Part 7, Chapter 15

Part VII

Chapter 15

THE plain was covered with the corpses of men and horses, arms and standards, and prostrate tents. Returning from the pursuit of the Sultan of Roum, Alroy ordered the trumpets to sound to arms, and, covered with gore and dust, dismounted from his charger, and stood before the pavilion of Malek, leaning on his bloody scimetar, and surrounded by his victorious generals.

‘Ah, Jabaster!’ said the conqueror, giving his hand to the pontiff, ‘’twas well your troops had such a leader. No one but you could have rallied them. You must drill your lads a little before they again meet the Cappadocian* cavalry. Brave Scherirah, we shall not forget our charge. Asriel, tell the guard, from me, that the victory of the Tigris was owing to their scimetars. Ithamar, what are our freshest troops?’

‘The legion of Aderbijan, sire.’

‘How strong can they muster?’

‘It counts twelve thousand men: we might collect two-thirds.’

‘Valiant Ithamar, take the Aderbijans and a division of the guards, push on towards Bagdad, and summon the city. If his sultanship of Roum offer battle, take up a position, and he shall quickly have his desire. For the present, after these hasty marches and sharp fighting, the troops must rest. I guess he will not tarry. Summon the city, and say that if any resistance be offered, I will make it as desolate as old Babylon. Treat with no armed force. Where is the soldier that saved me a cracked skull; his name Benaiah?’*

‘I wait your bidding, sire.’

‘You’re a captain. Join the division of Ithamar, and win fresh laurels ere we meet again. Gentle Asriel, let your brother know our fortune.’

‘Sire, several Tartars have already been despatched to Hamadan.’

‘’Tis well. Send another with these tablets to the Lady Miriam. Despatch the pavilion of Malek as a trophy for the town. Elnebar, Goliath of the Hebrews, you bore our sacred standard like a hero! How fares the prophetess? I saw her charging in our ranks, waving a sabre with her snowy arm, her long, dark hair streaming like a storm, from which her eyes flashed lightning.’

‘The king bleeds,’ said Jabaster.

‘Slightly. It will do me service. I am somewhat feverish. A kingdom for a draught of water!* And now for our wounded friends. Asriel, do you marshal the camp. It is the Sabbath eve.62 Time presses.’