“JERUSALEM HAS AN HEIR!” SIBYLLA SCREAMED at her brother so loudly that her voice could clearly be heard in the anteroom. “I’ve given Jerusalem a male heir; isn’t that enough? Isn’t it enough that I was chained to one rutting monster before I was hardly out of the nunnery? Do you have to sell me to the next before I’ve even recovered from twisting my guts out to give Jerusalem a god-damned heir?”
Balian and Maria Zoë exchanged an alarmed look; William de Montferrat might have been overbearing and self-important, but he was hardly a monster. Furthermore, Sibylla might have given birth to a son, but it was almost certain his uncle would not live long enough for the boy to grow to manhood—assuming the infant survived childhood at all. Thus, while Jerusalem might have an infant male heir, the Kingdom was still in desperate need of a grown man to wear (or at least wield the power of) the crown until such time as Sibylla’s infant son was ready to defend his own Kingdom. Sibylla had to marry someone soon. The question was only a matter of whom: a western Prince selected by Flanders and his patrons, or someone closer at hand. . . .
Meanwhile, although the King’s answer had been too soft to be heard by those awaiting an audience in the antechamber, it provoked a new shriek of outrage from his sister. “I don’t want to marry anyone! I don’t care whom you pick! If you really cared about me as much as you claim you do, you’d let me choose my own husband!”
Again the King’s answer was inaudible, but Sibylla’s response was clear. “What does the Pope know about what’s good for me—Sibylla? I’ve done my duty for Jerusalem!” Again Balian and Zoë exchanged a look, while Sibylla continued screaming: “I’m telling you, I won’t marry him! And if you bring him here and try to force me, I won’t let him in my bed for all the gold in Constantinople!”
The doors to the King’s inner chamber crashed open so violently that they banged loudly against the walls. Princess Sibylla stormed through the antechamber, her face red from agitation, her lips pressed firmly together in a grimace of determination, and her eyes narrowed with rage. She looked neither left nor right, and appeared not to notice the two people waiting for an audience with her brother.
Behind her, King Baldwin’s old body servant hastened to close the doors to the inner chamber, and caught up with Princess Sibylla just as she reached the far exit. “My lady! My lady!” he called to her in a pleading tone. “You must understand—”
Sibylla spun around on the slave and slapped him viciously across the mouth. “How dare you tell me what I must or must not do?”
“How dare you behave like an alewife?” Queen Maria Zoë Comnena countered, sweeping across the room to confront her stepdaughter.
“Don’t you try to tell me what to do, either!” Sibylla countered. “I’m the Princess of Jerusalem—”
“But you won’t be Queen unless you learn how to behave like one.”
“I will be Queen when Baldwin dies, whether you like it or not—”
“You stupid girl, this has nothing to do with what I like! The High Court of Jerusalem elects the next King, and there is more than one baron who is only looking for the excuse to declare you illegitimate! Acting and screaming like a lowborn slut will not earn you sympathy or respect!”
“Which is exactly what you want, isn’t it? For your little brat Isabella to be made Queen instead of me!” Sibylla screamed back. Then she burst into tears and wailed, “Why does everyone hate me?” and ran from the room.
During this altercation, Balian had gone to Ibrahim. The old slave had been knocked backwards by Sibylla’s blow, or his efforts to avoid it, and he sat on the floor holding his face in his hands. “Ibrahim! Are you hurt?”
“Hurt?” The old slave looked up at Balian with tears in his eyes. “I cannot tell you the pain I am in, my lord.” His lips were quivering with emotion. “The leprosy is spreading again, and it has become ulcerous! My lord’s feet are covered with running sores, and his own sister does not care! Does not even want to hear about it!”
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