Meanwhile, the knights who had charged with Richard had also had a chance to rest and drink. When he called for a new charge, they all stood, but he waved them down and chose from among the knights who had remained behind before. Aimery was not entirely disappointed. Every muscle in his body ached from the horrible dragging he had endured. He had bruises everywhere, and one of his eyes was swollen almost shut and several of his teeth were loose. He presumed these injuries, too, had happened while he was being dragged, since many stones had been flung back at him by his captor’s horse.
Much as his body ached, however, he took up a position on the shield wall again and prepared to be a spectator. He no longer believed King Richard and his companions were riding to certain death, but he knew there was no certainty of survival, either.
This time when King Richard charged, however, the Saracens just fell back and parted their ranks for him. The whole troop rode through the Saracen army, and for a heart-stopping moment, Aimery (and the entire Frankish force) thought he had just ridden into a trap and was about to be annihilated. Aimery and half a hundred other men jumped to their feet in alarm, but then the whole troop rode back out of the Saracens the same way they’d ridden in. King Richard turned his horse around again and, evidently ordering his knights to remain where they were, he rode alone toward the Saracen line.
“Holy Virgin Mary!” Aimery gasped. It would take only a single arrow to cut him down now!
But the Saracen line remained immobile, apparently mesmerized.
King Richard was mounted on one of the captured Saracen horses. He looked magnificent as he rode along the length of the Saracen line. He cantered slowly with upraised lance from one end to the other. “Come on!” he shouted, loud enough to be heard even in his own ranks. “Come out and fight!”
While there were few Saracens who understood French, his intentions needed no translation. The Saracen line merely inched away from him whenever he approached. Just by the King’s riding back and forth along it, it was being forced backwards. His own troops were as mesmerized by what was happening as the enemy was.
Finally there was a stirring among the enemy. Starting at the back, men started to move. Excited voices wafted through the air, and abruptly the back ranks started to turn and ride away, melting into the distance one after another, until the men in the very front also turned their horses around and picked up an easy canter to try to catch up with the rest.
Richard drew up and sat watching them go, his expression hidden from his own men because he was facing the enemy.
“Is it over?” an archer asked.
“I’m not sure,” Aimery admitted.
King Richard was still sitting on his horse and staring to the north. Indeed, he’d shoved his helmet back onto his neck and was shading his eyes with his hand. Aimery followed his gaze. The sun was sinking down the western sky, and although they weren’t looking straight into it, it was bright and low enough to make it necessary to squint.
“There’s something on the road!” someone exclaimed in excitement.
“There are men and horses approaching from the north!”
“Saracens or Franks?”
“I can’t tell yet.”
“The Saracens withdrew. They must be Franks. It must be the army of Jerusalem.”
At last Aimery could decipher four riders leading the column, but he couldn’t make out what was on the banners. He squinted and held his breath as a light sea breeze lifted and then unfurled them with an invisible hand. Gold on white! The crosses of Jerusalem! And beside it: the red cross pattée on a field of gold for Ibelin.
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