By the time there was room at the quay at Puy du Constable for Sir Hugh’s ship to go alongside, it had started to rain. It was a miserable, cold drizzle from a leaden sky chased by gusting wind that made it bitter cold. There could be little doubt that the wind was getting up again and a new storm was on the way. Thanks to the grace of God, they had made landfall just in time, Hugh thought, crossing himself.
The horses, as always, could hardly wait to disembark. They were snapping and kicking at one another in their determination to be off the ship first. It took a lot of attention and firm yanks on their leads to keep the beasts from fighting more viciously. Hugh worried about the squires standing amidst the fretful stallions; they were at risk of getting trampled and kicked. More than one shout and curse underlined the danger they were in. At last, the doors were uncaulked, and the ramp lowered. The first of the stallions bolted out, dragging his helpless squire with him, but the next youth had the chain of the halter over the stallion’s nose and kept him better under control. After that they came out in a more or less orderly fashion.
Hugh was just mustering them along the quay when his father rode up, the hood of his cloak up over his cervellière to try to keep the rain off his face and chain mail. “How much longer do you need, Sir Hugh?” he called out.
“An hour, maybe a little more, my lord. The archers are still unloading their weapons,” Hugh answered promptly.
“The van is moving out under your brother, Sir Balian. My Lord of Karpas will follow and then the King. I’ll be next, followed by Sir Amaury. You and Johnny have the rear guard.”
“Yes, my lord!” Sir Hugh agreed. That was only logical since theirs had been the last ships to off-load. If they were going to be last, however, they could take the time for breakfast, he reasoned. At a minimum, they needed to be sure the horses got some feed before setting off. Hugh knew that his father wanted to ride beyond Gibelet before making camp.
The Lord of Gibelet did not actively support his kinsman Sir Hugh, who with Barlais, had been one of the Emperor’s five co-baillies on Cyprus, but he was a staunch supporter of the Emperor himself. Not only could they expect no assistance from him, Beirut feared Gibelet might try to block the road through his lordship and prevent them from continuing south to the relief of Beirut. Their best hope was to skirt around Gibelet as rapidly and inconspicuously as possible before the Lord of Gibelet even knew they had landed. Gibelet was roughly 15 miles away, so to get well beyond it and inside the Kingdom of Jerusalem, they needed to put about 20 miles behind them this day. That wasn’t normally a bad ride, but if the weather didn’t let up it was going to be a miserable slog through drenching rain, chilling wind, and deteriorating road conditions.
Nor did Hugh envy Balian being in the van. If the Lord of Gibelet got word of their approach in time to try to block the road south, he would be in a very awkward and delicate position. The last thing they wanted was open hostilities with other Syrian lords, so he would have to try to talk his way through.
Hugh presumed that Filangieri knew they were on their way since you can’t keep 2,500 men mustered for war a secret. What Hugh hoped Filangieri didn’t know was that they were already on the mainland and where, precisely, they had landed. It was important, therefore, that they move rapidly.
His squire Elias brought him water laced with wine and a thick slice of bread. “They seem to be opening up the shops in Puy du Constable. Should I go and see if I can find you something fresh?”
Hugh suspected Elias was as concerned about his own stomach as his knight’s but that had its advantages, so he nodded and gave him some coins from his own purse. Meanwhile, the Turcopole commander was gesturing to him, and Hugh hurried over to see what his concerns were. It seemed that two of their horses had injured themselves during the voyage, so Hugh authorized the two men to go into Puy to try to find replacements. “If we’ve already moved out, they’ll have to catch up,” he warned. He was not going to delay departure for just two men.
Meanwhile, the sergeant in charge of off-loading their equipment asked about the tents and siege equipment. “Surely it would be better to leave all that onboard? The fleet has orders to proceed down the coast.”
“Are you sure?” Hugh asked.
“Yes, just like the Lionheart’s fleet did,” the man answered, “keeping pace with us as we advance.” Hugh nodded agreement and turned his attention back to the horses. They’d managed to get them into one of the large quayside warehouses, so they were out of the rain, but the wind had started howling around the corners of the buildings making the horses nervous and the men reluctant to leave their comparatively comfortable shelter. Hugh sympathized, but he knew his duty.
Elias brought him fresh hot buns, and Hugh gobbled them down gratefully before giving the order to prepare to move out.
“Hugh! Hugh!” It was the still rather high-pitched voice of his brother Johnny, and he sounded alarmed or frightened.
Hugh looked toward the voice and saw his brother pushing his way through the men and horses with a kind of frantic desperation. “Hugh! Come quick! Barlais refuses to march south! He says he’s going north to Tripoli instead!”
“What! He can’t—”
Hugh didn’t have to be urged a second time. Leaving Elias to tack up their horses, he followed Johnny up the short street to the main north-south highway. Sure enough, the knights and men under the banners of Barlais, Bethsan, and Gibelet had formed up facing north. Hugh ran to the head of the column and grabbed Barlais’ bridle just as he signaled for them to set out into the teeth of the wind.
“Sir Amaury!” Hugh shouted up to him. “Stop! Where are you going?”
Barlais looked down his long, thin nose at Hugh from his superior position astride his large stallion. “We are going to Tripoli—”
“In violation of your oath of fealty to King Henry?” Hugh challenged him. He had to strain his voice to be heard above the sound of the rain splattering all around them.
“King Henry is a child, and more importantly, a prisoner, Sir Hugh. The King is not giving orders in his own name, but for the benefit of your treasonous father. These loyal knights and I will not be forced into treason against the Overlord of Cyprus by such a cheap and stupid ploy!” Then, without giving Hugh a chance to reply, he nudged his spurs against the belly of his stallion and the eager horse sprang forward, nearly knocking Hugh over.
Hugh jumped back to avoid getting trampled by the knights and squires following him, and automatically started counting the knights that had thrown in their lot with Barlais—eight, 15, 21, 27 . . . He kept counting until the last knight with his squire, destrier, and a reluctant packhorse on a long lead had passed by. Barlais and his friends had been followed by 78 knights, nearly one-fifth of their entire force.
“What are we going to tell Father?” Johnny asked plaintively as he stood beside Hugh watching the rumps of the last horses disappear into the rain.
Hugh caught his breath. Now, when it was too late, he recognized he had not done his duty. Balian would never have given way. Balian would have reached up and dragged Barlais off his horse. He would have flung Barlais down in front of his own men and dared them to trample him. Of course, they would have drawn their swords and threatened him, but would they have dared cut him down? Maybe, but he at least he would have gone down fighting.
How was he ever going to explain to his father that he had just stood there and watched them go?
It was a hellish ride south in the rain on a road that became increasingly impassible. The puddles became wider and the mud deeper as they progressed. The run-off from the high ground to their left ran over the road in rivulets and became shallow creeks that threatened to wash away the road itself.
Hugh and Johnny did not catch up with their father until after nightfall. Beirut had succeeded in passing Gibelet, but the entire force had to camp without shelter because all the tents were still aboard their ships. It was impossible to make fires in the damp, and no one had a dry spot left on their bodies. The mud clung to their boots and to the legs and bellies of their horses.
When Hugh reported to his father and King Henry what had happened to Barlais and his followers, Beirut said nothing, while the King exploded. “Traitors!” Henry declared instantly. “I’ll see them all hang!”
But you had to catch them first, Hugh thought to himself miserably, as he tried to wrap himself in his wet cloak and sleep with his head on his saddle. He didn’t know how he was ever going to get the mud off, and the water would leave stains as well. His beautiful saddle was ruined, and he couldn’t afford another like it, he thought miserably. His only comfort was that Cecilia would love him anyway. Sweet Cecilia. . . .
In the night, their fleet went aground off Botron and they lost all their siege equipment along with the tents and furnishings. There was nothing they could do but push on. Ahead of them lay two narrow passes, the Pass of the Pagans and the Pass of the Dog. They had to get through these without being halted or attacked if they were to reach Beirut.
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