When at last Jaffa had been admitted, he’d been flushed with fury and ready to vent his anger on a man he considered worse than useless. Baldwin was certain that Guy de Lusignan thought his leper king ought to be—and would be better off—dead. However, instead of a lump of deformed flesh sweating and gasping on a bed, as Jaffa had last seen him and expected now, the Regent was confronted by a man sitting on a throne, dressed in beautiful court robes and wearing a crown over a silver mask.
Guy de Lusignan’s eyes widened as he froze. “Who are you?” he demanded.
“King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem,” Baldwin answered steadily, his voice echoing inside the mask.
“How do I know that? Anyone could wear a mask and a crown!” Guy countered.
“But not speak with my ruined voice. You know my voice, Jaffa.” It was not a question.
Baldwin considered demanding that Guy address him more respectfully, but decided against it. “Yes. Don’t you want to give an account of yourself and this last campaign against Salah ad-Din?”
“Why should I?”
“Because many voices have been raised in criticism.”
“What voices?” Guy demanded angrily. “Who dares?”
“This is not a kingdom populated by cowards, my lord. Men who risk their lives as often as my barons and knights do are not afraid to say what they think. And they, my lord, are men with more experience in war than you. They tell me you made many mistakes, showed very poor judgment, and cost us a possible victory.”
“Really? How easy it is to criticize! What have you been doing? Listening to the whining of Raymond de Tripoli? He’s a disloyal coward,” Guy declared dismissively.
Baldwin did not bother to answer the self-serving accusation against Tripoli, preferring instead to note: “I have been told that you did not bring provisions to maintain the army in the field. After the ten days of rations the men carry had run out, they had nothing to eat.”
“I’m not a butler! I’m Regent,” Guy retorted haughtily.
“When the royal army is called up on feudal service, it is the responsibility of the Crown to provide provisions.”
“Nobody told me that.”
“Your brother the Constable did,” Baldwin corrected him.
“Salah ad-Din had already crossed the Jordan! The important thing was to muster the army and face him.”
“You had ten days to procure and deliver the provisions, while the men were still eating what they had brought with them.”
“I had more important things to do.”
“Such as! Such as! I was commanding the army!”
“An army that was disintegrating before your eyes as men’s rations ran out and they deserted.”
“If men deserted, it was because their lords weren’t maintaining discipline. If I caught any of the royal men deserting, I had them flogged ‘till their bones showed through what was left of their flesh!”
“Yes. I heard that. First you let your men starve, and then flogged them for seeing to their stomachs. My barons were outraged by your lack of foresight, and my bishops by your lack of charity.”
“Well, I didn’t have any choice if the army wasn’t going to disintegrate altogether.”
“You had the choice of fulfilling your duties and bringing up provisions. I understand Ibelin brought up over a hundred wagons from Nablus to feed his own and his brother’s troops, while Tripoli brought provisions from Tiberias for his troops as well.”
“Well, there you are. If everyone had done their duty, there wouldn’t have been any problem.”
“Correct—because it was your duty, my lord of Jaffa, no one else’s, and if you had fulfilled it there would indeed have been no problems. Ibelin and Tripoli are within their rights to submit a bill to the Crown for the provisions they provided.”
Guy shrugged. “Fine. Is that what this is all about? A couple of whining barons who want to be paid—probably at a nice profit—for bringing up supplies? Really, you didn’t have to send for me to present procurement bills.”
“No, you’re right, my lord. The more serious accusation comes from the Grand Masters of the Temple and Hospital, supported by the Bishops of Bethlehem and Nazareth. They tell me that two monasteries and one convent were sacked and burned by Salah ad-Din’s troops while you sat idly by with the largest Christian army ever mustered in Outremer.”
“The churchmen understand nothing about strategy.”
“The Templars and Hospitallers know nothing about strategy?” Baldwin replied, incredulous. “You are presumptuous, my lord.”
Guy de Lusignan continued as if he had not been interrupted. “Salah ad-Din attacked the monasteries to provoke me. He was trying to lure me away from the wells and springs around which we camped. He thought he could cut me off from water and then destroy us all. But I was too clever for him; I refused to take the bait.”
“At the price of one hundred thirty-three monks’ lives and the freedom and honor of twenty-eight nuns.”
“The lives of fighting men rather than men and women of God. The Master of the Temple was particularly outraged. He said his Order has vowed to come to the rescue of any Christians attacked by Saracens, but you physically prevented him from doing his duty before God. You stopped him from riding out of camp to the rescue of these men and women who have devoted their lives to the service of Christ.”
“How could I allow such a large contingent of troops to separate from the main body? It would have invited attack by Salah ad-Din—either on the Templars or on the rest of us, while we were separated.”
“The Grand Master reminded me that the Temple does not answer to any secular authority, and that the participation of his Order in any muster is voluntary.”
“I know. He shouted that at me, too, but I’m not interested in legal technicalities. I restrained the Master and his senior officers in my tent until it was too late to do anything. I’m not ashamed of that; it was the only way to keep the army intact.”
“A starving army is not intact,” Baldwin countered.
Guy groaned and rolled his eyes. “Back to bickering about full bellies, are we? Next time I’ll be sure to bring the senior clerk of the household with me on campaign!”
“Hopefully, you’ll do more than that. Hopefully, next time you will be sure your troops and their horses are adequately provisioned.”
“Yes, yes, God, yes! If only to keep you and my nanny brother happy!” Guy promised in exasperation.
“Good.” Baldwin hoped Guy had learned his lesson. “Then there is one more thing.”
“Really?” Guy asked impatiently.
“Yes. When I turned over the Kingdom to you, it was agreed I would continue to hold Jerusalem for my own use.”
“Yes, I remember,” Guy answered, bored.
“But the cold here is much more painful to me than the gentle coastal climate. I would like to swap Jerusalem for Tyre.”
Guy was completely unprepared for this request, and he asked in disbelief, “Tyre?”
“Tyre is the richest city in the Kingdom,” Guy noted.
“That’s not the reason I want it,” Baldwin protested. “It’s—”
Guy cut him off. “It may not be the reason you want it, but it’s the reason I do! I’m not going to give you Tyre for Jerusalem! That would mean giving up the largest source of income I have! No, absolutely not! My God! First you call me here to insult me, and then you expect me to do you a favor! To give up my best source of income!” Guy de Lusignan was working himself into a rage of righteous indignation. “No! You may think I’m incompetent, but I’m not going to be tricked into giving up the greatest prize I have! Sibylla will be outraged when she hears you tried to take from her the place she likes best in the entire Kingdom! She’ll—”
“How is Sibylla?” Baldwin broke into Guy’s tirade.
“What?” Guy asked, bewildered to be interrupted when he was in full swing.
“How is Sibylla? I don’t think I’ve seen her since the day you were named Regent.”
“She’s pregnant and taking care of herself.”
“Of course. I see. If that’s your final word?”
“On Tyre, you mean? Of course it is.”
“Then there is nothing more to talk about for now. Leave me.”
Guy had no desire to stay, but he was just as obviously annoyed to be dismissed like this. With an audible snort, he turned and stormed out of the audience chamber. Wearily, Baldwin leaned his head on the back of his chair and closed his eyes. It was getting so cold in Jerusalem. . . .
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