The hall was full of people, and the appearance of Beirut with his three adult sons flanking him created an immediate hubbub. Men surged toward the dais and the Lord of Karpas’ voice boomed out. “My lady is trapped in the inner tower of Kantara surrounded by mercenaries who have plundered, slaughtered and raped my servants. I demand immediate action!”
“Karpas is not alone! My seventy-year-old mother was driven from her home. Just thrown out and forced to flee with what she could carry on a couple of mules!” another man called out.
“I have two daughters on Cyprus, my lord, and God knows I must now fear for their honor and lives!” someone else shouted.
“We can’t just wait here, while the Langobards attack our families and plunder our homes!”
Beirut held up his naked left hand for silence. “My lords, sirs! Sir Gautier of the Knights Hospitaller reports that these are not acts of lawlessness, but rather have been ordered by the baillies of Cyprus—”
“They aren’t legally baillies at all!” Karpas reminded them furiously.
“They are the Emperor’s lackeys,” someone seconded Karpas.
Beirut held up his hand for silence again. “Legal or not, they hold the King in their hands and they control the resources of the royal domain. They are cloaked in the trappings of legitimate power. If we take up arms against them, we will be labeled rebels—”
“Rebels against tyranny are liberators!” Karpas roared.
“No matter what we are called,” Beirut raised his voice to be heard over the excited babbling spreading across the hall, “No matter what we are called—or how we view ourselves—we will bring civil war and bloodshed.”
That silenced them. But only for a moment. Then Karpas growled, “There already is civil war, Beirut! A civil war waged against helpless and defenseless women and children! I will free my lady—alone and with my bare hands if necessary. I will not stand aside and watch greedy bastards steal what is rightfully mine and abuse my lady in the process!”
His words were greeted with a cheer of approval.
Beirut gestured for silence, and when the room was hushed with restless anticipation, he announced simply, “You will not be alone, my lord of Karpas.” Drawing Defender of Jerusalem dramatically, he held it up by the naked blade in his gauntleted hand, the hilt pointing upwards so the sword formed a cross. “By this sword my father used to defend Jerusalem from Saladin, I swear that I will free Cyprus of the tyranny of false governors and their foreign mercenaries—or die in the attempt!”
Across the hall, men followed his example. They drew their swords and swore upon them to deliver Cyprus or die in the attempt. Balian could not suppress admiration at his father’s masterful orchestration of this response.
Before the shouting had died down, Beirut turned to Balian and remarked soberly. “You better be right about the Genoese.” Then he stepped off the dais and started to mingle with his men, accepting their personal assurances of support and thanking them as he moved through the crowd.
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