History remembers Balian d'Ibelin—husband of Dowager Queen of Jerusalemm, Maria Comnena—as a diplomat and warrior. After the Christian army's defeat at the Battle of Hattin, almost all of the Kingdom of Jerusalem falls to Salah ad-Din, and survivors move to the city of Tyre. The book begins on the day news reaches Tyre that Jerusalem has yielded. In this third volume in the award-winning series based on Balian d'Ibelin, the no-nonsense first chapter hooks the reader with crucial historical links. Jerusalem has fallen to Salah ad-Din, and fates of Christian refugees are sealed for slavery or death. Important political/military events and the cruelty of the Saracens are revealed through the conversations of strong characters like Maria Comnena, her daughter, Isabella, and Balian's niece, Eschiva. While the rumor of Balian's death gives rise to suspense, the collective attitude of the characters reflects future hope, compelling the reader to continue reading.

 

Chapter One

The harbor-side tavern was filled to overflowing with fighting men. Whether they had escaped the carnage at Hattin, been left to garrison cities that had since surrendered, or come from overseas in ignorance of the catastrophe that had obliterated the Kingdom of Jerusalem, they had all washed up here. It was the only place left for a man still determined to defend the Holy Land to go. Every other city in the entire Kingdom of Jerusalem had fallen in the three bitter months between July 4 and today, October 3, 1187.

Today they had been shaken by the clamorous shouts of "Allahu Akbar!" and the beating of Saracen drums. They had rushed to the walls prepared to fight off a new assault, only to discover these shouts marked not the start of    an attack, but rather the end of one. Riders from the enemy camp, just out of range, pumped their swords triumphantly in the air as they shouted: "Jerusa- lem! Jerusalem is ours!" Those with an understanding of Arabic translated for the newcomers and the less linguistically skilled: Jerusalem had fallen to Salah ad-Din.

Most of the fighting men collected in Tyre recognized that the fall of Jeru- salem had been inevitable—more so than the ffall of Acre, Haifa, Sidon, Gibelet, Beirut, Caesarea, Jaffa, and Ascalon. The latter had been defensible coastal cities capable of reinforcement and supply by sea and manned by garrisons worthy of the name. Jerusalem, in contrast, had been denuded of her defenders when the feudal army marched to Hattin. That army had been composed of the flower of both secular and sacred chivalry, the knights, sergeants, and Turcopoles of the Kingdom, and the knights and sergeants of the militant orders. The garrison left behind had been made up of middle-aged merchants, Syrians, Greeks, and pilgrims.

Yet while the garrison was old, ineffective, and small, the population of the city had swollen with refugees. From along the Jordan valley and other inland settlements, Christian women, children, and elderly—all those who had not been at Hattin—had fled to the Holy City after the destruction of the Frankish army at Hattin. By some accounts as many as one hundred thousand Christians had taken refuge there; the more likely number was sixty thousand.

And now they were either dead or slaves.

The thought depressed the men in Tyre. While their military minds  had known Jerusalem was indefensible, their Christian hearts had hoped for a miracle. For those native to Outremer, it had been a hope fed by desperation: Jerusalem was the last place their own loved ones might yet be free—if they weren't already in Tyre. Of all the defeats of the last three months, this was the worst.

In the dingy harbor-side tavern, despair hung in the smoky air. These men had survived to fight another day. They had taken heart when Conrad de Mont- ferrat had sailed into Tyre harbor and spat defiance at the victorious Sultan. They had fought with him and for him, and they had believed that not all was lost after all.

But now Jerusalem was lost. The site of Christ's Passion. The home of the Holy Sepulcher. Lost. What was there left to fight for?

A youth with a lute in his left hand shoved his way between the tables toward the serving counter. He was thin and bony. His light-brown hair was overlong, as if he couldn't afford a barber, and his face was marred by acne. One shoulder hung distinctly lower than the other, and when he tried to hoist himself up to sit on the countertop, he gave a gasp and his face screwed up with pain. The innkeeper shook his head in annoyance and warned in a low growl as he helped him onto the counter, "This better be good, Ernoul."

Ernoul didn't answer directly. He sat on the countertop with his feet dangling and settled his lute under his right arm, grimacing slightly as he lifted his left to the neck of the instrument. Then his face cleared. He took a deep breath and played a few chords.

Some men were talking or dicing, but most had come here to drink them- selves into oblivion. They were in no mood for entertainment. The young man    on the counter elicited indifference at best and aroused hostility from many. One man called out resentfully: "Go back to your great hall, puppy! Your lord might like a love song, but we're in no mood for it!"

"How can he? His lord was in Jerusalem!" the man across from the speaker retorted bitterly.

On the counter, Ernoul cleared his throat and began to sing:

"Salah ad-Din,
you have the grave,
And you have made
our brothers slaves . . ."

Instantly the squire had their attention. Across the room a dozen desul-   tory conversations stopped and men glared at the singer. Hostility hung in the air. They didn't need to have their noses rubbed in it by the likes of this puny, shabby squire!
Ernoul appeared not to notice. He sang in a low, soft, melodic tenor:

"But we survived,
we are alive . . ."

The men in the tavern were transfixed. Not a man raised his mug to drink, not a foot clumped on the floor, not a word was spoken. They were staring at the squire as he continued more certainly in his firm and resonant voice.

"Salah ad-Din,
you have the Tomb,
But it is dark,
deserted gloom;
For Christ is risen!
And by our side!"

Ernoul seemed to draw strength from their rapt attention; his voice grew stronger, louder as he continued.

"Weare with Him;
we have no fear
Of you, your army,
or your emirs;
Christ on our side,
we cannot die!"

The squire had struck a chord in the dingy tavern, and more than one scarred and bearded veteran found himself close to tears. Others crossed them- selves or said the Lord's Prayer in an affirmation of the faith they had too often neglected.
Still Ernoul sang, the melody mutating slightly.

"Christ is with us,
Salah ad-Din.
Christ is with us,
we cannot die,
But we will fight you—until you do!"

"Hear! Hear!" someone shouted, but his comrades hushed him.
Ernoul raised his voice and though he reverted to the original melody, he picked up the pace and volume as he sang out:

"The day will come
when we will win,
When we will take
Jerusalem
For Him, not us,
for Christendom!

"Weare alive,
Salah ad-Din,
Weare alive
and cannot die;
Wewill retake
Jerusalem!"

With a flourish on the strings and a bow of his head, Ernoul indicated he was done.

For a stunned second no one in the tavern moved, and then they burst into thunderous applause. Some men stamped their feet; others clapped their hands or pounded on the tables with their pottery mugs. The acclamation was so powerful, enthusiastic, and unexpected that Ernoul's ears turned bright red, and he readily took the mug shoved at him by the relieved tavern-keeper. The cheers had turned into calls for "Again! Again! Sing it again!"

Ernoul put the mug aside, wiped his lips on the back of his linen sleeve, and straightened his crooked shoulders as best he could. The receptiveness of his audience had taken him by surprise; it flattered and elated him like a drug, blotting out his pain.

By the time he'd repeated his song two more times, the more musical of his listeners had already picked up the tune. By the fourth time, they were all singing with him. The song that had seemed so melancholy and mourning when sung by a lone squire had become a fighting song laden with defiance and determination.

***

The Church of the Holy Trinity was one of the oldest in Tyre, allegedly dating back to the reign of Emperor Constantine. As Mass ended and the clergy withdrew on slipper-shod feet, a lady kneeling in a side chapel dedicated to St. George crossed herself, rolled back on her heels, and stood. She was shrouded in a dark veil trimmed with a single band of gold embroidery that covered her head and body all the way to her knees. Standing, it was clear that she was both tall and slender. She took a coin from her purse, purchased a thin beeswax candle, lit it, and stood it upright in the box of sand. The light from a half-dozen candles already burned.

The lady turned and flung the lower right corner of her veil up over the opposite shoulder to partially cover her face, but even so she heard someone whisper in awe, "The Dowager Queen!"

On the steps of the church, two beggars closed in on her. One pushed his legless body on a wooden platform with little wheels that squeaked piteously. The other, more importunate, pressed in close, whining, "Alms, my lady! Alms! I lost my hand at Hattin." He held up a stump wrapped in dirty rags.

"You'll rot in hell for your lies, Peter of Paris!" a gruff voice barked out of the darkness, adding: "You lost your hand for cheating at dice ten years ago!" A burly man in chain mail under a voluminous cloak emerged from the shadows. The knight was no longer young. His mustache and hair were completely white, and his face was deeply lined by life, but the sword at his hip was not decorative, and he moved with the vigor of a man still capable of wielding it. The beggars melted away before him, and the Dowager Queen gratefully hooked her hand through his offered elbow.

"Thank you for waiting for me, Sir Bartholomew," she greeted him. "I'm afraid I was longer than intended."

The old knight growled back, "Plenty to pray for this night, my lady."

The Dowager Queen stopped in her tracks and looked up at him in sudden understanding. "Your daughters and their children! Do you think they were in Jerusalem?"

"I've had no word from them at all," Sir Bartholomew answered grimly. "None."

Queen Maria Zoà Comnena digested that fact as they resumed walking.  Sir Bartholomew held a fief from her second husband, the Baron of Ibelin. He had no sons, just two grown daughters, the eldest of whom was already a young widow before Hattin, and the younger married to a man who had fallen at the battle. Although Sir Bartholomew had fought his way off the field of Hattin,  he, like the rest of the surviving fighting men, found himself cooped up in   Tyre while the rest of the Kingdom fell city by city and castle by castle to Salah ad-Din. Sir Bartholomew's daughters and their still-young children had been left behind on their peaceful manor just a few miles from Ibelin—land noow held by the Saracens.

Sir Bartholomew broke in on her thoughts. "There's really no reason to think they made it to Jerusalem. More likely they went to Jaffa. It was closer." But Jaffa had fallen to the Saracens before Jerusalem, and if his daughters had not found their way to Tyre by now, then they were almost certainly dead— or captives. Slaves. Maria Zoà shuddered at the thought, and her hand closed around her companion's elbow in a gesture of helpless sympathy.

"My grief is only a single tear in the sea of misery, my lady," Sir Bartholomew summarized his situation astutely.

"That doesn't make it less intense," Maria Zoà countered. They continued in silence through the darkened streets.

The city was overcrowded, and even now, after Compline, many people lingered on the streets for lack of a better alternative. Most of the refugees were housed in warehouses by the port, and these lacked comfort, lighting, privacy, and sanitary facilities. Brawls were common, and it wasn't necessarily the worst individuals who sought escape in the open streets. Still, Sir Bartholomew's hand dropped instinctively to his hilt as they passed a trio of young men loitering     at the entry to an alleyway. The young men watched the knight and lady with appraising eyes, weighing the obvious wealth of a woman in gold-trimmed silks against the risk of taking on an armed  knight.

Fortunately,  Sir Bartholomew and the Dowager Queen did not have far to go. They reached their lodgings after rounding the next corner. The narrow, three-story building crushed between similar structures belonged to a Genoese merchant family. The day after the news of Hattin reached Tyre, the merchant had packed his family, his valuables, and as many of his wares as possible into the fastest Genoese galley in Tyre harbor. He left behind his household staff—an aging Greek Orthodox couple and two Syrian groomss—most of his furnishings, and cellars well stocked with food and wine.

The presence of staff had discouraged plunder in the days to follow until, on July 14, Conrad de Montferrat had taken command of the defense of Tyre. Montferrat had both established order and expropriated all vacant property. When the Dowager Queen of Jerusalem arrived in the city weeks later,  he had put this house at her disposal. There were those who saw this as a calcu- lated insult. She was, after all, a member of the Greek imperial family as well  as Dowager Queen of Jerusalem. Furthermore, she was accompanied by her daughter, the Princess Isabella of Jerusalem. It would have been more appropriate, they suggested, for her to be housed in the archiepiscopal palace, the largest and most representational residence in the ancient city. But Montferrat himself already occupied the palace, and he had no intention of moving out for a dowager and her daughter.

Maria Zoà had not protested. The merchant residence was beautifully appointed with tiled and mosaic floors, glass in all the windows, beds, tables, and other essential furnishings. Furthermore, it had a fully functioning kitchen and a garden with its own well. Most important, however, it offered her and her children a degree of privacy that they would not have enjoyed at the archiepiscopal palace.

When she accepted the residence, however, she had not realized that fourteen of her husband's knights were already in Tyre. Her husband had commanded the third largest contingent of troops at the Battle of Hattin, leading under his banner not only the knights of Ibelin and his personal household, but the knights of her dower barony of Nablus and his brother's baronies of Ramla and Mirabel. When he led the breakout late in the battle, some two hundred knights and over one hundred squires survived the charge with him. Many of them were strangers and had gone their own way. Others had relatives in Tripoli or Antioch and had continued to these territories. The rest, however, had remained in Tyre. When the news reached them that the Dowager Queen had come to Tyre, they flocked to offer their services to her.

Service, however, was a double-edged sword: it required patronage in exchange. That entailed bed and board at a minimum. Furthermore, the Queen had arrived with her own small household, which included not just her five children, but her sister-in-law with two more children, her husband's niece with three, the children's nanny, her waiting woman, a priest, and a groom. Together with her husband's knights and squires, this amounted to a household of over forty people. Consequently, the merchant house was packed to overflowing.

One of the squires was standing guard, and he hastened to open the door for his lady and Sir Bartholomew. "We were getting worried, my lady," he exclaimed in an anxious voice that reflected more the overall state of nervous tension ignited by the fall of Jerusalem than any rational worries about the safety of the Dowager Queen.

"Nothing to worry about, Stephan," Maria Zoà answered, removing her veils now that she was inside.

They were in a vaulted entryway, lit by a single oil lamp hanging from a hook at the peak of the arch. The vault was lined with empty shelves on which the merchant's wares had once been displayed. Now these shelves were laden with straw pallets on which the squires slept. A second vaulted chamber containing the kitchen intersected at right angles at the far end of the chamber,    and a brick fireplace sat nestled in the corner of the juncture. Maria Zoà could hear voices and see shadows cast on the far wall by people gathered around   the solid oak kitchen table, and she knew that the squires and household staff were gathered there. She did not disturb them, but rather turned to enter a   small cobbled courtyard lined with stone troughs sprouting rosemary, thyme, and lavender, and mounted the stone stairs that curled around two sides of the courtyard to give her access to the hall located above the kitchen.

This was the largest room in the house, with glazed windows overlooking both the interior courtyard and the walled garden on the other side. It had a hooded fireplace at the far end and a gallery over the near end. The floor was paved with mosaics in an elegant floral pattern of blue, white, and purple. A small, more intimate solar or receiving room, opened off the hall at the far end near the fireplace, while a door under the gallery connected with an internal stairway leading to the upper floor.

The knights of her household lived and slept in the hall, so it was hardly surprising to find them gathered over several pitchers of wine as she entered. The heated discussion came to an abrupt end at her appearance, and the men respectfully rose to their feet to bow to her. Maria Zoà sensed, more from the scowl on Sir Bartholomew's face than from anything she'd actually overheard, that the discussion had been about what would happen to them now that her husband was presumed dead.

Maria Zoà turned to Sir Bartholomew and thanked him for escorting her, dismissing him at the same time. She took a hand-held glass lamp in one hand and her skirts in the other and mounted the interior wooden stairs to the floor above. On the landing she stopped to listen. There were four chambers on this floor. The largest had been turned into a nursery for her two youngest children, her sister-in-law's two little boys, and her niece's two babies along with the nurse. The smallest of the four rooms was where her confessor and her children's tutor, Fathers Angelus, and the three school-aged children slept. The remaining two rooms were for herself, her adult daughter Isabella, her sister-in-law Eloise, and her husband's niece Eschiva.

The nursery seemed thankfully still. Either the children had not grasped the significance of the fall of Jerusalem, their nurse had managed to quell their fears, or they had simply been given enough wine to make them sleep. From  the schoolroom, on the other hand, Maria Zoà could hear the angry voice of her eldest son. John was now eight, and he was a bright, alert child. He had been very cognizant of what fate had awaited them in Jerusalem—and overjoyed when his father arrived like an archangel to spirit them away to safety. That his father had decided to remain behind in Jerusalem while the Ibelin women and children were sent to safety in Tyre, however, had outraged him. He'd been too frightened to want to remain, but he'd been furious with his father, too. He was querulous now, and she could sense the rage in his voice even without hearing his words. Why, why, why did his father have to die? Why had he thrown his life away when he could have been here, with us, safe in Tyre?

Maria Zoà knew she ought to go to him and comfort him, but how could she? How could she help when part of her felt the same childish rage? Better to leave him to the seasoned and stoical Father Angelus, whose calm voice rumbled in answer to the boy's high-pitched anger.

Maria Zoà turned and continued down the hall. The next room was silent, she noted with relief, because she had no desire to face her sister-in-law Eloise. At last she reached her own chamber and took a deep breath, knowing that her daughter Isabella would be waiting up for her on the other side of the door. Part of her would have preferred to be left alone, but what sort of daughter would go to bed when her mother had just learned she was a widow?

Maria Zoà pushed open the door to find not just Isabella but also Eschiva, her husband's niece, sitting beside the little table by the window overlooking the street. The young women had been raised together for several years as children, and their friendship had withstood separation and marriage. They were evi- dently in earnest conversation, but jumped up at the sound of the door opening. Isabella ran to her mother. "Mama! We were getting worried! Are you all right?" Isabella was fifteen years old, and even her mother could see she had left childhood behind and was now very much a nubile beauty with a womanly figure as well as a lovely face. She seemed to fly across the room to take her mother in her arms, her expression of concern both sincere and melodramatic. "I'm not on the brink of collapse, if that's what you mean," Maria Zoà answered her daughter, at once muting her emotions and patting her in thanks. With their arms locked, Maria Zoà and Isabella returned to the table as Eschiva slipped onto the wooden window seat to vacate her chair for the Dowager Queen. In this company, Eschiva often felt like the dowdy sparrow or the poor cousin. Maria Zoà might be thirty-three years old, but she was still a strikingly handsome woman. She had, after all, been selected as a bride for King Amalric in part because she was an exceptionally pretty child, and it was largely from her that Isabella had her budding beauty. Eschiva, on the other hand, had never been deemed a great beauty, and she had not withstood the trials of life as appar- ently unscathed as Maria ZoÃ. Eschiva had grieved for the loss of two infants and had been abandoned by both her parents. At twenty-two she looked more like thirty, a fact underlined by her simple linen wimple and plain cotton gown. Here in the company of princesses and queens, she remained nothing but the wife of a landless younger son—that, or the wife of a man whose brother had squandered a kingdom on a single day,    the wife of the constable of a kingdom that no longer existed.

A single candle burned in a silver candlestick on the little table, but there was a silver pitcher filled with wine, another with water, and three silver chalices as well—all goods the Dowager Queen had sagely packed onto the backs of pro- testing brood mares as she salvaged as much as possible of her movable fortune from Jerusalem. As Maria Zoà settled herself in an armed chair softened with cushions, Isabella reached for the pitcher. "Mixed or pure, Mama?"

"I think I need it pure, sweetheart," Maria Zoà admitted, leaning her head against the high back of the chair and closing her eyes for a moment. Then she half opened them and considered her companions. Eschiva might technically   be only her niece by marriage, but she had come to live with Maria Zoà and Balian at Ibelin when her mother retired to a convent. She had remained in  their household two years, and the bonds forged in those two years had never weakened. Eschiva looked to Maria Zoà more as an elder sister than as an uncle's wife, while Maria ZoÃ's protectiveness of Eschiva had been tempered by growing respect for her strength in adversity and her common sense. It was to Eschiva, therefore, that she directed her next remark: "So what have you decided we should do?"

Eschiva started slightly, surprised by the Dowager Queen's directness, but she was pleased by this mark of the older woman's respect for her common sense. "Well, the first thing we need to do is demand more information from Salah ad-Din. After all, we don't know for sure that Uncle Balian is dead. He might have surrendered and been taken captive, as were our husbands." Eschiva's husband, Aimery de Lusignan, and Isabella's husband, Humphrey de Toron, had both been taken captive at Hattin and were being held in the citadel at Aleppo.

Maria Zoà considered the two women before her. Both were nodding vigorously.

She shook her head and reminded them: "You know as well as I do that the burghers of Jerusalem said they would kill their own families and then sortie out to certain death before they would surrender Jerusalem."

"But the Patriarch condemned that as unchristian, and Uncle Balian opposed it as fanaticism," Isabella pointed out passionately.

"Men are always braver before a battle than after one," Eschiva added, with a cynicism Maria Zoà had not expected of her. "I don't mean Uncle Balian," Eschiva hastened to explain, mistaking Maria ZoÃ's expression of surprise. "No one can doubt his courage, but the rest of the men—they were merchants, trades- men, and clerics. Remember, too, that no one crowed louder about fighting for Christ than my brother-in-law Guy, yet he surrendered, did he not?"

Maria Zoà only raised her eyebrows, too exhausted to give vent to her feelings about Guy de Lusignan. She reminded the younger women instead, "My lord husband broke his word to Salah ad-Din when he chose to remain in Jerusalem rather than just bring me and the children to safety. Salah ad-Din is ruthless to those he thinks have betrayed him."

"But the Sultan sent his own men to escort you to safety," Eschiva pointed out.

Maria Zoà dismissed her comment with a wave of her hand and retorted tartly, "He did that because he didn't want to provoke my cousin in Constantinople."

Eschiva and Isabella exchanged a glance. They wanted to believe the Sultan would be generous; so much depended on it.

As if sensing their distress, Maria Zoà softened her stance. "You are right to suggest appealing directly to Salah ad-Din, Eschiva. He still wants the goodwill of the Greek Emperor, and he will respond to an inquiry from me with courtesy—regardless of tthe news. If he has killed Lord Balian, then I can request his remains. If he holds him prisoner, I can ask what ransom he wants." She nodded and reached for the wine.

Isabella and Eschiva drank too as Maria Zoà sipped cautiously, evidently lost in thought as she stared at the candle. "There is one thing that puzzles me," Maria Zoà admitted softly. Her two companions looked at her expectantly. "In all their jubilation and triumph today, the Saracens failed to brag about the slaughter that had taken place. That's not like them, you know. They revel in telling us of their bloody deeds. It was from them that we learned of the execution of the captive Templars and Hospitallers. They were proud of hacking off the heads of bound and kneeling prisoners. And they promised to ‘wash away' the slaughter of eighty-eight years ago in a new river of blood. Remember how our escort told us that ‘If your horses walked in blood up to their fetlocks, ours will swim in blood'?"

Eschiva nodded and gripped her chalice, remembering how terrified she had been when one of the escort delivered this message with an expression of gleeful hatred. She had been sure it was a prelude to violence against them, and she had started praying frantically. Instead the red-headed Mamluke had been called to order by the escort commander, and they had been treated courteously thereafter. Isabella, however, jumped to her feet in agitation. "For all their silks and perfumes, they are more bloodthirsty than ravenous wolves! They are—â"

"Hush, Isabella," her mother admonished, gesturing for her to sit down. "The point is: they did not brag about the rivers of blood and mountains of corpses they had created in Jerusalem. They did not even taunt us with the fact that my husband's ‘faithlessness' had been repaid. It would have been more in character if they had described in detail the way they had tortured him to death."

Isabella and Eschiva were staring at the Maria Zoё" in horror, seeing for the first time the nightmares she had concealed from them. This was what she had been living with since their departure from Jerusalem: the fear that the man she loved would not meet a noble death in battle, but live to be tortured and humiliated. It was a fear she had not dared breathe to anyone, because she had not wanted to add to their already considerable uncertainty and grief. She had carried it alone.

Now she looked from her daughter to her niece and back again, and something like hope shimmered in her eyes. "I'm sure they would have gloated if they could, which means it didn't happen. Jerusalem has fallen, but there was no slaughter in the streets, and Lord Balian was not publicly tortured and butchered. So, we must find out what did happen."

harbor-side tavern was filled to overflowing with fighting men. Whether they had escaped the carnage at Hattin, been left to garrison cities that had since surrendered, or come from overseas in ignorance of the catastrophe that had obliterated the Kingdom of Jerusalem, they had all washed up here. It was the only place left for a man still determined to defend the Holy Land to go. Every other city in the entire Kingdom of Jerusalem had fallen in the three bitter months between July 4 and today, October 3, 1187.

Today they had been shaken by the clamorous shouts of "Allahu Akbar!" and the beating of Saracen drums. They had rushed to the walls prepared to fight off a new assault, only to discover these shouts marked not the start of    an attack, but rather the end of one. Riders from the enemy camp, just out of range, pumped their swords triumphantly in the air as they shouted: "Jerusa- lem! Jerusalem is ours!" Those with an understanding of Arabic translated for the newcomers and the less linguistically skilled: Jerusalem had fallen to Salah ad-Din.

Most of the fighting men collected in Tyre recognized that the fall of Jeru- salem had been inevitable—more so than the ffall of Acre, Haifa, Sidon, Gibelet, Beirut, Caesarea, Jaffa, and Ascalon. The latter had been defensible coastal cities capable of reinforcement and supply by sea and manned by garrisons worthy of the name. Jerusalem, in contrast, had been denuded of her defenders when the feudal army marched to Hattin. That army had been composed of the flower of both secular and sacred chivalry, the knights, sergeants, and Turcopoles of the Kingdom, and the knights and sergeants of the militant orders. The garrison left behind had been made up of middle-aged merchants, Syrians, Greeks, and pilgrims.

Yet while the garrison was old, ineffective, and small, the population of the city had swollen with refugees. From along the Jordan valley and other inland settlements, Christian women, children, and elderly—all those who had not been at Hattin—had fled to the Holy City after the destruction of the Frankish army at Hattin. By some accounts as many as one hundred thousand Christians had taken refuge there; the more likely number was sixty thousand.

And now they were either dead or slaves.

The thought depressed the men in Tyre. While their military minds  had known Jerusalem was indefensible, their Christian hearts had hoped for a miracle. For those native to Outremer, it had been a hope fed by desperation: Jerusalem was the last place their own loved ones might yet be free—if they weren't already in Tyre. Of all the defeats of the last three months, this was the worst.

In the dingy harbor-side tavern, despair hung in the smoky air. These men had survived to fight another day. They had taken heart when Conrad de Mont- ferrat had sailed into Tyre harbor and spat defiance at the victorious Sultan. They had fought with him and for him, and they had believed that not all was lost after all.

But now Jerusalem was lost. The site of Christ's Passion. The home of the Holy Sepulcher. Lost. What was there left to fight for?

A youth with a lute in his left hand shoved his way between the tables toward the serving counter. He was thin and bony. His light-brown hair was overlong, as if he couldn't afford a barber, and his face was marred by acne. One shoulder hung distinctly lower than the other, and when he tried to hoist himself up to sit on the countertop, he gave a gasp and his face screwed up with pain. The innkeeper shook his head in annoyance and warned in a low growl as he helped him onto the counter, "This better be good, Ernoul."

Ernoul didn't answer directly. He sat on the countertop with his feet dangling and settled his lute under his right arm, grimacing slightly as he lifted his left to the neck of the instrument. Then his face cleared. He took a deep breath and played a few chords.

Some men were talking or dicing, but most had come here to drink them- selves into oblivion. They were in no mood for entertainment. The young man    on the counter elicited indifference at best and aroused hostility from many. One man called out resentfully: "Go back to your great hall, puppy! Your lord might like a love song, but we're in no mood for it!"

"How can he? His lord was in Jerusalem!" the man across from the speaker retorted bitterly.

On the counter, Ernoul cleared his throat and began to sing:

"Salah ad-Din,
you have the grave,
And you have made
our brothers slaves . . ."

Instantly the squire had their attention. Across the room a dozen desul-   tory conversations stopped and men glared at the singer. Hostility hung in the air. They didn't need to have their noses rubbed in it by the likes of this puny, shabby squire!

Ernoul appeared not to notice. He sang in a low, soft, melodic tenor:

"But we survived,
we are alive . . ."

The men in the tavern were transfixed. Not a man raised his mug to drink, not a foot clumped on the floor, not a word was spoken. They were staring at the squire as he continued more certainly in his firm and resonant voice.

"Salah ad-Din,
you have the Tomb,
But it is dark,
deserted gloom;
For Christ is risen!
And by our side!"

Ernoul seemed to draw strength from their rapt attention; his voice grew stronger, louder as he continued.

"Weare with Him;
we have no fear
Of you, your army,
or your emirs;
Christ on our side,
we cannot die!"

The squire had struck a chord in the dingy tavern, and more than one scarred and bearded veteran found himself close to tears. Others crossed them- selves or said the Lord's Prayer in an affirmation of the faith they had too often neglected.
Still Ernoul sang, the melody mutating slightly.

"Christ is with us,
Salah ad-Din.
Christ is with us,
we cannot die,
But we will fight you—until you do!"

"Hear! Hear!" someone shouted, but his comrades hushed him.

Ernoul raised his voice and though he reverted to the original melody, he picked up the pace and volume as he sang out:

"The day will come
when we will win,
When we will take
Jerusalem
For Him, not us,
for Christendom!

"Weare alive,
Salah ad-Din,
Weare alive
and cannot die;
Wewill retake
Jerusalem!"

With a flourish on the strings and a bow of his head, Ernoul indicated he was done.

For a stunned second no one in the tavern moved, and then they burst into thunderous applause. Some men stamped their feet; others clapped their hands or pounded on the tables with their pottery mugs. The acclamation was so powerful, enthusiastic, and unexpected that Ernoul's ears turned bright red, and he readily took the mug shoved at him by the relieved tavern-keeper. The cheers had turned into calls for "Again! Again! Sing it again!"

Ernoul put the mug aside, wiped his lips on the back of his linen sleeve, and straightened his crooked shoulders as best he could. The receptiveness of his audience had taken him by surprise; it flattered and elated him like a drug, blotting out his pain.

By the time he'd repeated his song two more times, the more musical of his listeners had already picked up the tune. By the fourth time, they were all singing with him. The song that had seemed so melancholy and mourning when sung by a lone squire had become a fighting song laden with defiance and determination.

***

The Church of the Holy Trinity was one of the oldest in Tyre, allegedly dating back to the reign of Emperor Constantine. As Mass ended and the clergy withdrew on slipper-shod feet, a lady kneeling in a side chapel dedicated to St. George crossed herself, rolled back on her heels, and stood. She was shrouded in a dark veil trimmed with a single band of gold embroidery that covered her head and body all the way to her knees. Standing, it was clear that she was both tall and slender. She took a coin from her purse, purchased a thin beeswax candle, lit it, and stood it upright in the box of sand. The light from a half-dozen candles already burned.

The lady turned and flung the lower right corner of her veil up over the opposite shoulder to partially cover her face, but even so she heard someone whisper in awe, "The Dowager Queen!"

On the steps of the church, two beggars closed in on her. One pushed his legless body on a wooden platform with little wheels that squeaked piteously. The other, more importunate, pressed in close, whining, "Alms, my lady! Alms! I lost my hand at Hattin." He held up a stump wrapped in dirty rags.

"You'll rot in hell for your lies, Peter of Paris!" a gruff voice barked out of the darkness, adding: "You lost your hand for cheating at dice ten years ago!" A burly man in chain mail under a voluminous cloak emerged from the shadows. The knight was no longer young. His mustache and hair were completely white, and his face was deeply lined by life, but the sword at his hip was not decorative, and he moved with the vigor of a man still capable of wielding it. The beggars melted away before him, and the Dowager Queen gratefully hooked her hand through his offered elbow.

"Thank you for waiting for me, Sir Bartholomew," she greeted him. "I'm afraid I was longer than intended."
The old knight growled back, "Plenty to pray for this night, my lady."

The Dowager Queen stopped in her tracks and looked up at him in sudden understanding. "Your daughters and their children! Do you think they were in Jerusalem?"

"I've had no word from them at all," Sir Bartholomew answered grimly. "None."

Queen Maria Zoà Comnena digested that fact as they resumed walking.  Sir Bartholomew held a fief from her second husband, the Baron of Ibelin. He had no sons, just two grown daughters, the eldest of whom was already a young widow before Hattin, and the younger married to a man who had fallen at the battle. Although Sir Bartholomew had fought his way off the field of Hattin,  he, like the rest of the surviving fighting men, found himself cooped up in   Tyre while the rest of the Kingdom fell city by city and castle by castle to Salah ad-Din. Sir Bartholomew's daughters and their still-young children had been left behind on their peaceful manor just a few miles from Ibelin—land noow held by the Saracens.

Sir Bartholomew broke in on her thoughts. "There's really no reason to think they made it to Jerusalem. More likely they went to Jaffa. It was closer." But Jaffa had fallen to the Saracens before Jerusalem, and if his daughters had not found their way to Tyre by now, then they were almost certainly dead— or captives. Slaves. Maria Zoà shuddered at the thought, and her hand closed around her companion's elbow in a gesture of helpless sympathy.

"My grief is only a single tear in the sea of misery, my lady," Sir Bartholomew summarized his situation astutely.

"That doesn't make it less intense," Maria Zoà countered. They continued in silence through the darkened streets.

The city was overcrowded, and even now, after Compline, many people lingered on the streets for lack of a better alternative. Most of the refugees were housed in warehouses by the port, and these lacked comfort, lighting, privacy, and sanitary facilities. Brawls were common, and it wasn't necessarily the worst individuals who sought escape in the open streets. Still, Sir Bartholomew's hand dropped instinctively to his hilt as they passed a trio of young men loitering     at the entry to an alleyway. The young men watched the knight and lady with appraising eyes, weighing the obvious wealth of a woman in gold-trimmed silks against the risk of taking on an armed  knight.

Fortunately,  Sir Bartholomew and the Dowager Queen did not have far to go. They reached their lodgings after rounding the next corner. The narrow, three-story building crushed between similar structures belonged to a Genoese merchant family. The day after the news of Hattin reached Tyre, the merchant had packed his family, his valuables, and as many of his wares as possible into the fastest Genoese galley in Tyre harbor. He left behind his household staff—an aging Greek Orthodox couple and two Syrian groomss—most of his furnishings, and cellars well stocked with food and wine.

The presence of staff had discouraged plunder in the days to follow until, on July 14, Conrad de Montferrat had taken command of the defense of Tyre. Montferrat had both established order and expropriated all vacant property. When the Dowager Queen of Jerusalem arrived in the city weeks later,  he had put this house at her disposal. There were those who saw this as a calcu- lated insult. She was, after all, a member of the Greek imperial family as well  as Dowager Queen of Jerusalem. Furthermore, she was accompanied by her daughter, the Princess Isabella of Jerusalem. It would have been more appropriate, they suggested, for her to be housed in the archiepiscopal palace, the largest and most representational residence in the ancient city. But Montferrat himself already occupied the palace, and he had no intention of moving out for a dowager and her daughter.

Maria Zoà had not protested. The merchant residence was beautifully appointed with tiled and mosaic floors, glass in all the windows, beds, tables, and other essential furnishings. Furthermore, it had a fully functioning kitchen and a garden with its own well. Most important, however, it offered her and her children a degree of privacy that they would not have enjoyed at the archiepiscopal palace.

When she accepted the residence, however, she had not realized that fourteen of her husband's knights were already in Tyre. Her husband had commanded the third largest contingent of troops at the Battle of Hattin, leading under his banner not only the knights of Ibelin and his personal household, but the knights of her dower barony of Nablus and his brother's baronies of Ramla and Mirabel. When he led the breakout late in the battle, some two hundred knights and over one hundred squires survived the charge with him. Many of them were strangers and had gone their own way. Others had relatives in Tripoli or Antioch and had continued to these territories. The rest, however, had remained in Tyre. When the news reached them that the Dowager Queen had come to Tyre, they flocked to offer their services to her.

Service, however, was a double-edged sword: it required patronage in exchange. That entailed bed and board at a minimum. Furthermore, the Queen had arrived with her own small household, which included not just her five children, but her sister-in-law with two more children, her husband's niece with three, the children's nanny, her waiting woman, a priest, and a groom. Together with her husband's knights and squires, this amounted to a household of over forty people. Consequently, the merchant house was packed to overflowing.

One of the squires was standing guard, and he hastened to open the door for his lady and Sir Bartholomew. "We were getting worried, my lady," he exclaimed in an anxious voice that reflected more the overall state of nervous tension ignited by the fall of Jerusalem than any rational worries about the safety of the Dowager Queen.

"Nothing to worry about, Stephan," Maria Zoà answered, removing her veils now that she was inside.

They were in a vaulted entryway, lit by a single oil lamp hanging from a hook at the peak of the arch. The vault was lined with empty shelves on which the merchant's wares had once been displayed. Now these shelves were laden with straw pallets on which the squires slept. A second vaulted chamber containing the kitchen intersected at right angles at the far end of the chamber,    and a brick fireplace sat nestled in the corner of the juncture. Maria Zoà could hear voices and see shadows cast on the far wall by people gathered around   the solid oak kitchen table, and she knew that the squires and household staff were gathered there. She did not disturb them, but rather turned to enter a   small cobbled courtyard lined with stone troughs sprouting rosemary, thyme, and lavender, and mounted the stone stairs that curled around two sides of the courtyard to give her access to the hall located above the kitchen.

This was the largest room in the house, with glazed windows overlooking both the interior courtyard and the walled garden on the other side. It had a hooded fireplace at the far end and a gallery over the near end. The floor was paved with mosaics in an elegant floral pattern of blue, white, and purple. A small, more intimate solar or receiving room, opened off the hall at the far end near the fireplace, while a door under the gallery connected with an internal stairway leading to the upper floor.

The knights of her household lived and slept in the hall, so it was hardly surprising to find them gathered over several pitchers of wine as she entered. The heated discussion came to an abrupt end at her appearance, and the men respectfully rose to their feet to bow to her. Maria Zoà sensed, more from the scowl on Sir Bartholomew's face than from anything she'd actually overheard, that the discussion had been about what would happen to them now that her husband was presumed dead.

Maria Zoà turned to Sir Bartholomew and thanked him for escorting her, dismissing him at the same time. She took a hand-held glass lamp in one hand and her skirts in the other and mounted the interior wooden stairs to the floor above. On the landing she stopped to listen. There were four chambers on this floor. The largest had been turned into a nursery for her two youngest children, her sister-in-law's two little boys, and her niece's two babies along with the nurse. The smallest of the four rooms was where her confessor and her children's tutor, Fathers Angelus, and the three school-aged children slept. The remaining two rooms were for herself, her adult daughter Isabella, her sister-in-law Eloise, and her husband's niece Eschiva.

The nursery seemed thankfully still. Either the children had not grasped the significance of the fall of Jerusalem, their nurse had managed to quell their fears, or they had simply been given enough wine to make them sleep. From  the schoolroom, on the other hand, Maria Zoà could hear the angry voice of her eldest son. John was now eight, and he was a bright, alert child. He had been very cognizant of what fate had awaited them in Jerusalem—and overjoyed when his father arrived like an archangel to spirit them away to safety. That his father had decided to remain behind in Jerusalem while the Ibelin women and children were sent to safety in Tyre, however, had outraged him. He'd been too frightened to want to remain, but he'd been furious with his father, too. He was querulous now, and she could sense the rage in his voice even without hearing his words. Why, why, why did his father have to die? Why had he thrown his life away when he could have been here, with us, safe in Tyre?

Maria Zoà knew she ought to go to him and comfort him, but how could she? How could she help when part of her felt the same childish rage? Better to leave him to the seasoned and stoical Father Angelus, whose calm voice rumbled in answer to the boy's high-pitched anger.

Maria Zoà turned and continued down the hall. The next room was silent, she noted with relief, because she had no desire to face her sister-in-law Eloise. At last she reached her own chamber and took a deep breath, knowing that her daughter Isabella would be waiting up for her on the other side of the door. Part of her would have preferred to be left alone, but what sort of daughter would go to bed when her mother had just learned she was a widow?

Maria Zoà pushed open the door to find not just Isabella but also Eschiva, her husband's niece, sitting beside the little table by the window overlooking the street. The young women had been raised together for several years as children, and their friendship had withstood separation and marriage. They were evi- dently in earnest conversation, but jumped up at the sound of the door opening. Isabella ran to her mother. "Mama! We were getting worried! Are you all right?" Isabella was fifteen years old, and even her mother could see she had left childhood behind and was now very much a nubile beauty with a womanly figure as well as a lovely face. She seemed to fly across the room to take her mother in her arms, her expression of concern both sincere and melodramatic. "I'm not on the brink of collapse, if that's what you mean," Maria Zoà answered her daughter, at once muting her emotions and patting her in thanks. With their arms locked, Maria Zoà and Isabella returned to the table as Eschiva slipped onto the wooden window seat to vacate her chair for the Dowager Queen. In this company, Eschiva often felt like the dowdy sparrow or the poor cousin. Maria Zoà might be thirty-three years old, but she was still a strikingly handsome woman. She had, after all, been selected as a bride for King Amalric in part because she was an exceptionally pretty child, and it was largely from her that Isabella had her budding beauty. Eschiva, on the other hand, had never been deemed a great beauty, and she had not withstood the trials of life as appar- ently unscathed as Maria ZoÃ. Eschiva had grieved for the loss of two infants and had been abandoned by both her parents. At twenty-two she looked more like thirty, a fact underlined by her simple linen wimple and plain cotton gown. Here in the company of princesses and queens, she remained nothing but the wife of a landless younger son—that, or the wife of a man whose brother had squandered a kingdom on a single day,    the wife of the constable of a kingdom that no longer existed.

A single candle burned in a silver candlestick on the little table, but there was a silver pitcher filled with wine, another with water, and three silver chalices as well—all goods the Dowager Queen had sagely packed onto the backs of pro- testing brood mares as she salvaged as much as possible of her movable fortune from Jerusalem. As Maria Zoà settled herself in an armed chair softened with cushions, Isabella reached for the pitcher. "Mixed or pure, Mama?"

"I think I need it pure, sweetheart," Maria Zoà admitted, leaning her head against the high back of the chair and closing her eyes for a moment. Then she half opened them and considered her companions. Eschiva might technically   be only her niece by marriage, but she had come to live with Maria Zoà and Balian at Ibelin when her mother retired to a convent. She had remained in  their household two years, and the bonds forged in those two years had never weakened. Eschiva looked to Maria Zoà more as an elder sister than as an uncle's wife, while Maria ZoÃ's protectiveness of Eschiva had been tempered by growing respect for her strength in adversity and her common sense. It was to Eschiva, therefore, that she directed her next remark: "So what have you decided we should do?"

Eschiva started slightly, surprised by the Dowager Queen's directness, but she was pleased by this mark of the older woman's respect for her common sense. "Well, the first thing we need to do is demand more information from Salah ad-Din. After all, we don't know for sure that Uncle Balian is dead. He might have surrendered and been taken captive, as were our husbands." Eschiva's husband, Aimery de Lusignan, and Isabella's husband, Humphrey de Toron, had both been taken captive at Hattin and were being held in the citadel at Aleppo.

Maria Zoà considered the two women before her. Both were nodding vigorously.

She shook her head and reminded them: "You know as well as I do that the burghers of Jerusalem said they would kill their own families and then sortie out to certain death before they would surrender Jerusalem."

"But the Patriarch condemned that as unchristian, and Uncle Balian opposed it as fanaticism," Isabella pointed out passionately.

"Men are always braver before a battle than after one," Eschiva added, with a cynicism Maria Zoà had not expected of her. "I don't mean Uncle Balian," Eschiva hastened to explain, mistaking Maria ZoÃ's expression of surprise. "No one can doubt his courage, but the rest of the men—they were merchants, trades- men, and clerics. Remember, too, that no one crowed louder about fighting for Christ than my brother-in-law Guy, yet he surrendered, did he not?"

Maria Zoà only raised her eyebrows, too exhausted to give vent to her feelings about Guy de Lusignan. She reminded the younger women instead, "My lord husband broke his word to Salah ad-Din when he chose to remain in Jerusalem rather than just bring me and the children to safety. Salah ad-Din is ruthless to those he thinks have betrayed him."

"But the Sultan sent his own men to escort you to safety," Eschiva pointed out.

Maria Zoà dismissed her comment with a wave of her hand and retorted tartly, "He did that because he didn't want to provoke my cousin in Constantinople."

Eschiva and Isabella exchanged a glance. They wanted to believe the Sultan would be generous; so much depended on it.

As if sensing their distress, Maria Zoà softened her stance. "You are right to suggest appealing directly to Salah ad-Din, Eschiva. He still wants the goodwill of the Greek Emperor, and he will respond to an inquiry from me with courtesy—regardless of tthe news. If he has killed Lord Balian, then I can request his remains. If he holds him prisoner, I can ask what ransom he wants." She nodded and reached for the wine.

Isabella and Eschiva drank too as Maria Zoà sipped cautiously, evidently lost in thought as she stared at the candle. "There is one thing that puzzles me," Maria Zoà admitted softly. Her two companions looked at her expectantly. "In all their jubilation and triumph today, the Saracens failed to brag about the slaughter that had taken place. That's not like them, you know. They revel in telling us of their bloody deeds. It was from them that we learned of the execution of the captive Templars and Hospitallers. They were proud of hacking off the heads of bound and kneeling prisoners. And they promised to ‘wash away' the slaughter of eighty-eight years ago in a new river of blood. Remember how our escort told us that ‘If your horses walked in blood up to their fetlocks, ours will swim in blood'?"

Eschiva nodded and gripped her chalice, remembering how terrified she had been when one of the escort delivered this message with an expression of gleeful hatred. She had been sure it was a prelude to violence against them, and she had started praying frantically. Instead the red-headed Mamluke had been called to order by the escort commander, and they had been treated courteously thereafter. Isabella, however, jumped to her feet in agitation. "For all their silks and perfumes, they are more bloodthirsty than ravenous wolves! They are—"

"Hush, Isabella," her mother admonished, gesturing for her to sit down. "The point is: they did not brag about the rivers of blood and mountains of corpses they had created in Jerusalem. They did not even taunt us with the fact that my husband's ‘faithlessness' had been repaid. It would have been more in character if they had described in detail the way they had tortured him to death."

Isabella and Eschiva were staring at the Maria Zoё in horror, seeing for the first time the nightmares she had concealed from them. This was what she had been living with since their departure from Jerusalem: the fear that the man she loved would not meet a noble death in battle, but live to be tortured and humiliated. It was a fear she had not dared breathe to anyone, because she had not wanted to add to their already considerable uncertainty and grief. She had carried it alone.

Now she looked from her daughter to her niece and back again, and something like hope shimmered in her eyes. "I'm sure they would have gloated if they could, which means it didn't happen. Jerusalem has fallen, but there was no slaughter in the streets, and Lord Balian was not publicly tortured and butchered. So, we must find out what did happen."

 

book text © Helena P. Schrader

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