The door burst open and a Hospitaller sergeant broke in. He did not see Michael but plunged on, tearing open the next door to blurt out, “Horsemen are riding straight for the Jerusalem Gate. Hundreds of them. We’ve been outflanked and are going to be taken from the east!”
Even as he spoke, Michael heard the alarm bells on the walls take up a wild clamor. In the street men were running, shouting as they went: “Get to the Jerusalem Gate! Reinforce the Jerusalem Gate!”
Ducking out the door to stand in the doorway, Michael lifted his eyes to the wall itself and saw men silhouetted against the orange light of dusk, moving purposefully along the wall walk. It was hard to tell in this light, but the fluttering surcoat of the leading man suggested it was Sir Balian himself, and the figure trailing right behind him seemed so familiar it could only be his brother Daniel.
Michael hesitated, trying to decide where he would be needed most. His brain said: the refugees. They would surely be thrown into panic by this latest news. But his youth drew him toward the scene of the action. He cut between the kitchen gardens and zigzagged through familiar alleyways until he was at the foot of one of the stairways built on the inside of the wall to give access to the wall walk. Taking his cassock in his fist, he mounted the stairs as fast as he could and went immediately to the parapet to look out.
Darkness was settling very rapidly, which was a comfort, since Salah-ad-Din surely wouldn’t launch an assault on the city at night. They would have at least one night to rest and eat and collect their courage. But even as he thought this, he made out the large column of horses coming inexorably toward the Jerusalem Gate. It was like an evil serpent weaving through the contours of the land as the horsemen followed the road. He stared at the approaching monster, transfixed with a sense of doom—and then jerked himself out of his trance, crossed himself, and began reciting the rosary as he hurried toward the Jerusalem Gate. He was fighting panic, reinforced by the sense of the earth rumbling under him. It was like a slow earthquake, he thought, and then he realized it was the sound of hundreds and hundreds of hooves on the earth outside. “Oh, Christ, protect us!” he pleaded helplessly.
Wild shouting had broken out ahead of him, but it wasn’t curses or shouts of defiance as it should have been. Someone was shouting, “Open the gate! Open the gate!”
Traitor! Surely no one would heed him? But fear that this man had accomplices drove Michael to run faster. Before he could take a dozen steps, the strap on one of his sandals broke. He removed it and continued barefoot until the sound of the gates crashing against the interior of the barbican paralyzed him with terror. The next instant the hooves echoed inside the barbican, as the head of that ominous snake of horsemen surged into the city.
Michael did not know what to do. Lamed with horror, he stared down into the streets of the city, expecting to see turbaned horsemen hacking at terrified townsmen—and caught his breath at the sight of knights in helmets and carrying lances. Only now did he think to look at the banner, and almost fell off the wall walk as he dropped to his knees in wonder. It was the crosses of Jerusalem—and below it, on a gray stallion, was a young man with a crown on the brow of his helmet.
“Jerusalem!” Michael gasped, and around him more and more people were shouting it out. “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Jerusalem has come!”
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