Using only the light coming through the curtain from the room beyond, Rob helped Balian out of his clothes and into one of the beds, assuring him that there was both water and wine on the little fold-down table beside the canvas bed and that he would be within hearing just beyond the curtain.
“My brother Hugh says you were the one who went to the King. I owe you my life.”
Rob shifted from one foot to the other. “I—well—I mean, you know I couldn’t go to the King myself. When Lady Bella learned from Sir Philip de Novare that you and Baldwin were being held hostage, she sent word to me that I should go to Lady Eschiva de Montbéliard. She’s the King’s cousin, see, and Bella thought she would be able to get an audience.”
“You went to Lady Eschiva?” Balian asked amazed. “What did she say?”
“She took a fishing boat that very night and sailed to Limassol. By the time I arrived, the Master of the Hospital had already taken you under his protection, so I rode to Nicosia with the good news.”
“She took a fishing boat?” Balian asked in approving wonder. “Where on earth did she find a fishing boat?”
“Her manor at Paradhisi is on the shore and there was a Greek fisherman in her household,” Rob explained.
“Lady Eschiva is full of surprises!” Balian commented in obvious approval. He felt his interest in her growing again. Bella had tried to warn him off, saying he was playing with her emotions and that it was unfair and unkind. Yet, he wasn’t playing. He was genuinely attracted to her. “How did she look?”
“What do you mean? It was dark and I—you know me, sir. I don’t pay that much attention to feminine dress and—”
Balian laughed at his discomfort and then reached out to stop him from being offended. “What I meant was: did she look happy in her new life as Madam de Montaigu?”
Rob shrugged uncomfortably again. “I don’t know, but why was she with her Greek servants at the shore rather than in the main house?”
Balian nodded, smiling slightly. “You see, you are more perceptive than you pretend. I do owe you my life, Rob—and apparently Bella, and Lady Eschiva, and the King, and the Master of the Hospital…. That’s a lot of people to be indebted to—not to mention the Lord of Karpas and my father. I don’t think I’m ever going to get out of debt.”
“You know you don’t owe me anything, sir. I’m just so glad I could find a way to help, even if it was only being a messenger.”
“I owe you my life, Rob, and I won’t forget it. Now, I’ll try to sleep.”
“Master d’Auber says you can put a pinch of this—but only a pinch—in wine to help you sleep if you need it.” Rob showed him a little wooden bowl with a powder of some sort in it.
Balian nodded with a sense of unfathomable relief, not at the thought of taking a painkiller but the knowledge that he was indeed back among people who wanted to ease his pain and assure his recovery.
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