CHAPTER 4 THE FIELD OF HATTIN
THE END OF THE ARMY
The Frankish nobles stared at the carnage.
The plain was covered with the corpses of men-at-arms. The loss of foot-soldiers was to be expected, if not on this scale. What horrified the nobles was that a thousand knights had also been slain.
King Guy glanced at the scatter of men close by. They were overcome by thirst, wounds and despair. They could fight no longer.
The sun tormented those left alive, especially the wounded. Their groans carried far across the plain. Only the carrion birds were not dismayed by the sound. They circled patiently, waiting until the dying gave up the struggle and the battle-field grew still.
There was one strength still remaining to the Christians. Raymond of Tripoli had maintained command of a few of his troops, a hundred in all, knights and foot-soldiers.
The King called across the heaps of dead, commanding him to attack the Saracen army.
Raymond looked across the field of dead; disbelieving, despairing. His dislike of Guy was deep-seated. He had long argued against his determination to force war upon Saladin. But he never thought the man’s folly would lead to this.
He stared for a moment at Guy. He turned and looked at Saladin’s army and then at his own pitiful remnant of men. Then he laughed; a laugh of desperation and bitter scorn.
Raymond sheathed his sword and forced his men to harvest their courage and whatever weapons they could find.
‘Mount up,’ Raymond cried. ‘Find a horse and mount up. Even foot-soldiers, even if you’ve never ridden before, mount up.’
The Saracen host, thirty thousand warriors, was drawn up in a crescent in front of them. Raymond took a deep breath and led his hundred men towards them.
The ground was strewn with Christian corpses. His men turned their heads when they saw they were about to ride over stricken friends or comrades. But Raymond increased the pace and the horsemen moved into a canter. The two armies were close now and he cried out, summoning his men to their final hopeless charge.
He drew his sword and aimed it at the nearest emir. But as he did so, with unbelievable skill, the Saracens veered away. A gap opened up allowing the tiny force to ride through the army unmolested to safety.
On the other side of the battle-field Balian of Ibelin realised that all eyes were on the charge of his friend Count Raymond. He seized this brief opportunity to lead his last four followers to safety.
The Saracen army reformed and came to a halt a furlong away from King Guy and the rest of the Frankish lords.
Two men, the leaders of the victorious army, walked their horses a dozen paces in front of their warriors and gazed upon their stricken foe.
Saladin walked alone across the battle field. Most of the nobility of the Kingdom had been captured, including King Guy. Only Raymond’s force and four men led by Balian of Ibelin had escaped.
All around him lay the corpses of the army of Jerusalem, twenty thousand soldiers and knights, the entire defensive force of the Kingdom.
Saladin turned to the south, his eyes peering across the bleak hills. Now, finally, he could unleash the storm upon Jerusalem.
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