Sister Adela had been a Hospitaller sister for a quarter century. She thought of herself as a professional, but nothing in her life had prepared her for the casualties that flooded the Hospital of St. John at Jerusalem after the mangonels went into action. By nightfall on September 24, 1187, after two days of bombardment, the courtyard of the Hospital was paved with wounded, and bands of lay brothers moved systematically and continuously between them to identify and remove the dead. In the wards, the brothers worked feverishly to remove arrows protruding from profusely bleeding wounds, stop the hemorrhaging opened by the missiles, and set or amputate the limbs of people partially crushed by the flung stones. Their habits were drenched in the mixed blood of dozens of patients, and their hands were so covered with it that when they went to wipe the sweat from their brows, they left smears of scarlet on their faces.
Most of the casualties were fighting men, but some of the helpers—women bringing water, boys bringing arrows—had been hit, too. The sight of a young boy writhing in agony from an arrow in his guts made even Sister Adela taste vomit in her throat, while many of the younger sisters were openly weeping and shaking. They were all seeing and hearing things that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
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