“Reynald de Châtillon?” Flanders grunted. “Why he’s a nobody, the younger son—”
“Of some minor French lord. Yes, exactly. Tell me, why shouldn’t such a man—particularly with a strong record of defending the Holy Land and an intimate familiarity with the environment—be suitable as regent? You seemed to think the younger son of a nobody with no experience in the Holy Land and no proven military capabilities was good enough for an even higher post.” Tyre was far too disgusted with Flanders to mince words.
Flanders, meanwhile, had turned crab red. Or rather, his face was permanently red from sunburn, but when he was agitated, it turned an even darker shade. “You are an impertinent and rude clerk!”
“And you are an arrogant and rude count, my lord.”
“Don’t think you can get away with this!”
“Thwarting me! I’ll return to France with all my knights and archers.”
“I’m sure you’ll be welcomed as a hero for having done nothing. Better yet, when the pope learns that your idea of crusader vows was to try to pawn off the Kingdom of Jerusalem to one of your vassals in exchange for properties in France, he will certainly excommunicate you. The troubadours will sing, and the chroniclers will write about the count who tried to give away what he did not hold and then returned home without fighting a single Saracen—while the combined forces of Jerusalem and Constantinople took Egypt for Christendom.”
“Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Archbishop of Tyre and Chancellor to King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, my lord.”
“Maybe not for long.” Flanders turned on his heel and stomped out of the chancellery only to collide with Reynald de Châtillon. The latter smiled at the flustered Flanders and blocked his way. Flanders tried to push him aside, but Châtillon grabbed his thick upper arm and gripped it so hard the count frowned. “The good Archbishop was much more polite than I would have been, Flanders. You may think you are someone of great importance, but, believe me, here in Outremer, you are nothing but a pilgrim.”
“Let go of me, Châtillon!”
“Prince Reynald, Lord of Oultrejourdain—Flanders.”
Flanders yanked his arm free and stormed out.
Châtillon continued into William’s chamber, grinning. “I’m beginning to like you, Tyre, which is saying a lot, since I don’t usually like clerics.”
Tyre looked long and hard at Châtillon, unsure of how to answer. On the one hand, he detested this shamelessly brutal, ruthlessly ambitious, and excessively passionate man. On the other hand, he had always been a steadfast defender of whatever territory he held. There was no doubt in William’s mind that Châtillon—or Ramla for that matter—would make a far better king than the insignificant and novice knights Flanders had suggested. Maybe it was time to choose one of their tried and tested barons rather than some import from the West?
“I came to tell you there’s a fancy delegation of Greeks out in the lobby.”
“What?” Tyre asked.
“Yes, someone calling himself Megatriarch of Rome—I believe that can best be translated as ‘grand admiral of the fleet from Constantinople’—is asking for an audience with you. He’s accompanied by four or five other lords all draped in gold and silks as the Greeks do.”
“What’s the matter?”
“The Megatriarch is Lord Andronicus Angelus, son of the emperor’s sister, and he is indeed the admiral of their fleet. I wasn’t expecting him quite so soon.”
“Soon? It’s already mid-August. Why delay any longer? I say, now that we have the fleet and a fit commander, we attack.”
“I understand your sentiments, my lord, but—you heard Flanders. We need a little more time to make him change his mind.”
“Oh, that shouldn’t take too long. You laid things out quite well. Indeed, I liked your arguments. The Flemish piggy clearly came East to make himself look pious in the eyes of his peers in France. Going home without fighting won’t go down very well at all. I don’t think it will take him too long to see reason.”
Châtillon’s flippant tone exasperated Tyre. “You don’t understand, my lord. We are at risk of a major diplomatic incident. The Emperor expects us to fulfill the terms of the treaty negotiated with him, which includes this joint expedition into Egypt.”
“Quite. I can’t wait.”
“Yes, but they promised seventy ships, and we promised 1,500 horse. We can’t meet that number without Flanders’ 500 knights, even if we denude the kingdom of all protection. If Flanders remains obdurate, we risk angering the Emperor or endangering the kingdom, and we can’t afford either with Salah al-Din’s power growing day by day.”
“Do you want me to persuade Flanders?” Châtillon quipped. “I can be very persuasive, you know.”
“The way you persuaded the Patriarch of Antioch? No, I don’t want your help in dealing with either Flanders or the Greeks, Châtillon. You did not make friends in Constantinople, despite all your groveling.”
“But I know who might be able to help,” Tyre spoke out loud, and Châtillon lifted his eyebrows with curiosity. “Queen Maria Comnena.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish