Barbarossa - George Upton

Raymond's Heroic Ride

Our young hero rode with a stout heart. His steed showed itself a worthy representative of the splendid Arab breed. The waves of a gently flowing stream could not have borne him more easily. His horse's hoofs hardly disturbed the soil. It glided with the swiftness of the wind or the swallow, rather than ran, and was so perfectly trained that it obeyed the slightest touch upon its shoulder or pull upon the bridle. It never needed the spur and yet the rider, as the noble animal sped along with flying mane and distended nostrils, making the sparks and gravel fly, knew that it could make still greater speed, should that be necessary.

Raymond rode at this speed for nearly an hour. The night was very dark and so still that only the echoes of his horse's hoof-beats were heard among the neighboring hills as he flew at a swift trot through the ravines and passes. At times he heard the cry of the hungry jackals in the dense forest, but no other sounds reached his ears.

Thus in the silent solitude of the forest, far from friends but perhaps close to lurking enemies, our hero said good-bye to his youthful days almost before he had entered upon them, and boldly took up the work of manhood. He knew nothing of that silly fear which arises from the imagination. However or wherever he might encounter an enemy, he determined to show his knighthood if that enemy met him manfully. The possibility of defeat never occurred to him. He felt himself under divine protection. He believed, as his comrades did, that this war against the Turks was well-pleasing to God, and that all engaged in it were under His special protection, for had not God been with them thus far in all their troubles? Had He not already guided Conrad wellnigh to the accomplishment of his purpose? Since the honor of bringing that purpose to completion had been assigned to him, surely God would guide him also and bring him to success.

With such uplifting thoughts his soul was filled as he rode rapidly on, watching carefully all about him lest he should be surprised by some unseen danger. His road now lay between two walls of rock, which loudly echoed the clatter of his horse's hoofs. The stony ground made the slightest sound audible. It was one of those spots which the Turks had defended so obstinately and which the Christians had taken in their recent gallant attack. While thinking of the possibility that the enemy might be lying in wait upon the mountain sides, if not for him then for the army, and that the outlet of the pass might be blocked, a slight tremor, but not of fear, seized him as he heard a sharp whiz through the air and a sudden blow upon his armor, which he at once knew was caused by an arrow. Like a flash he touched his steed's flank. The Arab bounded, gave a loud snort, and then flew like the storm-wind. Stooping a little in his saddle, Raymond glanced up the heights. He thought he saw dark figures gliding about who had delayed attacking him in their uncertainty whether he was friend or foe.

There was a great difference between the hoof-beats of the Arab and those of the Crusaders' horses. Misled by this and by their inability to see distinctly in the thick darkness, the Turks lost an easy victim. But Raymond was not yet out of danger. He heard individual calls, which the echoes repeated over and over again. It was clear they came from outposts warning those in the distance of his approach. He still further increased his speed, for delay now was dangerous, thinking that by swifter flight he might reach the end of the pass before the Turks could oppose him in force. While he was still some distance from it, the moon rose and shed its faint lustre upon the mountain sides, making his enemies look like ghosts. As he urged his horse to its utmost speed, that he might not be an easy mark, the ravine was suddenly illuminated with moonlight, and directly ahead of him a faint streak of light appeared. It was the outlet of the pass and beyond it the open country was flooded with the radiance of the moon. With thankful heart he looked up to heaven, gently patted his noble horse, which, seeming to understand the meaning of his caresses, shook its mane, tossed its head, and bounded along exultantly.

Imagine Raymond's feelings, however, when he espied two dark figures at the outlet of the pass whom he instantly recognized as Turkish horsemen. His good lance was levelled at once, ready for a strong thrust with his right hand, while his left held his shield before his breast. He rushed upon them at a furious gallop with the intention of running down the one on the right, at the same time protecting himself against the other with his shield. He had hardly formed his plan when a skilfully aimed arrow hit his shield and fell to the earth. His practised eye saw that it came from the right side. All that he had now to fear was the other enemy with his keen scymitar. He must dispose of him before the archer had time to place another arrow. In an instant he was upon him, ran his lance into his breast and threw him from his horse. The animal struggled and pranced about so furiously that the archer was confused and his arrow flew wide of its mark. The prospect of victory encouraged our young hero. Emboldened by the success of his first onset, and expecting to be attacked at any instant by the enemy in his rear, he swiftly turned, levelled his lance, and rushed upon his enemy. The Turk was ready for the attack, but as he had no means of protecting himself against the thrust of the lance, he dodged aside. The lance struck a tree near by with such force that it was broken in two. The Turk's eyes glistened with fiendish delight like those of a hyena. He swung his scymitar above Raymond's head with the intention of severing it at a blow. The Turk's dexterity with this weapon made the situation extremely dangerous for our friend. He seized his shattered lance, however, and hurled it with such force that it averted the scymitar from its course and knocked his enemy's turban off. The Turk was furious with rage, but Raymond was cool. He drew his sword and like a flash smote the Turk's uncovered head. A dark stream of blood gushed forth, and a muttered "Giaour " escaped from his lips, as he fell from his steed dead.

Raymond now fully realized the danger of the position he had been in, and his victory seemed almost miraculous. Alarmed by his experience and dreading new dangers, he urged his horse to swifter flight. Danger was more imminent on those broad moonlit plains; for his enemies, who had been swarming round him in the mountains, would certainly betake themselves to the open country as a more favorable spot for their operations and more likely to result in his capture, as their horses were fresh and well fed. The cowardly thought of avoiding battle, however and whenever it might come, never occurred to him; indeed, for an instant, he was inclined to halt and face his pursuers. His better judgment, however, told him this would be a mistake, for in that case he might fail to accomplish his purpose of reaching the army and delivering his message. He reflected that the lives of thousands hung upon his success, and among these thousands was the noble Emperor and hero, the flower of chivalry. So he still rushed on, for horse and rider were unwearied.

Two hours later they skirted a dark forest, shadowed by a mountain range, the last he would have to cross, for upon its other side were the army's outposts, and thence the road led straight to the Emperor's camp. The road here was not so rough as that where he had made such a fortunate escape. It wound through gently rolling foot-hills, and was seldom stony, the most of it being covered with a soft, springy turf, upon which his horse's hoofs made but little noise. While his progress was easier and swifter, still it was to be taken into account that horsemen could approach him on every side and that his pursuers had no obstacles in their way.

Barbarrossa's nephew


The nature of the locality made it more difficult to find the way in some places than it was in the mountain region, where the wild torrents which dashed from the rocks in the rainy season left dry beds which could be used as pathways. The dense foliage of the trees also hardly allowed the moonlight to penetrate it, and more than once Raymond was in doubt whether he was on the right road. He tried other directions several times but this invariably made his horse restless and ungovernable. At last he decided to let it take its own way, for he was well aware that the horse is often the surest guide. The noble animal must have travelled that way many times while he himself was going over it for the first time, and besides this he had but little time to study his way. Stroking his horse, who had already become very dear to him, as if to compensate him for the injustice done to his sagacity, he let him choose his own way. As it no longer seemed necessary to make such great haste he rode more quietly and found by the position of the moon, which at times peeped through openings in the trees, that he was now riding in the right direction to reach the end of his journey.

As Raymond slowly climbed the heights and grew calmer, he almost forgot all dangers, for he felt he was near his friends and supposed that his wearied enemies would not risk a near approach to their still formidable opponents in the camp by daylight. He actually imagined that he saw the white tents of the Christians glistening in the moonlight, where treeless vistas admitted an open view. His heart leaped for joy as he reflected that he was bringing consolation and encouragement to so many thousands, and a tear stood in his eyes as he thought of their suffering and fancied the joyful impression his news would make. He pursued his way almost carelessly. He was nearing the end of his journey and gave little heed to his surroundings. It is not singular, therefore, that he was alarmed by a sudden noise. Looking back he saw that he was followed. He thought that three horsemen, riding furiously, were seeking to overtake him, hoping to capture him by surprise rather than by attack.

Raymond slackened his pace an instant to ascertain the real nature of his danger and the best means of avoiding it. It was impossible for him to make a successful resistance, for even should he escape their arrows he must have a hand-to-hand contest, one against three, and give up as soon as he was surrounded by them. He was all the more helpless against numbers as he had lost his lance and had only his sword for protection. Flight was his only alternative, and he felt sure that once out of arrow-shot he would escape.

Throwing his shield across his back he urged his horse to its greatest speed. It shot away like an arrow. The hanging boughs of the trees often brushed his face and he repeatedly crashed through thickets of dense bushes, which snapped and broke. It was like the magic wild hunt for the slender, swift stag of the forest, so quiet were the hoof-beats. Notwithstanding all the efforts of his noble steed he gained no advantage over his pursuers. In an incredibly short time they approached him at the foot of the range. Raymond could see no trace of the camp, not even a sentry. Had he been deceived when he thought he saw the tents? Were his friends still farther away than he had supposed? What if his pursuers should be taking different routes to head him off? Looking around with hasty glance he noticed that only two were now following him. He had been carefully instructed by his father not to act upon guesswork but to have a fixed course always in view for an emergency. He decided to give battle only as a last resort, but he was determined that two of them should die before he lost his life. Saying to himself "With God's help, I will win," he rode on.

He soon realized that the distance between himself and his pursuers was lessening. One of the latter must have noticed it also, for he had taken his bow and was holding an arrow in his right hand. Raymond felt a terrible apprehension that he might be killed almost at the goal he was striving to reach. The road now turned a little to the left and caution was still more necessary. An arrow grazed his face. Had his horse made its last step an instant sooner or an inch farther, he might have fallen and been trampled upon. He had hardly time to realize this, however, when a Turk with fiercely gleaming eyes rode out of the thickets. Swinging his scymitar he confronted Raymond, who met him with his sword. The horses came together at such furious speed that the Turk was thrown, and Raymond's steed came down upon his knees. He was down for an instant only, for his rider helped him to his feet with a stout pull and he at once dashed on, while the Turk's horse was panting and snorting, evidently as much enraged as his master, who sent curses after Raymond as he rode along exultantly.

Suddenly a halberdier confronted him. His horse stopped so quickly that Raymond was nearly thrown. It was a foot-soldier of the Emperor's army and at his call several others came up. How grateful that call in the dear mother tongue sounded! His only thought was, "Saved, saved." He made himself known, pointed to his enemies, who shot their arrows and shouted curses at them, and then took themselves off.

Raymond explained to the outposts the nature of his mission in a few words. Then he inquired the shortest way to the Emperor's tent, and as he hurried on his way to it the warriors' eyes beamed with joy and their lips uttered thanksgivings. Raymond's message was received with general exultation. The warriors rushed up to him, caressed and kissed him, and could hardly find words to express their joy. Weariness and despondency vanished. The shout, "Forward, forward," resounded everywhere. After hearing Raymond's report, to the great delight of all, the Emperor issued the order to move. Tents were struck at once, and the advance, led by Raymond, plunged into the darkness of the forest, while the rest followed as eagerly as if on the way to some richly appointed banquet.

Though the fresh night air lessened their fatigue somewhat, it was still very great. The tired soldiers, little refreshed by their short sleep, dragged themselves along with much effort. It was so dark they could not distinguish the rough places in the road. Their weary feet continually slipped and those on foot repeatedly fell, while horses stumbled over roots of trees and other obstacles. The farther they went the more unmistakable were the evidences that the Turks were aware of their movements and were on the alert themselves. Those in the advance had to look out for themselves as best they could, but even after the utmost precautions many horses were badly wounded and some of the poorly protected foot-soldiers were killed.

The real fighting began when the first valley was reached. The knights fought with all their remaining strength, and many a Turk, brought to bay, was slain. They entered the narrow pass, where Raymond had made his victorious fight, with grave apprehensions. The Turks in small bands disputed every inch of the ground with dogged pertinacity, while others concealed behind rocks and thickets, sent showers of arrows into their ranks. The knights in the advance protected themselves with their shields; but the arrows fell like hail into the dense mass of those behind them, and it was only here and there that they escaped injury by holding their halberds obliquely. Most of the arrows, however, reached the mark only too surely. They hugged the rocky walls upon which the enemy were standing, as closely as possible, and held up broken branches for their protection. Many of those who neglected such precautions were wounded.

As morning dawned increased, for now they were clearly exposed to the assaults of the continually increasing enemy. Many of the Christians wrung their hands in despair, bewailed their apparent fate, and implored God to save them. Just as the last hope of rescue seemed to vanish, a band of the enemy suddenly halted in their front and appeared to be making a hurried inspection of the mountain sides. Almost immediately they rode at full speed to the outlet of the pass and disappeared. The Crusaders were astonished by this movement, and feared some new trick on the enemy's part; but Raymond joyfully assured them they were nearing the end, and that assistance was certainly on the way. His assurances revived their hopes. They advanced at a quicker pace, and had hardly gone a hundred yards before they found the Turks in battle with the Germans. At a sign from their leader the knights in front levelled their lances and charged upon the enemy, who, finding themselves assailed on two sides, gave way at the first onset. The exhausted warriors exulted when they saw them in flight, and a moment later father and son were in each other's arms; for it was Conrad who had come to the rescue. After consultation between the leaders it was decided to keep at a safe distance until they had time to rest, after which they would consult the Emperor and decide upon their future operations. When told of the dangers to which the Crusaders were exposed in that mountain region, Conrad determined to send a force, as soon as all were rested, and clear it of the enemy.

My young readers already know the impression which that beautiful valley made upon the vanguard. It was all the greater upon the army, whose joy was boundless. Troop after troop poured out of the pass. The wide plain was soon crowded with the entire German force. The banks of the stream were densely lined with horses and men, and it was a long time before the last of the army emerged. Finally the Emperor appeared, surrounded by the bravest of his army. He had personally directed every movement for the protection of his men, and refused to rest until the last one had safely reached the valley. Enthusiastic shouts of welcome greeted them, which the mountains re-echoed, announcing to the Turks that the courage of the Christian host was still unbroken.

Gnashing their teeth with rage, the Turks disappeared like ghostly shadows among the mountains which separated the two armies.