Jerusalem, early October 1183
“Look,” Daniel coaxed. “Doesn’t it make even me look comely?” He held the silver mask over his own face and confronted the King, who was lying in bed, propped upon pillows.
“You’re always comely, Daniel,” Baldwin replied, with a weary smile that only made his deformed face more hideous.
“Your grace, your hands and feet are covered with bandages and clothes; why shouldn’t we cover your face as well? If you don’t like this particular mask, we can commission another one. You can choose whatever visage you like—you could even change it from day to day!” Daniel suggested eagerly.
Baldwin sighed. “The only face I want is the one I had before. . . .”
“We asked the silversmith to try to reproduce it,” Daniel admitted, looking down at the mask in his hand, “but he wasn’t skilled enough. Or maybe he just couldn’t remember what you looked like before. . . .”
“I’ll wear it if you can’t stand the sight of me anymore,” Baldwin offered, “but otherwise, now that I’ve turned over the affairs of state to my brother-in-law, why do I need to hide?”
“It’s not for me,” Daniel hastened to assure him. “It’s just that your sister thought . . .” Daniel looked nervously down at the mask again. The Countess of Jaffa had charged him with making Baldwin wear this. She’d told him she couldn’t bear the sight of her brother’s face another day. Daniel knew she would blame him for failing to convince the King to wear the mask, and Princess Sibylla could be hell on earth when she was displeased.
Baldwin caught his breath at the mention of his sister, and after a moment he repeated slowly and deliberately, “My sister.” It wasn’t a question by the time it came out of his mouth, because now that it was out in the open, it was so obvious. His sister was somehow ever present—yet never really at hand. His mother had repeatedly assured him she was here, but she had never come close enough for him to see her with his dimming eyes.
“My sister wants me to wear the mask,” he concluded.
Daniel nodded vigorously. “She—she says she loves you too much to see you like this.”
“Yes,” Baldwin said stoically. “Too much.”
Sibylla had always been attracted to beauty, he reminded himself, striving for the thousandth time to find an excuse for his sister. But the words rang falsely even in his own head. If she loved him so much, then surely she would see beyond his deformed face to his heart and soul? Surely she would care more about what he was feeling than what she was seeing?
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