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(King Edward and His Favourite Men)

by Dolores Esteban


The liaison between King Edward II and his favourite Roger d’Amory enrages Queen Isabella and the peers. Isabella and her confidant Sir Mortimer seek to bring the king down. They devise a plot. Will their plan work out? Edward is a weak regent and king. England, 1314.

Author’s note: This story is a work of fiction. The developments in this story deviate from what really happened in the year 1314 and the years that followed.



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All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
(William Shakespeare)

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England, 1314. 

Edward II, King of England, stood by the window. He was alone in the room, a grand parlour that was furnished and decorated splendidly. King Edward wiped his forehead. His chest heaved heavily. Like so often, the king felt haunted by his troubling memories. 

Edward, thirty years of age, was feeling like a child. He was feeling like a boy whom they had taken away his toy. King Edward wiped his forehead. He was feeling sad and depressed. He was feeling insecure and vulnerable. King Edward II had lost the Battle of Bannockburn. 

The battle of Bannockburn had been the decisive battle in the First War of Scottish Independence. King Edward had come to Scotland with a huge and impressive army. The Scots had gathered more than 7,000 men from the whole of Scotland. But Edward’s army outnumbered the Scots by three to one. Edward, however, made a bad decision. He ordered his army to cross the river Bannockburn to the east of the New Park.

Not long after daybreak on 24th of June, the Scots spearmen began to move towards the English. Edward was surprised to see his enemy emerge from the cover of the woods. The very size and strength of the great army was beginning to work against the English king, as his army could not move quickly and lost a lot of time in getting into position.

Edward Bruce, brother of the Scottish king, then committed his whole Scots army to an inexorable bloody push into the disorganized English mass, fighting side by side across a single front. Edward’s knights began to escape back across the Bannockburn. The English forces north of the Bannockburn broke into flight. Many were killed by the pursuing Scottish army. Out of 16,000 English infantrymen about 11,000 were killed. The Scottish losses were comparatively light, with only two knights among those killed. King Edward fled with his personal bodyguard. He arrived eventually at Dunbar Castle. From there he took ship to England.

The Scottish victory was complete and Roger Bruce's position as king was greatly strengthened by the outcome. On the 24th of June 1314, the Scots had celebrated a glorious victory.

King Edward took a deep breath. King Edward had lost a battle. He had lost his people’s trust. The peers and noblemen had turned away from him. Edward took another deep breath. He closed his eyes and bit his lip. Edward shook his head violently.

“I am deceiving myself,” he said aloud finally. He paced the room slowly.

“I am deceiving myself,” he said repeatedly. “Yes, they despise me. But it is not only because of the battle I lost. No, I know all too well why they despise and why they hate their sovereign. They hate me because of Gaveston.”

Edward turned abruptly and hurried back to the window. He looked outside. His eyes rested on the green. They had played on the green when they had been boys. Piers Gaveston and Edward had been friends, best friends, and innocent friends. Until the day that Edward would never forget.

Edward closed his eyes again. He remembered the day. Spring had come. The sun was out. It had been a warm day. Gaveston had come to his room.

“What was his age then?” Edward mused. “Yes, he was seventeen. And so was I. Everything changed that day. Had you not come to my room, my beloved, your fate would have been a different one. My fate would have been a different one also. You would still be alive. And I would be a happy man. And we would still be friends.”

Edward stopped breathing. He remembered the day all too well. He remembered Piers happy smile when he had opened the door and had entered Edward’s chamber. Edward had returned the smile. He had felt a warm shiver running through his body. Something had changed. He had not been able to explain what had made the difference then. Meanwhile he knew. He was so well aware of it.

“Had you not entered my room that unfortunate day, my dear and beloved Gaveston,” Edward said under his breath.

‘Would you be happier now if I had not come to your room then?’ the voice of a shadow whispered.

The voice was familiar. The voice was Gaveston’s. Piers Gaveston was dead, murdered for his unfortunate love for the King of England. However, Piers Gaveston had never ceased to be. Piers Gaveston still lived with Edward. Like a shadow, Gaveston or what had remained of the unfortunate man, followed wherever Edward moved.

Edward closed his eyes briefly. Piers Gaveston’s death had left a permanent scar. Edward turned, yet stopped within the movement when he heard a knock at the door.

“My beloved spouse, please open the door,” he heard the voice of Isabella, the queen. Her voice was soft. However, the queen was not able to hide her despair.

Edward did not respond. He bit his lip and his look was stern. Isabella, the French sovereign’s sister and Edward’s spouse. Isabella who just couldn’t cope with the facts. Isabella who insisted on loving her husband and her king.

“Why can you not just behave like any other empress and queen does?” Edward said angrily, yet not loud enough for the queen to hear. “It’s all about politics. It’s not about husband and wife. Why can’t you understand and accept it?”

Edward turned back to the window. He heard Isabella’s voice again. How he hated that sad and depressed undertone. Every day she confronted him with that weakness of hers. She was not a sovereign queen. She was a weakling and wimp.

Her voice faded away finally. Edward took a deep breath. He wiped his forehead again.

“She haunts me,” Edward almost spitted the words.

‘Why don’t you get rid of her?’ the mocking voice in his head asked.

Edward straightened.

“Hush, Piers Gaveston,” Edward said aloud. “I cannot kill nor ban her for the sake of the country. England is not strong enough to resist the French greatness and power. Isabella is just a pledge. Why can’t she accept her fate? Why can’t she accept the fate of a true queen? A queen must never love.”

The voice in his head laughed aloud. “Why, my lord? You say she has no right to love. But you think the king has the right to love then?”

“Ah, well, my dear Gaveston,” Edward said. “A king must love. He must love his country, his people, his duty, his life and even his death.”

‘Be careful what you wish for, Edward, my lord’ the voice said seriously and then retreated.

Edward felt cold suddenly. He raised his eyes and looked into the room. The voice had gone and with it Edward’s memories. Edward II, King of England, the sovereign, was back. Edward walked to the door majestically and unlocked it. He opened the door and entered the hallway. He walked down the corridor upright, descended the stairs and entered the grand hall. Everybody fell silent at his sight instantly. The peers gazed at him. Edward made a gesture with his hand. Everybody stepped out of his way. Everybody lowered their eyes. Edward sat down on his throne and looked at them all.

“The battle is lost. Long live England,” he said in a measured voice, looking from one to the other.

For a brief moment the peers and noblemen just stared at him. Then, however, like one voice, they responded.

“Long live the King.”

Edward made a gesture with his hand. The peers resumed talking. Yet their voices were stiff and their laughs artificial. Edward looked at them with despise. He watched them whispering and tattling.

‘Morons, cowards, and traitors,’ he thought.

A man leaned in suddenly. Edward looked up and took sight of Sir Duffy, one of the few confidants that he still had.

“Sir Duffy?” Edward asked.

“My lord,” Sir Duffy said in a low voice. “Do not be mistaken. They feel affronted. They do not think you are worthy a king. You lost a battle. And they have not forgotten about Piers Gaveston.”

Edward smiled sourly.

“You need not remind me of the facts, Sir Duffy. But many kings lost a battle. And many kings loved their men.”

“Not the way you did love them,” Sir Duffy said with a small smile.

Edward waved his hand lazily.

“Piers Gaveston is dead. He was murdered two years ago. You must know,” Edward said in a low voice, his words barely audible.

Sir Duffy nodded faintly. Edward narrowed his eyes and waved his hand. Sir Duffy retreated.

~~**~~


Isabella stood by the window of her room. She stood upright and gazed outside. Her look was cold and her lips were compressed.

“What miserable fate I have to face. It is not worth a queen,” she said.

“My lady, calm down,” the man standing behind her said softly.

Isabella turned to him.

“What ugly fate I have to face,” she said again.

Isabella walked past the man and crossed the room slowly.

“My lady, Piers Gaveston is dead. Death came upon him two years ago. That was what you wished for. That was what we all wished for,” her confidant said.

Isabella turned abruptly.

“But nothing has changed, Sir Mortimer,” she said. Her voice was enraged. “The king has not touched me since. Nothing has changed. My fate is still the same.”

Sir Mortimer, the queen’s confidant, stepped up to her. He stopped behind the queen. Isabella felt his breath on her neck. She shuddered slightly.

“My lady, why can’t you endure your fate? We took the miserable’s life. The king has not touched you since, you say. He has not touched another man either,” Sir Mortimer said.

He did not tell the full truth, however. He just ignored Hugh Audley’s existence.

“Can you be so sure, Sir Mortimer?” Isabella asked warily. “I fear he has not overcome his malady. I saw him several times at dinner with Sir Audley by his side.”

There was a tension between them. Isabella did not dare to turn to Sir Mortimer. Sir Mortimer watched her from behind.

“What is it you are looking for, Isabella, my dear and beloved queen,” Sir Mortimer asked finally. “Do you seek the love of your minions, the English people? Do you seek the king’s love? Or do you seek the love of a man?”

Isabella closed her eyes for a moment before she turned to Sir Mortimer. Their eyes met. Sir Mortimer’s words had been bold. But Isabella did not punish him.

“I feel humiliated by him,” she said.

Sir Mortimer gave the queen a small smile.

“My lady, why do you not try to overcome that weakness of yours?” he asked still smiling.

Sir Mortimer folded his hands.

“Sir Mortimer! How can you dare?” Isabella said angrily. Her chest was heaving.

Sir Mortimer kept smiling.

“Think about it, my lady,” he said. “Think about it. You could gain greatness. You could become greater than Edward II, King of England, and even greater than your brother, the French sovereign and king.”

Their eyes met again. Sir Mortimer gave the queen an encouraging nod. Isabella swallowed.

“You are a good counsellor, Sir Mortimer,” she said finally, returning Sir Mortimer’s smile.

Sir Mortimer bowed.

“I am pleased to hear your approval,” he answered.

Sir Mortimer straightened, and then crossed the room. He nodded again at the queen from the doorway. Isabella raised her hand. Sir Mortimer left quickly. The queen watched him leave.

“A good counsellor, indeed,” Isabella said to herself.

She looked into the room for a moment and then moved back to the window. She looked outside for a while. Then she gave a small laugh.

“Indeed, I could be greater than any living king,” the queen said coldly. “I could be greater than all of them. For all those kings are weaklings and wimps.”

~~**~~


Sir Roger d’Amory, nobleman and Constable of Corfe Castle, arrived in London in August 1314. He arrived at court at the end of the month in company of his Uncle Patrick d’Amory. Roger d’Amory met Edward II, King of England, on the 31st of August in the evening.

Roger d’Amory was sitting at a large dining table amongst the peers and noblemen. He looked up when King Edward entered the hall and opened the banquet that was held for the noblemen who had so well served their country and king in the Battle of Bannockburn.

Roger watched the king enter the hall and mount his throne. King Edward looked majestic. His gestures were majestic. His demeanour was majestic and his look was cold and imperious.

Roger felt puzzled. From what he had heard he had expected to see a broken man. Rumours had spread quickly. Roger had expected to see a vulnerable man. Roger, however, saw a glamorous king.

‘Those rumours cannot be true,’ Roger thought. ‘This man is not a lost and broken man. This man is not lost to his malady either. He is a true king.’

Roger told his uncle his thoughts. The old man gave a laugh.

“Yes, Roger, you see a king tonight. But take a closer look. Then you will see a man who is just dressed up as a king.”

Roger watched the king for another while.

“Pardon me, Uncle, I cannot see the man. He has hidden himself perfectly,” Roger said.

Roger’s uncle shook his head.

“You have seen him only for the briefest of time, Roger,” the old man said. “I saw him many times before. I cannot be deceived by his glamorous clothes and his grand demeanour. I am able to see the man. I see a lost and weak man.”

Roger looked up and down the table.

“I doubt, Uncle, that these men are able to see the man that you can see,” he said quietly.

His uncle gave another laugh.

“No, Roger, those morons only see a bad man and a weak king. If they looked in a mirror, they would see the bad and evil there. But they don’t want to look at their own miserable faces. Those morons are good in deceiving themselves. Good for them, bad for the king,” the old man said.

Roger looked at the king again. He studied his face. Edward turned his head suddenly. Edwards and Roger’s eyes met for just a second before the king looked aside again.

Roger’s hands trembled slightly, to his own surprise. Edward’s look had shaken him to the core. Roger blinked. He emptied a glass of water quickly. Roger had seen the sadness in Edward’s eyes. Roger swallowed. Their eyes had met for just a moment. Just a second, but long enough for Roger to see the man and not the king.

The hours went by. The guests talked and laughed. But Roger did not get involved. He did not even try to. Roger sat quietly. He ate silently. Even his uncle turned away from him eventually and talked with some other noblemen.

Roger watched the king. He looked for the man. But he was not able to catch another glimpse of him. Roger was not able to stand the banquet any longer. Roger excused himself. He left the hall quickly.

~~**~~


Edward had seen Roger. But he had not explicitly taken notice of him. To him, Roger was just another man who was watching him. He was just another man watching the English king attentively, watching warily for any weakness of the king.

It was way past midnight when Edward left the banquet. He had not spoken to his spouse Isabella who had sat next to him all evening long. Isabella and Edward had departed without a word. Edward had not noticed the change of hers. Nobody had noticed but her confidant. Sir Mortimer waited for the queen in the hallway.

“Very good, my lady,” he said to her in a low voice when she stopped right in front of him.

Isabella raised an eyebrow and gave Sir Mortimer a questioning look. Sir Mortimer smiled a small smile.

“Very good, my lady,” he said again. “I saw you thought about my words. I saw you came to a conclusion, didn’t you?”

“I did, Sir Mortimer,” the queen said coldly. “I was a woman in love. I was a desperate woman. I was seeking vengeance. But I changed my mind. I’m seeking power now.”

Isabella straightened and narrowed her eyes.

“Very well, my lady. So be it,” Sir Mortimer said quietly. “Trust me, my lady, I can serve you well.”

Their eyes met in the dark. Isabella nodded slightly.

“I trust you, Sir Mortimer, for your heart is as cold as mine,” she said.

The queen gave a small laugh. Sir Mortimer curled his lips with delight.

“We have a lot in common, my lady,” he said with a vague smile.

“So let us unite our forces and go to war,” Isabella said. Her voice was cold and determined.

“Slow, my lady” Sir Mortimer said almost under his breath. “The time for war has not yet come.”

“Why not?” Isabella asked warily. “The sooner we get rid of him, the faster we can rise.”

Sir Mortimer shook his head slightly.

“Slow, my lady” he said. “You need the English people behind you, my lady. Imbeciles, no matter. But many and therefore dangerous.”

“So what do you suggest, Sir Mortimer?” Isabella asked attentively.

“Give those imbeciles a reason, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said.

“A reason for what?” Isabella asked curiously.

Sir Mortimer smiled.

“A reason for a riot, my lady. We need a riot, an upheaval in order to bring down the king.”

Isabella raised an eyebrow. Then she nodded slightly.

“I really do appreciate your advice, Sir Mortimer,” she said in acknowledgment. “So what do you suggest?”

Sir Mortimer smiled.

“We need to raise the imbeciles’ anger. We need to give them a reason that will suffice to murder the king,” Sir Mortimer said coldly.

Isabella looked at Sir Mortimer thoughtfully.

“His malady would well suffice,” she said drily.

Sir Mortimer bowed his head slightly.

“Indeed, it would,” he agreed.

“He has not touched another man since Pier Gaveston’s death. Your words, Sir Mortimer,” Isabella said.

“You fear he has not overcome his malady,” Sir Mortimer said in response. “I, too, am certain he is not cured. I forgot to mention Hugh Audley perhaps.”

Isabella gave a mocking laugh.

“I saw them at dinner together. Just because they perfectly hide the liaison from the peers and noblemen’s eyes, does not mean I do not see through them,” she said.

“The peers and noblemen took notice of it also, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said. “But like you said, they hide it and do not make a fuss about it. Edward and Audley give no reason for an upheaval.”

“Edward ought to act more carelessly,” Isabella said with a piercing look at Sir Mortimer.

“Indeed, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said. “But, unfortunately, Edward is not sick with fever. He does not openly demonstrate his affection to Hugh Audley.”

“So why not raise the fever again?” Isabella asked.

“I already thought of this possibility also, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said pensively.

“Do you have a plan? Would it work out?” the queen asked excitedly.

Sir Mortimer smirked.

“We need a man who resembles Piers Gaveston,” he said.

Isabella gave a laugh.

“So why did we kill Piers Gaveston when the man would have served us so well?” she asked in a mocking voice.

“You did not wish for power then,” Sir Mortimer simply said.

“But you did, Sir Mortimer,” Isabella replied.

“I am just your loyal servant,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella gave another laugh.

“I see through you, Sir Mortimer. I see clearer now than I ever did before,” the queen said.

“Cleverness is worth a king,” Sir Mortimer said. He flattered. “Pardon me, my lady, cleverness is worth a queen of might and strength.”

“Do not carry it too far, Sir Mortimer,” Isabella hissed. “Do not laugh at me. I might change my mind and get rid of you.”

She looked at Sir Mortimer coldly.

“Why so, my lady?” Sir Mortimer asked. “You are not only looking for power. You are also looking for love. I can give you one and the other.”

Isabella flushed. Sir Mortimer’s words were bold. He was her confidant, yes. But, after all, he was just her minion. Isabella narrowed her eyes. Her voice was cold and threatening.

“No, Sir Mortimer,” she said. “I will be the sovereign. I will rule the country. And I can give you the power you seek. But I can also withdraw it. If you can give me love, Sir Mortimer, well, that remains to be seen.”

Sir Mortimer bowed to the queen. A faint smile played on his lips.

“One hand washes the other, my lady. And one good turn deserves another,” he said.

“Harm set, harm get. The biter will be bitten. Do not forget my words, Sir Mortimer,” Isabella replied.

Without waiting for a reply she walked on and turned around a corner. Sir Mortimer looked after her. His eyes were dark. A malicious smile played on his lips.

“I can see through you as well,” he said almost mockingly. “You are still driven by vengeance. And that will be your doom for I will bring about your ruin.”

Sir Mortimer bowed slightly in the dark, and then turned around and walked back to the hall. He sat down next to Patrick d’Amory.

“You took your nephew along?” he asked, leaning in to the old man conspicuously.

Patrick d’Amory nodded.

“He has already retired to his room. He saw the king. And I am fairly sure he is already enamoured of him,” the old man said.

Sir Mortimer smiled and rubbed his hands.

“So much the better,” he replied.

~~**~~


Roger d’Amory was not able to go to sleep. He was lying in his bed. He was wide awake.

Roger looked into the dark of the room. He thought of the banquet and he thought of the king. Roger had seen a glamorous king. He had seen a grand man with majestic demeanour. The king was impressive. He attracted attention. He was a handsome man also. His skin was smooth, his eyes were blue, and his hair was blond. Roger smiled at the vivid image.

Edward had looked Roger straight in the eyes. Roger doubted the king had taken notice of him. It didn’t really matter to Roger. For a very brief time, for just a second, Roger had not only seen a glamorous king. He had seen Edward. He had seen the man. Edward’s eyes had revealed the man’s sadness, but also his longing and his love for life. Roger tossed about in his bed. He closed his eyes in vain. He was not able to go to sleep.

~~**~~


Patrick d’Amory rose to his feet stiffly. Sir Mortimer got to his feet as well.

“Take him to the green in the morning,” Sir Mortimer said. “The king will surely go for a walk like he always does in the mornings.

Patrick d’Amory nodded.

“You arranged my debt relief. This should be enough for me to do you a favour in return, I suspect. And yet, I dare to beg you another favour,” he said to Sir Mortimer.

Sir Mortimer raised an eyebrow. He gave the man a questioning look. The old man looked at him sadly.

“Do not do him any harm, Sir Mortimer. My nephew is twenty-four years of age He is a young and innocent man.”

Sir Mortimer nodded slightly.

“I will send him away in time. So he will not face any troubles. I will see to it, Sir d’Amory” he said.

Patrick d’Amory’s eyes rested on Sir Mortimer’s face.

“What goes up must come down. Bear my words in mind, Sir Mortimer,” he said gravely.

Sir Mortimer did not respond. Patrick d’Amory left the hall. Sir Mortimer looked after him.

“Is there any victimless crime?” Sir Mortimer whispered.

Sir Mortimer straightened and rubbed his hands. He cast a smile around, and then he left the hall.

~~**~~


Patrick d’Amory walked down a corridor.

“Honesty is the best policy,” he said to himself. He gave a dry laugh. “Whoever has written down these words has surely not known this world all too well. This world is a den of iniquity.”

Patrick d’Amory gave a dry laugh.

“Or is it just a stage and all the men and women are merely players?” he mused.

Patrick d’Amory shrugged, and then walked on. He stopped briefly in front of the door that led to his nephew’s chamber.

“I will sacrifice my brother’s son. It’s not a play, Patrick d’Amory,” he said to himself. “It is my free entrance to hell,” he said drily.

Patrick d’Amory swallowed, and then he took a deep breath and moved on.

~~**~~


Roger d’Amory finally drifted to sleep. He dreamed he opened a door to a chamber. He stepped in with a happy smile. His eyes met King Edward’s eyes. Roger felt warm and comfortable. A cosy feeling was running through his body. They left the house and stepped out on a green. The sun was out. It was a warm day. But suddenly, Roger heard a bird cry. Roger looked up. A white dove fell to the ground. Roger looked at the king. Roger was feeling scared and frightened. King Edward reached out his hand to him.

Roger awoke with a start. He gazed into the room. A faint light illuminated his chamber. Roger blinked briefly. Dawn was near.

~~**~~


King Edward awoke. He turned his eyes to the window. He noticed that dawn was breaking.

Edward rose to his feet stiffly. He dressed, not waiting for the servants to help him. Edward walked to the window and looked outside. He looked at the green. And then he noticed that something had changed. The voice of the shadow had not yet greeted him.

“Where are you hiding, Piers Gaveston?” he asked. “What are you up to, my beloved friend?”

Nothing happened. There was no reply. Edward felt almost startled. He looked around insecurely, waiting for the shadow’s voice to respond. But nothing happened. Edward waited for another while. And then he left the room.

Edward felt sick. And yet he felt so real. He sensed the floor under his feet. He smelled the scents in the air. And he heard a bird cry. Edward stopped briefly. He shook his head. Then he heard the ring of a bell. Edward looked around and listened again.

“Oh, well, my dear Gaveston,” he said in astonishment. “I have not been aware of those sounds and scents for a very long time. You took them with you, didn’t you?”

Edward felt a slight breeze on his skin. He turned and spotted the door that led out on the green. Edward stepped outside. His servants surrounded him. Edward made a gesture with his hand. The men retreated.

“The sun is out. It is warm day. Almost like in spring so many years ago,” Edward said to himself.

He walked on.

“Something has definitely changed,” he mused.

Edward greatly enjoyed the new feeling he had.

He was distracted by a man addressing him. One of the peers had approached the king. Edward looked at the man angrily. The man bowed to him.

“My lord, Sir Patrick d’Amory is waiting to speak to you,” the man said.

Edward looked puzzled.

“I do not talk to visitors outside of the hall. You must now. I’m on my way to...,” he started.

Edward stopped when an old man rushed towards him. Edward turned to him. The king was enraged.

“What is it? How can you dare?” Edward hissed.

Patrick d’Amory bowed deeply to the king.

“Forgive me, my lord, my beloved king, I am having a request,” the old man said.

Patrick d’Amory turned quickly and waved to a man in the distance. The man approached hesitantly.

“Quick, Roger, quick. Hand me the letter that your father wrote to the king,” Patrick d’Amory said.

The old man turned back to the king. Edward narrowed his eyes. He felt that something was going on that he had not the slightest clue of. He looked from one servant to the other.

“What kind of plot is this?” he asked angrily.

Patrick d’Amory bowed again, and then turned to his nephew.

“Hand the letter to the king, Roger,” he said. “My nephew Roger d’Amory,” he continued, looking at the king.

Edward narrowed his eyes and looked at Patrick d’Amory. The old man made a few steps back, bowing again. Edward then turned to the young man who looked at him with widened eyes. Roger held a letter in his hands. Edward reached out his hand. Their eyes met. Suddenly, they heard a bird cry. Edward looked up and spotted a white dove. He looked back at Roger d’Amory. Roger looked scared and frightened.

“Just a dove,” Edward said.

“It must not die,” Roger said urgently.

“Why would it die?” Edward asked in astonishment.

Edward’s eyes rested on Roger’s face. Roger lowered his eyes.

Edward turned to his servants and made a gesture with his hand. The men retreated. Patrick d’Amory followed them. Edward turned back to Roger d’Amory and reached out his hand.

“Come,” he said, “Let’s go for a walk on the green. The sun is out. It is warm day.”

Roger looked at the king for an instant. He felt at a loss. He did not move for a moment or two. But then he followed the king quickly.

~~**~~


Isabella stood by the window of her room. Her look was cold and her lips were compressed.  She watched the king and his prey crossing the green.

“His doom has begun,” the queen said in a cold voice.

Sir Mortimer stepped closer and looked outside as well.

“Who is this man?” Isabella asked curiously.

“Why would you want to know, my lady?” Sir Mortimer asked back.

Isabella turned to Sir Mortimer.

“For the briefest of time I pitied this man. His fate is as ugly as mine is,” she said.

Sir Mortimer tilted his head.

“I doubt it is, my lady. His fate will be worse than yours, for he will face death while you will face glory,” he said.

Isabella smiled a small smile.

“Can’t we die with glory then?” she asked.

Sir Mortimer smiled back.

“Who knows? He may die with glory. But does it matter? Who will care?” he said.

Isabella shrugged. She brushed back a strand of her black hair.

“Who will care? No one cares, of course. So why should I care? Why should we care, my dear Sir Mortimer?” she asked back.

Sir Mortimer nodded faintly. Then he offered his arm to the queen.

“Let’s go for a walk, my lady. The sun is out. It is a warm day. Can you feel the warmth? Can you feel the warmth that is running through your body?” he asked.

Isabella narrowed her eyes for an instant. Then she took Sir Mortimer’s arm.

“I have not yet given you the power you seek, neither have you given me the love that I need, Sir Mortimer,” she said softly.

“The day is not yet done,” Sir Mortimer answered with a mellow smile.

Isabella’s eyes turned cold again.

“Do not carry it too far, Sir Mortimer,” she said. “I warned you.”

Sir Mortimer did not respond.

~~**~~


Edward and Roger crossed the green. Edward looked ahead. Roger watched him out of the corner of his eye. He felt intimidated and did not dare to speak to the king.

Edward stopped suddenly and turned to Roger. He smiled at him.

“I had a feeling this morning when I awoke. I felt that something had changed,” Edward said.

“What did change?” Roger asked hesitantly.

Edward smiled again.

“The morning was brighter than the previous mornings had been. I smelled scents and I heard sounds that I had almost forgotten,” Edward said.

“Why do you tell those thoughts of yours to a minion? They are intimate. I am not a confidant,” Roger said.

“You could be a confidant,” Edward replied.

He looked at the sky as if he was looking out for something.

“Why did you look so scared and frightened when the dove cried?’ Edward asked, turning back to Roger.

Roger was hesitating.

“Because I dreamed of a dove that cried and fell dead to the ground,” he said.

Edward looked at Roger curiously.

“When did you dream this dream?” the king asked.

“Last night. I awoke with a start,” Roger replied.

He blushed slightly. Edward studied his face. The man was handsome. He liked his features. His skin was smooth. His dark hair matched his fair skin. His green eyes were attentive.

“The dove cried, but it did not fall dead to the ground. You were mistaken,” Edward said.

Edward turned his head and looked into the distance. He made a few steps ahead. Roger followed him.

“You remind me of someone I loved,” Edward said suddenly.

Roger looked at Edward, yet he did not reply. He felt intimidated again. Edward turned his eyes back to Roger.

“You remind me of Piers Gaveston. You may have heard of his unfortunate fate,” Edward said, measuring Roger closely.

Roger flushed. He nodded slightly.

“I have heard of him,” he said finally.

Their eyes met for an instant.

“What is it you heard?” Edward asked.

He made another two steps ahead. Roger followed him.

“I heard he was murdered by the mob,” Roger said.

Edward turned back to Roger.

“Yes, he was murdered by the mob. And why so? Do you know?” he asked curiously.

“Because he loved his king,” Roger said. He looked to the ground.

“Look up. Look at me,” Edward said.

Roger raised his eyes.

“Do you think that love is a crime? Piers Gaveston was sentenced to death for loving his king. Is love a crime? What do you think?” Edward asked.

Roger looked aside for a moment before turning his eyes back to Edward.

“Love is not a crime,” he said finally. “They teach us that God is love. So how could love be a crime?” Roger asked.

Edward raised his eyebrow thoughtfully. And then he smiled at Roger.

“It seems you are a smart and clever man, Roger d’Amory. Go on,” he said. “I want to hear your thoughts.”

Roger swallowed.

“Murder a man for him loving his king...I consider this a crime. But...” Roger fell silent.

“What?” Edward asked. “Go on, please.”

“He was not murdered for loving his king,” Roger said.

Edward gave him a piercing look.

“No?” he asked.

“No,” Roger said. “He was murdered for loving the man.”

They looked at each other. A sudden tension grew between them. Edward’s lips opened slightly. Then he compressed his lips. He turned away abruptly and walked on stiffly. Roger looked after him. He felt insecure. Had he been too bold? He did not dare to follow the king. And he did not dare to follow the man.

~~**~~


Edward walked on. Roger’s words had struck him. He moved on quickly. His thoughts were running. He stopped abruptly. Edward looked at the sky. He feared to see gray clouds, but the sky was still clear. The sky was blue and the sun was out. Edward looked back and saw Roger standing on the green. The young man looked lost and frightened. Roger did not move. Edward looked at the sky again.

“There is no dove in the sky, no dove that will fall dead to the ground. The dove already fell to the ground this morning. It died the moment I awoke,” Edward said. “Piers Gaveston, I finally accept your death. I have not forgotten you and I will never do. But I need to move on for the sake of our love and for the sake of my inner peace and for the sake of my country.”

Edward heard a faint laugh. He blinked.

‘I wish you luck. But be careful what you wish for,” the shadow’s voice said suddenly.

The voice grew louder for an instant. Edward shivered inwardly.

“Farewell, my beloved king,” the voice spoke in Edward’s ear.

Edward swallowed hard. He closed his eyes. His eyelids flickered.

“Farewell, beloved Gaveston. We will meet again,” Edward said under his breath, his voice almost breaking.

There was no response. There was no sound to be heard. Edward looked around hesitantly. He looked at the lost figure in the distance.

Roger d’Amory watched the king.

Edward smiled. He crossed the green and walked back to Roger. Roger watched Edward approaching.

“My lord?” he asked when Edward stopped in front of him.

“Do you love your king?” Edward asked.

“I certainly do,” Roger said seriously.

“Could you love the man?” Edward asked.

 “I don’t know if I can. But I would like to, I think” Roger answered quietly.

He lowered his eyes and looked to the ground. Edward reached out and touched Roger’s chin. Roger raised his eyes.

“Your fate could be worse than Gaveston’s was,” Edward said.

Roger looked at Edward for an instant.

“I do not care,” he said in a serious voice.

“You do not care now. You might very well care later,” Edward said seriously.

“Who knows,” Roger said. He looked at the king. “We cannot really anticipate our fate, can we?” he asked.

“I stepped carelessly then. I could step more carefully now,” Edward said. “I lost a battle. I must not lose another one.”

“Can you stop fate?” Roger asked.

“I could if I was a respected king,” Edward said. “But neither the people nor the noblemen nor the peers do respect their king. My reputation is doubtful and will always be. This will lead to my doom and ruin. My fate is clear, Roger d’Amory. My death is just a question of time.”

Roger looked at Edward seriously.

“How can you be so calm when you are talking of doom and death?” he asked.

“This is the fate of Edward II, King of England,” Edward said. “There is no way out. I have already carried it too far. They wait for my downfall and destruction. Moreover, they plan it. They work on it.”

He looked at Roger.

“You might fall down as well. You most certainly will. Is your love worth it?” he asked.

Roger shrugged.

“I cannot say, my lord. I do not know,” Roger replied.

Edward smiled at him.

“Until you have lost your reputation, you never realise what a burden it was or what freedom really is. This is what I have discovered,” he said. “I feel free to move wherever I want to and in company of whoever favourite companion I choose.


Edward looked at Roger. Roger looked back, and then nodded slightly.

“I understand, my lord. I desire for freedom also. If freedom means doom and destruction, so be it, then,” he said.

Edward gave him a nod.

“You are a courageous man, Roger d’Amory. Or maybe you are just naive,” he said.

“I am not brave. Nor am I naive,” Roger replied. “I saw my king at the banquet yesterday. But I caught a glimpse of the man when our eyes met for just an instant. I saw the sadness in your eyes. I cannot forget about that look in your eyes.”

Edward tilted his head.

“You speak frankly to your king,” he said.

“I do not speak to the king anymore,” Roger said. “I speak to the man. This is what I wish for and this is what you wish for also. Why hide the truth behind falsehood and deceitfulness?”

Edward gave him a nod and a smile. He reached out his hand and pointed at the castle.

“Let us go back, Roger d’Amory. I left the castle as a prisoner. I will re-enter it as a free man,” he said.

Roger looked to where Edward pointed at. Edward walked on. Roger followed him slowly. Edward looked back, still walking.

“I want you by my side. I will make the imbeciles aware of it,” he said.

~~**~~


Isabella still stood by the window. She watched Edward and Roger approaching the house.

“Your plan will work out, Sir Mortimer,” she said drily.

Sir Mortimer joined her by the window.

“His malady. He is not yet cured,” he said with an artificial sigh. Then Sir Mortimer gave a dry laugh.

“We need not do anymore, my lady. Our plan will work out fine. Let’s just watch and wait for some time,” Sir Mortimer said.

The queen turned her head aside and looked at Sir Mortimer. A slight smile was playing on her lips.

“They got friends quickly, Sir Mortimer. They might be lovers in the briefest of time. I don’t think we need to wait for a very long time,” she said.

“The quicker, the better,” Sir Mortimer said coldly. “We just need to make sure the public learns of it soon.”

Isabella smiled coldly.

“Rumours spread quickly, Sir Mortimer,” she said. She gave Sir Mortimer a piercing look. “See to it, Sir Mortimer. See to it.”

Sir Mortimer gave the queen a malicious smile. He bowed slightly.

“My pleasure, my lady,” he said before retreating quickly.

Sir Mortimer closed the door behind him. Isabella looked at the door. Her lips opened slightly and she licked her lips in gleeful anticipation.

Isabella turned back to the window. Edward and Roger had approached. They entered the castle. Isabella lost sight of them.

~~**~~


The servants and peers looked after Edward and Roger when they walked down the corridor. Roger avoided looking at them. Edward walked upright, ignoring them also. At the end of the hallway, he turned to Roger.

“Come, Roger d’Amory. I will show you to my parlour,” he said.

Roger just looked back at the king. He gave no reply. Edward moved to the stairs that led up to the first floor. He climbed them majestically. Roger followed him. He felt the eyes of the peers on his back. Edward stopped at the top of the stairs and pointed down a hallway.

“There are my rooms. I will show you to my favourite chamber,” he said.

Edward moved on. He stopped in front of a door. A servant opened the door for him. Without looking at the man, Edward entered the room. Roger followed him inside quickly. The servant gave him a piercing look. Roger looked aside. The man closed the door behind them.

Edward gave a laugh.

“All the noblemen, peers and servants will know within the briefest of time that you are here with me in my favourite room.”

He turned to Roger with a smirk.

“Rumours spread quickly, Roger d’Amory,” he said.

Roger nodded faintly.

Edward walked to the window and looked outside.

“My dear spouse will also be informed in just a moment’s notice. She is keen to know wherever I go and whatever I do,” he said in a mocking voice.

Roger joined Edward by the window hesitantly. He gave Edward a questioning look.

“I was forced to marry her. Isabella, the French sovereign’s sister. She is a beautiful woman, isn’t she?” Edward asked, turning to Roger.

“Indeed, the queen is beautiful,” Roger said in a low voice.

Edward nodded.

“She is beautiful, indeed,” Edward said.

Edward turned back to the window and pointed at the sky.

“Isn’t the blue sky beautiful also? Isn’t the sun beautiful also?” he asked.

Roger kept looking at Edward. Edward bit his lip.

“Does the sun demand my love? Does the sky want me to worship its beauty?” Edward asked.

Roger looked at the blue sky.

“Nature is beauty in itself,” he said. “Nature’s beauty is everlasting and imperishable.”

Edward looked at Roger, raising an eyebrow. Then the king smiled.

“You are clever and smart, Roger. I understand what you are saying. I must not compare a woman to the sky,” he said.

“Well, why not?” Roger asked. “The queen is beautiful, although her beauty is not everlasting for she is not immortal as is nature.”

He paused.

“But you acknowledge her beauty. So this is not why the queen may feel depressed,” Roger continued.

Edward turned his head and looked outside again for a while.

“You are very right, Roger d’Amory. I acknowledge her beauty. I let her know I do. I respect her as a queen, as the French sovereign’s sister. I admire her courage to face her fate. But...”

Edward turned to Roger abruptly.

“She cannot accept her fate. So many noble women have to accept and even endure their fate. So many noble men have to do so as well. We serve our country, our nation, Roger,” Edward said forcefully.

He fell silent and looked out of the window again. Roger also looked outside for a while.

“Well,” Roger said finally. “Is it wrong that a woman claims the love of a man? Is it wrong that a wife claims the love of her husband, my lord?”

Edward tilted his head slightly. He measured Roger. The man’s words were bold. But the king liked his honesty.

“There is nothing wrong about it, Roger. It’s just not a very realistic point of view on life and the world. Earthly love is perishable. We must not base our life on what is bound to not last forever,” the king said.

Roger looked outside again, musing.

“Well, my lord. Let me speak frankly. Don’t you claim to find love yourself? Don’t you risk leading your country to ruin for a personal wish?” he asked.

Edward shrugged. Rogers’s words struck him. He now felt his anger rise. But Edward controlled himself. He bit his lip again.

“Well, Roger d’Amory,” he said finally. “I must admit that you are right. I deny Isabella the right to find love while I, myself, take it for granted.”

He gave a forceful nod.

“Yes, Roger d’Amory, you are certainly right,” Edward said.

Edward fell silent. He looked outside again, almost forgetting about Roger’s presence.

“There is another fault in your thoughts, my lord,” Roger said finally in a low voice.

Edward turned to Roger abruptly. His face had flushed. He opened his mouth to scold Roger, but he fell silent instantly at Roger’s serious look.

“You feel bothered by your spouse’s demands. Would you feel bothered also if Isabella loved another man but you?” Roger asked.

His eyes rested on Edward’s face. He knew his words were bold. But Roger, to his own surprise, was not afraid of the king’s reaction.

Edward’s eyes widened slightly. He looked at Roger in astonishment.

“Well, yes, you are right again, Roger. I would not feel bothered at all. I wished she would turn to another man,” he said.

Edward turned around and paced the room. Roger watched him silently. Finally, Edward stopped. He looked at Roger.

“This would be the most common thing, Roger. The marriage of a king and a queen is for the sake of their country. Their personal happiness rarely ever is a part of the deal,” he said.

Edward made a step towards Roger.

“Why, why can’t Isabella accept her fate like any queen did before her? Why must the Queen of England demand the love of the King?” he asked forcefully.

“She fell in love with you perhaps?” Roger asked.

Edward shook his head forcefully and made a gesture with his hand.

“She just fancies she is in love with me. She does not love me for she does not know who I am. We have barely met. I saw a queen. But I never saw the woman. And she never saw the man I am,” he said.

Roger looked at Edward, not daring to interrupt the king.

Edward paced the room. He finally stopped and looked at Roger.

“We have a son together. He will be the heir of England’s throne. But this child is not a pledge of marital love. How can she think so? It has been like this for thousands of years. It has never been different, Roger. It’s all about politics,” Edward said.

Roger kept waiting. Edward walked back to the window.

“Isabella must have known. She was raised to be married for political reasons. There is no other choice for a sovereign’s daughter,” he said.

Edward looked out of the window for some time. Finally, he turned back to Roger.

“Isabella must lower her expectations. If love is what she is after, then she must seek for another man,” he said.

Edward’s voice was determined. He narrowed his eyes.

“I just think it is not love that she seeks,” he said finally.

He turned his eyes to Roger. Their eyes locked.

“You mean she seeks for power?” Roger asked in a sober voice.

Edward tilted his head, thinking.

“My love would have guaranteed her power for she would have been able to wield influence on me. I reject her love, however, and thus I reject her influence on me,” Edward said.

Roger was thinking.

“So your spouse wants to interfere?” Roger asked.

Edward nodded.

“Yes, she certainly does,” he said slowly. “The queen is not to be underestimated.”

He turned to Roger and straightened.

“I can see her motives. She acts in favour of her nation, France, and in favour of her brother, the French sovereign,” he said soberly.

Edward crossed his arms in front of his chest.

“She just made one big mistake,” Edward said.

He gave Roger a piercing look.

“She murdered Piers Gaveston. She took my beloved friend away from me. She hoped I would then turn my love to her. I am asking you, Roger, how could she think I would love the woman who murdered my beloved friend?” Edward asked.

Edward’s cheeks had flushed. He felt enraged.

“Perhaps she did not seek your love any longer then,” Roger replied. “Perhaps she counted on your grief and sorrow.”

Edward gazed at Roger. He thought about Roger’s words, and then he nodded.

“Indeed, you are right again, Roger. I closed myself up. I gave away power to the peers. I was not interested in politics. I was not interested in England’s welfare. I made a bad decision. I lost the Battle of Bannockburn. This loss made me an even more vulnerable king. Another bad or wrong move and my fate will be sealed. My downfall is already decided. My foes are waiting. They are patient. And my foes are many,” Edward said.

Edward’s face had turned pale. Roger watched him silently.

“I awoke this morning and the fog had gone,” Edward said suddenly. “I instantly knew that something had changed for the better.”

He looked at Roger pensively.

“However, the worms are not aware of this change. And I certainly will not let them know of this change of mine. Thus I will have the advantage over them,” Edward said.

Roger nodded thoughtfully.

“My lord,” he said finally. “You were angry when my uncle approached you this morning. Why?”

Edward looked at Roger. He felt puzzled by the sudden change of topic.

“Why?” he repeated Roger’s question. “Because I do not speak to visitors outside of the grand hall normally. It is contrary to etiquette.”

Edward kept looking at Roger. He frowned slightly. And then he narrowed his eyes.

“Ah, well, Roger, I see clearly now. Who did take you and your uncle to the green in order to meet me there?” Edward asked warily.

Roger looked at Edward.

“Sir Mortimer showed us there. I felt uncomfortable with meeting the king informally. But my uncle reassured me. And so I followed him,” he said.

Edward started pacing the room. And then he gave a laugh.

“Sir Mortimer and the queen. What a couple! They are a good match definitely. Keen for power. They are cold and ruthless both,” he said in a mocking voice.

Edward stopped and looked at Roger. He sneered.

“It all makes sense now, my dear Roger.”

Edward approached Roger and stopped right in front of him. He put a finger on Roger’s chest.

“You are a prey, Roger d’Amory. You are a bait. They were certain that I would take the bait. And so I did,” Edward said.

He withdrew his finger, made a step back and crossed his arms in front of his chest. Edward measured Roger. He looked him down from head to toe. And then he smiled.

“You closely resemble Piers Gaveston, Roger. This is why they have chosen you. How did they know you would fall for your king?” he asked.

Roger flushed slightly. He shrugged.

“They do not know. They cannot be aware of it. They were just certain I could not reject the king’s command,” he said.

Edward nodded. A smile was playing on his lips.

“In fact, you are not in a position to reject your king. I must acknowledge their plan. Well devised. I lost the battle. I almost ruined the country. They hope I will cherish my malady again instead of serving England, my country. This is their plan. Just let the mob know their king turned away from them and then let them know why he turned away from them. A riot is what they plan. An upheaval that will bring me down,” Edward said.

Edward crossed the room. He paced the room slowly and majestically.

“A well devised plan, I have to admit. Rather Sir Mortimer’s idea then Isabella’s, I think,” he said.

Edward turned back to Roger forcefully. He approached him again. The smile on his lips broadened.

“They made a mistake, Roger d’Amory,” he said.

Roger gave Edward a questioning look.

“They did not reckon you’re smart and clever. And they did not reckon you would instantly see the man and not the king,” Edward said.

He crossed his arms in front of his chest again and smiled at Roger.

“You are my favourite, Roger d’Amory. I will let them know very soon. And then I will watch their moves and I will operate to my advantage,” Edward said.

Roger’s eyes rested on Edward’s face. Edward made a step forward. He reached out his hand and placed his finger on Roger’s chest. He looked into Roger’s eyes.

“Are you on my side, Roger d’Amory?” Edward asked with a challenging undertone.

Roger kept looking at Edward.

“Yes, I am,” he replied seriously.

Edward gave him a slight nod. He fixed his eyes on Roger’s face.

“So give me your word of honour then, Roger. And I will give you mine,” Edward said.

Roger’s lips opened slightly. He just looked at Edward for an instant. And then he slowly returned the nod.

~~**~~


The peers and servants looked after them when Edward and Roger entered the hall for lunch. Roger felt uncomfortable. He sensed the eyes of the peers and noblemen resting on his face. But Roger walked upright and avoided the curious eyes. It was obvious that rumours had spread quickly. Everybody seemed already to be informed on his meeting with the king in the king’s private chamber.

Edward walked majestically to the top of the table. A slight smile was playing on his lips. He made a gesture with his hand and pointed at the chair to his right on the long side of the table. Roger stood behind the chair and looked at the opposite wall.

Edward looked from one to the other. His smile broadened. He noticed that Isabella had not come to the hall.

“Sirs,” Edward said in a sober voice. “May I introduce to you Roger d’Amory, Baron of Armoy in Ireland. He came here with his Uncle Patrick d’Amory. I learned that his uncle departed this morning. Roger d’Amory, on the contrary, will stay at court and stay by my side.”

Edward smiled again. He looked from one man to the other. The peers and noblemen gazed at the king. One or two men cleared their throats. The others remained silent. They kept their faces blank and motionless and they kept gazing at Edward.

Finally, Edward lifted his arm.

“Welcome, Sirs. Enjoy your lunch,” he said.

Edward sat down slowly, however with grand demeanour. He leaned back in his chair and studied the table. Roger stood motionless. He still gazed at the opposite wall. The peers kept waiting. Edward turned his head slightly and looked at Roger.

“Roger d’Amory, please take a seat,” he said.

One of the noblemen coughed loudly. Edward gave him a piercing look. The man fell silent at once. Roger looked at Edward out of the corner of his eye. Edward gave him a faint and encouraging nod. Roger moved around the chair and sat down. He sat upright and motionless.

The peers remained standing. They kept gazing at Edward. The tension in the hall grew. Edward sighed slightly. He pointed at the table again.

“Enjoy your lunch, sirs,” he repeated in an almost bored voice.

The noblemen sat down. They ate in silence. Now and then, one of the peers cast a curious look at Edward or Roger. King Edward ate with appetite. Roger forced himself to finish the various meals that were served to him.

Finally, Edward had finished. He looked at Roger who had already put aside the silverware. Edward rose to his feet. The peers stopped eating and stood.

“Sirs,” Edward said. “Please forgive me for leaving before you have finished. I need to attend to some urgent matters now.”

The peers gazed at him in disbelief. Edward smiled at them mildly.

“Please follow me, Roger d’Amory,” Edward said. “I do need your assistance.”

One of the peers fell into a fit of coughing. The others murmured and whispered. Edward crossed the room slowly. Roger followed him. The peers and noblemen looked after them. As soon as Edward and Roger had left the hall, they started to whisper and tattle. One man rose to his feet stiffly. Sir Hugh Audley left the hall and retired to his room quickly.

“Poor man,” a nobleman said as soon as Hugh Audley was out of sight. “Yesterday he was the king’s favourite, today he is just a discarded man.”

The men nodded and exchanged mocking looks. They continued to whisper and tattle.

~~**~~


Edward walked down the corridor. Roger followed him close behind. The servants gazed at them curiously, yet they instantly lowered their eyes when Edward or Roger looked at them. Edward and Roger climbed the stairs and entered Edward’s parlour. Edward burst into laughter.

“Hypocrites,” he said laughing aloud. “I can see them huddling together in the hall and gossip and tattle.”

Edward sat down on a chaise longue. He smiled at Roger and pointed at a chair opposite. Roger sat down. Edward studied his face.

“This was your first time in the hall at the side of your king. You are not feeling comfortable, are you, Roger d’Amory?” Edward asked.

“No,” Roger said, shaking his head. “I had no idea those men were so sneaky and devious.”

“Now you know,” Edward said, leaning back against the rear of the chaise longue. “Do you think you can cope with it?” he asked curiously.

“I cannot say, my lord,” Roger admitted. “But I gave you my word.”

Edward nodded, and then he smiled.

“You will get used to it, Roger.”

He paused for an instant.

“I found it very interesting that the queen had not come to the hall. Neither did I spot Sir Mortimer,” Edward said.

Roger did not respond. Edward’s eyes rested on his face.

“You fear you will not be able to stand the pressure. But you will, Roger. Isabella and Sir Mortimer will not gossip with the noblemen and peers. They will not spread rumours. The queen and Sir Mortimer will not participate,” Edward said.

He bowed forward.

“They won’t participate directly. They will stir the fire, however, staying on the sideline. So they will not be accused of the plot because there is no evidence of them devising it or taking advantage of the unfortunate gossip. Sir Mortimer is an honourable man and Isabella, the queen, is a betrayed spouse. They’ll make a nice couple for a future queen and king,” Edward said drily.

He leaned back again, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“Would you be able to stop them?” Roger asked.

Edward looked into the room for a while before turning back to Roger.

“Isabella and Sir Mortimer would not make such a fine couple, if the queen was a proven adulteress and Sir Mortimer was her seducer,” Edward said.

He leaned forward again, looking closely at Roger.

“My lovely spouse would not be any better than I am. But I am the king already, whereas she would be a whore claiming my throne,” he said.

A smile played on Edward’s lips. Roger opened his lips, yet he did not say a word. Edward looked at him. Roger’s face turned pale.

“Just a...” Roger started.

He fell silent. Edward measured him.

“I know what you just wanted to say,” Edward said seriously. “Yes, your reputation is doubtlessly ruined for being the king’s favourite. But you cannot reject the king, can you? And you do not claim to take my throne, do you? You are most content with being my favourite, aren’t you? A king must play favourites all the time, unfortunately,” Edward said.

Roger nodded faintly.

“I can see your plan,” he said finally.

Edward looked at him.

“We must make sure it works out. It won’t be difficult, however, I think,” Edward said.

Roger gave him a questioning look.

“Sir Mortimer wants to be king. This means he must marry the queen...” Edward paused for a moment. “He will marry her after my downfall and death. Sir Mortimer must make sure he will be the chosen one. He must work on gaining Isabella’s favour...as a confidant, as a lover and friend. We need not do anything, Roger. Sir Mortimer will eagerly work on this plan himself.”

Edward looked into the room for a while. Then he turned his eyes back to Roger.

“We just need to make sure they become more careless. So, let’s demonstrate our affection. Thus they will think that their plan will work out,” Edward said.

Edward and Roger looked at each other.

“You told me I was smart and clever. But you are way smarter and more clever than I am, my lord,” Roger said finally.

Edward gave a brief laugh.

“No, Roger d’Amory, I am not. Scheming, however, is the only talent you need to survive at court. Do not forget, Roger. I was born and raised to be a king. I am used to scheming and I’m versed at scheming plans,” Edward said.

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer was about to leave the queen’s parlour. He turned back to her in the doorway.

“The king stepped faster than I thought he would do, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said. “I am sure that everything will work out according to our plan.”

Isabella approached him with a smile.

“My husband is an imbecile,” she whispered to Sir Mortimer.

Sir Mortimer smiled back, and then, hesitantly, he reached out his hand and touched Isabella’s shoulder lightly. Isabella looked up and almost invisibly narrowed her eyes. Sir Mortimer drew back his hand instantly.

“Pardon me, my lady,” he said in a guilty voice. He lowered his eyes quickly.

Isabella gave a laugh.

“Sir Mortimer, don’t play a submissive servant. It doesn’t fit you well,” she said.

Sir Mortimer gave her another smile and then he left the room quickly. His smile disappeared as soon as he had closed the door behind him.

~~**~~


The queen crossed the room. She sat down in a chair and gazed at the carpet on the floor.

“Do not think I am an imbecile also, Sir Mortimer,” she said to herself in a low voice. “I know your motives very well and I also do know your intentions.”

Isabella stood again and moved to the window.

“I do not like what he has in mind. Unfortunately, I need his help. I cannot bring Edward down without him,” she said angrily.

Isabella looked out of the window with a frown.

“As soon as Edward is dead, you will fall down as well, Sir Mortimer, for there is one thing you have not yet seen through.”

Isabella smiled maliciously.

“I will be a loyal servant to the Sovereign of France. I won’t marry an English man. My husband will be a Frenchman,” she said in a cold voice.

Isabella curled her lips.

“Those Englishmen are all miserable imbeciles,” she said in disdain.

Isabella turned around and straightened. She narrowed her eyes and raised her chin.

“Vive le Roi de France!” she said aloud.

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer was sitting at the desk in his room. He sealed a letter that he had written. He leaned back in his chair and looked into the room.

“The queen is driven by vengeance. This is her weakness. I must control this weakness of hers,” he said to himself. “She is wayward and capricious. I can make her stumble and then I will extort her.”

Sir Mortimer smiled confidently. He rubbed his hands contentedly.

“I just need to make sure she sees her miserable husband and his lover again and again. But this should be easy enough, I think. Edward will demonstrate his affection. What an imbecile man, what an imbecile king.”

Sir Mortimer stood and put on his doublet.

“The queen will fling herself in my arms. Silly French goose,” he said to himself with a mocking grin.

Upright and self-assured, Sir Mortimer left his room and moved to the dining hall where the peers were still gossiping and tattling. A startled and dismayed look appeared on Sir Mortimer’s face when a nobleman told him of the new favourite that the king had chosen. Inwardly, however, Sir Mortimer smiled. He was utterly pleased to learn that things worked out just fine.

~~**~~


 “Tell me about yourself, Roger,” Edward said, smiling at Roger.

“I am Sir Roger d’Amory, Baron of Armoy in Ireland. I am twenty-four years old. Armoy is a small village in Northern Ireland. You most likely have never heard of the place,” Roger said, returning the smile.

“I am afraid I have not,” Edward admitted. “Although I am fairly sure that I have heard the name Amory before.”

“You may have heard of my uncle, Patrick d’Amory. He came to England many years ago. He lived in London for a few years. He lives in the South of England now,” Roger said.

Edward mused.

“I may have heard of him,” he said, “Although I do not know anything about him. But your uncle took you here. He most likely did so because Sir Mortimer asked him to do so,” Edward said.

Roger leaned back. His face turned pale.

“You mean my uncle was into Sir Mortimer’s plan, my lord?” Roger asked.

Edward nodded.

“This is what I think, Roger d’Amory.  You closely resemble Piers Gaveston. Sir Mortimer must have known this.”

Edward leaned back. Roger looked into the room. He was feeling startled.

“I came to England in order to fight in the Battle of Bannockburn. I did not face the fate of death like so many of my comrades did. I was invited to court in order to take part in the banquet. And, yes, my uncle received an invitation also, although he did not fight in the battle. He is an old man,” Roger said.

“You did not wonder as to why your uncle received an invitation?” Edward asked.

Roger shook his head pensively.

“No, I did not. I am not familiar in detail with the English etiquette. I am a nobleman, yes. But those peers sitting at the king’s table would consider my house a shack. They do not consider me a nobleman. They consider me an illiterate peasant, my king,” Roger said.

“They also considered Piers Gaveston a peasant, unworthy of my favour. They were mistaken, though,” Edward said seriously.

He leaned forward.

“Sir Mortimer arranged the meeting on the green. So he must have talked to your uncle before. When did they meet?” he asked.

“At the banquet probably,” Roger said thoughtfully.

He straightened.

“Sir Mortimer must have met my uncle at the banquet and he then must have spotted me and made up his devilish plan,” Roger said.

Edward’s eyes rested on Roger.

“You don’t believe in those words of yours yourself, do you?” Edward asked in a sober voice.

Roger flushed. He lowered his eyes for an instant. Then he looked back at Edward.

“No, I do not believe this. You are right, my lord. I was invited for one reason only,” he said.

Edward nodded thoughtfully.

“The Baron of Armoy in Ireland would not have received an invitation, Roger. Many men died in the battle. Many noblemen also. But those who survived are still many. We would have not been able to invite them all. Only those of the highest ranks have received an invitation. Did you look closely at the men at the banquet?” Edward asked.

Roger flushed again. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“Yes, I did. Those men all looked like kings. My uncle and I looked like peasants dressed up for Christmas mass,” Roger said.

Roger swallowed. He felt humiliated.

Edward rose to his feet and approached Roger. He stood behind Roger’s chair and touched Roger’s shoulder softly. Roger tensed slightly.

“You look far more beautiful than all those men,” Edward said. “Their elegant clothes cannot hide their dark hearts and souls.”

Edward ran his hand down Roger’s upper arm. His hand rested on Roger’s arm for an instant. Then the king withdrew his hand. Edward went back to the chaise longue and sat down again.

“Sir Mortimer sent out men to find a nobleman resembling Piers Gaveston. His search was crowned with success,” Edward said.

Edward looked into the room pensively.

“They started devising their plan immediately after the battle. One of the men probably remembered your face and your name,” Edward said.

He crossed his arms in front of his chest. Roger felt flustered.

“So my uncle played into their hands,” he said finally.

Silence fell for a while. Then Roger straightened again.

“I believed he was a good man. He was kind. He welcomed me, and then he sold me to the man who plans to bring down the English king. My uncle shall go to hell,” Roger said in a bitter voice.

“I have no doubt he will and he will be in good company,” Edward said drily.

He looked Roger straight in the eyes.

“Forget about him,” he said. His voice sounded like a command.

Roger gazed at Edward for a moment. And then he nodded. His nod was a bow to his king.

“Your wish is my command, my king,” he said in a distinct and informal voice.

Edward raised his hand slightly. Roger was about to rise to his feet, retreat and leave the king alone. He was all in a fluster. Edward lowered his hand and rose to his feet. He approached Roger and stood behind Roger’s chair. Edward bowed and whispered into Roger’s ear. Roger looked straight ahead, and then he nodded. Edward gave a laugh. He touched Roger’s shoulder. This time, Roger relaxed.

~~**~~


Three days passed.

Isabella stood by the window, looking out on the green.

“There they are,” she said to Sir Mortimer who stood next to her.

“It feels like an act of deliberation,” Isabella said. “As if he meets the man deliberately under my window.”

Sir Mortimer smiled.

“My lady, you should consider yourself lucky. Thus you will witness his sinful behaviour. And so will the peers. No doubt will be left then,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella turned to Sir Mortimer. They exchanged a look.

“The peers gossip and tattle. The atmosphere is tensed. The peers feel humiliated. Edward ignores them. He is entirely absorbed in his new play. Sir Remington was enraged last night. He talked of shame and disgrace that should be erased quickly. Our plan works out well, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said.

He smiled playfully at Isabella. Isabella turned back to the window and took a deep breath.

“Look, he placed his hand on the man’s shoulder,” the queen said.

Sir Mortimer leaned forward and looked outside.

Edward and Roger were standing on the green. Edward stood in front of Roger, his hand placed on the man’s shoulder. A few servants and a few noblemen stood watching them from the distance.

“It is if they are acting on a stage,” Isabella said. “The spectators are watching them. We are watching them from the gallery. It seems to me as if Edward is enjoying this play. He probably expects the audience to cheer and applaud.” Isabella’s voice sounded bitter.

Sir Mortimer gave a laugh.

“Exceeded expectations, my lady. False expectations,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella turned to Sir Mortimer. She narrowed her eyes.

“Do you really think Edward is that stupid, Sir Mortimer? He must know that he is taking a risk when acting in public the way he does,” she said.

Sir Mortimer shrugged.

“We must not neglect this possibility. However, I rather think he wants to provoke you. Vengeance, my lady,” he said.

Isabella’s eyes widened. She nodded slowly.

“Yes, Sir Mortimer,” she said. “We killed Gaveston. Edward pays back. He wants me to fly into a rage.”

“Is he having success, my lady?” Sir Mortimer asked attentively.

Isabella flushed. She took another deep breath.

“He wants me to fly into a rage and make a fool of myself,” she said in a suppressed voice. “He wants me to act like a fool under the peers and noblemen’s eyes. Then he can get rid of me finally.”

Sir Mortimer nodded mildly.

“Yes, my lady, exactly,” he said softly. “He wants you to panic and act irrationally. It should be easy then to claim the queen has gone insane.”

Sir Mortimer paused, giving the queen a meaningful look. Isabella’s face turned pale. She wiped back a strand of her hair nervously. Sir Mortimer watched her, feeling utterly pleased.

‘Silly French goose,’ he thought in despise. However, he controlled his emotions. He gave the queen a pitiful look.

Isabella backed away.

“Sir Mortimer,” she almost called out. “You are wrong. I am not to be pitied. I have set myself a goal and I will achieve it.”

She compressed her lips and turned back to the window.

“I hate this man,” she hissed. “But he will not beat me. He will not. He cannot. He must not.”

Sir Mortimer did not respond. He smiled inwardly. He almost purred inwardly. His plan worked out well. Sir Mortimer reached out his hand and softly touched Isabella’s upper arm. The queen tensed slightly. She turned her eyes to Sir Mortimer. Sir Mortimer smiled. He did not withdraw his hand until Isabella gave him a faint smile. Then, Sir Mortimer made a step back and bowed to the queen.

“My lady, your loyal servant always,” he purred, placing his hand on his chest.

Sir Mortimer straightened and retreated. He backed out, still looking at the queen. He bowed again at the door, and then he left the room quickly. Sir Mortimer closed the door behind him.

Isabella gazed at the closed door. Her mind was blank. After a while, she turned back to the window and looked outside. She saw Edward and Roger. Edward was leaning in to Roger. He placed his fingers on the man’s cheek. Isabella made a step back and then drew the curtain shut forcefully.

~~**~~


Edward looked up to the queen’s chamber. The curtain was drawn shut. A smile played on Edward’s lips. He turned his eyes back to Roger and withdrew his fingers from the man’s cheek.

“My plan works out just fine,” the king said in a pleased voice.

Roger blinked. Edward looked at him. He gave Roger a questioning look.

“You are not feeling comfortable, Roger d’Amory, are you?” Edward asked.

Roger shook his head.

“No, my lord, I am feeling that I am just a pawn,” he said.

Edward raised an eyebrow.

“A pawn is often underestimated,” Edward said. “Do not sacrifice a pawn carelessly. Do not endanger your king carelessly. Many do not know how to play a game of chess properly.”

“You are an expert in playing chess?” Roger asked attentively.

“No, I am not. But I am the king,” Edward said soberly.

Edward turned away and started crossing the green. Roger looked after him. He felt intimidated again for an instant. But then he followed Edward. They stopped at a bed of flowers. Edward looked at the flowers thoughtfully.

“We must step carefully, Roger d’Amory. My foes are eager to win this game. However, I think they do not know how to play the game well. They are keen to win fast. They are impatient,” he said.

He turned to Roger and looked at him.

“The queen is an important figure, Roger,” he said. “Lose the queen and you are almost certainly bound to lose the whole game.”

“The queen is your foe,” Roger reminded the king.

Edward nodded.

“Indeed, she is,” he said. “And that is why we must break her power.”

He looked at Roger with a smile. Roger just looked back at the king.

“Let’s go back, Roger,” Edward said. “I will be thinking about my next move. But now let’s go back and get rid of those thoughts for a while.”

Edward gave Roger another smile. Then he turned and moved back to the house. He walked upright and majestically. Roger followed him.

~~**~~


The peers gave them piercing looks when they entered the house. The king and his new favourite ignored them. They walked down the hallway and climbed the stairs to the first floor.

“They are watching us,” Edward said drily.

“I feel like acting on a stage,” Roger said.

“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players,” Edward replied.

“If so, why can’t we stop the play then?” Roger asked.

Edward turned his head to him. They walked to Edward’s room slowly.

“Good question, Roger d’Amory,” Edward said. He gave Roger a curious look.

A servant opened the door for them. Edward and Roger entered the king’s parlour. The servant closed the door. Edward pointed at the chaise longue.

“Good question, Roger d’Amory,” Edward repeated when they had sat down.

Edward leaned back against the rear of the chaise longue and looked into the room thoughtfully.

“I could have saved Piers Gaveston’s life if I had been able to stop the play. I was not able to, though. Yes, good question, Roger d’Amory. Perhaps I am wrong and the world is not a stage. The world rather is a den of iniquity, isn’t it?” Edward asked.

He looked at Roger out of the corner of his eye. Roger tilted his head slightly.

“Perhaps this is the title of the play,” he replied.

“Why would we want to play an ugly game?” Edward asked curiously.

Roger shrugged.

“Because we are bound to play it?” he asked back.

“Damned to play it, you mean,” Edward said.

He looked at the ceiling for a moment before turning his eyes back to Roger.

“Paradise is lost. We are banned from it and thus we are damned to play this ugly game. Is this what you are thinking, Roger d’Amory?” he asked.

Roger shrugged.

“This is what the priests teach us, at least,” he said.

“In fact,” Edward said thoughtfully. “But perhaps the priests are wrong?” he asked.

“Uttering this thought is dangerous, my king,” Roger said.

“Uttering this thought would lead to my immediate downfall, in fact,” Edward said drily. “This is why I will not utter it. But I can very well act on it.”

Roger gave him a questioning look. Edward looked back, smiling slightly.

“My malady is a bone of contention. It could very well lead to my downfall and destruction. But heresy is an immediate death sentence,” Edward explained.

Roger measured Edward.

“You mean you want to accuse the queen of heresy?” he asked warily.

Edward shook his head briefly.

“Not so much the queen. Rather the figure that is protecting her. The man who is to her service. He claims to be the queen’s confidant. But his loyalty is a lie,” he said.

Edward crossed his arms in front of his chest.

“Sir Mortimer is working on my destruction and at the same time he is working on the queen’s downfall as well. He plays a double game. But he knows that he cannot win without the queen.”

Edward smiled.

“Sir Mortimer will be working on gaining the queen. But he must weaken her power. We need not do anything. We just need to watch his moves. However, once he has taken over control, we must act very quickly,” he said.

“How would you be able to accuse Sir Mortimer of heresy if there is no evidence of it?” Roger asked.

“I am working on this,” Edward said with a smile.

He looked at Roger for an instant.

“But now let us drop these dark and disturbing thoughts,” Edward said.

He leaned back more and looked at Roger. Then Edward reached out his hand and placed his fingers on Roger’s cheek. Roger leaned in to the king.

~~**~~


Roger awoke with a start. He had dreamed of the white dove again. He had heard the dove cry, yet he did not remember if it had fallen dead to the ground. Roger shifted uncomfortably. Edward, lying next to him, moved and turned on his side. Roger turned his head to him.

“What?” Edward asked tiredly.

Roger did not respond. Edward lifted his head.

“What is going on, Roger?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Roger replied in a low voice. “I just woke with a start.”

Edward reached out and placed his arm around Roger.

“Go back to sleep,” he murmured.

Edward moved closer. Soon, Roger heard Edward’s steady breathing. Edward had fallen asleep again. Roger closed his eyes. He relaxed. But a distant worry remained and it was faintly troubling his mind.

~~**~~


Dawn had just come. But Sir Mortimer had already dressed. He walked down the empty corridors of the house. He liked to walk in silence and in darkness. Dawn was the perfect time to dwell on his thoughts and dwell on his plans.

The queen was nervous. Sir Mortimer smiled to himself. He climbed the stairs to the first floor. He walked and moved unwatched and unheard. Sir Mortimer looked down the hallway that led to the chambers of the king. The guards had fallen asleep.

Sir Mortimer shook his head in disdain. ‘Imbeciles’, he thought. It would be easy for an intruder to enter the king’s room and murder the man. ‘Not a good solution, however,’ Sir Mortimer thought. The peers hated the king. But murder him would be a bad move. A king’s murderer would never escape.

Sir Mortimer shook his head. ‘There are too many men eager to success on the throne,’ he thought. Edward’s son was way too young to follow him. So the queen would follow the king.  But the queen would be forced to marry again. The French woman would not be able to hold her position long without an English husband and king.

Sir Mortimer looked down the corridor that led to Edward’s chambers. ‘There are too many men eager to success on the throne,’ he thought again. ‘Too many who could rightfully claim the right to marry the queen. I need to work on my original plan. I need a riot. I need an upheaval. I will be the one who will break it. Thus, they cannot pass me by.’

Sir Mortimer frowned. His plan was bold. He knew that he gambled. His plan was ambitious. Sir Mortimer compressed his lips.

“There’s too much at stake. I can’t do it alone. I will not rise without the queen,” he hissed.

The servant who was sleeping on the floor moved slowly and opened his eyes. He rose to his feet quickly when he spotted a figure standing in the dark at the top of the stairs.

“Quiet,” Sir Mortimer said quickly. “I was just looking if you guard the hallway well.”

The man straightened. Sir Mortimer smiled in despise.

“I see you are on guard,” he said mischievously.

Sir Mortimer approached the man. He stopped right in front of him. Sir Mortimer could see the man’s eyes in the dark. He saw the fear in his eyes.

Sir Mortimer smiled mildly.

“Tell me, is the king alone in his chamber?” he asked.

The man gazed at him. Sir Mortimer curled his lips. The man shook his head.

“Who is with him then?” Sir Mortimer asked, his voice sounding almost casual.

The man kept gazing at him. Sir Mortimer narrowed his eyes.

“That man,” the guard finally replied in a suppressed voice.

“I cannot make sense of your answer,” Sir Mortimer said, leaning in more to the man.

The guard blinked nervously.

“Roger d’Amory,” he said finally.

“Ah,” Sir Mortimer said, smiling again.

He stepped back and descended the stairs.

“All according to plan,” he said to himself, feeling contented. “I should let Isabella know that they spent the night together. Perhaps I could invite her for a walk at dawn in order to clear her thoughts and refresh her mind. We could take the path to the bathhouse and pick some flowers there.”

Sir Mortimer almost giggled at the thought of himself picking flowers at dawn. He shrugged.

“Be that as it may,” he said. “It furthers my plan. The silly French goose will fly into a rage when she spots Edward and his favourite entering the bathhouse, coming from the king’s room apparently.”

Sir Mortimer straightened and took a deep breath. He climbed the stairs again and entered the corridor that led to Isabella’s chambers. The guard in front of the door straightened. Sir Mortimer ignored the man. He woke the maid servant who was sleeping on the floor in front of the door. The girl looked at him with widened eyes.

“Wake the queen,” Sir Mortimer ordered. “A matter of urgency.”

The girl and the guard gazed at Sir Mortimer in utter disbelief. Sir Mortimer clapped his hands impatiently.

“Quick,” he said in an imperious voice.

The guard stepped aside. The girl opened the door and slipped into the room. Sir Mortimer crossed his arms in front of his chest, smiling broadly into the darkness.

~~**~~


Isabella sat up in her bed. She looked into the darkness.

“What is going on?” she asked, feeling confused. She wiped her eyes tiredly.

“My lady, a matter of urgency,” the maid whispered in a frightened voice.

The maid stood near Isabella’s bed. She watched the queen with widened eyes. The maid was scared and she was afraid of the queen’s reaction.

Isabella straightened and wiped back her hair.

“What is going on?” she asked again, still feeling confused.  “Light a candle,” she commanded finally.

The maid stumbled through the darkness, looking for a candle and a lighter. Finally, she managed to light the candle. Isabella was sitting on the edge of her bed. She watched the maid warily.

“Sir Mortimer is waiting outside,” the maid whispered.

“Sir Mortimer?” Isabella asked. “What does he want at that time of the day? Dawn is just breaking.”

“A matter of urgency,” the maid whispered.

Isabella grew angry.

“He must have gone insane,” she said.

Nonetheless, she rose to her feet and looked for her gown. The maid quickly took up the gown and hurried to help the queen. Isabella placed the gown around her shoulders. She brushed back her hair again.

“Open the door just a bit,” she said. “He must not see me.”

Isabella was angry. But she was also alarmed.

The maid rushed to the door and opened it. She peeped out. Sir Mortimer straightened and moved to the door.

“I must speak to the queen,” Sir Mortimer said. His voice was dark and urgent.

“What is it you want, Sir Mortimer?” Isabella asked from behind the door.

“A matter of urgency, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said, controlling his voice. “I must speak to you in private immediately.”

“You must not come into the room,” Isabella said imperiously. “How can you dare to come to my room at this time of the day?”

Isabella was about to fly into a rage.

“Calm,” Sir Mortimer said. He was impatient and barely managed to remain calm.

“My lady, dress quickly and meet me at the bottom of the stairs,” Sir Mortimer said.

“I must not be seen with you at dawn,” Isabella said. “It would cast a poor light on me.”

Sir Mortimer frowned for an instant, yet then he returned to a softer demeanour.

“My lady,” he said in a soft voice. “I have evidence and proof,” he said.

“Proof of what?” Isabella asked.

Sir Mortimer rolled his eyes impatiently. The guard looked at him in disbelief. Sir Mortimer cast him a piercing look. The man lowered his eyes.

“My lady,” Sir Mortimer said, “Take along the maid if you wish so. Just let us go for a brief walk in the morning, clearing our thoughts and refreshing our minds.”

Isabella gazed at the door in disbelief.

“He must have gone insane,” she murmured.

‘Silly French goose,’ Sir Mortimer thought impatiently.

“My lady, I promise the light of the morning will shed light on a matter you may be interested in,” he said, his voice showing impatience this time.

Isabella and the maid exchanged a glance.

“Well, Sir Mortimer,” Isabella said finally, “Wait for me downstairs. I will be dressing at once.”

“Yes, I will be waiting downstairs,” Sir Mortimer said softly.

He smiled, yet his smile and his eyes were cold. Sir Mortimer turned and descended the stairs. The maid closed the door quickly. Isabella hurried to her closet.

“Quick, Abigail,” she said. “I must be back before the peers and the king awake and find me sneaking about outside with Sir Mortimer.”

Isabella dressed. The maid arranged the queen’s hair. And then the queen and her maid hurried down the stairs and to the door that led to the green outside. Sir Mortimer welcomed Isabella with a nod. He opened the door and stepped outside quickly. Isabella and the maid followed him. Sir Mortimer pointed down a path.

“Let’s go for a walk. This path leads to the bathhouse. It should not be frequented at that time of the day,” he said.

Sir Mortimer glanced at the sky. The first light of the morning illuminated it.

‘The king has a tight schedule today,’ he thought. ‘Sir Duffy will talk to Edward first. He cannot dare to have Sir Duffy waiting. So, I’m fairly sure Edward will rise soon and then head for the bathhouse.’

Sir Mortimer walked down the path grimly. ‘I can only hope he takes Roger d’Amory along. But it is worth a try.’

Isabella and the maid followed Sir Mortimer quickly. They soon disappeared behind rose trees that grew along the path. Sir Mortimer walked more slowly.

“No one can see us from the castle, my lady,” he said. “You can go back later in company of your maid. I will be taking another way back to the house.”

“The guard knows that I left in order to meet you,” Isabella said.

Sir Mortimer looked at the queen.

“Do not worry, my lady. While I was waiting for your response, I thanked the man for his good service and gave him a few coins,” Sir Mortimer said in a bored voice.

He stopped at the sight of the bathhouse.

“My lady,” he said, turning to Isabella. “Send your maid away for a couple of minutes. She may pick some flowers over there, while we pick some here,” he said, pointing at a flowerbed close to the bathhouse.

Isabella looked at him in disbelief.

“Pick flowers,” she said in a sharp voice. “You must have gone insane, Sir Mortimer.”

Sir Mortimer gave her a cold and piercing look. Isabella’s shoulders slumped and her face flushed.

“I see,” she said. Her voice was insecure.

Isabella turned to her maid quickly.

“Abigail,” she said, “Please go and pick some flowers over there. Stay in sight and come back as soon I wave my hand.”

The maid gave her a brief and startled look. Yet then she made a curtsey and hurried into the indicated direction. Isabella turned to Sir Mortimer.

“If anybody sees me here with you, then my fate will be sealed,” she said coldly.

“Do not feel so scared all the time,” Sir Mortimer returned in a cold voice also.

Isabella flushed again and opened her mouth for a sharp response. However, she refrained from replying when Sir Mortimer offered her arm to her.

“Come, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said in an urgent voice. “Let’s have a look at these beautiful flowers over there.”

He glanced at the sky again. The sun was up, yet hidden behind heavy clouds. Isabella’s eyes followed his look. She gave Sir Mortimer a questioning look before she finally took his arm. Sir Mortimer did not reply. He led the queen to the flowerbed. Isabella looked at the flowers. Sir Mortimer nodded. Isabella picked a flower hesitantly.

“Your excuse for going for a walk at dawn,” Sir Mortimer said. “Flowers are most beautiful in the morning when they open up to the sun.”

Sir Mortimer smiled sweetly before he returned to his cold demeanour. Isabella, having no clue of what was going on, felt highly intimidated. She picked a few flowers and nervously held them to her chest. Sir Mortimer looked up the path.

“Who are you waiting for?” Isabella asked in a suppressed voice.

“I am waiting for the king,” Sir Mortimer said in a sober voice.

Isabella tensed. She tightened the grip on the flowers in her hands.

“Do you want to hand me over to him? Is this your plan?” she asked, her voice trembling with fear.

“Nonsense,” Sir Mortimer hissed.

He looked up the path again. Suddenly, he straightened. A satisfied smile appeared on his lips. He rubbed his hands briefly. Isabella watched him nervously.

“Quick,” Sir Mortimer said.

He offered his arm to Isabella.

“Let’s hide behind these bushes. Quick, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella took his arm. Sir Mortimer moved on. He drew the queen along. Sir Mortimer and Isabella hid behind the trees.

“Quiet, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said when the queen was about to speak up. “Come, here is a good place to watch.”

Isabella peeped through the bushes, her chest heaving with fear. Sir Mortimer stood motionless and attentively watched the path from out of their hiding-place.

“Quiet, my lady. Whatever happens. Whoever you see. Quiet, my lady. Do not compromise yourself,” he said.

Isabella nodded faintly. She tightened the grip on the flowers in her hands. Sir Mortimer watched attentively. And then, they both heard voices.

“Edward,” Isabella said.

“I told you I was waiting for the king,” Sir Mortimer said. “The king and his companion. But quiet now.”

Isabella nodded. It dawned on her finally. She looked at the path anxiously.

Edward appeared, dressed in a gown. A servant carried his clothes. And then, Roger d’Amory came in sight, dressed only in a gown also. Edward laughed cheerfully. He turned back to Roger and waited for the man to catch up with him. Edward smiled at Roger. Roger smiled back. They both looked dishevelled. Edward leaned in to Roger. He gave another laugh. Then he took the clothes from the servant’s hands. Edward talked to the servant and the man hurried up the path instantly. Edward and Roger entered the bathhouse.

Sir Mortimer stood motionless, his arms crossed in front of his chest. He felt entirely calm. He did not even feel the need to smile mockingly. Sir Mortimer just stood and looked ahead.

A sudden noise distracted him. Sir Mortimer glanced aside. Isabella had dropped the flowers. The queen’s face was pale and her lips shivered slightly. Sir Mortimer studied her for an instant. His look was entirely free of emotion. Isabella glanced up at him. Sir Mortimer just looked at her. The queen was about to faint.

‘Silly French goose’, Sir Mortimer thought coldly. ‘Did you really think they just go for a walk under your window?’

Isabella clenched her hands. And then her eyelids flickered. Isabella fainted. Sir Mortimer still watched her coldly. But then he quickly caught the queen in his arms. Isabella opened her eyes slightly. Sir Mortimer stroked her hair and gave the queen a reassuring smile. Isabella closed her eyes again. Sir Mortimer carried her limp body up the path.

Sir Mortimer spotted the maid. He gave her a sign. The maid hurried towards them.

“The queen fainted,” Sir Mortimer said. “Quick, call a nobleman to guard her honour. You have not seen me. Understood, girl?”

Sir Mortimer’s look was icy and the maid backed away from him. She glanced at him in fear.

“Understood?” Sir Mortimer hissed with another cold and sharp look.

“Yes, sir,” the maid uttered barely audible.

She nodded faintly and cast a look at the queen’s limp body. Then the maid turned abruptly. She ran up the path, crying out for help. Sir Mortimer placed the queen’s body on a flowerbed cautiously.

‘Almost like laid on a bier,’ Sir Mortimer thought.

He took in the sight for a moment or two. Then Sir Mortimer knelt down and touched Isabella’s cheek softly. The queen opened her eyes slightly. She looked at him in despair.

“Help is on the way, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said softly. “I will disappear out of sight. You were just picking flowers, do you remember?”

Isabella looked up at him. Her face was white as snow and tears had filled her eyes. She tried to reply to Sir Mortimer’s words, but she found herself unable to utter a word.  Sir Mortimer bowed down. He picked a few flowers and placed them near Isabella’s head.

“You were just picking flowers, my lady. Picking flowers in company of your maid,” he said again.

Isabella nodded faintly.

“I must leave now,” Sir Mortimer said.

He stroked Isabella’s temple softly. The queen swallowed and closed her eyes. Sir Mortimer rose to his feet quickly and then hurried down the path. He passed the bathhouse and hurried farther along to where he knew was a crossroad. From there he would take another path back to the house.

~~**~~


Edward pointed around in the bathhouse. It was made of wood. Three tubs stood on the floor. Each of them was filled with water.

“A comfortable place, isn’t it? Make yourself comfortable, Roger,” Edward said with a smile.

Roger looked around. The royal bathhouse was far more splendid than the bathhouse that belonged to Roger’s manor in Ireland. Various soaps and jars with herbs were placed on wooden shelves. The scent of roses filled the air.

Edward took off his gown and his underwear. He climbed into a tub. Then he looked at Roger.

“Do not worry, Roger d’Amory. The water isn’t cold,” he said.

Roger turned to Edward. Edward leaned back in the tub. He glanced at Roger.

“They heat the water before dawn, just in case I need a bath early,” Edward said with a yawn.

He glanced at Roger again. Finally, Roger took off his clothes. Edward pointed at the tub.

“Join me in here, please,” he said.

He smiled at Roger impishly.

“You cannot reject the king’s command,” Edward said.

“Is it the king’s command?” Roger asked with a smile.

Edward shook his head.

“It is not, of course,” he said smiling also.

Roger returned the smile. He climbed into the tub. Edward watched him attentively.

~~**~~


Isabella was lying in her bed. She had her eyes closed and she sobbed. The maid was attending to her. She wiped the queen’s forehead with a cloth. Isabella’s face was pale and her lips shivered. The queen felt scared and frightened. The maid had told her that a peer had carried her back to the castle. Isabella did not remember. ‘Luckily’, she thought. It was such a shame and disgrace. The queen sobbed again.

“Calm, my lady,” the maid said. “It is alright. No harm is done to you.”

Isabella trembled nonetheless. She refused to open her eyes.

“I ran into Sir William, luckily,” the maid said. “He is a good man. He will not gossip, my lady. No one else saw you, I swear, my lady. And Sir William will keep the incident a secret.”

Isabella opened her eyes. She looked at the maid. Her eyes showed fear. Isabella reached out and touched the maid’s arm.

“You must not tell anybody that I was going for a walk with Sir Mortimer. Promise me, Abigail, promise me,” she said in almost despair.

The maid nodded.

“I will not, my lady,” the maid said in a low voice. “I will not tell anybody. I promise, my lady.”

The queen nodded gratefully. The maid looked at Isabella.

“Did he do you any harm, my lady?” she asked in a low voice, avoiding Isabella’s eyes.

“No, no he did not,” Isabella said. “Sir Mortimer did not do me any harm. It was just the sight of my king and husband that shook me to the core.”

The maid flushed. She did not respond.

“You have seen him also?” Isabella asked nervously.

The maid swallowed. And then she nodded faintly.

“I was hiding behind a tree when they were coming down the path. They have not spotted me, my lady,” she said.

“Good,” Isabella said.

The queen and her maid exchanged a glance. The maid nodded in understanding. Isabella turned her eyes away. The maid continued wiping Isabella’s forehead.

“It is such a shame and disgrace,” Isabella whispered. “Sir Mortimer took me there to witness this shameful incidence.”

“Why did he torment his queen?” the maid asked almost casually.

Isabella looked at her. The maid flushed.

“I cannot say,” Isabella said in a low voice.

She closed her eyes again. The maid continued wiping Isabella’s forehead and face until the queen drifted to sleep. The maid sat by her side and watched the queen. She pitied her and she felt for her. But there was nothing she could do but attend to her queen and soothe her pain.

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer entered the castle through a backdoor and hurried to his room. He locked the door and then set down at his desk.

“Calm,” he said to himself. “The maid and the guard will remain silent. But I need to find out who carried the queen back to the house. I might need to bribe the man. I must not enter the hall before lunch, however. I need to be cautious.”

Sir Mortimer took a quill, but he did not write down anything. He just held the quill and looked grimly at the paper in front of him.

Sir Mortimer went to the hall for lunch. He furtively watched Edward and his favourite and the peers at the table. Edward and Roger soon retired to Edward’s room. Sir Mortimer stayed and talked to the peers. None of them dropped a word of anything that had happened to the queen in the morning. Nobody missed her at table as it was not uncommon for the queen to be absent. The hall emptied. Sir Mortimer was on his own. He tapped his fingers on the wooden table.

“Who helped the queen? Someone must have,” he said to himself.

The following days, he went around and listened. But nobody mentioned the incident. Nobody had seen the queen sneaking about outside at dawn. Nobody had seen a man carrying the limp body of the queen. And, apparently, the man who had helped the queen had decided to forever remain silent.

“Well, then,” Sir Mortimer said, standing by the window of his room, “Apparently a man of honour ran to help the queen. I can hardly believe that a man of honour is around at court. Anyway. Thus I need not worry. So much the better.”

~~**~~


Isabella had chosen to stay in her chamber. She did not come down for the following three weeks. Her maid had spread rumour that the queen was suffering from influenza. The peers didn’t believe the excuse and suspected the queen was heartbroken which was not very far from truth.

Sir Mortimer forced himself to be patient. The queen’s condition would only further his plan.

Edward did not miss the queen either. He refrained from showing up under her window every day in the morning. Apparently, his plan worked out well. The queen was depressed. Sir Mortimer soon would hurry to soothe her pain.

Edward left the governmental affairs to his loyal peers and the few confidants that he still had. The peers, feeling enraged and indignant at first, soon considered the latest development not a bad one. They gained more influence than they had ever had before.

At the end of the year, the peers had got accustomed to the situation. Edward demonstrated his affection to his new favourite constantly, but the king less and less interfered in governmental affairs.

“He has become aware of his inability as a king,” Sir Remington made it clear to the others one evening. “Sirs, I think we can cope with the situation. Leave him his malady and leave him his favourite toy and let him be king. Thus we can act in favour of England.”

His argumentation was widely approved of. The peers were not aware that Edward was waiting silently for his plans to unfold.

Sir Mortimer watched the development highly concerned.

~~**~~


“We cannot stir an upheaval when the peers are behind him. If Edward was removed from England’s throne, they would lose more than they would gain now,” Sir Mortimer said to Isabella.

Sir Mortimer and the queen were standing on a balcony of the castle. Isabella trembled because of the cold. It was at the end of December.

“We need to wait then,” she said impatiently. “Or we must challenge him, so that he will make a false move. This would enrage the peers again.”

“I cannot force things,” Sir Mortimer said. “My influence is big, but I need to wait for a good occasion.”

“This is what I have just said,” Isabella said impatiently.

Isabella shivered again. She wrapped her arms around her body.

“Why must we meet out here?” she asked impatiently.

“Pardon me, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said guiltily. “It was the only safe place I could think of.”

“You were more creative in the past,” Isabella said drily.

Sir Mortimer raised an eyebrow and gave her a questioning look.

“The bathhouse,” Isabella said briskly.

“Well,” Sir Mortimer said, “The incident opened your eyes at least.”

Isabella gave him a warning look.

“Do not carry it too far, Sir Mortimer,” she said. She shivered again. “I cannot stand the cold,” she said grimly.

Sir Mortimer took off his gown and placed it around Isabella’s shoulders. He placed his hands on the queen’s shoulders and very slightly squeezed them. Isabella tensed for the briefest of a moment. But then she relaxed. She gave in to the touch. Sir Mortimer smiled slightly.

“We’re certainly making progress, some way or other,” he said in a flattering voice.

Isabella looked at Sir Mortimer out of the corner of her eye.

“I warn you, Sir Mortimer,” she said. “Do not carry it too far.”

“Never, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said with affection.

He squeezed the queen’s shoulders again. Isabella did not reject him.

~~**~~


Edward and Roger met in Edward’s parlour. Roger stood in the room. He was reading a scroll to Edward. The scroll was written in Latin.

“Carpe diem,” Roger said. He put aside the scroll.

“Seize the day,” Edward said thoughtfully.

Edward leaned back against the rear of the chaise longue. He looked into the room pensively for a while. Roger watched him.

“Things slowed down a bit,” Edward said. “There is no imminent danger. The peers are content with the situation. They do not approve of me being with you, of course. But they gain more than they lose. Sir Mortimer, however, I suspect, is growing impatient.”

Roger sat down next to Edward. He nodded.

“Perhaps he gave up on his plan. The situation calmed. Isn’t this to everybody’s advantage? Why should the queen and Sir Mortimer want to interfere now?” Roger asked.

Edward turned his head to Roger and smiled at him.

“Well, my dear Roger, Sir Mortimer strives for power and so does the queen,” he said.

“So you think they have not given up on their plans?” Roger asked.

“No,” Edward replied. “They just wait for a good occasion to fuel the peers’ rage again.”

Edward leaned back more and looked at Roger.

“And besides, Sir Mortimer steps slower than he probably has hoped for. The queen has not yet welcomed him in her arms,” he said. “I have my informants,” he added.

Edward smiled again and reached out his hand in order to touch Roger’s shoulder.

“I, however, have made good progress regarding this aspect of my plans,” Edward said with another smile.

Roger leaned back also.

“I still do suspect sometimes that I am just a puppet on a string,” Roger said quietly.

Edward looked at Roger pensively.

“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women are merely players. I told you before. Do you remember?” Edward asked.

Roger nodded.

“Sure I do. But this does not mean I feel comfortable with it,” he said.

“Well, my dear Roger, I want you to feel comfortable. I can help you feel comfortable. Push aside your sorrows,” Edward said, his eyes seeking Roger’s.

Roger smiled. Edward straightened a little and then leaned in to Roger. He placed his arm around his shoulders.

~~**~~


Spring had come. The sun was out. It was a warm day. Roger had come to Edward’s room. Edward was standing by the window, looking out on the green.

“There we played on the green when we were boys. Piers Gaveston and I,” Edward said.

Roger joined Edward by the window.

“Piers was sixteen when he came to court. He was exactly my age and we soon became friends. We were friends, best friends, and innocent friends until that day in spring,” Edward continued.

Edward fell silent. His thoughts drifted off to that day in the past. He remembered Piers Gaveston’s smile when he had entered his room. The king smiled at the memory.

“What happened that day?” Roger asked.

Edward turned his eyes to Roger hesitantly.

“He came to my room like he had done so many times before. But something was different that day,” Edward said.

Edward mused. He dwelled on his memories. Roger waited patiently.

“He kissed me,” Edward said.

They remained silent for a while

“Had you not entered my room that unfortunate day, my beloved Gaveston,” Edward said, “Your fate would have been a different one.”

Edward fell silent. Roger did not reply at once. They looked out of the window together.

“He would have come to your room some other day then,” Roger said finally.

Edward turned his head and smiled at Roger. He placed his arm around Roger’s shoulders.

“You are right again, Roger d’Amory. I would not have been able to hinder fate,” he said.

“What happened then?” Roger asked.

“My father, the king, did not approve of it. And neither did the peers. My father sent Gaveston away in 1307. He banned him. He sent him to France. But I called him back from exile after my father died the same year. Four years later, I had to send him away again, though. I had to. My hands were bound. I had given away too much of my power,” Edward said.

He paused.

“He came back to England soon. This was his final downfall. My cousin Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, and Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, made sure he was executed,” Edward said. “I could not stop them.” Edwards’s voice sounded bitter.

Edward withdrew his hand from Roger’s shoulder.

“The King of England was not able to stop them,” he said bitterly. “In a sense, I was the one who killed the man I loved.”

They remained silent for a while.

“Don’t you fear you give away too much power again, my king?” Roger asked in a low voice.

Edward gave him a sideways glance. He shook his head.

“No, Roger. My power has already faded. I led England to ruin. I lost the battle of Bannockburn. Thousands of men died. England’s power diminished while Scotland’s rose. The country is famine-stricken. The people are too weak to rebel against me which probably Sir Mortimer has hoped for. But any careless or any wrong step I make will without doubt lead to my immediate downfall,” Edward said.

He looked out of the window.

“The situation calmed because I withdrew from political affairs. The few confidants I have watch over them. They arranged a compromise with the peers. Unless anything terrible happens, they will let me live in peace,” Edward continued.

“But you said you still fear Sir Mortimer and Isabella will plot against you,” Roger said.

“Of course they will,” Edward said. “This is why I still aim to stop them.”

Edward looked at Roger.

“Come, Roger, let’s go for a walk on the green. Spring has come. The sun is out. It is a warm day. I am happy you came to my room this morning,” he said.

Edward leaned in. His lips touched Roger’s lips lightly. He smiled at him when he withdrew. Roger smiled back despite the faint feeling of disapproval that he had felt at the king’s resigned words. Edward gave Roger a nod. They left the room together.

~~**~~


Isabella watched them from her window. Edward and Roger crossed the green.

“We cannot do anything about it. The peers are content. So what shall we do?” she asked, turning to Sir Mortimer.

“I fear we must drop our original plan,” Sir Mortimer said with a frown.

“What?” Isabella asked enraged. “Do you give in, Sir Mortimer?”

“No, I do not,” Sir Mortimer said angrily. “We just need to alter the plan.”

Isabella compressed her lips and looked out of the window again.

“He will not let up on the man,” she said bitterly.

“You cannot be so sure on that,” Sir Mortimer said thoughtfully.

“What do you mean?” Isabella asked briskly.

“He fell for that man at once. He might easily fall for another. He discarded Hugh Audley the same day he met Roger d’Amory. He might as well discard d’Amory for another man. A man who is on our side. A man we can trust. A man who is loyal to the queen and not the king,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella turned to him and opened her lips. She looked at Sir Mortimer with surprise. And then the queen smiled mischievously.

“Who could that be, Sir Mortimer?” she asked excitedly.

“A man who is on our side,” Sir Mortimer repeated. “A man who is into the secret. A man we can trust and who will not betray us. Let me think about it, my lady. I will soon come up with a plan.”

Isabella gave him a cheerful smile. She nodded her agreement.

“Good, Sir Mortimer. Do not waste time. I am tired of looking out of the window,” she said.

Sir Mortimer smiled back at the queen.

“You look refreshed, my lady. You are beautiful and you like a true queen,” he said.

“You are flattering, Sir Mortimer. You curry favour with me,” Isabella replied.

“Do you consider it wrong?” Sir Mortimer asked innocently.

“No, I do not,” Isabella said. A smile was playing on her lips.

Isabella leaned in and placed her lips on Sir Mortimer’s lightly. Then she withdrew and placed her hand on the man’s cheek for a moment.

“We need to make progress,” she said.

Sir Mortimer returned her smile. He took in the queen’s features. Isabella’s hand still rested on his cheek. Her covetous eyes rested on his face. Sir Mortimer smiled at the queen softly. The queen leaned in again. She placed her other hand on Sir Mortimer’s shoulder. Sir Mortimer’s smile broadened when he placed his arms softly around the queen’s body.

“Wait,” Isabella said, suddenly making a step back.

Sir Mortimer looked at the queen with surprise. He gave her a questioning look. But Isabella just smiled. She turned and drew the curtain shut. A triumphant smile appeared on Sir Mortimer’s lips briefly. It had already gone when the queen turned back to him. Sir Mortimer stepped closer to Isabella and wrapped his arms around the queen’s body again.

~~**~~


Three months passed. Then Sir Mortimer returned with good news.

“I have found the man,” he informed the queen.

“Who is he?” Isabella asked, straightening with excitement.

“Hugh the younger Despenser,” Sir Mortimer said. “The son and heir of Hugh le Despenser, Earl of Winchester, and Isabella de Beauchamp, daughter of William de Beauchamp, 9th Earl of Warwick.  Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, was one of the men who made sure Piers Gaveston was executed. Hugh Despenser is related to him. The Despensers are on your side, my lady. Hugh Despenser is only two years younger than Edward is. He is twenty-eight years of age. Edward is thirty years of age while d’Amory is only twenty-four.”

Isabella tilted her head. She looked at Sir Mortimer pensively for an instant.

“His age does not necessarily speak in his favour,” she said. “But, yes, a Despenser would be a good match. A nobleman and not a peasant. I mean, Edward assigned to d’Amory various manors. But this does not make d’Amory a man of high rank.”

Isabella curled her lips.

“Moreover...,” Sir Mortimer started.

“Moreover what?” Isabella asked curiously.

“I have reliable information that Hugh the younger Despenser suffers from the same malady that the king suffers from,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella gazed at Sir Mortimer delightedly. Her eyes widened with joy. The queen clapped her hands.

“This is just perfect, Mortimer. This will make the execution of our plans way easier,” she said, smiling with excitement.

Sir Mortimer curled his lips slightly.

“It is the first time I see you delighted with the king’s malady,” he said.

“In fact,” Isabella replied. “I must admit that I have completely changed my attitude towards it.”

Sir Mortimer gave a laugh. Isabella’s smile broadened. And then she burst into laughter.

“Oh god, Mortimer. I think this is just delicious,” she said. “I am certain now this plan will work out fine.”

~~**~~


Roger woke with a start. He had dreamed of the white dove again. The dove had cried, and then it had fallen dead to the ground.

Roger breathed heavily. Edward moved and turned on his side.

“What?” Edward asked tiredly.

“I dreamed of the dove again,” Roger said. “This time it fell dead to the ground.”

“Do not worry,” Edward said, suppressing a yawn. “It is the same dream that you are having now and then.”

“The dove fell dead to the ground,” Roger insisted. His voice was startled.

“Do you believe in dreams?” Edward asked tiredly. “Go back to sleep, Roger. This dream means nothing.”

“It does,” Roger said. “I feel that something has changed.”

Edward did not respond.

“What have you done to stop Isabella and Sir Mortimer?” Roger asked.

Edward gave an unnerved grunt.

“I watch their moves. The queen flung herself in his arms. Nothing else has happened,” he said.

“So Sir Mortimer made progress,” Roger said drily. “How can you ignore that fact?”

Edward gave another grunt.

“Listen, Roger, I watch their moves. So far, there is no need to do anything,” he said.

“Didn’t you want to find a way to accuse Sir Mortimer of heresy?” Roger asked.

“I am working on this,” Edward said. He sounded unnerved.

“This is what you said one year ago,” Roger replied.

“Listen, Roger,” Edward said sharply. “Go back to sleep. We will talk about it tomorrow. This is a king’s command. Do not respond.”

Roger opened his lips, yet he did not say a word. He gazed into the darkness in disbelief.

Edward turned on his side. Roger’s worries annoyed him. So many months had passed and nothing had happened. Yes, maybe Sir Mortimer and the queen had given up on their plans. His spouse had finally turned to another man. She did not bother Edward with her request for love any longer. So why should he, the king, stir an upheaval himself? His spouse let him be. And so did the peers. Why could not Roger leave behind his fears also? Edward yawned. Then he shook off his thoughts. He was feeling tired.

Edward went back to sleep. Roger soon heard his steady breathing. Roger turned on his side and swallowed hard. He suppressed the tears that came to his eyes.

~~**~~


Hugh Despenser arrived at court at the end of September 1315. Sir Mortimer had arranged his invitation. Hugh Despenser was assigned to a position of quite a low rank.

“I make sure a higher position will be assigned to him soon. But first, he needs to be introduced at court,” Sir Mortimer said to Isabella.

The queen and Sir Mortimer were having tea in the queen’s parlour.

“When will this be?” Isabella asked curiously.

“In just a few months,” Sir Mortimer said. “We must step more carefully this time. Hugh Despenser is not yet introduced into our plan. I will watch the man in order to make sure that we will trust the right man.”

“What if Edward crosses his way before we have infiltrated the man?” Isabella asked.

“This will not happen, my lady. Hugh Despenser will work at a place far away from Edward’s paths,” Sir Mortimer said.

“He might meet him on the green under my window,” Isabella said in despise.

“He will not step on the green,” Sir Mortimer said soberly.

Isabella put down her cup on the table. She looked at Sir Mortimer seriously.

“Roger d’Amory stepped on the green,” she said.

“He stepped on the green because I made him step on the green,” Sir Mortimer said in a slightly impatient voice.

Isabella frowned at him. Sir Mortimer shrugged.

“That was part of our original plan, my lady. The initial part, in fact. It would have worked out well, had not Edward given away power to the peers. It would have worked well, if Roger d’Amory was a more open man,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella raised an eyebrow. Sir Mortimer examined his fingernails. He looked up.

“Roger d’Amory is loyal to the king. A different man would perhaps have sold his intimate knowledge,” he said soberly.

Isabella smiled. She nodded.

“I hope this time you have better knowledge of the chosen man’s character,” she said.

Sir Mortimer nodded at the queen.

“Hugh Despenser is corrupt. We will take advantage of his corruption. And yet we must be careful for a corrupt agent could very well ruin his principal,” he said.

Isabella nodded in understanding.

“Make sure this will not happen, Mortimer,” she said sharply.

“I will make sure of it, my lady,” Sir Mortimer replied. “I will bribe him to silence before he learns of his mission. A corrupt man has many things to hide. I will unveil them all.”

“Make sure of it,” Isabella repeated. Her voice was serious with a dangerous undertone.

They exchanged a look for an instant. Then Sir Mortimer smiled politely.

“Any more tea, my lady?” he asked.

~~**~~


Roger was in his own chamber. He paced the room. He was feeling nervous and restless.

“How can Edward be so ignorant?” he said to himself. “Yes, a dream is just a dream. But I feel truly worried. Sir Mortimer won the queen over. He is more dangerous than ever. Now he just needs to win the peers over. Sir Mortimer made progress, definitely.”

Roger continued pacing the room. His thoughts were running.

“I do not understand. Does Edward give in? He saw through Sir Mortimer’s plan instantly. Edward’s plan to counteract was brilliant. Has he given up on his plan?”

Roger stopped at the window and looked out of it. He bit his lip.

“They say Edward is weak, not interested in politics. Yes, he gave away power. I understood his reasons. He lost the Battle of Bannockburn. It was a crushing defeat. It weakened his position as a legitimate regent and king.”

Roger turned abruptly and crossed the room again.

“Nonetheless, he is King of England. The peers have not yet revolted against him. But Sir Mortimer and the queen have united forces. Together they are strong. They could easily win. Is Edward blind? Or is he just lazy? Does he not know what to do? Or does he not dare to make a bold move?”

Roger stopped walking and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

“I sometimes think he has no interest in England, his country. He is only interested in his private affairs.”

Roger flushed. He realised that he himself was part of the king’s private affairs. The major part of the private affairs, so to speak.

“As long as I bear him company and do not complain, Edward is content and satisfied. He doesn’t take me seriously. I’m his toy. I’m his puppet. Not that I do not love him, but this attitude of his is slowly getting on my nerves,” Roger said to himself. He sounded unnerved.

Roger moved back to the window. He took a deep breath.

“It will be getting on the peers’ nerves also. There is no doubt that Sir Mortimer will see to that.”

Roger stood motionless for a while, dwelling on his disturbing thoughts.

“I ought to be cautious. I must not get drowsy. I must not doze and sleep. Thus I cannot be suddenly roused from my slumber. If Edward decides to comfortably sleep, well, why wake him up? It is his purely personal matter. I must not interfere. After all, I am just a minion, safe only as long as the king favours me.”

Roger sat down in a chair. He swallowed hard.

“It’s not that I do not love him. He won my heart. This is for sure. But I know that my dream was a warning. I should have listened to it when I was given this same warning the very first time.”

Roger shrugged.

“What could I have done? Sir Mortimer arranged the meeting on the green. And Edward cast an eye on me. He himself said I must not reject the command of a king. My fate would have been sealed before it would have even unfolded. And now I am doomed, if I do not find a safe way out and soon.”

Roger rose to his feet and left the room. He left the castle and went for a walk on his own.

~~**~~


Hugh the younger Despenser was eager to catch a glimpse of the king. He was proud he had received an invitation to work at court, which could only mean that the king had heard of him.

Hugh Despenser was self-confident and ambitious. He liked to be the centre of interest and, in a sense, he was sure the world revolved around him.

Hugh Despenser was disappointed when he learned that he would not dine with the peers and the king. He lost interest in his work quickly. He soon made plans on how to ascend to a higher position and rank.

Hugh Despenser had heard of Edward’s malady. He was highly interested to meet the king. Hugh had also heard of Edward’s favourite Roger d’Amory. Hugh envied the man.

The months passed by. Hugh grew increasingly restless. He did not make progress. On the contrary, he felt he was stuck.

In the beginning of January 1316, however, a lucky incident turned his fate for the better. Sir Mortimer, a nobleman and a peer of very high rank, asked Hugh a favour in a minor matter and then, for no obvious reason, started prattling with him.

~~**~~


“It is time I talk to Hugh Despenser,” Sir Mortimer had said to the queen in the morning. “The man is discontent and very impatient. He is ambitious and self-confident. However, his self-confidence meanwhile is shaken for he does not make progress, which highly humiliates the proud and conceited man.”

“Then talk to him,” Isabella said.  “I heard Edward sees Roger less often. Perhaps he is finally tired of him.”

She waved her hand.

“I have heard this also,” Sir Mortimer said. “Nothing else, however, indicates a change. They still make a merry couple when seen together at dinner.”

Isabella curled her lips. Sir Mortimer gave her a playful smile.

“Roger d’Amory is a serious man. Too serious perhaps for a king who gets easily depressed,” Sir Mortimer said. “However, I think choosing d’Amory as a prey perhaps was not a wrong decision. Edward starts feeling bored. He will welcome Hugh Despenser with open arms for Hugh Despenser certainly is more passionate and fiery than Roger d’Amory is.”

Isabella curled her lips again. Sir Mortimer shrugged and waved his hand.

“Push aside any scruples and moral concerns, my lady. We must act on the king’s weakness,” Sir Mortimer said.

“Certainly,” Isabella replied. “I pushed those scruples aside a long time ago. Nonetheless, I do not want to know any intimate details.”

Sir Mortimer gave her a faint nod.

“My lady, I am going to talk with the man. Hugh Despenser will hang on my lips. He will not reject my offer,” he said.

Isabella gave Sir Mortimer a small smile.

“So be it,” she said.

~~**~~


Hugh Despenser was made royal chamberlain at the end of January 1316. Sir Mortimer had arranged it. Edward had signed the protocol that announced Hugh Despenser’s promotion without even reading the scroll.

Edward was feeling slightly depressed. But he was not sure where the feeling came from. Edward found no reason to blame Roger. He could not blame the peers also. They were content and let him live in peace. He also could not blame his spouse Isabella whom he saw only in the hall every once in a while. The queen ignored him and was eager to not cross his way. Neither could Edward blame Sir Mortimer who was quiet and, according to Edward’s informants, did not prepare a move. So, finally, Edward assigned his depression to the darkness and the cold of the winter. He looked forward to the spring when the sun was out again and the days were warm and tender.

Roger was aware of the king’s depression. He did not further it with disturbing thoughts and demands. But he also did not seek to pamper the king. Edward’s depression was another warning to Roger. He knew that the king, though not yet aware of it himself, was fed up with his favourite man. Roger tried to think and act rationally. But the king’s growing disinterest gnawed on him. Roger felt humiliated and he found it increasingly difficult to hide his feelings. He was close to depression also. The winter went by only slowly.

Hugh Despenser felt almost nervous. For the first time, he would take part in the royal dinner. Hugh felt highly pleased. Sir Mortimer had arranged his promotion. Hugh was aware he owed the man a favour. To be exact, Sir Mortimer had left no doubt of it. Hugh shrugged. Whatever the man wanted, he would learn it in time. One hand washed the other. Hugh Despenser found Sir Mortimer was a shrewd and clever man who he could negotiate with on many things. Hugh smiled contently while he dressed up for dinner. Apparently, he had found a high noble favourer. So why annoy the man?

~~**~~


Isabella entered the dining hall. The peers looked up with surprise. The queen had been absent for many weeks. So her presence was a true surprise to them.

Isabella sat down next to the king. However, she ignored him and she also ignored his favourite man. Isabella nodded at the peers and gave them a smile. The peers whispered and wondered what had made the change. They fell silent when Edward spoke up in a loud voice.

Sir Mortimer sat at the long side of the table. He nodded briefly at Isabella and made a faint sign with his hand. Isabella turned her eyes and then she spotted the man. She studied his face thoroughly. In fact, she found, Hugh Despenser was an attractive and handsome man.

Isabella glanced at Roger d’Amory. No doubt, she thought, Roger d’Amory was a handsome man also. But he was soft and tender compared to Hugh Despenser who cast fiery looks at the king. Isabella smiled inwardly. Hugh Despenser was already working on the plan that Sir Mortimer had not yet entrusted to him. Isabella furtively watched Hugh Despenser. The king had not yet taken notice of him.

Isabella finished her dinner. Then she gave Sir Mortimer a faint nod. She rose to her feet and left the hall, content with what she had seen. The queen retired to her rooms. There was no need to endure the king’s company any longer.

Sir Mortimer joined her in her room later that evening.

“Hugh Despenser will win the king’s heart,” Isabella said. “Roger d’Amory has lost already.”

Sir Mortimer nodded his agreement.

“It will not be difficult, my lady. I watched Edward and Roger. They barely talked and scarcely exchanged looks. Roger’s time is over and Hugh Despenser’s has begun,” Sir Mortimer said with a content smile. He rubbed his hands.

“Our time has just begun,” Isabella said softly.

Sir Mortimer’s smile broadened.

“Our time, yes, my lady, has finally begun,” he said. “We now will rise to greater power.”

Isabella smiled back at Sir Mortimer. ‘I will rise and you will fall. You’re just not yet aware of it,’ she thought.

~~**~~


Roger spent another night in his own room. Edward had not asked him to join him. Roger stood by the window and looked out into the night.

“I need not dream of the dove,” he said bitterly. “I know that it has fallen dead to the ground.”

Roger closed his eyes for a moment. He instantly saw the face of the man. Roger compressed his lips. He had spotted him during dinner. A new face. A new nobleman at the king’s table. A handsome man who had cast a covetous eye on the king.

Roger swallowed. He bit his lip for an instant.

“Edward has not yet noticed him. But he will do so, sooner or later. This man does not hold back. He does not feel ashamed to come on to the king. Who is this man?” Roger asked himself.

Roger pressed his head against the cold windowpane.

“I need not know his name,” he said under his breath.

Roger straightened. Irrational fear took hold of him. He felt threatened and he sensed that his downfall was near.

“I will learn his name soon, no doubt. But I should not bother myself with his name or his face. I need to act. I need to make up a smart and clever plan. And, above all, I need to act quickly.”

Roger’s thoughts were running wild. His fate was sealed. He was certain of it. The king would discard him soon. Roger sensed his ruin was near. And he was certain his ruin would be a complete one.

“The dove fell dead to the ground,” Roger whispered. Why did I ignore this warning?

Roger turned away from the window.

“I need not speak to Edward. I have already lost him. There is only one thing I can do that will save me from my total destruction,” he said anxiously.

Roger put on his doublet and headed for the door.

“It is late in the evening. But hopefully not too late to speak with the man who can stop my complete ruin and downfall. I must talk to Sir Mortimer. I must speak to him at once.”

Roger left the room and hurried down the corridor.

~~**~~


Roger hurried down the hallways until he found Sir Mortimer’s chamber. He knocked several times, yet there was no response.

‘He is not in his room,’ Roger thought in almost despair.

He leaned against the wall of the corridor. The stones were cold. Roger’s body tensed.

Finally, Roger heard footsteps. They came closer. A man turned around the corner He stopped in front of Roger. Sir Mortimer studied Roger’s face, and then he smiled.

“Ah, Roger d’Amory,” Sir Mortimer said almost casually.

Sir Mortimer made a step back and smiled again. Then he pointed at the door of his chamber.

“Come in, Sir d’Amory. I did not expect you to come and see me tonight. But I thought you would come and see me tomorrow,” he said.

He smiled at Roger while opening the door for him.

“I consider you a smart and clever man,” Sir Mortimer continued. “Yet, I have to admit, I did not think you would act that quickly.”

Sir Mortimer pointed at a chair.

“Take a seat, please, Sir d’Amory. Let me know...can I help you?”

Roger sat down. He shifted uncomfortably. His body felt numb. He felt like a traitor. Roger looked at Sir Mortimer. The man smiled at him playfully.

“You planned it all, didn’t you?” Roger asked in a sober voice.

Sir Mortimer pressed his hands together. He gave Roger a questioning look.

“What are you talking about exactly, Sir d’Amory?” he asked

“The new man at the table who casts a covetous eye on the king,” Roger said.

Sir Mortimer’s smile broadened.

“You have noticed him. I knew you would. King Edward, however, was not that quick,” he said.

Sir Mortimer leaned back and curled his lips. Roger frowned at him.

“Indeed,” Sir Mortimer said. “I arranged it. His name is Hugh Despenser. He is the royal chamberlain.”

Sir Mortimer leaned forward.

“King Edward signed his promotion. You will not be able to do anything about it, Sir d’Amory,” he said with a cold look.

Roger felt humiliated. But he suppressed his feelings. He forced himself to think coherently. Roger leaned forward too and narrowed his eyes.

“So help me now and for once, and I will leave you and the queen in peace,” he said in a cold voice.

“I cannot imagine you can ruin my plans. Can you imagine it?” Sir Mortimer asked, showing no emotions.

“I could inform the peers who are still loyal to the king. I could seek a way to get rid of Despenser. Not much I could do, in fact. But I still have influence on Edward. And believe me, I will be working on disturbing your plans while I still have influence on the king,” Roger said.

Sir Mortimer leaned back and studied Roger.

“You sound bitter, d’Amory. And a bitter man is a dangerous foe. In fact, there is little you could do. But you might stir an upheaval that is most redundant and would only unsettle the peers. Not that this would stop my plans altogether. But I could live without a riot at court that would not help me at all,” Sir Mortimer said.

They gazed at each other.

“A riot that would not lead to the king’s downfall would indeed not help you much, Sir Mortimer,” Roger said coldly.

Sir Mortimer just waved his hand.

“Listen, d’Amory,” Sir Mortimer said finally. “I can arrange that Edward vests you with a title that once and for all makes you one of the peers. He already assigned to you various manors. A few more will be assigned to you,” Sir Mortimer said.

Roger kept gazing at him.

“I doubt your influence on Edward is that big,” Roger said finally.

Sir Mortimer smiled.

“I will not talk to Edward on this matter personally, of course. But I know how to arrange it, believe me, d’Amory. Lord d’Amory...how does this sound to you?” Sir Mortimer asked.

Roger kept gazing at Sir Mortimer for a while. He felt cold. He felt like a traitor. Roger swallowed. And then, he nodded.

“This is alright with me,” he said finally.

Sir Mortimer leaned back and looked at Roger. He did not really pity the man. He did not really care. But, to his own surprise, he felt for him a little.

Sir Mortimer gave Roger a small and sincere smile.

“So be it, then, Sir d’Amory,” Sir Mortimer said.

He nodded at Roger. Roger rose to his feet. He gave Sir Mortimer a small nod and then left the room. Sir Mortimer looked at the closed door.

“You could not have done a lot, d’Amory. But who knows what you would have been up to? You’re smart and clever. And you were quick. That took me by surprise. I do not want you to take me by surprise again. Why take that risk?”

Sir Mortimer sighed and rose to his feet.

“You’re clever and smart, d’Amory. But you were not so clever now. You could have found a better solution,” Sir Mortimer said to himself in a mocking voice. “I smelled your fear. Fortunately, your fear seized control of you. Before you are able to think coherently again, everything will be arranged to my advantage.”

Sir Mortimer straightened.

“Better I bribed him to silence. Good he agreed to my offer,” he said with a yawn.

Sir Mortimer sat down at his desk with a sigh.

“I’ll better right now write the letters that will seal his fate. I’ll hand them in tomorrow early in the morning. D’Amory has lost. His game is over,” Sir Mortimer said contentedly.

He took a quill and with a pleased smile wrote a few letters.

~~**~~


Hugh Despenser was introduced to King Edward the following morning. Edward was surprised to learn he had a new chamberlain. He did not remember that anybody had informed him of the change.

“What happened to Sir Gloucester?” he asked with a frown. “I was content with him. He served me well.”

“You assigned to him another position,” Sir Duffy said indifferently.

“When did I do that?” Edward asked. His voice was angry.

“A week ago, my lord,” Sir Duffy said. “I was given the scroll a week ago. The scroll was sealed. I opened it and I saw your signature.”

Edward furrowed his brows. He was thinking.

“And I promoted Hugh Despenser?” he asked. He was still feeling puzzled.

“Well, yes, you did, my lord,” Sir Duffy said. “Sir Hugh Despenser is waiting outside. Perhaps you caught sight of him yesterday, my lord. He joined us for dinner last night.”

“Did he?” Edward asked. “I do not remember his face. I did not take notice of him. Who is this man, Sir Duffy?”

“Hugh the younger Despenser, my lord. He is the son and heir of Hugh le Despenser, Earl of Winchester,” Sir Duffy said. “He came to court a few months ago. He had received an invitation. He was a secretary at court and you promoted him last week, my lord.”

Edward furrowed his brows again. He vaguely remembered that Sir Rowley, a peer, had talked to him about the various offices at court. The man had talked in a monotone voice. He had talked without interruption for at least one hour. Sir Rowley had bored Edward tremendously. Edward vaguely remembered that the man had finally stopped talking. Edward faintly remembered that he had then signed a few scrolls.

Edward straightened. He looked at Sir Duffy.

“I do remember now, Sir Duffy. Indeed, I remember I signed a few scrolls. Sir Rowley told me he had arranged a few things. I do trust in Sir Rowley’s circumspection,” the king said.

“So you wish to see the new chamberlain now, my lord?” Sir Duffy asked.

Edward shrugged resignedly.

“Show him into the parlour, Sir Duffy,” he said.

Edward sat down in a chair upright and with a majestic demeanour. He looked into the room majestically. Sir Duffy opened the door and asked Hugh Despenser in.

Hugh Despenser, to his own surprise, was feeling slightly nervous. He controlled his anxiety, however, and entered the room calmly. Hugh made a few steps towards the king. He stopped and looked at Edward. Hugh’s face was calm and free of emotions. Hugh bowed to King Edward and then straightened again.

“I am at your service, your majesty, my lord,” he said gravely.

Hugh Despenser stood upright. He looked proud and self-confident. Edward studied him for a while.

“I welcome you at court,” Edward said finally. “I heard you were invited to serve at court. You rendered great merits and you were promoted royal chamberlain. I signed your promotion myself. Sir Rowley acknowledged your merits. I trust Sir Rowley’s circumspection. And I do trust you will serve the king well,” Edward said in a measured voice.

He studied Hugh Despenser while he spoke to him. Edward had never heard of Hugh. Or at least he did not remember. But the name Despenser rang a bell. Edward had a queasy feeling. His mind was working. He was looking for the connections. He did not find any, however. But Edward felt irritated that no one had informed him in detail and in person on Hugh Despenser’s promotion. After all, the royal chamberlain was a position of trust. Edward intended to speak to Sir Rowley on this. For the time being, he intended to trust the man, but nonetheless watch him warily.

Edward gave Hugh Despenser a small smile as a welcome. Hugh Despenser smiled back. He almost beamed at the king. Edward gazed at the man. The man’s boldness took the king by surprise. He studied Hugh Despenser more closely. Hugh Despenser smiled inwardly at the king’s bewilderment. He straightened more and cast another smile at the king, well aware that he was acting boldly.

Sir Duffy stood by the door and looked at the royal chamberlain’s back. He did not see the king’s face. He was wondering why the introduction took so long. But then he remembered that no one apparently had informed King Edward in detail on the change. The royal chamberlain was a position of trust, after all. The king took his time to study the man closely and interrogate him if necessary, apparently.

Sir Duffy also trusted in Sir Rowley’s circumspection. He would only advocate the promotion of an honourable man who was loyal to the king. Sir Duffy did not know that Sir Mortimer had instructed one of the peers to praise Hugh Despenser’s merits to Sir Rowley. The man played a double game. He biased to the king or the queen, depending on his own career plans. Sir Duffy kept gazing at Hugh Despenser’s back. His thoughts slowly drifted off.

Hugh Despenser and King Edward had forgotten about Sir Duffy. They gazed at each other. Edward took in the features of his new chamberlain. Long dark hair framed Hugh’s face. His eyes were of a dark brown. Hugh Despenser’s look was fiery. Edward almost stopped breathing for a moment. He controlled himself, however. He shifted only slightly in his chair.

Hugh Despenser was an experienced man. He was able to read the signs of attraction. The king showed all of them. Hugh watched Edward attentively. His sight had definitely struck the king. Hugh, inwardly, felt enthusiastic and excited. He rejoiced. Finally, he was close to the king. However, Hugh hid his emotions.

Edward finally made a faint gesture with his hand.

“Sir Hugh Despenser, royal chamberlain, I trust you are familiar with your duties. I wrote a few letters. Please copy them,” Edward said.

Edward managed to turn his eyes away from Hugh Despenser. He made another gesture with his hand, and then he rose to his feet. Hugh Despenser watched Edward’s movements. Edward crossed the room slowly. He glanced at his chamberlain again. Hugh Despenser stood motionless. He was still smiling.

Sir Duffy took sight of Edward. He turned quickly and opened the door for the king. Edward retired to his private chamber. He sat down in a chair and gazed into the room. Edward closed his eyes briefly. He had to admit that Hugh’s sight had definitely struck him.

~~**~~


Hugh looked after the king until the door had closed. The smile on Hugh’s lips broadened.  He was an experienced man and was able to read the signs of attraction. The king had shown them all. Hugh was sure his sight had definitely struck the king. Not that Hugh had had any doubt of it, but it felt good to see Edward’s reaction.

Hugh sat down at the desk and copied the letters. He would do whatever Edward wanted him to do. Hugh Despenser smiled again. Whatever the king wanted him to do. Hugh was certain the king would soon require a special service. Hugh rejoiced. He had been promoted to the highest position that he would have ever been able to achieve.

Hugh mused on the king. Edward was handsome. For some time, Hugh forgot about the letters. Finally, Hugh placed them on the desk and smiled at the opposite wall. Yes, he had to admit that the sight of Edward had definitely struck him.

~~**~~


Edward felt slightly disturbed when Roger entered the king’s parlour. Edward looked at the man in confusion. The king was absent-minded. He had thought of Hugh Despenser. Edward looked at Roger as if he was wondering who the man was.

Roger immediately knew that the inevitable had happened. Roger swallowed. He felt a lump in his throat. Roger barely managed a nod. He smiled at Edward faintly.

Edward watched Roger. The sight of the man made him feel uneasy. Edward shifted in his chair. He looked at Roger again. Roger looked scared and frightened.

“Take a seat, Roger,” Edward said finally.

Roger sat down and Edward leaned back in his chair. Roger felt uncomfortable.

Edward looked at Roger. He didn’t quite understand himself why he suddenly rejected the man. Edward tried to fight his emotions. Roger was soft. He was smart and clever. And Roger truly loved his king. Edward found no reason to reject his favourite man. There was just this sudden lack of desire. He did not feel like touching him. Edward swallowed.

‘I am unfair. I am in the wrong,’ Edward thought. ‘He is on my side. I will not find another like him.’

And yet, Edward barely managed a smile. He shifted in his chair uncomfortably.

Roger ignored Edward’s confused look. He pretended to read a letter that he had taken along. But Roger’s hands trembled and he was barely able to breathe. The inevitable had happened. Sadness overwhelmed Roger. He would have liked to leave. But Roger was not able to move. He wondered why he had come to see the king. He could have left the castle with an excuse. He could have sent the king a message. Roger was scarcely able to look up. He did not want to meet Edward’s eyes. Roger was scared and frightened.

Finally, Roger looked up. He saw the sadness in Edward’s eyes. But Edward seemed to be very distant. Edward, the man was unapproachable. Roger realised that not the man but the king looked at him. Roger’s heart broke that very instant.

Roger cleared his throat finally. King Edward gave him a questioning look. Roger spoke up. His voice was fragile. He struggled to control his demeanour.

“Your majesty,” Roger started, controlling his voice.

Edward lifted his chin slightly at the formal style of address.

“My lord, I have come to inform you that I will leave this afternoon. I need to attend to my uncle who fell seriously ill. I will be back in four weeks at the earliest,” Roger said.

Edward and Roger exchanged a long look. There was no need to say anymore. They both understood perfectly.

“I suspect everything is arranged for your well-being,” Edward said in a stifled voice finally.

Roger nodded, avoiding Edward’s eyes.

“Who saw to it?” Edward asked, feeling slightly shaken at the fact.

“A man I do not trust, but a man I have to rely on,” Roger said in a toneless voice.

“Sir Mortimer,” Edward said, just stating the obvious.

Roger nodded.

“He won you over then?” Edward asked, sounding disappointed.

Roger shook his head.

“No, he did not. But, as you see, his plan works out fine. You were too careless and you did not act in time,” he said.

Roger’s eyes rested on Edward’s face. Roger’s eyes showed that he was hurt.

“So it is my fault again,” Edward said in a fragile voice.

Roger looked at him seriously.

“You could stop fate right now. But you must act at once. But I know you well meanwhile, Edward. You will not do what needs to be done for you are too weak a man. You have already fallen, Edward,” Roger said.

Roger raised his hand when Edward opened his mouth to reply to Roger’s bold statement.

“I am right. You cannot deny it,” Roger said.

Roger rose to his feet.

“Those were my last words to the man I have come to know and love. From now on I will only speak to my regent and king,” he said.

Edward looked at him, feeling numb. He wanted to reply, he wanted to act, and yet he did not do anything. He did not know why, but he was just not able to. He despised himself for his weakness.

Edward’s eyelids flickered. He looked at Roger.

“Your majesty, my lord, I ask you to suspend me from office for the time being,” Roger said informally.

Edward gave him a brief nod. And then King Edward II made a gesture with his hand.

Roger d’Amory bowed deeply. He straightened and then backed out until he had reached the door. He turned and opened the door. He stepped out and closed the door behind him.

Edward gazed at the door like in a state of shock. Then he slumped in his chair. He had a lump in his throat and his heart felt like stone. Edward felt ashamed. He closed his eyes, unable to push away the lies that had always saved him from facing the truth. Now he could no longer deny it. Edward clenched his fists when he thought the thoughts that everybody else had already thought for so long:

He was Edward II, King of England, weakling and wimp.

~~**~~


“Roger d’Amory has left,” Sir Mortimer told Isabella in the evening.

Isabella looked at Sir Mortimer. She brushed back a strand of her hair.

“The man gave in quickly,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “Will he return?”

Sir Mortimer nodded.

“Yes, my lady, he will return at the end of February. Until then I will have arranged that the title of a Lord will be assigned to him,” Sir Mortimer said.

Sir Mortimer leaned back in his chair. He folded his hands and looked at the queen.

“What? Why this?” Isabella asked, straightening in her chair.

Isabella’s cheeks flushed slightly. Sir Mortimer waved his hand lazily.

“D’Amory is not a fool. He came to see me last night after dinner,” Sir Mortimer said.

He smiled at the queen. Isabella raised an eyebrow thoughtfully.

“Roger d’Amory came to see you?” she asked pensively. “He must have seen Hugh Despenser then. The fiery man scared the soft man, apparently. Roger d’Amory gave in that quickly?”

Sir Mortimer nodded. A smile was playing on his lips.

“In fact, he did. And he came to the right conclusion. He figured out that Hugh Despenser was not the king’s favourite but rather the queen’s loyal man,” Sir Mortimer explained.

Sir Mortimer folded his hands.

“I bribed him to silence,” he said. “Just to make sure.”

Isabella curled her lips.

“Did he threaten you?” she asked.

Sir Mortimer waved his hand.

“Some minor threats. Nothing I could not have dealt with, my lady. But a bitter man makes a dangerous foe. So I bribed him to silence. The title of a Lord and a few more manors. That will make him a peer. I doubt this will help him gain a reputation, though,” Sir Mortimer said.

He shrugged and waved his hand again.

“But who knows. He might befriend with one peer or the other. So better ease his pain a little, I thought,” Sir Mortimer said, smiling mildly.

Isabella gave a laugh. She winked at Sir Mortimer.

“You are a truly compassionate man, Mortimer,” she said.

Sir Mortimer smiled back at the queen.

“I received a note from him this morning. He wrote he would be absent until the end of February,” Sir Mortimer said.

His voice sounded bored. The queen watched him attentively.

“I guess he does not want to witness Edward and Hugh Despenser becoming friends,” Sir Mortimer said, smiling mischievously.

“Will the plan work out?” Isabella asked nervously.

“It will, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said. “Hugh Despenser was introduced to the king this morning. I heard that the king was overwhelmed by his sight.”

Sir Mortimer smiled mischievously.

“Who told you this?” Isabella asked curiously.

“A servant told me. A man I had ordered to watch attentively. He told me the king looked enamoured when he left the room after meeting Hugh Despenser. The man is an excellent observer. This is why I ordered him to do some dusting in the hallway,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella smiled in amusement.

“You do not forget about anything, Sir Mortimer. I highly appreciate your circumspection,” the queen said cheerfully.

Sir Mortimer slightly bowed to the queen. He smiled at Isabella.

“Since Hugh Despenser is Edward’s chamberlain, they will see each other often,” Sir Mortimer said.

“So they should easily get a bit closer,” Isabella said cheerfully.

“Yes, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said. “And Hugh Despenser is certainly eager to know the king better. Everybody talked about the way he looked at the king last night. He cast a covetous eye on the king. Many of the peers already consider Despenser the king’s new favourite. Roger d’Amory’s hasty departure corroborated the belief, of course.”

Isabella leaned back. She nodded pensively.

“So, again we have to wait until things will unfold,” she said.

Isabella shrugged. She was feeling almost bored. Sir Mortimer nodded.

“Soon after Edward has introduced Hugh Despenser as his new favourite, I will talk to the man. I will bribe him and then inform him on our plan,” Sir Mortimer said.

“Are you really sure he will accomplish the mission?” Isabella asked Sir Mortimer.

“I am, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said confidently. “Hugh Despenser has gained all he could ever hope for. He will not give it away freely. And he does not want to lose it either.”

Sir Mortimer gave the queen a reassuring smile.

 “I am confident, my lady,” he said.

~~**~~


Edward retired to his room right after dinner. He sat down in a chair. Edward felt very depressed. He was sad and tired. However, he was not able to blame anybody for his feelings. He was not even able to blame Roger who had told him the truth right in the face.

Edward took a deep breath. He found it hard to breathe. No, he could not blame anybody for his faults nor could he blame anybody for his failures. He was entirely responsible for them himself.

Edward did not move when he heard a knock at the door. He sighed resignedly and then gave a response.

The door opened and Hugh Despenser stepped in. He bowed to the king.

“My lord, your evening drink. Where do you want me to put it?” Hugh asked.

Hugh Despenser controlled his demeanour. But he was furtively watching the king out of the corner of his eye.

Edward did not reply to Hugh’s question. He just pointed at the table in front of him. Hugh approached and placed the cup on it.

“Is there any more you wish for, my lord?” the royal chamberlain asked.

Hugh looked at Edward and noticed the king’s tired look. Hugh sensed the king’s sad mood and his depression.

“Are you not feeling well, my lord?” he asked softly. “Can I help you with anything else?”

Edward looked up and studied the man. He could not help but admiring his handsome features. Edward, however, hid his emotions. He shook his head.

“It is all for today. I want to go to bed early,” Edward said in a tired voice.

“Then I will go to your bedroom and prepare everything,” Hugh said, giving Edward a small smile.

Edward just nodded and then looked to the floor. Hugh’s heart jumped at Edward’s embarrassment. Apparently, he thought, the king had cast an eye on him.

Hugh retreated and went to Edward’s bedroom. He knew what to do. The previous chamberlain had inducted him into his duties. Hugh rejoiced inwardly. He had heard of Roger d’Amory’s hasty departure, which could only mean that Edward had broken up with him. Hugh placed Edward’s nightgown on the king’s bed. He stroked the silken gown lightly.

“Patience, Hugh,” he said to himself. “Edward is depressed. He is sad and tired. Edward is hurt, but I do not think he is heartbroken. Let him take his time, and then the king will be mine.”

Edward kept gazing at the floor. Finally, he took the cup of wine from the table. He turned it in his hands slowly.

“You are right, Roger,” he said. “I did not act in time. And now it is too late. I cannot fight it. I cannot do anything about it. I feel that I am already addicted to this man.”

~~**~~


Roger d’Amory had left early in the morning. He had decided to visit his uncle. His uncle was in good health. His illness was just an excuse and a lie.

Roger rode all day long. He stopped when night fell. Roger entered a small tavern and paid for a room on his own. He lay down on the bed in the small chamber and gave in to his grief. His mind was clouded and his body was numb.

The hours passed by. Roger was not able to go to sleep. Disturbing thoughts haunted him. Roger thought of the king and his handsome features. He thought of the day when they had first met. Roger had been scared and frightened. The king had intimidated him. But soon Roger had come to know Edward better. Edward was a warm and considerate man. The king was smart and clever. Roger thought of the king’s words. Why had Edward given up on his plan?

It was way past midnight when Roger rose from the bed and moved to the small window of the room. He looked into the night.

“Edward is a wayward man,” he said bitterly. “He just caught a glimpse of Hugh Despenser and at once he has forgotten about me.”

Roger’s heart was broken. The king had discarded him. Roger wondered if perhaps he had deceived himself. Perhaps he had been mistaken. Perhaps Edward was not a warm and considerate man. Perhaps this was just a role that the king was playing in private. Perhaps the king had deceived his favourite man. Sadness overwhelmed Roger. He felt entirely hurt.

Roger closed his eyes. There was another feeling that he was not able to push aside. Roger felt ashamed. He felt guilty. He had betrayed his regent and king. Roger had changed sides just in order to save his own skin. He had run to Mortimer, the king’s arch enemy. Roger was wicked, mean, and infamous. Roger blamed himself. He pitied himself. And he suffered.

Dawn was already breaking. Roger still tossed about in his bed. He finally rose to his feet grimly.

“Enough of it, Roger,” he scolded aloud. “Enough. I feel sorry for myself. I wallow in self-pity. It makes me sick. It makes me nauseous. How can I dare to accuse Edward of his faults and failures? Take a look in the mirror, Roger d’Amory. Look at the face of a weakling and wimp.”

Feeling disgusted with his own betrayal, feeling guilty and ashamed, Roger packed his things. Despite feeling entirely tired out, Roger left and rode on early in the morning.

~~**~~


Three weeks passed by. Hugh Despenser attended to the king. Edward showed no signs of affection. Edward thought he hid them well. Furtively, however, Edward watched the royal chamberlain.

Hugh Despenser tried to not attract attention in order to not scare away the depressed king. But Hugh found it difficult to hold back. He watched Edward furtively also. Hugh noticed that the king tried to hide his attraction. But Hugh was an experienced man. He knew all signs of attraction. And Edward was not able to hide them all.

‘He must get used to my presence, and he must forget about d’Amory,’ Hugh thought while opening the curtains.

Hugh sensed Edward’s eyes on his back. Edward was watching him.

‘He is watching me. And this alone feels good,’ Hugh thought, smiling to himself.

Hugh drew the curtains open slowly. He moved through the king’s room slowly. He watched the king out of the corner of his eye.

Edward, so far, had refrained from talking to his chamberlain. Any conversation would only stir the man’s hopes. Edward, however, noticed Hugh’s furtive looks. Edward knew the man was just waiting for a sign to approach him. Despite his attempts to not do so, Edward started thinking of Hugh Despenser until he openly watched the man.

Edward watched Hugh draw open the curtains. Edward rose from his bed and put on his robe. Edward looked for his cape. Hugh hurried to pick up the cape from a chair. He placed the cape around Edward’s shoulders. Hugh touched Edward’s shoulders lightly. Edward’s muscles tensed slightly. Hugh smiled inwardly. He arranged the cape carefully around Edward’s shoulders.

“A very precious cape,” Hugh said casually.

“Indeed, it is,” Edward replied. “I will receive visitors of high rank this morning.”

Edward looked into the room. He sensed Hugh’s hands touching his shoulders. A slight shiver ran down Edward’s spine.

“The cape fits you well,” Hugh said soberly. His voice had a slight undertone of flattering attention.

Edward gave Hugh a sideways look. Hugh smiled at the king kindly. Edward saw Hugh’s eyes. Hugh’s look was passionate and fiery. Edward looked into Hugh’s eyes for a moment too long.

Hugh rejoiced inwardly. A warm shiver ran through his body. Hugh gave the king another smile, and then he made a step back. He looked at Edward admiringly. Edward looked at him.  A small smile spread on Hugh’s lips. The royal chamberlain moved to the door. He placed his hand on the doorknob.

“Shall I open the door? Are you ready, my lord?” Hugh asked in an informal tone of voice. A smile was still playing on his lips.

Edward nodded. He straightened and crossed the room with a royal demeanour. Hugh Despenser opened the door for the king. Edward gave Hugh another sideways look when he passed him by. Their eyes locked for an instant. Just an instant that made Edward feel the earth move under his feet. Edward left the room. He did not look back. He moved on quickly. He walked down the corridor and descended the stairs.

Hugh looked after Edward. He was still smiling. Hugh kept looking until Edward had disappeared. Hugh’s smile broadened. He stood in the doorway for another second or two.

‘Control yourself, Hugh,’ he thought finally. ‘They must not catch you standing in the doorway with that foolish smile on your lips.’

Hugh looked up and down the corridor. He spotted a few guards. But Hugh was certain they had not watched him. Hugh went back into the king’s bedroom. The smile reappeared on his lips. Hugh rejoiced. He clapped his hands briefly and then he started to whistle. Hugh was happy. He found that he had made good progress that day.

~~**~~


Edward entered the hall. He looked around in the room. The peers and noblemen had already gathered. They sat on wooden benches or chairs. The men stood when King Edward entered the hall. Edward ignored the men. He avoided their looks. He crossed the hall with a royal demeanour.

The peers and noblemen gave him curious looks. Edward looked refreshed. His cheeks were rosy and his eyes shone bright. The peers and noblemen gave each other nods and meaningful looks. A few men whispered and tattled.

“I heard that Roger d’Amory will be back at the end of the month,” one of them said.

“Roger d’Amory has already lost the battle,” another one said.

“Roger d’Amory did not even fight. He gave in at once. This is why he departed so quickly,” Sir Gloucester said.

“Yes, but Edward has not yet introduced Hugh Despenser to the peers and noblemen. Hugh Despenser still sits far from the king,” one of the peers tossed in.

“This announcement is certainly to come very soon,” Sir Gloucester said. “Just take a look at the king, sirs. The king is enamoured.”

The men glanced at the king furtively. They nodded and gave each other meaningful looks.

“Where do you think will Roger d’Amory sit?” Sir Gloucester asked curiously.

“This question is easy to answer,” a nobleman said. “He will sit on Hugh Despenser’s seat while Despenser will sit on d’Amory’s.”

The peers burst into laughter. Edward gave them a sharp look. The men fell silent instantly. Edward sat down on his throne. He made a gesture with his hand. The peers and noblemen also took a seat. King Edward made another gesture with his hand. The guards opened the door for the king’s visitors.

~~**~~


“Three weeks have passed,” Isabella said. “I have not yet received good news.”

The queen looked at Sir Mortimer gravely. She brushed back a strand of her hair.

“No, my lady, I am afraid. Hugh Despenser steps slowly. The king is still depressed and not feeling well,” Sir Mortimer replied. “Roger d’Amory’s hasty departure depressed him.”

“Roger d’Amory will be back very soon,” Isabella said. “We must not wait any longer.”

She gave Sir Mortimer a serious look. Sir Mortimer shrugged. He waved his hand briefly.

“I cannot push the man, my lady. It is up to the king to start the liaison. I also hope we receive good news soon,” Sir Mortimer said. “But Hugh Despenser needs to step carefully, of course. He must not endanger his position as the royal chamberlain.”

The queen mused for a while. Her look was still grave. But finally she cheered up. She was confident that their plan would work out fine.

“Where will d’Amory sit?” Isabella asked curiously.

“Far from the king, I suppose, my lady,” Sir Mortimer answered. “We have three days left. Many things can happen until Roger d’Amory returns.”

Sir Mortimer leaned back and folded his hands. He studied the queen’s face quietly.

“Perhaps we should stir Edward’s desires a little,” Isabella said thoughtfully.

She gave Sir Mortimer a meaningful look.

“What is your plan, my lady?” Sir Mortimer asked attentively.

“Let us meet in the corridor near Edward’s chambers right after dinner this evening,” Isabella said.

A small smile played on her lips. Sir Mortimer leaned forward a little.

“Why so, my lady?” he asked.

“The king retires right after dinner probably. So let us meet near his chamber and exchange a fervid kiss. This might very well stir his emotions,” Isabella said with a smile.

Sir Mortimer leaned back. He thought for a moment, and then he smiled wickedly.

“What a wicked plan, my lady. This could work out well. It might fuel his appetite, indeed,” Sir Mortimer said in a sober voice.

He smiled mischievously. Isabella smiled back. She nodded at Sir Mortimer.

“Edward will surely want to pay back at me,” she said. “Just make sure, Mortimer, that none of the servants or guards is around to watch the tryst. I cannot afford any gossip.”

Sir Mortimer nodded.

“Of course, my lady, I will see to it and I will be there in time.”

Sir Mortimer bowed slightly to the queen. The queen smiled back at him gracefully.

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer hurried out of the hall as soon as Edward rose from the dinner table. Sir Mortimer climbed the stairs quickly and clapped his hands. The guards and servants disappeared into a room. Sir Mortimer knocked at the door of Edward’s parlour. The door opened and Isabella stepped out into the hallway.

“He is on his way, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said excitedly. “Come, my lady, let’s stand at the top of the stairs. Thus the king will spot us instantly.”

The queen nodded and gave Sir Mortimer a small smile. They moved up the corridor quickly. The queen and Sir Mortimer stood silent for a while. They glanced down the stairs now and then and they listened eagerly. Finally, they heard voices. And then they heard footsteps. The king and his chamberlain ascended the stairs.

Sir Mortimer placed his arms around Isabella. He pulled her closer and leaned in to her.

“A fervid kiss, my lady,” he whispered. “Place your hands on my shoulders, please.”

Isabella put her hands on Sir Mortimer’s shoulders. She opened her lips slightly. Sir Mortimer pressed his body against hers, and then he kissed the queen fervidly.

The footsteps stopped. A rustle was heard. Isabella withdrew from Sir Mortimer’s arms. She looked down the stairs and saw the shocked faces of the king and his chamberlain. Isabella made a step back. She looked at the king horrified. Isabella raised her hands like in defence. Then she made a curtsey to the king.

“Forgive me, my lord and my king,” she uttered in a stifled voice.

The queen pressed her hands on her mouth. Then she turned quickly and hurried down the corridor that led to her own rooms and chambers.

Sir Mortimer looked after the queen before he turned back to the king. He lowered his eyes, and then bowed deeply. Sir Mortimer made a few steps back, bowed again, turned around, and then hurried after the queen.

Edward stood motionless. He watched the scene until Isabella and Sir Mortimer had disappeared. His cheeks flushed. Edward was close to fly into a rage.

“How can they dare?” he muttered, his voice shaking with rage.

Edward climbed the stairs. He clenched his fists. He looked down the corridor. The queen and Sir Mortimer had vanished from sight.

“How can they dare? What an affront!” Edward said, turning to his chamberlain.

Hugh Despenser was at a loss of words. He could not make sense of what he had witnessed. He ascended the stairs slowly. Hugh joined the king in the corridor and also gazed down the hallway.

“Where are the guards and servants?” Edward asked, looking up and down the corridor.

Hugh Despenser regained his composure. He looked up and down the hallway also. The corridor was empty.

“I will sort that out,” he said in order to calm the king.

Hugh called out a command. A door opened and a man servant stepped out. The other servants and guards followed him instantly. Edward gazed at them in disbelief. The king felt utterly enraged.

The royal chamberlain talked with the men. He then approached the king with a worried look on his face.

“The queen gave them command to hide in that room as soon as Sir Mortimer would come up the stairs and clap his hands,” he said to Edward.

The king was speechless. His cheeks flushed again. Hugh looked at the king in disbelief also. Edward frowned at the men. He made a step towards them. Hugh placed his hand on Edward’s arm lightly.

“My lord,” he said calmly. “Those men just followed the queen’s command. Do not do them any harm, my lord. Mistreating those men would only redound on the king.”

Edward gazed at his chamberlain. The chamberlain’s words made him angry. But they made sense although they were bold. Edward turned away from the men and without any more words moved down the corridor.

Hugh gave the men a sign with his hand. The men hurried away. Hugh followed the king. Edward meanwhile had entered his bedroom. Hugh knocked at the door.

“Come in,” Edward said in a loud voice.

Hugh opened the door and stepped into the chamber.

Edward stood in the room with his hands clenched. He looked at his chamberlain furiously.

“You must give me your word that you have not witnessed this infamous scene. I will see how to punish Sir Mortimer and the queen for this infamous affront. It was an act of deliberation in order to humiliate the king. I ask you to not spread rumours, Hugh Despenser. You are the royal chamberlain,” Edward said.

Edward looked at Hugh Despenser. Hugh nodded. He approached the king.

“No word will come from my mouth, my lord,” Hugh said in a low and grave voice.

He caught Edward’s eyes. Edward’s shoulders slumped. The king was not able to hide the hurt look in his eyes.

“The queen may have felt offended also,” Hugh said softly. “Perhaps she just wanted to pay back on you.”

Edward tensed. He did not reply. He just nodded faintly and for a moment he lowered his eyes.

Hugh moved closer. He placed his hand on Edward’s arm lightly. Edward looked into Hugh’s dark brown eyes. Hugh felt that now the time had come. The king was vulnerable. He was sensuous. He was receptive to Hugh’s words. Hugh’s senses were keen. He sensed the king was susceptible to his signs of affection.

Hugh leaned in boldly. His lips touched Edward’s. Hugh’s hand rested on Edward’s arm. Hugh ran his hand up slowly. Edward closed his eyes and gave in to the touch. Hugh’s kiss grew more urgent. Edward placed his arms around Hugh’s body. He pulled the man closer. Hugh responded and embraced the king.

~~**~~


They woke together the following morning. Edward turned on his side and placed his arm around Hugh. Hugh sensed Edward’s lips against his neck. He smiled when Edward moved closer.

They got up late in the morning.

The peers had already missed their king. They soon learned that the chamberlain was missing also. The peers whispered and tattled. Sir Mortimer joined in happily. The bold plan that the queen had devised had worked out just fine.

The king and his chamberlain came down for lunch. King Edward assigned to Hugh the seat right next to him at the long side of the table. The king introduced Hugh Despenser to the peers and noblemen.

The men cast each other meaningful looks. However, they felt no need to whisper and tattle. The peers and noblemen were not surprised at all. Things had developed as they all had foreseen.

Roger d’Amory returned two days later. He was assigned the seat that was previously Hugh Despenser’s. Roger sat upright. He showed no sign that he was feeling hurt or offended. Roger smiled at the peers and noblemen. He conversed as if nothing had happened. But Roger avoided looking at Edward and his new favourite. Roger was sociable. The peers were highly astonished.

Roger showed no sign of grief to the peers and noblemen. But he could stand dinner only by sheer force of will. His heart was broken. However, he had stopped to wail in self-pity. Roger had sworn to himself to not make a fool of himself in public.

Roger had confided his misery to his Uncle Patrick. His uncle had finally confided his betrayal to him. He told Roger that Sir Mortimer had forced him to take his nephew to court. Roger felt deeply hurt. His uncle told him he regretted the deed. The old man felt miserable himself. He apologized to Roger again and again. And finally Roger believed him. The old man listened to Roger’s recount. He soothed Roger’s pain and calmed the broken man. He gave Roger advice and he gave him new heart.

Roger had finally sworn to his uncle that he would stand upright and would not fall. Roger d’Amory had survived the Battle of Bannockburn. Roger d’Amory would not fall on the battlefield of love.

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer and Isabella nervously waited for Edward’s reaction. To their surprise, the king did not respond. Isabella and Sir Mortimer relaxed.

They met in the queen’s chamber.

“We risked our lives,” Sir Mortimer said drily. “It was a very bold plan.”

Sir Mortimer and the queen exchanged a long look.

“Yes,” Isabella said. “But I was certain things would unfold to our advantage. And they did, didn’t they, Mortimer?”

“They unfolded to our advantage, my lady. Luckily, they did,” Sir Mortimer replied.

Isabella smiled at him.

“You appear to be nervous, Mortimer,” she said. “Is it because you are afraid of Edward’s reaction? Or did the fervid kiss in public intimidate you?”

Sir Mortimer glanced at her with a frown. The queen gave him a small smile.

“We did not kiss in public, my lady. Only the king and his chamberlain witnessed the kiss,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella tilted her head.

“The action was dangerous. Can you not cope with it, Mortimer?” she asked with a playful smile.

Sir Mortimer compressed his lips for a moment. The queen’s words made him angry. But Sir Mortimer controlled his demeanour.

“Do not tease me, my lady. This is not a good time for banter. We ought to plan our next step and move,” he said in a measured voice.

Isabella nodded. She leaned back in her chair and folded her hands. She looked at Sir Mortimer thoughtfully. Then the queen curled her lips for an instant.

“Have you finished your investigations on Hugh Despenser? We must either win him over or bend him to our will,” she said finally.

Sir Mortimer nodded seriously.

“I found out a few things about him that will help in the matter. I found out something about his father. And, moreover, I found out something about his mother Isabella de Beauchamp, daughter of William de Beauchamp, 9th Earl of Warwick,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella leaned forward and looked at Sir Mortimer attentively. Sir Mortimer leaned back and smiled wickedly. It was a good feeling to have the advantage over the queen.

Sir Mortimer leaned forward. His eyes turned cold.

“I have proof that Hugh Despenser is not the righteous son and heir of Hugh le Despenser, Earl of Winchester. Isabella de Beauchamp was pregnant when she married her spouse,” Sir Mortimer said.

Sir Mortimer leaned back. A smile appeared on his lips. Isabella’s eyes widened.

“What kind of evidence do you have, Mortimer?” the queen asked almost under her breath.

Sir Mortimer’s smile broadened.

“The letter that was written by William de Beauchamp to Arthur de Gascogne who doubtlessly was a noble man, yet was not a suitable husband for William de Beauchamp’s daughter,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella pressed her hand on her mouth.

“Arthur de Gascogne died in the Battle of Bannockburn. He never revealed the secret, but he kept William de Beauchamp’s letter. William de Beauchamp had paid him a considerable amount of money. He bribed the man to silence.”

Isabella gazed at Sir Mortimer. She thought for a moment. Then the queen smiled cheerfully.

“How did you get hold of that letter, Mortimer?” she asked curiously.

Sir Mortimer looked at Isabella. He shrugged and waved his hand casually.

“Luck. Fate. Coincidence. Whatever, my lady. Arthur de Gascogne died in the battle. His personal items had not yet been returned to his wife. An attentive servant brought me the letter that he had found in a neck pouch made of leather,” Sir Mortimer said.

Isabella gazed at Sir Mortimer. She leaned back in her chair. The queen was speechless.

“So you have the personal items of the dead searched...” she started.

Isabella looked at Sir Mortimer in almost disbelief. Sir Mortimer shrugged and waved his hand.

“It is worth the effort, my lady. Sometimes we find things we can commercialize, in a sense,” he said drily. “We found this precious letter, for instance,” he added.

Isabella nodded. She had regained composure.

“Have Hugh le Despenser and Hugh the younger Despenser ever learned of the truth?” she asked.

Sir Mortimer shook his head.

“Hugh le Despenser travelled to France soon after the marriage. He returned when his son was already born. They could have easily deceived him,” he said. “Isabella de Beauchamp died in 1306. I am fairly certain that neither the old nor the younger Despenser know of the truth.”

Isabella curled her lips. And then she smiled cheerfully.

“A truly precious pledge,” she said. “It will certainly solve our problem, Sir Mortimer.”

Sir Mortimer nodded. A mischievous smile played on his lips.

“It will solve our problem, my lady. It will solve it once and for all,” he said appreciatively.

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer talked to Hugh Despenser the following morning. He folded the letter that he had read to Despenser. He looked at Hugh Despenser and studied his face.

“And that is why we want you to demonstrate your affection to King Edward in an explicit way. Make a great stir. Cause an affront. We want the peers to question their king,” Sir Mortimer said, looking at Hugh Despenser seriously.

Hugh did not reply at once. He gazed at Sir Mortimer. Hugh’s face had turned pale. The man’s self-confidence was utterly shaken.

Sir Mortimer watched Hugh’s face with delight. Hugh Despenser nodded.

“I must do what you want me to do,” he said in a suppressed voice. “I have no choice, have I?”

Sir Mortimer gave Hugh Despenser a contented nod. He smiled almost playfully.

“Roger d’Amory was too kind a man. Or maybe he wasn’t just clever enough. He could have gained so much more than he has gained now,” Sir Mortimer said.

He smiled at Hugh Despenser mildly. Hugh just looked at Sir Mortimer.

“So you tried to win over d’Amory also?” he asked finally.

Sir Mortimer shook his head.

“No, I did not. Too great a risk. The man is not cold-blooded enough to play that kind of game. You, however, are a self-confident man who takes nothing for granted. You want a piece of the pie,” Sir Mortimer said, smiling again.

“What if I reject your offer, Sir Mortimer?” Hugh asked.

Sir Mortimer shrugged and waved his hand.

“I then would read the letter to the peers and noblemen,” he said coldly. “I am fairly sure the men would hear the news with interest. And so would the king. You would lose everything.”

Hugh swallowed. He kept gazing at Sir Mortimer. The man was a devil. That was for sure.  Hugh Despenser finally nodded.

“I see. I do understand perfectly. I would lose my right as the rightful heir,” he said.

“You would lose your birthright, your titles and ranks,” Sir Mortimer said.

He smiled at Hugh Despenser. Hugh still gazed at Sir Mortimer.

“I have no choice then. I will do what you want. So be it, then,” Hugh said in a stifled voice.

Sir Mortimer smiled mildly, and then he turned away and left the king’s parlour where he had spoken to the royal chamberlain.

Hugh Despenser stood in the centre of the room. His face was pale and his shoulders were slumped. The proud man felt like a beaten dog and he felt like a lion in a cage. He saw no way out.

But Hugh was not a man to act like a minion. He flew into a rage. He clenched his hands and he gnashed his teeth. Sir Mortimer was a devil. That was for sure. But Hugh had gained the king’s heart. He was the king’s favourite man. Hugh would not jeopardise his position.

Hugh took a deep breath and paced the room. He would not give in to Sir Mortimer. He had to devise a plan. He had to make up one soon. But for the time being, Hugh decided, he would step carefully and pretend he worked according to Sir Mortimer’s plans.

~~**~~


“He will do what we want,” Sir Mortimer said to the queen.

He informed her on his meeting with Hugh Despenser. The queen curled her lips.

“Then I will go down for lunch today,” Isabella said. “I want to look Hugh Despenser straight in the eyes. My presence will strengthen his resolve. He will know then that I watch his steps closely. Thus he will not betray my plans.”

Sir Mortimer nodded in agreement. The queen smiled mischievously.

~~**~~


Isabella joined the king and the peers for lunch. The queen looked around gracefully. She cast a smile at Hugh Despenser who did not respond and just gazed at her. Isabella curled her lips and then smiled again at the man. Hugh Despenser turned his head away. Isabella gracefully took her spoon. She looked from one to the other. The peers and noblemen nodded at the queen.

Dinner had almost come to an end when Edward leaned in to his new favourite. He talked to him in a low voice. Hugh Despenser replied and smiled at the king. The king smiled back at him. The queen and the peers watched them attentively. Isabella leaned forward a little. She watched the scene curiously.

Then Hugh raised his hand unexpectedly and for a moment placed it on Edward’s. The king’s face showed surprise, but he did not react. Isabella held her breath. The queen felt excited. She glanced at the peers and noblemen. The men had stopped talking. Isabella rejoiced.

Then Hugh drew back his hand and continued to eat as if nothing had happened. So did King Edward as well. Isabella glanced at the peers. Some of them still gazed at the king. A few others cast each other meaningful looks.

Isabella smiled gracefully and finished her meal. She then excused herself and retired. The peers looked after her and gave each other meaningful looks again. The queen had noticed the affront. But the queen had kept composure. A few of the peers nodded admiringly.

Roger d’Amory’s heart broke again at the sight. He finished his meal by sheer force of will. He felt even more humiliated when he saw Sir Duffy’s look. The man cast him a pitiful look for an instant. Roger retired to his room early.

~~**~~


A knock at the door jolted Roger out of his thoughts. Roger winced. He hesitated for a moment, but then he opened the door. Hugh Audley stood in the doorway. The two men gazed at each other.

“May I come in?” Hugh Audley asked.

Roger nodded and pointed into the room. Hugh Audley entered and stopped in the centre of the chamber. He turned back to Roger who still stood by the door. The two men gazed at each other. Roger finally closed the door and crossed the room slowly. He gave Hugh Audley a questioning look.

“I saw you at dinner tonight,” Hugh Audley said. “You did not look good. I suspect you are not feeling well. I can only guess. Are you feeling the way I felt when King Edward turned away from me and turned to you instead?” Hugh Audley asked.

Roger gazed at the man. He swallowed.

Hugh Audley had been the king’s favourite. Roger had learned of it when Edward and he had already been intimate friends. Edward had assigned a new position to Audley. Like Roger had done, Audley had left court for a while. He had returned at the end of 1314. Hugh Audley had avoided crossing Roger’s ways. And Roger had only seen him at table. Audley had ignored Roger. And Roger, enamoured of Edward, had not given a thought to the previous favourite of the king.

Roger nodded slowly.

“I was a naive man when I came to court,” Roger said.

Hugh Audley studied him.

“May I take a seat?” Audley asked finally.

“Of course,” Roger said and hurried to show the man to a chair.

Audley took a seat. Roger sat down as well.

“We have never exchanged a word in almost three years,” Roger said. “Why did you come to see me tonight?”

Audley nodded.

“You witnessed the affront, didn’t you?” he asked. “Neither I nor you would have dared to place his hand on the king’s hand in public.”

Roger nodded. He folded his hands. He looked at Hugh Audley gravely.

“Hugh Despenser is an entirely different man. Fiery, passionate, self-confident, bold,” he said.

Audley nodded.

“Bold, yes,” Audley said. “But he is not an idiot. He is a man who plans his steps carefully. He must know that this was too bold a step.”

Roger shrugged.

“Perhaps he just wanted to demonstrate that I have definitely lost the battle,” Roger said.

Hugh Audley gave a laugh.

“Do not overestimate your importance, d’Amory. Hugh Despenser does not give you the faintest thought. Even Edward was surprised at his action,” Audley said.

Roger shrugged again.

“The peers were content. Although they did not approve of me, they did not openly object. Edward gave away power and stayed on the sideline. This is why they approved of the situation. The power was theirs,” he said.

Hugh Audley nodded.

“Exactly,” he said. “But Hugh Despenser, Edward’s new favourite for just a few days, right in the beginning pushed himself to the fore. He pushed himself to the fore and openly demonstrated his affection and thus, of course, demonstrated the king’s malady. Hugh Despenser reminded the peers of what they had almost forgotten. Edward’s cousin Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, will rejoice. He can stir another upheaval.”

The men exchanged a look.

“Lancaster was one of the men who made sure Piers Gaveston was executed,” Roger said in a sober voice.

Hugh Audley nodded.

“Why should Despenser come to the fore?” Roger asked. “He would risk being executed also sooner or later.”

Audley looked at Roger pensively.

“I cannot say by now, d’Amory. But one thing I can say for sure: Hugh Despenser does not only risk his life. He also endangers the king. Edward is weak. His position is weaker than it ever was. Edward has many enemies. They just wait for an occasion to bring him down,” Audley said.

Roger nodded.

“Edward knows. He told me again and again,” he said.

Hugh Audley looked at Roger thoughtfully.

“Edward looked surprised himself when Despenser placed his hand on his. I am certain he has not encouraged the man. Despenser acted selfishly for some reason,” Audley said.

“Sir Mortimer,” Roger simply said like stating a fact.

They looked at each other. Audley nodded.

“Sir Mortimer and the queen are behind that affront,” he replied.

“Then they must have suborned him to do so. They must have something on him,” Roger said.

Both of them leaned back in their chairs. Roger folded his hands. Audley was thinking.

“It is not my business. Nor is it yours. Why have you come to see me then?” Roger asked finally.

Hugh Audley shrugged and gave a small smile. He looked at Roger embarrassedly.

“Despenser’s action made me angry. Perhaps I do just envy the man,” he said.

Roger measured Hugh Audley.

“I winced at the sight also. My heart broke again. And, yes, I too felt the anger. So why not just leave the king to his fate?” Roger asked.

Audley leaned forward.

“Because you and I, we both loved the man,” Hugh Audley said in a low voice.

They exchanged another look. Roger nodded.

“So what can we do to save Edward from his doom and destruction? Be aware, Audley, neither you nor I will gain anything from it,” Roger said.

Hugh Audley nodded.

“I just can’t sit and watch how Sir Mortimer wins so easily,” he replied.

“Neither you nor I have influence on Edward anymore,” Roger said.

“We must find a way to gain it back,” Audley said. “I will be thinking about it. Think also, Roger. I will come to see you again very soon.”

Hugh Audley rose to his feet. Roger showed him out. He went back to his chair, sat down and started to ponder.

~~**~~


“We are making progress. A few more bold steps and the peers will soon react,” Isabella said cheerfully.

She leaned back in her chair and smiled at Sir Mortimer.

“Yes, my lady,” Sir Mortimer agreed. “Sir Duffy gave you a pitiful look.”

Isabella curled her lips.

“I do not need Sir Duffy’s pity. I need the peers’ disapproval. I need Sir Lancaster to show up,” Isabella said. Her voice was determined.

Sir Mortimer nodded.

“Patience, my lady. We are making progress. I am confident everything now will work out just fine,” he said.

Isabella nodded pensively. Then she gave Sir Mortimer a smile.

~~**~~


Edward and Hugh were in the king’s parlour. They looked out of the window.

“This was bold, my dear chamberlain,” Edward said. “Be more careful next time. You raised the peers’ attention. They watched us curiously.”

Hugh gave a laugh. He placed his hand on Edward’s shoulder. Edward turned his head and smiled at the man.

“Those bigoted men will remain silent. Why would they want to give away their power?” Hugh asked.

“Those men are wayward and therefore dangerous,” Edward said in a sober voice.

Hugh gave another cheerful laugh.

“You enjoyed it, didn’t you?” he asked in an attempt to distract the king from his disturbing thoughts.

Hugh was well aware that his move had been bold. But he had felt compelled to take the step. The queen had watched him. Now the queen would relax. Hugh had played for time. Hugh had tried to find a way out of his predicament. But so far he had failed to find one.

Hugh leaned in to the king. His lips touched Edward’s cheek lightly. Edward turned his head and he caught Hugh’s lips. They embraced. Hugh pulled Edward closer. Edward gave in. He wrapped his arms around Hugh Despenser.

~~**~~


Sir Duffy and a few peers had assembled in the grand hall. Sir Duffy sighed. He wiped his forehead.

“I will talk to the king in private tomorrow. He must not demonstrate his affection in public. I will make that clear to him,” he said.

The other men nodded slowly. Sir Duffy wiped his forehead again. He shifted in his chair uncomfortably.

“I do not approve of his malady, sirs. By no means do I approve of it. But, after all, Edward is King of England. He is weak. An upheaval would weaken his position even more,” one of the men said.

Sir Duffy nodded seriously.

“Like I said, I will talk to the king tomorrow. His enemies are many, his friends are only few. Edward is not a stupid man. He is just so...”

Sir Duffy fell silent. The men exchanged meaningful looks.

“Possessed,” one of the men said.

“Obsessed,” another tossed in.

“Addicted,” another man said.

Sir Duffy sighed resignedly.

“Perhaps,” he said. “But, after all, he is just a man.”

They fell silent. Sir Duffy straightened.

“And, moreover, he is King of England. And he finally should act like a king,” one man said.

The peers nodded in agreement. They rose to their feet and left the hall.

~~**~~


Hugh Despenser acted more carefully the following days.

At dinner, he now and then met Sir Mortimer’s eyes. Sir Mortimer then cast him a furtive smile. Hugh winced inwardly. He had come to hate Sir Mortimer in the briefest of time. If he were able to, he would instantly kill the man. Sir Mortimer was a devil who devised devilish plans. Hugh was sure that a man’s ruin filled Sir Mortimer’s heart with great satisfaction and joy.

Sir Duffy talked to Edward.  He was the king’s long-time confidant and therefore he dared to speak frankly. The king did not take offence. Sir Duffy felt relieved when he found that Edward was insightful and compliant. He immediately reported his conversation to the king’s confidants. The peers relaxed and calmed down.

Sir Mortimer and the queen, however, were waiting patiently for Hugh Despenser’s next move.

Roger d’Amory and Hugh Audley also watched the king and his new favourite. They met again a few days later. Audley came to Roger’s room in the evening.

~~**~~


“Despenser is acting more carefully,” Roger said. “Edward may have asked him to do so.”

Hugh Audley nodded.

“Yes. Edward is not a stupid man,” he said.

Roger sighed. Hugh Audley smiled at him. Roger smiled back briefly.

“Edward saw through Sir Mortimer’s plans at once. He made plans himself on how to silence and weaken Sir Mortimer and the queen. He even made plans on how to get rid of Sir Mortimer. His plans were smart and clever. No, I agree with you, Audley, Edward is not a stupid man. He is just...”

Roger fell silent. Audley rubbed his chin.

“He has a sedate temper,” Audley suggested.

Roger shrugged.

“I sometimes thought he was like in a slumber. Now and then he woke up, and then he was an entirely different man,” he said.

Audley nodded.

“He then was the true Edward as a man and a king,” Audley said seriously.

Roger gave him a look.

“So you experienced it also?” he asked.

Hugh Audley nodded.

“I experienced it often, yes,” he said.

Hugh Audley straightened.

“His malady torments him. He thinks he would be a better king without it. But he cannot get rid of his malady. But he could very well get rid of the throne...,” Audley mused.

“You think he works on his own self-destruction?” Roger asked, leaning forward.

They exchanged a look. Hugh Audley nodded.

“Yes, in a sense. He thinks he would be a happier man without the throne. But he also knows that he cannot resign. He does not know what to do. The loss of the throne would also mean the loss of his life,” Audley said in a serious voice.

Roger nodded slowly.

“You are right, Audley, I think. This is why he prefers to push aside these thoughts. And he fears to be suddenly roused from his slumber,” he said.

Roger leaned back.

“So why should we rouse him from his slumber then?” he asked.

“Because he will risk the throne and his life, if Despenser makes a few more and even bolder steps,” Audley replied gravely.

Roger rubbed his chin. Audley watched him.

“Can’t we stop Despenser instead?” Roger asked.

Audley gave him a questioning look.

“Let’s think. Provided the queen and Sir Mortimer are behind the affront, then they must have something on him. Despenser is a proud and self-confident man. I cannot imagine he copes well with being Sir Mortimer’s submissive servant,” Roger said.

Audley nodded slowly. He was thinking.

“Sir Mortimer might have promised him titles and ranks,” he said finally.

“Nothing Edward could not assign to him also,” Roger said.

Audley nodded.

“Then what is it that Hugh Despenser fears will come to light?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” Roger replied. “Isn’t there anyone we could interrogate on his past?”

Audley was thinking.

“No one comes to my mind. We cannot interrogate his father or any family members,” he said.

Audley rose to his feet.

“I will be thinking about it, d’Amory. Think also. I will come to see you again very soon,” he said.

Hugh Audley left Roger’s room. Roger went to the window. He looked out into the night. Roger was thinking for an hour or two. Then he turned abruptly and hurried out of the room.

~~**~~


Roger knocked at Hugh Audley’s door. Finally, the door opened. Audley looked at Roger. He held a candle in his hand. Audley was dressed in a nightgown.

“D’Amory?” Audley asked with a puzzled look on his face. “It is way past midnight. I had already gone to sleep.”

“Forgive me for disturbing you,” Roger said in a low voice. “But I was thinking. We are about to take the wrong step.”

Audley gazed at him, but then he stepped aside and waved his hand.

“Come in,” he said and opened the door more.

Roger entered the room. Hugh Audley closed the door. Audley pointed at two chairs. He placed the candle on a table in front of them.

“Take a seat, Roger,” he said.

Roger and Audley sat down. Audley looked at Roger curiously.

“So tell me why we are about to take the wrong step?” Audley asked.

Roger looked at the man. Audley’s silken nightgown distracted him slightly. Roger cleared his throat.

“We need not know what Despenser tries to conceal,” he said. “This knowledge would not help us. We just could try to extort him also. But we would not be able to win him over. He would inform Sir Mortimer at once. I am fairly sure we would not outlive the day then.”

Audley leaned back and looked at Roger. He nodded slowly.

“You are very right, d’Amory,” he said in a stifled voice. “I did not consider this.”

Silence fell. The two men looked at each other.

“So we cannot do anything,” Audley said in a resigned voice.

Roger leaned forward.

“We could try to speak to Edward and make him aware of what is going on,” he suggested.

“Edward is enamoured of Hugh Despenser. He feels far less enthusiastic about seeing you or me,” Audley said.

They looked at each other for another while.

“Nonetheless, we must try,” Roger insisted. “At least, I feel that I ought to. I owe this to the king.”

“To the king or to the man?” Audley asked curiously.

Roger shrugged.

“To the king,” he said finally.

Audley nodded slowly.

“Yes, I agree, d’Amory. We owe it to the king,” he said. “So be it, then. Let us try and save the king from his possible doom and destruction.”

Audley leaned back. Roger studied his face.

“I just think we will not have a chance. But we must left nothing untried,” Audley said.

Silence fell. Finally, Roger straightened. He was about to rise to his feet when Audley raised his arm and made a gesture with his hand.

“Wait,” Audley said.

Roger stopped within the movement. He gave Audley a questioning look.

“You have come here late at night. You could as well stay for the night,” Audley said.

Hugh Audley just looked at Roger. His face was entirely free of emotion. His eyes were fixed on Roger’s face. Roger looked back. His eyes rested on Audley’s nightgown for a second. Then he looked up and looked into Audley’s eyes.

“What if I reject your offer?” Roger asked.

Audley shrugged and waved his hand lazily.

“Then you reject it,” he simply said.

Audley shrugged again. He studied Roger’s face. And then he gave Roger an encouraging look.

“But you could as well accept it,” Hugh Audley said.

Hugh Audley smiled at Roger. Roger blinked. His eyes briefly roamed over Audley’s body. Audley’s smile broadened.

“You are considering accepting it, aren’t you?” Audley said with a smirk.

Audley rose to his feet and moved to Roger. He stopped behind Roger’s chair. Hugh Audley bent down. Roger felt Audley’s lips on his ear. A shiver ran through Roger’s body. He turned his head slightly. Audley smirked at him. Roger gave him a small smile, and then he leaned in to Roger.

Dawn was breaking when Roger awoke. The room was unfamiliar to him. Roger was feeling confused. But then it dawned on him slowly. He turned on his side and saw Hugh Audley lying next to him. Audley was still fast asleep. Roger watched Audley’s face until the man moved slightly and opened his eyes. Audley looked confused also for a moment, but then he recognized Roger and smiled.

~~**~~


Hugh Despenser awoke. He heard Edward’s steady breathing. Hugh looked at the sleeping king briefly. Hugh turned his eyes away and gazed at the ceiling. Hugh Despenser was thinking. He still had not found a way out of the trap. So far, one idea only had come to his mind. He could entrust the matter to the king and ask him to silence Sir Mortimer. Hugh was certain that Edward would leave his chamberlain his birthright, his titles and ranks, provided...

Hugh sat up in the bed.

“Provided Sir Mortimer hands over the letter, which he will only do when forced to do so by the king. This means I must unveil the secret to the king. One question remains, though,’ Hugh whispered. “Will Edward be brave enough to silence Sir Mortimer and also the queen?”

Hugh looked at the sleeping king. Edward was not a stupid man. He was clever. He was even bold and passionate sometimes. But Edward was also weak. He gave in too often. He gave away too much.

Hugh touched Edward’s temple lightly.

“You ought to stand up and act like a king,” he said quietly.

Edward opened his eyes and looked at Hugh in confusion.

“What did you say?” he asked in a muffled voice.

“Time to get up, my king,” Hugh Despenser said with a small smile.

Hugh got off the bed and picked up a gown. Edward watched him from the bed.

“So be it, my royal chamberlain,” Edward said cheerfully while sitting up in the bed.

Hugh opened the curtains and picked up Edward’s gown.

“Do you wish to visit the bathhouse this morning?” he asked.

“I do,” Edward said, rising to his feet.

He took the gown Hugh held out to him.

“I want you to come with me,” Edward said.

Hugh gave the king a smile.

“I must,” he said. “I am the royal chamberlain. I must follow the commands of my king.”

Edward smiled at Hugh.

“Luckily, you are my chamberlain. Sir Rowley made a good decision,” Edward said, turning to the door.

‘Not so much Sir Rowley’s decision. Rather Sir Mortimer’s decision,’ Hugh thought. He straightened. ‘I must find a way to make him stand up and silence Sir Mortimer.’

~~**~~


Isabella stood by the window. Dawn was breaking. The queen had already dressed. She had sent a servant to Sir Mortimer. She wanted to speak to him in her parlour.

Sir Mortimer knocked at the door. He looked tired and slightly dishevelled. Isabella looked at Sir Mortimer.

“Three weeks have passed and no more signs of affection,” the queen said angrily.

Isabella curled her lips slightly.

“Patience, my lady,” Sir Mortimer said.

He suppressed a yawn. He was still feeling tired. He watched the queen who stood by the window. Isabella turned to Sir Mortimer abruptly.

“Three weeks have passed,” she said impatiently.

Sir Mortimer gave her a nod.

“I know that Sir Duffy spoke to the king,” Sir Mortimer said. “Sir Duffy asked the king to act with more reserve. The king agreed. I suppose the king has instructed his chamberlain. Hugh Despenser must step carefully, my lady.”

Isabella shrugged angrily. She brushed back a strand of her hair.

“I find it hard to wait,” she said angrily.

The queen frowned at Sir Mortimer. Sir Mortimer shrugged.

“Oh, my lady,” he said. “We have been waiting for so long. A week more or less, or even a month more or less...it does not really matter, don’t you think so?”

Isabella gazed at Sir Mortimer with widened eyes. The queen was speechless. She looked at Sir Mortimer in disbelief.

“I cannot believe. Are you giving in, Mortimer?” she asked with a frown.

Isabella curled her lips. She cast Sir Mortimer an angry look.

‘Silly French goose,’ Sir Mortimer thought.

He was tired. He was feeling unnerved. He was impatient also. However, Sir Mortimer controlled his demeanour. He hid his emotions from the queen.

“I will talk to the chamberlain today or tomorrow,” Sir Mortimer said in a measured voice.

“Today. You must talk to Despenser today,” Isabella commanded. “I will not accept any delay.”

Isabella furrowed her brows. She curled her lips and scowled at Sir Mortimer.

Sir Mortimer studied the queen’s face.

‘She grows uglier every day,’ he thought.

Sir Mortimer hid his thought from the queen. He gave the queen a bow instead.

“Today,” Sir Mortimer said resignedly. “I will speak to him today. I will see to it, my lady.”

Isabella nodded and flashed Sir Mortimer another angry look. Then she waved her hand impatiently. Sir Mortimer retreated and left the queen’s parlour.

~~**~~


Roger d’Amory and Hugh Audley walked down the path that led to the bathhouse. They were not expecting the king there at dawn. They arrived just when the door opened and the king and his chamberlain stepped out of the bathhouse. Edward and Hugh Despenser were properly dressed while Roger and Audley were dressed only in nightgowns.

Edward gazed at Roger and Audley in disbelief. Hugh Despenser also gazed at them for a moment, but then the chamberlain started to smirk. Roger and Audley gazed at Edward in almost horror. They did not dare to move.

Edward’s cheeks flushed and an enraged look crossed his face. Hugh Despenser placed his hand on the king’s arm lightly.

“We must hurry, my lord,” he said to the king softly. “Sir Duffy and a visitor will arrive in order to speak to you right after breakfast. I understood it was a matter of urgency.”

Edward calmed down. He gave Hugh a brief nod. Hugh Despenser smirked and then winked at Roger and Audley. Roger and Audley still did not move. But Roger finally blinked and straightened. He bowed to the king.

“Good morning, my lord,” Roger said stiffly.

Audley followed Roger’s example. Hugh Despenser found it hard to not burst into laughter. Edward did not respond. He gazed at the two men for another second or two. Then he turned his eyes away and moved on quickly. His chamberlain followed him. Audley and Roger turned around and looked after them.

“Let’s go inside,” Roger said finally.

Audley nodded. They entered the bathhouse.

“For heaven’s sake,” Audley said. “This definitely brought our plan to naught.”

The man was all in a fluster.

“Did you see Despenser’s face?” Roger asked.

Audley shook his head.

“I only saw that Edward’s cheek had blushed,” he said.

“Hugh Despenser smirked,” Roger said soberly.

Audley turned his head to him.

 “Perhaps Hugh Despenser is not our foe,” Roger said. “We could try to win him over first before we speak to Edward.”

Hugh Audley looked at Roger pensively.

“I cannot say,” he said.

Audley was frustrated. Roger gave him a reassuring look.

~~**~~


“What an affront,” Edward said in a sharp voice as he moved on. “How could they dare to come to the bathhouse? How could they dare to come there in nightgowns?”

Edward was enraged, although he himself had gone to the bathhouse dressed only in a nightgown.

‘But, after all, I am the king, am I not?’ Edward thought.

Hugh Despenser watched the king. He smiled inwardly.

“What an affront,” Edward said again.

Edward looked ahead and walked on grimly. He suddenly turned his eyes to Hugh.

“You do not utter a word, why?” Edward asked the chamberlain.

Hugh gave Edward a small smile.

“I was just thinking. It seems that d’Amory and Audley are amusing themselves. They apparently had a nice day...,” Hugh said drily.

Edward narrowed his eyes for a moment.

“Night, you mean. Are you making a fool of me also, Hugh Despenser, royal chamberlain?” Edward asked warily.

Hugh shook his head.

“Not at all, my lord. You asked me to tell you my thoughts. I told you I thought d’Amory and Audley were amusing themselves,” Hugh said soberly. He still smiled inwardly.

“Apparently,” Edward said angrily. “They can do whatever they want to. But I don’t want them to demonstrate their amusement to the king.”

Hugh Despenser nodded. He started talking about the duties of the day in order to distract the king from his disturbing thoughts. Hugh still smirked inwardly. The discarded favourites were entirely right in demonstrating their amusement, he thought. Hugh changed his attitude towards Audley and d’Amory. He had considered them wimps. But, apparently, the two men were bolder than he had thought.

~~**~~


The sight of Audley and Roger still gnawed on Edward. The king scowled at them at dinner. Roger and Audley ignored Edward’s looks, which enraged the king even more. Suddenly, Edward reached out and placed his hand on Hugh Despenser’s. He stroked the man’s hand and then he leaned in. Edward’s lips touched Hugh’s cheek for an instant. Then Edward withdrew. He sat upright again. He looked at Audley and Roger triumphantly.

The peers fell silent and stared at the king. A cold shiver ran down Hugh Despenser’s spine. The damage was done. But Hugh Despenser had done no wrong. The king had failed.
The king himself had failed spectacularly.

Hugh Despenser looked at the peers and noblemen. They did not look at the chamberlain. Their eyes were fixed on the king. One man only looked at Hugh. Sir Mortimer had straightened. He sat upright. And his face showed a mixture of surprise and satisfaction.

‘Now you don’t need me any longer, you devil and bastard,’ Hugh Despenser thought. ‘The king himself caused the affront. The king himself played in your hands.’

Edward leaned back and gazed into the room. It dawned on him slowly.

‘I must act quickly now,’ he thought with utter concern. ‘I must act tonight in order to prevent my downfall.’

Edward rose to his feet. The peers stood. They looked after him when he left the hall. Hugh Despenser, the chamberlain, followed the king. Sir Mortimer excused himself shortly afterwards and hurried to inform the queen.

Roger and Audley sat in a state of shock.

“There is nothing we can do now,” Audley whispered to Roger who sat next to him.

Roger shook his head.

“But I am certain Edward knows that he has to act quickly now,” Roger said in a stern voice.

The two men left together and retired to Audley’s room.

~~**~~


The queen rejoiced when she learned the news. She smiled at Sir Mortimer cheerfully.

“Finally, Mortimer,” the queen said with joy. “Leave it to the peers now. I am fairly sure that Sir Lancaster will be informed on the affront this very night.”

Sir Mortimer nodded. He moved to the window and straightened. He felt like a door had opened to him. He felt like he had found a treasure or maybe even the Promised Land.

Isabella joined Sir Mortimer by the window.

“We had been waiting for so long,” she said. “Now only one thing needs to be done. It needs to be done this very night.”

Sir Mortimer turned to her and gave her a questioning look.

“We must get rid of Hugh Despenser,” Isabella said coldly. “The man could unveil our plot. He must attend to the king now and cannot act at once. But he certainly comes to the right conclusion. He will be thinking on how to escape.”

Sir Mortimer’s face turned pale. Isabella leaned in to him. Her look was intense and her voice was like steel.

“Murder him, Mortimer, or you will never be king,” she said. “Hugh Despenser must not outlive the night.”

Sir Mortimer swallowed. He nodded slowly.

“You are right, my lady,” he said in a stifled voice. “You are right. I will see to it. I will see to it at once.”

~~**~~


Edward retired to his room.

“I need to speak to Sir Duffy. He is the only one who can calm the peers down,” Edward said restlessly.

“I go and seek him and show him to the parlour,” Hugh Despenser said in a stifled voice.

Edward just nodded. Hugh hurried back to the hall. The peers stood in groups and discussed the incident. They gave Hugh meaningful looks. But Hugh ignored them. He found Sir Duffy and spoke to him. The man nodded resignedly.

“I go and see him in a few moments,” Sir Duffy said in a low voice. “I need to speak to a few men and calm them down first.”

Hugh left and informed the king. The king stood absent-mindedly by the window.

‘I could reveal Sir Mortimer’s plan to him now,’ Hugh thought.

He made a step towards the king, but then he stopped. The king would have to act now on his own behalf. He would have no interest in his chamberlain’s fate. Hugh backed out. Edward turned to him.

“Sir Mortimer,” Edward said in a fragile voice. “He was waiting patiently. Now his time has come.”

Hugh swallowed.

“He won’t inform Lancaster personally, though,” Edward said. “One of the peers will do, and then Sir Mortimer will step forward.”

“So Sir Mortimer cannot act right now?” Hugh asked pensively.

“Like I said, another peer will do the dirty work. I need to gain time and stop them from acting this very night,” Edward said. “Sir Duffy can stop them, if only for some time. Until then I must have found a solution.”

There was a knock at the door. Hugh opened the door and Sir Duffy stepped in.

“Leave us alone,” Edward said to his chamberlain. “I will not need your service again before tomorrow morning.”

Hugh bowed to the king, and then left the room. He stood in the corridor, not knowing what to do. Finally, Hugh descended the stairs. He passed the hall and spotted the peers. The king’s confidants had assembled and tried to calm the indignant men down.

“Where is Sir Mortimer?” Hugh asked a servant.

The man shrugged.

“He left the hall right after dinner. He did not come back,” the man said.

Hugh turned away and walked down a corridor. He was thinking. Hugh stopped.  His hands were trembling slightly.

“Sir Mortimer cannot act right now,” Hugh said in a low voice. “He can’t bring down the king today, but he can very well bring down me tonight.”

Hugh felt cold as ice.

“He must kill me, so I cannot reveal that he bribed me to expose the king,” he said to himself.

Hugh looked down the corridor. He suddenly felt very calm. His mind was clearer than it had ever been before. Hugh was able to think fast and accurate. He sensed his blood running through his veins. A strange feeling had taken hold of him. Hugh acknowledged it.

“Fear,” he said.

Hugh sensed the fear. Yet the fear was somehow detached from him. Hugh’s mind worked fast and accurate.

“He must kill me tonight,” Hugh said, his voice entirely free of emotion. Hugh just acknowledged the fact.

Hugh walked down the corridor slowly. He was on guard. His senses were keen.

‘I have only little time left,’ Hugh thought. ‘I must leave the castle at once.’

Hugh Despenser started to run.

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer left his chamber. He climbed the stairs and looked down the corridor. His eyes rested on the door to the king’s parlour. Sir Mortimer wore a cape. A long knife was hidden under it.

Sir Mortimer had decided to do the deed himself. Another confidant would only enlarge the danger. Sir Mortimer suspected Hugh Despenser was in the king’s parlour. He looked at the door. He realised his hands were covered with sweat.

Sir Mortimer stood motionless for a while until he realised that the guards were watching him. Sir Mortimer straightened. He walked up to the men who were standing in front of the door to the parlour.

“I need to talk to the king,” Sir Mortimer said with a brief and artificial smile.

“Sir Duffy talks with the king,” the man answered.

Sir Mortimer grimaced.

“I will be waiting then,” he said in a grumpy voice.

Sir Mortimer leaned against a wooden cabinet. His hand touched the knife. A shiver of excitement ran through his body.

Sir Mortimer suspected the chamberlain was attending to the king. So, while he was waiting, he worked on his plan. He would ask Despenser to come with him in order to talk with him in private. He would lead him outside. They would walk down the path to the bathhouse. Despenser’s corpse would be found behind the rosebushes the following day. Sir Mortimer touched the knife again. He smiled.

~~**~~


Hugh Despenser entered his room. He collected his things in a hurry.

“I must leave the castle at once,” he said to himself.

Hugh Despenser straightened. He dropped the pouch with coins that he held in his hands. Sweat covered his forehead.

“Wrong, Hugh,” he said in a stern voice. “Wrong. Very wrong. Leaving the castle is entirely wrong. Thus Sir Mortimer will win the battle.”

Hugh Despenser bit his lip. He looked around in the room.

“He will read the letter to the peers tomorrow morning. And while I’m riding off to save my life, he will ruin it completely. They will take away my birthright, my titles and ranks. Tomorrow noon I will already be a ruined man, a man without means and name.”

Hugh Despenser clenched his fists and gnashed his teeth.

“No,” he spit.

Hugh turned abruptly. He headed for a wooden chest and knelt down. He opened the chest forcefully and took a long sword from it. Hugh’s fingers ran along the blade. He raised the sword and gazed at it in excitement. Hugh sensed his blood running through his veins. His heart beat faster. His senses were keen. Hugh felt like a lion, ready to jump.

Hugh rose to his feet, the sword still raised.

“My life or yours,” he spit the words.

Adrenaline flushed his body. Hugh’s excitement grew. He was determined like he had never been before.

Hugh left his room to seek Sir Mortimer and kill the devil in the dark of the night.

~~**~~


An hour passed. Sir Mortimer was still waiting. Then finally the door opened and Sir Duffy stepped out. Sir Duffy spotted Sir Mortimer and frowned at him.

“What is it you want from the king?” Sir Duffy asked harshly.

Sir Mortimer frowned. His hand touched the knife briefly. He straightened and approached Sir Duffy.

“I am having a message from Isabella, the queen,” Sir Mortimer said almost softly.

“Nobody must speak to King Edward but me for the time being. This is a royal command. Go and inform the queen,” Sir Duffy said rather impolitely.

Sir Mortimer raised an eyebrow.

“Then I will speak to the chamberlain,” he said arrogantly. “I will be waiting for Hugh Despenser then.”

“You will be waiting in vain,” Sir Duffy said brusquely. “Edward sent him away. He will not need the chamberlain’s service tonight.”

Sir Mortimer’s mind went almost blank. The words hit him like a blow.

“When did he send him away?” Sir Mortimer asked by sheer force of will.

Sir Duffy eyed him suspiciously.

“When I came to speak to the king. Shortly after dinner,” Sir Duffy said.

Sir Duffy turned away and walked down the hallway. Sir Mortimer gazed after him. He realised that his entire body was covered with sweat.

‘He may have retired to his room,’ Sir Mortimer thought. ‘Chances are bad,’ another voice in his head said. ‘The man has escaped.’

Sir Mortimer straightened. The guard watched him suspiciously. Sir Mortimer cast him a dark look. He descended the stairs slowly. Sir Mortimer was thinking. He stopped at the bottom of the stairs.

‘In case he left, I will read the letter to the peers tomorrow morning,’ Sir Mortimer thought.

He relaxed.

“The man is ruined,” he said in a firm voice. “Either dead tonight or a man without name and means tomorrow.”

Sir Mortimer’s self-confidence returned. He walked down the corridor. He was on his way to Hugh Despenser’s chamber.

~~**~~


Hugh Despenser sneaked about in the castle. He looked into the hall furtively. Sir Duffy spoke to the peers. Sir Mortimer was not amongst them. Hugh withdrew and walked down the corridor slowly. He hid whenever he heard footsteps or voices. He hid the sword under a cape. But Hugh knew his sight would have raised suspicions.

Hugh stopped in front of the door to Sir Mortimer’s chamber. He looked left and right. Another wave of adrenaline flushed his body. Hugh knocked at the door. There was no response. Hugh knocked again, and then he opened the door. The chamber was empty. Hugh gazed into the room. His mind was working fast. Then Hugh left the room, closed the door silently and looked left and right again.

He realised that he needed to wait for Sir Mortimer. He needed to hide until the man returned. Hugh looked left and right. There was no hiding-place. Hugh opened the door again and slipped into Sir Mortimer’s room. Hugh leaned against the wall next to the door. He took the sword from under his cape. Hugh’s fingers ran along the blade. Hugh concentrated on the moment that was soon to come. His senses were keen. Hugh was waiting.

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer knocked at the door to Hugh Despenser’s room. There was no response. Sir Mortimer knocked again, and then he opened the door. The room was empty. Sir Mortimer gazed into the room. His mind was working fast. Then he left the chamber and closed the door. Sir Mortimer looked left and right. He realised that he had to wait for Despenser. Sir Mortimer needed to hide until the man returned.

Sir Mortimer looked up and down the corridor. There was no hiding-place. Sir Mortimer made up his mind. He would wait inside Despenser’s room. Sir Mortimer placed his hand on the doorknob. But then he heard footsteps approaching. Sir Mortimer withdrew his hand quickly. He made a step back. His hand seized the knife. Sweat covered Sir Mortimer’s body.

Sir Audley turned around the corner and hurried down the corridor. Sir Mortimer withdrew his hand from the knife. He made a few steps ahead. He controlled his demeanour. Sir Audley spotted him and stopped abruptly. Audley eyed Sir Mortimer suspiciously. The two men measured each other.

Audley glanced from Sir Mortimer to the door that led to Despenser’s room. Audley grew nervous. Had Sir Mortimer already spoken with the chamberlain?

“I need to speak to Hugh Despenser,” Audley said stiffly.

“May I ask you why?” Sir Mortimer asked suspiciously.

“None of your business, Sir Mortimer,” Audley said brusquely.

“He is not in his room,” Sir Mortimer said.

“So you wanted to talk with him also?” Audley asked, casting Sir Mortimer a scornful look.

Sir Mortimer curled his lips in disdain.

“The king summoned him,” Sir Mortimer lied. “I went to seek the royal chamberlain.”

Audley didn’t believe a word.

‘I must keep him from finding Despenser,’ he thought. ‘I need to win Despenser over. Sir Mortimer must not speak to him.’

“Then let’s go to the hall,” Audley suggested. “I heard the peers have assembled. We might find the chamberlain there.”

Sir Mortimer growled inwardly. His plan was at naught. He could not murder Despenser in the chamberlain’s room. Audley had seen him right in front of the door. Audley would witness against him. He could not murder Audley also. Too great a risk, unfortunately.

Sir Mortimer turned abruptly.

“Let’s go then,” he said grumpily.

Sir Mortimer moved on. Audley looked after him warily. Then he caught up with Sir Mortimer quickly. The two men walked to the hall without exchanging a word.

~~**~~


Roger sneaked about in the castle. Audley and he had devised a plan. Audley would talk to Despenser in an attempt to win the man over. Roger would try to speak to the king. Roger ascended the stairs.

The guards in the corridor looked at him. Roger walked past them. He stopped in front of King Edward’s parlour. A guard stepped in his way.

“I need to speak to the king,” Roger said in a firm voice.

“No one has permission to see the king. This is a royal order,” the man said.

Roger was at a loss.

“Is he waiting for someone?” he asked.

The guard didn’t reply. The man looked past Roger. Roger made a step back. The guard looked at him out of the corner of his eye. The man knew Roger. He had seen him often. The guard pitied the discarded man.

“King Edward is waiting for Sir Duffy to return,” the guard said in a low voice.

He turned his eyes away from Roger. Roger gazed at the door.

“You may raise your voice once,” the guard said. “Maybe the king recognizes your voice and maybe he will open the door. If he does not, however, I need to remove you from here.”

The man gave Roger another glance. Roger nodded. He swallowed. And then he called out as loud as he could.

“I need to speak to King Edward at once. I am Roger d’Amory, the king’s loyal servant. I ask you. Please open the door.”

Roger made a step back. The guard stood motionless and looked past him. The seconds passed by. The guard straightened. And then the door opened.

“Roger,” Edward said. “Roger, come in.”

Roger entered the room. Edward closed the door quickly. They stood right behind the door. They looked at each other. Roger startled. Edward looked distressed and shaken.

“Edward, my king,” Roger said. He sounded worried.

“My favourite knight,” Edward said in a toneless voice. His eyes were resting on Roger.

“You were right, Roger,” Edward continued. “I am a weakling and wimp. I worked on my own self-destruction.”

Roger opened his mouth. Edward raised his hand.

“No more words, Roger,” Edward said. “I need no more words tonight.”

Edward crossed the room and sat down in a chair. Roger followed him and sat down as well. They remained in silence for some time, each of them looking absent-mindedly into the room. Finally, Edward spoke up. Roger turned his eyes to him.

“Sir Duffy spoke to me. He speaks to the peers now. Sir Duffy is working on a compromise,” Edward said.

Roger gave him a questioning look. Edward shrugged.

“More power to the peers,” he said.

“You have already given away too much of it,” Roger said.

Edward raised his hand faintly.

“Next time I will inevitably fall,” he said soberly. “It will be hard for Sir Duffy to persuade and calm the peers this time. But he is confident. I do trust him, Roger.”

Edward leaned back.

“But next time I will inevitably fall,” he said again.

Edward turned his eyes back to Roger and gave him a small smile.

“This is for sure, Roger. And I cannot stop it. No one can. Like you said, I have already fallen,” he said.

Roger looked at him.

“There is still a chance, my king,” he said.

Edward smiled resignedly.

“My king,” he repeated. “Yes, I remember, you told me that you would never again speak to the man you had come to know and love.”

Edward paused. He studied Roger’s face.

“So, have you come to speak to your regent and king?” he asked.

Roger looked at Edward. Their eyes locked. Roger shook his head.

“I have come to soothe the pain of the man I love,” he said.

They kept looking at each other for another moment or two. Then a smile spread on Edward’s lips. He reached out his hand. So did Roger. Edward closed his fingers around Roger’s hand.

~~**~~


It was already past midnight when the peers agreed to the compromise. Sir Mortimer had listened grumpily. This was not the outcome that he had wished for.

There were still a few angry men. But the king’s confidants worked eagerly on calming them down. Sir Mortimer looked around in the hall. He was utterly displeased. Sir Audley had clung to him like a leech. He had not been able to shake the man off. But meanwhile Sir Mortimer felt almost relieved that the man had hindered him from murdering the royal chamberlain.

‘Luckily, I did not kill him,’ Sir Mortimer thought. ‘The peers won’t bring Edward down with that compromise that Duffy arranged. The king is safe, this time. Next time, though, he will inevitably fall.”

Sir Mortimer looked around in the hall. The hall had almost emptied. Sir Audley stood next to Sir Mortimer and gazed into the room.

“Is there anything or anyone you are waiting for?” Sir Mortimer asked Audley with a frown.

“Not exactly,” Audley said vaguely.

Sir Mortimer shook his head.

“I, for my part, will go to my room now. I need to rest. I feel tired out,” Sir Mortimer said harshly.

Audley nodded.

“Good idea, Sir Mortimer,” he said. “I’m coming.”

Sir Mortimer raised an eyebrow and eyed Audley suspiciously. He cleared his throat.

“No need to accompany me, Sir Audley. I find back to my room on my own,” Sir Mortimer said.

He straightened, gave Audley a nod and headed for the door. Good Lord, what had Audley in mind? Was that why he had stayed by his side until late at night? Sir Mortimer looked back briefly. Audley smiled. Sir Mortimer fastened his steps. Audley followed him. Sir Mortimer felt indignant. He almost hurried down the corridors until he had reached his chamber. He placed his hand on the doorknob.

Audley passed him, cast a covetous eye on him and purred, “Good night.”

Sir Mortimer opened the door quickly and entered the room. Audley almost burst into laughter. He hurried down the hallway.

Inside of the room, Hugh Despenser straightened. His muscles tensed. His hands seized the sword. Hugh was ready to fight.

~~**~~


Isabella tossed about in her bed. She was not able to go to sleep. The queen felt excited. She made bold plans for the future. Isabella had no idea of what had happened in the hall. Sir Duffy had arranged a compromise. The peers had calmed down. The queen did not have a clue.

Isabella thought of Sir Mortimer sneaking about in the castle. She vividly imagined the murder. She saw Sir Mortimer, dressed in a black cape, waiting for Hugh Despenser outside. The sky was dark, the moon was full, and an owl cried furtively. Shivers ran through Isabella’s body at the dark image. Sir Mortimer lay in ambush behind a tree. Despenser walked down the path. Sir Mortimer jumped at him and slit his throat. Blood splashed. Isabella moaned with excitement.

Isabella turned on her back. Sweat covered her body and her chest heaved heavily. The queen was in a complete tizzy.

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer was knocked down. His body hit the floor. He sensed a boot on his chest, and then he sensed a blade against his throat. Sir Mortimer winced slightly. He was unable to move. His chest heaved. Sir Mortimer’s widened eyes gazed into the darkness.

“Where is the letter?” Hugh Despenser growled.

Sir Mortimer winced again. He tried to think coherently, but he found he was not able to.

“The letter,” Hugh Despenser demanded again.

He moved the blade. Sir Mortimer’s breathing fastened. The blade cut his skin. A stifled cry escaped Sir Mortimer’s mouth.

“Where is it?” Despenser asked again. His voice was a threat.

He bowed down until his face was close to Sir Mortimer’s. Sir Mortimer smelled the smell of the man. And he sensed his breath on his face.

“I will not ask again,” Hugh Despenser whispered.

Sir Mortimer gave a faint nod.

“In my neck pouch,” he said.

Sir Mortimer felt Despenser’s fingers on his neck. Despenser was looking for the cord. Despenser withdrew his hand. He took a knife from his boot. His other hand still pressed the blade of the sword against Sir Mortimer’s throat. Despenser cut the cord. He placed the pouch on Sir Mortimer’s chest and with one hand opened it. Sir Mortimer gazed into the darkness. He tried to ignore the sword.

Finally, Despenser had managed to take the piece of paper from the pouch. He shook the paper until it unfolded. Hugh held it up and gazed at it. But it was too dark to read the letter. Hugh Despenser withdrew his foot from Sir Mortimer’s chest. He kicked the man in his side and forced him to rise to his feet. Despenser shoved Sir Mortimer to the small window of the room. Sir Mortimer searched for the knife under his cape. But he was unable to seize it.

Despenser held the paper up. The faint light of the moon sufficed to read the letter. It was his grandfather’s letter. Despenser pushed the paper in a pocket of his doublet. He leaned in to Sir Mortimer.

“I’m not your minion any longer,” Hugh said to Sir Mortimer. “Don’t think of telling your nightly adventure to the king or whoever. Nobody would believe you. You would just make a fool of yourself.”

Hugh withdrew the blade forcefully and at the same time gave Sir Mortimer a blow on the chest. Sir Mortimer fell to the floor. Hugh Despenser left the room quickly.

~~**~~


Audley waited for Roger’s return. Apparently, Roger had found a way to speak to the king. 

”Why wait? Why not go again and try to speak to Despenser?” Audley mused.

Audley left the room. The corridors were empty. Audley moved on slowly. Suddenly, he heard footsteps hurrying along. Audley hid in the shadows. Hugh Despenser ran past him with a sword in his hand. The man’s eyes were dark with rage and excitement.

Audley pressed his body against the wall. He looked after Despenser until the man was out of sight. He listened to his footsteps until they had faded. Audley moved and retreated. He was frightened. What had Despenser done with the sword? Audley winced. Whom had he murdered?

Audley hurried back to his room. He closed the door and locked it. Audley leaned against the wooden door for a while.

‘Good Lord,’ he thought. ‘I must warn Roger. He might run into that devil Despenser.’

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer rose to his feet. He lit a candle. He touched his throat, yet found no serious harm done. Then he spotted the pouch on the floor. Sir Mortimer gnashed his teeth. He picked up the pouch and threw it against the wall.

“What an idiot I am,” he called out. “I should have reckoned with Despenser waiting here for me.”

Sir Mortimer kicked a wooden stool aside.

“It was Audley’s fault,” he scolded. “The man distracted me.”

Sir Mortimer straightened and compressed his lips.

“Do not deceive yourself, Mortimer,” he said aloud. “It was your fault only. You were too careless and underestimated your foe. You lost your leverage. The queen will freak out.”

Sir Mortimer gazed into the room with a frown on his face.

“She wanted me to kill Despenser. Why did I follow her command and tried to murder the man? It was not a good plan. What has become of you? Are you getting old, Mortimer?” he asked himself.

A distant voice in his head agreed. Sir Mortimer shook it off, however. He preferred to ignore the faint warning.

Sir Mortimer took off his doublet. He would talk to the queen the following day. Why disturb the woman’s dreams of power and greatness right now? Sir Mortimer yawned. He felt he was tired. The thought of speaking to the queen almost made him feel nauseous.

~~**~~


Audley made up his mind. The look on his face was determined. He opened the door and instantly jumped at the sight of a man who reached out his hand to the door. Roger looked at Audley confused. Audley made a step back. Roger entered the room and closed the door.

“What happened?” Roger asked feeling startled.

Audley’s face was pale. Roger looked at him. Audley appeared to be utterly frightened. Then Audley recounted the story. Audley and Roger speculated.

“I can only imagine Despenser threatened Sir Mortimer,” Roger said. “Despenser’s life was at stake. Or his fate was, at least, if Sir Mortimer had something on him.”

Audley nodded.

“If Sir Duffy had not managed to arrange a compromise, the peers would have revolted against their king. Then Sir Mortimer would not have needed Hugh Despenser and his service any longer.”

Audley gave another nod.

“Perhaps Hugh Despenser seized the day, or rather he seized the night, and threatened Sir Mortimer with his sword,” he said.

They looked at each other, their eyes revealing their thoughts.

“Do you think he killed Sir Mortimer?” Roger asked finally.

“He looked like a terminator when he passed me by. Yes, I could imagine he killed him,” Audley said in a serious voice.

“We will find out about it tomorrow,” Roger said in a toneless voice. “I do not want to leave the room again tonight.”

“Neither do I,” Audley said firmly.

He paused for a moment before he continued.

“I saw Sir Duffy and the peers in the hall. I listened to them. Yes, Sir Duffy calmed the peers down. Sir Mortimer witnessed the meeting also,” he said.

“Then Sir Mortimer knows he has not won the battle,” Roger replied. “In case he is still alive,” he added.

Silence fell. Roger watched Audley. Audley looked at the wall pensively. Finally, Audley turned his eyes back to Roger.

“How is Edward doing?” Audley asked.

“He is distressed and shaken,” Roger replied. “I managed to speak to him. The incident shook him deeply. Edward is broken.”

Audley looked up.

“And so is the king’s power?” he asked.

“I left when Sir Duffy came to inform Edward. The king’s power has diminished. But I think King Edward will seek to re-establish it,” Roger replied.

“Sir Mortimer and the queen will never stop trying to diminish his power,” Audley said sadly.

Roger shrugged.

“After all, Edward is the king, the sovereign, the regent, the ruler,” he said.

Audley gave Roger a small smile.

“You still trust that the king will stand up. Or do you just not give up hope that he will?” he asked.

“I am the loyal servant of my king,” Roger said. “Despite what he has done to me.”

“Will you forgive him?” Audley asked. “I mean, will you forgive the man who treated you badly?”

Roger mused, and then looked at Audley.

“I must. Else my life would be bitter,” he said.

They fell silent for a while.

“Life is not a merry-go-round,” Audley said wisely.

Roger nodded.

“Maybe it is just play. Perhaps the world is just a stage and all the men and women are merely players,” he said.

Audley looked at Roger with surprise.

“You are a philosopher, Roger?” he asked curiously.

Roger shook his head.

“No, I am not,” he said. “Those are the words that Edward said to me a long time ago when we had just met.”

“The king’s words then,” Audley said pensively.

“The man’s words,” Roger responded. “The words of a man who is not the fool that many think he is.”

~~**~~


Isabella had finally drifted to sleep. She woke up the following morning, refreshed and filled with excitement and joy. The queen was looking forward to the day. She dressed elegantly. She intended to join the peers for breakfast. Isabella was curious to hear the news. And she was eager to see the wretched king. Isabella took a deep breath and straightened. A knock at the door distracted her.

Sir Mortimer stepped in. He looked like a ghost. Isabella was puzzled. She gazed at him. Sir Mortimer told her the news. Isabella’s hands trembled and her lips shivered. Her face flushed. Isabella grimaced and waved her hands. The queen flew into a terrible rage.

Sir Mortimer retreated. The queen cast him dark looks. She was filled with despise and hatred.

Isabella pointed a finger at him.

“It is your fault only, Sir Mortimer,” she called out. The queen almost shrieked.

“Your fault only,” Isabella called out again.

She approached Sir Mortimer who backed out until he had reached the door. The queen’s chest heaved heavily. She scowled at Sir Mortimer. She shot angry looks at the man. Sir Mortimer opened his mouth in an attempt to speak to the queen. But Isabella interrupted him with a gesture of his hand. She flung her long dark hair back. Her cheeks were flushed.

‘This woman has gone insane,’ Sir Mortimer thought.

Sir Mortimer watched the scene in a state of shock. He watched the scene that was unfolding in front of his eyes. Sir Mortimer was worried. His worries turned into utter concern. His heart jumped faster. He felt the urge to escape.

The queen paced the room. She was still scolding. She stopped when she spotted Sir Mortimer by the door. Isabella scowled at him. And she almost growled. She approached Sir Mortimer slowly. Sir Mortimer gazed at her for a second. And then Sir Mortimer bowed quickly and left the room.

Sir Mortimer hurried down the corridor. He was afraid. He was scared and frightened. His life was at stake. His fate, at least. The earth shook under Sir Mortimer’s feet. His world tumbled down and with it his future, his goals, and his beliefs. Sir Mortimer had not yet reached the hall, when he had thrown over all the determined and purposeful plans that he had worked on for so many years.

Sir Mortimer entered the hall. The king and the peers had already gathered. Sir Mortimer stepped forward. He placed his hand on his chest. And then he bowed deeply to Edward II, King of England.

“Long live the King,” Sir Mortimer said gravely.

~~**~~


Hugh Despenser gave a brief and scornful laugh at the sight of Sir Mortimer bowing to Edward. Edward just looked at Sir Mortimer. The king showed no emotions. He just looked at the traitorous man. The peers also watched Sir Mortimer. A few of them grimaced whereas others smirked mockingly.

Edward made a sign with his hand. The king sat down. The peers followed his example. Edward was about to speak up when Isabella suddenly rushed into the room. The queen’s hair hung loose. Her cheeks were flushed. The peers looked at her with surprise. Then they moved their chairs and rose to their feet in order to stand in front of their queen.

Edward remained motionless. He watched his spouse. Edward’s eyes were cold. Sir Mortimer winced slightly at the sight of the queen. Sir Mortimer was sure that now the inevitable would happen. The course of history would change.

Isabella raised her hand. She pointed at Hugh Despenser. Everybody turned his eyes to the man. The royal chamberlain stiffened. He gazed at the queen in fearful anticipation.

“Hugh Despenser,” Isabella called out. “You are the illegitimate son of a whore.”

Everybody stopped breathing. The peers looked at Hugh Despenser in a state of shock. The queen stood motionless, still pointing at the chamberlain. Edward glanced at Hugh Despenser, and then he looked back at the enraged queen. Hugh’s chest heaved heavily. Edward made a sign to Despenser.

“Speak, Sir Despenser,” the king said gravely.

“The queen lies,” Hugh Despenser said in a loud and distinct voice. He looked at the queen coldly.

Everybody turned their eyes back to the queen. The peers gazed at her in shock. Sir Mortimer forced himself to sit upright. He felt the earth shake under his feat.

“A flagrant statement, my lady,” Edward said in a measured voice. “Do you have proof of it?”

Isabella gave a triumphant laugh. She pointed at Sir Mortimer.

“Sir Mortimer has proof of it,” she said loudly.

The peers turned their eyes to Sir Mortimer. Hugh Despenser narrowed his eyes. Edward studied Sir Mortimer’s face. He thought of the deep bow that the man had given to him.

“Sir Mortimer,” Edward said.

Sir Mortimer glanced up and down the table nervously. He had a lump in his throat. He looked back at the king and met his cold look. Sir Mortimer cleared his throat.

“I am afraid, my lady, I have no such proof,” Sir Mortimer said in a measured voice.

Hugh Despenser grinned inwardly. After all, the man did not tell a lie.

“It is the first time I hear this statement,” Sir Mortimer continued.

He cleared his throat in an attempt to hide his indignation.

‘Hypocrite,’ Hugh Despenser thought. He watched Sir Mortimer with compressed lips.

Isabella gazed at Sir Mortimer in disbelief. She made a step forward. She was still pointing at him.

“Does anybody else of the peers and noblemen claim to speak up?” Edward asked in a stern voice.

Most of the men lowered their eyes. Sir Mortimer also gazed at the table. The king’s confidants looked at their king. Only two or three men glanced at the queen furtively. An awful silence fell. The men scarcely dared to breathe.

It slowly dawned on Isabella that she had carried it too far. She turned to Edward. Her hand was still reached out. She lowered her arm slowly. Edward’s cold eyes rested on her face.

Finally, Edward spoke up.

“Sit down, sirs,” he commanded.

The noblemen and peers sat down, thus showing their disrespect for the queen. Isabella felt numb.

“This is what we have decided,” Edward said, his voice the voice of a king.

“The queen shall retire to her chambers instantly. Sir Duffy and Sir Roderick shall see her there. The queen shall wait in her chambers for Sir Duffy and Sir Roderick who will come to see her tomorrow morning. Sir Duffy and Sir Roderick shall accompany the queen to St. Mary’s Augustinian Abbey in Rocester where she shall live a secluded life.”

Edward made a sign with his hand. Sir Duffy and Sir Roderick approached the queen. Isabella looked wildly between them. She made a step back. Her mouth opened and her eyes widened. Sir Duffy and Sir Roderick stopped right and left of her.

“Nooo,” Isabella cried out in fear and despair.

Sir Duffy placed his hand on the queen’s right arm. Sir Roderick put his hand on her left arm. Isabella was about to collapse. Sir Duffy and Sir Roderick urged her to turn around and move on. They led the queen out of the hall.

Sir Mortimer watched the scene from under his lashes. He felt shattered. His life was shattered. He awaited his trial as well. The king’s confidants still looked at their king. The others still looked at the table. Slowly, though, the man dared to look up. Hugh Despenser gazed at the opposite wall. His face was pale and his lips were compressed.

Edward rose to his feet. The men stood quickly.

“We decided to summon a gathering,” King Edward said. “The king’s counsellors shall come to the king’s private parlour at once.”

King Edward left the hall. The man gazed after him.

Hugh Despenser moved slowly. He was the royal chamberlain. He had to attend to the king. Despenser left the hall. And so did the king’s confidants and his loyal men.

~~**~~


The king and his counsellors had assembled in the king’s parlour. It was afternoon meanwhile. The consultations still lasted. Now and then a counsellor left the room and hurried down the corridors with a grim face. The man disappeared into a room, spoke to one of the peers in private and then hurried back to the king’s parlour.

King Edward’s minions were tensed. Roger and Audley had retired to Audley’s room. Every once and a while they sneaked about in the castle to find out what was going on. Sir Mortimer also went to the hall every hour or two. But only few men had gathered there. They did not speak to each other. They were sitting at the table, waiting quietly for the outcome of the consultations. Sir Mortimer retired to his room. For an instant, he had considered leaving the castle secretly. He had refrained from it for this had only proven his compliancy. Sir Mortimer, nonetheless, awaited his trial.

Hugh Despenser attended to the king and the counsellors. He heard the major part of the consultations. The chamberlain, however, had sworn to not reveal a single word that he heard. The peers had asked Despenser to comment in more detail on the queen’s accusation. But Edward, wisely, had stopped them from interrogating the chamberlain. Hugh Despenser, however, was aware that the king would question him later.

At about eight in the evening, King Edward went to the hall again. The peers assembled in fearful anticipation. King Edward announced his decisions. Executive, legislative and judicial functions were concentrated on the king. King Edward appointed and promoted various men. He deposed others from their position and duty. Sir Mortimer was amongst the latter. He was sent as a diplomatic negotiator to Ireland. Edward announced his decision without even looking at Sir Mortimer. He did not even take a breath before uttering his next sentence and addressing another man.

Sir Mortimer stood motionless. His face had turned pale. He gazed at the opposite wall. His mind was blank. He was not able to think. And yet, he was not entirely shocked. His fate could have been worse. Secretly, he had awaited his execution.

King Edward ended the meeting. He rose to his feet and then looked at the peers and noblemen.

 “The battle is lost. Long live England,” he said in a forceful voice, looking from one to the other.

The peers and noblemen stood quickly when their king rose to his feet. For an instant they just gazed at the king. Then the men straightened and they responded.

“Long live the King,” they responded loudly and like one voice.

Edward left the hall and retired to his parlour. His confidants followed him. The peers and noblemen left the hall. Small groups headed for private rooms to talk over the outcome in secret. While some of the men felt the need to settle their thoughts, others already made schemes and planned their future manoeuvres.

It was about midnight when the counsellors left. Edward slumped in his chair. He was dead tired. Hugh Despenser moved silently. He did not dare to disturb King Edward.

~~**~~


Edward wiped his face. He sat silently for another while. Then he spoke up without looking at Despenser.

“Let me know the truth now,” he said. “Comment on the queen’s accusation.”

Edward turned his head. His eyes rested on the chamberlain. The man stood in the room without moving. Edward measured him. Hugh Despenser swallowed.

Edward raised his hand almost casually.

“You do not respond. So be it. I will not punish you for that. I see through you, though. You are in a predicament. You can either lie to your king or you can tell him the truth which could very well mean disgrace,” Edward said.

He measured Despenser again. Hugh stood motionless and gazed at the king. Edward gave him a small smile. He waved his hand.

“So be it. I am occupied with far more important matters and concerns. I must not worry about my chamberlain,” he said.

Hugh Despenser relaxed.

“Is there anything else you want me to do, my lord?” Hugh asked in an informal voice.

Edward shook his head.

“I will rest now. Wake me at dawn,” he said. “The consultations are not yet finished. The counsellors will assemble again after breakfast.”

Hugh Despenser nodded. Edward rose to his feet and crossed the room. Hugh Despenser opened the door of the parlour. Edward walked down the corridor. Hugh opened the door to Edward’s bedroom. Edward entered. He turned back to his chamberlain in the doorway.

“I believe the queen spoke the truth and Sir Mortimer had the proof of it. For some reason, Sir Mortimer refused to speak in favour of the queen. I can only imagine the leverage was lost,” Edward said.

Edward looked Despenser straight in the eyes. Hugh Despenser looked back. He did not lower his eyes.

“What was it? A document?” Edward asked.

“A letter my grandfather sent to my father,” Hugh said in a sober voice.

Edward gave him a small smile.

“The addressee was not a Despenser, right?” Edward asked.

“You are right, my king,” Hugh said, still looking at the king.

Edward smiled again at the chamberlain.

“Did you already know of it when you were promoted chamberlain?” Edward asked.

“I learned of it only a short time ago,” Hugh replied.

Edward nodded in understanding.

“Now that the matter is cleared and settled...do you still feel the need to attend to your king?” he asked.

“I am the royal chamberlain,” Hugh said in a measured voice.

Edward nodded again.

“I do not need the royal chamberlain’s service tonight,” Edward said.

Hugh bowed slightly. Edward smiled again and made a sign with his hand. He turned away and moved into the room. The royal chamberlain closed the door. Hugh Despenser stood in the corridor and gazed down the hallway absent-mindedly. Finally, he moved down the corridor.

Edward had clarified his position. But he had not sent him away. Hugh was still the royal chamberlain. Hugh Despenser was thinking while he went to his own room. There was still a chance that the king had not discarded him.

~~**~~


Edward II, King of England, stood by the window. He was alone in his room. The grand parlour was furnished and decorated splendidly. King Edward wiped his forehead. His chest heaved heavily. He was haunted by his memories.

Edward took a deep breath. He had lost a battle. He had lost his own people. The peers had turned away from him. Edward took another deep breath. He closed his eyes and bit his lip. Edward shook his head violently.

“I re-established my power,” he said aloud.

Edward paced the room.

“I am not deceiving myself,” he said. “Yes, the peers and noblemen despise me. But it is not only because of the battle I lost. No, I know all too well why they despise and why they hate their sovereign. They hate me because of my malady.”

Edward turned abruptly and hurried back to the window. He looked into the night. He thought of Piers Gaveston. Piers Gaveston and Edward had been friends, best friends, and innocent friends. Until that day that Edward would never forget.

Edward closed his eyes. Spring had come. The sun was out. It was a warm day. Gaveston had come to his room.

“What was his age then?” Edward mused. “Yes, he was seventeen. And so was I. Everything changed that day. Had you not come to my room, my beloved, your fate would have been a different one. My fate would have been a different one also. You would still be alive. And I would be a happy man. We would still be friends.”

Edward stopped breathing. He remembered the day. He remembered Piers happy smile when he had opened the door and had entered Edward’s chamber. Edward had returned the smile. He had felt a warm shiver running through his body. Something had changed. Edward had not been able to explain what had made the difference then. Meanwhile he knew. He was so well aware of it.

“Had you not entered my room that unfortunate day, my dear and beloved Gaveston,” Edward said under his breath.

He waited for the voice to return. Piers Gaveston had never ceased to be. Gaveston or what had remained of the unfortunate man had followed Edward wherever he had moved. Edward listened anxiously. But Piers Gaveston’s voice did not return.

King Edward straightened.

“I re-established my power. I am the King of England. The peers and noblemen turned back to me. From now on, this shall never cease to be.”

Edward’s thoughts drifted off. The queen came to his mind. He bit his lip and his look was stern. Isabella, the French sovereign’s sister and Edward’s spouse. Isabella, who just couldn’t cope with the facts. Isabella, who insisted on loving her husband and king.

“Why could you not just behave like any other empress and queen does?” Edward said angrily. “It’s all about politics. It’s not about husband and wife. Why did you not understand and accept it?”

Edward turned back to the window.

“She haunted me.” Edward almost spitted the words.  “I could not kill nor ban her for the sake of the county. England is not strong enough to resist the French greatness and power. Isabella was just a pledge. Why had she not been able to accept her fate?”

Edward straightened. He raised his eyes and looked into the room. Things had changed. Edward II, King of England, the sovereign, was back. Edward crossed the room majestically. He undressed and went to bed. Edward soon drifted to sleep. His sleep was peaceful.

~~**~~


Isabella stood by the window. She stood upright and gazed outside. Her look was cold and her lips were compressed.

“What miserable fate I have to face. It is not worth a queen,” she said.

Her lips shivered slightly.

“What ugly fate I have to face,” she said again.

The queen tried to speak in a measured voice. But her voice was fragile and almost breaking.

Tears came to Isabella’s eyes. Her rage was gone. She had carried it too far. The king had won.

Isabella turned abruptly. She was alone in the room. Sir Duffy and Sir Roderick had left her alone. They had locked the room. Isabella shuddered slightly.

“Why was I not able to endure my fate? We took Piers Gaveston’s life. But the king has not touched me then. He turned to another man,” she said to herself.

 “What was it I was looking for?” she asked. “Did I seek the love of my minions, the English people? Did I seek the king’s love? Or did I seek the love of a man?”

Isabella closed her eyes for a moment.

“I feel humiliated by him,” she said resignedly.

Isabella shrugged.

“Why did I not try to overcome this weakness of mine?” she asked, feeling despaired.

Isabella’s shoulders slumped. Her look was empty.

“I could have gained greatness. I could have become greater than Edward II, King of England, and even greater than my brother, the French sovereign and king.”

Isabella looked into the room for a while. Then she looked out of the window again. Isabella gave a small laugh.

“I was deceiving myself. I was blinded by arrogance and self-conceit. And I trusted the wrong man. Sir Mortimer was not a good counsellor.”

Isabella sat down in a chair. She folded her hands. They would take her to Mary’s Augustinian Abbey in Rocester the following day. Isabella decided to not go to sleep. She would spend the night awake. It was her last night as a queen.

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer had retired to his room. Sir Mortimer packed his things. Sir Mortimer was certain he would receive order to leave the castle the following morning. Sir Mortimer gazed at the opposite wall. His mind was blank. He was not able to think. And yet, he was not entirely shocked. His fate could have been worse. Secretly, he had awaited his execution. Compared to it, Ireland sounded great and his new function as an ambassador sounded almost appealing and indeed quite promising to him. Sir Mortimer suddenly looked forward to his future. He did not give a single thought to the queen.

~~**~~


Roger d’Amory was not able to go to sleep. He was lying in his bed wide awake. Roger looked into the dark of the room. He thought of the king. Roger had seen a glamorous king. He had seen a grand and impressive man with majestic demeanour. This evening, Roger had seen a true king. Roger had seen Edward II, King of England.

Roger finally drifted to sleep. He dreamed he opened the door to a chamber. He stepped in with a happy smile. His eyes met King Edward’s eyes. Roger felt warm and comfortable. A cosy feeling was running through his body. Then they stepped out on the green. The sun was out. It was a warm day. Suddenly, Roger heard a bird cry. Roger looked up. A white dove crossed the sky. Roger turned his eyes back to Edward. King Edward reached out his hand to him.

Roger awoke with a start. He gazed into the room. A faint light illuminated his chamber. Dawn was near.

~~**~~


King Edward awoke. He turned his eyes to the window. Dawn was breaking.

Edward rose to his feet stiffly. He dressed, not waiting for the servants to help him. Edward walked to the window and looked outside. He looked at the green. Edward smiled. Something had definitely changed.

King Edward opened the door and entered the hallway. He descended the stairs. He walked down the corridor. Everybody fell silent at his sight instantly. The peers gazed at him. Edward made a gesture with his hand. Everybody stepped out of his way. Edward sensed the floor under his feet. He smelled the scents in the air. Edward felt a slight breeze on his skin. He turned and spotted the door that led out on the green. Edward stepped outside. His servants surrounded him. He made a gesture with his hand. The men retreated.

“Something has definitely changed,” King Edward said. He enjoyed the new feeling.

Edward walked down the small path that led to the bathhouse. He heard a bird cry and looked at the sky.

 “Just a dove,” a voice said.

Edward turned his head. He spotted Roger d’Amory. Roger made a small bow to the king. Edward smiled at Roger.

“The dove did not die,” Edward said gravely.

Roger smiled faintly and then gave Edward a nod. Edward reached out his hand to him.

“Come,” Edward said, “Let’s go for a walk on the green. The sun is not yet out. But it could be beautiful day.”

Roger looked at the king for an instant. He felt warm and his heart was filled with relief. Roger nodded at Edward. They moved down the path together.

 “The dove cried, but it did not fall dead to the ground. You were mistaken, Roger,” Edward said.

 “Yes, my lord, I was mistaken,” Roger replied seriously.

They walked on silently.

“Do you love your king?” Edward asked.

 “I certainly do, my lord,” Roger said seriously.

“Could you love the man?” Edward asked.

 “I would like to,” Roger answered quietly.

They stopped walking.  Edward reached out and touched Roger’s chin.

“Your fate could be worse than Gaveston’s was,” Edward said seriously.

“I do not care,” Roger said in a calm and grave voice.

“You do not care now. You might very well care later,” Edward said.

“Who knows,” Roger said. “We cannot really anticipate our fate, can we?”

“I stepped carelessly then. I could step more carefully now,” Edward said. “I lost a battle and I lost my favourite man. I do not want to lose him again.”

They looked at each other.

“Until you have lost your reputation, you never realise what a burden it was or what freedom really is. This is what I have discovered,” Edward said. “I feel free to move wherever I want to and in company of whoever favourite companion I choose.”

They exchanged a long look. Roger nodded.

“I saw my king at the announcement yesterday. But I also have come to know and love the man. I cannot forget about that look in your eyes when I first met you, Edward,” Roger said.

Edward smiled.  He reached out his hand and pointed at the castle.

“Let’s go back, Roger. I left the castle as a man without love. I will enter it as a man in love,” he said.

Roger smiled. They turned around and walked back the path.

 “I want you by my side, Roger,” Edward said.

They looked at each other.

“Always,” Roger replied seriously.

They returned to the castle. Edward ascended the stairs and entered his private parlour. Roger went back to his room.

~~**~~


Sir Mortimer received order to leave for Ireland right after breakfast. Sir Mortimer was prepared. He left instantly. He did not stay to witness the queen’s departure.

The queen was led away at noon. Her carriage was escorted by Sir Duffy, Sir Roderick, and six guards. The peers, the noblemen, and the servants watched the queen’s departure furtively from the windows of the castle. King Edward’s minions sneaked about in the castle. They did not dare to assemble and gossip. A threatening silence still lasted over the house.

Two of Edward’s confidants left the castle the same day. They were headed for France to inform Isabella’s brother, the French sovereign, on the queen’s fate.  The two men were under instructions to immediately enter into negotiations with the French sovereign. The negotiators were highly reputable peers, experienced and versed in diplomatic negotiations.

The peers, noblemen and servants relaxed. The king and his counsellors had gathered again. But things slowly went back to normal.

~~**~~


Edward sat down in his chair upright and with a majestic demeanour. He looked into the room majestically. Edward was thinking.

The door opened and Hugh Despenser stepped in. He was feeling slightly nervous, to his own surprise. He controlled his anxiety, however, and entered the room calmly. Hugh Despenser made a few steps towards the king. Hugh Despenser stood upright. He looked proud and self-confident.

“I am at your service, your majesty, my lord,” he said gravely.

Edward had a queasy feeling. His mind was working. The name Despenser rang a bell. Edward watched Hugh Despenser warily.

Hugh Despenser flashed the king a smile. Edward gazed at his chamberlain. The man’s boldness bewildered the king. Hugh Despenser smiled inwardly at the king’s bewilderment. Hugh was an experienced man. He was able to read the signs of attraction. Hugh watched Edward attentively. Something had changed about him. Hugh Despenser was suddenly feeling insecure.

Edward made a faint gesture with his hand.

“Sir Hugh Despenser, I wrote a few letters. Would you please copy them,” Edward said calmly.

Edward rose to his feet and crossed the room. Edward left the parlour and retired to his private chamber. He sat down in a chair and gazed into the room. The name Despenser rang a bell. Edward straightened. He had found the connections.

~~**~~


Hugh looked after the king until the door had closed. A puzzled look appeared on his face.  He was an experienced man and he was able to read the signs of attraction. Something had changed about the king.

Hugh Despenser was self-confident and ambitious. He liked to be the centre of interest and, in a sense, he was sure the world revolved around him. A thought occurred to him suddenly. Had Edward turned his heart to another man? The name Roger d’Amory crossed Hugh’s mind. A shiver ran down Hugh’s spine. Hugh rose to his feet with a frown on his face. His senses were keen. He sensed the truth. The name d’Amory rang a bell. Hugh bit his lip. He straightened.

“Roger d’Amory must not win,” Hugh Despenser said grimly.

Hugh Despenser left the king’s parlour.

~~**~~


Hugh Audley went down a corridor. Hugh Despenser passed him and cast him a furious look. Audley turned and looked after Hugh. Hugh Despenser walked down the hallway in a hurry. Audley found the royal chamberlain had looked like a terminator again. Audley shuddered. He remembered the nightly incident. Audley hurried to talk to Roger.

Audley spoke to Roger, and then he left. Roger dwelled on his thoughts. He closed his eyes for a moment and instantly saw the face of Hugh Despenser. Roger swallowed. He bit his lip for an instant.

“This man does not hold back. He does not feel ashamed to come on to the king. Has he already enamoured Edward again? I need to act quickly.”

Roger headed for the door. He left the room and hurried down the hallway.

~~**~~


The two men ran into each other in the corridor that led to the grand hall. Hugh Despenser’s face flushed when he caught sight of Roger. He gazed furiously at the man. Roger stopped short when he caught sight of Despenser. His face turned pale. He stared at the royal chamberlain.

Hugh Despenser approached Roger slowly. He did not turn his eyes away from him. Hugh looked dangerous. He flashed furious looks. He walked upright. He approached his opponent.

Roger was not able to move. He was certain Hugh Despenser was up to murder him. He made a step back which only encouraged Despenser. Hugh fastened his steps as he approached the hated man.

The peers in the hall meanwhile had noticed what was going on in the hallway. They gathered in the corridor and watched the two men. They did not interfere, however. They had assembled to just witness the showdown.

Hugh Despenser raised his arm. He pointed at Roger.

“You,” he called out. “Get out of my way. You must not steal the king’s heart.”

Roger swallowed. He felt scared and frightened. But he did not move. He did not turn away his eyes from his foe.

The peers looked from one to the other.

Hugh Despenser made another two steps. He stopped in front of Roger.

“You,” he called out. “You are a weakling and wimp. You are a seducer and traitor.”

Hugh shot furious looks at Roger. His senses were keen. Hugh sensed that Roger was frightened. Hugh triumphed. A wave of adrenaline ran through his body. Hugh started to grin. He sneered at Roger.

“You,” he said in a lower voice, his voice filled with scorn and despise. “You are a miserable coward.”

Roger straightened in defence.

The peers held their breath. They watched with breathless attention. The air was thick, the atmosphere dense.

“You are arrogant and self-conceited. You act selfishly and not in favour of your king,” Roger said.

His voice was cold. He narrowed his eyes. Roger’s muscles tensed as he watched Hugh Despenser.

Hugh Despenser grimaced. He gave a laugh.

“Hypocrite,” he hissed. “You ran to Mortimer when you felt you were at a loss. You changed sides quickly. How can you think you are loyal to the king?”

Hugh grinned triumphantly. He crossed his arms in front of his chest. He looked his opponent up and down. How weak a man d’Amory was. How he despised this man.

Roger’s cheeks flushed. He gnashed his teeth. Hugh’s words had enraged him.

“How can you dare to accuse me of betrayal?” Roger said coldly. His voice had a threatening undertone. “You played into Sir Mortimer hands. It is a matter of fact and it is obvious to everybody.”

“You are a liar,” Hugh spit the words. “I was loyal to the king. The queen tried to remove me with an infamous lie. Don’t you see the outcome? The queen is banned. Not I am banned. I am still the king’s favourite man.”

Hugh grimaced again. He shot Roger a threatening look.

The peers watched the two men with widened eyes.

“No, you are not,” Roger spit the words also.

His face was now red with rage and fury. He made a step towards Hugh Despenser.

“You are not, arrogant bastard,” Roger shouted in Despenser’s face.

The word ‘bastard’ made Hugh freak out eventually. He raised his arm and knocked Roger in the face. Roger tumbled backwards. Hugh Despenser followed him.

A muffled cry had escaped the peers’ mouths. They watched the showdown with excitement.

Roger touched his face briefly. Blood covered his hand. His nose had started to bleed.

Hugh watched Roger. Hugh was feeling pleased.

Roger straightened. The blow had humiliated him. Adrenaline suddenly flushed Roger’s body. He was no longer scared by the fiery man. Roger was determined to defend his honour. And he was determined to defend his position as the king’s favourite man. Roger knocked back with full force.

Hugh Despenser made a step back. He had not expected the blow. He kind of gazed at Roger with surprise. What had happened to the weak man?

Roger looked at Hugh Despenser grimly. His hand was still clenched. He raised his fist again.

Hugh tasted blood. He touched his lips and looked at his fingers. The sight of the blood fuelled his rage again. Hugh fixed his eyes on Roger. He stared at him in cold blood. And then, with a loud yell, Hugh Despenser threw himself at the man. Hugh Despenser was out of his senses.

The peers pressed their bodies against the walls. They were excited. They liked the thrill of the chase.

Roger d’Amory fell to the floor. Hugh Despenser threw himself at him. He pressed Roger’s body against the floor. He straddled him and placed his hands around Roger’s neck.

Roger flailed his arms in order to free himself. Roger spit his foe in the face.

Hugh Despenser removed one hand from Roger’s neck and knocked Roger hard in the face.

Roger spit again. He struggled and finally freed his hand. He punched back violently.

Hugh Despenser yelled. His nose started to bleed. His was distracted for an instant.

Roger took the opportunity and punched in Hugh’s back. The forceful blow hit hard Hugh’s kidney.

Hugh yelled again. He shifted his weight.

Roger struggled and pushed Hugh’s body back forcefully. He managed to free his legs and he rolled on his side quickly.

Hugh was on his hands and knees. He crouched quickly in order to throw himself at Roger again.

Roger turned on his back and drew up one knee.

Hugh jumped at Roger.

Roger kicked him in the balls forcefully.

Hugh yelled like a maniac.

Roger lay on his back. He lifted his head and watched Hugh tossing about on the floor.

The peers uttered words of acknowledgement and excitement.

Suddenly, however, the peers fell silent. They retreated into the hall quickly.

King Edward II stood in the corridor and looked from Hugh to Roger.

Hugh saw the king. He stopped tossing about. He lay still, but he whimpered. Roger, still lying on his back, gazed at the king. He did not move either.

“Get up from the floor, sirs, and retire to your chambers,” King Edward said in a measured voice.

He walked on slowly and with royal demeanour. King Edward II entered the hall. The door was closed behind him.

Roger got to his feet and hurried down the corridor. Hugh rose to his feet stiffly and limped down the hallway.

The two men retired to their chambers. They nervously waited for Edward’s command.

~~**~~


Edward made a quick decision. He deposed Hugh Despenser from his duties and gave him order to leave the castle at once. Edward smiled at the image of Hugh tossing about on the floor. Hugh Despenser’s career had ended with a whimper.

Edward summoned Roger to go for a walk with him. They left the castle and walked down the path to the bathhouse.

“His name rang a bell,” Edward said. “I found out Hugh Despenser was the son and heir of Hugh le Despenser, Earl of Winchester, and Isabella de Beauchamp, daughter of William de Beauchamp, 9th Earl of Warwick. Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, was one of the men who made sure Piers Gaveston was executed. Hugh Despenser is related to him,” Edward said. “Of course, this would not have disqualified Hugh. It is not his fault that he is related to a man who I hate and despise with all my heart,” Edward continued.

They looked at each other.

“He has traits I do admire. He is self-confident and strong. But he is also arrogant and conceited. Hugh Despenser is selfish. And he is ruthless. He is a lot like Sir Mortimer. Not my favourite man,” Edward said.

“Playing favourites is a dangerous play,” Roger said, smiling at Edward.

Edward placed his hand on Roger’s shoulder.

“But you do enjoy it anyway, don’t you, Roger?” he asked.

Roger gave a laugh.

“In fact, I do enjoy it. But sometimes it scares the hell out of me,” he said.

Edward joined in his laughter.

“I almost laughed aloud, Roger, when I saw you and Hugh lying on the floor. I was almost sad that I had not witnessed the fight. The peers told me of it. They were thrilled with excitement. And I must admit it made me proud to hear that two men fought violently for the king’s heart,” Edward said.

Roger smirked.

“I brought him down, that arrogant bastard,” Roger said excitedly.

His cheeks flushed and he shot Edward fiery looks. Edward studied Roger’s face with surprise. He gave a laugh.

“I knew you were a smart and clever man,” Edward said. “But now I see you are a passionate man also. I ought to convey my thanks to Hugh Despenser. The arrogant bastard brought you out of your shell.”

Roger joined in the laughter. Edward clapped him on the shoulder.

“Well done, Roger,” Edward said with a smile. “Let’s go back and devise a passionate plan.”

Roger gave a laugh. He smiled impishly.

THE END

~~**~~

Author’s note: This story is a work of fiction. The developments in this story deviate from what really happened in the year 1314 and the years that followed.

In reality, Queen Isabella and Sir Mortimer gained might and power. Mortimer and the queen controlled the game until their downfall in 1330.

Being Edward's favourite was a dangerous occupation. Hugh Audley was the only favourite of Edward II to survive the reign. He also enjoyed the trust of Edward III, who raised him to comital rank.

Roger d’Amory was King Edward’s favourite until he was displaced by Hugh the younger Despenser. Roger was captured on 11 March 1322. He was quickly tried and condemned to death. It appears, however, that his illness beat the executioner as he died there "of illness" two days later.

Hugh Despenser was brought to trial in 1326 before Mortimer and the Queen. Hugh Despenser was judged a traitor and a thief, and sentenced to public execution by hanging, as a thief, and drawing and quartering, as a traitor. Additionally, he was sentenced to be disembowelled for having procured discord between the King and Queen, and to be beheaded, for returning to England after having been banished. Mortimer and Isabella feasted with their chief supporters, as they watched the execution. The manner of Despenser's death was rich in symbolism. As Despenser was dragged to his place of execution, the crowd was able to jeer at him, proving that he had lost his power. Hanging was a shameful death, the punishment for a common thief. Castration showed to the crowd that he had ceased to be a man; his evil desires were thought to reside in his heart and entrails. His disembowelment and the burning of his innards showed that the land was being purged of evil. Finally, the quartering and beheading of his corpse was considered to jeopardise his chances of Salvation after death. The man once known as Sir Hugh Le Despenser, Lord of Glamorgan, was thus physically and spiritually obliterated.

King Edward II was captured and imprisoned in Monmouth Castle on 16 November 1326.  He was forced to abdicate in favour of his son Edward who became King Edward III. The deposed Edward II was imprisoned in Berkeley Castle. King Edward II died on September 21, 1327. He suffered a terrible death. Edward was held down and a red-hot poker was pushed into his anus through a drenching-horn.

In 1330 the young Edward III seized power.

Sir Roger Mortimer was arrested in Nottingham Castle on 19 October 1330, in the hastily planned and executed seizure of power by Edward III. Mortimer was not permitted to speak in his own defence when he was taken before Parliament at Westminster. The outcome of the 'trial' was never in doubt. Roger was found guilty of all the crimes he was charged with. On 29 November 1330, Roger was taken from the Tower. He was forced to wear the black tunic he had worn to Edward II's funeral three years earlier, a pointed reference to his hypocrisy. He was dragged behind two horses to Tyburn, where he would be hanged. Sir Mortimer was allowed to speak a few words to the crowd. He admitted his role in the judicial murder of the Earl of Kent. But he did not mention Edward II or his mistress Queen Isabella.

Isabella was taken to Berkhamsted Castle shortly after the seizure of Mortimer. She was placed under house arrest. She was treated with respect and consideration, and her household remained with her. Isabella surrendered her vast estates into the hands of her son. Edward III granted her an income of £3000 a year. In 1337, Edward III gave Isabella permission to make her will, leaving her possessions to anyone she chose. Queen Isabella died on 22 August 1358, aged sixty-two or sixty-three.

~~**~~

Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction. The developments in this story deviate from what really happened in the year 1314 and the years that followed. The brief description of the Battle of Bannockburn is based on the Wikipedia article ‘Battle of Bannockburn’. The epilogue summarizes what really happened to King Edward II, Queen Isabella, Sir Mortimer, and the king’s favourite men. The summary is based on various online articles. 

Written in 2010/2011. 

This story is copyright © 2011 by Dolores Esteban. The descriptions of characters, the concept of the story, and the plot are original, and are the property of the author. Distribution is prohibited without the author’s written consent.


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First published at GA Gay Authors - Gay Quality Fiction