It was only after the other barons and knights had departed, the lanterns were blown out, and his sons and squires had all bedded down that Beirut went to check on Balian. He took a single candle and stood for a long time looking down at him. He seemed to be sleeping soundly, one bare foot hanging out and his shoulders exposed. The haircut and shave had done much to make him look less miserable, yet it also highlighted the extent to which his face had sunk upon his bones and the depth and darkness of the circles under his eyes. Only now, with his face relaxed in sleep, did he almost look like himself again.
Master d’Auber had reported to Beirut that he did not think any bones had been fractured. He suggested that with massages, heat treatments, and poultices Balian would be restored to full health and strength. “It’s important not to rush things,” he had warned. “A fall on the tiltyard, for example, could leave him crippled for life.” The physician knew of what he spoke: he himself had been partially crippled by a bad fall while still a youth.
Beirut promised to pass that message to Balian and resolved that under no circumstances would he allow Balian to go into combat against the Saracens. Not yet.
Balian stirred in his sleep, gasped in pain and woke with a start.
Beirut dropped onto his heels and asked urgently. “Are you alright? Can I help in any way?”
“I just need to turn over,” Balian muttered. “Can you give me your hand?”
Beirut put the candle down on the floor beside him, held out his hand and braced himself. Balian grasped it and, grimacing, adjusted his position enough to relax again. “Thank you, Father. Don’t worry about me.”
“I don’t,” Beirut lied. “But I want you to know that I do not trust this ‘peace’ that the Emperor has signed with us. I have learned my lesson. I will never trust him again.”
“No, but we will pretend to for the sake of Jerusalem.”
“Yes. We will.” Beirut smiled to himself in the darkness. He did not deserve his sons, and yet their very existence seemed a sign of God’s grace and favor. As long as his sons were with him, he knew God was too.
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