"How much do you remember of your dreams?" Sir Dominic had a seducer's voice. He might be the Devil reading his inmost desires.
Roland shuddered. For his soul's sake, he should not answer.
After a while, Sir Dominic said in a normal tone, as if nothing untoward had happened: "You and Sir Michel have treated me most courteously, even at a cost to yourselves. I owe you a debt of honor."
Curiosity won out over caution. "You owe us nothing," Roland lied politely, hoping with every fiber of his being for a generous gift of gold.
"I disagree. I could not help but overhear earlier that you were seeking a liege lord."
Roland was balanced on the knife-edge of desire and caution. He found himself wanting to trust the Saracen knight, yet ... "My lord de Sens--" he began.
"--is very angry with you." Sir Dominic gave a short laugh. "You would be wasted on de Sens, Sir Roland, were he wise enough to see your worth."
Roland gave an unhappy sigh.
"When this is over, and my ransom paid, I invite you and Sir Michel to come serve my lady Sharibet, and be lords of the House of the Rose."
"A lord?" Roland tried for incredulity as a voice in his head eagerly chanted yes yes yes.
"A rich and powerful lord," Sir Dominic answered. "The House of the Rose seeks more Protectors, and my lady Sharibet is beautiful and generous. You will want for nothing."
A thousand thoughts raced through Roland's mind. Uppermost were his earlier words to Michel: Any liege is better than no liege.
Even a Saracen? Even if it meant he would be apostate for breaking his Crusading oath?
Sixteen bezants and three silver deniers stood between them and utter penury. If de Sens kept his word and paid out shares to a pair of landless knights who had roused his ire.
"That is a very generous offer, Sir Dominic." Roland's hands were trembling as he uncorked the waterskin and took a deep swig of the flat, leathery water. He felt curiously light.
"Will you accept it?"
A deep shiver moved through Roland. He wiped his mouth and stared, wide-eyed, at the dark shape of his prisoner. Could he really do it?
"Y-yes. Yes. I will." He took a deep breath, and felt an inexplicable sense of joy and relief.
Heavy footsteps sounded outside, and the light from Gui de Tancarville's crude papyrus-reed torch leapt over the ruined walls.
"We must speak again, Sir Roland," Sir Dominic said neutrally, but a smile flickered in the corners of his mouth.
"Off you go, Sir Roland. My turn now." said Sir Gui. He spat at Sir Dominic's feet, watching to see if he would flinch. When he didn't, the large knight said, "I say we cut his balls off and send 'em to that Saracen bitch. Getting her paramour back in pieces will make her pay up quick."
"I will remember your courtesy, Sir Gui." Sir Dominic's flat gray stare, like the uncanny attention of a half-submerged crocodile, never wavered from the knight's face.