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.“They are at a camp at Pelekanon.Your army will join them shortly.Once Count Raymond’s army crosses we can commence matters against the Turk.”Godfrey and Baldwin arrived soon afterwards and watched as Bohemond solemnly swore his Oath of Allegiance to Alexius, thus becoming the fourth of the Crusader leaders to do so.Bohemond then rose from his kneeling position and beamed widely.Casca distrusted the man and wondered what he had in mind.He wasn’t kept waiting long.“Lord, my army is well armed and disciplined, and is at this moment a few days’ march away under my nephew Tancred.I have taken great efforts to ensure that my men are the best that can be brought from my homeland.They will follow my commands to the letter, and represent the best you could possibly have fighting under your banner.” He looked at the impassive figures of Godfrey and Baldwin.If either took offense at the words once they had been translated into Frankish, they showed no sign.He continued.“Therefore, Lord, I would be honored if you would bestow upon me a position to enable me to lead your forces of reconquest into the lands of the Turk.Shall we say Grand Domestic of the East?”Casca clenched his hands, and looked at Alexius.The sneaky swine was trying to maneuver himself into a command that would put him in charge of the entire imperial army in Asia, Greeks and non-Greeks alike.Casca pleaded with Alexius silently not to let Bohemond have that.Alexius caught Casca’s look, and stroked his beard.“I shall certainly consider such a request, but I’m sure you will appreciate the delicacy of the situation between all the noble leaders of this Crusade, and I have yet to receive Count Raymond who will shortly arrive.Besides, the post of Grand Domestic is, as no doubt you are aware, a very special post in my Empire and I could only grant it to someone who shows great valor and loyalty.Should you demonstrate this to my officers in the field, I shall certainly give it my fullest attention.”Bohemond bowed once.“And your officers would include Stokeham here?”“Indeed, amongst others.I trust this is satisfactory?”Bohemond looked long and hard at Casca once more.“If you trust his judgment, then I have no objection.”Casca smiled thinly at the Norman.* * *Compared to the distrust and antagonism he felt towards Bohemond, the elderly Count Raymond of Toulouse was a breath of fresh air.White-haired, and sporting lined features, he carried with him an air of authority and correctness that spoke of decades of being used to giving commands and having them obeyed.Casca immediately took to the elderly Count and the two spent a few evenings in the house that had been assigned to Raymond outside the walls talking of Provence, the people there, the land, the history and Raymond’s hopes for the future.He had decided to remain in the Holy Land, but also believed he was to take command of the entire venture, since he saw himself as the senior ranked noble.His army though was less honorable and both received news the morning Raymond was to go to see Alexius that after it had begun to rampage through the lands of the Empire, the imperial forces had cornered them and inflicted a severe defeat on them, and had taken the baggage and supplies.Raymond’s army was being herded into a small area and would be escorted under arms towards Constantinople.Raymond was not pleased and confronted Casca.“Is this how you greet guests and visitors?”“Sir, as you heard from the report, your men attacked defenseless villages and towns.What else was there to do but to bring them under heel to prevent the deaths of more innocents?”Raymond slapped the report against his thigh in irritation.“This is not what we came here for, General! I must speak of this to the Emperor.”Casca nodded.“Then let’s go.I know he’s eager to see you.”They arrived at the palace and were quickly shown not to the throne room, but to another chamber, one with twin rows of stone pillars that supported an immense roof, and contained a long stout oaken table.Casca had been here before.It was a council chamber and Alexius and other emperors in the past had used it for council-of-wars and other important meetings.It seemed now was such a meeting, and Casca was allowed to sit at the end, the furthest from Alexius.Opposite him was Tatikus, the renegade Turk.Apart from these two and the Emperor, the rest were the leaders of the various Crusader armies.“Thank you for coming to this council of war,” Alexius began, both hands on the table, set wide apart [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]