Before Plantagenet - Chapter 281
June 1141 - Northampton, Kingdom of England
The men in the command tent of the King of Aquitaine stood in a quiet reverence.
It was perhaps surprising that their attention was fixated on an old woman, one who, in theory held no power. But such was the elegance, grace and confidence of Duchess Gunhilda of Somerset as she marched into Geoffrey’s presence, the king flanked by his chancellor, commanders and eldest son.
Her head held high, she strode forward and bowed before the king, a small grin on her lips as her eyes met his. And that expression became a full on smile as Geoffrey kissed her wizened hand.
“It is always a pleasure to see you my lady,” Geoffrey told his wife’s aunt. “Even if we are brought together under less than joyous circumstances.”
“I pray that we have cause to celebrate soon enough,” Gunhilda said. “That the traitor Ecgwyn can be put down like the dog she is. And then those blindly led into the fire with her can find mercy and salvation by your and the queen’s grace.”
Geoffrey smiled. He knew the implication - Gunhilda was asking for mercy for daughter, Duchess Aevis. It was not something he was inclined to give easily, especially given her previous plotting. But if Ecgwyn and Sigeric were made examples, then perhaps he could find some small measure of mercy for the Duchess of Lancaster.
“I pray for such things as well,” Geoffrey said, neglecting to delve into how
they might be granted such salvation, and what
he considered merciful. “By your efforts, as well as other ladies and lords of the realm, we can bring this messy business to a quick conclusion.”
What constituted “quick” was another matter as well. For while Geoffrey didn’t want to be stuck in England for a decade, he also didn’t want to deliver the hammerblow in a month either.
Ideally, he wished to deliver a message to the lords of England - step out of line and they would regret it for the rest of their short lives. He wanted to lay waste to Cornwall, Lancaster and Essex and he could not do that if the rebels were beaten after one battle.
That said, he did not intend to leave anything about this war to chance. He had arrived in England at the head of nearly 13,000 men, with another 5,000 or so ready to follow under the command of his brother Alias and Mayor Frederic of Saumur.
The rebels had around 7,000, but with the potential for more if East Anglia and Somerset joined them. There was some danger if Geoffrey insisted on playing with his food, so to speak, yet he could not help but feel confident even with support from East Anglia especially, his victory could not be stopped.
The search for support was likely why the rebels had ventured to the south, near London, where they were close to Somerset and East Anglia. Whether they were simply talking to Duke Æthelsige and Duchess Maud or looking to pressure them, Geoffrey was not sure. But he decided to cut them off from the rest of the Isles, and marched his army from Devon, through the northern part of Somerset and Wessex, before setting up camp outside of Northampton, where Duke Sigeric of Essex normally resided.
With Alias taking his men across the channel to Cornwall, and then heading west to lay siege to Duchess Ecgwyn’s keep in Tintagel, Geoffrey was confident the rebels were boxed in. They were not idle, however, and laid siege themselves to London, the largest city on the Isles.
The queen, meanwhile, was not present with her husband. Instead, after reuniting with him briefly upon his arrival to Lydford, she had gone to join the bulk of her forces marching north to lay siege to Derby, which sat flanked by the lands of Duchess Adelise and Duke Hlothere.
Ælfflæd had offered to keep her men with Geoffrey, but the king felt it unnecessary. His men were more than enough to handle the traitors, and the some 2800 men loyal to the queen could be better put to use pressuring the enemy lands and castles.
In the meantime, Geoffrey hoped to keep the traitors bottled in the southeast of the country, ready to pounce if they made a mistake, or if they drew the support of East Anglia or Somerset and had to be dealt with before all the lords could bring their forces together.
But the presence of the Duchess of Somerset gave hint to the fact her husband would not be a problem for Geoffrey going forward.
There might have been some question to Gunhilda's loyalty, given her husband’s status and the fact her daughters were on opposite sides of the conflict, but her appearance here, entirely by her choice, made clear she had made her decision.
And perhaps the biggest factor in that choice might have been standing beside the king.
Gunhilda turned her eyes toward Prince Guilhem next, a toothy grin forming on her face as she looked her grandnephew over.
“And it is good to see you here as well, my prince,” she said. “Even taller than the last time I saw you. And growing more handsome by the day. My granddaughter is a lucky girl.”
Guilhem blushed at the flattery. And it was a bit of that, Geoffrey realized, since though handsome enough, Guilhem was not tall. The king hoped he’d sprout in his teen years, but given the short stature of the boy’s mother and grandfather, that was not guaranteed.
“Avelina is pretty too,” Guilhem answered Gunhilda. “And mother tells me she is quite smart. I could not ask for a better promised.”
That his son thought to go there without any prompting pleased the king. He and Centolh d’Uzes had been working a bit with Guilhem’s speaking skills and conversation, so it was a sign those efforts were bearing fruit.
“She is quite excited at the prospect of becoming queen one day,” Gunhilda said. “As am I. I am sorry I missed your ceremony, but I was busy securing an important gift for your father. I pray that you and he can forgive me.”
As much as Gunhilda’s absence to the hastily arranged betrothal ceremony in Lydford that promised her granddaughter to Guilhem, the knowledge of that aforementioned gift made Geoffrey pretty confident his son would find it in his heart to give the old woman a pass.
But before she brought forth the gift, she took notice of another man next to Geoffrey - this one distinguished from the others by his long, reddish-brown beard.
“Ah, Duke Simon of Toulouse!” Gunhilda said. “It has been some time.”
“Yes, it has,” Simon told her. “It is unfortunate we could not meet under better circumstances.”
The duke was commiserating. He had suffered defeat at the hands of his rebel lords, agreeing that inheritance of Poitou and Toulouse would be split upon his death.
It was a result Geoffrey could not have been happier with - rivalries between future children of Simon and Aines would supersede any thought of claiming the crown. And it left Simon furious with his vassals - making it less likely he’d mount any challenge to Geoffrey himself for the foreseeable future.
So when Simon, eager to get as far away from his vassals for whatever excuse could be conjured up, asked to join Geoffrey in England as a commander, the king had no problems allowing it. That this was a chance to win Simon’s loyalty by “aiding” him in this difficult time was not lost on the king.
“I believe better times will be soon had by all those of the king and queen’s loyal supporters,” Gunhilda said. “Which brings me to the gift that I would like to present to you, my king.”
Geoffrey smirked. He had been looking forward to this.
The scene was every bit as good as Geoffrey imagined, as the gift was led into the tent at spearpoint. Duke Æthelsige of Somerset also held his head high as he was forced before the king. But the narrowing of his gaze as he passed Gunhilda hinted at his anger toward his wife.
“My husband was riding toward London, where the rebels gather,” Gunhilda told Geoffrey. “I did not wish to see him captured by those treacherous snakes, so I had some knights loyal to the queen reroute him to here, so that he might enjoy protection under your watch.”
Her sly grin widened to a full on smile. Geoffrey had to fight hard to resist chuckling.
“Oh and his sword, my king,” Gunhilda said as she presented her husband’s weapon to Geoffrey.
“Thank you my lady,” Geoffrey told her, taking it. “He is fortunate to have such a far-sighted and wise wife. And if you don’t mind, I would like a few moments to speak with him. Duke Adhemar, escort the duchess to the guest test.”
The Adhemar bowed, as did the duchess, though adding before she left: “And Sir Berard, give my regards to your wife if I do not see her first. A lovely lady and a fine help for the queen, she is.”
“Thank you,” Berard replied. “And I will.”
The duchess then departed the tent, alongside Adhemar first. Then Geoffrey looked to his commanders and son, dismissing them so that he might talk to the duke alone.
Æthelsige of Somerset stood silently, first watching the others go, then eyeing the king as they stood on opposite sides of a table. He was not bound or restrained with the fact he was without his weapon the only hint he was more prisoner than guest.
“Not even a bow?” Geoffrey asked. “Where are you manners, Somerset?”
Geoffrey still had issues reading or speaking Saxon names. It just sounded wrong coming off his tongue - so much so that he continued to have problems even saying his wife’s name. So for Æthelsige, he simply referred to him as his duchy, rather than by his name.
“I am not being treated as a lord should,” the duke replied. “If I am to give respect, I should be offered it.”
Geoffrey smirked while shaking his head. “Somerset, I am your king. You are to show me respect and then, if
I deem you worthy of it, I shall show the same to you.”
“That is what tyrants think,” Somerset said.
“No, if I were a tyrant, I’d have had your head already,” Geoffrey said as he poured out a cup of wine. “What is it that Caligula said? Let them hate me, so long as they fear me?”
Somerset’s eyes grew wide and he swallowed hard.
“But I am not a tyrant,” Geoffrey said, giving the cup to the duke. “Just a king attempting to restore order to his lands and protect his loyal subjects from traitors blinded by avarice and envy.”
“Who treats his loyal lords the same as those traitors,” Somerset argued.
“No, because once more, you still have your head,” Geoffrey told him. “But perhaps that should change given how you’ve come into my hands. Be honest. You were running to join the traitors, weren’t you?”
Somerset eyed him. “I know not what you mean, my king. I have never entertained such thoughts. I was riding out to join your wife, the queen, despite what my witch of a wife says.”
“Yes, which is why you rode toward Ecgwyn in the south and not my wife and your stepdaughter in the north,” Geoffrey said. He shook his head. “If you think me a tyrant, Somerset, know that I shall have your head regardless of what you say. All you toss away now is your honor, and the worth of your words so that if I am not a tyrant, I will be left with no choice but to act against a duplicitous, lying lord.”
Somerset did not respond at first, keeping his gaze fixed on Geoffrey as if he searched for some weakness, some hint of how to proceed.
Eventually, he did reply with: “Then you should know I explored my options. And now, I consider any question completely settled. I am your man, you and the queen’s, my king.”
Geoffrey guffawed. “Smart man. Smarter wife though. She looks to save her family by handing you over and winning favor with me and the queen.”
“Or prove her own loyalty,” Somerset noted.
“Self-preservation is a powerful motivator,” Geoffrey said as he placed the sword on the table between them. “Which is why I shall allow you to continue here with your sword. For if you make one wrong move, I shall have your head.”
“The queen…” Somerset began. “She will not stand for---”
“For those who betray her,” Geoffrey replied. “And the rumors that surround you, along with her aunt’s opinion of you, do you no favors.”
Somerset fell silent but took the weapon back. Having made his point, Geoffrey called for guards and Knud, back from his semi-exile, to haul him off to his designated tent of residence. The king did enjoy having the Dane around when he traveled to England providing an extra bit of intimidation and a reminder their fates could be worse.
And as Somerset was led out Geoffrey called out to him once more: “One. Wrong. Move.” before making a slashing motion to his throat. Swallowing hard again, the duke followed Knud away.
Once the duke had vacated the tent, Berard and Simon de Toulouse rejoined the king.
The latter was new to Geoffrey’s commanders, having requested the appointment just before the king departed for England. Part of that was due to status - he lacked a council seat and Simon no doubt felt he deserved at least a place among those leading Geoffrey’s armies.
“I take it that went well?” Berard asked Geoffrey as he poured himself a drink.
“As well as it could,” Geoffrey said. “I would execute Somerset if I could. But he hasn’t committed treason yet. Just… thought
“Once they think it,” Simon began. “How far away from it can they truly be?”
“What is the reach of 18,000 men?” Geoffrey asked. “For that is the answer with both him and the Duchess of East Anglia.”
“Problems for the future,” Simon noted.
“If I make an example of the rebels now, I think it will keep them in check,” Geoffrey said.
He looked at the two men and could see them shifting their eyes away. They did not fully believe him.
“But rest assured, should any one of them step out of a line,” Geoffrey began, “now or in the future, I will not hesitate to deal with them. Permanently.”
Before either Berard or Simon could respond, the tent flap opened and Jacques, Simon’s younger brother, entered. He bowed before the king and Simon before turning to the duke.
“Brother, I have news about father,” Jacques said. “If I might speak with you in private.”
Geoffrey almost wished to press Simon on it now, given he still did not fully trust either the duke nor his troublesome father, but let the matter slide. He believed he had Simon in a malleable state where he could earn lasting loyalty by giving him a respite from his troubles in Toulouse. There was no need to upset that with an inquisition.
“It’s fine,” Geoffrey told Simon. “Speak, then return if you are able.”
“Thank you, cousin,” Simon said. Quickly standing up and bowing, he then left the tent with his brother.
“De Poitou troubles,” Berard noted.
“We’ll see if they compare to England troubles,” Geoffrey said. “Sometimes I think my vassals tame compared to the ones here. And then I remember Ancel.”
Berard chuckled and sipped his drink.
“True,” he said. “But I do not think any rival the Duke of Somerset. If you would let me, I would not hesitate to plunge the sword into him myself.”
Geoffrey’s brow rose. “Oh? Has the man done a great deal to offend you?”
“He offends us all with his odious behavior and lack of morals,” Berard said. “Lida has told me he tried to bed her, but was only stopped when he heard how the act might be received by you.”
“Ah, that would do it,” Geoffrey said.
“But even if I were not aggrieved,” Berard continued. “One can simply look at his scores of bastards. Or that has laid with and impregnated his step daughter… only to then to throw her to the wolves. I do not think there is a more slithery snake in the whole of realm. Perhaps not even Christendom.”
“He is like a Saxon Duke Gilles,” Geoffrey said, remarking of his late cousin, whose misdeeds in the beds of women across the realm, including Geoffrey’s aunt Agnes, made him infamous. “The only man I can think of who laid with both mothers and daughters with impunity.”
“I think he burns for such things,” Berard said. “As Somerset will too. But yes, sometimes I think we would be better off hastening that journey.”
Geoffrey nodded. “If he gives me a reason.”
“I suspect he won’t,” Berard lamented. “Snakes like him do not survive as long as he has by making foolish mistakes. But I will watch him, and pray that he does.”
“Or maybe I should just give Duchess Gunhilda a knife and tell my guards to turn their backs,” Geoffrey said. “Who am I to stand in the way of a vengeful wife exacting her just due?”
Berard chuckled and raised his cup to that. Then the tent flap opened again and Simon re-entered. He sat down on the stool with a thud and let loose an exasperated sigh.
“Good news then?” Geoffrey asked him.
Simon shook his head. “Cousin, I want you to understand that I knew nothing about what I am to tell you now. Had I known, i would have revealed it to you before.”
Geoffrey felt a chill run down his spine. He was joking before. Simon’s tone was far more serious, indicating Geoffrey was about to be blindsided by something relating to his uncle.
Narrowing his gaze, Geoffrey said: “What are you about to tell me?”
Sighing again, Simon said: “My father has attacked the Frankish lord of Vexin over La Marche.”
Geoffrey’s mouth fell open. La Marche was a region on the northeast border of Poitou and during the time of his grandfather Foulques the Iron Duke, had paid homage to the old de Poitou family - Geoffrey's maternal ancestors.
However, with the strife that led to Geoffrey’s father’s rise in Aquitaine, as well as a marriage of the Countess of La Marche with the Count of Vexin, those lands had not come with the rest of Aquitaine when the realm split off from the kingdom of the Franks.
The Duke of Poitou had long coveted La Marche - it was the primary reason he had previously pressed for war on the Frankish realm. But Geoffrey had not given permission for this attack - and it came when he himself was deliberately avoiding warring with the Franks because they were fighting heathens in Iberia.
“He… he has ruined our reputation!” Geoffrey blurted out.
“It is him
,” Simon said. “Not you. Not me. Not any of us. My father simply decided---”
“Your father has attacked a child who fights for Christendom!” Geoffrey shouted. “No, my
vassal lord, my
marshal, has attacked a child who fights for Christendom! It will be as if I
did it, regardless of how opposed I am to it!”
Simon lowered his head and shrugged his shoulders. “I would have counseled him against it if he had told me before.”
“You expect me to believe he didn’t?!” Geoffrey snapped. “That he did not want Toulouse to aid him in this adventure of his?!”
“No!” Simon shouted in reply. “My father is angry with me for refusing his aid against my rebels. He thinks me… I don't know what he thinks of me these days. But it is not well. So no, he told me nothing of this. I am as surprised as you.”
Geoffrey still didn’t believe him, and was about to question him further when Berard stood up.
“My king,” Berard said. “I think the duke speaks truthfully. But regardless, we must find a way to… lessen our involvement in this. Perhaps summoning the chancellor?”
Geoffrey sat down, his gaze still fixed on Simon. “Yes, call for my uncle. We must make certain it is clear to all, and especially our new Holy Father, that we had no say in this.”
“Simon,” Berard said. “Should I fetch him, or do you wish to?”
“I would,” Simon said as he stood up. Again quickly bowing, he made a hurried exit from the tent.
“He’s lying,” Geoffrey spat after he had gone.
“I don’t think he is,” Berard said. “If his father wished to hide this from you, there is no benefit to telling Simon.”
“It’s his son,” Geoffrey said. “And another duke, who might provide aid.”
“A duke who was just handed an ugly defeat by his vassals,” Berard said. “After refusing his father’s aid. I would suspect the Duke of Poitou thinks of him as foolish. And even if he doesn’t, Simon’s levy has been battered. Most of what is left is with your brother in Brittany. He wouldn’t provide much aid, if any. No, I think if anything, Simon knowing was a liability. He would be around you, and thus could be at risk to reveal his father’s plans.”
Berard made sense. Geoffrey didn’t want him to make sense, but he did. In fact, Simon had avoided Bordeaux, joining Geoffrey in Angouleme, with the king thinking at the time that he was too embarrassed after his defeat to face his father.
But the king wanted to lash out at someone. He couldn’t haul the Duke of Poitou before him - at least not for a month or more. Someone needed to feel his wrath.
Almost as if Berard could read his mind, the Perigord man added: “You want to make Simon an ally. This is an excellent chance. There is a rift between him and his father. He has reason to fear your response to his family. Separation is in his interest at the moment. Offer him the chance, and he will put distance between himself and his father without you having to do much of anything.”
Geoffrey squeezed the bridge of his nose in frustration. However, he could not argue with the logic.
“I still don’t fully trust him,” Geoffrey said.
“Neither do I,” Berard said. “But I believe him here. And I believe in his self-interest. His father could run afoul of the church. He wishes no part of that for himself.”
“If only I could avoid such a fate,” Geoffrey said.
“Well, let us see what Adhemar can do about that,” Berard said.
That did slow Geoffrey’s anger a tad, but only because it was overcome with nervous energy. What could the chancellor spin out of this? Was there a way out of it?
He did not have to wait long to find out.
Adhemar entered with a quick bow, then hurried to the table, Simon following behind. He did not seem overly flustered, but appeared ready to get down to business.
“So, has Simon told you of the situation?” Geoffrey asked.
“He has,” Adhemar said. “Troubling news indeed. But sadly, not surprising. Duke Guilhem has not always enjoyed the best foresight. It is unfortunate you must hear that Simon, but you are a man grown. There is no use hiding it from you.”
Simon crossed his arms. But he nodded and said: “I understand, Duke Adhemar.”
“Why it has happened is irrelevant,” Geoffrey said. “What can be done to absolve Aquitaine of this mess is what is most important.”
“We are limited in direct action,” Adhemar admitted. “Even if you drag the duke before you and force him to end his war, problems arise. The Franks may wish for some restitution. And what if the duke refuses? It opens the realm up to more problems, at a time when we are here, and not there.”
Geoffrey grinded his teeth together. He was beginning to realize his uncle had placed him in a position where he could not respond in any meaningful way.
“So I am to endorse this?” Geoffrey demanded. “Emmanuel will be furious.”
“I’m certain he will be regardless,” Adhemar said. “But it is important he understands we had nothing to do with it. I think the testimony of Duke Simon should speak toward that. As well as our actions here - Emmanuel knows you. He knows us. And he knows the duke. I see no reason he would doubt your word.”
Geoffrey was about to breathe a sigh of relief. But Adhemar continued.
“Unfortunately, it is not just him we must worry about,” Adhemar said. “The cardinals and other members of the church no doubt search for reasons to split Emmanuel from us. The English clergy already petitions him to punish both the queen and you for her treatment of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This will only add fuel to their fire.”
The king frowned. After learning of Ælfflæd’s forceful removal of the archbishop, Geoffrey could not muster any anger toward his wife - her trials with the church reminding him of his own with the late Pope Martinus. He still couldn’t truly be angry with her - instead he felt his rage toward the Duke of Poitou growing even hotter.
“So what am I to say to quiet them?” Geoffrey gritted through his teeth.
“That you do not condone the actions of the Duke of Poitou,” Adhemar said. “But that you are no tyrant and do not feel it right to intervene in his actions, especially over a dispute that has simmered for decades.”
“That will calm them?” Geoffrey demanded. “It seems like tacit approval.”
“Perhaps then we should open ourselves for papal judgment?” Berard asked. “That Emmanuel could render a decision where we could use it as the basis to act for or against the duke?”
“No,” Adhemar said. “It opens the door for the church to force us into a situation we do not like. Remember, Emmanuel is the holy father, but he works to appease the cardinals, among whom we have no representatives. We do not want to go from asking forgiveness to asking permission.”
“What if the church does
render a judgment?” Simon asked.
“Then we pray it is directed at your father, and not the king,” Adhemar said. “Let him suffer the consequences of his actions.”
“I do not wish to lose my inheritance over this,” Simon warned.
“You will not,” Adhemar said. “We will never cede land to the realm of the Franks. If your father loses his title, it will be to you, not to anyone else.”
To that, Geoffrey noticed Simon’s lips formed a small grin. “Good.”
“I think we should also pray for the success of the boy-king’s endeavors in Valencia,” Geoffrey said. “Though not mention anything of this current situation.”
“Perhaps not a bad idea,” Adhemar said. “The Frankish lords often act independently, ignoring the will of the king, whether he is a boy or not. We should endeavor to raise both yourself and young Arnault above the conflict, and keep it a dispute between two lords underneath you. This is a conflict between the Duke of Poitou and the Count of Vexin, not a war between realms of Aquitaine and the Franks.”
Geoffrey nodded. That all sounded good. He didn’t know if it would work… but it seemed more convincing than the king thought it had any right to be.
“Good,” Geoffrey said. “Adhemar, send word to all of our stance. Have Bishop Edouard and Prince-Bishop Varric send emissaries to Emmanuel directly as well.”
“It will be done, my king,” Adhemar said.
Geoffrey then dismissed his uncle and his commanders, wanting to be alone.
As he sipped his drink, he lamented the situation. He had expected Emmanuel’s rise to alleviate his woes to the church. Instead, it may have instead helped increase them as his vassals felt empowered to ignore the church’s will. From his wife, to his uncle, he was being made to clean up the messes of others.
And it was made possible by his entanglements outside of Aquitaine itself. Would his uncle have taken this action had Geoffrey not taken the whole of his forces to England? And what might happen when Geoffrey departed for lands even further away if the renewed Crusade he had promised to join was called?
For the first decade of his reign, Geoffrey feared his vassals would rebel or try to dethrone him if he was away or showed weakness. His uncle was serving as a reminder that a loss of a crown was not the only way Geoffrey’s vassals could make his life more difficult.
Once, Geoffrey had managed to balance his desire for expansion outside of Aquitaine with the threats of his vassals acting against him.
They were adapting. And as Geoffrey sipped his drink, he knew he had to adapt as well.
Part of that adaptation was shortening the length of his conflicts, even if it meant not achieving the perfect, total victory he had desired.
Geoffrey had been willing to let Maud be tempted to join in the rebellion to crush as many of the English lords as possible. But now, with the Duke of Poitou’s actions spurring the king on, Geoffrey decided keeping the conflict to its current size was in his best interest.
That meant denying Maud any incentive to join the revolt by both cutting her off from the rebels, and by dealing a heavy blow to their army. If he could rout the traitors, the cautious duchess would want no part in joining a losing cause.
Summoning his commanders and son to the tent a few days later, Geoffrey announced his desire to advance on the rebel army.
“Then I have good news to report,” Rogier d’Uzes told the king. “For the rebels build siege equipment. They mean to take London, convinced that you will focus on Northampton.”
“I had planned to,” Geoffrey said. “Now, I have changed my mind. While I believe we could take Northampton before they take London, if we fail, then East Anglia may join their cause. I mean to stop that, and isolate the traitors further.”
“When do you wish for us to depart?” Knud asked.
“Tomorrow, at dawn,” Geoffrey replied. “And we are to march quickly. I do not want them to realize we are coming until it is far too late.”
“Riders from London have been coming here for a week asking for aid,” Berard said. “Perhaps we should send a response for the eyes of the traitors, saying we plan to remain here.”
Geoffrey nodded. “Sound plan. Have it done.”
Then he turned to Rogier. “Cousin, lead the scout cavalry to keep watch on their movements. If they make any movement away from London, I want to know.”
After Rogier nodded, Geoffrey added: “Go, now.”
Rogier bowed and then departed. Geoffrey then looked to his other commanders, and his son. “Ready the army. There is almost no way to completely hide our movement, so we must be quick about it. I want our army to have the look of siege today and be entirely gone from here tomorrow. Understood?”
He then dismissed the commanders and they all departed, with the exception of Berard.
“What is it?” Geoffrey asked him.
“This change is sudden,” Berard said. “I thought you wished to draw it out, to draw all the rebels out.”
“My uncle has made me reconsider,” Geoffrey said. He realized that actually didn’t narrow it down as much as he’d like, so he added: “Duke Guilhem, not Adhemar.”
“You’re worried about the church reaction?” Berard asked.
“Somewhat,” Geoffrey conceded. “But it is a reminder that when we are away, my vassals may look to seize any advantage they can find. In time, I will need to find ways to limit the likes of my uncle. Or Ancel. But since I do not have an effective means yet… all I can do is limit my absence.”
“And what of future problems with England?” Berard asked. “We cut the traitors out. But what happens if Somerset and, possibly East Anglia, rebel in the future?”
“Then I will crush them as I do these traitors,” Geoffrey said. “But I do not think it will be necessary, for if we cannot draw out all of the traitors now, then we will inflict as much punishment on those that are out now.”
Geoffrey moved the woodblocks that represented his army over to London and slammed it into ones representing his enemies, sending those flying off the table.
Looking up at Berard as he put his blocks down over London he added: “I will crush the traitors’ army. Then I will exact a punishment on Ecgwyn, Sigeric and Aevis so severe England will never dream of rising up ever again.”