“Salah ad-Din!” Sir Tancred shouted as he drew up beside Balian. “He’s getting away!” He pointed after a man in magnificent brocade tunic hunched over the back of a camel he was flaying into a gallop.
Balian turned Gladiator to pursue and felt him lurch. The stallion’s hip dropped away and Balian nearly fell backwards out of the saddle. He looked down and back, and saw the horrible gash that had cut open the stallion’s flank. Blood was pouring out of the wound and Gladiator would not put weight on his hip. Tancred and other knights of the King’s squadron were flying after the fleeing Sultan, but Balian could not join them. He paused to catch his breath and looked around at the battle field.
The floor of the ravine was littered with Saracen dead, scattered equipment, trampled tents, toppled field kitchens and panicked horses still running this way and that. Here and there, at the fringes, the Templars were still slaughtering, but there was no organized resistance, only pockets of desperate men determined to sell their lives dearly. Others, however, were on their knees begging for mercy of the secular knights, while farther away, the Christian foot-soldiers were trying to stop some of the fleeing Muslims.
Ransoms! Balian thought with sudden clarity now that the danger was past. The young men who had rushed to Salah ad-Din’s defense were surely men of quality. If he could take just one or two of them captive, he would be a made man: maybe even rich enough to marry a dowager queen. He flung himself down from Gladiator and strode back to the men Gladiator had so effectively cut down, his sword drawn.
Three survivors were still there: the man who had taken a hoof in the face was sitting cross-legged holding a blood-soaked cloth to his face and swaying back and forth in pain. Beside him, the man with a broken shoulder was hunched in pain, while a third man, or youth really, tried to bind it in a sling. They looked up at Balian’s approach, their eyes widening in alarm, and the youth who was not wounded leaped to his feet and brandished his sword.
Balian raised his sword over his head, and addressed him in Arabic. “I’ll kill you if you want, but your army is destroyed, your Sultan has fled. Throw away your sword and surrender to me, and you will live to grow a beard.”
The young man hesitated, but the man with the broken shoulder called out between clenched teeth. “It is enough. Enough widows and orphans among the Believers this day.” Then turning to Balian he declared. “We are your prisoners. All of us.”
Just then the King trotted up beside Balian. “I think,” he declared cautiously, still not daring to believe what he saw, “I think, the day is ours.”
A landless knight,
a leper king,and the struggle for Jerusalem.
A divided kingdom,
a united enemy,
and the struggle for Jerusalem
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