The Rumour Mill
With a court of illustrious nobility, intrigues and social occasions here and there... Let us share some of the dialy tongue wagging over here as an overview of what is on the mind of the citizens of the Holy City of Acre. Some of these originate from actual scenes from the Logs page, others... well, might not be true but spark scenes as well.
Always A Widow...
The tremendously pious Earl of Buckingham was steadfast in his desire to live and die in the Holy Land -- a goal he accomplished somewhat ignominiously, surviving the bloody Kings' Crusade only to perish of dysentery in peacetime.
He died at the end of September, while expecting with each tide the ship carrying his wife, a lady of mature years and strong Plantagenet connections whom he'd wed by proxy in 1191, in what was for both a second marriage. But by the time her ship arrived in port, she was no longer his wife but his widow.
Everyone who was in Kings' Haven that morning heard the single cry which issued from her small round figure, before a swoon so swift she was sprawled upon the cobblestones before anyone could catch her. She was picked up, gingerly, and taken to St Anne's Abbey to be cared for by the nuns there; and the men of the Earl's household who had had the grim responsibility of conveying the news to her were seen in the Saracen Heads an hour later, much the worse for wine.
That was seven days past; the Dowager Countess of Buckingham has not been seen or heard from since, and the nuns of St Anne's refuse to speak of her.
Among the aristocracy of Acre, and those who follow their doings, some say she has taken the veil. Others opine that she is mortally ill, that she and her lord will soon be united under the earth as they never were in a marriage bed.
No one seems to know what's going to happen to... the Earl's fortune.
A Defence Falling...?
Many subjects of the Kingdom have cause to be grateful to Balian of Ibelin, the veteran baron whose timely arrival forced Saladin to compromise on generous terms of surrender over the Holy City. Some western crusaders may sneer at the man who handed over the holiest keys in Christendom, but it's a fact that he's the realm's most experienced and respected voice in peace and war, who saved commoners and nobility alike from slavery. So it is a cause of mounting concern that this legend of chivalry and prudence has barely been seen in public since the Treaty of Ramla. He was well enough compensated by its terms, getting a new lordship, Caymont, from the very teeth of the Sultan, so his late absence from court affairs is unlikely to be a matter of protest - more, as those who know the Ibelin faction best confirm, of ailing powers and health. Men remember how Count Raymond failed and wasted away after Hattin, and Count Joscellin too, ...will Lord Balian, all too soon, go the same way?
Scenting a Fox
They say Renaud Grenier has been seen sniffing around court without cease of late - hardly a surprise, since he lost his fair fief of Sidon (and his harem!) to Saladin, and even his petty 'palace' at Acre is a more comfortable residence than his remaining estate. That's the the grim fortress of Beaufort - of whose siege any man would have ill-omened memories, let alone its lord. Besides, the old lecher has a pretty young wife to play with over at the Ibelin palace - though surely even the licentious Dowager Queen isn't letting *him* touch her child already...?
King Richard's abandoning his vow and leaving us to the Count and the Sultan - and small wonder, if the stories out of his own country are true. They say that cowardly French King is burning up Normandy with the permission of the Lionheart's own brother, the Count of Mortain - him they used to call John Lackland - who hopes to steal the throne of England for himself! Richard's appointed regents are all overthrown, there's always trouble in Aquitaine (cousins of our Lusignans, no doubt!), and there are all manner of queer tales about outlaws in the greenwoods.
The Crown Conjugal
It may indeed bode well for peace and unity, but will our new rulers the Queen and the Count *ever* think or talk about anything but enjoying each other's embraces? Many courtiers saw Queen Isabella and Henry of Champagne alike snubbing the Seneschal, who was only trying to raise affairs of state as a good servant ought. And over the banquet, there was more pawing than speech from the royal lovebirds, and none of that speech concerned statecraft!
Clouds over Caymont
The Queen Dowager Maria Comnena is also, by marriage, Lady of Ramla and Caymont, and perhaps that accounts for the bitterness she was making quite clear in most of her exchanges at the late assemblage and banquet. For her lord husband, Balian of Ibelin, returned from campaigning alongside King Richard already a sinking man, not from any physical wound, but some nameless malaise; and it has only deepened over the passing months. Many a leech and doctor of several disciplines and creeds has opined Balian will not recover...and surely, with her strong defender Queen Maria loses her last hope of recapturing her dower-fief, the rich city of Nablus...
Like An Old Married Couple
That fiery little Courtenay, the so-called Countess, was laying into Geoffrey of Lusignan in public, not for the first time! There's a story abroad that the Crown may take advantage of Geoffrey's unconsummated marriage to a minor, and force him to wed the Courtenay heiress instead, just for the fun of watching the sparks ensue...
One of those so called warrior monks - that Hospitaller with only one ear or the like - was spotted openingly cavorting with some particularly ravishing dockside harlot! Some men admit you couldn't much blame him - from a certain angle, the doxy looked as fine as any lady of the court...
The Temple Aloof
Though their Grand Master superintended King Richard's send-off, the Order of the Temple was conspicuously absent from the banquet that succeeded it, feasting apart at their own Keep. The Temple's ways are often secretive and queer, but even so, this is particularly curious. Could there be any merit in those doubts some have about their loyalty to Crown, Church, and Holy See? Even about their doctrinal purity?
The Royal Army At Large
The Constable and Marshal did not attend the feasting, and have not yet returned from a comprehensive 'parade' of the Kingdom's borders, as newly established by the Treaty of Ramla.After all, these are the first days where the Treaty is not backed by English arms, so Count Amalric and Sir Walter cannot be too careful.
The Little Libertine
One courtier who had particular reason to enjoy the feast was Scarlet, the Count's new dwarf...who won the favour of a dance with a fair maiden somewhat his superior in height and beauty, if not in wit and charm...The elegance of the measure they trod was admired, uproariously, by... well, practically the whole court.
Treats for the Vixen
Lord Renaud Grenier - of Beaufort Castle and, by his own report, of Sidon - seemed much taken with his little Ibelin mate, in her way as foxy looking as he. Towards the end of the feast he bestowed upon her some very ostentatious gifts indeed, of emeraldine Saracen silk and gold jewellery studded with rubies. Queen Maria snorted that he would spoil his vixen's character; Sir Ralph the Seneschal and Archbishop Joscius looked more concerned about where the old reprobate had found these treasures, but neither chose to comment.
Death of a Loyal Friend
A Turkish born but, he assures passers by, Christian-inculcated pedlar has been weeping about the souks and bazaars for his beloved donkey, and sole source of livelihood; slain by command of that cruel Grecian sorceress, Maria Comnena, merely for offering her, so says the Turk, a natural token of his affection.
Just A Place In The Country
The Montgisards didn't come out of the war so badly. The one battle on their land was a great victory for Baldwin IV -- which means they still *have* land, a blessing for which many a noble of Outremer now prays in vain!
Their townhouse in Acre, though, built in Old Lord Geoffrey's time (not the father of the present Lord Geoffrey, the grandfather), that went the way of all earthly things. Burned to a shell in '89, and then pillaged for stone by enterprising neighbours. And now it seems people are camping in the ruins!
A Maiden Without Conscience?
Word from the far away lands of Petra have reached our city of Acre, with news of honest Christians being robbed of their property under the thin veil of false accusations. And to what purpose? To pay the young Countess's debts. The Countess, still young and inexperienced with her hardly 16 years of age must have blundered here and there in the past with her county's finances. But to take refuge in robbery in the name of justice? What justice gives you the right to disown honest traders? Maybe Beatrice de Courtenay isn't as innocent as she claims. And as she should be.
Two of the most important beings in Acre have not been seen at all abroad of late, and rumours grow sober and menacing! A Constable should be brave and sedulous, but has not Count Amalric gone too far in his constant patrolling? What is this wild talk of him last being seen galloping with only a small retinue into a howling sandstorm? The Marshal Sir Walter Durus has returned to his duties firmly enough...but he is refusing to divulge any news of his superior.
And there is worse - what of the Queen of Jerusalem herself...? Isabella was once known as a frivolous and flighty maiden princess, and she's known to have greeted her latest consort with much apparent pleasance and joy, but can it be merely such diversions that keep her so far distant from the public eye? Perhaps the little Princess Maria of Montferrat is ailing. Or worse still, the fair young Queen...
Less Talking, More Thumping
Whatever wild and disturbing stories are licking their vile way about the streets, the Count of Champagne appears determined to ignore them and to make merry. Ever more persistent from his suite of fierce young western nobleman comes word that he intends a tourney to be cried as soon as may be! Whatever else is afoot, it seems he will have the puissance of Outremer's chivalry put to the test with panoply and ardour. And yes - Count Henry means to joust himself.
Our English Friends
Genoese traders out of Tunis say the English fleet bound homewards appears now to be taking orders not from King Richard, but Hubert Walter, Bishop of Salisbury. Yet the fleet seems unruffled by their king's apparent disappearance. The Lion-Heart must have decided willingly to follow some separate and secret route. Let's hope he finds it easier getting to London than he did Jerusalem...
A Hospitaller's Torment
Some rumour is making its way from the bazaar to the Royal Quarter - whispered words of a Hospitaller knight having paid the Saracen's Heads a visit, a local inn of more than questionable repute. After finishing a cup of wine in the Common Room downstairs he allegedly ascended those stairs leading to the rooms upstairs. Now those rooms mostly serve only one purpose, to enjoy the company of a willing lady in need of coin. However, after little over half an hour the Hospitaller was seen storming downstairs in a strange haste, almost falling as he slipped, and left the place with a look of distress on his scarred face. Other sources claim he cursed aloud as soon as he had arrived outside. Now the speculations run high as to what has come to pass inside that chamber. Has the knight sworn to celibacy had a vision of the Lord that has helped him resist temptation, after he had been in danger of forgetting his vows? Or was he just simply very quick about his business and devastated as he realized what he had done?
All Greek To Us
There was something very peculiar about the Greek 'knight' who fell so quickly among the last eight champions - and is said by some to have wounded Geoffrey de Lusignan by treachery. Men are reluctant to speak about this too loudly, though, as it's clear the Marshal, Sir Walter Durus is eager to stop word getting around and ready to exercise rough justice on this matter. Nevertheless...the Greek *did* undeniably imply his name was...Comnenus. The dynasty that until 1185, seven years back, ruled Byzantium - and of whom the Queen Dowager is an offshoot. Some of the guards who dragged the Greek off hinted late at night, and deep in wine, that the foreigner had claimed before passing out altogether that he should be Emperor by rights. But whoever he is, the Angelus clan are Emperors now, Queen MARIA isn't elaborating on this mystery, and the foreigner is apparently being treated for his wounds in total seclusion.
Many wise men are arguing - albeit in very lowered voices - that Count HENRY's handling of the tourney upon which he had insisted has gone seriously awry. Four Christian knights, potential shields to the realm all, are laid down, perhaps slain - among them at least one great lord, a likely heir to Antioch - and for what gain? A fleeting victory, tainted, some insist in whispers, by court sycophancy. A Templar knight who faced Count Henry early in the day fell with suspicious ease - on his Grand Master's command? And seriously, did anyone actually see the little Greekling even touch Geoffrey de Lusignan's leg, which apparently caused him to retire?
Besides, much ill will is building up. The Church is angered, as it ever is when Saints' Days are profaned by especially sanguinary jousts. The Germans, never pleased with Henry and ISABELLA's court, are at boiling point about their injured countryman, as are the Flemings - more disastrously, as they are damously adept merchants, and former steadfast allies to Champagne. What will Antioch think if her princeling's hurt proves serious? And what on earth will the Emperor of the Greeks make of that odd development with the 'cataphract'...?
Clarity and Opacity
One definite piece of good news is that Queen ISABELLA clearly *had* just been disporting herself in private, with her bower, her ladies, her babe and her Count, all this time - she emerged onto the dais looking as blooming as she has ever done. While her husband's popularity takes a definite dip after Bloody Zachary's Day, hers has never been higher.
On the other hand, the Constable of the Realm has still not been seen. Some bold prognosticators are even placing bets as to who might replace him if he is lost to some disaster...a step up for lowborn Sir Walter Durus? A Saint-Omer, like Hugh of Galilee? One Lusignan to another? Or might the office be merged into the crown for now and bestowed on the Queen's consort...
Officially, though, Count Amalric of Jaffa is still on patrol. Sedulous patrol.
A Good Knight Destroyed
All four wounded champions from the tourney are undergoing the most diligent care from the royal physicians and surgeons, and have been lodged in the palace; Bohemund, the son of Antioch, in a splendid apartment worthy of his rank, the German and the Fleming together in a chamber more modest but nonetheless provided with every comfort, the Greek none can say exactly where.
Nonetheless, the first grim word has emerged - Sir Volker von Wiesengrund departed this life shortly before the noon of 7th November, having been given extreme unction, though his state scarcely allowed for confession. He perished of wounds consonant with no lance, but instead the crushing of even his strong frame beneath a stallion berserk with pain.
Few saw for sure what happened at that atteint, but the Constable of Tripoli Odo de Saint-Omer, who was just leaving the lists, has attested that lord Bohemund dishonourably and deliberately, in the frustration of the third pass, struck the mount rather than the rider. The Count of Tripoli, Odo's master, is Bohemund's elder brother. Surely Tripoli's loyal servant would not slander so close a kinsman of his lord, runs the argument at court? And so the blame for Sir Volker's passing must adhereentirely to Bohemund, and not to Count Henry...
A tiny aftertaste
After his outrageous behaviour towards the noble Queen Dowager herself there has been a dwarf-shaped gap between the elbows and hips at court, and none of the usual exclamations in his foreign accent has been overheard through the hallways of the Royal Palace after the guard dragged him away from the stands at the tourney. Is he residing in the dungeons? Rather unlikely, for there would be no fitting chains to bind him.
Some hungry peasants claim, that a donation of several cauldrons full of tasty stew was handed out at the waterfront to feed the poor. The dish is claimed to have had a quite curious aftertaste, but of course that could be because the wealthy benefactor used spices they usually can't afford.
For now the dwarf stays more or less sorely missed after all.
A Fragrant Demand
Some pay good coins for the things, others don't need anymore!
Word is, Count Geoffrey de Lusignan's servants hand out a bread for every bucket of dung brought to his house at St. Georges place. He goes even as far as paying a silver for every cart of fishguts!
What he does with all this fragrant goods? Nobody knows! His gardens surely aren't that bad in need of fertilizer. But nobles are often quite nutty, so don't ask, just hurry to bring the stuff over.
Generosity and charity are sometimes found in the strangest of places, as was proven once again on the late morning of the 8th November in the year of our Lord 1192, at St. George's Place, before the house of noone less than Geoffrey de Lusignan. Although some claim they were made to wait many hours before the house of the Count with their smelly gifts. There are even a few who claim they have spotted the Lusignan as he peered out of one of the upper windows, looking less than pleased, his brows furrowed in indignation. In the end however a servant left the house, to return half an hour later with two Templar knights accompanying a cart with fresh loaves of bread. The bread was distributed then, under the condition that the 'fertilizer' would be brought directly to ... where it would be needed. Just not left there. People with carts of fish intestines were luckily few. They received bread like the rest, this part of the rumour obviously being a lie.
And as tempers seemed to cool down again to a cheerful calm, the Count of Ascalon himself appeared at the doors, with the most jovial of smiles and allegedly saying the following: "Good people of Acre. I dare not rob you of your precious dung as I know you need it for fertilizing your own gardens. But know this: I give you bread for free, for the sake of Christianity. There are vile people who do not hesitate to rob good Christians of their possessions. I for my part will rather let you eat of my bread. Praise me you may, and the charity of the Lusignans." And with these words said, he returned to the insides of his house, looking very pleased with himself. It remains unclear however, under what conditions he was able to get hold of the Templar knights' bread, which must have been sorely missed during their next meal. It surely must have cost him some coin. Or a favour, to be redeemed in the future.
A Lusignan's Salvation
What's the usual source of sudden generosity? More often than not a bad conscience!
The Lusignans haven't covered themselves in glory over the last few days, but this time they must have sinned even more severely than before. Let's hope Count Geoffrey's alms are enough to save his poor soul.
And still - why for heaven's sake did he summon fishguts before giving away his donations?
More tidings is abroad of the convalescents at the palace...this time concerning the most exhalted of their number, Bohemund le Maisne de Poitiers et Hauteville, of Antioch.
Though according to Odo de Saint-Omer Bohemund brought his disastrous state upon himself by jousting foully, through the mysteries of the Almighty he seemed at first to have escaped but lightly. His longlimbs were unfractured, sorely bruised but no worse. Why then was he screaming like a lost soul?
Count HENRY's physician was quick to find the answer, though it has only just been admitted inpublic. A shard of the late Sir Volker's lance had entered the lord Bohemund's left eye. The surgeon who removed shard and eye alike suggested that the Norman prince should thank God - had the fragment struck with keener impact it would surely have bored into Bohemund's brainpan and slain him.
An early visitor at the Antiochene's bedside was the Marshal, Sir Walter Durus, who lost his own eye in circumstances of more consequence, at the Horns of Hattin. Sir Walter commiserated with the twenty-year old princeling on his loss, and welcomed him to the 'brotherhood of the Cyclopes.' The Antiochene's rejoinder was, a bachelor of the palace who witnessed the exchange avouches, grossly profane.
There's now clear word that the Flemish champion and near-victor, Sir Chlodric de Flobecq, did indeed survive his brush with Count HENRY's lance, and may indeed be ready, and encouraged, to leave his convalescent quarters in the Royal Palace soon enough. They say that recovery was hastened by the heartening visit of Lady OPHELIA d'Avesnes, of Queen ISABELLA's own suite...
But the Fleming's rise will not apparently be without cost. A court physician told a courtesan that this Lion of Flanders is left too lame in one leg to guide his stirrup, and is unlikely to go riding, let alone do battle in future.
Lion at Sea
Greek and Venetian sailors in the docks are both hawking a tale of a magnificent war galley sighted in the Ionian Isles, far off tributaries of Byzantium, and legendary places; Corcyra, Cephallonia and Ithaca, kingdom of Ulysses. The vessel flies sometimes Venetian colours, sometimes those of the Temple - both putting her beyond the jurisdiction of the Imperial Navy - but one customs officer swears she was briefly sighted flying the leopards of England, possibly to intimidate locals into cheaper revictualling. So THAT's where he is now...by his roar shall ye know him...
A Tactful Trend
The kingdom's nemesis - no, sorry, staunch and well beloved sworn friend now - Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Emir of Damascus, this morn sent six of his most courteously trained Mamelukes to the Count and Queen's court, riding through the fair streets of Acre on white dromedaries, and bearing gifts.
The present appeared to be, simply, a collection of bales of many-coloured silk - but the closer inspection of royal esquires pronounced them to be, unwound and folded, a set of turbans, such as the paynim emirs wear around their hair in peace and their helms in war.
Turbans aren't wholly strange to our longer settled nobles - RENAUD Grenier, the old (in both senses) Lord of Sidon is often seen in one. Queen ISABELLA also appeared delighted with one example, so they say, but the Count wrenched it out of her hand!
Then he hastily put it on himself, declaring that though he'd hate to bind up too tightly the majesty of his Queen's beauteous tresses, he would wear such things often, and with great pleasure. Many courtiers are taking up his example and toying with turbans.
It's hard, though, to imagine the likes of the hardened Marshal Sir Walter, or those immigrant Lusignans following suit...
The Cyclops prince, as the lord Bohemund of Antioch is now called more and more often in whispered but hardly secret derision, has had enough of the Palace's sickbed and the Marshal's mockery. He's left back for Antioch, with his equerry Robert, Lord of Zerdana to attend his - increased - needs. A chantry has been endowed for the repose of his victim Sir Volker's soul, but some say neither Bohemund nor his retainer paid for it - that was instead his elder brother, the pious Raymond, by way of his Tripolitan Constable, Odo de Saint-Omer.
Activity at St. George's Place
Geoffrey de Lusignan was seen before his house this morning, inspecting the gardens that seem completely restored after the recent uproar. Although this day seemed to bring more interesting developments for sure. The first visitor was Scarlet the Dwarf, atop a pony and in the company of a distressed-looking young guard. Little is known about what was spoken between the Lusignan and the Dwarf, as they soon retired into his house. It would be an hour later that Scarlet was seen again, with rosy cheeks, to head back to the Palace again.
The next visitor was even more curious: Raimon, the young good-looking minstrel was seen entering the house in the company of a Lusignan servant. He stayed for at least another hour, to leave in the best of spirits, and with a small purse. Probably the reward for his performance of a song, a long and very tragic one, that left the Count of Ascalon very impressed, according to one of the servants.
The Lord is Nigh
The season of Advent is underway, and, even amid its precarious state, the realm rejoices. Days will pass in a round of Church services and revels, heralding the birth of Our Lord - and with it Queen Isabella's first Christmas Court!
The Constable's Whereabouts
Eschiva, Countess of Jaffa, has left the city of Acre to rejoin her husband, who has summoned her to his sourthern fief. Why Amalric de Lusignan keeps so long from court is another question - has some coolness arisen betwixt him and the Count of Champagne? - but for now, the darker reports of some unhappy disaster in a sandstorm are entirely quashed, and Lusignan also retains the office of Constable. Even if its functions remain perforce, for now, in the stern hands of Sir Walter Durus.
Now You Sea Him, Now You Don't...
The suspiciously splendid 'Templar' galley has at last been impounded by Byzantine authorities in Corfu. But no nobleman of note - let alone King Richard - was found on board. Rather embarrassing for the Greeks, and mysterious for us. Worrisome too - the Adriatic is fraught with storms in this dark midwinter, with one trader recently dashed to ground beside Ragusa.
Word filters out from the Hospitaller Quarter that there has been a bit of discord lately with the brothers of the Order. Rumour has it that one particular knight has had the nerve to play bawdy songs only few steps away from the small chapel at the back of the Grand Hall of the Hospitaller Keep - yet others claim he was praising the Hospitallers' heroic efforts from the Battle of Arsuf. The matter has now been brought before the Grand Master himself, and now everyone is waiting for his decision - while the knight in question has been confined to his cell for prayer and meditation.