Frederick Hohenstaufen dismissed his clerks. Only after the door clunked shut did he cross to the table on which lay a book on falconry, a “gift” from Fahr ed-Din. The “gift” had been delivered in full view of the court with appropriate, obsequious bows, and Frederick had pretended only nominal interest in it and then ordered a servant to bring it to his chamber while proceeding to the elaborate feast as if the feast, not the book, interested him. But Fahr ed-Din had long ago promised him that the Sultan’s answer would come in exactly this form.
Opening the book, he took a sharp fruit knife and cut open the inside back cover to remove a folded slip of thin paper. His eyes raced over the pleasantries expressing “humble devotion” and “infinite respect” then praising Allah and his prophet until he found the content.
Yes! The Holy Roman Emperor almost shouted with joy. Al-Kamil had agreed at last! Impressed by the Emperor’s brilliance and his knowledge, al-Kamil agreed that he would allow the Christians to control Jerusalem for the duration of a truce on certain conditions.
Who cared about conditions? Frederick tossed the paper back down on his desk and breathed deeply in relief. He had done it! The world would again gaze in wonder at him. Stupor Mundi—the wonder of the world! And none would be more astounded—and confounded—than that worm in the Vatican! How Frederick wished he could be there to see the Pope’s face when he heard the news. He would very likely have an apoplectic fit! With the Grace of God, he would die of it too! The idiot on the papal throne had excommunicated the one leader destined to restore Jerusalem to Christian rule! Now the whole world would see what a fool the so-called Pope was and turn away from him to bow down in admiration and awe to the Liberator of Jerusalem! Frederick, by the Grace of God, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Sicily, King of Germany, King of Jerusalem!
Frederick Hohenstaufen was pacing about his room, energized with the sense of triumph. He would be revered for all eternity! They would build monuments to him across Christendom. His image would gaze down from elevated places in every cathedral—including St. Peter’s in Rome! The Wonder of the World. The Liberator of Jerusalem. He would crown himself Holy Roman Emperor again in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher itself! He would make them all bow down to him—including that ass Pedro de Montaigu, who had been harassing him to capture Jerusalem by force of arms.
And not just Montaigu. They were all idiots! Why shed Christian blood for something they could get handed to them on a platter? They had the minds of insects! The sensitivity of rabid dogs. Blood was all they understood. Not one of them had the subtlety he possessed. Not one of the understood diplomacy and the use of one’s mind and tongue rather than the sword.
Except perhaps Beirut. Frederick stopped his exhilarated pacing and scowled. Beirut was too clever by half. He was a slippery, far too subtle man, who hid behind a façade of uprightness! Despicable man!
It still rankled that he had extracted his sons along with a promise of no repercussions. That agreement had given Beirut everything he wanted. The castles weren’t his to hold in the first place, and he’d been planning to support the crusade anyway. It was truly a terrible humiliation.
But who would remember it after this triumph? No one, the Hohenstaufen told himself, resuming his excited wandering around his chamber. The bloodless liberation of Jerusalem would overshadow all the petty squabbles with the Ibelins. It would obliterate them from the historical record altogether!
Frederick Hohenstaufen stopped in his tracks. Why be content with their posthumous elimination? He had vowed before the assembled lords of Cyprus that he would force Beirut to surrender his city and his treasure—and he had done neither. He couldn’t let Beirut get away with that. Now that he had no need of the Ibelins, their troops or their allies, he had no reason to respect the agreement. The entire Cypriot contingent could go home or drop dead for all he cared. Jerusalem would still be his. So why not strike a killing blow at the traitors before a living soul knew what was afoot?
Frederick Hohenstaufen paused to think about that for another moment, but he could find nothing wrong with the idea whatsoever. So who best to carry it out?
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