Ibelin was on the brink of deciding they had won the engagement, when out of nowhere Sir Bartholomew launched himself after the retreating Saracens. He flung himself half out of his saddle in an attempt to wrap his arms around one of the most tenacious of the leaders, a Mamluke with a flaming red beard, and drag him from his own saddle onto Sir Bartholomew’s own. This rude and targeted attack on the troop leader had the appalling effect of rallying the already routed enemy. With shouts of alarm and outrage, the captured Mamluke’s men not only rushed to his rescue, they screamed for support. From where he sat, Ibelin saw Saracen horsemen sit back, haul their horses around, and come to the rescue of their embattled comrade. He registered that the red-headed Mamluke was either very popular or very important. It took only a few seconds for Sir Bartholomew to be surrounded, and then to become completely lost from view as the enemy rained blows on him from all sides.
Ibelin shouted and spurred his destrier into the fray, lashing out in a frenzy with “Defender of Jerusalem.” Sir Galvin and a half-dozen other Frankish knights joined him. They cut and hacked their way into the enemy, but the Saracens were already falling back before them, their comrade rescued.
As the enemy withdrew again, Ibelin saw Sir Bartholomew fall onto the neck of his horse and then tip forward even farther, to sink slowly off his stallion and land in a heap beside the horse’s front feet. From the way his body fell and sprawled, it was obvious he was either dead or unconscious. His stallion stopped dutifully beside him, dropping his head to sniff at his immobile rider. The horse was covered with cuts, bleeding and favoring his off foreleg.
Ibelin drew up beside Sir Bartholomew and flung himself out of the saddle to go down on one knee beside the older knight. Confused memories filled his brain: Sir Bartholomew steadying his nerves on the Litani, standing by him like a rock at Le Forbelet, flanking him as they crashed over the cliff at Hattin to slide and scramble in a cascade of sand and rubble down the slope toward Lake Tiberius. Dear God, how could You grant him escape from Hattin to die here? Pointlessly. In a skirmish that would never be remembered? Ibelin mentally asked God.
Ibelin removed Sir Bartholomew’s helmet, and the older man’s head flopped to one side. Ibelin pulled off his chain-mail mitten, freeing his fingers so he could untie Sir Bartholomew’s aventail and slip his hand inside to feel for a pulse. Around him the other knights gathered, Sir Galvin dismounting to go down on one knee beside Ibelin, anxiously awaiting his report.
Ibelin was startled to feel the flutter of a pulse beneath his fingers, and called out, “He’s alive! Does anyone have water?”
At once Aimery handed him his own water flask, and Ibelin slipped his hand behind Sir Bartholomew’s head to lift it before pouring water onto his forehead in a slow dribble.
Sir Bartholomew sputtered and shook his head, as if coming back to life. As his eyes registered the crowd around him, he grunted and shook himself again.
“Are you all right?” Ibelin asked him.
“I’ve been better,” the older knight growled, but the very way in which he now started to pull his feet under him and reached out his hand for Sir Galvin to help him up was answer enough. He was undoubtedly bruised and battered, but he’d sustained no serious injury or wound.
As Sir Galvin braced himself and hauled Sir Bartholomew to his feet again, the others started to disperse, their attention now directed to Sir Roger, who was advancing with the archers in good order. They also began to take stock of what they had achieved. Since Sir Bartholomew was not dead after all, they had sustained no fatal casualties among the knights. In fact, aside from one dislocated shoulder, a couple of broken bones, and the usual collection of bruises and sprains, they were fine.
Ibelin heard Sidon ask about the casualties among the infantry, and Shoreham answered that they were “few, my lord”—whatever that meant exactly. But as the others drifted in the direction of their campsite, eager for water, food, and rest, Balian focused on Sir Bartholomew.
Now they were alone except for Sir Galvin, who was still supporting his friend. In his mind Balian was reliving the older knight’s absurd attack on the red-bearded Mamluke after the enemy was already routed. “What the hell was that all about?” he demanded of the older man.
Sir Bartholomew dropped his head and looked down at his feet. “My daughters and grandchildren,” he muttered in misery, the full implications of his failure overwhelming him now that he’d recovered from the surprise of his own survival.
Into the stunned silence around him, he added, as if his lord and friend might not fully understand, “I recognized that Mamluke, he seemed in high favor with Salah ad-Din. I thought I might have been able to exchange him for my daughters and grandchildren.”
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