It was a four-day journey by horse litter from wherever they had been to Corycos. Nor would the Lusignans, who had never been there, have known where they were if their escort had not been intent on informing them.
“Corycos?” Burgundia asked. “Where’s that, Mama? I’ve never heard of it.”
“Cilicia,” Eschiva answered. She was not feeling well. Sitting upright all day in the horse litter left her dizzy and lightheaded to the point of nausea. She tried to swallow it down and did not want her daughters to notice. Fortunately, there was so much commotion outside the horse litter that even Burgundia did not seem aware of her mother’s state.
“All these people,” the eleven-year-old exclaimed excitedly. “They’re cheering and waving. You don’t think it’s because of us, do you?”
Eschiva forced herself to open her eyes and pull back the curtains to peek outside. Burgundia was right. The streets appeared to be lined with cheering crowds! Eschiva couldn’t remember anything like it since King Baldwin’s coronation—and to top it all off, trumpets were blowing.
Eschiva again risked a look out of the curtains. The people on the side of the road were throwing their hats in the air or waving them over their heads. The little cavalcade came to a halt, and Eschiva’s view was blocked by a big chestnut horse. The horse fretted, and the rider, in splendid armor and velvet cloak, flung himself to the ground. “I think we are about to be greeted by someone important,” Eschiva told her children, pulling back into the horse litter and letting the curtains drop into place so they could prepare themselves. “Aimery! Stop picking your nose and try to look like a young nobleman! Helvis, sit up straighter!”
From beyond the curtains a voice intoned, “Madame de Lusignan, welcome to Armenia. We assure you of the most gracious hospitality our humble land can provide until your husband arrives to escort you home.”
Eschiva appreciated that the man had not simply flung back the curtains as he might have done: this was a civilized man.
Taking a deep breath to collect and steady herself, she pulled back the curtains to smile out at the speaker. “Thank you, my lord, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you!” What else was she supposed to say? The world seemed to be spinning around her again. Everything was happening so fast.
Something moved behind the splendidly dressed man in the velvet cloak, but Eschiva had to close her eyes against the dizziness. She heard Burgundia explaining apologetically in an earnest child’s voice, “Forgive her, my lord. My Mama is not well.”
“I’m fine,” Eschiva protested weakly. “I’m just—”
“Hush.” The voice was deep and close, and so familiar that Eschiva caught her breath in disbelief. It was a voice from her childhood, the voice of comfort in all her early nightmares. Even when the Saracens sacked Ibelin, he had ridden to the rescue. His hand was on her shoulder—dry and wiry but warm and reassuring. Eschiva’s eyes flickered open to be absolutely certain this was no hallucination. “Uncle Balian?”
“Yes, ’chiva, I’m here. Don’t worry. You’re safe with my lord of Armenia, and now that we have seen you safely in our hands, we’ll send word to Aimery. You’re almost home.” He squeezed her shoulder, and Eschiva sank back against the seat of the horse litter with tears of relief running down her face.
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