Dark Champion
soaking.
    She resumed the attack on the rest of her body, then turned her attention to her hair. She soaked it, did what she could with the soap, then rinsed it with clean water. She really did need a maidservant to help with this task, for her hair was thick and wavy and fell to below her hips.
    Would she ever have dear Janine back to brush and braid her hair? That raised unbearable thoughts, however, and she pushed them away.
    When she was as clean as possible Imogen stood, but a moment on her feet had her back sitting, tears in her eyes from the pain. Sweet Savior, what was she to do?
    Eventually, she climbed out of her bath by hoisting herself on her hands and falling out onto her bottom. She discovered there was a spot on each heel which could take some weight without protest, and so she managed to dry herself. Then she shuffled over to her paunch and bound it on, and pulled the clean cotton shift on top.
    At last she was, just possibly, safe.
    Safe? she scoffed. How safe was she when she couldn’t even walk? She was as helpless as a babe.
    She eyed the low bed. If she was lying on it when the maids returned, perhaps no one need know just how vulnerable she was. She worked her way awkwardly over to the bed and hoisted herself onto it. Surely by morning she would be able to walk.
    Why was she so afraid, when she was in the keep of an ally? Apart from his coldness, the Lord of Cleeve was being a perfect knight. He had been willing to hear and aid two destitute peasants, as a good lord should. He had given her a room, clean clothes, and a bath. He was preparing to recover her castle.
    She suddenly wondered why the Lord of Cleeve had not been among her suitors.
    He had been busy since coming to Cleeve, of course, occupied with taking control of his property and helping the king repel invasion, but other men as busy had found time to at least express interest. With Carrisford and Cleeve lands adjoining there would have been arguments in favor of the match.
    Of course, he could well have realized that someone of such dubious origins would not have been a strong contender. Lord Roger of Cleeve had denied both paternity and the legality of the marriage to the Bastard’s mother. This man’s taking of the name FitzRoger had been a calculated taunt at the man he claimed as father. It was only since the coronation of his friend and patron, Henry Beauclerk, that Lord FitzRoger had obtained validation of his legitimacy. He had not yet managed to shed the nickname Bastard, and perhaps never would.
    Imogen doubted that anyone actually used it to his face.
    Imogen nodded, satisfied that she understood the situation. He’d either never thought he’d have a chance of wedding Imogen of Carrisford or he’d approached her father and been dismissed. Now he could well be thinking that doing her this service would bring him into favor. He still was not the sort of husband she wanted, but she would try to be kind when the time came to dismiss him. His irregular origins were not his fault.
    The women peeped in. Imogen smiled and allowed them to come and clear away the bath. One produced a comb and began to work it through Imogen’s wet hair. “It’s so long, lady. And I swear it looks like gold where it’s drying. Such beauty…”
    Then one of the maids gave a squeal of horror and pointed at a bloody patch on the sheet. “Oh, lady! Your poor feet!”
    Before Imogen could prevent it the woman ran off to get help. Soon a monk appeared along with the master of the castle.
    “This is Brother Patrick, Lady Imogen,” said FitzRoger. “He’s more accustomed to sword cuts and saddle sores, but he should be able to tend your wounds.”
    Imogen thought of protesting but guessed that if she did, the master would simply upend her and present her feet to the monk. Anyway, her feet did hurt and she wanted the use of them tomorrow.
    FitzRoger leaned against a wall, arms folded, and watched as Brother Patrick inspected the damage. The monk shook

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