When the Christians were safely out of hearing, al-Afdal protested hotly, “Ibn Barzan insulted you.”
“By referring to the murder of Shawar!”
“Never be offended by reference to your deeds,” the Sultan advised his son. “To take offense is to suggest regret. I do not regret killing Shawar. He had lost his utility to us, and his murder paved the way for the reunification of Islam. Do you mean to suggest it is not a good thing that the heretical Fatimid caliphate has been destroyed?”
“Of course not!” al-Afdal protested. “But the Christian meant it as an insult.”
“That is his problem.” The Sultan dismissed the matter, adding, “I liked him.”
Farrukh-Shah protested with a look of distaste, “Ibn Barzan lacks subtlety.”
“Subtlety? Perhaps, but diplomacy does not consist of deceit, but rather in the art of finding common ground. In this case it is in both our interests to stop fighting for a bit. A truce is not a peace—and ibn Barzan knows that as well as I do. Ibn Barzan is an honest man, and precisely because he did not try to flatter me or pretend to be my friend, I trust him.”
“You think, then, that the Christians are united behind this boy king?” al-Adil asked skeptically.
“I think they are—because he is the lowest common denominator. It would seem that none of the other barons are man enough to put the boy aside.” It was obvious to his brother, son, and nephew that Salah ad-Din was making a disparaging comparison between his own willingness to set aside Nur ad-Din’s rightful heir and the reluctance of the Christians to depose Baldwin V. “I thought at first that Ramla was such a man—that he would take revenge on Guy de Lusignan for the dishonor of stealing his bride—but you saw ibn Barzan’s reaction. Ramla may hate Lusignan, but he does not have sufficient support among his peers to actually hold on to the throne if he were to set aside this boy and his stepfather Lusignan.”
“Who is there to oppose him?” Farrukh-Shah asked. “Tripoli and Antioch are his friends.”
“Yes,” Salah ad-Din admitted, “but Oultrejourdain is his rival. And then there are the Templars. I’ve heard they now back Guy de Lusignan. If so, that changes the balance of power in Jerusalem. Don’t forget these Christian fanatics have access to enormous resources in the West, and they can deploy as many knights as the entire Kingdom. It is significant that the Hospitaller Master was sent to make peace with us, but the Templar Master was not in the party.”
“You would have been even less willing to receive him!” Farrukh-Shah pointed out.
Salah ad-Din laughed. “Of course—and it would have given me greater pleasure to refuse him. But the fact that he was not sent says a great deal. In the past, both Masters were sent on embassies.”
“I have heard rumors that the new Grand Master hates Tripoli,” Farrukh-Shah insisted.
“Good. Then your spies tell you the same thing that my spies tell me,” Salah ad-Din told his nephew pointedly.
“So this is where the Kingdom starts to crack?” Al-Adil suggested uncertainly.
“Maybe, but ibn Barzan is right: it has not cracked yet. Furthermore, our harvests have been poorer than theirs. We have bread riots; they do not. We have Mosul to contend with; they have only supporters in their rear. We have little to gain by attacking now, and waiting is likely to be more to our advantage than theirs.”
“So you will give them a truce?”
“I think four years should be about right.”
The others nodded in agreement. It would not be such a bad thing, after all, to have time to see to their own affairs.
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