It was clear that this was as much a surprise for the horsemen as it was for them. The band hastily jumped into defensive formation, keeping to the edge of the forest, with shields forward and a swarm of spears pleasantly resembling a porcupine, while the riders leaped onto their horses, orders shouted, animals whinnying, a rider here and there galloping to the other side of the formation.
It took them a few moments of confusion to realise this was not who they expected.
"Slovenians!" grumbled Ibra, spat on the ground and straightened up. He turned around. "Slovenians!" he repeated, more loudly.
Men around him started to loosen up, but a shout came from the background. "Hold formation!" The raiders tightened again. The horsemen, on the middle of the meadow, also formed up, but seemed equally indecisive about the course of action.
Abdulla pushed from the rear, raised to his toes to take a better look at the meadow and glanced at the riders. The two formations were a hundred paces apart. If the order was given, the raiders could close the gap in ten breaths. The horsemen in less.
"We are at peace with them, for now," Abdulla said. "We do not engage. For now. I will send a messenger."
Ibra nodded. "What about Bayrut?" The Lebanese village was a few days of quick pace away. It was a promised prize, a new target ready for looting. But now, who knows? He took another look at the opposing force. "And they were not supposed to be this far west. This is what we were told."
Abdulla shook his head. "We do not engage, for now. I am sending a messenger," he repeated. "Hold your ground, do not be surprised." He paused, took another look, then turned and pushed through the ranks toward the rear. The horsemen seemed to loosen up a bit, too, some of them arguing with a man who seemed to be the commander. They were pointing at the Palestinians and to the right, eastwards, where they probably came from. They are also not engaging. For now, Ibra realised.
"We camp here," Ibra said to no one in particular, but his men heard him. "Set up a heavy defence line." Bayrut will have to wait.