She went to it and peered upwards. It climbed inside the thickness of the walls to the roof above, and sunlight was pouring down it. She couldn’t resist. Taking a fistful of skirts in her left hand and putting her other hand on the outer wall, she started up the stairs to the top. As she stepped out onto the roof, the splendor spread out before her took her breath away. She had a view down a steep, forested cliff to a stripe of brilliant green coastline outlined by the white of breaking waves. Beyond, a brilliant and glittering blue sea spread out to infinity. To her left, layers of purple mountains tumbled in echelon down to the sea. To her right, a patchwork of green, yellow, and brownish fields stretched outwards like a broad finger flanked on both sides by water. It was, she thought, the most beautiful sight she had ever seen in her life. No wonder Aimery was in love with the place!
Eschiva walked slowly around the roof of the tower, feasting on the changing panorama as her point of view shifted and the imperfect overcast blowing across the sun changed the patterns of sunlight on the sea. To the north the sea was so close she could make out the lines of breakers as they approached the shore and the whitecaps farther out. To the south, on the other hand, the sea only shimmered silver in the distance. The fertile peninsula to the east was pinched by the water until it became smaller and smaller, but it was richly cultivated. Along the near shore to the north, Eschiva could discern villages dotted along the coast, often with orchards around them. There were small, gentle bays, dotted with bobbing fishing boats and a larger roundship off the coast, heeling over in the wind.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” a male voice said behind her, and it wasn’t Aimery. It was her cousin Henri.
Eschiva started and spun around, flushing violently. She was wearing nothing but her shift, and the wind up here was blowing it about her wildly. Her hair, too, was uncovered and fluttering in the wind. She felt practically naked, and the look in Henri’s eye and his crooked smile suggested he was seeing more than he should.
Strangely, he looked as if he liked what he saw. This was confirmed by his next remark. “Not more beautiful than you, perhaps, but you already belong to someone else. Karpas, on the other hand, might be mine.” He strode to the edge of the parapet and stood looking due east with hungry eyes. “That,” he continued, pointing to the peninsula that gradually narrowed as it disappeared into the distance, “is Karpas.”
He turned, his eyes narrowed on either side of a nose that hung down from his forehead like the nose guard of a helmet. “Karpas is my price, Eschiva. Tell your husband he can have my backing—up to the hilt—if he gives me Karpas. And Kantara.” As he said the latter word, his gaze shifted from the distance to the immediate surroundings, the buildings scattered apparently haphazardly between the rocks and gullies that formed the crest of the sharp, narrow mountain.
Eschiva followed his gaze and then looked back at him. Their eyes met. She sensed that this was a very steep price—rather like Haakon Magnussen expected to be named Admiral. She was certain that Aimery would resist. He would protest. Just as he had about Magnussen. Aimery had never had enough money (or titles) to throw around. He had learned frugality the hard way, and he would find it hard to be generous. But Eschiva also knew that her Uncle Balian was right: they had to give the island away if they were ever going to hold it. She nodded, adding cautiously, “I will tell my lord husband.”
Her cousin nodded without breaking eye contact. “Tell him. And tell him it is non-negotiable. Karpas and Kantara, or I will throw my lot in with Geoffrey.”
Then Brie ducked down into the stairwell again and left her alone with the splendor that had enchanted not only Aimery de Lusignan, but the hardhearted Red Sea Raider as well.
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