Alan and Simon Ferrier plodded up the steep track towards the city. Alan felt he might die at any moment. The sun poured out of a clear blue sky, an intense, implacable heat which seemed intent on beating him to his knees. He uncorked his flask and sipped at the water. It tasted of iron and gave no relief to the desert of his mouth.
‘Nearly there,’ he gasped to his cousin.
Simon gave him a blank stare.
The last mile was the worst. Alan forced his eyes to peer through the glare but no matter how often he looked he appeared no closer. It seemed the city would stay forever beyond his reach.
Could that be, he wondered? Was Jerusalem so holy a place that those who were unworthy would never attain its bliss?
The two men lurched together. The contact seemed to give them renewed strength and purpose and their pace quickened. Finally, they reached the city and stumbled into the deep shade beneath its walls.
‘At last,’ said Simon.
‘Ten months,’ Alan said. ‘Ten months. But we’ve got here.’
Just outside the gate to the city a cistern had been placed for the relief of pilgrims and their horses. The water was brackish and oily, strewn with wisps of straw and dead insects. They plunged their heads into it and swallowed down great draughts. In England it would have been too warm to drink; now it seemed like water from an icy stream.
Eventually they drunk their fill and slumped down before the gate. Alan’s eyes filled with tears. ‘We’ve done it, Simon,’ he said.
‘I knew we would,’ said Simon, ‘but I began to doubt.’ He sighed and rubbed his eyes.
They looked at each other and gave a weary smile. They climbed to their feet, hoisted their packs upon their backs and took up their staffs. Hearts hammering with excitement they walked into the city.
No sooner had they stepped through the gates when they saw crowds of people lining the road, jostling for position closest to it. The sheer numbers pressed them back until their legs were slammed up against a shrine.
Two small boys had clambered onto the shrine and were shouting to each other in excitement
‘What’s happening?’ Alan asked them.
‘King Guy,’ cried the youngest boy, ‘King Guy is going to war.’
Almost immediately a trumpet sounded from deep within the city. A heavy and regular beat sounded in the distance. It got louder and louder and soon the reverberation of it jarred the ground beneath their feet.
A huge cheer rose from the crowd and the children shrieked with delight. Alan and Simon followed their gaze. Riding through the gate came two lines of armoured knights, pennants high, bright armour glistening in the sun. The knights closest to them wore red surcoats with white cross emblazoned upon it. The knights in the far column wore white coats emblazoned with stark red cross. Behind each line strode lines of men or arms bearing the same designs.
‘Who are they?’ Alan asked.
‘Knights of the Hospital and of theTemple,’ cried the youngest boy. ‘I am for the Templars but Claude-Yusuf is for the Hospitallers.’
‘Gerard is too young to know better,’ explained the older boy with what he thought was a condescending look.
Vainglory is the working title for a book about the Commoner Knights who helped defend Jerusalem against Saladin.
- Finding the right name (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- Templar expert Dr Evelyn Lord talks to The Templar Knight blog! (thetemplarknight.com)