Famine had now increased to such a degree as to distress even the garrison of Gibralfaro, although the Gomeres had seized upon all the provisions they could find in the city. Their passions were sharpened by hunger, and they became restless and turbulent and impatient for action.
Hamet was one day in council with his captains, perplexed by the pressure of events, when the dervise entered among them. "The hour of victory," exclaimed he, "is at hand. Allah has commanded that to-morrow morning ye shall sally forth to the fight. I will bear before you the sacred banner and deliver your enemies into your hands. Remember, however, that ye are but instruments in the hands of Allah to take vengeance on the enemies of the faith. Go into battle, therefore, with pure hearts, forgiving each other all past offences, for those who are charitable toward each other will be victorious over the foe." The words of the dervise were received with rapture; all Gibralfaro and the Alcazaba resounded immediately with the din of arms, and Hamet sent throughout the towers and fortifications of the city and selected the choicest troops and most distinguished captains for this eventful combat.
In the morning early the rumor went throughout the city that the sacred banner had disappeared from the tower of Gibralfaro, and all Malaga was roused to witness the sally that was to destroy the unbelievers. Hamet descended from his stronghold, accompanied by his principal captain, Ibrahim Zenete, and followed by his Gomeres. The dervise led the way, displaying the white banner, the sacred pledge of victory. The multitude shouted "Allah Akbar!" and prostrated themselves before the banner as it passed. Even the dreaded Hamet was hailed with praises, for in their hopes of speedy relief through the prowess of his arm the populace forgot everything but his bravery. Every bosom in Malaga was agitated by hope and fear: the old men, the women, and children, and all who went not forth to battle mounted on tower and battlement and roof to watch a combat that was to decide their fate.
Before sallying forth from the city the dervise addressed the troops, reminding them of the holy nature of this enterprise, and warning them not to forfeit the protection of the sacred banner by any unworthy act. They were not to pause to make spoil nor to take prisoners: they were to press forward, fighting valiantly, and granting no quarter. The gate was then thrown open, and the dervise issued forth, followed by the army. They directed their assaults upon the encampments of the master of Santiago and the master of Alcantara, and came upon them so suddenly that they killed and wounded several of the guards. Ibrahim Zenete made his way into one of the tents, where he beheld several Christian striplings just starting from their slumber. The heart of the Moor was suddenly touched with pity for their youth, or perhaps he scorned the weakness of the foe.
He smote them with the flat instead of the edge of the sword. "Away, imps!" cried he, "away to your mothers!" The fanatic dervise reproached him with his clemency. "I did not kill them," replied Zenete, "because I saw no beards!"*
The alarm was given in the camp, and the Christians rushed from all quarters to defend the gates of the bulwarks. Don Pedro Puerto Carrero, senior of Moguer, and his brother, Don Alonzo Pacheco, planted themselves with their followers in the gateway of the encampment of the master of Santiago, and bore the whole brunt of battle until they were reinforced. The gate of the encampment of the master of Calatrava was in like manner defended by Lorenzo Saurez de Mendoza. Hamet was furious at being thus checked where he had expected a miraculous victory. He led his troops repeatedly to the attack, hoping to force the gates before succor should arrive: they fought with vehement ardor, but were as often repulsed, and every time they returned to the assault they found their enemies doubled in number. The Christians opened a cross-fire of all kinds of missiles from their bulwarks; the Moors could effect but little damage upon a foe thus protected behind their works, while they themselves were exposed from head to foot. The Christians singled out the most conspicuous cavaliers, the greater part of whom were either slain or wounded. Still, the Moors, infatuated by the predictions of the prophet, fought desperately and devotedly, and they were furious to revenge the slaughter of their leaders. They rushed upon certain death, endeavoring madly to scale the bulwarks or force the gates, and fell amidst showers of darts and lances, filling the ditches with their mangled bodies.
Hamet el Zegri raged along the front of the bulwarks seeking an opening for attack. He gnashed his teeth with fury as he saw so many of his chosen warriors slain around him. He seemed to have a charmed life, for, though constantly in the hottest of the fight amidst showers of missiles, he still escaped uninjured. Blindly confiding in the prophecy of victory, he continued to urge on his devoted troops. The dervise too ran like a maniac through the ranks, waving his white banner and inciting the Moors by howlings rather than by shouts. "Fear not! the victory is ours, for so it is written!" cried he. In the midst of his frenzy a stone from a catapult struck him in the head and dashed out his bewildered brains.*
When the Moors beheld their prophet slain and his banner in the dust, they were seized with despair and fled in confusion to the city. Hamet el Zegri made some effort to rally them, but was himself confounded by the fall of the dervise. He covered the flight of his broken forces, turning repeatedly upon their pursuers and slowly making his retreat into the city.