The opening of the door let in a rush of cool fresh air and the brothers looked over to see who had entered. Sergeant Gautier in full battle gear closed the door behind him and crossed to the two brothers. “There’s some sort of commotion in town. People running this way and that, and I spotted noblemen on horses. I think it might be the Lord of Sidon. Filangieri came out to greet him.”
The other two men waited for Gautier to come to the point.
“I know this is a lot to ask,” he continued, “but would you mind sending your Jens down into the town after dark to find out what’s happened?”
Olaf didn’t answer immediately. On that first day, when everything was still in flux and Lady Bella had been in danger, he’d volunteered Jens. The second time Jens had gone out by the postern, it had been when Filangieri’s men started to cover the fosse so they could mine under the barbican and also started construction of a tower on the heights of Chaufor to the southeast of the Castle. Both actions indicated that Filangieri was determined to assault the castle, something they had not expected.
As long has Filangieri had seemed content to “starve” them out, Bella had been confident they could win just by doing nothing. The very weakness of the garrison, after all, ensured their supplies would last longer. An assault, on the other hand, would be fatal because the garrison was too small to defend the castle. Bella had therefore requested that Jens go into the town and pass the word to a reliable man who could take a message to her cousin, the Lord of Caesarea. Olaf wasn’t convinced that “some sort of commotion” or even a visit by the Lord of Sidon, on the other hand, justified risking his son’s life a third time.
The problem was that Filangieri had positioned galleys seaward of the castle. They were chained together to prevent anyone from slipping past them into the castle. Their presence indicated they knew about the postern and also ensured that any movement from the postern would be spotted and reported. As a result, it was only possible to send someone out of the postern by the dark of night. Traversing the trail down to the foot of the castle by night was dangerous enough, but now walking along the rocky shoreline to the River of Beirut entailed skirting Chaufor, where the Sicilians were building a siege engine that was guarded day and night. Worse, the Sicilians occasionally sent out patrols along the shore. Last but not least, whoever went had to spend the first night outside the city, enter when the gates opened, and depart before curfew the next night. Olaf wasn’t happy about sending his son on this mission. “Couldn’t we send Jusef?” he suggested instead.
“I want both of them to go,” Gautier explained. “They’re safer together. If something happens to one of them, the other would still have a chance to get away and bring us word.”
“The plums!” Sven cried out, recognizing the smell of fruits on the brink of burning. He shoved his bench back and reached for his crutches, but Gautier and Olaf moved faster. Gautier opened the oven door, and Olaf used his leather apron to shield his hands as he removed the trays with the plums on them and set them on the tiled sideboard. By the time the little catastrophe had been averted, Olaf knew that he could not shield his son; the fate of all of them depended on working together in everything. “I’ll go talk to Jens,” he announced.
Jens was learning the family trade and diligently working at perfecting his skills with the hammer and anvil by making horseshoe nails. It was a boring task that he felt he had already mastered, but his father insisted he was still making too many defects. He had been daydreaming a bit when the return of his father made him jump up and pump the bellows to disguise the fact that he’d let the fire burn down. His father grunted to show he saw right through him, and then announced, “Sergeant Gautier wants you to go down into the city again.”
“Really?” Jens asked eagerly, his expression going from sullen guilt to excitement instantly.
“I should have known you’d be so stupid as to want to go,” his father grumbled. These missions made Jens feel important, which was unusual for a 15-year-old apprentice armorsmith. “Go find Jusef and report to Sergeant Gautier to get your instructions,” Olaf ordered gruffly. He wouldn’t have wanted a cowardly son, but it was hard not to worry.
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