The Battle of Arsuf was a confrontation between the military forces of Saladin and King Richard I of England. The conflict took place during September of 1191. Earlier that year, in July, the Crusaders had gained control of the port city of Acre. As a result, their morale was enhanced to no end, as it allowed for reinforcements and supplies to be received via sea.
King Richard led an attack on the Saracens at Arsuf personally, leaving the city of Acre in the hands of three of his most trusted men. Meanwhile, he led a march to the south, with the aim being to flank the Saracen combatants. The battle was the first major defeat of the Saracens during the Crusades, and greatly increased the morale of the European army.
Ride for the King
- "The man is clever. He goes to plead his case to Richard and Saladin, to unite them against the common enemy. Against us."
- ―Altaïr on Robert de Sable and his journey to Arsuf.[src]
Following the occurrences at Majd Addin's funeral, the Assassin, Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, fled to the Assassin bureau in Jerusalem, to inform Malik Al-Sayf ‒ the Rafiq ‒ of the trap set for him by Robert de Sable. When Altaïr arrived, Malik claimed he had heard some details about the events of the funeral, and asked for further information. Altaïr inferred to Malik that Robert had sent a decoy, who revealed that Robert rode for Arsuf to plead his case to King Richard and Saladin, to unite them together against the Assassin Order, as Altaïr had killed eight men that were important to both leaders.
Though Malik was of the opinion that they should report to Al Mualim first, Altaïr disagreed, stating that by the time they would have reached Masyaf, Robert would already have succeeded. Malik, though reluctant, agreed with Altaïr, wishing him safety and peace on his mission, and to be careful. Altaïr assured Malik he would be and made his departure, on good terms with the Rafiq, leaving Jerusalem and riding through the Kingdom on horseback. First traveling through both Saracen and Crusader camps, Altaïr eventually arrived at Arsuf, where the battle had already begun. Proceeding onward, the Assassin prepared to face the Grand Master of the Templar Order head-on.
- "Hold a moment. It's words I bring, not steel."
- ―Altaïr to King Richard's soldiers.[src]
Upon Altaïr's arrival in Arsuf, he rode along a ledge, from which he had a point of view over the road along which King Richard's army was marching. Altaïr surveyed the infantry passing by, and then continued down the path he was on, until he came across a Saracen ambush, consisting of a number of archers firing upon the marching English soldiers. The foot-soldiers were lying in wait for their enemies, perhaps not expecting the advancing Assassin.
Nevertheless, they attacked Altaïr – using the tactic of occupying him while their archers shot at him from above. Fighting through line upon line of Saracen men, Altaïr sought King Richard's lieutenant, Robert de Sable. Escaping the archers and foot-soldiers, Altaïr successfully reached the camp, where he fought off even more men – Crusaders, this time – in order to reach Robert, who was conversing with Richard.
Face to face
The ninth Templar
- "I must leave it in the hands of one wiser than I..."
- ―King Richard upon the dilemma of Robert de Sable's true allegiances.[src]
Altaïr finally reached King Richard, who had Robert de Sable standing by his side. Invited into the heavily-guarded camp, Altaïr was surrounded by knights of King Richard and the Templar Order as he was questioned. Richard assumed that Saladin had sent Altaïr to either inform him of their surrender, or to have him assassinated. Altaïr explained that he had not come to kill Richard, and that Robert was his true target. Richard replied that he supported de Sable in his campaign of revenge against the Assassins, as they had been responsible for the death of his best men.
The Assassin claimed personal responsibility for their deaths, but argued that his actions were for good reason. The other major Crusader figures, Garnier de Naplouse, William of Montferrat, and Sibrand, were responsible for several corrupt and traitorous practices. He went on to exclaim that Richard should have suspected such acts from them.
Richard took consideration of the Assassin's points and turned to his lieutenant for input. Robert dismissed Altaïr's words, saying that they should not trust him, as his reasoning was only a means of protecting Masyaf from the combined might of the Saracen and Crusader armies. Altaïr claimed that he had no reason to deceive, and if his sacrifice was necessary for peace in the Holy Land, he would accept it. Richard was unsure of who spoke the truth, and so he instructed the two to fight in a duel, to see who God would side with.
- Altaïr: "He is the Master of the Assassins!"
- Robert: "Oui, the Master of lies..."
- —Altaïr and Robert upon Al Mualim.[src]
Altaïr first faced several of Robert's knights, and although outnumbered, the Assassin bested them all. Robert then charged into the fight, to confront Altaïr himself, and he began to attack with speed and power, blocking and countering incoming attacks from Altaïr. However, the Assassin proved himself to be of a greater level of skill, eventually cutting the Templar Grand Master down.
Before passing away, Robert revealed the truth about Al Mualim's allegiances, and observed the irony of Altaïr's pursuit of him and his comrades. Though they were his enemies, they had indirectly helped the Assassin transcend the illusions of reality, strengthening his mind and his will to resist the Piece of Eden.
Afterwards, Altaïr had a brief conversation with King Richard about all that he had done, just to kill Robert. Richard mused over the violent, unruly nature of mankind, and of God's support for the Assassin. Altaïr responded that he had not won because of the will of God, but because he had been the better fighter. King Richard then replied that Altaïr might not believe in God, but God believes in him. Altaïr then took his leave from the king to confront his master, Al Mualim, at Masyaf.
Through the Apple of Eden he then possessed, Al Mualim began to control the minds of his subjects in Masyaf, leading them astray with thoughts of Al Mualim being a "god", and that following him would lead them all to the light. Altaïr returned to the Assassin fortress in order to confront his master, foil the man's plans, and retake Masyaf. In the end, Al Mualim was defeated by Altaïr, who received the Apple of Eden and took the role of the Mentor of the Assassins.
The battle of Arsuf was a ferocious conflict between two armies. In the end, however, the Crusaders were able to secure victory, with their casualties amounting to seven hundred men. The Saracens instead suffered heavy losses, with the deaths of approximately seven thousand soldiers.