Fanaticism was all that held them. Religious zealots, like rabid dogs refusing to surrender in the face of the killer, the mailed soldiers lifted shields to hold back the storm that swept towards them.
Pounding down the street, the hooves of death thundered towards them, like the reaper come to make his demands and sweep the scythe of destiny. The horses’ muscles, rippling and shining with sweat, carried the Fatmid warriors forward with spears closing in on the enemy; weapons that would send them to the pits of hell. From their saddles, they were intimidating and fearsome, snarls of fury and eyes filled with hate.
The wave crashed into the dam of shields. But the dam held. Wooden points, which should lance the knights like roasts on a spit, broke on the wall of shields emblazed with holy symbols. One warrior, his red turban of silk resplendent and grand, was thrown forward as his horse came to a halt, reluctant to charge further. The animals, terrified to enter the crowd of men, instead tried to turn and the street became a clogged mass of death.
Knights fell, their shield knocked aside; Fatmid warriors were tossed into the crowd; and all the while those behind pushed forward, both Muslims and Christians creating a riotous mass of murder.
But as a horse reared, its eyes glowing in fright and panic, it fell forward, crushing the knights that held the front and burying them beneath the seething madness. With the lines broken, a Fatmid warrior saw his chance and, with steed leaping like some diving comet, he jumped the dead bodies of the front and drove the charge home into the midst of the Christians.
Arrows rained down from above, more knights falling from the messengers of death, and the leading warriors found themselves facing the horsemen when only seconds before they were unable to raise their shields.
There is only so long that even fanaticism can hold the human heart, and in the heat of the sun that bathed Jerusalem, panic broke out and the knight’s fled.
Ansfroi realised to flee was to die. Those at the back now met a gory end to the spears of the cavalry; those in the middle were trampled in the chaos of the throng. Lucky to be at the outer edge of the crusaders’ charge, he ducked into an alley and was immediately struck by the cool shadows that protectively blocked out the heat.
The passage was narrow; sandy walls of solid square blocks and a dusty floor that crunched underfoot. The smell of spices, a surprising oddity after the strong stench of sweat and blood, bathed the alley and he realised it was part of what should be Jerusalem’s everyday life. Except this was not any day.
Retreating back further, he quickly looked back to see the last of the knights flee past; run down by the devilish cavalry that roared out in triumph. And there were the archers too; how long before they came to loot the corpses? Maybe he had time if they had to drive the knights from the walls but the greed of mankind would bring some to the search. Like a hunted animal his eyes danced back and forth, searching for his escape route. But there was only a dead end. He was imprisoned and the only way out would be to walk back into the valley of death.
The sword in his hand felt heavy and a sudden tiredness hit him. They had travelled so far, so long. For three years the Crusade had lasted and this was to be La Roule’s final destination. He snorted at the irony; this would be his final destination. Muscle’s filled with lead that seemed to seep through his body; the ache began to glow in his muscles. What would he give to return to his home in England; a land conquered but his land at least. Closing his eyes he mourned for his country and mourned his own death.