“Why did I pay good money so you could learn to read—like I never could? Not to mention learn to play fucking instruments, and write fucking poetry?” Reynald demanded, breathing grave-cold breath over Amaury’s face.
A moment later, Amaury felt his father’s fists raining blows to his head, and then, as Reynald liked to do, he delivered a kick to the groin. Amaury cried out in protest and tried to avoid that famous kick. He cracked his head against the walls of the dungeon and woke up from the nightmare.
His father was dead and buried. His father would never hurt him again.
He forced himself to concentrate; it was Ibelins who had put him here. The Lusignans preferred to forget the debt they owed Barlais, but the Ibelins had usurped Barlais’ rightful place. They conveniently forgot (and had contrived to make Hugh’s son and heir, Henry, forget) that their father had been a bitter enemy of Guy de Lusignan. They liked to forget that their father had been a landless knight too—until he wormed his way into the bed of a dowager queen! That was the basis of all their puffed up status: a seduction, a bedroom conquest.
Yet all because of that bedroom conquest, the Ibelins had been half-brothers to Queen Isabella of Jerusalem, and, through her, uncles to both Queen Maria of Jerusalem and Queen Alice of Cyprus.
Dear Alice detested her uncles John and Philip d’Ibelin because they accused her of being extravagant and egotistical. They had driven her mad with their admonishments about “thinking of her poor people” and reminding her of her “duty of charity.” Amaury had enjoyed watching and then exploiting her tantrums (she was a particularly wild lover after she’d been in a rage) when she got a lecture from her baillie Philip d’Ibelin criticizing one expense or another. The more Philip d’Ibelin urged “restraint” or “responsibility,” the more Alice wanted Amaury’s services.
Until one day after a particularly violent clash with her baillie, she tried to set him aside. The High Court replied that they had taken an oath to Philip “until King Henry came of age.” Of course, that only made Alice angrier, so angry that (after a memorable night with Amaury) she started looking for a new husband. She wanted a man willing and able to defend her “rights.” Barlais, no matter how good he was in bed, couldn’t do that, so she’d lost interest in him.
He was getting bored with her anyway, Amaury reminded himself. His father was dead. He’d inherited. It had been time to marry. He’d found a rich and docile maiden, and she’d given him a litter of little girls. Just girls. So far. She was only twenty-six. There was time for a son. If he ever got out of here….
He looked about his dungeon again and tried to calculate his chances of release. Why was he here? For taking his revenge upon a cheater? That couldn’t be the real reason. Surely. But they would pretend it was the reason.
So how long could they keep him locked up for attempted murder? Or even successful murder. Even if Toringuel was really dead, he was nothing but a household knight of Italian extraction. Who cared if Toringuel lived or died? The Ibelins apparently.
But they were notoriously legalistic. They couldn’t just let him rot in here as his father would have done to any of his enemies. They would have to put him on trial for murder. They had to bring charges, and when they did he would demand trial-by-combat. They could not deny that to him. He was a knight. He’d been knighted by Walter de Montbéliard during King Hugh’s minority. The thought of demanding trial-by-combat was comforting.
But how long had he been here already? There was no way to tell time in a dungeon. There was no day or night. Food and water were delivered irregularly. Sometimes he waited so long for food that he began to think they intended to starve him to death. Then the food came before he could finish the last portion. Not knowing the time was a form of torture, Amaury concluded.
And for what? For defending himself against a cheater! It was ridiculous.
Still, he should not have let Toringuel upset him so much. His friends had tried to calm him down. He should have listened to them. Toringuel had cheated and he deserved humiliation, but trying to kill him had been unnecessary. There would have been other ways to put him in his place, to show him up for the cheater he was. Trying to kill him had given the Ibelins the excuse they needed to humiliate him. They were his enemies, not Toringuel. It was the Ibelins who had usurped his rightful place.
“I’ll kill them!” He raged at the darkness. “I’ll kill them all! I’ll have my revenge!”
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