In the twelfth century, the Order of Assassins prospered. Since its founding a century earlier by Hassan el Sabah, this secret society of terrorist assassins had become the dread of the Middle East. Its members, fanaticised by their leader, were willing to sacrifice their lives in murdering the powerful of the era.
They were the result of an Islamic heresy called the Ismailis, lead today by the Aga Khan. Their master and ruler, nicknamed “The Old Man of the Mountain”, used blackmail, terror, threats and bloody deeds to get anything he wanted from his contemporary sovereigns. The Order was one of history’s most formidable associations, so much so that even the greatest ruler of the time, Sultan Saladin, was forced to fear it.
This sovereign who reigned over Syria and Egypt was one of the noblest warriors of his time. Strict but generous, unbending with his word, full of charity, even towards his enemies, he was an example to all.
He was loved, he was respected, he was obeyed, by all but the Assassins.
When their threat drew dangerously near, he thought it best to deal with them directly. He wasn’t the first nor the last to do so, as even Saint Louis would be compelled to do the same during the Crusades. Saladin sent an envoy to “The Old Man of the Mountain” and offered to negotiate. “The Old Man of the Mountain” agreed and, in turn, sent an emissary to Saladin’s Court to discuss a potential truce.
The emissary arrived at the Sultan’s palace, and the Sultan received him, surrounded by his advisors and guards. The emissary demanded to be left alone, face to face, with the Sultan. With a gesture, the Sultan had his advisors and guards leave, except for one guard who remained standing next to his throne.
The emissary insisted, “I said, face to face.” The Sultan protested, “But this is my most loyal guard, I’ve had him by my side for years, he never leaves me for an instant, neither night or day. He has always protected me.”
Then, the emissary stood and gestured towards the guard. The guard removed his dagger and pierced his own heart with it. He died instantly.
Saladin realised that his beloved guard had become a member of the Order of the Assassins. He realised how powerful they were and conducted a swift negotiation. Saladin couldn’t help but accept all the conditions set by “The Old Man of the Mountain”. He agreed to them all, and thus was never the victim of an Assassin.