The sound of the door opening startled her so much that she blotted the page and turned sharply to see who dared enter without knocking.
It was Cecilia, and she looked flushed and breathless. Her barbette was askew. “My lady! My lady!” She stammered. “This is for you!” From the folds of her skirts, she extracted a folded piece of paper and held it out to Eschiva.
Eschiva’s heart missed a beat. Was Balian on Cyprus already? Who else would want to send her a message through her waiting-woman? She took the square of paper. It was unsealed. But perhaps he could not risk an Ibelin seal? Particularly not on a message to her. She unfolded the paper in a rush, only to stare at writing that was ragged and poorly formed. It was not Balian’s hand, of that she was sure, and her heart sank a little. Then she forced herself to read.
“Warn Novare not to go home. They will kill him. HR”
That was all. She frowned, not understanding any of it. Where was Novare, if not at home? And who was HR? Then she started. Henricus Rex! The message was from King Henry. “Who gave you this?” She turned on Cecilia.
“That good-looking squire that was with King Henry on the ship,” Cecilia admitted.
Johnny! “How did he find you? Did he say anything when he gave you this?”
“He pounced on me when I returned from my errands.” Cecilia had gone into town to buy more quills for Eschiva. “He must have been waiting by the door. He thrust that into my hand and said it was ‘very urgent.’ He said something about Sir Philip being arrested and put in the pillory, but then about him being released, but that it was all a trick. Then he ran away, saying he was in trouble already and was sure to get a flogging.” Cecilia’s eyes were wide with fear and she spoke in a frightened whisper.
“Get me my veils and riding gloves. Then go to the stables and have Zach saddle Mamush at once.”
“Surely you aren’t going out into the city, Madame! The people are all riled up about something. There were loud crowds collected in front of the royal palace shouting things. I don’t know what it was about, but they were angry.”
“Sir Philip of Novare is in danger, and the King himself has asked that I get word to him.”
“But, Madame! It’s not safe in the streets—not for a lady.”
“You don’t need to come with me, Cecilia. Just go to the stables and tell Zach to get Mamush ready.” Zacharius was the groom Eschiva had engaged to look after Mamush after arriving in Cyprus. He was from a local family and had been very keen to look after a noblewoman’s horse, clearly envisaging a great future serving in more “exciting” positions when her lord husband finally arrived. Eschiva was certain Zach would be more than happy to escort her—even if he had to borrow one of the archbishop’s cart horses.
“It’s not about me, Madame!” Cecilia insisted. “I’ll go anywhere you do. I just don’t think you should go out there! You can’t tell what will happen when the rabble gets angry like that. In Acre there was a riot about bread prices once, and a friend of my father was thrown out of her litter and almost raped!”
“Celia, I’ll tell you the story later, but I owe Sir Philip my life. Nothing could prevent me from trying to help him now. I only hope I do not come too late.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish