“Treason?” Lady Eschiva asked the squire. “Did I hear correctly? Champagne has arrested my lord husband for treason? But that’s not possible!” she protested.
“I’ve got to get word to my father at once!” John answered, his voice breaking with tension as the situation threatened to overwhelm him: he would not turn fourteen for another month.
“Mommy! Mommy! What are they going to do with Daddy?” It was the high-pitched voice of eight-year-old Burgundia. Ten-year-old Guy pushed past her, protesting, “They can’t arrest, Daddy! He’s the Constable!”
Eschiva turned toward her children, but then stopped to look over her shoulder to her husband’s squire. “Yes, John, go to your father at once! If Isabella let this happen, he’s the only one who might be able to help us now!”
The stables behind the house were cramped and dark. The four horses stirred uneasily, and one of them nickered at the unexpected intrusion. John was in such a hurry to get the terrible news of what had happened to his father that he hadn’t thought to bring a light. He fumbled around in the dark, knocking things over, and nearly took the wrong saddle pad. He didn’t bother with brushing his aging gray stallion, nor even picking out his hooves. In his mind, dark images of Lord Aimery chained to a dungeon wall spurred him to greater haste.
He tacked up the big gray in his stall, and then led him out into the narrow street. It was marginally lighter here because a three-quarter moon reflected off the pale limestone of the buildings. The big horse was fussing and nervous as he started to wake up and sensed John’s agitation. John made for the eastern gate of the city. The hoof-falls of the shod stallion echoed through the silent streets. Everywhere the windows were firmly shuttered against the night; there was no sign of life until John reached the city gate itself.
The watchmen in the guardhouse were startled by a demand to open the gate in the middle of the night. One of the men came out and stood silhouetted against the warm orange light of the lamps inside. “Who goes? And what do you want at this time of night?”
Gambling that news of the Constable’s abrupt arrest had not yet reached the watch, John answered as firmly as his nearly-fourteen years allowed, “I’m John d’Ibelin, the Lord Constable’s squire. He has entrusted me with an urgent message for my father, the Lord of Caymont. Let me out at once!”
The sergeant stepped closer to get a better look at John, and quickly verified he was who he said he was. The Constable’s squire was not a nobody. He was a baron’s son, an Ibelin—and half-brother to the ruling Queen. So the sergeant called to one of his men to open the gate, and saluted John. “Give your father my blessings, young man! I wouldn’t have lived to make old bones but for him.”
John nodded absently. Men said things like that to him all the time. His father was Balian d’Ibelin, the man who had led a breakout at Hattin, enabling some three thousand infantry to escape the Saracen encirclement. They were the only infantry to escape that day. His father had also negotiated the surrender of Jerusalem, enabling as many as sixty thousand more people to escape slaughter or slavery. Last but not least, he’d negotiated the Treaty of Ramla, which enabled tens of thousands of Christians who had been enslaved after Hattin to return to what was left of the Kingdom. In short, there were a lot of people who owed his father their freedom, if not their life.
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