“Balian was flirting with every single damsel of the kingdom—and half the ladies too! It was embarrassing!”
“Don’t be so hard on him, John,” Philip answered with a smile. “I was no different at his age.”
“And I was ashamed of you too!” John quipped back, making them both laugh.
“But you shouldn’t have been,” Philip countered in a gentle voice when the laughter faded. “The bolder maidens all but threw themselves at him, and the shyer ones were breathless just watching him.”
“It will go to his head!” John grumbled.
“For a day or two,” the younger Ibelin conceded.
John eyed his brother reproachfully, and with a laugh, Philip revised his statement. “All right. For a month or two, maybe even a year or two, but eventually he’ll realize it isn’t worth much. Don’t forget he’s been with me these past three years. I’ve had ample opportunity to watch him mature. Yes, he’s a bit full of himself at the moment, but what do you expect after the festival you organized for him, John? Balian enjoys life. If he’s happy and having fun, he embraces the whole world. That doesn’t mean he can’t be serious and determined when he needs to be. He had a terrible time with the crossbow for some reason, but rather than saying it was a ‘common’ weapon as many another noble youth has done, he put in extra time trying to master it, practicing—literally—until his fingers bled.”
John looked hard at his brother. “I want to believe you. He’s my heir. I want him to be worthy of our father’s name.”
“That’s a heavy burden, John. Can you say without hesitation that we have lived up to our father’s expectations?”
John smiled at that, but it was a sad smile accompanied by a sigh. “His expectations? Certainly. But only because his humility extended to us as well as to himself. ‘We can only be what God has made us,’ he said again and again. ‘Be the best you can be, but do not strive to be that which God has not given you the means to achieve.’” The Lord of Beirut fell silent, remembering his father’s words.
Philip gave his brother a moment to reflect before asking gently, “And you think that Balian is in some way able but unwilling to fulfill his role in life?”
John answered with a sigh.
Philip pressed him. “In what way is Balian unworthy of his name? He is bright. Sharp as a whip, actually, even if he doesn’t have a scholarly bone in his body. He’s courageous almost to a fault. He’s a superb horseman and an outstanding swordsman—even if he’s less good with a lance and I wouldn’t want to trust my life to his archery. He’s generous and, for a seventeen-year-old, devout. True, he enjoys his wine, but he doesn’t get belligerent when he drinks too much, just mellow and sleepy.” Philip fell silent running out of things to say.
“He’s too emotional,” John answered, looking Philip straight in the eye. “He’s ruled by his emotions rather than his reason. He feels before he thinks. That is dangerous.”
Philip thought about this a moment and then remarked softly. “He’s more like me in that regard too, but emotions aren’t bad, John—only acting upon them without reflecting first. He’ll learn to do that. Just give him time.”
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