Ramla had put a smile on his lips, although his eyes were deadly serious. He strode forward, his boots pounding loudly on the flagstone pavement as stillness descended over the room, and all held their breath to see Ramla pay homage to the man who had first stolen his bride and then the Kingdom itself.
King Guy had not sat down again after Ibelin’s homage, and he waited full of anticipation. He too was smiling, and his eyes glittered with triumph.
Ramla came to a halt, but he did not drop down onto one knee. “I am here to publicly renounce all my lands and titles in favor of my son Thomas!” he announced in a booming voice that echoed in the arches overhead—and set off a veritable conflagration of wagging tongues. Everyone was talking at once except, it seemed, the principals: King Guy and the Baron of Ramla. Even Balian found himself saying, “Barry! You can’t—”
“What did you say?” the King demanded ominously, cutting short the chatter around him.
“I said I would not demean myself by taking an oath to the likes of you! You may have seduced a stupid girl”—Ramla spat the words in the direction of an indignant Sibylla—“and bought the likes of fat old men”—he gestured toward Edessa—“or convinced vultures like Oultrejourdain and Ridefort that they can feast on your weakness”—his gesture took in the bald Oultrejourdain and the tonsured Ridefort, who (Balian thought) did look remarkably like vultures at that moment. “You have blackmailed the barons and bishops with threats to their lands, honors, and families”—his gaze took in his brother and the Barons of Caesarea and Hebron. “But there are two men in this Kingdom you can neither buy nor break: Raymond de Tripoli, Count in his own right, who will not come to heel, and I. I will take my sword where it will not be discredited, to Antioch.”
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