Horses were waiting for them. They remounted and rode through the camp, then out onto the field before the castle. Halting just out of bowshot, the Sultan signaled his men to wave a white parley flag. On receiving an answering signal from the outer gate, they started forward in a small group: the Sultan, two of his emirs, four Mamlukes, the Marquis, and Toron.
They rode to the very edge of the first salt-water moat and halted there. On the massive main tower above the closed drawbridge archers stood at the ready, while a man in gleaming armor with a well-polished helmet leaned out. The Marquis’s old heart was pumping so fast it was almost painful. It was recognizably his dashing son Conrad!
The Sultan gave instructions to Toron, who raised his voice and shouted across the distance in French. “The Sultan Salah ad-Din sends his greetings and presents your father, William Marquis de Montferrat!”
If the man on the ramparts was pleased, relieved, or surprised, he was too far away for them to tell. From this distance he seemed completely impassive.
“We are here,” Toron continued, “to return your father to you.”
“On what terms?” Conrad shouted back, and his father felt his heart sink. The question made it clear there had been no negotiations in advance. This wasn’t the final act in his release—it was the first.
“Why, what do you think?” Sultan sounded surprised. “The surrender of Tyre!” he answered through Toron.
The Marquis gasped when he heard Toron translate the terms and cried out: “He can’t do that!”
Father and son were of the same mind. Conrad’s “No!” reached them even as his father spoke.
The Sultan responded by drawing his sword with a loud hiss and brandishing it over the Marquis’ head. The old man again saw the execution of Reynald de Châtillon in his mind’s eye, and started to recite the Pater Noster.
“Surrender Tyre, or your father dies!” Toron shouted out at the Sultan’s bidding.
“My father is an old man! Look at his white hair! He has lived long enough!” Conrad retorted. “I would rather kill him myself than surrender this city to you! By God’s grace, I will hold Tyre for Christendom until help comes from the West! May God receive my father’s soul with the grace!” As he spoke, Conrad grabbed a crossbow from the nearest archer and aimed it at the party addressing him—whether at his father, the Sultan, or Toron was irrelevant.
“Well said!” the Marquis of Montferrat shouted back at his son. “Well said, my boy!”
Salah ad-Din was furious enough to backhand the old man so hard that he swayed in his saddle and his nose gushed blood, but he put away his sword. Then he swung his horse around and galloped back to his camp, leaving Toron and his escort to bring the worthless prisoner back with them.
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