The residents were barricaded inside their houses. Only the sound of muffled barking behind closed doors greeted them as they advanced into the narrow warren of streets. When they at last emerged at the central square, they found arrows littered on the cobblestones. Blood was pooled in the cracks and smeared over the surface in a half dozen places, but there were no corpses. Someone had cleared away the dead and injured, but it was impossible to know who. Beirut continued toward the manor house, where the gate hung on broken hinges.
Before they could enter, however, horses clattered into the square behind them and Beirut recognized the Lord of Karpas and Baldwin on the lead horses. Karpas was splattered with mud and blood, and his surcoat was in tatters. Baldwin looked less tattered, but he was hunched sideways in his saddle, evidently staunching the bleeding in a wound to his side.
As these two riders came abreast of Beirut, Baldwin gasped out. “Did the King make it? Is he safe?”
“Yes,” Beirut answered, looking from one man to the other. Then setting his eyes on Baldwin he asked, “Where are your brothers, your cousin?”
“Guy fought like a knight, Father, and he’s fine.” Looking over his shoulder he gestured, and Guy jogged forward on a strange, bareback horse to grin at his father. Beirut drew a deep, ragged breath of relief. Meanwhile, Baldwin continued, “Jacques was a paragon of valor until he took a wound to his thigh. Fortunately, we were able to pull him out of the fight and he’s inside the manor.”
Beirut nodded and waited expectantly. Baldwin looked down in silence.
“And Hugh?” Beirut pressed.
Baldwin swallowed hard and shook his head. “I don’t know, Father. He sent Guy to warn the King. When Guy left him, he was armed and preparing to mount his destrier and Elias was with him. That’s the last any of us have seen or heard of him.”
Beirut did not reply to these words, instead he turned and guided his horse into the courtyard of the manor house. Here he dismounted, and Lorenzo jumped down to take the reins of his stallion as he continued without a thought into the manor. He went unerringly to the hall and found the wounded lying side-by-side, some on pallets, many without. The women and servants of the manor were doing their best to look after the injured, but they were clearly overwhelmed by the numbers and severity of many of the wounds.
When he found his nephew Jacques, Beirut went down on his heels beside him. The youth struggled to sit up a little straighter, his face white from loss of blood and covered with a sheen of sweat that said more about the pain he was in than the boy could. “We’ll send for the Hospitallers at once,” Beirut assured him. “Baldwin said you were a paragon of valor.”
Jacques tried to smile, without success, and Beirut patted his shoulder. “I’ll have Guiscard take Montgisard, so he gets there faster.” Even as he spoke, he looked over his shoulder, found his squire, and ordered him to ride to the Hospitaller castle at Manuet, which was closer than Acre.
He then turned on Baldwin. “Let me see that wound of yours.”
“It’s not mortal, my lord.”
“I said, let me see it!” Beirut was in no mood to be contradicted, least of all by one of his sons, and Baldwin submitted.
Beirut did not like what he saw. Baldwin had a deep puncture wound just below the ribcage. His lungs were evidently fine, but he had been bleeding profusely and smelled rank. “Lorenzo, bring clean water, absolutely clean, straight from the well, and try to find fresh linens—even if you have to tear them off one of the beds. Meanwhile, I want a report of what happened here.”
Karpas, Caesarea, and the others spilled out the story of what had happened, each from his own perspective. They spoke disjointedly because they had been scattered about—Baldwin and Jacques with the King, Karpas and Caesarea in another residence, others elsewhere. It was clear there had been no proper watch, nor any system for raising the alarm. Karpas even admitted that he’d been warned that a counterattack was on the way and dismissed it as kitchen gossip. “I will never forgive myself!” he concluded in an agony of guilt and self-recrimination.
Beirut could see by the state of his armor that he had fought with his typical ferocity once the fight had been joined, but what folly to dismiss a rumor? Still, he bit his tongue and uttered no rebuke. At the Battle of Nicosia, Karpas had saved his life, and hadn’t he refused to heed Karpas’ warning that the Emperor was a treacherous snake? Hadn’t he ignored Balian’s warning that the Emperor intended to destroy them as a family? Oh, yes, far too often he had ignored warnings, and because of that Balian and Baldwin had been tortured; his brother-in-law, the old Lord of Caesarea, had been killed; and he had nearly lost Beirut and Bella.
No, he had no right to make recriminations. He simply asked that those who were not injured make a count of survivors and start calculating casualties.
“The Sicilians took some knights captive,” Caesarea reported. “If knights surrendered, they didn’t slaughter them. They bound their hands behind their backs and took them to the rear. During the second assault after dawn, I saw five or six knights taken that way.”
“They were also collecting the horses,” Baldwin noted from his pallet on the floor. “That’s partly why they took so long to retreat. They rounded up all the loose horses and they took the Genoese ships in tow as well, after capturing the crews.”
“What crews were on the ships, at least,” Caesarea scoffed. “The bulk of the Genoese were having fun in the taverns and brothels. They’d left only a skeletal crew on board, who were easily overwhelmed.”
“We can assume they will not have cleared away our dead, however,” Sir Anseau noted. “We should assume that anyone missing was either taken prisoner or fled and is now safely in Acre.”
Beirut nodded at that. “Then let us scour the town for dead and wounded. I want my son’s body. If you find it, bring it here.”
Baldwin started to get up as his father turned to leave, but Beirut gestured for him to stay where he is. “Rest! One dead son is enough this day. You don’t need to kill yourself as well.”
In the ward, Beirut took Guiscard’s gelding and swung up into the saddle. He was considerably taller than his squire, but rather than adjust the stirrups, he kicked his feet free and rode without. In his mind, his memories of Hugh were colliding with one another, blending and competing for his attention. The third son, Hugh had always been in the shadow of his elder brothers. Baldwin had carved out his place by being the opposite and the rival of Balian, but Hugh had tried to please them all. Bella loved him best. Christ in heaven! Why couldn’t one of his sons have taken the cloth and stayed safe! But no sooner had the thought formed than he rebuked himself. No one should commit their life to God unless he was called to it by the Lord himself. Like Bella was.
Beirut did not know where he was riding exactly. The entire town had been a battleground, and they would need to search every street, alley, and cul-desac. Evidently, however, the word had gotten out that the Imperial troops had withdrawn and the men now in the town were Syrian barons and sergeants, because more and more inhabitants were peering out their doors and opening their shutters. They stood about watching the men sweeping through the town with wary looks.
Beirut stopped before one burly looking man and explained. “We are looking for our dead. Have you seen any corpses hereabouts?”
The man shook his head, but another man spoke up. “There’s a dead horse just around the corner and some men are barricaded inside a house. They throw rocks at anyone who tries to get near.”
Beirut raised his eyebrows at that and redirected his horse. At the sight of the equine corpse, Guiscard’s gelding balked and let out a sharp, terrified—or grieving—whinny. “That’s Viking, Father!” Guy called out anxiously, flinging himself down from the horse he’d borrowed and rushing forward.
“Hugh! Elias!” Guy called out with a desperation that cut Beirut to the quick. Here he had been feeling sorry for himself and counting his own loss, while Guy had lost a brother and a friend. “Hugh! Elias! Are you there? It’s me! Guy! And Father is with me!”
A head was thrust out from the second floor window. “Guy?” The voice asked in disbelief.
“Hugh!” Beirut answered in even greater astonishment, flinging his leg over the pommel to drop to the pavement and run toward the house. He found the door barricaded but could hear the footsteps descending like a cascade inside. The door was jerked open and Hugh stood in front of him safe and sound. Only then did Beirut’s nerves break. He grabbed his son and pulled him into an embrace so fierce it would have crushed a weaker man.
Guy was looking past his father and brother and to his friend. “Elias! Thank God!”
“Sir Elias!” Hugh corrected. “Sir Elias!”
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