The man in the door shoved his lined, chainmail coif off his head and searched the room as his eyes adjusted to the dark.
“Shit!” Balian muttered as he recognized his brother Baldwin. A moment later Baldwin found him.
“You are in trouble up to your eyeballs, Balian!”
“Well, don’t sound so sorry about it!” Balian shot back.
Baldwin just shook his head. “I’m not kidding. This time you’re in shit so deep, I don’t think Hercules could dig you out! Come with me!”
“What is it?” Balian asked frowning but getting to his feet and collecting his cloak.
“I’m not at liberty to talk about it here,” Baldwin answered primly.
That was bad, and Balian knew it. He absently removed a coin and laid it on the table in front of Novare. “Pay my bill, will you?” It was not a question, and Novare noted that it was more than twice what he owed; a subsidy from Balian to his ever-out-of-pocket friend.
Outside in the rain, Baldwin lit into his brother. “I’ve never in my life seen our father so furious. Absolutely white with suppressed rage. I wouldn’t be surprised if he flogged you in front of the entire garrison!”
“What is this about?” Balian asked. They again started together for the citadel that loomed over them, a darker grey against the dull grey of the rainy day.
“Oh, don’t play innocent! This is one thing you can’t pretend you didn’t do!”
“When have I ever pretended not to do something I did?” Balian shot back. “I’m not some stinking coward, who doesn’t own up to what he does!”
“So sorry! I forgot you were a paragon of chivalry! Except for when you’re sniffing around some bitch’s skirts!”
“Don’t be such an ass! As if you didn’t drop your braies whenever you get the chance!”
“Except, I’m not stupid enough to do it with the kind of girl who can point a finger!”
“What do you mean?”
“Does the name Denise strike a bell?”
They had already crossed the bridge over the fosse and reached the barbican. Baldwin called up to the watch to let them in through the postern. The Ibelin brothers slipped sideways through the door held only half-open for them; the men on watch didn’t want to let in too much wind and rain. In the presence of the other men, the brothers suspended their conversation and did not resume it until they were out of hearing.
“Denise?” Balian asked. “You mean the seneschal’s daughter?”
“Yes, that’s the one.”
“What about her?”
Balian didn’t answer.
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