In November of the year 1256, the Mongol armies of Prince Hulegu camped ona hillside in the Alburz Mountains of Iran. From all directions, the regimentsof the Mongol generals converged on the encampment overlooking the AlamutValley. Reinforced by an assortment of Muslim and Christian allies and aattery of powerful assault machinery, tens of thousands of the most efficientarchers and swordsmen in the world waited for the signal to launch theirattack. Across the valley, perched on a mountain crag, lay the castle ofMaymun-Diz, stronghold of Rukn ad-Din, Grand Master of the
,a branch of Islam regarded by the mainstream Sunni Muslims as heretics anddangerous fanatics. These people were the
of later Crusader myth,their Grand Master the so-called Old Man of the Mountains.Hulegu had demanded that Rukn ad-Din acknowledge him as hisoverlord and dismantle the castles. For days, Rukn had dissembled andprevaricated, evacuating castles with few or no defences and sending envoysto negotiate with the Mongol leader. Some 60 castles altogether may haveexisted in the 30-mile-long valley and many of these were quite small and of nostrategic importance. However, three especially were vital and regarded bytheir occupants as virtually impregnable. These were Alamut, Lamassar andMaymun-Diz itself.
The Assassins - An Apology