He was undisguised, the signature pearl gleaming in his right ear, and Rodrigo knew him by the report of that. The black steward's robe only accentuated his natural composure. He was smiling — not very deferentially, not very much like a steward — as he scanned the assembled court of King Badir. Rodrigo saw him nod at a poet.
Ibn Khairan bowed to the king of Ragosa. When he straightened, his gaze met the chancellor's briefly, moved to Jehane bet Ishak — as the smile returned — and then he appeared to become aware that one of the Jaddite mercenaries was staring at him, and he turned to the man and knew him.
And so did Ser Rodrigo Belmonte, the Captain of Valledo, and the lord Ammar ibn Khairan of Aljais stand in the Courtyard of the Streams of Ragosa on a bright morning in autumn and look upon each other for the first time.
Jehane, caught in the whirlwind of her own emotions, was there to see that first look exchanged. She turned from one man to the other and then she shivered, without knowing why.
Alvar de Pellino, just then entering through a door at the far end of the arcaded walkway — sanctioned by his link to both the Captain and Jehane and a hasty lie about a message for Rodrigo — was in time to see that exchange of glances as well, and though he had not the least idea who the black-robed Cartadan steward with the earring was, he knew when Rodrigo was roused to intensity, and he could see it then.
Narrowing his eyes against the sun's brightness, he looked for and found Jehane and saw her looking back and forth from one man to the other. Alvar did the same, struggling to understand what was happening here. And then he, too, felt himself shiver, though it wasn't really cold and the sun was high.
Back home, on their farm in the remotest part of Valledo, the kitchen women and the serving women, most of whom had been still half pagan, so far in the wild north, used to say that such a shiver meant only one thing: an emissary of death had just crossed into the realms of mortal men and women from the god's own lost world of Fifiar.
In silence, unaccountably disturbed, Alvar slipped through the crowd in the garden and took his place among the mercenar¬ies on the near bank of the stream before the island.
Rodrigo and the black-clad Cartadan steward still had not taken their eyes from each other.
Others began to notice this now—there was something in the quality of the stillness possessing both of them. Out of the corner of his eye Alvar saw Mazur ben Avren turn to look at Rodrigo and then back to the steward.
Still trying to take his bearings, Alvar looked for anger in those two faces, for hatred, respect, irony, appraisal. He saw none of these things clearly, and yet elements of all of them. Hesitantly he decided, in the moment before the king of Ragosa spoke, that what he was seeing was a kind of recognition. Not just of each other, though there had to be that, but something harder to name. He thought, still minded of the night tales told at home, that it might even be a kind of foreknowing.