When his Queen is most of the way through her first pregnancy, the King of Attolia slips on an icy staircase and is unable to recover his balance. His god does not catch him out of the air; instead, he tumbles the full flight down, and only manages to catch himself when he reaches the wall at the bottom. Costis, accompanying his king on his mad tear through the palace, reaches him just in time to catch him by the shoulders as his wrist gives way with a snap. As he hauls the king to his feet and begins to steer him back to his rooms, Costis is already starting to resign himself to the hell the next month will be. He is not entirely successful.
The doctor is almost done setting Eugenides' wrist when the Queen appears. The Queen takes one look at the scene they make--Eugenides pale-faced and quiet, his false hand braced against the bed as the doctor splints his left wrist; Costis hovering anxiously in the background--and immediately leaves the room. They all jump when the sound of breaking glass soon follows, and the king flinches back as his wrist is jolted. The doctor looks as though he's about to collapse into hysterics, perhaps in response to the king's suddenly murderous expression. Costis rather futilely wishes he'd had the good sense to leave after fetching the doctor when the king turns the glare on him. Better--that he'd had the sense to stay on his family's farm, all those years ago.
"What are you just standing there for?" the king snarls. "Go check on her!"
The queen is sitting calmly, hands neatly laid across her lap, in a chair in the midst of a sea of glass. She's staring out a window that faces Eddis, and doesn't look up when Costis enters. He hesitates.
"Costis," she says, "come here."
"My Queen," he says, and approaches.
Costis can’t stop himself from shrugging, helpless. "He slipped, Your Majesty. There was a patch of ice on the stairs."
The silence that follows is not comforting.
"He slipped," the queen finally says, disbelief coating her voice, "and fell down the stairs."
"Yes, Your Majesty. And broke his wrist when he caught himself at the bottom."
"Is that his only injury?" she asks.
Costis shrugs again. "So the doctor says."
The queen is silent again. Some moments later, she nods decisively and stands, stepping around the glass as though it isn't there. She goes back in to the king's bedroom, and Costis follows her before ducking out to find someone to clean up the glass. By the time he returns, the doctor is gone. Eugenides is asleep, the queen watching over him. Costis retires to the guardroom.
The king is not a good patient. Costis knew that from prior experience, but it's worse now. The king can't read to himself or write or creep around the palace at night, can't even feed himself easily, and is lashing out at everyone else to make himself feel better. Costis makes entirely too convenient of a target.
"If I were smart," he tells Aristogiton, "I would just disappear for a while."
"Ah, but you’ve never been smart!" Aristogiton replies.
Costis is sorry to realize he's right. Instead of avoiding the king, he's been staying with him--or, at least, in the guardroom--as much as possible. Eugenides is not appreciative. He's taken to sending Costis to the library for an obscure book and then, if he manages to find it, telling him he's got the wrong one. That finally stops when Costis gives him a particularly aggrieved look and returns with a stack of all the books on the subject. The king—-thank the gods—-just laughs, and apologizes, and suggests that Costis leave him alone for a few hours.
"I will endeavor to be a better person by the time you return," he says.
Costis takes the opportunity to visit the altar Eugenides had made for his god. He's not particularly happy that the god of thieves let the king slip, but he is grateful all he broke was his wrist. He may be utterly insufferable at the moment, but at least he's alive. The king has told him enough stories about the thieves of Eddis that Costis knows how lucky he'd been. He doesn't want to think about what would have happened if the fall had been Eugenides' fated death--to him, to the queen, to Attolia.
He thinks about it anyway. The guards kick him out of the guardroom that night for his nightmares.
At least he's in good company. Costis is nearly positive that the only quiet nights they've had have been the result of the king's absence. He does not check with the queen's attendants to see if he's right.
After the third week, the king grimly asks Costis to read to him. He selects a Mede book, "because," he explains, "your accent still needs work."
Costis dreams that he'd never let Eugenides bait him into punching him. He knows there was no hope for him, though, not really. The king is very good at making people angry. He reads the damned book, and then the next. His accent improves.
The splint comes off just in time for the baby. Costis hears from one of the Queen's attendants that Eugenides faints. The baby is born healthy, though, and the queen is well, so he feels free to laugh at the turnabout. It seems only fair.
Weeks later, he is watching over his king and the new princess as they sit in the garden. They're hardly alone; there are guards posted along the wall and at all the entrances, and they are watching. Even so, Costis is the only one close enough to hear the king as he begins,
"This is the story of the birth of Eugenides, the god of thieves. He is my god and namesake, and he will surely watch over you."
That night, Costis returns again to the god's altar, and thanks him once more for his king's life.