“Welcome to Cyprus, Marshal von Falkenhayn,” Eustance answered for all three of them.
“I would have preferred to make my acquaintance with the island after capturing Jerusalem,” the German replied bluntly. “I had not expected to be called from Acre to put down an unseemly rebellion!”
“This altercation between the Emperor and the Cypriot nobility is indeed regrettable,” the Archbishop of Nicosia agreed.
The Teutonic Marshal frowned darkly. “I call it more than regrettable, my lord; I call it treason. Indeed, it is blasphemy as it endangers our Holy mission to retake Jerusalem.”
Pedro growled behind Eustace’s chair, muttering, “He conveniently ignores the law, doesn’t he?”
Eustace, however, ignored his brother and responded to the German in a conciliatory tone. “We all agree, I think, that it is in the interests of Christendom to put an end to this dispute.”
“Which is why we are here. My brothers and I have come to crush the rebellion and take the leaders captive. I hereby request the support of our brothers-in-Christ, the Knights of the Hospital and the Knights Templar.” His eyes had already left the Archbishop to shift between the Masters of the other two militant orders.
“The Hospital will not take sides in this dispute,” Guerin answered immediately and firmly.
“Take sides?” Gunther von Falkenhayn asked, raising his eyebrows and curling his lips in a sneer. “What sides are there? On one side are God and the Emperor, on the other, rebellious felons! Does your order also not take sides between murderers and their intended victims? Between Christians and Saracens?” he sneered.
“I will not lower myself to answer such a question. As for God and the Emperor being on the same side, that is debatable, given his excommunicated status. The Lord of Beirut certainly has the law on his side—and the loyalty of four-fifths of the lords and knights of Cyprus. That should give you pause.”
“And the Temple?” Falkenhayn dismissed Guerin and the Hospitallers.
“The Knights Templar are prohibited from fighting fellow Christians. Nor do we recognize the leadership of a man expelled from the Holy Communion of Christianity by His Holiness the Pope.”
Falkenhayn again raised his eyebrows. “I see. So both of you are going to sit here on your—” he stopped himself, smiled, and with a little bow revised his phraseology to “comfortable, cushioned seats while the German knights alone defend Christendom and deal with these rebels?”
“We will not interfere in these secular matters,” Pedro affirmed, but added, “yet I am curious about how do you intend to ‘crush’ these ‘rebels,’ as you call them?”
“They have already fled before us,” Falkenhayn answered with a dismissive gesture of his hand. “They have abandoned Nicosia. We will run them to earth wherever they are. I doubt they will put up much resistance. They appear fundamentally cowards with, I dare say, a guilty conscience, as well.”
“I see,” Pedro noted with a glance to Guerin. “Would it change your opinion if I told you the reason the Lord of Beirut withdrew from Nicosia was to avoid Christian bloodshed?”
“The best way to avoid Christian bloodshed would be for that traitor to surrender to the Emperor his stolen treasure and his illegally held lordship of Beirut along with his miserable person.”
“But it has not been proven before a court of law that he has a treasure, much less a stolen one, nor that he holds Beirut illegally—since it was granted to him by his sister and a king who loved him dearly.”
“I’m not here to quibble with you, my lord. If Beirut cares even a little about Jerusalem, he will surrender his person, his treasure, and his city. The rights of it can be looked into afterward if the Emperor is so inclined. Meanwhile, we can all get on with this crusade.”
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