All Things Are Lights – Day 192 of 200

“What a jest! That prating fool Louis has never before made me laugh so.”

And now de Vency must die, and quickly. Amalric seized the handle of his battle-ax.

No, from horseback a lance would be easier to aim and have a longer reach. He wheeled his horse with a savage pull on the reins and galloped back to the palace gateway. A small group of his men was gathered there.

“Get me a lance there, a battle lance. And be quick.”

Roland was surprised that what he felt on first seeing Amalric was pleasure. At last they would fight to the death. Perhaps this is what I was born for. Of Gobignon blood, raised to destroy the house of Gobignon.

He watched Amalric ride back to the palace and call out to the men there. A moment later a servant came running out with a lance. Amalric reached down, took the lance, and couched it. He pulled back on the reins, making the war-horse paw the air. When its front hooves came down hard, kicking up clouds of white dust, Amalric kicked it with his spurs and it charged.

Roland heard a creaking sound and the crack of a whip and took his eyes off Amalric long enough to see a slow-moving ox cart with blue-white human arms and legs showing through the slats in its side. God, they must be dying off here as badly as in our prison camp. Now, growing accustomed to the blazing light in the unshaded plaza, he saw that a huge trench had been dug out for the dead between the governor’s palace and the central mosque. Oh, Nicolette, he prayed, be well.

The ox cart was crossing Amalric’s path. He heard Amalric cursing at the drover, shouting for him to get out of the way. The drover stood up and frantically cracked his whip, longer than the height of a man, over the oxen. Their pace increased only slightly. He will never get them to move fast enough, Roland thought. But I have to use this somehow.

He surveyed the plaza. Before the great mosque he saw two Templars, their shields hung around their necks. They had stepped away from the entrance to see Amalric’s charge. I will run to them, Roland thought. They must be guarding the ransom money. I must get the King’s message to them.

The drover leaped with a terrified yell from the body cart, barely escaping impalement on Amalric s lance, his whip falling to the ground.

Amalric at the last moment pulled his charger up short.

The Templars, seeing Roland come toward them, drew their longswords.

Roland cursed the Saracen garments he wore. They must think he was the vanguard of an Egyptian attack. But he dared not throw down his sword, not with Amalric so near.

“I am a Christian, a crusader. I bear a letter from the King!” Roland cried.

Amalric had circled the cart, he saw, and was lowering his lance for another charge.


The clear, high voice stopped him as if he had been struck by an arrow. There, beyond the Templars, running into the plaza from the east, was Nicolette, a short, gray-haired man with her. Amalric’s henchman, Maurice. No, Baibars’s man. What is she doing?

“What letter? Bring it here!” one of the Templars shouted at Roland.

Hoofbeats thundered in his ears. He turned to see bearing down on him the great mass of horse, man, and lance.

At the last moment Roland jumped aside.

Amalric shifted his lance point, but not soon enough.

Roland fell, and he heard Nicolette scream as he rolled in the dirt.

He picked himself up, and Nicolette ran toward him.

The Templars ran forward, one stepping into Nicolette’s path, the other facing Roland with drawn sword.

“Roland, my love, you are alive!” She held her arms out to him and across the stretch of plaza that separated them he could see tears glistening on her face.

He forced himself to tear his eyes away from that lovely face he had yearned for so many months to see. Where was Amalric? The charge had carried horse and rider out of the plaza, down a side street. Now Amalric had reined the horse and was galloping back.

Roland frantically pulled the scrolls from his belt. “I have been sent by King Louis and Emir Baibars. Here are letters from them.” He held them out, and the Templar took them with one hand, though with his other he still distrustfully warded Roland off with his sword.

“That man, Amalric de Gobignon, has betrayed the King and the whole crusade,” Roland went on, even as Amalric bore down on them.

The Templar hastily thrust the scrolls into his own belt. He quickly swung his shield from his neck to his arm.

In an instant Amalric loomed above them.

Roland waited till the lance point was barely a yard from his chest, then threw himself to the dirt. The ground shook under drumming hooves as the great horse galloped by.

Thank Saint Michel I am wearing no mail, Roland thought, or I would never be able to move fast enough.

Rushing on, Amalric was now headed straight for the Templar with the letters. The warrior-monk held up his sword with one hand and shouted, “Halt!” standing square in Amalric’s path.

Amalric ignored the command, his lance aimed straight at the Templar’s chest. The Templar raised his shield, blazoned with the eight-pointed red cross, and braced himself. The lance struck the shield with a clang, throwing the Templar to the ground. He scrambled to his feet and swung his sword wildly at Amalric.

Amalric’s horse reared and then ran on.

Eyes wide with terror, Nicolette ran to the doorway of the mosque.

Roland, wanting to draw Amalric away from her, moved in the direction Amalric had just come from. How can I fight this man with nothing but a scimitar? I have not the strength to go on outrunning him.

The two Templars, swords out and shields high, backed toward Nicolette and the mosque.

The old man, Maurice, remained standing in the open. Amalric, now at the west end of the plaza, jerked on his reins, slowing his horse’s gallop, and pulled its head around toward Maurice.

“What the devil are you doing here with her?” Amalric roared at Maurice.

Maurice spread his empty hands. “I serve you no longer, Count Amalric. The Sultan is dead. Emir Baibars is in command, and he wants the King and the crusaders to live.”

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