Emperor Frederick II, called "enlightened" by historians yet decried as a despot by contemporaries, unleashes a civil war that tears the Holy Land apart. The heir to an intimidating legacy, a woman artist, and a boy king are caught up in the game of emperors and popes. Set against the backdrop of the Sixth Crusade, Rebels against Tyranny takes you from the harems of Sicily to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, from the palaces of privilege to the dungeons of despair. This is a timeless tale of youthful audacity taking on tyranny―but sometimes courage is not enough....
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A Fateful Fall
Limassol, Cyprus May 18, 1224
"Philip, are you all right?" A young, male voice called out anxiously.
Sir Philip of Novare couldn't see the owner of the voice because his squire was trying to pry his misshapen great helm off his head — without taking half his face off with it. Philip had just lost a "friendly" joust. Although his opponent had used only a blunted mace, he'd still managed to bash in the side of Philip's helm.
Philip was sweating profusely, as much from increasing panic as the heat of a Cypriot summer day. The air inside the helm seemed to grow thinner and thinner as his squire Andre twisted the metal pot to try to maneuver it past Philip's chin. The pounding of his blood in his temples and the rasping of his breath seemed to echo inside the helmet, blotting out most other sounds. He could barely hear Andre answer the newcomer in an anxious, frightened voice. "I can't get the helm off, sir."
"Let me try," the voice answered, coming nearer. "It's me. Balian."
"I can hardly breathe anymore, Bal," Philip gasped.
Firm hands grasped the helmet, and a moment later the air flooded back into Philip's lungs like a fresh breeze. Balian had twisted the helm so that both the eye slit and breathing holes were in position again. Their eyes met, and Philip could see the concern and question in Balian's eyes.
"I'm fine — if I could just get this damned thing off!" Philip assured his friend.
Balian and he had just spent the last three years earning their spurs together. Yesterday, in an extravagant ceremony, they had been knighted by Balian's father, the powerful Lord of Beirut, along with Balian's younger brother Baldwin and five other youths. Today's jousting was part of the three-day celebration, which would culminate in a full-scale melee pitting the barons and knights of Syria against those of Cyprus.
Balian was already seventeen and had long felt ready for the accolade of knighthood. Philip knew that Balian was both wounded and resentful that his father had delayed his knighting so long — and then knighted his fourteen-month-younger brother at the same time. Being so close in age, the brothers had always been rivals, but the intensity of their competition was aggravated by the fact that they were very different in temperament. Baldwin was like water to Balian's fire — and took pleasure in dousing Balian's enthusiasm and pride. Balian's need to prove himself better than Baldwin in front of all the peers of the realm had provoked him into taking stupid risks this morning. Fortunately, he'd gotten away with them and ridden undefeated from the lists.
Under the circumstances, Philip thought, he might have been forgiven for basking in his hard-won glory and gloating a bit instead of coming down into the dusty tent-city to find out what had happened to his friend. After all, in addition to practically every baron and knight of Outremer, there were scores of ladies and maidens in the stands. Balian had the kind of good looks that appealed to women. By the way the maidens had been biting their fingernails at Balian's near falls and cheering his successes, Philip could imagine all too vividly the way Balian would be adulated and adored by blushing young beauties the moment he joined the spectators. Instead, Balian hadn't even taken the time to change out of his sweat-soaked gambeson and dusty surcoat.
"I think I better fetch an armorer, Philip," Balian told Philip after a moment of inspection.
"He'll want to cut it open!" Philip protested with a new kind of panic. Unlike Balian who was heir to the lordship of Beirut, son of one of the richest men in both Syria and Cyprus, Philip was an orphan. His father, a knight from Lombardy, had died during the first siege of Damietta when he was only twelve. A Cypriot, Sir Peter Chappe, had taken Philip under his wing, letting him serve as his page until Philip's skill at reading earned him the patronage of a more powerful lord, Sir Ralph of Tiberias. The latter had been nearing death, however, and Philip had soon found himself without a lord, let alone a fief. Balian's father had rescued him by bestowing a small Cypriot fief upon him and sending him to serve as a squire in his brother's household, where he had met and befriended Balian. Philip had spent all the cash he could raise from his one fief just to outfit himself — and now his expensive helm was in risk of being ruined beyond repair.
"Very probably," Balian agreed calmly, and Philip knew his friend just couldn't understand. Balian's armor had cost twice as much in the first place, and he wouldn't have given a thought to replacing it on a whim. Balian didn't hesitate to wear silk surcoats on the tiltyard either or buy a sword with an enameled pommel or a saddle with ivory inlays.
"Balian! I can't afford a new helmet!" Philip protested in exasperation.
"You can't exactly spend the rest of your life wearing that one either," Balian retorted practically. "You can't drink or eat in it for a start. I'm going to fetch the armorer. Andre?" He turned to his friend's young, inexperienced and frightened squire.
"Yes, my lord?"
"Draw a cold bath for Sir Philip. When we get him out of that thing, he's going to need to cool off. He very likely got a concussion and doesn't even know it yet."
"Yes, my lord."
"I'll be right back, Philip," Balian assured his friend, and ducked under the partially opened tent flap.
Outside Philip's tent, Balian was in a city of canvas. Literally, hundreds of lords and knights had pitched their tents on the plain west of Limassol to take part in this sporting event. Tournaments had been popular in France and Flanders for nearly a century, but for most of that time, the knights and lords of Outremer had been engaged in too much real warfare against the Saracens to seek mock combat. The last decades, however, had been comparatively settled due to squabbling between the heirs of al-Adil. With the Ayyubids fighting among themselves, the Franks had been given a respite from war, and their appetite for sport had grown commensurately.
Although the actual lists were a couple hundred yards away, the dust churned up by the jousting wafted on the wind across the tent city, turning the air a murky beige and the sound of cheering and shouting was only slightly dampened. Clearly, the current joust was exciting the crowd because the shouts and collective groans seemed particularly intense. Balian, however, only glanced in the direction of the lists, knowing that the matches scheduled for this afternoon did not include any of his friends or family. Instead, he tried to decide the best way through the rows of tents to the armorers who had set up shops along the far periphery.
He had only gone a few steps when a new roar of agitation rose from the bleachers. People seemed to be shouting, "Stop! Stop!"
Balian paused to look in the direction of the lists and saw a little man come storming out on foot. It was Sir Amaury Barlais. He was covered with sand, evidently from a tumble, but that was hardly unusual. What was striking was that he was beet red with fury as he cursed and gestured. "I'll kill him! I swear! I'll kill him! He was cheating! It was obvious! If they refuse to see that, they're all cheats and liars!"
Two other knights were running after him, his cousin Sir Grimbert de Bethsan and Sir Gauvain de Cheveché. "Amaury, you might be right that Sir Toringuel was cheating, but it does you no good to accuse the baillie of being in cahoots with him —"
"Why shouldn't I? Damn it! Toringuel is Ibelin's knight. If he was cheating, it was with his knowledge and consent!"
Balian flinched at such an accusation. Aside from being baillie, his uncle was an Ibelin, and he had been raised to believe that all Ibelins had an obligation to live by the very highest standards of chivalry. From the time he was a little boy, it had been beaten into him that as an Ibelin he had to be more honest, more charitable, more loyal, more diligent, more persistent, more courageo us, more compassionate — in short more noble than other men. That he didn't always live up to that ideal was obvious, but he had never expected to hear anyone impute that his uncle fell short of the highest standards. People might not like all of his policies, but Balian had never before heard anyone accuse his uncle of anything dishonorable.
Sir Grimbert made a second attempt to calm Barlais. "You don't know that, Amaury. If you're so sure Sir Toringuel was cheating, then demand an inspection of his weapons, but don't lash out at the judges! That only makes them disinclined to support you!"
"They're all a bunch of bastards!" Barlais insisted, his rage so intense that his veins were pulsing in his temples as he tore off his coif and arming cap. He was in his mid-thirties and his hair was thinning over angular features that made Balian's friend Philip de Novare compare him to a weasel. The latter image was reinforced because he wore his short, brown hair slicked back away from his sharp face. He ducked back into a tent like a rodent going to earth, but as Balian passed by he was still raging, "I'll kill him! I swear, I'll kill him!"
Limassol, Cyprus May 19, 1224
Philip d'Ibelin, baillie of Cyprus for the seven-year-old King Henry I, had built a palace in Limassol. It did not rival his brother's palace in Beirut because the latter was set above the mighty walls of the citadel of Beirut, giving it spectacular views in all directions, but Philip's palace at Limassol was pleasant and impressive in its own way. It sat beside the shore, offering views of the Mediterranean, and contained three large interior courtyards.
One of these enclosed a formal garden with a fountain at the center like the cloisters of a monastery. Here sunlight was angling through the encircling arcade, casting golden arches on the green-and-cream tiles paving the walkway. The columns supporting the arches were polished marble and the capitals were elaborately carved with foliage and beasts. A light breeze off the sea gently swayed the tips of the tall cypress trees at the four corners of the garden, and birds twittered in the oleander bushes.
"I think you can be pleased with the way things have gone so far," Philip d'Ibelin remarked to his elder brother John as they strolled under the arcade. The individual contests were over now, and everyone had returned to their lodgings to rest, bathe and dress for tonight's feast and festivities. Tomorrow there would be the melee and then theater followed by a feast with more singing, dancing and poetry contests.
John d'Ibelin, Lord of Beirut, was 45 years old, two years older than his host. He was tall, like all Ibelins, and being a vigorous man (he would lead his own troop in the melee tomorrow), he had a sleek, almost slender figure despite his age. His brown hair was bleached and his face tanned by too much exposure to the Syrian sun. Although a good-looking man, he was sober and serious by nature, something reflected in the lines on his face. He frowned now, too. "Balian was flirting with every single damsel of the kingdom — and half the ladies too! It was embarrassing!"
"Don't be so hard on him, John," Philip answered with a smile. "I was no different at his age."
"And I was ashamed of you too!" John quipped back, making them both laugh.
"But you shouldn't have been," Philip countered in a gentle voice when the laughter faded. "The bolder maidens all but threw themselves at him, and the shyer ones were breathless just watching him."
"It will go to his head!" John grumbled.
"For a day or two," the younger Ibelin conceded.
John eyed his brother reproachfully, and with a laugh, Philip revised his statement. "All right. For a month or two, maybe even a year or two, but eventually he'll realize it isn't worth much. Don't forget he's been with me these past three years. I've had ample opportunity to watch him mature. Yes, he's a bit full of himself at the moment, but what do you expect after the festival you organized for him, John? Balian enjoys life. If he's happy and having fun, he embraces the whole world. That doesn't mean he can't be serious and determined when he needs to be. He had a terrible time with the crossbow for some reason, but rather than saying it was a 'common' weapon as many another noble youth has done, he put in extra time trying to master it, practicing — literally — until his fingers bled."
John looked hard at his brother. "I want to believe you. He's my heir. I want him to be worthy of our father's name."
"That's a heavy burden, John. Can you say without hesitation that we have lived up to our father's expectations?"
John smiled at that, but it was a sad smile accompanied by a sigh. "His expectations? Certainly. But only because his humility extended to us as well as to himself. 'We can only be what God has made us,' he said again and again. 'Be the best you can be, but do not strive to be that which God has not given you the means to achieve.'" The Lord of Beirut fell silent, remembering his father's words.
Philip gave his brother a moment to reflect before asking gently, "And you think that Balian is in some way able but unwilling to fulfill his role in life?"
John answered with a sigh.
Philip pressed him. "In what way is Balian unworthy of his name? He is bright. Sharp as a whip, actually, even if he doesn't have a scholarly bone in his body. He's courageous almost to a fault. He's a superb horseman and an outstanding swordsman — even if he's less good with a lance and I wouldn't want to trust my life to his archery. He's generous and, for a seventeen-year-old, devout. True, he enjoys his wine, but he doesn't get belligerent when he drinks too much, just mellow and sleepy." Philip fell silent running out of things to say.
"He's too emotional," John answered, looking Philip straight in the eye. "He's ruled by his emotions rather than his reason. He feels before he thinks. That is dangerous."
Philip thought about this a moment and then remarked softly. "He's more like me in that regard too, but emotions aren't bad, John — only acting upon them without reflecting first. He'll learn to do that. Just give him time."
"Hmm," John grunted ambiguously, but then pointed out, "Acting without reflecting is certainly what our niece Alice did when she married Antioch. She would appear to have let her passion run away with her completely. As I understand it, she didn't so much as inform the High Court of Cyprus, much less ask permission. Not to mention she abandoned her children as if they meant no more to her than a pair of old shoes!" Beirut's indignation sharpened his words.
The brothers were in accord on this subject. The Dowager Queen of Cyprus, Alice of Champagne, was their niece. She was the daughter of their late half-sister Queen Isabella of Jerusalem. She had been betrothed to King Hugh of Cyprus when they were both infants, married to him at the age of fifteen, and widowed at the age of 23. Unlike her mother Isabella of Jerusalem, Alice of Champagne had never taken an interest in actually ruling her kingdom. Her husband had commended his kingdom to Philip d'Ibelin on his deathbed, and the High Court of Cyprus had confirmed and legalized their dead king's wish by electing Philip d'Ibelin baillie of Cyprus. Alice had willingly turned over the burdens of government to her Uncle Philip — on the condition she retained the better part of the revenues. The barons and knights of Cyprus had taken oaths to Philip d'Ibelin as their liege "until King Henry came of age."
Alice of Champagne was now 29, however, and she had remarried — without the consent of either her uncles or her barons — a man of her own choosing: Bohemond, Prince Antioch. No one objected to a dowager queen remarrying. John and Philip d'Ibelin were the children of such a union. In the case of Alice of Champagne, however, the High Court was angry and outraged because they mistrusted Antioch.
Philip expressed these fears bluntly. "If Antioch sets foot on this island, I wouldn't give poor Henry a year to live!" Philip had been the young king's surrogate father ever since he assumed the bailliage when Henry was just nine months old. "Antioch wants this island for his own. He wants to see his sons inherit it. If Antioch comes to Cyprus, he will find a way to remove Henry and, bitch that Alice is, she'll probably aid and abet him in it!"
"I do presume you are talking about a different Alice," a female voice surprised the brothers.
They turned sharply to face the speaker. John bowed deeply to his sister-in-law, Alys de Montbéliard, while Philip raised her hand to his lips and assured her, "we were talking of the queen."
"In that case," she agreed with a mischievous smile, "'bitch' is almost too good a word — or rather an insult to female dogs."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Rebels Against Tyranny"
Copyright © 2018 Helena P. Schrader.
Excerpted by permission of Wheatmark.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction and Acknowledgments,
Royal House of Cypress,
House of Jerusalem in the early 13th Century,
House of Ibelin in the 12th Century,
House of Ibelin in the early 13th Century,
Map of Cyprus,
Map of Outremer at the Start of the 13th Century,
Cast of Characters,
Part I: The Seeds of Civil War,
1 A Fateful Fall,
2 Of Alliances and Liaisons,
3 Rival Regents for a Crowned King,
Part II: The Women of Outremer,
4 Death of an Empress,
5 A Messenger from Cyprus,
6 Escape from the Harem,
8 The Island of Calypso,
9 Return to Beirut,
10 Aphrodite in Acre,
11 Trial by Combat,
Part III: The Curious Crusade of Frederick Hohenstaufen 1228-1229,
12 The Overlord of Cyprus,
13 The Justice of the Emperor,
14 Teutonic Knights to the Rescue,
15 A False Truce,
16 Winds of Change,
17 Dealing with the Enemy,
18 The Emperor's Peace,
19 The God of Love,
20 Emperor in Jerusalem,
21 Farewell to Acre,
Part IV: The Right of Self-Defense,
22 Cyprus under the New Regime,
23 Of Family, Friends, and Foes,
24 Return of the Ibelins,
25 The Battle of Nicosia,
26 Aftershocks of a Battle,
27 The Invincible Heights,
Also by Helena P. Schrader,