Before Beirut’s tent, the Patriarch of Antioch looked over the edge of his litter with obvious distaste at the mud, and then snapped his fingers for the assistance of one of his knights. He set his feet daintily on a patch of drier turf, his silk robes rustling about him as they fell into place.
Beirut awaited him smiling graciously, but made no move to assist him. Hugh flanked his father.
As he reached the entrance to Beirut’s tent, the Patriarch held out his hand with the heavy ring of office. Beirut dutifully dipped his knee and kissed it. “I am relieved to find you here, my lord,” the Patriarch announced in a voice that carried to the soldiers standing around. “I come in the name of Our Lord to restore Peace to this troubled kingdom.”
“Nothing could be more welcome,” Beirut answered warily but just as loudly, “than a just peace based on the Laws of the Kingdom.”
“Indeed, indeed.” The Patriarch’s eyes darted around taking in the grins on the faces of the troops. He clearly didn’t like their boldness.
“Come inside where we can discuss this more comfortably,” Beirut offered, gesturing toward the entrance of his tent.
The Patriarch ducked into the tent with evident relief, followed by two of his clerks. Inside he paused, looking dismayed by the primitive furnishings. Beirut found himself wondering if the prelate had ever been in a war tent before. With inner amusement he indicated a folding stool to the Patriarch before turning to politely request wine and water from his squires. Florio Sanuto, the grandson of the Genoese Consul, all but fell over himself in his eagerness to comply.
With a look of disgust, the prelate lowered himself on the stool indicated, his abundant embroidered robes spreading out around him. They would need cleaning after sweeping the floor of the tent, Beirut registered without sympathy. The Patriarch left his wax tablet with its elaborately carved ivory cover resting on the floor but pulled his large purse into his lap protectively. Beirut wondered what he had inside the purse that made him hold it so possessively—or did he seriously think someone might rob him?
Beirut sank onto the stool opposite the Patriarch, but he was used to sitting on folding stools. He stretched out his booted feet and crossed his legs at the ankles while keeping his gaze watchfully on the Patriarch.
The Patriarch’s eyes narrowed slightly. Then he recovered his composure and put on a pleasant, smiling façade as he announced, “I have just come from Tyre, where I met with Marshal Filangieri’s brother, Lothar. He assures me the Marshal is most anxious to end this terrible conflict. The siege of Beirut has cost him dearly.”
Beirut’s eyebrows shot up, and he saw Hugh open his mouth to speak. Beirut shot him a warning glance, and Hugh clamped his mouth shut yet continued gazing furiously at the churchman. Hugh was the most economically astute of his sons and knew just how much the loss of Beirut and the efforts to regain it had cost them. Hugh had also been his agent in selling off several pieces of property during the last two months, a house in Acre and an entire estate and village from Arsuf, sales he’d been forced to make to raise the cash they needed to pay their knights and archers. Even with King Henry’s support, they were rapidly reaching the end of their resources. Beirut with its dye, glass factories, metal shops, and silk manufacturers had been their primary source of revenue. Without it, they were not rich magnates. Arsur and their Cypriot estates were what enabled them to keep fighting, but they were not as lucrative as Beirut.
The Patriarch read the icy silence correctly and hastened on. “This conflict is tearing the kingdom apart and the truce with the infidel runs out in just seven years.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” Beirut retorted with deliberate slowness. “Which was only one of the reasons your dear brother in Christ, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, warned His Holiness that the Emperor’s truce was a tawdry fraud.”
“I’m not here to discuss the Emperor’s peace,” the Antiochene Patriarch snapped irritably. “The point is, we will soon need to join forces to face the threat posed by the Muslim kingdoms around us.”
Rather than reply, Beirut looked up at his new Genoese squire and gestured for him to offer wine and water to the Patriarch. Only after the Patriarch had helped himself and was sipping with a look of surprise at the quality of wine offered in a field tent, did Beirut answer in the same slow voice he had used before. “My lord patriarch, you do not need to convince me of the urgent need for peace. Unlike Marshal Filangieri, I have been fighting for Jerusalem my entire life. As soon as I am restored to my barony and can again draw upon the revenues it yields, I will once more pour my entire heart, health, and treasury into the defense of this Christian kingdom.” He paused and repeated. “Once I have been restored to my rightful place. As an unjustly disinherited pauper, I can do nothing for the Kingdom of Jerusalem.”
The Patriarch visibly bit back the retort he would have liked to give and simply bowed his head instead. His face, Beirut noted, was flushed with anger. His lips were pressed together, while his eyes narrowed as they took in his surroundings. He’s like a caged cat, Beirut thought to himself. He doesn’t like it here one bit.
“My lord,” the Patriarch resumed the conversation, focusing again on Beirut. “I have been fully empowered to negotiate for Marshal Filangieri, but I will confess to you that I am not comfortable here, surrounded by your soldiers. If you will return with me to Acre, I’m certain that with the assistance of the Archbishop of Acre, the Lord of Sidon, and Eudes de Montbèliard—the former baillies—we’ll be able to find a solution that will satisfy all parties.”
“Sidon and Montbèliard are in Acre?” Beirut asked surprised. They had gone to Sicily in the fall and had been absent throughout the winter, something that had worked to his advantage. Sidon, at least, would certainly have tried to stop the Confraternity of St. Andrews from turning itself into “the Commune of Acre”—and a hotbed of hostility to the Hohenstaufen. He would also have tried to prevent Beirut from being elected “mayor” of that body.
“They sailed with me from Tripoli to Tyre and have continued by ship to Acre. They will be there by now.”
Beirut reflected on this news. While their absence in the winter had worked to his advantage, their return now might nevertheless be a good thing. Sidon wanted compromise and peace. In his heart, so did Beirut. Sidon was also an honest man with a sound understanding of the law. While Beirut liked Montbèliard less, he acknowledged that he was no fool. Between them, maybe a peace agreement might be possible. It was certainly worth a try.
Still, Beirut feared a trap. The Patriarch might only be trying to lure him—and his army—back to Acre.
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