Chapter 6: Montgisard
Once we reached Jerusalem the relative peace and tranquility that had dominated before gave way to the whirlwind of activity only achieved in times of war. I was rushed to my rooms the moment I dismounted and was not allowed to leave; according to the physician so many emotions in a woman were bound to cause problems.
No one allowed me to see Baldwin; and the last time I saw him, he was bleeding profusely. I wanted to see him, to know he was alright; but not even my Nana talked to me about him. Then, two days after the encounter, Baldwin started sending me letters. I do not know how he managed to find time to write them, but the fact that he kept me informed of what was happening gave me great comfort.
Along with the letters he sent me flowers. Everyday I received a different flower, even if there was no letter. I was surprised at first but quickly ordered a vase in which to put them; a week after being confined to my room I had two vases full. However, I was tired and bored of being in my quarters. That night, after Nana made sure there was no one hiding in the shadows, I put on the simplest dress I could find, covered my face with a veil, and got out of my room.
There were guards on almost every hallway; luckily no one stopped me. I made my way to the gardens, but couldn't help but look inside the library. There was a lone candle burning on the table, and a cup sitting next to it.
"I have waited for you to come, Elizabeth." I raised my eyes and met Baldwin's amused gaze. "I was beginning to think you had forgotten about me." He walked from the bookshelf he had been leaning against and stood in front of me. I threw my arms around him; the last time I had seen him he was bleeding profusely from wounds I had not noticed, and was close to loosing consciousness.
"You are all right," was the only thing I could say. His letters had been comforting, but nothing like seeing him, whole, in front of me.
"Of course I am, who did you believe sent you the letters and the flowers?" He said, finally disentangling my arms from around him and taking off my veil.
"I knew it was you, but the last time I saw you…" I trailed off and he grabbed my face in his hands.
"I am fine; there is no need for you to worry. Would you accompany me in a stroll through the gardens, the full moon makes them look beautiful."
"I was heading that way." I answered. He took my hand in his and we made our way to the gardens.
We walked around aimlessly in comforting silence and stopped whenever a flower caught my interest. He was surprised I knew a little about botany and then laughed and said "I should have known you, to be familiar with such things." I hit him lightly on the shoulder and laughed. We walked to a bench, once seated he grabbed my hand and lightly traced it with his.
"Tomorrow, I announce we go to war." My heart stopped, and I felt myself grow cold. "The men who attacked us were scouts sent by Saladin. Raynald of Chatillon intercepted the fourth rider and he admitted it."
His face was set, and his eyes showed strength and fierceness. I turned away from him, thinking about the attack. Those men had not shown regret at attacking a woman; in fact, the only reason I was able to defeat them was because they "knew of me". What if I had not been wearing my star pendant? Would they have shown me mercy?
No. They would not. The same way Christian Crusaders would not have shown any mercy. At least, I know that we would be defending our territories, thus, less likely to do any harm to someone else. My lack of quick response bothered Baldwin; he let my hand fall and stood up. He started making his way to the chateau again. Go after him or you will loose him, screamed my brain.
"Baldwin wait." I did not scream it, it was said in a mild mannered tone and I was amazed when he turned around.
"You have already shown what you think, and know this woman. I will not loose my Kingdom to Saladin." His words were forceful and angry.
"I expect you will not. After all, most of your family is here at the moment. Understand, I do not like the death war brings; but I know it is unavoidable." He looked incredulously at me, and I took his silence as a good thing. Walking until I was right in front of him I grabbed one of his hands, and with the other traced his face. "Just swear that you will come back to me." I told him.
"I swear." This time the kiss was expected, longer, and more passionate. "You have nothing to worry about."
"I know you will be in the middle of the battle, and I know you will be injured. All I ask is for you to come back." I hugged him again.
He murmured sweet nothings into my ear. Swearing and promising me "I will come back to you," and "You should not worry". However, no matter how much I tried the images of death would not leave my mind. In the end, I took a step back, and after assuring him that I was fine – a lie he saw through- walked me to my quarters. I did not sleep much that night; and when my Nana entered in the morning with food and a group of maids, I was not surprised.
I ate in relative peace and I put no resistance at all about the way I was to be dressed. After I was deemed ready, I went to the gardens, were my Father found me. He escorted me to a room next to the courtyard. Sybilla, Tiberias, and Godfrey were already there; and a moment later Baldwin joined us. I could hear the Knights, eager for battle. My eyes met Sybilla's across the room and she nodded towards her brother.
He was dressed in full war regalia; chain mail, scabbard and sword, a small dagger at his waist, and a helmet on the table next to him. I turned when the door closest to me opened. Odo de St. Amand, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, came in and announced that everyone was ready. My Father started towards me, but Baldwin crossed his path.
I put my trembling hand in his, and together we walked where the army awaited us; I noticed my Father give us a confused look, but did not pay any attention to it. Behind us, Tiberias lead Sybilla, and were followed by Godfrey, Odo de St. Amand, and finally my Father.
When we walked into the courtyard I only counted 80 Templar's, and a few knights. My fear incremented, does Baldwin really believe he can defeat Saladin with such a small army? Once we had reached the front of the group Baldwin let my hand go and addressed them.
"Crusaders, today we are called to defend our Kingdom from the Muslims. We have tried a peace treaty but these heathens are not ruled by the laws of morality! It is time to show them that God is with us, that we will not let them rob us of the Holy Land, and teach them the respect they must show to us! We will fight, and we will prevail! We carry the relics of the True Cross, and we shall instill fear in the heart of every Muslim that dares defy us!"
The knights banged on their shields, the sound bothered me greatly but I ignored it; there were more important things on my mind. How many of them will come back? After that he commanded the forces to "march towards victory". We walked out where four horses awaited us.
Sybilla threw herself at her brother and made him swear he would not "try to be a hero" he chuckled but promised to look out for himself. Tiberias bowed and swore to defend Jerusalem until death if it came to it. Baldwin thanked him, and followed Ode on mounting his horse; I was surprised when my Father and I were also offered an animal.
"Lord Montague, I wish your daughter to accompany me, until we are a little ways out of Jerusalem's gates. You shall accompany us, because only you care for her almost as much as I do."
It was the first time, to my knowledge, that he said such a thing to my Father. I mounted the horse without second thought; my Father had turned to me and upon seeing me on the horse, lowered his head and mounted his. We rode together in silence through the city; many people pointed at the sword on my horse, and then at me. Word had already gotten out that I had been with the King when he was attacked; although some stories had me fainting and Baldwin gallantly saving me, others gossiped that I had actually defended myself.
A while after we had passed the gates my Father moved to the back, and Odo galloped forward. Everyone seemed keen on giving us enough time alone to bid adieu. That was the last thing I wanted.
"I do not know how long I will be gone," he started. "I have left Tiberias in charge of the Kingdom while I am away. He has orders to instruct you in all the matters of the Kingdom, you are to learn as much as you can while I am away." His voice held a light tremor.
"I will do as you wish, my Lord." I said.
I am afraid that he will not come back, but I know that it is my role to support him. However, I would rather go to my little library and not come out until he's returned or I am finished reading every book; just to avoid not knowing how he fares. He knows this, which is why he is giving you something to occupy yourself with.
"I also trust that you will help Sybilla…" I could barely see the gates if I turned my head, I knew our time together was coming to an end, at least for now.
"Baldwin," I interrupted him. "I will occupy myself with anything and everything you wish. However, I will still miss your company; and my only wish is for you to return to me." Gently I took a small book from the bag I carried and handed it to him. "Do not open it yet. Wait until you think of me…"
"Then I shall not have time to fight, for you are always in my mind." He answered putting it on his saddle, and turning around; the gates were no longer visible. "I also have a gift for you."
He opened a pouch on his saddle and took out a dagger. The blade had been decorated with vines and it glistened in the sunlight; I only had to see it to know how sharp it is. The guard was made out of solid gold, encrusted with a couple of emeralds on one side and a Tulip on the other. The handle was made of leather and the knob was in an elongated fashion.
"The Court can be a deceitful place. It is my wish that you carry this with you; and never forget to trust what you see not what you hear." I nodded and put the dagger back on its scabbard. "It is time for you to return to the safety of the city. I will come back to you Elizabeth, have no fear."
"I will stop fearing when you are back with me," I answered him. I heard my Father make some noise behind us; he also thought it was time to return.
"God be with you, Elizabeth," he grabbed my hand and kissed it.
"As with you, Baldwin," I gave him an awkward hug and kissed his cheek before turning my horse and standing besides my Father.
His eyes followed me all the way, and once I reached my Father he started his horse. I did not move my horse, at all; I only watched his retreating back and prayed for his safe return. I turned back to the city, only once I could no longer see his retreating figure. The returning trip was done in silence; I felt my heart grow weary and fearful, and my Father seemed to notice this.
Once back on the château I headed for my room, I felt asleep hugging one of my pillows and a prayer on my lips. I was awoken when I felt a rough hand play with my hair; the only light on the room came from candles, and from the waning moon shining through the doors that lead to my balcony. Turning, I saw my Father sitting next to me.
"Bon nuit Papa." I sat and stretched.
"Bon nuit, mon petite. I was forced not to wake you before, and only relegated to bring you supper."
He pointed to the seating area on my room, where a tray with food sat. I did not feel hungry, but knew refusing the food would only cause him to worry. I ate some, as little as I could without feeling sick, and tried to engage Papa in some conversation. He seemed deep in thought, and after a few failed attempts I desisted. I glanced at the shining moon outside, and my thoughts trailed to Baldwin. How far away are you? Have you encountered resistance already?
"You love him," it was not a question but a statement. I notice Papa's tone hold some incredulousness, and resignation.
"I do," I answered him. With all my heart.
"But how? When?"
And so, I told him about our daily meetings. I told him how at the beginning he barely stayed for a few minutes and how I did not enjoy those boring conversations. I explained how after some time, he stayed longer, and I found myself looking forward to the suddenly interesting conversations. I spoke of the times we dined together and talked late into the night; and the days Council meetings had gone into the day and how we met later.
Tears no longer threatened to fall when I thought about where he was. Instead I focused on thinking that, starting tomorrow, I would dedicate myself on learning whatever I needed to help him run the Kingdom. I refuse to be the childbearing docile wife. My role will be as his support and companion and the person who tells him what he should change when he strays; and vice versa.
Papa had been looking at me, but he did not interrupt my monologue. He seemed to sense that this is what I needed, to realize that he was not dead, simply gone for a while. That he is barely defending what is his, myself included. This gave me the strength I needed to pull myself together and forget my misery. After I finished talking to my Father I felt lighter somehow.
"Merci beaucoup Papa," I told him as he pulled the covers off my bed and tucked me in.
"Mon petite; the road of love is a hard one. However, I believe that you have a chance to be happy with the King." He kissed the top of my head.
"Je rêve," I answered him.
"No, it is more than a dream." I drifted to sleep again.
I woke up next morning to a furry of maids; once I was deemed presentable I went to break fast with the nobles assembled at the table. There were only three people there; Tiberias, Sybilla and my Father, I greeted them and tried to sound as unattached as possible.
"Lady Montague. As you know the King wants you to learn the trade of the Kingdom. We will meet daily so you can see for yourself the Council proceedings and become more knowledgeable on how our decisions are made."
"I will do all in my power to make you proud." Famous last words.
That morning I was taken to an office in the back of the formal Courtyard. From there I could see and hear all the proceedings as the nobles and the people came to ask things of the King, or now the regent. It was perfect for me, for the screen doors obscured me from view. The first weeks, I sat and listened to Tyberias and the other nobles, debate. Most of the time, after they were over and the case had been resolved Tyberias looked for me and asked what I would have done differently.
The first time it was hard for me to speak my mind. Years of painstakingly boring lessons have taught me to bite my tongue; however, he insisted on knowing what I had to say and I answered. After that was done, I went to the main Library and looked for information on anything Tyberias needed. That was the only part of the day in which my mind wandered to what was happening outside the city's gates; Tyberias seemed to notice this, and after a while stopped sending me. Instead, ordering the books to be brought to the office.
Sybilla and her son were also a welcomed distraction. I took to visiting them whenever I could; little Baldwin was such a precious thing, and his Mother always had him clothed on the finest fabric. Besides that, Sybilla seemed to be the only woman who knew how I felt. I never cried, but knowing someone could listen to me and not judge me, or think of me as a "weak woman" for fearing for Baldwin's safety, gave me comfort.
The bad news started coming in the form of refugees far too soon. They came from many cities like Lydda and Arsuf. However, the one that worried me the most were the stories from the people that came from Ramla. Many of the pilgrims en route to the Holy Land use this city as a bridge into Jerusalem. Besides, Ramla links Egypt with Syria, both of which support Saladin, and are a direct way to Jerusalem; moreover, one of our main ports is located there. When I voiced my concern to Tyberias, he told me that Baldwin was defending Jerusalem from Ascalon, and that Reynald de Chatillon was coming to our aid; he did not mention from where.
To make matters worst, more and more refugees started coming. These people were wounded and sick, many had barely escaped with their lives. The stories they brought were not comforting either, and every time I saw the tearstained face of a child or woman through the screens, my heart broke. Tired of seeing so much misery outside the palace walls I buried myself in the main Library looking for a way to help them.
I came across documents that pointed me in the direction of Orders dedicated to helping the sick. Because the most of the Templars had gone with Baldwin I decided to use the Knights Hospitaller to help treat them. I went to Tyberias with this petition, and he saw it as the right path. The problem came when he sent me to ask their Grand Master for their help.
"Heaven forbid such a thing."
"Monsieur, I understand that your priority is taking care of the pilgrims; however…"
"No, Lady Montague. I refuse to have these people here, why I do not even know if they are good Christians."
This man had been trying my patience for too long. First he did not attend my calling and now he dismisses my proposition without even considering it.
"These people have escaped death and traveled to Jerusalem seeking sanctuary. Who are we to deny them? Who are you to sit here and demand proof of their faith? Have they not proven it by surviving the desert?" Calm yourself Elizabeth, anger does not lead anywhere.
"My word is final Lady Montague. I do not have to sit here and listen to the incoherent ideas of a child. Do yourself a favor, return to your castle and learn how to behave like a proper noblewoman." The audacity! Who does this man think he is? Just because he holds a position of power does not make him infallible.
"I will not be spoken to in this way Monsieur…"
"No, it is I who will not be spoken this way by a woman…" The insulting tone in which he said "woman" made my skin crawl and the little hold I had on my patience break.
"Enough! Sir, you are forgetting your place. I am the King's fiancée, your future Queen; you would do well in remembering that when King Baldwin returns your unkind words will not be forgotten."
"How dare you!" He got up of his chair and thumped on his desk. "You woman, how dare you talk to me in such a way. Why I would whip you myself…"
"I dare you to lay a hand on me Sir. You are nothing more than a lazy, filthy, pig; who rests comfortably on his chambers while brave men go and defend the city." My voice never rose more than the proper tone for a Lady; but my words were cutting. He walked towards me, fist raised and intent on hitting me.
Weeks of buried feelings resurfaced, and before he could land the blow I had grabbed the dagger at my waist and directed it at his neck. He stopped midstride and challenged me with is eyes. My intent was not to kill him; I know that would create more problems than those it will solve. Silently I signaled the desk and he understood the order.
"Monsieur, I will not ask again. The refugees need a place to stay. You offer the best lodgings in the city, and we are not planning to send everyone here. Two smaller convents have agreed to share this privilege with you."
"Why should I accept this offer, my Lady," he looked back at the dagger and at me.
"Pro Fide, Pro Utilitate Hominum. For Faith, for the service of mankind; is that not your motto? Think of this as a way to fulfill this oath."
"Very well, but we will only accept the most able bodied."
"And any orphaned boys," I added. He looked back at the dagger in my hands, and nodded. I have discovered that no matter how brave men seemed at first, if you confront them they run.
"Very well," I could feel his anger at being bested by a woman. However, I do not believe him capable of harming me.
"Merci Monsieur," I handed him the papers that needed his signature. "I will remember you in my prayers." I told him before leaving.
I made my way to my horse, a thoughtful façade on the outside, and dancing for joy in the inside. Once back in the palace I gave the papers to Tyberias and he started to organize where the people will take refugee in, until we regained the cities.
That night I went to my room in high spirits, although feeling slightly sick. I had helped these people find shelter, and I was extremely proud of myself. After changing my clothes and being left alone my eyes wandered outside. I walked to my balcony, the moon was full again; it had been almost a month now since I had seen Baldwin. I should really stop thinking something bad is going to happen to him. Instead, I can finish rewriting the papers Adiba gave me. I went back to bed and finished rewriting the papers I had left. Once I was done, I was sufficiently tired and drifted to sleep after putting them in my box.
I found myself in a camp, a Christian settlement if the flags did not deceive me. The camp was tranquil, there were men standing on guard and walking around the tents. Slowly I made my way around, there were men around the fire, their swords at their side; some seemed to be in high spirits, others held their weapons so tight I was sure they could have broken them at any moment. I did not recognize any of the faces, so I kept walking aimlessly around.
I was looking at the contents of a pot when I turned around and almost collided with a man. However, instead of colliding, he went straight through me. Odo de St. Amand kept walking straight to the bigger tent in front of me. This was the first person I recognized and curious I followed him; the tent was illuminated by hundreds of candles, but it seemed to be empty. I glanced around and started inspecting it; there were some maps on a table, and an untouched plate by them. I kept looking around until the Grand Master started speaking.
"My King, a scout has return with news of Saladin's location. He is three days away from Jerusalem, but much closer to us."
"How big is his army?" Hearing that familiar and beloved voice gave me chills.
"He has been pillaging cities close to Jerusalem on his way. Because he does not believe us a threat he has allowed his army to spread, making him more vulnerable."
I walked closer to where the voice was coming from. However, I stopped once a man dressed in robes from head to toe stepped out. My impulse would have been to throw my arms around him. However, I knew that would have been futile, so I just satisfied myself by making sure he was alright.
He did not look unhealthy, but I noticed something strange. His hands were uncovered and I could see some sort of scar on almost all his right hand and part of the left. Unfortunately the light was poor and I could not see if they were healing properly.
"We attack on the 25."
"Two days your Majesty?"
"Yes, I will not allow Saladin to conquer Jerusalem."
I had been so engulfed in trying to see if he was alright I had not paid any attention to what they were talking about. Baldwin's voice held a frightening note, and I had to remember he was not being my fiancée now, but a soldier, a man that would kill to defend what is his. I never felt more proud, or anguished.
"Do we have any news from Jerusalem?" I did not know we could send him letters.
"We received a message hawk." St. Amand handed him an envelope and, after bowing, left the room.
Baldwin made his way to the desk and opened it. I did not see the harm in looking over his shoulder; it is not as if he will see me. For the first two paragraphs Tyberias described how the kingdom was fairing, and how the nobles were behaving. From the third onwards he spoke about me. Apparently Baldwin had requested a lengthily report on how I fared, and on how I managed the pressure that came with helping him.
Thankfully the report held so many praises I had to read some things twice. I blushed when I read the way Tyberias described how I had forgone some petty comfort to search for a way to help the refugees. A smile graced his lips when he read that part, which changed into a frown when he read that the Hospitaller's Grand Master had tried to hit me (how Tyberias discovered this, I do not know).
I saw his hand fist, and before I could really think about it I put my hand on his shoulder. This time it did not go through, but it did not stay there either; he open his palm, as if more relaxed and put a hand on top of mine. I am sure he did not truly feel me, but I still jumped away.
The next letter was from my Father. I was surprised to see this, and more so when I could not understand what he was saying. The only understandable thing was that, apparently, Baldwin had some sort of illness which was being treated and showing signs of slowing down. Although, Papa was quick to clarify, it would still progress. He ended the letter by saying it had arrived.
After reading the letter Baldwin got up and walked to the coffee table, following him I noticed the book I had given him sitting there. He sat and reached for it; I could make out the wounds on his hands more clearly now. When I examined them closer I noticed they looked more like sores than anything else.
My head started pounding and I felt queasy for a moment; to avoid falling I tried to hold on to his chair. This time my hand passed straight trough the seat, he moved at the same time and my hand fell on his face.
That's when my dream turned into a nightmare. I saw a hill top and some knights. Baldwin was standing in front of them, sword raised; beneath them an army hurried into formation, but was soon engaged in battle. I only caught flashes as swords met with shields, swords, and skin. Now instead of me walking, it seemed as if I just appeared at a certain place.
The cries of the wounded and dying reverberated in my head, and wherever I looked only blood and gore greeted me. I tried closing my eyes, but I could still hear them. Trying to escape I started running, I started crying when I could not find a way to get away from all this suffering. But my heart stopped when I saw Baldwin.
Although I had seen him fighting the men that attacked us, I had never seen him kill before. His movements were controlled and his face the epitome of concentration; he was incredibly agile, and seemed almost invincible. A horse appeared out of nowhere, and its rider charged against him. When they find him in battle the Prince will not be treated with any thought to his well being. I remembered Tyberias saying on the first time I came to Jerusalem.
Out of nowhere a Knight came and engaged the rider. My heart jumped to my throat and I could only watch as the Knight was stricken down, and the man made his way towards Baldwin. He was taller than Baldwin, and even though his clothes shielded him, stronger. Every time their swords collided I shook.
"Elizabeth, please wake up. It's been a day already."
Baldwin managed to hit the man's sword arm and disarm him for a moment. But he got up, and grabbed his sword with the other hand and engaged Baldwin again. This time he was the one to inflict the wound.
"You will die today swine, Jerusalem will be ours again." The man swung the sword, and I started shaking again. Slowly the image started fading away; I could no longer distinguish anything around me.
"No!" I opened my eyes. It took a moment for me to realize I was not in a battle field, but my chambers.
"Elizabeth. You are awake." My head was pounding, and my heart racing. Was it only a dream? I felt weak and sick to my stomach, but worried that it had been more than a dream. "Is there anything you want Elizabeth?"
"What day is it?" I asked to whom I could finally recognize as Sybilla.
"It's the morning of the twenty-fifth." Mon Dieu. "You have been sleeping for one complete day."
"Help me dress Sybilla." I told her as I tried to get up.
"Did you not listen Elizabeth? You are sick, you need rest." I could not argue with that since when I tried to stand up my legs almost gave way.
"No, I need you to help me get dressed." I sat for a few minutes after this, until the room stopped spinning and I was able to get up.
"Why on Earth would I do that? We have all been worried about you; there has been another attempt at your life. No, you must rest."
"No, Sybilla please, help me get dressed." I grabbed her shoulders to steady myself.
Something she saw in my face must have convinced her, for a moment later she summoned a maid. I had not even notice the poor thing; she was shaking, and looked at me afraid I might attack her. Slowly I walked from the bed and behind the dressing screen. Once dressed I had to sit for a few minutes to regain my breath; my head still hurt, and the images will not go away, specially the one with Baldwin.
"You are lucky. Everyone is at the Courtyard." Stated Sybilla as we made our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; praying, I hope would make the nightmare go away.
"Why is everyone there?" I asked her, I had regained my breath and was now sprinting to the Church.
"Baldwin and Salah ah-Din are to engage in battle, the nobles are assembling to decide what they'll do. They have scouts on the walls; you can see the battle from the city."
"They do not plan to help? Send more troops to his aid, do something?" I had stopped walking and rested against the wall trying to regain my breath.
"Their plan is that if Baldwin falls they will safeguard the city, ask for France's aid, and make sure that the royal family is safe. The last part is at Baldwin's request." As she said this, she gave me a pointed look.
It was at this point that I changed my direction. Instead of going to the Church I ran to one of the walls, trying to find the one from which I could see the battle. As I was going up the stairs a faint sound of metal against metal was heard. I hurried my pace, and once to the top I ran to where a group of knights was conglomerated.
"Out of my way Templars!" I screamed, when I could not force my way between them. The ones who recognized me did so at once, two of them, mere squires stood their ground. "You're not in service to look at battles. Go back to your posts, and that goes for you too Knights."
After a slight hesitation everyone dispersed. I looked out to the dessert, there although far away you could see two armies engaged in battle. I felt Sybilla put a hand on my shoulder as we looked at the men killing themselves. It looked like my dream, only I was not in the midst of battle; however, I could still hear the cries of those injured in my head. I tried searching for Baldwin, but we were not close enough for me to be able to discern him and so I prayed. I prayed to Yahweh, to Allah, to anyone who could hear me to please return him safely back to me. I asked the archangel St. Michael to give him and the Templars strength to win this battle, and Gabriel to lessen the suffering of the families who would not see their beloved again.
Then, just as everything had started it stopped. All that was heard were cries of victory, and then a cross was raised to the air, and I knew the battle of Montgisard was over.
So sorry for the long time without updating. Hopefully it was an enjoyable chapter.