BLOOD. GUY DE LUSIGNAN STARED IN horror at the stream of urine the color of Cypriot rosé wine, and his stomach cramped in fear. He didn’t need to pay a physician a pretty price to know that blood in his urine was not a good sign. This, combined with the pains in his groin and intestines, warned him that he was ill. Seriously ill. If only Sibylla were alive. She would have comforted him, but there was no one to turn to anymore. No one he trusted. They all wanted him dead. Because of Hattin, which wasn’t his fault.
The stream of urine had tapered off to a drip, and Guy closed his braies and tucked the tails of his shirt back inside before tightening the drawstring and letting his surcoat fall back in place. He stopped at the basin just outside the garderobe and poured water over his hands. He used a bar of balsam-scented soap to wash them more vigorously than usual, as if by washing his hands he could cleanse away the undefined illness that was eating away at his innards.
His squire, the awkward and bumbling Dick de Camville, was hovering uncertainly at the door to the outer chamber, moving nervously from foot to foot. It still galled Guy that none of his former barons had been willing to put their sons in his service. That they had elected Conrad de Montferrat and then Henri de Champagne King of Jerusalem in his place might have been rationalized on legal and political grounds, but refusing to let their sons serve him was a personal insult. Guy therefore found himself dependent on this semi-moron, the younger son by a second marriage of one of the men Richard of England had left on Cyprus more than two years ago. While the boy was willing enough, he was not the brightest youth Guy had encountered, and he stuttered half the time.
“What is it now?” Guy snapped at him, feeling exposed just because the boy had been so nearby while he urinated blood.
“Th-th-there’s a man here, w-w-who says he is your b-b-brother,” the squire stammered out, getting bright red from agitation in the process.
“My brother? Is Geoffrey back?” Guy asked hopefully. After Sibylla’s death, Geoffrey had been the only soul to wholeheartedly support Guy. He had badgered the English King into recognizing Guy as the rightful King of Jerusalem, and had been furious when Richard abruptly abandoned the Lusignans and accepted Conrad de Montferrat instead. After Montferrat was murdered and Henri de Champagne married Isabella, even Geoffrey conceded defeat. Champagne was the Plantagenet’s nephew, and blood is thicker than water. Still, Geoffrey had seemed willing to accept Cyprus as an alternative to Jerusalem—until he got here. From the start, he hadn’t liked Cyprus. No sooner had the spring sailing season opened than he abandoned Guy. That left Guy utterly alone in this hostile world of treacherous Greeks and greedy Italians.
“N-n-no. Another b-b-brother,” the squire squeaked into Guy’s thoughts.
It could hardly be his eldest brother, Hugh “le Brun,” Guy calculated; he’d returned to his lordship in Poitou even before King Richard departed. That left only the third of the four Lusignan brothers. “Aimery?” he asked in disbelief.
“Yes, it can hardly come as that much of a surprise,” Aimery answered from behind him. Guy spun about as his brother stepped into the room from the balcony.
Guy gaped at his elder brother, completely confused by his own emotions. It was good to see a familiar face, a face that had shadowed him for so much of his thirteen years here in Outremer. But the voice still had that condescending ring to it, and Aimery’s eyes betrayed his continued disdain for his “little brother.” Aimery had never accepted that his “little brother” had been more successful than he, had risen higher, was a king . . .
“What brings you here?” Guy asked warily.
“Well, it seems that—because of you—Henri de Champagne does not trust me anymore, and since he does not trust me, he wanted me removed as Constable. Since I can’t draw on the Constable’s income anymore, I’m penniless—all because of you. Under the circumstances, the good Baron d’Ibelin thought I might find more lucrative alternatives here on Cyprus.”
“The good Baron d’Ibelin,” Guy sneered sarcastically, “who never supported me, who undermined me at every turn, who worked against me—” Before he got more insulting, his elder brother gestured with his head to the youth in the doorway to the balcony, and Guy belatedly recognized Ibelin’s eldest son. Instantly, his resentment boiled. The barons refused to let their sons serve him, but Ibelin—the ringleader of the lot!—allowed his eldest son and heir to serve Aimery! It was ridiculous.
His anger spilled over into his voice as he snapped back, “Well, if ‘lucrative alternatives’ is what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong place! The Greeks and Italians between them have stolen everything of value. Nobody pays me a penny in taxes, customs, or fees, and if I ride so much as five miles outside of Nicosia I have to fear for my life. Indeed, I’m hardly safe in Nicosia, either. I never know when or where an assassin might be lurking with a poisoned knife, ready to send me the same way as that bastard Conrad de Montferrat!”
The tirade was out before Guy had a chance to consider what he was saying—but that was typical Guy, Aimery reflected. He had always been one to speak before he thought. What surprised him was rather how haggard Guy looked. Guy was very vain. He had always loved the way he looked, and consequently had given his appearance the utmost attention. He was, to be sure, still dressed like the king he no longer was, but his hair was thinning and receding from his forehead. The skin on his face was sagging noticeably, too, and his eyes were sunk in wrinkled sockets darkened by shadows. He looked considerably older than his forty-three years, older and less well (or so Aimery thought) than Aimery himself.
“And you are doing nothing about the situation?” Aimery asked calmly, sinking down on the arm of a heavy wooden chair and swinging his free leg.
“Of course I’m doing something about it!” Guy shouted at his brother, all his anger and fear erupting into this outburst. It was actually a relief to be able to shout at someone; Guy had been ashamed to shout like this at his servants, his soldiers, or the few men who had followed him here. Yet trying to disguise his fear had exhausted him. To his brother he explained, “I’ve sent Sirs Galganus de Cheneché and Henri de Brie to ravage all of Karpas as punishment for their effrontery! If the people refuse to pay their lawful taxes, Galganus and Henri take their valuables and burn their miserable houses so they learn a lesson. They’ve especially made an example of the monasteries. I hate the way these pompous Greek monks pretend to be poor! Ha! If the example of Karpas doesn’t work on its own, I’ll send Barlais to Kyrenia and Bethsan to Paphos next! I’m not going to tolerate people lying and cheating to me!”
Only gradually did Guy realize that he was ranting and raving while his brother and the two squires just stared at him as if he were mad. He fell silent. “What is it?” he asked nervously, looking from his brother to his brother’s astonished squire and then over at Camville, who hastily looked down. Before anyone could answer, Guy felt the urgent need to urinate and dashed back toward the garderobe.
Aimery looked over at John with an expression pregnant with discussion for later on. Then he glanced at his brother’s squire and asked, “What’s your name, boy?”
“Dick, my lord, Dick de Camville, after my father—and the King.” He obviously meant the English King, since there was no King Richard in Outremer and never had been.
Aimery nodded, then asked in a low voice with a jerk of his head in the direction of the garderobe, “Is he like this often?”
“I-I-I don’t know what you mean, my lord. Isn’t this the way he always is?”
Aimery drew a deep breath and rubbed his forehead in uncertainty. Then he drew himself to his feet and declared, “We’re going to take lodgings in the khan across the street. When my brother is more disposed, he can send for us.” Beckoning John, he briskly left his brother’s chamber before the latter re-emerged from the garderobe.
As they descended the stairs to the street, he remarked in a low voice to John: “Well, at least he didn’t order us to leave the island.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish