Thanks for the commentaries. I really hoped for a collaborative AAR but apparently I am the only one interested.
A Toast to the worst Scoundrel in the whole of Europe
Kuipy (Earldom of Northampton, future [?] Duchy of Normandy)
They say in Normandy every story begins with a meal, yet Roger de Breteuil, duke of the March, presently saw now sign of one. The heavy oaken table was covered with maps, charts, and candles ; and at a sign serving men would fill the cups wine, cider, or calvados, that rabidly strong Norman apple brandy with enough kick to kill a Welsh. But since he had arrived to Curthose’s estate in the dead of the night, a dark cloak wrapped over his shoulder, his notorious host had not bothered to offer any them food.
Roger was not surprised though, for he knew why : this story had begun several years ago, and with a proper meal assuredly. The old man would not have have wanted his burial to go without a feast, so a proper feast there was, sad and gloomy as their foggy lands of the March, but a feast nevertheless. At a place of honor the new duke was bitterly contemplating his plate of baked apples when a fat claw of a hand dug in his arm and a croaking voice whispered in his ear.
“My, Roger de Breteuil. We have to talk.”
Roger had turned to chastise the insolent guest and recognized the man he had never seen before, the man old William Fitzosbern had hated to the last day, the knave who had lost Normandy to his treacherous ambition.
“ How dare you come here ?” he barked. “My father would have had no business with people like you.”
“ I came partly to talk with you, and partly to pay my last respects to William Fitzosbern de Breteuil. A man who never backed down and never gave up a fight, much like me”
“ He was nothing like you, Curthose. My father was a noble and courageous knight. And I will not have his memory defiled by scoundrels likeyou now that he is dead.”
The songs and music covered their voices. Even so Robert had bent so close that Roger smelled his foul breath as he murmured the rest.
“ Your father is a noble and courageous knight, Roger. But he is not dead – just deprived of his righteous lands, places and titles.”
“ What… What do you mean ?”
“ I knew your mother before you were born, and we were more than friends. In a better world she might have been my wife. Even so… You are mine, Roger. And Breteuil knew it.”
“ Me ?”
That day Robert had hit the mark. Roger’s relations with the old man had always been strained, and the further he refused to admit Robert’s claim the more he could feel it true inside him.
“ Your brother William looks so much like him you could confuse them. But you… You have none of this features, but you have my eyes, my smile, something in your frown. And be wary, my child, for people notice it and talk. Of those who court you today there are few who would not sell you for thirty pieces of silver. Your brother has to much to gain by challenging your succesion. And Robert de Beaumont has been asking questions.”
“ Wether you want it or not, my child, there is nobody you can trust… Nobody but me.”
Yet, tonight, it was that very Robert de Beaumont that sat at the left of his father, lean and sinewy. Robert of Normandy himself had aged and fattened. At nearly fifty he was an ugly and tired man, with sagging cheeks and greying hair, but there was nothing weak or tired in his small fierce eyes which scoured the lords covertly gathered.
Hardly a great man of England was missing. Nervous hands sported rings of gold orned with antiquated seals and huge amethysts. Roger could recognize the four greatest dukes of England and Robert’s five sons, or were they six including him ? The youngest, Warin, was seated just beside him, a strong and tall man with a scrawny beard and dark, cold eyes. By looking at him he could see there was no love lost between him and Robert. The young duke of March could not help to envy this ability to know wether he loved or hated their father.