The sun was low in the sky, making identification of the ships more difficult. Sunlight bathed the surface of the water, which was ruffled by a light breeze. It danced off the shifting surface, creating a constant glitter. In other circumstances it would have been beautiful. The bright sunlight, however, turned the ships to silhouettes, and the profile of Frankish and Saracen ships did not differ sufficiently for landlubbers to easily distinguish one from the other.
All that was certain was that this was a huge fleet. By now the leading three ships were close enough to be shortening sail, but beyond them were eighteen vessels clearly identifiable as galleys against the light. Behind them were an innumerable number of dark spots that slowly grew and took shape, while yet more dark specks emerged out of the glittering horizon. People kept calling out the numbers they thought they had counted: twenty-nine, thirty-six, forty-two.
“Does the Sultan have that many ships?” Guy asked his brothers in awe.
Geoffrey grunted ambiguously, because he didn’t know. Aimery reminded his brothers, “He has the means to build them, and has had the winter to do so.”
A commotion drew their attention to the right. “There! There!” A man was shouting so shrilly he sounded like a hysterical woman. “A cross! There’s a cross on the sail!”
They all looked back at the approaching fleet, squinting and shading their eyes with their hands.
A second shout went up. “Holy Trinity! It’s true! They have crosses on their sails.”
But still many doubted. They strained their eyes even harder. Then the lead ship swung into the wind to hand the mainsail—and in that moment, as the sail slowly sank, scores of onlookers simultaneously saw the unmistakable imprint of a black cross on the white canvas.
The cheer that went up was deafening to those in the midst of it. It spread down the length of the wall like rolling thunder, and tumbled to the streets below like the roar of a waterfall. People waiting anxiously in the shadow of the wall recognized the tone more than the content and started shouting and cheering.
From across the water, faint but unmistakable, came an answering cheer. The crews and passengers of the first crusader fleet to reach the Holy Land since Hattin realized with relief that they had made landfall at a Christian-held port. They were fifty galleys sent by the King of Sicily carrying five hundred knights and thousands of archers and men-at-arms.
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