John ducked down and darted for the door while the others were distracted. He dodged past the cook and the excited scullion and was outside before Michael could stop him.
In the street the crowd was more agitated than the scullion. Everyone was talking at once. “I told you he’d come!” someone kept repeating. Other people were asking more skeptically how he could have gotten through the enemy alone, and while holding his banner upright on a lance. Others were sure it was a trick. “If we open the gates to this rider, they’ll flood in!”
“How? He’s alone, with just one squire.”
A rider forced his way through the crowd, calling for them to make way. “I have a message for the Dowager Queen!” the man kept shouting. But they blocked his way, surrounding his horse and demanding his news.
“The Baron of Ibelin is approaching! Let me in!”
The crowd erupted into even more agitated discussion, but they let the rider continue to the main entrance, where he jumped down and disappeared inside. John was too far away to follow. Instead, he was trapped with the rest of the crowd, and from farther up the street the shouting had grown much louder. More: the shouting had turned to cheering. They were still shouting “Ibelin!” but it had become a chant. “Ib-lin! Ib-lin! Ib-lin!”
More people poured out of the houses and shops lining the street and crowded the balconies and the rooftops, trying to see what was going on. The cheers were coming nearer, growing louder. Everyone seemed to be shouting and waving, and John couldn’t see for all the people ahead of him. He pushed and squeezed, stamping on people’s feet and clawing his way forward, until he fought his way clear to the front. He looked up the street and could just make out two mounted men, the second of whom held upright a lance with the banner of Ibelin, but John had eyes only for the lead rider: it was his father!
John understood at once. His father had come to rescue them!
John wanted to run to him, but the crowds stood in his way. He shouted his father’s name and jumped up and down, but he was just one small child in a city awash with refugees and desperate residents. They all stood between him and his father: beggars and shopkeepers, refugees and priests, rich merchants and nuns who didn’t normally rub shoulders with the poor.
His father, meanwhile, was so completely surrounded by people that he was unable to advance another step. Scores of hands held his bridle so that the faithful Centurion fretted and tried to shake them off, while people clung to his father’s stirrups and Centurion’s trapper as well.
John could not hear what they were saying, but he understood their gestures. They did not understand that his father had come only to rescue his wife and children. They saw in the lord of Ibelin a nobleman, an experienced battle commander, the only lord to have fought his way out of the encirclement of Hattin with honor—not a father and husband. They saw him as the savior of Jerusalem itself.
That made John angry and frightened—because if his father stayed to defend Jerusalem, then he, his mother, his sisters, and his little brother would not be able to escape. His father had to say “no” to the others! He had to ignore them, and instead sweep John up onto his saddle and ride with him out of the city to safety.
John shouted and jumped up and down, trying to make himself seen and heard, until tears of frustration ran down his face. But it did no good.
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