Balian of Ibelin turned to his comrade. ‘Jerome, send for my sergeants, I’ll knight those first. And then Bernard, go find me such of your fellow citizens as you think will make good leaders.’
But there are no nobles left,’ said Eraclius. ‘Only their children. Perhaps twenty of them.’
Balian held Eraclius’ gaze, considering.
‘Jerome,’ he said, ‘I want you to knight every son of a noble old enough to bear arms in battle.’ He paused.
‘And I will knight any commoner that Sir Bernard recommends to me.’
He turned to Bernard. ‘As many as possible, but only men who others will follow.’
Eraclius held out his hand to stay Bernard.
‘My lord Balian,’ he said. ‘I do not think this is wise.’
‘Why not? You just said we have need of knights. How else will we get them? Can the skeletons of Hattin be made to fight again?’
Eraclius crossed himself at these words.
‘No indeed, my lord,’ he said. ‘But neither can knights be conjured out of rough-hewn men.’
Balian’s eyes narrowed and it looked for a moment as if he would strike the archbishop.
Eraclius flinched but maintained his ground. ‘What do you think, Jerome?’
Jerome licked his lips and glanced up at the walls of the city which stood empty and unmanned.
‘I have never heard of such a thing,’ he said. ‘But I have never been in a situation such as this.’
He paused. ‘What I do know is that whoever Balian chooses to knight is a knight. That cannot be gainsaid and cannot be undone.’
Eraclius glared at Jerome and shook his head. ‘So be it,’ he said. ‘If Christ could make fishermen disciples then maybe Balian can make peasants knights.’
He raised his hand for a moment as if about to cross himself at the impiety of his own words then he thought better of it and blessed Balian instead.
Jerome hurried off followed by Bernard.
Balian turned to John and Simon. ‘From your speech you are English?
‘I can make use of another gift from England,’ he said.
He glanced across the square to where one of his sergeants was watching the handing out of weapons. He gestured towards the man and he hurried over.
He was a tall man with a mass of golden hair like the mane of a lion. He would have looked a mighty warrior save for one thing. His right hand had been severed and was now a stump.
Balian drew his sword and touched him on the shoulder.
‘You’re Sir William Esson now,’ he said.
Esson held up his stump. ‘Jerome said you were doing this, lord. But how can I be a knight with only one hand?’
‘One hand is better than none,’ Balian said. ‘And you’ve got a sharp mind and a tongue. A tongue which speaks good Arabic.’
‘I want you to get the treasure which Henry of England gave to the city as penance for his slaying of Archbishop Becket. If the priests are reluctant to let it go don’t hesitate to show them your swords.’
‘Once night has fallen take the treasure and go to the Saracen lines. Buy as many weapons as you can from them. You’ll find plenty willing to sell if the price is right. Don’t stint. We need weapons not treasure.’
‘Gladly, lord, but I am limited with one hand.’
‘Take this man with you, Simon Ferrier. He’s English so I’m sure his King would approve of his actions. He’ll carry the treasure for you.’
‘Yes, my lord.’
Balian watched Esson and Simon disappear from the citadel before gesturing John to come closer.
He examined him for a while in silence. ‘Tell me your name,’ he said at last, ‘and of your violent deed.’
‘I am called John Ferrier, lord.’ He looked at the ground. ‘Our priest, Father William, taught me my letters; I was grateful to him. Then I met his sister and started to court her.’ He paused, struggling to voice the words which clawed at his throat but would not come out.
Finally he muttered, ‘I found out William was sleeping with her. I became mad with fury and attacked him.’ He fell silent.
Balian held John’s gaze in his. There was no censure in his eyes. ‘And what did you do to this priest?’ he asked.
‘I smashed his face and broke some ribs and his arm.
Balian whistled. ‘That must have been some fury.’ He straightened up and spoke sternly. ‘Priests should not lay with their sisters. I for one deem your fury to be a rightful one.’
John blinked. Nobody had ever said this.
Balian turned towards Eraclius. ‘Be wary of Sir John, my dear Archbishop. He has no love for priests who break their vows and sleep with women.’
‘Outcasts’ is the first novel in my Crusades series. It is available world-wide from all ebook retailers.
- Outcasts: The Knighting of the Commoners #SampleSunday #HistNov (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- Part 10 of ‘Outcasts’. #SampleSunday #HistNov (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- Part 9 of my new Crusades novel. #SampleSunday #HistNov (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)