The muezzin’s voice was fading out and the Sultan sat back on his heels, then pushed himself up off his prayer rug. He gestured to a slave boy to roll it up and put it back in its place. He reseated himself on thick cushions behind the ivory-inlaid table that he used as his writing desk, and again took up the translation of the letter from the Dowager Queen of Jerusalem.
Behind him he heard someone enter and glanced over his shoulder. His brother had entered, asking, “Am I interrupting?”
Salah ad-Din shook his head and indicated that his brother should join him, asking, “You have seen this letter?”
“I skimmed over the translation,” al-Adil admitted. “What are you going to answer?”
“I will tell her the truth,” the Sultan answered simply.
“Which is?” al-Adil pressed him, his eyes intent on his brother’s face.
“That her husband will go free at the end of the forty days.”
“You aren’t going to accept his offer to stand surety for those who cannot pay?” al-Adil asked back, sounding both surprised and displeased. Ibelin had made this offer this afternoon: that if he could not find an additional thirty thousand dinars in Jerusalem, he would surrender his own person to the Sultan as a hostage until the sum could be raised in the West.
“No,” Salah ad-Din answered firmly. “It is worthless. He cannot possibly raise another thirty thousand dinars. All that talk about the Pope in Rome paying is nonsense,” he scoffed. “The Pope is no more likely to pay for the paupers in Jerusalem than the Caliph in Baghdad is!” “Furthermore,” he continued, “the troops are already grumbling about being denied plunder and slaves. I am counting on some twenty thousand Christians being unable to pay so we can divide them among the troops. Since most of the Christians in the city are women, this will do much to appease their displeasure. One woman for every two men should be enough to restore their good humor for a few weeks.”
Al-Adil shrugged agreement, but insisted, “Ibn Barzan is a dangerous opponent. Surely it is better to keep him in our hands than to let him go free, regardless of what happens to the Christian whores. If you let him go, he will certainly fight us again at the next opportunity.”
Salah ad-Din raised his eyebrows and eyed his brother. “You sound like you are afraid of him.”
“Hardly,” al-Adil snapped back, annoyed at his brother’s aspersion on his courage. “But why let him go free? At the very least we could insist that his wealthy wife pay a high price for him.”
“She is not so wealthy anymore, now that we control all the lands her late husband Malik Amalric settled upon her.”
“Her father’s family is wealthy,” al-Adil insisted.
Salah ad-Din admitted, “True enough—but while I did not want to risk the Greek Emperor’s wrath by laying hands on his kinswoman, I’m not sure his sense of family loyalty would extend so far as to pay a large ransom for her Frankish husband. It is more likely we would simply end up with yet another high-ranking—but not particularly valuable—prisoner on our hands. Besides, I gave him my word.”
Al-Adil pressed his lips together. His brother was quite capable of breaking his word when he thought it was expedient, but he also knew that his brother liked to think of himself as a man of honor. If he was going to get on his high horse and stress his sense of honor, then it would not be productive to argue with him. Al-Adil could not resist adding, however: “You will live to regret this, Yusuf. I warn you Ibn Barzan will do all he can to regain his lost lands. He will never accept our control of these places holy to his foolish faith. He will go all the way to the kingdom of the Norsemen to get help, if he has to.”
Salah ad-Din shrugged. “Then he will die an unhappy man in a cold and distant place. We have won. Allah in his infinite generosity has heard our prayers and has granted us this great triumph. In less than four weeks, we will tear down the cross and raise the half-moon of Islam over the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque. We will drive out the polytheists, and I will establish madrassas in their churches. This is no time to be petty or vindictive.
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