Just as Balian turned to mount up again, Jusef stopped him. “Sir?”
“Yes,” Balian willed himself to be patient, remembering that he had confessed his impatience just hours ago in the church of Agridi.
“When you didn’t come back—I thought—I mean, I wanted you to know—even if I can never be a knight—I wanted to thank you—”
“Look, I’m not dead yet. Let’s—”
“They say the enemy outnumbers us ten to one and holds the high ground—”
“Who have you been listening to? Besides, it doesn’t matter. We can beat them.” Part of Balian was getting edgy, conscious of the army passing and the need to canter to catch up. The farther he had to canter, the more it would tire Ras before the fighting even started. Another part of him recognized that Jusef was very distressed and needed to be heard.
“Sir, I wish I could fight—”
“Don’t even think about it! I could never face your father if something happened to you! Listen to me. A knight is not made in a day. You have a lot to learn, but you will learn. Just give yourself time.”
“But if something should happen to you, sir, I—”
“Don’t worry, I’ve already asked my brother Hugh to take you on.”
“That’s not what I mean, sir! I want to thank you for giving me this chance—even if I’m never a knight. These have been the best days of my whole life. Please! Sir! Please take this!” The squire thrust a small wooden pendent at him with a tiny icon painted on it. “My mother gave this to me,” Jusef admitted. “It will bring you luck.”
“Thank you,” Balian accepted the gift without hesitation. He was going to need all the help he could get in the hours ahead. He bent forward so Jusef could slip the chain over his head.
“Saint George?” Balian asked as he caught a glimpse of the tiny image of a knight on a white horse painted on the wood.
“No, I’m sorry. None in my mother’s family were knights. It’s Saint Minas, the—”
“What an amazing coincidence! That’s the patron saint of Agridi as well. Perhaps it is a good omen, Jusef. Thank you! Here, take this as a remembrance from me.” Balian unsheathed his knife and cut off one of little bronze crosses that decorated the hem of his hauberk. “It’s not worth much, but it is small and light, and easy to keep as a memento. Now, take hold of the off stirrup. I must rejoin my knights.”
Jusef slipped the cross inside his tunic and put his weight on the off stirrup so Balian could remount.
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