“Maybe it is understandable that the King has come to resent me,” the Archbishop of Tyre conceded in a tone of voice that suggested he thought the opposite, “but how, in the name of our everloving Savior, could he turn on you? You! The only man to befriend him when he was treated like a leper! The man who gave him the courage to train the healthy parts of his body, who taught him to ride, who—more than anyone in the entire court—gave him back his smile! How can he just push you aside for that worthless man!”
“My lord,” Balian tried to calm the Archbishop, “I don’t think the King intended any offense. He has come of age and wants to demonstrate his independence—”
“Independence that consists of doing everything that weasel whispers into his ear!” Tyre protested.
Balian sighed, “I admit he is rather taken with his uncle of Edessa at the moment, but I really don’t think he meant to insult either of us. Baldwin has long felt caged. It may have been a gilded cage, but it was a cage all the same, and he felt locked inside. Now he’s broken out, and the last people he wants around him are his former jailers. I can understand that.”
“Well. Good for you.” The Archbishop looked at him with cold eyes and narrow lips. “That is, undoubtedly, very Christian of you,” he conceded. “But whether you can ‘understand’ or not, the consequences are catastrophic! After tutoring that boy for years, I can honestly say I never thought he would prove so—not just ungrateful—but foolish! He’s not stupid! He’s wise beyond his years! How can he not see what his mother and her brother are doing to him?”
“Perhaps we are to blame for that, too, my lord.”
“Just what is that supposed to mean?” Tyre demanded, looking at Balian with an expression of complete incomprehension.
Balian shrugged. “We sheltered him, my lord. We surrounded him with genuine respect and affection. How should he now be able to distinguish between respect and flattery—between sincere affection and the pretense of it? How can we expect him to see through the likes of Edessa, when we have spent the better part of the last five years making sure he didn’t have anything to do with such men?”
“Damn it! No one wanted anything to do with him until he became King!”
“Edessa says he wanted to be here—but he was in a Saracen prison. And his mother has filled his ears with tales of suffering agony ‘not for losing a crown, but for being separated from my sweet babies.’” Balian could not keep the sarcasm out of his voice as he quoted his sister-in-law. The whole time she had been married to his brother, he couldn’t remember her once referring to her children by Amalric.
“Ha! So you are more angry than you let on,” Tyre remarked, relieved that Balian was not as saintly as he’d sounded a moment earlier.
“If I could find a way to remove Agnes de Courtney from the face of the earth without committing a mortal sin, I would spirit her away in an instant. I do not dispute your assessment of the Queen Mother or the Count of Edessa, my lord; I simply don’t think Baldwin is to blame for falling under their spell. He has been starved of affection, especially after his father died.”
“And you were the one to give it to him!” Tyre returned to his original argument. “He should love you more than the others, for being there when he needed it most!”
“That’s not the point. After being starved of affection for so long, he finds it intoxicating to have it given lavishly by two people who can honestly claim they were prevented from showing him their love before. They may be hypocrites, but Baldwin is not to blame for believing them.”
The Archbishop of Tyre sighed and looked at Balian with an annoyed expression of resignation. “I begin to doubt if the King deserves the loyalty you give him, but I stand humbled before you, Sir Balian.”
Balian shook his head with a wry smile. “No, my lord, that would be inappropriate. It is true that I love Baldwin, and if he wanted me to remain his closest advisor, I would be honored. But after five years in nearly as much isolation as the King himself, I cannot pretend I do not welcome more freedom. I’m twenty-seven years old, and I have nothing to show for it.”
“What are you talking about?” Tyre was astonished by this selfassessment. “You covered yourself with glory in the campaign against Homs. Tripoli calls you the ablest of his bannerets and said he would—” Tyre cut himself off, as he remembered that Tripoli no longer named the royal bannerets; the Count of Edessa had been appointed seneschal of Jerusalem, with the power to make all appointments. He gazed at Balian with understanding now, and asked, “Where will you go? Your brother—”
“I’m not that desperate!” Balian cut him off decisively.
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