Henry had happy memories of spending summers here with Lord Philip. They would leave Nicosia early in the morning, and by mid-morning they would be toiling in the oppressive heat, sweating and thirsty. Then the castle would come into view, but still hours away, so they’d trudge on, getting hotter and dirtier, the horses straining. Bit by bit, they would get closer and the air would become cooler. The smell of pines would start to blot out the smell of their sweating bodies. Finally, they would reach the barbican, and with a great fanfare, the watch would announce the arrival of the king. The gates would be flung open and the entire castle staff would be lined-up to greet him. They would bow, and the castellan would come forward to offer Henry the keys to the castle—and his smiling wife would hold up a large, silver goblet filled with lemon sherbet sweetened with honey. Henry had loved coming to St. Hilarion.
Of course, Barlais had replaced the castellan, who was considered loyal to the Ibelins, and Henry’s arrival with Sir Grimbert de Bethsan several days ago had taken the garrison by surprise. There had been no fanfare, no cheering staff, no sherbet. It didn’t help that the men here were Langobard mercenaries in the service of the Holy Roman Emperor. Henry wasn’t sure they knew he was the king or, if they did, they didn’t much care. He wasn’t their king.
Still, Henry reflected as he jumped and skipped his way down the long chain of steps from the upper to the middle ward of the castle, it was because they didn’t take him very seriously that he had so much freedom. Nobody seemed to care where he was or what he was doing since Sir Grimbert had ridden back to Nicosia the same day he’d dropped Henry and Johnny here.
His sisters cared, Henry modified that, but they were girls and preferred reading or playing chess in the sunny great hall of the palace in the upper ward. Henry was already tired of their fussing over him. They’d insisted on cutting his hair and were outraged by the state of his boots (too worn down) and shirts (too threadbare at the cuffs). At least they liked Harry, he reminded himself with an inward sigh. In fact, they had adopted him completely, combing his hair and putting ribbons in it to keep it out of his eyes—until Harry scratched them off vigorously with his hind legs. They had also totally spoiled him with sweets. Harry was mercenary enough to hang around them for the handouts. Henry, in disgust, had left him with them.
Henry reached the broad rooftop of the garrison quarters in the middle ward. This was flat and crenelated so that it could be used as a fighting platform if an enemy ever got this far, something Henry found unimaginable. Still, there were a couple of Langobard sentries, who looked over at Henry without much interest and continued their conversation.
Henry was trying to find Johnny. Sometime after breakfast, Johnny had disappeared. Henry could tell that Johnny was even more bored by his sisters’ conversation than he was himself. He also knew that Johnny was desperate for news of his father and brothers. So, not finding him here in the middle ward, Henry continued across the long, narrow courtyard, past the large castle church built by the Greeks, and through the passage that led to the south side of the mountain. Here he followed a steep and narrow passage past a guard tower and a middle gate. After that he continued down a steep path with irregular steps toward the cluster of buildings that guarded the outer wall and provided stabling for the horses.
There seemed to be a lot of people clustered down there already, Henry noticed, frowning unconsciously. It was only mid-morning, and it took most of the day to ride from Nicosia, so he hadn’t been expecting any messengers until later. After a second look, he concluded that whatever was going on, it wasn’t just a messenger. There were too many horses milling around in front of the barbican. Not just horses either. There were men too, and they were in armor—ragged, tattered and dirty armor.
Henry caught his breath and stood still so he could focus on what was happening. There were at least a hundred men and horses in front of the barbican, but they weren’t attacking. On the contrary, they were being admitted through the gate a couple at a time. That was what caused the others to mill around outside; they were waiting their turn to enter. But if the garrison was letting them in, Henry realized, then they could only be the baillies’ men.
In horror, Henry recognized Sir Amaury Barlais himself emerging from the back of the barbican. As Henry watched, he turned his limping horse over to one of the castle grooms.
Henry didn’t wait to see any more. He turned on heel and ran back up the hill as fast as he could.
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