John d'Ibelin is a healthy 14-year-old in a new place. He is curious about his environment and anxious to exploit his growing independence. He also has a secret weapon: Greek.
"Adventures in Disguise"
John realized that just by changing into a different set of clothes he could
also blend in with the native population, he started exploring Nicosia from
the ground up―enjoying the utter freedom of anonymity. When John slipped out of
the khan in his Greek clothes, he left John d’Ibelin behind, and with him the
burden of being the son of the savior of Jerusalem and a paragon of chivalry.
that John transformed himself into something despicable or dishonorable. John
had not grown into a taste for loose women and had no natural proclivity to
alcoholism. Because he was alone on his adventures, he was also not in a
position to be led astray. His only companion was [his dog] Barry, who clung to him as
loyally as a shadow, ever ready to share a meal―or an adventure.
John was looking for firewood. The nights were chilly, and as the frequency of
the rain showers increased, the air turned damp as well. The khan provided each
resident with an allotment of wood, but it was far too little (in Lord Aimery’s
opinion). John wanted to surprise him with a big stack of wood to get them
through the next few days. Having no illusions about how much wood he could
personally carry, he borrowed a donkey and panniers from the khan and headed
toward the outskirts of town where the potters had their kilns. Kilns consume
an enormous amount of firewood, and John reckoned he would either encounter one
of the suppliers or be able to purchase directly from the kiln enough wood for
their modest needs.
the potters occupied land northeast of Nicosia, so it was a bit of a hike, and
John opted to cut through the cattle market and past the slaughterhouse beyond.
It was a good place to find a bone or two for Barry, although he disliked the
number of beggars that prowled around on the lookout for edible refuse. As
always, the beggars clustered near the stinking bins behind the abattoir, and
stray dogs licked the blood seeping out of them. Barry lifted his ears and
wagged his tail in anticipation, but John braced himself for the smell and
tried to hold his breath as he scanned the fresh heaps of bones for the best
pieces. He rapidly chose one, handed it off to Barry, and then took a second
for later, stashing it into a sack he had over his shoulder. Then he turned
away and put a dozen steps’ distance between himself and the bins before
letting out his breath.
found his path was blocked by a young beggar with a bad bruise on the side of
his face. John had seen him here several times over the last couple of months,
but without the bruise. Evidently he’d run into some kind of trouble. Although
he was smaller than John, John guessed they were about the same age. Unlike the
younger children, who worked as a pack and had to surrender all their earnings
to the adults, this youth usually worked alone.
made a collar for the dog,” the beggar announced, holding out a collar made of
woven straw with a crude buckle carved from bone. “You can have it for just
five obols,” he told John.
looked down at Barry. The faithful dog did not need a collar; he followed John
everywhere without it. On the other hand, John’s mother had taught him that it
was better to reward industry than sloth. She always made a point of offering
alms to the working poor, or institutions that cared for those not yet or no
longer able to work, rather than beggars. She had warned him never to give to
children who begged because, she claimed, they only grew up thinking everyone
else owed them their livelihood and became thieves and pickpockets. This boy, however,
was clearly trying to earn his keep.
his hesitation, the boy pulled another object out of his pocket. “Or what about
a comb?” he asked, offering a comb likewise carved from cattle bone. “It will
cost you ten obols.”
too much,” John protested. The money his father had given him was long since
used up (except for the cost of the passage home, still sewn in his boot), and
he had to make do with the allowance that Lord Aimery gave him. “Besides,” he
added, “I have to get firewood, and I don’t know how much it will cost. Maybe
help you with the firewood,” the boy offered. “I know a place you can get it
was going to the potters,” John explained.
charge you double,” the beggar dismissed the idea. “I know a man who resells
wood from damaged structures. There is always some waste he doesn’t care
weighed whether or not to trust the youth, and decided to go ahead. After all,
he had Barry with him and his dagger. “OK.”
beggar smiled, stuffed the collar and comb back in his pockets, and indicated
the way. John fell in beside him with the donkey and Barry trailing. “What’s
your name?” he asked the beggar.
How did you get that bruise?”
bastard Niki tried to take my earnings from me,” Lakis told him bitterly.
of. I had some coins hidden.”
do you hang around the slaughterhouse? I’ll bet you could get work somewhere in
the city,” John suggested, trying to implement his mother’s policy of
Lakis asked back hopefully.
was embarrassed to have to shrug and admit he didn’t know. “Didn’t you learn a
trade?” he asked instead.
Dad was a miller,” Lakis declared, his lip a grim line, and he refused to meet
understood the use of the past tense, and concluded that something terrible had
happened to Lakis’ father. After a few minutes of trudging along in silence,
John decided to reopen the conversation by asking, “May I see the collar again?”
brightened up at once, and pulled it out of his pocket. John examined it
carefully. The straw collar was only crudely woven, uneven, and not very
strong, but the buckle was cleverly made. “You’re good with carving,” John told
Lakis. “Where did you learn?”
I went to live with my uncle (he’s a butcher in Karpasia), I met this man, a
refugee from Jerusalem, who used to collect the bones from behind the butchery
so he could carve them into things for sale. He taught me how to make things,
but my aunt hated him. She always chased him away whenever she saw him and
forbade me from visiting him. She said he was evil, a Musselman.”
he been a slave?” John asked, suspecting this was one of the released captives
trying to start his life over again but tainted by six years in Saracen
Lakis admitted. “He’d learned to carve from the Saracens, only they had ivory
rather than bone, he said. He spoke Arabic, but he assured me he was a good
Christian.” Lakis sounded uncertain.
course he was,” John defended the unknown man. “Many of our―” John had just
been about to say “vassals,” only to realize that would betray that he wasn’t
the Greek servant boy he pretended to be.
What happened? I mean, did you disobey your aunt and see the man anyway?”
until she caught me and had my uncle beat me. It was terrible, and I hated it
there, anyway. I don’t want to be a butcher, and my cousins will inherit
anyway, so what’s the point?”
should apprentice to a carver―someone who makes book covers or the like,” John
decided enthusiastically, thinking of the magnificent carved ivory cover of one
of his mother’s books.
covers?” Lakis asked in a skeptical tone.
suspected he’d given himself away again. “Or combs or whatever,” he added with
a dismissive gesture.
your trade?” Lakis countered.
John shrugged. “I’m just a servant. How far is it to this place with the