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10. Chapter 10

Dolores Esteban%s's Photo   Dolores Esteban, 27 Mar 2011


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.

~~**~~



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Copyright © 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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