WAKING OR SLEEPING, HUMPHREY KEPT RELIVING that moment when the True Cross had fallen. The Saracens were clearly targeting it with their arrows. Spread out before the wagon with the True Cross, the corpses of the Christian dead had lain like slaughtered porcupines, while a half-dozen canons of the Holy Sepulcher lay sprawled upon the wagon itself, their limbs limp and their heads hanging lifelessly as blood soaked their white robes. Then the Saracen infantry surged forward, walking on the bodies of the dead and dying. With one horrible whack, a big turbaned man dropped his sword on the junction of the Bishop of Acre’s neck and shoulder. The blade cut halfway to his heart and stuck so fast the sword was wrenched from the Saracen’s hand when the bishop’s body keeled over like a felled tree.
The Bishop of Lydda was still clinging to the golden cross containing the precious relic, but the Saracens swarmed around him and pulled the cross down from the wagon, bishop and all. As it toppled, a wild cheer of “Allahu Akbar!” went up, followed by the ululations of victory.
The sound seemed to wake King Guy from his trance, and with a roar like that of a wounded beast, he lunged forward. His brother tried to hold him back, but King Guy was faster, and a second later the Saracens had swarmed around him and dragged him from his saddle. It looked at first as if they were tearing him to pieces—until Henri d’Ibelin, although he’d been unhorsed hours earlier, plunged into the horde of Saracens on foot with a violence that sent heads and arms flying through the air. He was able to reach the fallen King and pull him to his feet. Guy, however, was staggering as if he’d taken a blow to his head, and he offered his sword hilt-first to the nearest Saracen.
Instantly the shouts and ululations of triumph rose to a great crescendo, while behind them the King’s great red tent collapsed as the stakes were yanked out. Around the wagon on which the True Cross had stood, the Christian infantry fell on their faces in abject submission.
Humphrey saw the Constable throw down his shield and sword and raise his hands over his head in surrender. He hastened to imitate the Constable as the Saracens rushed forward. He was grabbed on all sides by what seemed like dozens of men. They dragged him from his horse and then buffeted and pulled him this way and that, shouting at each other over his head in Arabic.
They were squabbling over whose prize he was. “I got him first!” “No, he’s mine!” “Get your paws off my prisoner!”
Humphrey had been limp and helpless, disinterested in who claimed him.
Eventually all the Christian leaders and men had been dragged, stumbling and dazed, back to the Saracen camp. Humphrey saw many men crumple up or vomit from exhaustion and despair, while the shouts and ululations of triumph continued all around them. He had been too confused to take note of very much. Someone had handed him a pottery mug filled with hot, murky water. It tasted foul, but he’d drunk every drop. A moment later his bowels started working and he’d had to crouch and drop his braies.
He was taken to a tent and (not knowing he spoke Arabic) they just pointed for him to sit on the floor. He did as he was told; he seemed to have no will of his own.
Nor did he have any sense of how long he had been there when they came for him and led him toward a larger, more luxurious tent. Just before the door of this tent, a spiked pole had been thrust butt-end into the earth. It was sagging and leaning to one side from the weight of the head stuck on it. Humphrey caught his breath in horror and then staggered as he recognized the bald head and staring eyes of Reynald de Châtillon. Much as he hated Châtillon, he was still shocked into paralysis by the sight of his severed head. From behind, someone roughly shoved him forward, causing him to almost trip over the headless body of the Lord of Oultrejourdain that lay just beyond the pole—still bleeding from the stump of the neck and a stomach wound.
Inside the tent Humphrey found it hard to focus at first, and then he realized that King Guy was seated beside Salah ad-Din, looking ghastly white, as he held a goblet wet with condensation in obviously trembling hands. Henri d’Ibelin was still beside him, a bloody cloth tied around his sword arm, and Aimery de Lusignan stood behind his brother the King, looking nearly as shaken, but not trembling. The old Marquis de Montferrat, father of Sibylla’s first husband and grandfather of Baldwin V, had been offered a seat, apparently on account of his white beard and hair. He sat with hunched shoulders and slack arms, clutching a goblet in both hands. Standing behind him were Hebron and his eldest son, the latter nursing a dislocated shoulder, and Walter of Caesarea with a ugly gash on the side of his face. The lords of Bethsan, Nazareth, Haifa, Jubail, and Scandelion, were here as well, filthy and drenched in sweat, but apparently without serious injury. And Gerard de Ridefort. The Templar Master was the only one among them who still looked defiant.
“Who is this?” asked Salah ad-Din.
“Humphrey de Toron,” Aimery de Lusignan answered the Sultan, and someone shoved Humphrey from behind so that he fell forward onto his knees.
“There’s no need to be rough,” Salah ad-Din admonished whoever had given the push, adding to Humphrey: “You have nothing to fear. You are my prisoner.” Then to a slave he ordered again in Arabic, “Give him something to drink.”
That water had been chilled and clean, but it had been the last courtesy Humphrey had received since his capture.
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