My lord, I overheard two men talking about killing us.”
“Don’t be silly.”
“I swear, my lord.” and without stopping for breath he spilled out the whole story of what he had overheard.
Aimery gazed at him in apparent disbelief, but his brain was working, too. He was beginning to wonder if the Venetian captain were in cahoots with these men, or if they were simply facing anti-Latin hatred. But there had been no hostility to Latins two years ago, Aimery argued with himself. The Greeks, high and low, had welcomed Richard of England. The nobles had flooded into Limassol to offer homage, and the common people had lined the roads to offer him bread and salt. Isaac had been defeated as much by the hatred of his subjects as by the prowess of the Lionheart.
The captain had blamed the Templars, Aimery recalled, but what had his brother been doing since? He looked up at John. “We’re not going to get much sleep in this shit-hole anyway. Let’s take the horses and find ourselves a place to camp.”
John let out a sigh of relief and agreed with alacrity, “Yes, my lord!”
“No need to pay the landlord for his hospitality,” Aimery decided next, getting to his feet. “Let’s slip out as silently as possible. You go down first, like you’re going to the latrines, and saddle up. I’ll follow in a few minutes with our gear.”
“Yes, my lord! Come on, Barry!” John patted his thigh and the dog, who had been lying with his head on his paws, jumped up with wagging tail to follow him.
In the stables, John first got Lord Aimery’s palfrey tacked up and then Centurion, while Barry kept watch at the door warily. It seemed a long time before Lord Aimery loomed in the stable door, but he had their gear, and together they tied it on the packhorse. From the tavern came the sound of men grumbling and calling for their bills. “Closing time!” John whispered to Lord Aimery.
“They’ll all be coming out, then,” Lord Aimery drew the correct conclusion. “Hurry.”
John grabbed the lead of the packhorse and took Centurion by the bridle, while Lord Aimery took charge of his two horses. They made it out into the courtyard, but before they had a chance to mount, men spilled from the tavern into the yard.
“Mount!” Lord Aimery hissed at John, but before he could even get his foot in the stirrup one of the Greeks lunged at John, drawing a knife as he did so.
John saw the steel blade in the darkness and tried to jump aside, only to collide with the packhorse. He felt the blade hit his side and then slide over the rings of his hauberk. The man drew his arm back for a second strike as, with the clatter of hooves, Lord Aimery spurred forward, his sword raised. Most of the crowd fled to the safety of the building, but the attacker grabbed John by the throat of his hauberk with his left hand and swung about, using John as his shield against Lord Aimery’s sword. John felt him draw back his right hand for a second stab. In his mind he registered that at this range his chain mail wouldn’t save him.
Suddenly his assailant was screaming in pain and terror as Barry sank his fangs deep into the man’s buttocks and dragged him away from John. Immediately Lord Aimery spurred past a dazed John and, leaning down from his saddle, swung his sword in a blow strong enough to nearly decapitate the would-be murderer.
As the man collapsed in a spume of his own blood, Lord Aimery turned his horse again, shouting to his still-dazed squire: “Mount!”
John turned, grabbed the near stirrup, and pulled himself up into the saddle. Lord Aimery spurred toward the exit to the stable yard with his destrier on the lead. Centurion leapt forward without awaiting any human instructions, and the packhorse followed out of habit. Barry brought up the rear at a lope, his tail in the air and his ears up, as if he were enjoying himself for the first time since he’d acquired a new master.
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