“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? Like Ibrahim.
Baldwin suddenly realized he had not seen or heard from Ibrahim in days. The thought distracted him from his sister’s pseudo-love. “Daniel, where is Ibrahim? He hasn’t been with me for days. He hasn’t fallen ill, has he? He didn’t catch the fever, did he?” Even as he spoke, Baldwin was seized with fear that Ibrahim might be dead. Old people, like children, were the most vulnerable to fevers, and Baldwin could distinctly remember Ibrahim at his bedside during the worst stage of his fever, when he had been half mad and had thrashed around in the bed trying to escape his worthless body. Ibrahim had come and calmed him, cooing to him in Arabic.
Daniel looked up in alarm. This was the first day in a month that they had been alone together. It was the first time Daniel had seen the King lucid and completely free of fever. “Didn’t . . .” Daniel started.
“Didn’t what?” Baldwin asked.
“Didn’t the Countess of Jaffa tell you?”
“He’s dead?” Baldwin asked, rearing up from his pillows in alarm, his grief so great that it gave him strength.
Baldwin sank back onto the pillows, exhausted from even this little rush of adrenalin. “Christ be praised for that. But where is he, then? Is he ill?”
“No,” Daniel admitted, “no, the Countess of Jaffa complained that he only got in the way and underfoot—”
Baldwin was sitting bolt upright again. “She didn’t—she couldn’t have said that!” he protested, yet his tone and expression belied his words. It was as if he were hearing these very words again in his memory, as if he had recorded them in his subconscious and they were echoing now in his conscious mind.
Daniel could not meet his eye, because he was ashamed he had not done more to defend Ibrahim at the time. He muttered, “She said he’s too old to serve, and sent him away.”
“What?” Baldwin protested in shame and outrage. “Sent him away? Without my consent! And where? Where is he now?” Baldwin demanded.
“I don’t know, your grace,” Daniel mumbled shamefacedly.
“But how could you just let him go?” Baldwin wanted to know. Reproach was in the King’s words, making Daniel realize that his lord knew how jealous he had been of the love the King showed the old Muslim slave.
“I—I was too concerned about you at the time, your grace,” Daniel defended himself lamely. “We all thought you were about to die.”
“All the more reason to ensure poor Ibrahim was not thrown out! He has no family like you have, Daniel. He has no one in the whole world. No where to go. You must find him. You must go—” Baldwin had been about to order Daniel to go to the hospice of the Hospital—but then he realized Ibrahim would never seek solace in a Christian institution, and there was no mosque or Muslim community in Jerusalem either.
“I think he might have gone to Ibelin,” Daniel ventured. “He said Lord Balian had promised to take him in. . . .”
Baldwin leveled reproachful eyes on Daniel. “Ibelin is fifty miles away! How is poor Ibrahim supposed to get there? He’s at least seventy years old!”
“Daniel, I hold you responsible for Ibrahim’s welfare. You must send a man to Ibelin at once to see if Ibrahim is safely there. If Balian has given him a home, then we will let him be—but in the name of the Virgin Mary, if he is not there, I will not let you rest until we have found him and brought him back to me.”
“Yes, your grace,” Daniel muttered.
“Leave me,” Baldwin ordered, lying back on his pillows and closing his eyes.
“But, your grace—” Daniel protested, knowing that without Ibrahim there was no one but himself to help the King do anything, now that he had lost the use of all his limbs and was almost blind.
“Wait outside the door. I’ll call if I need you,” Baldwin insisted, without opening his eyes or stirring until he heard the door close behind Daniel.
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