|Sons of War
Author: Telcontar Rulz PM
What if Godfrey didn't die on the way back to Jerusalem? What if he had children other than Balian? Balian goes to Jerusalem in search of salvation, but he finds himself mired in politics, love, family feuds, sibling rivalry and war.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Chapters: 6 - Words: 32,957 - Reviews: 31 - Favs: 29 - Follows: 29 - Updated: 01-08-12 - Published: 02-20-11 - id: 6760546
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Sons of War
Disclaimer: This is probably not the most historically accurate thing I've ever written, as it's alternative universe and alternative history.
Summary: What if Godfrey didn't die on the way back to Jerusalem? What if he had children other than Balian? Balian goes to Jerusalem in search of salvation, but he finds himself mired in politics, love, family feuds, sibling rivalry and war. Featuring the characters from the film, along with Dowager Queen Maria, Baudouin of Ibelin, and Princess Isabella, amongst others.
Chapter 1: Ride East
France was as he remembered it. Grey, cold, wet. The dirt path was frozen hard beneath the hooves of the horses. Clouds of steam mushroomed as they breathed. Snow stuck to their clothes and eyelashes, making it difficult to see. "My lord, are you certain this is the right path?" his squire called from somewhere in the column.
"I would know this path were I a blind man," he replied. Godfrey of Ibelin was only exaggerating a little. He had grown up here. This had been the path he had taken, along with his now deceased wife and two young sons when he set off for the Holy Land in search of fortune and salvation. That scene seemed as clear in his mind as if it had happened yesterday. However, it had been twenty years. Twenty years of wondering. Twenty years of fighting. Helvis had died of fever soon after their arrival in the Levant, along with their third child, a daughter, just two days after the birth. Back then, he hadn't even been the Baron of Ibelin, much less of Ramlah and Mirabel. He hadn't remarried. He just hadn't been interested. There was only one woman on his mind, and he'd left her back in France, in her husband's house, with his bastard child in her arms.
He'd never told anyone that the blacksmith's firstborn was not actually the blacksmith's. It would have broken Helvis' heart, and she had been fragile to start with. However, he owed Solange and he owed her son. His son. Their son. If their situations would have allowed it, he'd have taken her to Jerusalem with him, but they had both been married, and they had been too far apart in status. It wouldn't have been proper, and their son would have suffered if anyone ever found out that he wasn't legitimate.
Godfrey didn't know if the child survived. Life was harsh in Europe, especially if one was a commoner. He was drawn back out of his thoughts when his squire announced that he could see a manor house up ahead. His father's manor house; now it was his brother's. "We're here," he announced to his company. There was a collective sigh of relief; he could sympathize with them. Having lived in the warmer climates of the Levant for so long, it was difficult getting used to these snowstorms. He had insisted on coming, against his son's wishes. Baudouin had insisted that it was too dangerous. He didn't know the real reason Godfrey wished to return to France, of course. He knew he'd have to tell him soon, but he didn't know how to start. In fact, he'd only shared this with his closest friends, Brother John of the Order of the Hospitallers, and Raymond, Count of Tiberias.
His brother's welcome was courteous, but cool. He and Hugh had never been very close, for their temperaments were so different. Hugh was all about personal advancement, with very little care for honour and glory and God. His son Luc was more or less the same; at least, that was what he'd heard from the news that passed over to the East by the way of merchants and clergymen and the occasional mercenary. The latest news involved a war between his brother and the Duke of Orléans, in which the duke had invaded Le Puiset after Le Puiset's failed attempt at invading his duchy. The mercenary who had given him this news said that if it hadn't been for a young engineer, Le Puiset would very likely have fallen.
"He was insolent, that blacksmith," said Luc with a snort when Godfrey mentioned the incident. "But he was too useful to kill. Granted, I wouldn't have minded seeing his head on a spike."
"Blacksmith?" asked Godfrey. His interest was piqued. Was it the very same blacksmith to whom Solange was married, or was it…
"Balian, the firstborn of the blacksmith of your time," said Hugh as he bit into the juicy thigh of a goose. Grease dripped down his chin and he wiped it away with the back of his hand. "He is a skilled craftsman, but he sometimes forgets his place. All these fine cups are his work." It was fine work indeed. Godfrey felt a surge of pride. His flesh and blood was a siege engineer who had successfully saved his family's holdings without even knowing that he was of the same bloodline.
"He's a bastard," said Luc. His mouth was twisted into the most disdainful sneer. Godfrey swallowed. He couldn't let them know. His child had suffered, and it was his fault. "His mother spread her legs for some other man."
"I do not pay attention to such menial gossip," said Hugh with a dismissive wave of his hand. "And I am certain that your uncle isn't interested either. We are above such things. I do not care if he is a bastard or not. I care whether he continues to produce fine work, and if he continues in this way, I shall have to find a new blacksmith."
"I do not quite get your meaning, brother," said Godfrey. "The work I see here is exquisite. You can hardly find better in a palace."
"Does it matter how skilled he is if he does not work? He has been consumed by madness, and I fear he is all but useless now."
"He is not mad," said the bishop quietly. It was the first time that Godfrey had heard him speak. He remembered him vaguely. He'd been a young priest back then and he'd arrived just before Godfrey left. "He is grieving. It will take time for the heart to mend." The baron was curious. What had happened?
"His child died," supplied Luc. "His wife couldn't take it and she killed herself. It's nothing worth worrying about." Nothing worth worrying about? Godfrey was beginning to wonder if his nephew had a heart at all.
Snow covered the ground when he rose the next morning, but at least the storm had passed. Better yet, the young smith had been released from the makeshift prison in the barn, where he'd been locked to prevent him from doing harm to himself or anyone else. Godfrey was desperate to see him, to help him in any way he could, even if he didn't know how.
"He might not want to come with you," said John as they broke their fast in the privacy of his room. "This is his home. This is all he knows."
Strike. Spark. Strike again. The clanging sound of his hammer striking hot iron drowned out the keening he could still hear in his mind. It numbed him and sheltered him from his pain. Clang. He could see his son's dark lashes. Those eyes would never open; never see anything, for they were closed in eternal sleep. Clang. He saw his wife as she dangled from the rafters by her neck, her tear stained face blue and her glassy eyes wide open. She had neither heard nor seen him plead with God as he had cradled her cold stiff body in his arms.
He poured his grief and anger into his work, striking the metal as if it were the cause of all his pain. Why was he building brackets for a house for God when God had abandoned him? It was pathetic. He plunged the hot iron into the water. The water sizzled and steamed. He was exhausted, both physically and spiritually. He hadn't slept for days. He dared not sleep because whenever his forge fell silent and he closed his eyes, he would see his wife and his child. They haunted him; the thought of his child's soul wandering aimlessly between two worlds, denied entry into paradise not through any fault of his own, but because he wasn't baptized. The thought of his beautiful wife burning in hell. The fault was on him. If she hadn't married a bastard, she would not have been tainted by the sin that he carried from the moment he took his first breath. If she had married another man, she would have been happy. But she'd dared to love him, and she'd paid for it.
"Master, there are knights outside," said his apprentice. "They want to speak with you."
He set down his hammer. Having nothing to say, he had no interest in talking to anyone, but knights were knights. It would be foolish to offend them. Even in the depths of his grief, he understood that.
The knights wore unfamiliar colours; the crosses on their surcoats indicated that they were holy warriors. His mother had once told him —after he'd demanded to know the truth about his real father— that the man who'd sired him had gone to the Holy Land to fight for Christ. He briefly wondered if, by any chance, they knew that man, but then he decided he had no wish to know. He'd been alive for over two decades now, and not once had he heard from him. Why should he care whether the man was dead or not?
"You are Balian, the engineer who defended the castle against the forces of Orléans?" asked the knight in the black surcoat with a white cross emblazoned on it. The blacksmith nodded once. It was rude, and he knew it, but he simply didn't care enough. Why did they want to know who he was? He was just a blacksmith. "I am sorry for the loss," says the knight, not unkindly. "Your wife and child are the subject of my prayers tonight." He appreciated the gesture. Noblemen usually didn't care for the plight of their subjects. His lord only cared about whether he could continue making siege engines and fine goblets.
The knight then informed him that their horses need to be shod, they needed food, and that they could pay. Judging by the rich furs they were, he could safely say that they were well off, even amongst noblemen. Then again, those who went to the Holy Land and came back often brought great treasures with them. At least, that was what he'd heard. He'd never met anyone who'd taken the cross until today.
As he worked, he noticed that two of the knights, including the one in black, were watching him closely. Were they afraid that he couldn't do his work well? They had nothing to worry about. His father —the man who had raised him, that was— had taught him well. He ignored them. Shoeing these horses was just like shoeing any other horse. One of the palfreys whickered softly when he approached her. He patted her neck and she nuzzled his hand with her soft silky nose. She seemed to know and was, in her own equine way, offering him comfort. Horses had more sympathy than men. Everyone else seemed to think he deserved this.
"What does that say?" asked giant Germanic knight suddenly. Balian looked up. The knight was pointing at the words that he'd carved on the central beam of the forge, back in those days when he had believed that the world was good.
"What man is a man who does not make the world better?" said the blacksmith.
"What man indeed?" said the dignified old knight who had led the company to his forge. It was the first time Balian had heard him speak. He seemed to have left all the talking to that other knight in the black surcoat. "Leave me with this man. I must speak with him." It took a while for Balian to realize that the old knight meant him.
The other knights bowed to him and went outside, leaving the two men alone in the forge. "I would offer you my condolences," said the knight, "but as a man who has also suffered loss, I understand how insufficient such words would be."
Balian did not speak. Instead, he bowed his head and turned back to his work. He did not want to be reminded. "We can only take what God has given us," the knight continued. "We are but men." He paused, waiting for Balian to say something, but the blacksmith never spoke. The old knight cleared his throat. It seemed to Balian that he was feeling uncomfortable, although there was no reason why he ought to be. He was Balian's superior in every way. The blacksmith could only do as he commanded. "Some say that Jerusalem is the place to find forgiveness, but for myself, it is here, and now."
Forgiveness. Why did he need Balian's forgiveness? Then it dawned on him. His father, the one who had sired him, had taken the cross. His mother had never revealed his name, but could it be…?
"I…knew your mother," said the knight, confirming his suspicions. "To be courteous, I have to say it was against her objections, but I did not force her. I loved her in my own fashion and I owe her, and you."
It was difficult to ask for his son's forgiveness, and he knew that he wasn't likely to get it —especially not at this moment, when he was grieving— but he had to try. "I am Godfrey, the Baron of Ibelin and Lord of Ramlah and Mirabel." Those names probably meant nothing to a blacksmith who had spent his entire life in a village in France, but he felt he needed to let the man know who and what he was. Perhaps the promise of a living would entice his son to leave this wretched place and go to Jerusalem with him. Godfrey wanted to make up for over twenty years of negligence. Old age made him sentimental, and he wanted all his family around him. With his eldest son, Hugh, gone, he only had Baudouin —and his family— and Balian. "I have seventy seven knights under my command and if you would come with me, you will have a living…and my thanks."
"Whoever you are, milord, my place is here," said the blacksmith quietly. The baron could see the grief in those dark eyes and etched into that face, so like his own in his younger days. If there had been any doubt as to this man's bloodline, it was now gone.
"What made it your place is now dead," said Godfrey. It was harsh, but it was true. He had to make the boy see that…somehow. Yes, he'd said that he wouldn't force the boy into doing anything that he didn't want to do, but persuasion was fine, wasn't it? Granted, he wasn't all that subtle, but subtlety had never been his strength, which was why he loathed politics. He usually let Raymond do all the talking. He was tempted to tell Balian that there was neither hope nor a future left for him in France, but he refrained. The man was no fool. He probably understood.
Balian shook his head, as if by denying the truth he could somehow change it. Godfrey sighed. "You will never see me again," he said. "If you want anything of me, take it now."
"I want nothing," said the man who wanted all the things that Godfrey could not give him.
The baron had said everything that he had come to say. If that couldn't change the boy's mind, then nothing could. "Well, I am sorry for your loss," he said. "God protect you." He turned to go, but before he left, he paused. Maybe Balian might reconsider his offer after a day or two. It was all so sudden that he must be in shock. "Jerusalem is easy to find. Just ride east and keep riding until they stop speaking Latin."
"You tried," said John early the next morning as they continued on their journey back to the Levant. The branches of the trees were heavy with fresh snowfall. It was still snowing lightly. Flakes of white drifted from the grey sky. It reflected Godfrey's mood. He was disappointed that Balian didn't follow him and sad that his son had to live through all of that. He didn't deserve such suffering. "That is all anyone could have done, and there is still a chance that he might…speaking of the devil, here he comes."
They heard the sound of horse hooves approaching from behind them. A rider on a cob past its prime rounded the corner. His shoulders were slumped from exhaustion. As he drew closer, Godfrey saw that Balian's face was covered with soot, and he was holding one hand close to his chest, a dirty bandage hastily wrapped around the palm. There were dark circles beneath his bloodshot eyes; he probably hadn't slept at all.
Godfrey urged his palfrey forward as he rode to meet his son. "Have you come to kill me?" he asked. Somehow, he sounded cheerful. He probably shouldn't have. It was a very valid question. A grieving man was capable of doing anything. Balian did not answer. "Even these days, it is not easy." He would never admit that he was old. He was still stronger than many a young man, even if he did have trouble reading small script. Such script was just too small to be read, at any rate. There was nothing wrong with his eyesight and he would challenge anyone who claimed otherwise. "Well?"
Instead of answering that question, the young man simply nudged his horse forward. "I…" he began. "I have done…murder." The blacksmith looked down, troubled and ashamed. Godfrey didn't ask him who he had murdered, or for what. He believed that the man had his reasons; reasons which would be hard to express.
"Haven't we all?" he asked.
"Is it true that in Jerusalem, I can erase my sins, and those of my wife?" asked Balian. His eyes desperately searched Godfrey's face for answers. Godfrey didn't have any for him. How one found salvation was still a mystery to him even after all these years, but he had faith.
"We can find out together," he said as encouragingly as he possibly could. "Show me your hand."
Balian held up his wounded hand. His eyes were still downcast. Godfrey gently took his hand and unwrapped the dirty bandage —which couldn't have been doing much good— to reveal an ugly burn in the very centre of the blacksmith's calloused palm. The flesh was swollen and seeping, and strangely, the burn was shaped like a cross, as if Christ Himself had marked him out.
He'd expected to be handed over to the authorities, but the knights had treated him with kindness and sympathy. Many of them pitied him, although they tried not to show it. The knight in the black surcoat turned out to be of the famed Order of Hospitallers. He had properly dressed the burn on his hand.
They made camp in the forest that night, with the sky as their roof. The clouds had cleared and he could see all the stars and constellations, dusting the dark night sky like a scattering of wheat flour on the table top. That would happen when his wife kneaded the dough for bread—no, he couldn't think about her. He couldn't afford to. "Here," said John as he handed him a wooden cup filled with a strange smelling liquid. "It is the serum of poppy. It will take away your pain." It did take away his pain and stopped his dreams from plaguing him as he fell into an exhausted dreamless sleep.
The father in him wanted to let the boy sleep. He needed the rest. However, the knight in him believed that discipline was very important, and the sun was already high in the sky, albeit behind another thick layer of clouds. He was beginning to adopt a Muslim view of European weather. It made for bad temperaments. With that in mind, he tossed down a sheathed sword next to the sleeping form of his son. The boy woke immediately and was alert. That was a good start.
"Pick it up," said Godfrey. "Let's see what you're made of."
"His hand is hurt, milord," said John even as Balian picked up the sword, hurt hand or not. Good boy. He was determined. That was an important Ibelin trait.
"I once fought two days with an arrow through my testicle," Godfrey retorted. He didn't need to glance at the Hospitaller to know that John was rolling his eyes towards the heavens. He'd heard that story a hundred times, as had all his knights. In fact, that was how they'd met and befriended one another; John had tended to him in the infirmary. Without waiting to see his son's reaction, he attacked. The young man instinctively blocked and continued to block all of Godfrey's attacks even though the older man was slowly pushing him backwards. He hadn't been taught, but he was quick on his feet and he had talent. He just needed to learn the right moves.
"Never use a low guard," Godfrey told him. "You fight well." He never gave praise if it was unwarranted, but that didn't mean he wanted to discourage anyone. Well, at least not Balian. He tried his best to dissuade Baudouin from frequenting all the brothels in the kingdom, but to no avail. His second son had inherited both the Ibelin stubbornness and the tendency to sow stray oats.
That morning, Godfrey taught Balian the proper guards and disarmed him time and time again. Each time, the young man would retrieve his sword and take up guard again, determined to perfect what he had just learned. His self-discipline was every bit as good as his knights; it was something he'd been born with.
Otto the German soon took over the training. The giant had a few tricks up his sleeve. Godfrey saw no harm in it. Balian would probably benefit from getting accustomed to different styles of fighting. Life in Outremer was good, but one had to fight all the same. There were many dangers about. Unfortunately, not all could be countered with a sword.
The boy was learning fast. Try as he might, he couldn't stop thinking of Balian as being a boy. He was a grown man who would have had a child of his own had he not been struck by terrible ill luck. He'd been to war, engineered a defence against a siege successfully, and faced down derision his entire life. In many ways, he was more experienced than his older brother, who had led a privileged life. Granted, Godfrey tried his best to instil some sense of responsibility into his second son, but Baudouin had always been able to use his charm and good looks to his best advantage. The only time he hadn't managed to charm his way out of trouble had been when he'd been captured by Saladin in battle. That ransom had been very handsome indeed. Hugh had been much more responsible; that probably came with being the eldest. He also hadn't been as handsome. Poor Hugh. He sighed. His firstborn had never been a lucky man.
The sound of hoof beats jolted him out of his thoughts. A group of armed horsemen were approaching the clearing where they'd made their camp, led by none other than his beloved nephew. What in God's name did he want?
Godfrey stood, one hand on the pommel of his sword, ready for a fight. Behind him, the men congregated, including a sweaty Otto who was already fired up from the practise fight and a very tense Balian. "Uncle," Luc greeted him.
"Nephew," said Godfrey. "What brings you here?"
"You have with you a man, Balian, who killed a priest, his brother," said Luc. "I am charged by my father and the lord bishop to bring him back." Godfrey remembered that priest. He'd been the one who had shown them to the smithy, and he'd tried to sell them his brother along the way. He had hardly dared to believe that that had been Solange's other son. And now he was dead by Balian's hand. Balian must have been provoked. Of that he was certain. He waited for his son to defend himself. No matter what, he was not going to let them take his son. Certain death was the only thing that awaited him, and he'd only just found the boy. Man.
Balian stepped forward. He gave no explanation for his actions; no excuses. "What they say is true," he said quietly. "They have the right to take me." All the while, he and Luc were eyeing one another with such loathing that they had to have known one another for a while. All right, then. If he wasn't going to give a reason, then they were just going to have to keep him with them without reason.
"I say he's innocent," said Otto. "If you disagree, then we'll fight, and God will decide the truth of it."
"My German friend is a close student of the law," added John. The only law Otto had ever been a close student of was the one about trial by combat.
"Just give him to me," said Luc. "I'll fight you for something else. Uncle, he's a murderer."
"So am I," said Godfrey. He'd lost count of how many people he'd killed, both lawfully and unlawfully. That was the way of the mercenary.
"He killed his own brother."
"And I am about to kill my own nephew if you do not leave this instant."
Luc bowed, almost gleeful at the prospect of getting the chance to fight his own uncle. "You are my uncle. I must give you the road."
They were fighting and dying because of him. Was he really worth it? He had no time to think about it as he saw a crossbowman aim at Godfrey. Balian lunged at him and knocked him to the ground. His bolt flew wide and struck a tree. The arrowhead was embedded in the wood. The crossbowman threw him off and drew his sword, but Balian was onto him again. Using the hilt of his sword, he trapped the other man's blade and twisted it out of his hand before shoving the other man to the ground and stamping down on his throat. There was a crack as the man's windpipe was crushed.
His hands were slick with the blood of his enemies. They seemed to be less worried about him than they were about the other knights, even though he was the one they had come to take. His blade cut through chainmail, flesh and bone, cleaving limb from body. Battle was a bloody business, but not one that he was unfamiliar with. He would never become accustomed to the carnage, but it no longer made him feel ill the way it used to when he'd been a young soldier just beginning to understand just how ugly the world could be.
His injured hand throbbed. He ignored it. Something knocked him to the ground, or rather, someone, as an arrow flew over head. It was Godfrey. They both scrambled to their feet. Balian gave him a nod of thanks, soldier to soldier. They fought back to back, each coordinating with one another as if they'd rehearsed it. These knights were good; much better than the ruffians who rode with Lord Luc. Wait…hadn't Godfrey called Luc his nephew? If Godfrey was really his father, then that would make Luc his cousin. That was not something he wanted to think about, not after everything that Luc had done to him and his family.
Luc rode straight for them, sword brandished, determined to at least take out one relative, if not both. Balian lunged for the horse's hooves, making the animal rear up. At the same time, Godfrey bodily hauled Luc out of the saddle and threw him to the ground. Before Luc could even recover, the older man had slit his throat. Blood sprayed from the wound and then bubbled as he struggled to breathe through the liquid. He clutched at his neck, as if that would stop it. It was all so sudden that Balian didn't know what to think. Should he be pleased that his wife's tormenter was finally in Hell where he belonged? Or should he regret the fact that his cousin was dead, and partially by his hand?
He turned his attention to Godfrey. Godfrey had saved him. Twice, actually. He'd taken him under his wing and then knocked him out of harm's way, at his own expense. The older knight was bleeding from a shoulder wound where the arrow had grazed him. All around them were the bodies of the dead, both their friends and their enemies. Firuz, the Berber tribesman, had gone down fighting two knights. Others were nursing wounds of varying degrees of seriousness. John, ever the true Hospitaller, was already tending to the wounded. Otto had lost an ear and the wound was bleeding profusely. All this, for one blacksmith? Was it worth it?
"Why did you do all this for me?" asked Balian. "They had the right to take me."
"I am your father, Balian," said Godfrey tiredly. "I have that right too."
Finally, his father was coming home after that ill-conceived trip to Europe. The bad news was that he had sent some long lost brother of his back on a ship ahead of him. Long lost brother? Baudouin never knew that he had another brother apart from Hugh. He wished his father had discussed it with him before adopting a stray brother who might or might not actually be his kinsman. And, for better or for worse, the ship carrying said stray was missing, making his father very anxious indeed.
"I should have kept him with me," said the baron as he paced in the study of his house in Jerusalem. It was smaller than his study in Ibelin or Ramlah, so there was less room for him to do it. Baudouin stood against the wall, out of his father's way. "I should not have sent him ahead of me."
"What's done is done, Father," said Baudouin. "You should not take yourself to task. All is as God wills it." He was sorry that his father was in such torment, but he could not muster any sadness for the man who was lost at sea. He hadn't known him, and to be quite honest, he was suspicious about the motives he might have had in coming to the Holy Land. Godfrey was a baron with three holdings. Any man would want a share of those riches which were, by the way, his by right of inheritance. If Hugh hadn't died, they would have gone to him, but Hugh was gone, and as much as he missed his brother, he could not say he was sorry that all his father's wealth would pass onto him.
The steward interrupted Godfrey's pacing and announced that Raymond of Tiberias was here with some curious news. "Salah-al-Din sent the most curious message," he said.
"Shouldn't you be telling this to the king?" asked Godfrey.
"Perhaps, but I think you might want to know that someone claiming to be Balian, the son of Godfrey of Ibelin, has killed a Saracen warrior," said Raymond.
"Oh Lord," whispered Godfrey. He sank into a chair. "What does Salah-al-Din say?"
"That this Balian had cause and therefore did not breach the peace," said Raymond. "I am curious, Godfrey. Is this the son you said you were going to bring back?"
After that, everything went into an uproar as Godfrey sent out his men to search for Balian, and Baudouin found out that his father had given the sword to this bastard. He'd always thought that his father would leave it to him. "Why?" he demanded. "I am your heir!"
"Baudouin, you are getting Ramlah and Mirabel. Surely you would not begrudge your brother a sword?"
"He needs a holding too. I will not have him become a mercenary, selling his sword for gold. You never liked Ibelin much. It is a poor and dusty place."
Nothing he could say could change his father's mind. Godfrey was determined that his youngest —bastard— son would get his share of the family's wealth.
He had never seen anything like Jerusalem before. So many people. So many sights and smells and sounds. And camels. The spice sellers and the cloth sellers were hawking their goods. The enticing aromas of roasting kebabs advertised the wares all by themselves. His stomach growled. He was hungry, but he had no money, and he wasn't quite desperate enough to sell his horse yet, or rather, the Saracen's horse. He'd exchanged horses with the man after he had led him to Jerusalem.
His father had said that their family had a house in the city, but he simply couldn't find it. As he wandered through the sea of people, he became aware that he was being followed by a group of armed men. Balian pretended that nothing was happening as he tried to find a strategic point where he would be most able to defend himself if they meant him harm. He found a public fountain and under the pretences of cleaning his sword, he unsheathed it. The men circled him. They had not drawn their weapons yet.
"You must know him," said the tallest one, a bald man. Probably from Champagne, judging by his accent.
"What?" asked Balian.
"Since you carry Godfrey's sword, you must know him," said the man.
"I do," said Balian. What more was there to say? If these were his father's men, they were probably out searching for him. Well, they'd found him. What next?
"A man my size," said the man. Balian nodded. "And green eyes." It was a test.
Balian shook his head. "Blue," he said. "Did he send you?"
"Yes, milord," said the man with a bow. "Come. Lord Godfrey and Lord Baudouin are waiting for you."