Suddenly realising he had been holding his breath, Ansfroi filled his lungs with a gasp of air. The walls were now a scene of chaos and death. Smoke rose from incendiaries and spilt oil that gave both attacker and defender an eerie appearance as they stepped through the fumes. The smell assaulted the nose, fumes that caused the assaulters to cough and falter. Helmed Muslims screamed as they were pushed from the walls, a sandstone cliff face. Zealot Franks struck out in blood crazed frenzy. This was like no battle he had fought in so far and the enraged emotion and hatred that filled the air chilled him to the bone.
Looking around, Ansfroi searched for his master. The fight had separated them and, as he studied the battlefield, he saw La Roule driving the warriors back, fighting alongside the mysterious knight who had just saved his life.
“La Roule!” His shout fell on deaf ears, or at least the roar of battle drowned it out. By now the other crusader knights had surpassed the corner and flooded down worn, stone steps to enter the city.
Eager mad zealots.
Realising their intent, Ansfroi raced after them to join them at the gate. Around the entrance, the gatehouse towering up above them, the throng of soldiers reached for the huge wooden structures and, removing the fixtures that held it shut, began to heave it open.
And the Crusaders flooded in.
Pushed aside by the never ending stream of fanatics, like some rioting mass swarming into the city, it was all he could do but to keep himself upright. Gripping his shield, the sudden irony of being trampled by his own people striking him, Ansfroi suddenly found himself pushed along, like a twig lost in the current of a river.
An elbow struck him, causing him to flinch. His shoulder struck the wall and he almost tripped on the body of a slain Muslim defender. It was sheer chaos and nothing could stop this surge toward the inner walls. He could not even manage a glimpse at the walkways above.
The roar was met with fervent shouts of conformity.
“Kill the heathen!”
They streamed onwards.
“God wills it!”
Everyone cheered with agreement as the way of their pilgrimage opened, the waves of the red sea parting before them.
And despite the madness and turmoil that threaten to throw him down, even Ansfroi felt elated by the sudden drive. After months of starvation and suffering, after fighting constant battles and slaying, finally theHolyCitywould be theirs. It did not stop this rush of warmth within when a soldier slipped and fell, disappearing under the feet of those behind.
When it happened again, he realised something was wrong. Maybe his imagination played with his mind, such was the tiredness that assailed him, but the whistle of the arrows still filled him and he could have sworn…
Shouts of alarm sprung up and, as more arrows started to fly from the side streets, Ansfroi recognised that his thoughts were not playing tricks on him. Trying to raise his shield quickly, he only found that the ongoing charge and the crushing momentum stopped him from doing so. More death cries flew into the air and he could see them; turbaned, bare chested warriors firing constantly into the mass from the windows and roofs either side of the street. As the knights finally had full recognition, slowing their running pace to a trot and desperately shielding themselves if they could, another sight met them.
Horses. Dozens of them.
Ahead, silently waiting with grim gazes that contemplated their dying enemy, the Fatimid cavalry stood. Their horses nervously tossed their heads or snorted at the sight of the enemy but, obedient steeds, they readied themselves for the signal.
They lowered their spears.
The leader raised his hand and in a mighty sweep he brought it down, calling out his command.
And they charged.