, Lord Bohemond?”  Curthose asked in a voice that was loud and confident.
“It goes well, for now, God be praised,” Bohemond replied, “Lord Curthose, I would advise dismounting – I would be sore aggrieved if you were struck down.”
“Thank you for your concern, brother,” the young man responded, “but my father never dismounted – that way his men could always see him.  It’s a risk we’ve always been willing to take.”  Bohemond found himself beginning to respect this young warrior who seemed to channel the spirit of his great father on the field.  Perhaps he would be an asset after all.  Curthose’s men had control of the marshy ground to the right of the camp and were using it to deadly effect waiting for Turks to become bogged down in it then bounding forward and slaying them in the muck.
“Are Godfrey and the others on their way?” Curthose asked above the din.

“I’m sure of it,” Bohemond replied, fighting his own anxieties, “It shouldn’t be long.”  Curthose simply nodded and rode forward to bellow orders at some Norman sergeants who were falling back.  Will they come in time, Bohemond asked himself.  Will there be anyone alive?  That’s not for you to worry about, came the voice of his father.  You’re here, now stand until you can’t stand anymore.  The rest is in God’s Hands.  Bohemond felt himself place a hand on the red cross sewn on the left breast of his surcoat.  It had seemed like an eternity had already passed when he had spoken with Flanders, now, he had lost all sense of time.  The sun was high in the sky and Bohemond just then noticed the powerful heat.  Arrows still whirred through the air, but not as heavy as before.  Their fire was definitely slacking off.  The clanging of steel on steel was starting to take its place as men, Christians and Turks, settled into the real dirty business of combat.  Cries of the dying filled the air.  Birds were already circling above.  Will they feast on us, he thought, or them?  It all depends on Godfrey and Raymond.
“God in Heaven,” Bohemond heard himself say aloud, “have pity on your children, for we are here in Your Name and are sorely pressed.”  Suddenly, he looked towards the west.  Was it?  Or was he hearing things?  Then, he heard it clearly.  Horns.  Not the shrill rams horns of the Seljuks, but the deep, strong horns of the West.
Curthose looked up and practically screamed, “Godfrey!  Look, my lord, Godfrey has come!”  The cry began to spread along the line like wildfire, and soon, they were all cheering in a continuous roar.  Even the Turks began looking towards the western hills.  Then they saw it.  A line of knights appeared on the ridge, the white banner of St. Peter carried by Adhemar glinting in the bright sunlight.

Yes, Godfrey had come.



Sources Used:
- Fulcher of Chartres, Carnotensis Historia Hierosolymitana, 1095-1127 AD.
- The Anonymous, Gesta Francorum, 1100.
- Raymond of Augilers, Historia Francorum, Early 12th Century AD.
- Anna Komnene, Alexiad, 1148 AD.
- John France, Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade, Cambridge University, 1994.
                       Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades 1000-1300, Cornell University Press, 1999.
- The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials 2nd Ed., Edited by Edward Peters, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.