“He’s your flesh and blood, Baldwin,” Agnes reminded her son in a tone of sober, motherly reproach.
“But I don’t know him,” Baldwin answered back irritably.
“It’s not his fault that he’s been in a Saracen prison since you were three years old. Think of how he suffered all those years, never knowing if he was going to be released or not. Our father died in Nur al-Din’s dungeon, Baldwin. Don’t forget that. Your grandfather died in a Saracen dungeon. I will never forgive Am—” She cut herself off. Baldwin hated it when she criticized his father. She swallowed down the words she had intended and said instead, “I deeply regret that I did not have enough money to pay his ransom myself.”
“Well, I gave you the 50,000 bezants,” Baldwin reminded her, “he should be thankful for that and not expect more.”
“Of course, he’s thankful, Baldwin. But he needs money to live on too! What do you want him to do? Beg in the streets? How do you think that would reflect on you? Letting your uncle rot in the streets? He’s the Count of Edessa!”
“The County of Edessa, Mama, has not existed for as long as I have been alive. It has not existed for the last quarter century, in fact.”
“That doesn’t change who he is, Baldwin,” Agnes replied pointedly. “Do you think you would be less a king just because you lost your kingdom?”
“Yes,” Baldwin retorted meeting her eye. “Which is why I don’t intend to lose my kingdom.”
“Of course not, and Joscelyn did not intend to lose Edessa either. It was no more his fault than it was mine that Nur al-Din outwitted our father. Now, Edessa has been irrevocably lost, but your uncle remains a nobleman of the highest rank and greatest nobility. He is intelligent, diligent, and eager to serve you. All he’s asking for is a suitable appointment—something to match his status as your closest male relative on your mother’s side. There is no one more trustworthy than relatives, Baldwin. If you don’t take my word for it, just look at your archenemy, Salah al-Din. He relies exclusively on his brothers and nephews.”
“In case it escaped your notice, Mama, the Count of Tripoli is also my close relative, and you have nothing good to say about him.”
“That’s not true. I know Tripoli has many good qualities. I simply tried to warn you about his inordinate ambition. Besides, he was your father’s cousin, not his brother, and they were never particularly close. Joscelyn is my brother. I know we’ve been apart these last twelve years, but not by choice, and we were very close as children, Baldwin. If you would only give him a chance, get to know him better, I’m sure you would come to share my feelings and my trust.”
“I want to reward the men who have been loyal to me, Mama. I want to favor the men who stood by me when others scorned me as a leper. Don’t you understand that?”
“I assure you, if Joscelyn had been here in Jerusalem and not locked in a horrid dungeon with rats and fleas, he would have been as devoted to you as anyone—more so, because he was your uncle. He would have stood by you, Baldwin. You can’t punish him because Nur al-Din kept him locked away.”
“It’s not that I want to punish him. It’s that I want to reward those who were with me.”
“But you already have! Surely no one can complain about being Archbishop of Tyre and Chancellor of the Realm!”
“I’m talking about Balian. He served me at a time when no one else dared, and he gave me back my hope. It was his drill and exercise that enabled me to become as strong and healthy as I am—despite the leprosy. Do you think anyone would take me seriously if I were still a weak, pale boy who couldn’t ride?”
“Balian certainly deserves to be rewarded, Baldwin. I never for a second suggested anything different. He’s been very loyal, and he’s been very helpful. He’s always been a good boy, even when he was little, and I was married to his brother. By all means, you should reward him appropriately. All I said is that the position of seneschal should go to your uncle and no one else.”
“Balian is my uncle too. He is the brother of your second husband.”
“Yes, well, in canon law he’s your uncle, but he’s not your flesh and blood. Blood is thicker than water—including holy water. Besides, he’s a very young man. The barons would never accept him as seneschal. Your uncle Joscelyn is your father’s generation. It is more appropriate for a man of his age to have a position of such responsibility, just as your constable is likewise an older man with extensive experience.”
“I suppose I could make Balian marshal instead—” His mother drew in her breath so sharply that Baldwin stopped himself and asked, “Now what?”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish
Comment on this Bubble
Your comment and a link to this bubble will also appear in your Facebook feed.