“Damn him!” Ibelin spat out, making Georgios jump. “He’s not lowering the drawbridge.”
Georgios looked back toward Tyre and at last noticed what the baron had seen moments earlier. The city was maintaining its vigilant stance, as if the approaching fifteen thousand people were an enemy army rather than Christian refugees. The bridges over the widened moat, which effectively turned the peninsula on which Tyre stood into an island, were both firmly raised; the gate and postern were shut. The ramparts were manned, and the late afternoon sun glinted on the helmets of the soldiers on the wall walk.
Without a word to his squire, Balian put spurs to his aging palfrey and sprinted forward, leaving the slow-moving, lumbering column of refugees in his wake. Georgios was left kicking his less agile gelding to try to catch up. Ibelin galloped to the very edge of the moat and drew up sharply, shouting up at the walls even before his horse had come to a complete halt. “This is Balian d’Ibelin! I have some fifteen thousand Christian refugees from Jerusalem. I demand that the gates be opened at once!”
Silence answered him, although Georgios could see men scurrying this way and that, apparently seeking instructions.
Ibelin cursed under his breath in a steady stream, threatening Conrad de Montferrat with various kinds of torture, mutilation, slow death, and damnation. Finally a voice called out from the walls of the city, “Just a moment, my lord! My lord of Montferrat will be here shortly!”
Ibelin swung his horse on forehand to look back at the column of refugees he had been commanding for eleven days. It was still far behind, moving at its snail’s pace, but very visible to the men up on the walls of Tyre.
“He knows exactly who we are and what we want,” Ibelin snarled to his squire without looking at him. “He’ll have had spies out watching for us ever since he learned from Sir Bartholomew the terms of the surrender.”
“Ibelin!” The call came faintly from the closest gate tower.
“Montferrat?” Ibelin answered, narrowing his eyes against the sun and trying to identify the man who had addressed him.
“The same. I’m lowering the footbridge. You may enter alone.”
“I’ll tear out his jugular with my own teeth!” Ibelin answered under his breath to Georgios, his eyes fixed on the gate opposite. As they watched, the narrow wooden bridge from the postern jerked slowly down from its upright position to the horizontal. Ibelin jumped down from his horse and flung the reins over its head to hand them to Georgios. “Wait here!” he ordered as he strode in the direction of the bridge, which had just settled on the dusty soil this side of the moat.
Ibelin was wearing helmet and hauberk, but his legs were encased in knee-high, suede leather boots rather than the heavy and uncomfortable chain-mail chausses he wore for battle. His short-sleeved surcoat was particolored—red on the right and bright marigold on the left—and it was studded with crosses in the contrasting color. Made of fine Gaza cotton, it rippled and flowed as he strode angrily across the bridge.
As he approached the far side of the bridge, a man emerged from the narrow, peaked-arch door of the postern. Georgios could see only that he was wearing a purple surcoat with what looked like gold trim. Ibelin recognized the well-formed and attractive face of Conrad de Montferrat, who bore a striking resemblance to his elder brother William, Queen Sibylla’s first husband.
The latter bowed (a little mockingly, Ibelin found), but Ibelin did not return the courtesy. Instead he roared in a harsh, strained, and raw voice, “What the hell do think you’re doing keeping your gates shut! I have fifteen thousand refugees who have lost practically everything they owned and have been on the road eleven days. They need to get inside these walls before dark so they don’t have to camp out another day! We only have a few more hours of daylight as it is! You shouldn’t be wasting time with whatever goddamned formalities these are!”
“If you’re finished?” Conrad answered with raised eyebrows and an air of superiority.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ibelin snapped back. “I’m simply asking if you’re done ranting, so I can get a word in edgewise.” “What the hell is there to say? Lower the goddamned bridge and open the gates!”
For all his bluster, from the moment he realized that Tyre was remaining on the defensive even after the column of refugees was in sight, Ibelin had been expecting exactly this answer. It was anticipation of Montferrat’s refusal to admit them that had ignited Ibelin’s rage. He was not surprised by Montferrat’s “no,” and the confirmation of his suspicions had a chilling effect.
Balian d’Ibelin was an exceptionally tall man. He took two steps closer to Montferrat to stand towering over him. “Say that again!” he ordered in an ominously soft voice.
“I obviously don’t need to,” Montferrat countered, backing up a step so he was not so directly under Ibelin’s glare—and nose. “You heard me the first time, and you understood me. This city is already overcrowded, and at any moment the Saracens may decide to resume their assaults. We’re already under siege, cut off by both land and sea. We cannot—I repeat—cannot admit fifteen thousand more refugees, most of whom are women and children.”
“You’re saying you intend to deny women and children refuge, after all they have suffered already?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
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