He sat mounted on his russet horse in the expansive orchards on the west side of Damascus waiting for the army to advance. The horse nickered beneath him; the Courser might be the preferred steed for battle but he often found he longed for his old Palfrey back in Germany. He patted the horses neck, trying to force down his own restlessness. He was hungry, and not just for food. Frustratingly, his troops had been assigned to take this position at the rear of the army, behind the King of Jerusalem and the King of the Franks. A position meant to protect the army from behind, should the Seljuk Sunni Islam try and come up behind them. But in Conrad's view this was just an excuse to put him last.
Flies buzzed, and unwashed men and beasts of burden shuffled uneasily. Distantly he thought he could hear the sounds of fighting. He squinted into the distance but his nearsightedness prevented him from making out what was happening at the front lines.
He'd lost so many men since Constantinople, he was now eerily attuned to the sentiments of the men around him. To him, time seemed to be of the essence. Hunger and illness demoralized them. But, he reassured himself, they had to know that they were doing God's work, that they were his soldiers. He spat on the ground, nearly hitting one of the footmen, and then readjusted the mail coif on his head.
He'd had many titles, including anti-king before he'd finally been chosen by God to rule Germany. And nearly a decade after his coronation, when he'd heard a call for a second crusade he hadn't been able to help but wonder whether there was any more honourable and devout a pursuit. He'd heard all about the first crusade, it had brought him joy and pride and envy to know of its successes in taking back the Christian holy land. This second crusade would be his chance to courier favour with God and defeat the unholy Muslims. It had fueled him with a rousing passion that he believed was a holy ordinance.
God though, had apparently wanted to test his will. He'd started with 20,000 men; most of whom had left or died by the time he'd finally reached Jerusalem. It had started off well, that was the galling part. He'd made it to Constantinople with hardly any problems. Then he'd sent his non-combatants along the coastal road, through Christian held lands, and the rest of his army headed into Anatolia, Turkish held territory. He'd been reckless, he now knew, and far too confident. They'd run short on food, especially for the horses and been assaulted at regular by Turkish troops. They'd fled back towards the coast where he'd been able to meet up with the King of the Franks. But then he'd fallen ill. When he pictured it, he could almost taste the bile, and feel the explosions of pain across his brow. The other King had waited for as long as possible and then had carried on. His illness had forced him to turn around and return to Constantinople and most of the Germans remaining under his command, the cowardly scum, took the opportunity to go home.
All hope might've been lost if it hadn't been for the kindness of the Byzantine Emperor, who personally nursed him back to health and funded him well enough to help him recruit pilgrims and augment his forces. But Conrad knew it must have been his own determination and his prayers to god that were the true reason he was able to recover. He'd boarded a ship to Acre with his supporters upon his recovery and met up with his allies, heading to Jerusalem and then on to Damascus.
And now here he was, waiting to join the fight. He hardly noticed the blood pounding in his ears and the anticipation almost too much to bear.
Yusuf al-Findalawi was a lawyer and scholar; a respected man who was in his seventh decade of life. He'd lived and seen far more than most anyone in Damascus or the entire Seljuq Empire. He was well respected and liked among the ahl as-sunnah wa l-jamāʻah. People looked to him for guidance and that was why he needed to be here now, among the volunteers readying for battle.
The governor of Damascus, Muin Addin Unur, had heard about the crusade before the Franks had arrived, rumours brought in by travelers and tradesman, and Yusuf had offered council in preparation for the expected attack. He would sooner die than allow these infidels access to the holy city that was his home.