Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Understanding Ourselves by Understanding the Past.


My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Destrier's Tale, Part XVII: Surrender

A Destrier’s Tale
Balian d’Ibelin’s Destrier “Centurion” Tells his Story
Part XVII: Surrender



Incredibly, Lord Balian tried a second night sortie just a few days later. But this time the Horse-Haters were waiting for us. No sooner were we across the bridge, than they swept down on us from all sides. There was literally no way to escape them — except to get back inside the city.

The horrible thing was that the Horse-Haters seemed to be concentrating on Lord Balian rather than me — trying not so much to kill him as to drag him out of the saddle. By now, I was pretty confident that I could defend myself. I could bite and trample and kick viciously enough to make the Horse-Haters back away long enough for me to spin around and run for safety behind the walls. (In the dark there were no archers.) But I wasn’t going to leave Lord Balian to those murderers! Behind us the knight-colts were breaking and running, and only Gabriel was still with us it seemed. He pressed in to try to come between the Horse-Haters and Lord Balian. His intervention enabled me to swing on haunches and start back for the draw-bridge. Gabriel and his stallion were right behindw me.

We had just made the drawbridge when Gabriel’s stallion Gypsy gave a blood curdling scream and reared up. I don’t know how they did it, but they brought him down just yards from safety.  He tumbled right off the side of the bridge into the ditch, tossing poor Gabriel through the air. Horse-Haters pressed forward, hot on our heels. They were on both sides of us, yelling their curses and grabbing for Lord Balian. One came up so close on our left that he grabbed for my bridle, apparently intent on pulling me around and into their camp.

The only thing I could think to do was to leap up and kick out with my hind legs. I landed that kick with so much force that the attacker’s mare crumpled up and fell into the ditch with a piercing whinny — chocked out when she broke her neck as she hit the bottom. I was now through the gate, however, and although some of our pursuers came in with us, they were quickly slaughtered by the Christian infantry.

In fact, the Christians were so frantic by now that they killed the slave horses as well as the Horse-Haters. Just swarmed over them hacking, stabbing, jabbing and screaming in fury.

On my back I felt Lord Balian crumple up, falling forward on my neck. I was sure he was wounded, maybe mortally so, and was grateful when a half dozen humans rushed over to him, calling “My lord! My lord! Are you alright?”

“They were waiting for us! We rode straight into a trap!” He gasped out, righting himself again with a groan and adding in a voice laden with pain and grief. “We lost Sir Gabriel.”

“You did the best you could, my lord.”

When I got back to the stables, Georgios untacked me, checked me over for wounds, and made sure I had fresh water and hay, but I was exhausted. What was more, I could tell the situation was hopeless. In the first sortie, we’d managed to destroy those terrible giants that threw rocks and flaming balls at us, but within two days the Horse-Haters had recruited even more of them. The bombardment was worse than ever, and now we couldn’t sortie out anymore either. Our situation was absolutely hopeless.

I guess I went to sleep eventually, but so late that I was still groggy when Georgios led me out after daybreak to brush away the sweat stains of the night before. He wasn’t even finished, however, when suddenly Mathewos ran into the yard yelling for Georgios to tack me up. Again? I thought. I have to admit that for a moment I was genuinely reluctant and snapped irritably at Mathewos and Georgios.

But then Lord Balian appeared and he had fixed himself up. He was in a surcoat with gold trim and his hair was brushed, his face shaven. He was going to face the enemy! And there was no way I could let him down. I pulled myself together and arched my neck to show him I was ready too. If we were going to die, it would be together — fighting. I nickered my readiness to him.

But he didn’t call the remaining colt-knights together. Instead he took only Mathewos and he carried an all-white banner, rather than the one with the arms of Ibelin. We rode again to the Jehosaphat Gate and the streets were completely empty, apparently abandoned, but I could hear the distinct sounds of battle raging to our left. Men were screaming, shouting, cursing and the clang of metal was audible too. Those sounds, I realized with horror, couldn’t have come from outside the walls. Somehow the Horse-Haters had gotten inside the city!

Lord Balian ordered the men manning the gate to signal to the enemy. They started waving banners and blowing horns until they reported they had the enemy’s attention. Only then did Lord Balian ordered them to open the gate.

We rode straight out at a sedate walk. I wanted to charge. I feel stronger charging, but Lord Balian kept me to a walk. So I pranced and danced my way forward with my nose tucked in and my tail up. We rode like that all the way to the large church set among olive trees before the Horse-Haters swept down on us and blocked our way about 30 yards ahead of us. They didn’t attack us though. It was like back at the city-by-the-sea. Somehow the Horse-Haters knew Lord Balian had come to talk not fight.

Lord Balian ordered Mathewos to remain where he was and advanced until we were just 10 feet apart. The humans exchanged words in the language of the Horse-Haters, and the tone was harsh and threatening. Then another Horse-Hater appeared in magnificent robes with a jewel-studded turban and he rode a stallion that was almost as big as me. When he spoke the others backed away and Lord Balian and he were then alone but about 8 feet apart with my head level with his stallion’s tail and vice-versa.

They seemed to talk for a long time and the emotions were raw in both voices, though I couldn’t understand the words. First one then the other raised his voice, then they both grew more reasonable but still sharp. Until, abruptly, it was over. The Horse-Hater turned and started to ride away. Lord Balian called something after him. He paused, looked back at us with fury in his eyes, but then nodded and rode away. At last Lord Balian turned me back toward the city.

We reached Mathewos. “I have surrendered Jerusalem,” Lord Balian said. He did not sound very happy about it, although after they had talked a bit more Mathewos exclaimed “This is a miracle, my lord!”

Lord Balian clearly didn’t think so, he drew up and questioned Mathewos further, but then we continued together toward the city. We hadn’t even reached the bridge before people started streaming out and surrounded us. Some were cheering, others weeping, still others singing. They completely enveloped us just as when we’d first arrived in the city. I didn’t understand it at first, but then I realized that the giants had stopped hurling things at us, the archers had stopped shooting at us and the sound of combat had died away. Whatever it was Lord Balian had said, he’d convinced the Horse-Haters to let us live — at least for another day.


The siege of Jerusalem is described (from human perspective) in Book II of my Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin:



                                                                                                       or Kindle!

The three part biography begins with:




A landless knight,
                       a leper king,                                                                                          and the struggle for Jerusalem!




Knight of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin, Book I, is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree and finalist for the 2014 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.




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