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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Chapter 1 - September 1066
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet -Chapter 1

    September 1066 –Tours, France

    “He is uninterested, my lord.”

    Foulques d’Anjou sighed. “What of his sister?”

    “I do not understand why you are interested in the old crone,” Andre said.

    “If you do not understand, then perhaps I made a mistake in appointing you chancellor,” Foulques said as he glared across the man from across the large wooden table.

    Andre bowed his head. “I mis-speak my lord. I know you seek Duke Guilhem’s knights. But I wonder if it is worth it. What good is securing your title if you have not a son to pass it to?”

    Foulques frowned. Even if Andre was more able for the task than his former chancellor, he did not like the lowborn man anymore. Andre was stubborn. A decent diplomatic mind made up for some of that, but not enough to cover his lack of ambition. Or imagination.

    “And you would suggest?” Foulques asked.

    “Your stepsister, Constance,” Andre replied. “She is but a few years younger than you. And your stepfather would bring a powerful alliance.”

    “Which I already could call upon,” Foulques said. “He is, after all, my mother’s husband. And she’s been a dutiful wife, bearing him more children.”

    “Then someone closer,” Andre said. “Aenor de Thouars? Her father’s troops would have ease of access to Anjou – helpful in a battle against your brother.”

    “He can call upon less men than me,” Foulques grumbled.

    “But between your forces, Duke Robert’s and the count’s, your brother would hardly stand a chance,” Andre said.

    He already hardly stands a chance, Foulques thought to himself. When had Duke Geoffrey ever shown himself capable of handling matters of war? Certainly not when he lost Maine to William the Bastard of Normandy. And not when his refusal to come to Foulques' aid had cost the young man Saintonge to Guilhem, Duke of Aquitaine, Poitou and Gascony.

    In time, Foulques might have both back. But for now he had to contend with the problem in front of him – how to remove Geoffrey from power.

    As Foulques listened to council in his keep in Tours, his mind drew towards a military solution. He was confident he could handle his brother on the field of battle, both with his tactics and his ability to inspire men. Geoffrey’s questionable military mind and leadership qualities had been further weakened by his excommunication. By himself, Foulques thought victory likely. With his stepfather Duke Robert, it was assured.

    But war had its risks as Adrien constantly reminded him. And as Foulques glanced toward the bald spymaster, he knew such a lecture was again about to come.

    “I agree an alliance with the Duke of Aquitaine is a tempting,” Adrien said. “But beside that he stole Saintonge from you, my lord, I’m not sure he’s inclined to hand his sister Beatritz to you. And then my spies are not certain he can be trusted to back you.”

    “So you would suggest?”

    “The de Thouars girl,” Adrien said. “She’s a tasty morsel, of sound mind. And she has but one brother. Should luck be with us, perhaps your family might expand your holdings to Thouars without a drop of blood.”

    “Is that all?” Foulques asked.

    “You know my thoughts on attempting to overthrow your brother,” Adrien said. “Why risk yourself in battle when an assassin could accomplish the same goal?”

    “Because that takes time,” Foulques said. “And should it be traced back to me, I’ll have the reputation of a kinslayer. If my stepfather did not have such a title, he might already have dealt with young Philippe.”

    “A living kin-slayer can do more than a dead warrior,” Adrien said.

    “I’ve a mind for war. Not for plotting.”

    “I disagree,” Adrien said. “A better mind for war. But a fine plotter as well. And the de Thouars girl also has a knack for both, I hear.”

    Foulques stroked his goatee. “You both have given me much to consider. I shall make a decision in the morn.”

    The two councilors departed leaving the Count of Tours alone. He looked over the large map strewn across the table. Anjou was a prize, yet, it was but a start. Foulques desired to reclaim all that his family had lost – Maine, Saintonge, and perhaps more.

    If his advisers did not share his ambition, then… he might need to find himself new advisers.
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    • 1Love
    Chapter 2 - October 1066
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 2

    October 1066 –Tours, France

    Foulques d’Anjou noticed his chancellor eyeing him. As a small smirk formed on the lips of the count, he raised his goblet of wine at Andre. A glare was the return.

    “Is something the matter… my Lord?” Beatritz de Poitou asked him.

    “My councilor is sore I do not heed his council,” Foulques said, drinking down his wine. “But he shall learn his place in time.”

    Beatritz’s dark eyebrows rose. “Is it a matter of import?”

    Foulques looked at Beatritz. “I would say my choice of wife would be considered of import. Perhaps even great import.”

    Beatritz’s eyes widened. “He wished for someone other than myself?”

    Foulques nodded. “Indeed. Of course, you are here. They are not.”

    A smile formed on the woman’s face before taking large gulp of her own wine. Foulques did not know if it was out of pleasure, relief or brought about by uncertainty. But he did not care. He had what he wanted.

    The proof was seated to Beatritz left – Guilhem, Duke of Aquitaine. Enemies a few years back but now their families joined by the bonds of marriage, Foulques was nearly certain he could secure the cooperation of Guilhem for his attack on Geoffrey.

    Foulques hoped as much from his stepfather as well. It was a good sign then that Duke Robert had accepted the invitation to the wedding feast, joining his wife, Foulques’ mother, Ermengarde. They were seated toward Foulques’ right, along with his sister Hildegarde and her courtier husband Joscelin de Courtenay. So too were Foulques teenage half-brothers, Robert and Simon and his half-sister Aureade, all of the union between his mother and Duke Robert.

    They looked over the others in the hall from their long table – his councilors, courtiers and the travelling retinues of the noblemen present. The young count of Vendome, Bouchard, was not in attendance, but his regents were.

    As Foulques again glanced down at Robert speaking with Ermengarde, the count was reminded to seek a moment to discuss the finer details of the alliance with both Dukes. But he could not just yet as he had to contend with an expected, but frustrating situation seated to Foulques’ right – Duke Geoffrey.

    “Your new wife seems to have quite the appetite,” Geoffrey whispered to his younger brother. “Have you already put a child in her belly?”

    Without turning his gaze from the courtiers in the hall, Foulques answered. “I have not yet bed her, brother.”

    Geoffrey sipped his wine. “I would have assumed you had – she has a small belly already. And given her age, making sure she can have a child would have been the wise decision. Surely the good Duke Guilhem would not have objected to you taking your marital rights early.”

    The count bit his tongue. In his few days since meeting Beatritz, her gluttony was undeniable, and despite a somewhat long and gaunt face, she was much thicker in body. She was also not particularly active, preferring to remain in the keep, rather than exploring the grounds.

    Yet, while Geoffrey’s assessment was not wrong, Foulques did not wish to hear of it. He knew he had taken a risk in this marriage. It annoyed him when Andre made light of it. It angered him when his foolish brother did.

    “I am securing important alliances for us,” Foulques said, doing his best to restrain his voice and still not turning to his brother. “I have Duke Guilhern’s help when we attempt to retake Maine from the Bastard. What have you done? Have you even looked at a new potential wife?”

    “You sound like mother,” Geoffrey said. “Can you believe she suggested our stepsister, Constance to replace my dear departed Julienne?”

    “And you were not interested?” Foulques asked.

    “She is the zealous type,” Geoffrey said. “She would not approve of actions toward the church that are sometimes necessary.”

    Foulques refilled his goblet with more wine. The desire of Geoffrey to appoint his own bishop of Le Mans had gotten the Duke excommunicated. In Foulques’ eyes, it was a needless provocation with little return. But his brother was often short-sighted in such ways.

    “Then perhaps she would be a good match,” he said, finally turning to Geoffrey. “She appears to have the sense you lack.”

    Geoffrey took another drink of his wine, now turning his gaze toward the courtiers in the hall. “You would be wise to watch your tongue brother. Such talk might seem treasonous.”

    “Offering council is treason now?” Foulques said. “If it is, then you will need someone else to oversee your armies.”

    “Perhaps the Baron de Cholet?” Geoffrey asked. “He is not quite of your mind, but far more obedient.”

    “I did not realize you were searching for a dog, rather than a marshal,” Foulques said. “You shall never strike back at the Bastard with that attitude.”

    Geoffrey slammed his wine glass down and spun his head toward his brother. “And I wonder if you seek to repay the Bastard at all! Your allies may well have other purposes.”

    A tap on Foulques’ shoulder stopped him from responding. He and Geoffrey both looked up to see their mother, Ermengarde standing over them. She motioned for the two to follow her away from the feast for a moment. The men did as they were instructed.

    Once out of earshot, she slapped them both across the face.

    “You fools,” Ermengarde said. “You would sully a happy occasion with needless bickering? Geoffrey, your brother chooses a wife and you seem fit to mock him for his choice? And Foulques, you waste your energy questioning your brother’s rule when you should be preparing to bed your bride?”

    “Our conversation was meant to be private,” Geoffrey said.

    “Then you both should have kept your voice down,” Ermengarde said. “All of us alongside could hear.”

    The two men looked to the floor. Their mother shook her head.

    “Geoffrey, go,” Ermengarde said. “I have to discuss matters with Foulques.”

    Geoffrey opened his mouth, but no words came out. Instead he sighed, kissed his mother’s hand and returned to the feast.

    “He is a fool,” Foulques said.

    “And so are you,” Ermengarde said. “You would have the whole world know you mean to strike at the Bastard?”

    “That is one possibility,” Foulques said. “I have other ideas for how best to use my new allies.”

    “I can imagine,” Ermengarde said. “And I care not what you plan to use them for, except you be more discreet as to your plotting. You will not get far if you are willing to reveal yourself just to win a silly argument with your brother.”

    Foulques lowered his head. He wished to argue. But he knew better.

    “What do you think of my bride?” Foulques asked.

    “I think Duke Guilhem is happy someone was willing to take his sister off his hands,” Ermengarde said. “But I am one to talk. I was not the youngest of woman when Robert took me as his wife. And I have borne him children. We shall see if what she brings is worth the risk you take.”

    Foulques was silent. But he nodded, his eyes drifting again to the ground.

    “Well then, we should return to the feast,” Ermengarde said.

    “You may, mother,” Foulques said. “I… if you would, I would like to discuss a matter with Robert. And then Guilhem.”

    Ermengarde sighed. “I will fetch Robert. Guilhem, I shall not. Discreet, Foulques. Not obviously summoning away both men you tout as new allies, in front of your brother, while not inviting him to your little conference.”

    Foulques again lowered his head. She knew. And yet, she merely counseled him in how to avoid greater suspicion. Did she realize that attempting to stop this battle was fruitless? Did she secretly favor Foulques to remove his brother?

    Regardless, he was not one to complain, especially as the old Duke Robert joined him a few minutes later.

    “What do you need of me boy?” Robert demanded. “And what that couldn’t be said in front of others?”

    “Has my mother spoke to you of any plans I have?” Foulques said. “Regarding our alliance.”

    “She said you wanted my support,” Robert said. “Beyond that, nothing.”

    “I do seek your support my Lord,” Foulques said. “I plan to soon strike at my brother in hopes of freeing Anjou from is mis-rule.”

    “A rebellion against your brother,” Robert said. “I see why you have come to me. You’ll find few better, boy.”

    The old man chuckled. Foulques knew well enough – the Duke had rebelled against both his father and later his brother, both of whom were King of the Franks at the time. Robert’s rebellion had not netted him a crown, but it had gotten him the Duchy of Burgundy.

    “Then, I may count on your assistance?”

    Robert laughed. “And why should I give that to you over Geoffrey? You are both my wife’s sons.”

    “Because he endangers all my uncle strove for,” Foulques said.

    “You believe I care what happens to your uncle’s legacy, boy?” Robert asked. “And perhaps I think one of your half-brothers may suit better than you to be duke.”

    “Before Duke Guihem picks it clean? Or the Bastard finishes what he started?” Foulques asked. “Or perhaps your nephew, King Philippe, decides to expand his demesne beyond the Ile de France…”

    “Get to the point boy,” Robert said.

    “With me, you gain an ally,” Foulques said. “One, who given time, can grow in strength to the west of the King, and Thibault de Blois, while you sit in the East. Should the need arise, we could flank either. And with my alliance with Duke Guilhem, the three of us could stand against anyone in the realm, and perhaps a few beyond it.”

    “Point taken boy,” Robert said. “You’ll have your alliance.”

    “Thank you for your assistance,” Foulques said. “I promise my lord, you will not regret this.”

    “See to it that I do not,” Robert said. “Your mother speaks highly of you boy. We’ll see if you prove yourself worthy of such high praise.”

    The duke departed to rejoin the feast. Foulques cracked a small smile. Robert was, in some ways, the hard part. The Guilhem part in this was all but finalized when he agreed to marriage of Foulques and Beatritz.

    Foulques returned to the feast. Once he was seated again, Geoffrey leaned in once more.

    “Such a woman you have there,” he whispered. “So lady-like.”

    Beatritz was in the process of devouring into a large leg of boar. After tearing off a huge chunk with her teeth, she washed it down with a large gulp of her wine.

    She was a glutton for sure. But he didn’t marry her for temperance – she brought support. And if she also brought forth a son, it would hardly matter what her manners were.

    Foulques leaned toward her. “Come wife, I believe it is time for us to retire.”

    Beatritz did not protest, instead wiping her mouth with her arm and then following obediently as Fouqlues took her hand and led her away from the feast. As he did, the Count threw one last look at Geoffrey.

    Soon brother, Foulques thought, soon.

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    • 1Love
    Chapter 3 - October 1066
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 3

    October 1066 - Tours, France

    Foulques d’Anjou could barely believe what he was seeing and hearing.

    “Then it stands,” Chancellor Andre said. “By a vote of 4-2, the council stands opposed to revolt against Duke Geoffrey.”

    The count of Tours was speechless. He was prepared to mobilize his army immediately following the session of his council. He had even instructed his marshal, Leon, to be ready as soon as the vote was taken. It was to be a mere formality.

    Instead, Leon was the only supporter Foulques had on the council for war. Chancellor Andre, Mayor Guilhem the steward, Adrien and Bishop Berenger all stood opposed.

    “This is an outrage!” Foulques said. “After all of our planning, you would stand against this just action?”

    “Is rebellion against one’s brother ever a just action?” Andre asked.

    Foulques saw the other councilors nod to Andre’s words. The count had half a mind to take them from the main hall and throw them all in the dungeons, but thought better of it. He would likely need these men to further his long-term goals. There had to be a way around this mess. Surely some of these lowborn men could be brought to his side…

    “We shall adjourn for an hour,” Foulques said. “Then we will discuss the matter again.”

    “I think we have discussed this matter enough,” Andre said.

    I am your Lord,” Foulques said. “And I will decide when we have discussed the matter enough.”

    The six men vacated the hall, but Foulques pulled his steward, Mayor Guilhem of Amboise, aside and told him to follow to the count’s chambers.


    “They are not convinced this is the right action,” the mayor said as he took a cup of wine from the count. “Myself included. We attack a weak enemy, one who is your brother. It will appear dishonorable.”

    Foulques rolled his eyes and sat at the small table across from the steward. “Meanwhile that weak enemy makes us all weaker. Listen to yourself – if he is so weak I could defeat him, what chance would he have against William the Bastard? Or Duke Guilhem? Or Thibault de Blois?”

    “Andre argues that your alliance with Duke Guilhem should keep him at bay,” the steward said. “As for the Bastard? His war in England appears to have begun well. Andre believes that the King would not allow him to expand his possessions in our realm if he should succeed there.’

    “Andre? Andre is a short-sighted fool,” Foulques said. “He argues for others to protect us. If a liege lord cannot protect his charges, then he is unworthy of his title.”

    “Your points are fair,” the steward said. “I think I need more time to think on it.”

    “Every moment we wait,” Foulques said. “Our task may become more difficult. Now is the time to strike!”

    The mayor sighed, but did not disagree. However, he did not agree either.

    “You may try to convince the others,” the steward said. “But Adrien hopes for a solution that does not involve war. Berenger, I believe, would back you. But Andre has gotten a favor from him to back him on this matter.”

    Foulques knew what his steward was getting at. He leaned forward on the small table and grumbled: “If you support me on this matter, it will not be forgotten in the future.”

    The steward looked up. “Having the favor of a count… nay… Duke, could be quite valuable.”

    “Then you’ll back me when we reconvene?” Foulques asked.

    “Aye,” the mayor said. “I have… my reservations, but I will support you.”

    “Good,” Foulques said. He raised his cup toward the mayor. “To our success in war!”

    When Foulques returned to the hall after an hour to reconvene, he once again expected this to be a mere formality.

    Instead, the vote remained 4-2, this time with Marshal Leon opposed.

    “What is the meaning of this?” Foulques demanded. “You sided with me in the last vote!”

    “Chancellor Andre has made some good points,” Leon said. “About the honor of the conflict… and how it may be unwise to unsettle the balance of things in the duchy…”

    Leon was never that eloquent. He was being fed this explanation by Andre, who seemed intent on blocking Foulques no matter what.

    “Is the matter discussed enough, my lord?” Andre asked.

    Foulques slammed the table. His outburst caused the others to flinch and take a step back, but no votes changed.

    “I wish to speak with my marshal, in private,” Foulques said. “Leave us.”

    The other four men departed. Leon kept his eyes on the map, strewn across the large table before them. Foulques paced around him for a time.

    “What did he promise you?” Foulques asked.

    “I don’t know what you mean my lord,” Leon said.

    “Don’t lie to your lord,” Foulques said. “It will not end well.”

    Leon gave a slight nod. “He said for my support, I could have his support in future matters."

    “So he makes deals,” Foulques said.

    “He does,” Leon said. “He has secured the votes of everyone else on the council. Except Mayor Guilhem, of course. You will not be able to have this war, my lord, unless you give Andre what he wants.”

    “What does he want?” Foulques asked.

    “He did not tell me,” Leon admitted.

    “So you agree to his wishes without even knowing what he wants of our realm?” Foulques said. “I thought you wiser than that Leon.”

    The marshal said nothing as an infuriated Foulques stormed out of the room, and marched his way to Andre’s quarters.

    “My lord,” Andre said as he opened the door to his chambers. “What a pleasant surprise!”

    “Why do you stand against me?” Foulques demanded.

    “Never one for diplomacy,” Andre said. “I suppose that is why you need me.”

    “I need to know why you oppose me,” Foulques said. “And place our lands in jeopardy!”

    “You put your family’s lands at stake for overgrown ambition,” Andre said.

    “You would trust my brother to keep these lands?” Foulques asked.

    “I trust him not to lose it any further,” Andre said. “You may expand them for a time, but you would remove him, kill him, and then leave no one but your sister to inherit. When you old southern wife does not give you a child, the lands will pass away from your house.”

    “You presume much,” Foulques said. “Lady Beatritz is a healthy woman. She will produce a child.”

    “Your mother is a healthy woman,” Andre said. “But she will still produce no more children. One cannot deny time.”

    “This is unacceptable!” Foulques said. “I am the count of Tours. You are just a lowborn fool I have raised to your position.”

    “I may be a lowborn man,” Andre said. “But I am no fool. I could have helped you secure the friendships you wished outside the county as deftly as I have secured your council’s support within had you just listened to my advice. Instead, we shall see. If the lady bears a son in the next three years, you shall have your war.”

    “The chance may be gone!” Foulques said.

    “If the Duke is as inept as you claim, then you have little to fear. The chance will remain,” Andre said. “Now, if my lord has nothing more…”

    “What do you want?” Foulques said. “What that I have, do you desire? Gold? A wife? A promise of a barony or city in the future? Name it, so that I may have your support.”

    “I do not seek material wealth or favor,” Andre said. “Repudiate the woman and wed Aenor de Thouars.”

    “You wish me to insult my new ally, Duke Guilhem?” Foulques said. “And embarrass myself to the whole realm? And you claim you are not a fool.”

    “You need not do it now,” Andre said. “You can wait six months. A year perhaps. But a promise it shall be done, if she does not produce a male child.”

    Andre’s short-sightedness was again rearing its ugly head. Such a move would be worthless for the count. He wanted Guilhem’s support in future endeavors more than he wanted it for his war with Geoffrey.

    Foulques could lie. But he did not even want to give the chancellor the least bit of satisfaction, even if it temporary.

    “You are not the lord of this county,” Foulques said. “I shall do what is necessary, whether you agree or not.”

    “Then you will be labelled a tyrant,” Andre said. “And all those in Anjou will know of your mis-deeds... and my not find you a palatable option to your brother.”

    “And should I replace you?” Foulques asked.

    “I am hard at work securing your right to seize Vendome from Count Bouchard,” Andre said. “Do you believe another man in the country more capable of performing that task?”

    “You work against me,” Foulques said. “You likely will never produce that claim.”

    “I do not work against you,” Andre said. “I strive against your methods, my lord. I would welcome your family holding the lands over Count Bouchard. It would strengthen your house without endangering it.”

    “You expect me to believe you work for the betterment of my house?” Foulques asked.

    “Everything I do is for that purpose,” Andre said. “What am I to do if my lord endangers himself and his family? I have a duty to protect him from himself, if he will not see reason. That is what I do here.”

    Foulques stared the chancellor down. “That you presume to know best for the House d’Anjou is laughable. Know I will not forget this.”

    Andre nodded, with the count noticing a smirk on his chancellor’s face. He had half a mind to fire him now, but he was right about one thing – there was no one else in county who could be counted on to secure Vendome for him.

    Fouqlues returned to his quarters and poured himself a full cup of wine. After chugging it down, he poured another and did the same before storming back out, and heading to his new wife’s quarters.

    He was not certain the chancellor’s promise to release his objections if Beatritz bore a son were genuine, but even if they weren’t, Foulques wanted nothing more than to show Andre how wrong he was about the chances a son would be borne of the union.


    A pounding headache is what greeted Foulques when he awoke the next morning. The night before was a haze that slowly came into focus, along with his vision as he saw Beatritz standing over a small table, pouring out liquid into a cup.

    “Water?” he asked as she handed him the cup.

    “It will help my lord,” she said. “You had much to drink last night.”

    Foulques gulped it down. He did hit the spot and he took another helping when she offered.

    “Thank you,” he said. “In truth, I do not remember much from last night.”

    “You had a great deal of drink,” Beatritz said. “Before and after….”

    She did not finish, but she did not need to for Foulques to understand her reference.

    “Is something the matter my Lord?” Beatritz asked. “I have been in Tours for but a few weeks, and I have not seen you as I did last night.”

    “Many things are wrong,” Foulques said. He reached to his wife’s abdomen and grabbed at it. “Many things that would be solve if your belly quickly swells with child.”

    Beatritz blushed. “I know they question me my lord. But you are young and strong. It will happen soon, I have no doubt.”

    “Not soon enough to please that fool of a chancellor,” Foulques said. “He will not give me my war against my brother unless I repudiate you.”

    Beatritz hand cupped her mouth. “My lord… surely you will not…”

    “I will not listen to such talk,” Foulques said. “He thinks himself my lord.”

    If Beatritz was relieved, she did not show it, instead slowly wandering to the bed and sitting beside her husband.

    “Surely you would replace such a man,” Beatritz said.

    “You think I have not thought that?” Foulques said. “But it is not so easy. I have no one in the county who can do as he does. And if I wish to find someone outside the county, it will take time.”

    “Can you trust a man who does not abide by your will?” Beatritz asked.

    “He is not afraid to voice his opinion,” Foulques said. “There is value in that.”

    “Not as much value as the keep at Angers, or your brother’s title,” Beatritz said.

    “You now question me?”

    “I question him, my lord,” Beatritz said. “He questions your every move. He, who believes in your brother more than you, my lord. He, who questions that you, my lord, will not produce a son.”

    “He doubts you,” Foulques said.

    “He does,” Beatritz said. “Because I was born in the south. Because of my brother. But I am a loyal wife… and…”

    She trailed off.


    “Never mind my lord,” Beatritz said. “I do not wish to overstep my bounds.”

    “Out with it, woman,” Foulques said.

    “I do not wish to be replaced and after you told me your chancellor thinks of ill of me at the feast, it was all I could think about,” Beatritz said. “My brother was recently searching for a new man for the role in his court, so before he returned to Aquitaine, I asked him to send me the names he had. I received his reply a few days back.”

    “You do not wish to overstep your bounds,” Foulques said. “Yet you do that?”

    “I would not bring such things up with ease my lord,” Beatritz said. “I only speak because he angers both of us. And you sounded as if you wished to find someone else, but worried about the time it would take.”

    Foulques did not know his new wife to be brave, but he doubted she would have asked her brother for a list of replacements for Andre on the mere hope Foulques would grow tired of him. She had to have meant to bring this up to him soon – this just provided her with an opportunity.


    “You would send me a southerner? From your brother’s court?” he asked.

    “I would not if you do not wish it,” Beatritz said. “Especially after marrying a woman from Aquitaine. Some of the men on the list are Franks.”

    She isn’t foolish at least, Foulques thought.

    Then Beatritz brought her hand to his face. “I know you chose me as your wife for my brother’s knights. But they will be wasted while that fool remains as chancellor. Let me help you my lord.”

    Foulques stroked his goatee. “We shall see if you are capable then, woman.”

    “Truly?” Beatritz asked.

    “Yes, truly,” Foulques said, and was greeted by a tight embrace from his wife.

    He had some hesitation giving in on this matter. If he were to choose a man not from the court of Duke Guilhem, Foulques' brother-in-law shouldn’t have too much influence over the man. But he didn’t fully trust anyone suggested to be completely free of strings – either Guilhem or Beatritz must have heard of him from somewhere. Trading Andre’s obstinacy for those strings was not necessarily beneficial to him long term.

    But in the short term, it removed the biggest obstacle to his goal – getting the council to agree to his revolt against Geoffrey. He could deal with finding another chancellor if this new one failed – with the draw of serving a duke, rather than a count.
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    Chapter 4 - November 1066
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 4

    November 1066 - Tours, France

    Foulques d’Anjou looked over the five other members of his council. This vote should be a formality, but he had suffered two humiliating setbacks when assuming that before.

    This time, however, things would be different.

    “I know you all had reservations before,” Foulques said as he presided over the council in the main hall of the keep in Tours. “But this is for good of Anjou. If my brother is so weak he cannot fend off an attack from his own count, how should he be able to fare against an attack from another Duke?”

    “Our lord makes a good point,” Mayor Guilhem said. “We have a duty to the people of Tours, Anjou and Vendome to ensure they are protected. If Duke Geoffrey is derelict in his duty, then we must act.”

    The council was silent, trading glances with one another.

    “There is another matter,” Foulques said. “One I believe our new member should discuss.”

    Bernard de Brosse looked up. He looked over the other council members, then Foulques, who motioned for him to begin.

    “Duke Geoffrey was excommunicated,” de Brosse said. “His excommunication extends to whole of the duchy and its people, sadly, isn’t that right bishop?”

    Bishop Berenger, who Foulques knew was not exactly the most learned or knowledgeable man, appeared to be surprised by the question. He stammered for a bit, scratching his head before blurting out: “I… am not certain if it applies to everyone…”

    “Regardless of whether or not it does,” Foulques said. “It is the duty of all good Christians to strike against one who so openly defies the will of the church.”

    Foulques could see the Adrien, Leon, Berenger and even Mayor Guilhem furrow their brows at the suggestion. They knew it was an excuse and nothing more.

    “Voting to stand with the Duke is a vote against our Lord,” de Brosse added. “As painful as that is for me to say.”

    He had taken to the role well enough, Foulques thought. It was no sure thing. Foulques was surprised to hear Bernard did not have a diplomatic education, instead garnering a set of skills that would serve him well in the world of plotting. It gave the count pause to make the change.

    “You can compromise on this,” Beatritz reminded him in private as he deliberated that previous evening. “Or you can compromise on your desire to take Anjou from Geoffrey. But you cannot do both.”

    He didn’t like hearing that from his wife. Bernard was from the County of Limousin, where his older brother Guy was count and paid homage to Duke Guilhem. While Bernard had claim to the title, he was in little position to claim it, and rather than sit in Guy’s court, he professed to want to make himself useful elsewhere.

    What Foulques suspected was that Bernard hoped to curry enough favor with someone press his claim on Limousin – whether it was the count, Duke Guilhem or Beatritz influencing either of the two men or both of them.

    “I hope you made this man no promises,” Foulques said to his wife.

    “Of course not my lord,” Beatritz said. “But I cannot know the dreams the man has.”

    I must remember not to promise him any favors, Foulques made sure to note to himself that day.

    Yet Foulques knew himself to be in a difficult position.

    While he could provoke war with Geoffrey by simply demanding he hand over the ducal title, such a move would leave his brother with the keep in Angers and a power base. Foulques intended to take it all from his brother, to build a foundation by which he could achieve his long-term goals of expanding back into Normandy, Poitou and possibly Brittany.

    No, nothing less than rebellion would do. And declaring it over the excommunication would ensure he take Angers and the title. So, the change had to be made.

    Foulques' reminiscing stopped when he heard a commotion at the doorway of the hall. The council turned its gaze there, and saw the two guardsmen denying someone from entry. But despite his best efforts, Andre’s pleas were falling on deaf ears.

    “This is an outrage!” Andre shouted. “You deny the chancellor entrance to this council meeting?”

    Foulques walked over, tapped the guards on the shoulder and motioned for them to allow Andre into the hall.

    “Ah, Andre, I did not think you would be joining us,” Foulques said.

    “Because you did not inform me of the meeting?” Andre asked. “Would you hide such a fact from your council?”

    “I hide nothing,” Foulques said. “They all knew I did not inform you of the meeting.”

    “You seek to keep me from voting?” Andre asked. “So you can pursue your treasonous war?”

    “I do not seek,” Foulques said. “You do not have a vote. Only members of the council can take part and you are no longer on the council, seeing as you are no longer chancellor.”

    Andre blanched. “You… this is tyranny!”

    “Tyranny?” Foulques asked. “Just as it is in the right of the council to deny my war declarations, it is in my right to replace councilors. And I have done so. Now, shall we take our vote?”

    “You… you do not have to stand with him!” Andre said. “You promised me your support!”

    “They do not have to stand with me,” Foulques said. “So let us see if they do. Those who are in favor of warring against Duke Geoffrey, for means of replacing a man excommunicated by the church, say ‘aye’.”

    The ‘ayes’ were unanimous.

    “Traitors!” Andre shouted.

    “Their favors were to vote with you on council matters,” Foulques said. “But seeing as you are no longer on the council, they owe you nothing.”

    “You will all destroy Anjou!” Andre shouted. “May God have mercy on your souls.”

    Andre hurried from the hall, leaving Foulques with a wide grin on his face.

    “Will you let him leave, my lord?” Mayor Guilhem asked. “He may run to Geoffrey.”

    “Let him,” Foulques said. “My brother will know our intentions soon enough.”

    The count looked toward his marshal. “Raise our forces. We make for Vendome at once.”

    Leon gave a nod to Foulques and quickly hurried out of the hall. Foulques adjourned the council and made for his quarters, a wide smile on his face. There, Beatritz waited for him with a cup of wine for each of them.

    “Is it done?” Beatritz asked as she handed him the cup. Foulques nodded. “Did Bernard perform as you hoped?”

    “He did as he had to,” Foulques said. “But this is not his real test. Let him bring me Vendome, and I’ll sing his praises.”

    “But not press his claim,” Beatritz said, a smirk forming on her lips.

    “And you say you did not make him any promises,” Foulques said.

    “Nay, my lord,” Beatritz said. “But I am a countess and sister to the duke whom his brother pays homage to. Perhaps he believes this his best hope at securing his claim.”

    As long as he can handle disappointment, Foulques thought as he sipped his wine.

    Beatritz finished her cup and then poured herself another. “I have heard those in court speak of your willingness to be at the front of your men when you go to war. Do you plan to now?”

    “I do,” he said.

    “I would beg you not,” Beatritz said. “You have capable commanders, do you not? Would it not be better if you remained here, and we continued to try for a son?”

    “You jest woman,” Foulques said. “This is my rebellion. My only place is at the front of my men.”

    “Aye, but…”

    Foulques finished his cup and then slammed it on the table. “There is no ‘but.’ I should sooner take you with me into battle, in hopes of producing a son, than stay here in Tours.”

    He saw Beatritz’s face blanche at the prospect of joining him anywhere near a battlefield. He had heard she did not have a taste for war, or combat, and this seemed to confirm it.

    “Forgive me, my lord,” she said. “I just… do not wish you to place yourself at great risk.”

    “You sound as if Adrien has your ear,” Foulques said. Beatritz’s eyes drifted to the floor. “So, he works to convince you of his plans.”

    “I would not listen to his pleas to influence you to stop your rebellion,” Beatritz said. “But I worry. Much can happen in war.”

    “Adrien is good at his job,” Foulques said. “He knows your fears and plays on them.”

    “Are my fears wrong, my lord?” Beatritz asked.

    “I do not expect you to understand,” Foulques said. “You are not one for war. But it is my place.”

    “Of… of course my lord,” Beatritz said. “Please, forgive my outburst.”

    Foulques kissed her forehead. “It is already forgotten wife.”

    The count watched as Beatritz finished her cup before he poured both of them another. As he drank the wine down, he smiled, knowing he had dealt with one obstacle. His months of planning had nearly paid off. Soon he would be leading his men, in battle, hoping to defeat and capture his brother, ending the war quickly.

    What if she’s right? What if something does happen? What if I’m betrayed? What if an archer is lucky? What if…

    Foulques put thoughts far from his mind. He had his war. Soon enough, he’d have his duchy. And perhaps much more than that.
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    Chapter 5 - January 1067
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 5

    January 1067 - Southeast of Angers, Anjou, France

    Finally, a chance for glory.

    Foulques d’Anjou had been counting down the days until he would finally have a battle worth something. Crossing over to Vendome quickly after declaring against Geoffrey, he found a small levy. His commander Amaury had dealt with them well enough – 1200 men easily handled 100. It was over so quickly, the count had not even gotten a chance to bloody his lance.

    His hopes again rose upon hearing Geoffrey was moving the bulk of his army – his levy from Anjou – into Tours. He assumed Geoffrey would rush his men across and attempt to make his stand as Foulques re-crossed the Loire, back into Tours.

    But it was not to be – instead Foulques and Amaury found no resistance as they returned to Tours. Upon meeting Marshal Leon at the keep, they learned Geoffrey had instead decided to remain in Anjou, preparing his defense for when Foulques attempted to cross into the county.

    Despite the risk of an assault across a river onto a fortified position, Foulques was very eager to give battle.

    Though he consoled himself with study of strategy at his keep, and trying to produce an heir with Beatritz, what he really craved being in the midst of a life and death struggle, his enemy within striking distance of his sword… the rush of battle as they locked blades…

    He almost had ordered his army forward before it was time. Amaury and Leon held him back however, and Tours’ force would not cross the Loire until Duke Guilhem’s men neared Anjou. To the east, Duke Robert’s army was fast approaching as well.

    What Foulques didn’t understand was why Geoffrey waited – while his position was strong if Foulques alone attacked, he would almost certainly be overrun once the two other dukes joined the fray.

    The answer came late in December. Geoffrey had wed.

    Lithuaise de Normandie was the woman. Foulques initially worried such a marriage would align his brother the armies of the Bastard, but in fact, but while her uncle was a William, it was William, Count of Eu, a cousin of the man aiming to take English crown.

    Still, the Count of Eu had men, and if Geoffrey could secure an alliance with him, it would complicate matters.

    “This is Andre’s doing,” Foulques insisted when he had learned of it.

    “We don’t know that,” Mayor Guilhem said. “Anyone with sense would have told Geoffrey he had need of allies.”

    The steward’s reasoning didn’t make Foulques feel more secure. Not only had his brother potentially found an ally, the count’s new chancellor had taken ill in recent weeks. Without a proper physician in court, Bernard de Brosse had taken whatever aid he could find, and thus far, his condition only appeared to be worsening.

    Foulques knew there were whispers that this was a sign he had committed a foul deed against Andre, and that he was being punished as a result. A few others believed it meant the old chancellor was in fact evil, having run to the court of an excommunicated man. Perhaps, they said, he had also used dark magic to curse the position of chancellor.

    It made Foulques desire action. He again pressed to just attack Geoffrey, believing his leadership would be enough to smash his brother, regardless of his strong position. Again, he was counseled out of it – just barely – by his advisors and his wife.

    But now, as the forces of the dukes closed in on Anjou, Foulques would have to wait no longer.

    Atop his steed, he moved the horse back and forth in front of the line. He had already given his speech to his men – talking of the forces of the two dukes closing the vice on Geoffrey’s forces and how glory awaited them on the other side of the river.

    Foulques gave the order for his men to move and his skirmishers attempted to thin the path through. He did not have a great deal of archers, but his brother’s forces had fewer, and the infantry soon moved across the Loire.

    The infantry battle was fierce, but the force of Tours managed to push the Angers army back enough to give space for the cavalry. Without delay, Foulques charged his men through as they prepared to strike at the enemy infantry.

    Lances lowered they launched a full on charge into the second line of Geoffrey’s infantry in the center. Splinters from his lance sprayed in each direction, but it did its duty. The furious assault slammed into the row of troops and with no spears to protect them, the unit soon began to melt away in a mix of chaos, fear and panic. Foulques kept his broken lance as it still was able to do damage to foot soldiers from distance.

    His cavalry and guard made short work of the infantry unit, and the count searched for his brother. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a unit of cavalry counter charging his own infantry. Hoping to find his brother there, Foulques shouted for his cavalry to follow him into the fray once more.

    They caught some of the opposition cavalry off guard, having not entirely cleaned up the infantry just yet. Foulques, now in close combat, dropped his broken lance and drew his sword. He soon crossed blades with one knight, parrying blows with his shield until, finally an opportunity came to slash. The knight was a touch slow in his response, and the attack hit home.

    Thanks to the knight’s mail, the sword was limited in the damage it could do on impact. But it’s effects were just as deadly, as the knight was knocked from his horse and fell to the ground. When he staggered to his feet, Foulques slashed the man across the face.

    The fighting continued, and Foulques continued to search for Geoffrey, but was unable to find him in the chaos. Could his brother have not had the courage to lead his men? Foulques thought little of Geoffrey, but never believed him craven.

    His search was stopped, however, as he began to notice his men being pushed back.

    “Our left has been fallen back across the Loire,” one of the knights informed Foulques. “Their right pushes back against our center.”

    Foulques did not expect the battle could turn against him. Where were the dukes’ armies? They were supposed to have pinned the flanks, allowing Foulques to overwhelm the center.

    With a kick to his horse, Foulques led his men back out into the thick of the battle, hoping a swift counter charge against the enemy right could push them back and regain the momentum. Armed with fresh lances, Foulques and the cadre of knights did slow the infantry assault, which, not being very numerous, fell back.

    But when the cavalry gave chase, they ran into the retreating enemy and much of the center, now having regrouped. The infantry counter-charge caught the knights by surprise, and Foulques men soon found themselves in a swarm of men, limiting their mobility.

    Foulques thrusted as he could with his lance. It wasn’t hard to hit something, but the count knew he was a target as well. He did his best to maneuver as to avoid being knocked from his horse, but if things did not change soon, he knew he may well end up cornered…

    “A dangerous game you play, brother!”

    As Foulques heard that in the distance, he turned to see the mass of men began to melt away. To his right, Foulques saw more cavalry, hitting the infantry from the sides and rear. The charge allowed Foulques men to seize control once more, as Geoffrey’s army again broke.

    He would never admit it, but Foulques breathed a sigh of relief. He looked back and acknowledged the young man beside him.

    “Robert, what took you so long?” Foulques asked.

    “Father thought it amusing to see you squirm,” Robert de Bourgogne replied. The teen gave his half-brother a slight smirk.

    Foulques was not sure if the younger Robert was joking. In a way, he preferred not to know. “Where is your father?”

    “He reinforces your center,” Robert said. “You would have been able to retreat… had I not arrived.”

    “It is appreciated,” Foulques said. “A good experience for your first combat action! Next time you should try leading the initial charge. That is where real men are forged.”

    Robert shook his head, though the smirk did not leave his face. “As you say, brother. There will be time for that talk later. For now, should we not be running down these men to make sure they do not regroup?”

    Fouqlues stared at his brother, but did not say a word before urging his steed to a gallop, in pursuit of his knights and the men they hunted.


    A lone man rode up to the main camp. He gave his horse to a young man and dismounted, before hurrying into the command tent, where Foulques, Duke Guilhem, Duke Robert and the younger Robert gathered, each with a cup of wine in hand.

    “Ah, Amaury,” Foulques said. “This is the man I was telling you about Robert. A fine commander. And you said you met him earlier, Duke Guilhem?”

    The Duke of Aquitaine nodded. “Yes. He was rallying his men after your brother’s forces had pushed back. Your bravery is to be commended.”

    “That flatters me more than you know, my lord,” Amaury said.

    “Any news of my brother?” Foulques asked.

    “No sign of Geoffrey, my lord,” Amaury said.

    The battle had been a total victory. Geoffrey’s army had been overwhelmed, with half of its number dead or captured. Around 500 had fled successfully, though much to Foulques disappointment, it appeared Geoffrey was among them.

    “Does he run to Angers, I wonder,” Duke Robert asked aloud.

    “He would be trapped like a rat,” the younger Robert said. “He likely flees with his army. We should hunt them down.”

    “While Angers has been stripped of it’s levy?” Guilhem asked. “The keep likely has its garrison and nothing more. It must fall for this war to be won. It would be foolish to chase the rats when we can destroy the nest!”

    “If we leave them,” the young man said, “they may continue to be pests. 500 men may not be many in the face of our army, but that is still large enough to raid our peasants and cause unrest.”

    “Forgive the boy,” Duke Robert said. “He’s young. All young men want to do is fight. No sense of the larger picture.”

    Foulques noticed his half-brother furrow his brow. But he kept his mouth shut.

    “My brother’s concerns are noted,” Foulques said. “But Duke Guilhem is right. The keep at Angers will never be riper for the taking than it is now. Our supplies are high and our morale equal to that. And that victory should give pause to William of Eu, should he have been harboring any ideas of joining Geoffrey. We make for Angers in the morn.”

    “Here, here!” Guilhem said. He raised his cup of wine. “Congratulations Foulques. This battle is but a step – however, it is a large step.”

    The count tipped his cup to the duke and drank down his wine. In truth, he had hoped to capture Geoffrey and win this war in one glorious fight. William of Eu remained a concern.

    And he did harbor some worry over the subordinates Geoffrey had – while the talented Baron de Cholet had overseen the defenses, Foulques had heard he had not taken part in the fight – perhaps ordered not to by Geoffrey. Next time, the baron might - and Foulques knew him well from their days on Geoffrey's council. He was a force to be reckoned with.

    Then there was Andre, who no doubt was working his best to secure more allies, whether it be in men or money, for Geoffrey. He surely wasn't able to curse anyone... but a small part of Foulques wondered if perhaps he was being shown favor by a higher power.

    Yes, this battle was a fine start, Foulques thought, but far from finished.
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    Chapter 6 - June 1067
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 6

    June 1067 - Angers, Anjou, France

    Foulques d’Anjou stroked his goatee as he stared at the man before him.

    He was not much younger than the count, and though his face was chiseled, he was rather rotund. But that face did not betray emotion, even though nothing had been said for a good minute.

    That discipline would be useful to have, Foulques thought.

    “Guillaume,” Foulques began, “Lady Beatritz says you will make a fine chancellor. Why should I believe her?”

    The young man looked up at the count. “I am humbled by the countess’ praise, my lord. I cannot offer any guarantees – just that I will work to achieve your goals. I may not have a background in diplomacy, but I have other means of securing your aims.”

    He was honest on that front.

    “And why would you wish to serve me?” Foulques asked.

    “An opportunity to do more than simply exist in a court,” Guillaume said. “And you do the Lord’s work – being willing to attack one’s blood if he violates the will of the church.”

    Foulques was surprised to hear Guillaume speak of that – did he truly believe this war was over anything but titles and territory? If so the late Bernard de Brosse’s work would have greater impact than the count would have imagined.

    Much to the count’s disappointment, Bernard had not recovered from his illness. His condition steadily declined over the weeks of sickness, and no treatment he sought seemed to help. Finally, he was bedridden with a high fever in mid-February, and did not rise again.

    Beatritz had informed him that some suspected the Great Pox. Others still, to dark magic from Andre. In the end, it did not matter – Foulques was once more in need of a chancellor who could find him a claim on Vendome and still had no one in the county to fill the role.

    So again Beatritz returned to the list. With Foulques laying siege to Angers, he allowed her to select the candidate she felt best, then send him to her husband to approval. Guillaume now stood before him, and Foulques was left to make a decision on the man’s merits.

    At least he is not from the south, Foulques thought. Instead Guillaume was from the north, near Flanders. He likely also hoped, as Bernard likely had, to secure his own claim if he proved himself useful, but Foulques had begun to accept that was unavoidable.

    The count’s half-brother Robert leaned in. “You would use a man as chancellor who was not educated in the ways of diplomacy?”

    Told to observe by his father, the teen seemed compelled to also give his opinion. Not that it was a bad one in this case.

    Still, Foulques was left without many options, and he was on campaign. Bernard had also lacked a proper education, though he had little time to prove whether it was a hindrance. He may as well put this man to work – every day someone was not working on the Vendome claim was another day lost.

    “Unconventional does not mean he cannot do the job,” Foulques said. “We shall see how he does.”

    Turning back to Guillaume, Foulques said: “Very well Guillaume de Guines, you may take up position in my court, and as my chancellor. Return to Tours and my steward, Mayor Guilhem, will explain your task and what your predecessors have left behind that can aid you. You can depart in the morn.”

    “Thank you for your confidence my lord,” Guillaume said. “I shall not let you down.”

    Guillaume bowed to Foulques and then headed off, mounting a horse and starting on his way back to the main camp. The young Robert shook his head.

    “You should have found a man who was trained to be a diplomat,” Robert said.

    “When you have a county of your own, brother,” Foulques said. “Then you may choose your own chancellor.”

    Robert ‘s brow furrowed. Fouqlues knew his half-brother wasn’t in line to secure any land at the moment – he had two older brothers for the duchy of Burgundy and two older brothers for the duchy of Anjou.

    Angry over that comment? Learn your place then, Foulques thought.

    “Come, we should rejoin your father and Duke Guilhem,” Foulques said, throwing a pat on the back on the young Robert.

    The two men untied their horses from their respective tree branches, mounted them and engaged in a gentle trot back to the main camp. They were about a half mile away from the army, which was now in its fifth month of laying siege to the keep at Angers.

    The meeting’s distance from the main camp was no accident. While he had no qualms putting his half-brother in his place, Foulques had little desire to have to deal with comments from the two dukes, with whom the count had to be far more… delicate with in his responses.

    Truth be told, Foulques was pleased to have his mind on something else for a few days. He was growing impatient with the progress of the siege. Bandits had raided the army’s camp, stealing supplies and killing small numbers of his men. Small units he’d sent to root out the troublemakers had not only failed, but actually cost him more men.

    The count suspected the bandits weren’t quite acting independently either. While Geoffrey was probably not wise enough to organize them into anything useful, or coordinate them with the defenses of his keep, Foulques guessed the Baron of Cholet was.

    Rather than wait any longer, Foulques desired to just storm the keep. The garrison numbered less than 1000 men, and the combined forces of the attackers sat near 8000. It would be bloody, but taking Angers would demoralize Geoffrey’s forces. It would also free up the army to crush the remnants of the opposition army, which had regrouped and now made camp in Vendome.

    Naturally, the dukes were opposed to such a move.

    “But Geoffrey may be in the keep!” Foulques had argued a week before at a strategy conference with the dukes, young Robert and commander Armaury. “We could take it, and if we fail to capture him, then turn our armies on the Geoffrey when he flees to his army in Vendome.”

    “He baits you,” Guilhem said. “He knows he has no chance if we wait them out. So he hopes you either storm the keep and suffer heavy losses, or that you to raise the siege, allowing his garrison to resupply. So he presents the army as an attractive target. It’s simple.”

    “And if we capture him,” Foulques said. “We win the war.”

    “I do not think he would allow himself capture,” Guilhem said. “He did not present himself in either of your first encounters. I suspect he will be gone as soon as you make a move in either direction. You will not find him, and we will lose more men than necessary. ”

    “Simple, and obvious, boy,” Duke Robert said. “He's desperate. The keep will fall by September. Yet you’d fall for his bait so easily? And here I thought you believed yourself the smarter of you two.”

    Foulques wanted to snap at his stepfather’s snide comments. The elder Robert was not one to bite his tongue and the count was growing tired of it. He was arrogant and overconfident for someone that did nothing more than extort his own vassals.

    Surprisingly though, Foulques did have an ally.

    “We need not raise siege though,” the younger Robert said. “Let Foulques and I take the army of Tours and half of the Burgundy army. There will be more than enough to maintain the siege with you and Duke Guilhem. While you keep the garrison at Angers from resupplying, we crush Geoffrey’s army in Vendome.”

    “I think the young Robert has the makings of a fine commander,” Foulques said. “I would be honored to have him alongside of me for this.”

    The older Robert laughed as he stared his son down. “You think you command my armies, boy? Maybe one day, but not today. I brought you to learn, not to give orders.”

    “But, is part of learning not also learning how to give orders?” the younger Robert pleaded.

    The elder duke drank from his goblet of wine. “Yes, learning how to deliver my orders, boy.”

    The teen was so frustrated after the exchange, he slammed a table and stormed out of the tent. While Foulques, Guilhem and Amaury were speechless, the old Robert just chuckled.

    “Impatient boy,” he said. “He’ll learn his place in time.”

    His ally lost, Foulques knew he had little chance of convincing the dukes to follow his plan at the meeting. Guihelm had no desire to put his troops into battle unnecessarily and the dukes seemed unwilling to continue the siege if Foulques departed.

    And even if they were, the count wasn’t sure he could trust them not to blow up the alliance on their own squabbles. It was clear Robert and Guilhem did not care for one another – one being a member of the Capetian royal house and the other being from the very independent-minded south.

    Thus, Foulques was left with little choice but to wait out Angers. He had shared drinks on a few evenings with Amaury and the younger Robert, who lamented the decisions of the older dukes. But none could do anything about it but drown their disappointments.

    “I am the grandson of a king!” the teen said the evening after his outburst in the meeting. “Yet they look at me like I am some lowborn welp.”

    Foulques gave a glance to Amaury, who was far from noble born. But the teen did not pay it any mind.

    “Your father is the son of a king,” Foulques said. “So he thinks himself all of our rulers.”

    “He also thinks himself a great commander,” Robert said. “But I bested him in our last two games. He’s an old fool.”

    “Quite the accomplishment, brother,” Foulques said. Robert shook his head.

    “Nay, everyone beats him,” Robert admitted. “If father was a skilled man on the battlefield, he is no longer.”

    The teen’s sentiment gave Foulques confidence, should he ever need to deal with the old duke in battle, he would best him. It also made the count wonder if perhaps his half-brother might have a desire to remain in Angers when this conflict was over…

    “I would avoid him,” Amaury said the next day. “The boy has talent, but also a claim to your lands. You would willingly invite a wolf into your henhouse?”

    “He dislikes his father,” Foulques argued.

    “Because his father rules the duchy,” Amaury said. “If he were to come to Tours, he would dislike you, because you rule. It is the way with him. He is ambitious, envious… he believes himself everyone’s better.”

    “Some would say that of me,” Foulques said.

    “Aye, and are they wrong?” Amaury asked.

    To that the count did not respond. And he declined to offer Robert a place at his court later that day.

    Foulques’ mind had admittedly returned to the thought as he and Robert talked with Guillaume. He believed the teen capable. But he could see Amaury was right – Robert did fancy himself a ruler without a title. In Tours, or Anjou, he would eventually chafe under Foulques.

    The two men arrived back in camp and found a bit of a commotion. When the two dismounted, a red-headed, bearded courtier, Louis, rushed up to the count.

    “My lords!” Louis said. “An emissary from the king awaits!”

    “From King Philippe?” Foulques said. “Here to speak with one of the dukes?”

    Given that Duke Robert was the king’s uncle, and Duke Guilhem was the king’s marshal, either would have made sense.

    “Nay, my lord,” Louis said. “His message is for you.”

    “For me?” Foulques said. “I wonder what it’s about?”

    The young king was nearly of age, but had plenty to worry about when he took full control. Besides the Duke of Normandy attempting to seize control of England, there was the looming threat of the Emperor to the East. And of course, there was Robert, who always seemed to be angling for the crown.

    But he'd never had business with Foulques. What could he want?

    When they arrived at the tent, the emissary was within, waiting alongside dukes Robert and Guilhem.

    “You wished to speak with me?” Foulques asked the man.

    “I do,” the emissary said. “King Philippe has heard of your exploits in this quarrel with your brother the Duke. He is most impressed.”

    "The boy-king can see talent when it shines brightly enough,” the older Robert said. “I suppose that gives him some advantage over his father.”

    “You would do well to remember who our liege is, Robert,” Guilhem said.

    “Philippe has as much royal blood in his veins as I do,” Robert said. He turned back to the emissary. “Get on with it. What does the boy want?”

    The emissary glared at Robert before producing a parchment. “Our liege requests Lord Foulques take command of one of his armies.”

    “So Philippe is looking for his dukes to lead his armies?” Robert said. “Even as we fight wars of our own?”

    “Not dukes,” the emissary said. “Just the future Duke of Anjou, my good Duke of Burgundy.”

    Robert turned to Guilhem. “Your doing, marshal? When you went Paris a few months ago?”

    Guilhem nodded. “The king merely asked if I had seen anyone of promise thus far in this family squabble. I told him the count had shown promise and would be worth keeping an eye on.”

    Foulques’ eyebrow rose. Guilhem was praising him to the king? That… was certainly a good thing.

    Robert sneered. “As I’ve said, we are fighting our own war here. A king cannot expect a lord to abandon his men on a whim. Perhaps when Lord Foulques finishes his war, he will be better able to answer the king’s call.”

    “I shall keep that in mind if the king ever asks whether you would be fit to be a commander,” Guilhem said, “In the meantime, I imagine the king would like to hear what Lord Foulques has to say.”

    Foulques was speechless. How could he give an answer? It was an honor to be asked to become a commander for the king. And it came with recommendation of his brother in law, who obviously held influence in court.

    Influence in the court of a king… who was weak. A king whom one of his closest allies, his stepfather, wanted to be rid of.

    But a king nonetheless… a king who could bestow favor… territory… and perhaps aid against a strong William the Bastard of Normandy, whether or not he won his conquest of England.

    “I…” Foulques stammered. “I… cannot.”

    “You decline the call of your liege?” Guilhem demanded.

    “Abandoning my men,” Foulques said. “Is not something I can do. Perhaps when this conflict is done. Please tell the king that I am honored and humbled by his call. And by your recommendation as well, Duke Guilhem. It is… just not possible at this time. I am needed here. But know, the king shall have the men requires, should he request them when I have become Duke of Anjou. I swear as such.”

    “I see,” the emissary said. “I will pass this along to the king. I cannot imagine he will be pleased.”

    “The boy-king must learn a crown does not mean you get everything you desire,” Robert said. “Now begone! We have a war to win.”

    “The king shall hear of your insults Sir Duke,” the emissary said.

    “And he must learn to have tougher skin,” Robert said. “I said worse to his father.”

    The emissary shook his head and then stormed off, leaving the dukes, Foulques and the younger Robert alone.

    “Lord,” Foulques said. “I turned down the king.”

    Robert laughed. “My boy, the king of the Franks is not worth worrying about. There is a worthwhile one every 100 years. The rest cower in the Ile de France, hoping they keep their crown. And then every two hundred years, one doesn’t.”

    “And if Philippe is the one in 100 years?” the younger Robert asked.

    Robert laughed. “The welp will not last the decade. The buzzards circle. The Emperor, the Bastard, Toulouse, Flanders. He should be grateful if I took the crown from his head. He might live to a ripe old age if I did. I would not kill my nephew.”

    Foulques raised an eyebrow. He doubted Robert’s sincerity there. His stepfather was not known for his kindness – and leaving the rightful king alive would hardly be prudent.

    “And I truly hope I did not insult you by refusing,” Foulques said to Guilhem. “But while you could leave your men in this conflict, I cannot. It is not your war. It is, however, mine.”

    Guilhem’s face did not betray any emotion. He merely sipped a cup of wine. “Understandable. I am not certain I share Duke Robert’s assessment of our young king’s capabilities, but I do know why you may not wish commit yourself to anything now.”

    He took another sip. “But I would caution against putting too much stock in the words of a man who wishes to undermine the crown for his own gain whatever chance gets. Rest assured, listen to the wrong man, and you will not advance far in the realm.”

    “Wrong man?” Robert asked. “You inherited your holdings because your brothers died. I have my land because I took it and would not let it go. When fortune does not smile upon you, Guilhem, what will you do then? I already know what I did.”

    “I control the king’s armies,” Guilhem said. “You would be wise to remember that, lest they are directed at you.”

    “My lords!” Foulques interrupted. “The decision was mine, and mine alone. If you are angry at anyone Duke Guilhem, focus your ire at me.”

    A silence fell over the tent. Guilhem took a deep breath.

    “As you say, my young count,” he started, “the decision is yours. I shall hope you reconsider once this conflict has ended. Now, if you will excuse me, I believe I shall retire to my tent for now. Good day.”

    Once Guilhem was out of earshot, the younger Robert spoke up.

    “Does he think himself king?” the teen asked. “He thinks he can dictate to you, brother, as if you are one of his vassals?”

    “His knights make him confident,” the older Robert said. “If he had a claim to the throne, no doubt he would think himself capable of taking it. Alas, he does not. So he thinks he can make himself the man behind the throne.”

    And he might be right, Foulques thought. The count sighed. “I think I also shall retire. Brother, my lord.”

    Foulques took his time as he wandered back to his personal tent. The sun had begun to set on what had been an eventful day, though not in the way he had necessarily hoped.

    The count stopped upon seeing Amaury addressing another soldier.

    “My lord,” Amaury said. “Do you need something?”

    Foulques paused. “Amaury, I have turned down a king. Is that mad?”

    Amaury was silent for a moment. “Yes, for a man such as myself.”

    “And for me?” Foulques asked.

    “You are of noble birth, my lord,” Amaury said. “I cannot say. I would think if our liege values you, then you are in no danger. He will merely work harder to make you his.”

    Foulques nodded. “Thank you, Amaury.”

    “Whatever you need, my lord,” Amaury said.

    As he returned to the tent, Foulques felt a little better of his choice. Or at the very least - he was less worried it would destroy his alliance with Duke Guilhem or draw the young king’s ire on a permanent basis.

    He would have to be wary, however. As a mere count in Tours, Foulques was limited in who he dealt with as his own man, rather than someone who, directly or indirectly, represented his brother. As a duke, he would be his own man - dealing with men like Robert and Guilhem as equals and directly with kings like the young Philippe, without anyone to protect him. His decision today likely would not harm him, but if he made the wrong move in the future…

    Foulques did not sleep well that night.
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    Chapter 7 - August 1067
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 7

    August, 1067 - Angers, Anjou, France

    After over a half year, the gates of Angers finally lay open.

    At the head of a small cadre of knights, rode Foulques atop his steed. Beside him, Dukes Robert and Guilhem, along with the count’s half-brother Robert. Behind the nobles, was commander Amaury.

    Those few who watched the procession enter the walls did so in hushed tones. Foulques was not sure what he expected - a small part of him hoped the people would be happy to have a competent ruler at the seat of the duchy and show that appreciation. But as he entered as a conqueror, who had starved the keep into submission, such hopes were more fancy than he would have liked.

    Upon reaching the main hall, Foulques looked around. It was mostly deserted - the servants were likely hiding out of fear. He had instructed his men to refrain from looting and plundering - he had plans to rule from this keep after all - but he knew some of it, especially from the armies of Robert and Guilhem, was unavoidable.

    The silence was eerie though - the only sounds that could be heard were the rustling of their mail and swords, along with their boots against the stone.

    Finally, the count walked confidently up the few steps, turned and sat himself on the large, wooden chair.

    “Enjoy this seat, my lord,” Amaury said. “It shall be yours permanently soon enough.”

    “Not soon enough for my liking,” Foulques said. “Have we found anyone?”

    “No sign of the Baron de Cholet,” Amaury said. “He appears to have fled just before the surrender. And it is as we heard from our spies, Geoffrey is not here either. Their decision to run may have weakened the morale of the garrison and forced a quicker surrender, my lord.”

    The older Robert laughed. “If that boy fought as well as he ran, this war would be very different.”

    “If Geoffrey fought as well as he ran, we wouldn’t need to be here,” Foulques said.

    “If he is not here, then he likely sits with his army in Vendome,” Guilhem said.

    “Then we should finally move there and crush him,” the younger Robert said. “As we wished to do earlier. Now that we have taken Angers, we can end this resistance with a victory there.”

    “I would think you would have learned by now, boy” the older Robert said.

    The younger Robert lowered his head. “I apologize father. What would you council?”

    The duke nodded. “Saumur does not possess a large wall like Angers. We could easily sack it in a few days. The men could use with some good plunder. This keep has… disappointed.”

    Guilhem nodded. “I agree Saumur should be our next target but would prefer we lay siege. As it is not a keep it should surrender within a month or two.”

    “Meanwhile valuable time is wasted,” Duke Robert said. “We could sack the town and destroy Geoffrey’s remaining force twice over in the time it takes to starve them out.”

    “May I remind you, Duke Robert, that my men provide the bulk of our army,” Guilhem said. “You would throw their lives away so freely?”

    “They came to fight, not wait for people to starve until giving up,” Robert said. “Let them have at it. And really, Guilhem, you have the most men in the realm. Surely you can spare a few.”

    Foulques knew where this argument was headed and was about to open his mouth to interrupt. But he did not need to - a man hurried into the hall, before being stopped by two guards. After promising important news, he was allowed entry, though kept under watchful eye of Amaury.

    “My lords, word from Normandy,” the man began. “William of Normandy has won the crown of England!!”

    “Truly?” Duke Robert asked. “The bastard has managed it?”

    “Is the king of England… what was his name,” Foulques asked. “Dead?”

    “Harold Godwinson lives, but is prisoner to William,” the man said.

    Guilhem chuckled. “It appears even a Norman bastard has claimed a crown before you Robert.”

    “Mind your words,” Robert said. “Or I may make you regret uttering them.”

    “Bold words Robert,” Guilhem said. “Which is about all you do well at these days.”

    “If you wish action, then say so,” Robert said. “I warn you though, since the days of Clovis, we Franks usually enjoy putting you southern fools back in your place.”

    “This is not necessary, father,” the younger Robert said. “We can all agree the Bastard getting the English crown is trouble for us all. We should save our aggression for if we are drawn into war with him.”

    The old duke smirked. “He won his crown. Now let’s see him keep it.”

    “Part of the reason I have brought us together,” Foulques started, “was to counter the Bastard. It is something to consider - if perhaps we can work together in the future to ensure his power is checked.”

    “And if checking his power involves taking Maine, you would not object,” Robert said. He turned to his son. “Your half-brother is not as clever as he thinks himself to be.”

    “It is not my intention to be clever,” Foulques said. “It is my intention to win what I desire through war, as I do now. I haven’t a mind for politics or scheming. I do for battle.”

    “As you say,” Duke Guilhem said.

    “The news of the Bastard’s success is disheartening, but not our true concern,” Foulques said. “We must focus on winning this war, not a possible one in the future. I do agree a move against Saumur is our best course of action. Whether that is to lay siege to the city or storm it… it seems we are split. I say we reconvene in the morn to discuss the final course. A night of rest will do us all good.”

    The men began to disperse, but Foulques pulled Duke Guilhem aside, into a small chamber. The count was remiss to do it - but he knew this was likely the best course, rather than waiting until the morning.

    “I do not wish there to be any secrets between us, my lord,” Foulques said. “We are bonded through marriage after all.”

    “What is this about then?” Guilhem asked.

    “I have already made the decision on what to do next,” Foulques said. “We will sack Saumur.”

    Guilhem narrowed his gaze. “It appears you listen to Robert’s council far more than mine. Perhaps you do not view me as strong an ally as he.”

    “There is reason my lord,” Foulques said.

    “Robert is motivated by greed,” Guilhem said. “Perhaps you are too young to remember his ways, but he seeks to plunder the town and enrich himself, as he has always done in these matters. However, this time he is free to use my men to do so and you would grant him that.”

    “My stepfather’s motives are his own,” Foulques said. “I am not his vassal, nor are you. We both act on our own free will, which is why I felt necessary to tell you why I do as I do. Otherwise, I would understand if you did not back our decision with your knights.”

    “And your reasons are?”

    “I wish to end this conflict as quickly as possible,” Foulques said. “My spymaster reports Geoffrey attempts to reconcile with the church. If he does, we shall lose our reason for the war, and be forced to end it, giving back our gains.”

    “I cannot imagine he would have much success,” Guilhem said.

    “I could,” Foulques said. “The church wishes to see the man humbled. If he is desperate enough, Geoffrey will throw himself on the mercy of the clergy.”

    Guilhem nodded. “That is a concern.”

    “And it is not the only one,” Foulques said. “There is still his Norman wife and the Normans have finished conquering England. They are free to turn their attention to us if they so choose.”

    “She is not even the daughter of a count,” Guilhem said. “You fear needlessly. I doubt her uncle intervenes, let alone the Bastard. He has greater concerns - he may have won England but keeping it is another matter. Those Saxons will not take kindly to a Norman overlord.”

    “I know he is up to something,” Foulques said. “You, as marshal to the king, have no doubt heard he seeks to increase council power in the realm.”

    “He does,” Guilhem said. “But he has little support.”

    “It is not whether he succeeds against the king or not,” Foulques said. “Because he will not. But he should be seeking to avoid the ire of the king, given his situation. Yet he makes waves. There must be a reason for it. He seeks someone’s favor, be it the church, the Bastard, or another lord.”

    “I feel you jump at shadows,” Guilhem said.

    “Perhaps I do. Yet it is still a risk I prefer not to take,” Foulques said. “We could take Saumur at the cost of a few hundred men. If the Normans or another lord intervene, more will die. Do you wish to stake their lives to such a bet?”

    Guilhem pinned Foulques with his gaze. “You do not care about my men.”

    “I do not,” Foulques said. “But you claim to.”

    Guilhem’s gaze did not leave Foulques, but his lips formed a wry smile. “Very well. We shall do things your way. I do hope you remember my graciousness in the future my dear brother. After all, the south of the realm can be even more unsettled than the north. The king’s authority is worth as much as your brother’s down there. Disputes often come to blows.”

    “I have no concerns,” Foulques said. “With the combined force of our armies, we will have no difficulties dealing with the Duke of Toulouse, or any unruly vassals.”

    “It is funny you speak of the Duke of Toulouse,” Guilhem said. “For the Duke is set to be wed – to Constance, your step sister.”

    Foulques paused. “I admit, I was unaware. Once I knew Robert would not marry her to Geoffrey, she no longer occupied my thoughts.”

    “You would be wise to keep abreast to your allies as well as your enemies,” Guilhem said. “But I mention it just so you know you may need to choose who you keep friends with. And I should hope it is with me rather than that old fool.”

    “I will honor our alliance,” Foulques said. “You may have no doubts about that.”

    “Good,” Guilhem said. “Then, if there’s nothing more, I shall see you in the morn, where, I shall mention I have reconsidered and do believe the attack on Saumur is our best strategy.”

    Foulques’ eyebrows rose.

    “Just so that there are no secrets between us,” Guilhem said as he left the room.

    Foulques let loose a small sigh. That could have gone worse... but it could have gone better.

    Constance’s marriage to the Duke of Toulouse had escaped his attention. And it could pose a great deal of problems.

    Not only would it potentially splinter his alliance, his half-siblings had claims on Anjou and Tours. He wouldn’t put it past one of them to work to take it from him – and the Duke of Toulouse would make a powerful ally. At least, he realized, Guilhem did still require his aid.

    And then there was the Bastard. Foulques had intended on making a play for Maine. He hoped William would lose to the English king, and with the Duke of Normandy weakened, Foulques could turn his allies on him.

    But now? William could call the full might of England behind him. Surely that would be more than even Foulques and his allies could fight against, even if the count succeeded in his ambition to seize control of all three counties in the duchy of Anjou.

    Foulques cursed under his breath.

    Even as things go well, dark clouds are always on the horizon.
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    Chapter 8 - September 1067
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 8
    September 1067 - Vendome, France

    Foulques found himself seated in Angers.

    Taken up in his position as the Duke, he stood in judgement of his brother Geoffrey. The older brother was on his knees, bound in chains, with barely enough dignity to look up and face his younger brother.

    “My lord!”

    Foulques turned to his wife. Beatritz was practically glowing – they said being with child did such things to a woman. She nodded for him to proceed. But how to go about so? Did he merely lock Geoffrey in the dungeons, and lose the key? Did he dare execute his brother and gain the same kinslayer mark as his stepfather? Or would he show mercy and let Geoffrey go?

    “My lord!”

    Foulques again looked to Beatritz, only to find her not there. Instead his older sister Hildegarde stood, also with child, looking upon him with disapproval. When he turned to his other side, his mother Ermengarde was present, also shaking her head.

    Before him, Duke Guilhem and Robert stood, laughing, as Geoffrey rose from his bounds. He came at him with a sword, and Foulques found himself slow to react. He tried to parry the blows, but an impending sense of doom overwhelmed him, seconds before one of Geoffrey’s strikes found his mark.

    “My lord!”

    Foulques jerked up from his sleep. He was on the ground of his tent - the walls of Angers were nowhere to be found. Neither were Beatritz, Hildegarde, Ermengarde, Geoffrey or the dukes. Instead, there was only Louis, the red-headed, bearded courtier from Tours.

    “My lord,” Louis said. “Geoffrey’s forces mean to treat.”

    The count shook off his nightmare. “Where are they?”

    “A mile away from camp my lord,” Louis said. “They come under a flag of truce.”

    Foulques nodded. It could be a trap – a last desperate play from Geoffrey. Could that be what his dream had foretold?

    Regardless, he was not craven. He would see what his brother wanted.

    Surrender would make the most sense. Saumur had been sacked weeks before with the loss of just over 200, allowing Foulques to turn his army back toward Vendome. His force had won the initial skirmish at Cloyes over the forces there, with Guilhem and Robert’s forces arriving yesterday to turn it to a rout. Geoffrey had not been among the dead – not a surprise given that it was rumored he was not even among those who fought.

    However, Foulques was no fool. When the time came, he, his half-brother, Duke Guilhem, and Amaury rode out with their men just a few hundred paces behind, just in case of treachery. The older Robert has departed after Saumur to attend his daughter Constance’s wedding.

    A small force was arrayed on the other side of the plain – it could not been more than a few hundred men at most. A few men on horseback rode out to greet them. Foulques recognized the man in front – the Baron de Cholet.

    “Thank you for agreeing to treat,” the baron said upon reaching them.

    “Where is my brother?” Foulques demanded.

    “In truth, my lord,” de Cholet began, “I do not know. He abandoned us as we retreated from Cloyes. He even left his wife behind.”

    “That should remove any fear the Normans will aid him,” Guilhem said.

    “Aye,” de Cholet said. “His Norman family will not approve of his actions, if he runs there.”

    “He will not,” Guilhem said. “If he has any wits.”

    “No matter,” Foulques said. “Why have you called this meeting? Do you continue to fight on or will you acknowledge me as your liege lord?”

    “That is the reason for this,” de Cholet said. “I command the remaining forces of Angers. And the men who represent Count Bouchard’s regents are here as well. They are in agreement – your brother has failed in his duty and we are no longer obligated to pay him homage. Instead, we would do so to you, my lord.”

    “Then you and your men may return safely to their homes and to their wives and families,” Foulques said. “My quarrel was never with them, or you, it was just with my brother.”

    “You are most gracious,” de Cholet said. “I am sure they will be grateful for such mercy.”

    “You did your duty,” Foulques said. “And I look forward to performing mine.”

    With that the men turned and rode back to their respective armies.

    “Congratulations, my lord,” Guilhem said.

    “And I thank you for your assistance,” Foulques said. “It will not be forgotten. All of you.”

    With a smile Foulques took the standard of Tours and Anjou and rode up and down the ranks in front of his men, shouting “victory!”, with Amaury and Robert following close behind.

    As the cheers and shouts rained down upon him, Foulques struggled to remember a moment that left him as proud.

    He had done it.


    A few hours later, Foulques poured out cups of wine in his command tent - one for himself and one for his half-brother. Robert took it with a grin as the two clanged their cups together.

    “I notice we do not have Duke Guilhem present,” Robert said as he sipped his wine.

    “I shared a glass with the Duke earlier,” Foulques admitted. “And there will be time as we ride back to Tours. He will wish to see his sister before he returns to Bordeaux. However, I needed to share in the celebration privately with my favorite brother.”

    Robert chuckled at that. “But I do not give you a duchy, as Geoffrey has!”

    Foulques raised his glass to that. “It is unfortunate your father could not be here for the end of the conflict. But I suppose it is hard to delay weddings with the Duke of Toulouse.”

    Robert smirked. “Especially when the bride is practically bursting with child.”

    Foulques eyebrows rose. “Your sister?” Robert nodded. “I had no idea.”

    “It is a well-guarded secret,” Robert said. “The Duke had visited with my older brothers while father was away. During that time, he bedded Constance. She hid that fact - not even father knew until she shamefully confessed.”

    “Her belly became too big to hide?” Foulques asked.

    “Possibly,” Robert said. “Father thinks Constance too simple to think of a plan to conceal such matters for long.”

    Foulques let loose a chuckle. Though, in some regards he found himself envious. He had no idea his step sister was so fertile, while the only place Beatritz was with child was in his dreams...

    No… his alliance with Duke Guilhem had been worth it thus far. And he remained confidence it would help him in the future.

    “What did your father do upon learning the truth?” Foulques asked.

    “You remember when he let loose that tirade?” Robert asked. “But would not reveal what it was about, though I assured you had no part in it? That was when he learned.”

    “I see,” Foulques said. “I can imagine his words for the duke.”

    “He had to be measured, given he wished to the marriage,” Robert said.

    “It appears he has succeeded,” Foulques said.

    “Yes, but not without some difficulties,” Robert said. “Months passed and the duke would not budge. It wasn’t until mother apparently threatened to reveal the duke the father of the child, if he did not agree, that there was a breakthrough. The duke at first thought her bluffing, but mother reminded him that Constance is merely her step-daughter, and it would not reflect poorly upon her reputation if Constance was shown unchaste.”

    Foulques laughed. “Mother will be cowed by no man.”

    “That she will not,” Robert said. “Thus she convinced the duke to marry Constance. Since father could not attend then, it was done in secret, with mother and my eldest brother Henri witness, as to make sure it would be done before the child was born. Now they have a more public celebration, where mother, father, and my other siblings attend.”

    “And you do not,” Foulques said.

    “Someone has to command father’s armies,” Robert said.

    “Is that the true reason?” Foulques asked.

    “Yes,” Robert said. He paused. “And no.”

    The young man poured himself another cup of wine and sat on a stool. “Sometimes I envy you brother. You are by yourself in Tours. You need not deal with having your father and mother watch over you, your brothers look at you with suspicion, all the while they all scheme to stab each other in the back.”

    Foulques sipped his drink. “You realize, brother, the war you have just taken part in.”

    “I would prefer if my father and my other brothers did as you and Geoffrey,” Robert said. “Line up their men on a field of battle and see who is the strongest - to the winner, Burgundy.”

    “And you would see yourself as the winner,” Foulques said.

    Robert shrugged. “Perhaps. Perhaps not. But it is preferable to this skulking.”

    “Then perhaps you should depart,” Foulques said. “You have talent. I’m certain another court would have need of your services.”

    “If an invitation were to come,” Robert said. “Perhaps I would consider it.”

    Foulques knew Robert would likely join him in Anjou if he asked. But he was reminded of Amaury’s warning. Friendly though he may be now that would likely change over time.

    And then there was his dream. If perhaps Geoffrey was not the one to betray him, could it be Robert?

    “I’m sure one will come in time,” Foulques said. “Or perhaps fate will make it so that you find your way into land. Perhaps a marriage.”

    Robert’s eyes dimmed as he took a large gulp of his drink. “Perhaps, brother.’

    Foulques felt a pang of guilt. He did wish to give his brother a position. He could make him a commander, or marshal.

    But Amaury was right - it was not worth the risk. In time Robert would grow to desire the county. Whether he would work against him in the shadows, as he claimed to hate, or challenge him openly, in some ways, was irrelevant. And there would be no more dangerous place for Robert than in Foulques court, where he could gain allies and weaken him from within.

    Meanwhile, Foulques had to worry about setting up the administration in his new duchy. Geoffrey’s mismanagement would need to be corrected. All while dealing with the potential threat to the north in the Normans, the threats within the realm, and any desires he had to expand.

    No, Foulques had enough to worry about now. His brother would have to make his own way.

    Maybe in time, we can be allies again, Foulques thought.

    The new duke gave a slight shake of the head. He knew such thoughts were likely nothing more than a dream - while a nightmare was far more likely.

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    • 1Love
    Chapter 9 - October 1067
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet -Chapter 9

    October 1067 - Anjou, France

    Foulques shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

    It was still taking him some time to get used to it. He had been conducting business from there in the main hall over the past few weeks, but it still bothered him as he sat in it for long periods of time. Beatritz had suggested he just needed more time in it, but Foulques wasn’t so sure. Perhaps he would pay to have a new one crafted.

    In the meantime, it was time for more business.

    “Who is the next one?” Foulques asked Mayor Guilhem.

    “Geoffrey’s court physician,” the mayor said. “A woman by the name of Adalmode. A nun, who your brother coaxed from a convent to serve him.”

    The new duke had recently sorted his council, with some assistance privately from Beatritz, who had made the suggestions on who should remain and who should be removed.

    The only two changes she had made was to marshal - she suggested the Baron de Cholet as he was both capable, and had more status than Leon or Amaury. She also suggested Ebbon, the Bishop of Fontevraud, as Court Chaplain since, as she put it, Beranger could read, but he was hardly a man of learning.

    The entire council was present as Foulques held court in these early days, though they were remaining silent on most matters. For the most part, the new duke was merely meeting with people across duchy while also sorting disputes that had been left unresolved as a result of the war. This next situation was a case of the former, rather than the latter.

    There was no court physician to compete with this Adalmode, but Foulques felt he needed to at least go through the show of having this woman presented to him before agreeing to keep her in court.

    “Step forward, Adalmode,” Foulques said. A thin, woman who appeared to be around 40 years, wearing a headdress walked toward him. Yet despite her frame, there was no weakness or frailty in her steps.

    “My lord,” she said as she knelt before Foulques.

    “Tell me,” Foulques began, “you served my brother. Do you still serve him? Or will you serve a new master?”

    Adalmode raised her head, pinning the duke with her gaze. “I serve only God. And I do so by healing his children. I did so for your brother. I may do so for you. If that is not enough, then I will return to the convent and help the girls there. It makes no difference to me.”

    Foulques looked toward Beatritz, seated in a smaller chair next to him. He whispered: “Your thoughts?”

    Beatritz looked the woman over. “We have need for a physician do we not? Poor Bernard may still be with us had we found someone earlier. And I have not heard a bad word spoken of her yet.”

    Foulques nodded. “Very well Adalmode. We will be happy to have you remain with us. Arise.”

    Adalmode did as she was instructed. “Thank you my lord.”

    She left and another man approached. Beatritz leaned in.

    “Mayor Renaud of Saumur,” she whispered.

    “Ah, and you say he bears me no ill-will for the sacking?” he responded.

    “If may a little, but he is the one I told you about,” Beatritz said. “The one who seeks status.”

    Foulques gave a slight nod. His wife had told him Renaud had dreamed of a spot on the council, and was angry to be left off. Thankfully, she believed he was a man who wished to be seen with those of the noble class - friendship with the duke would soothe his frayed feelings.

    “You requested to see me, my lord,” Renaud said as he knelt before Foulques.

    “Yes,” Foulques said. “I have had most of Geoffrey’s former men come to pledge themselves to me. Yet you have been absent. Why?”

    Renaud did not raise his head. “I have been seeing to the town of Saumur, my lord. You may remember, it was recently sacked. The people are rebuilding.”

    “So you harbor ill-will toward me for the sacking?” Foulques asked.

    “I understand it is the way of things in war,” Renaud said. “You merely asked why I have not come to Angers. That is the long and short of it, my lord.”

    “You are here now then,” Foulques said. “What say you? Do you pledge your loyalty to your new duke?”

    Renaud still did not look toward Foulques. “I am always a loyal subject of the duke of Anjou.”

    Foulques narrowed his gaze as he tightly gripped the rests of his chair. This Renaud was beginning to test his patience.

    The duke felt a soft touch on his hand. A glance to his right revealed Beatritz with a calm expression. She mouthed “offer your hand.”

    Foulques closed his eyes, took a breath and stood up from his chair. His heavy sword clanged against the wood as he rose. That managed to draw Renaud’s gaze up and the duke believed he saw the hint of fear in the mayor’s eyes.

    “Arise, Renaud, mayor of Saumur,” Foulques commanded.

    Renaud’s eyebrows rose and he remained motionless for a time, seemingly scanning the hall for some hint as to what was happening. Eventually, he pushed himself upright, finding himself looking up at Foulques. The duke had descended the few stairs separating him, but still stood over him.

    That’s when the duke grasped hold of Renaud’s arm.

    The mayor flinched but Foulques pulled him close.

    “Difficult as it must be to face me after the sack of Saumur,” Foulques said, “you did so. You are a brave man, Renaud, and a fine mayor to your people. I am happy to accept your service.”

    “I… thank you my lord,” Renaud said.

    “You appear to be well-built,” Foulques said. “Have you seen battle?”

    “Leading local men in dealing with bandits and thieves, my lord,” Renaud said. “It has been some time though.”

    “Then you may be out of practice,” Foulques said. “No matter, I would have you train alongside me, if you would allow it.”

    “Train… alongside you, my lord?” Renaud asked.

    “You have not lost your hearing in battle, have you?” Foulques asked. He gave a light tap to Renaud’s arm. “Yes, I would like you train beside me. What say you?”

    “I… I would be honored my lord,” Renaud said.

    “Good, I will not keep you from your duties in Saumur for too long, but I should hope to see you once a fortnight?” Foulques asked. “If it would be not much trouble.”

    Renaud shook his head. “Of course not my lord. Thank you my lord.”

    The mayor still seemed to be in stupor as he walked off. Foulques gave a slight shake of his own head as he returned to his chair.

    “He is yours,” Beatritz whispered.

    “We shall see,” Foulques whispered back. Then he raised his voice to normal: “Is there any other business?”

    “A letter,” the steward said. “A request from William, Count of Eu. Bishop Ebbon holds it.”

    “Probably wishes to negotiate the return of his niece,” Foulques said. “Read the letter.”

    Bishop Ebbon began: “Dearest Duke Foulques, please accept my congratulations on your ascendence to the chair of the duchy of Anjou. I have no doubt a man of your talents will do well in the role.”

    “He wants something,” Foulques said. “Let’s hear it.”

    “There is the matter of my niece, Lithuaise. She is married to your brother, but is now in your custody. I would ask for your kindness, and release her so she may serve in your court.”

    “What?” Beatritz asked.

    “Bishop, do you read it correctly?” Foulques asked.

    “I do my lord,” the bishop said. “He asks for her to be released from the arrest, but he wishes for her to serve. He believes her to be a worthy lady for the duchess, whom does not have any woman of high birth in her retinue.”

    “He presumes much,” Beatritz said. “Why does he not seek an annulment?”

    “He may not be able to,” the steward said. “He ignored an excommunication to marry her to Geoffrey.”

    “And he does not wish her sent to her husband?” Beatritz asked.

    “Her husband is displaced, disgraced and hiding in Bourgogne,” chancellor Guillaume said. “He likely sees no value in it.”

    “So he has a niece he cannot marry to another,” Foulques said. “He hopes this arrangement benefits him more.” He chuckled. “And why should I placate a man who serves another liege, and gave aid to my brother?”

    “Agreed, my lord,” Beatritz said.

    Mayor Guilhem leaned in. “My lord. Perhaps it would be wise to adjourn temporarily for a private session of the council? This matter, I believe warrants further consideration.”

    Foulques gave a small sigh but nodded.

    These meetings were what he disliked about ruling - he hated it as a count and things were likely to be even worse now that he ruled the duchy.

    He had half a mind to send Beatritz in his place, but thought better of it. While she certainly had more of a taste for such matters, he would not have his reputation sullied by having people think his wife ruled in his stead.

    She frowned as he left her to join the rest of his council, away from the hall, but that would be the extent of her protests. She certainly would not make a scene in public, and likely would keep it muted in private.

    Once they were in the war room, complete with a large table with a map of France strewn across it, Foulques demanded to know why Mayor Guilhem had asked for the meeting.

    “I believe you should strongly consider accepting the count’s request,” the steward said.

    “Give into a Norman?” Guillaume asked. “I think that is unwise.”

    “The lord may stand to benefit,” the steward said.

    “How so?” Foulques asked.

    “Her family, whether we like it or not, is powerful,” the steward said.

    “Her immediate family is not,” Guillaume interjected.

    “Her extended family is,” the mayor continued. “This gives us a connection, which might be useful later, but not one that is official and binds us. And the count may be willing to repay your generosity later.”

    “A lot of questions in that,” Guillaume argued.

    “And your objections?” Foulques asked.

    “She is a Norman whom we know little about, beside that she is married to your brother,” Guillaume said. “Nothing about those facts make her suitable to remain here, and by so close to your family, my lord.”

    Foulques stroked his goatee. “Do any of the rest of you have an opinion?”

    “Should… matters not turn out well with the Duchess and your attempts to have a son,” Adrien, the spymaster said. “The girl is still young and might make for a suitable wife. Or mistress…”

    Foulques lowered his head. He suspected Beatritz’s eagerness to send the girl along was due to exactly what the steward said. But the steward made good points.

    “You now plot against the duchess?” Guillaume demanded of Adrien.

    “I merely state facts,” Adrien said. “Our lord likely wishes for a son. And should the duchess not provide one…”

    “He is bound by God to remain by her side,” Guillaume said. “Lack of children is not grounds for annulment. Is that not right Bishop Ebbon?”

    Bishop Ebbon nodded.

    “That is not my concern at this moment,” Foulques said. He turned to the Baron de Cholet. “What do you think of the girl?

    “I have concerns,” he responded. “Of her ties to your brother. She may work for his ends, as he is not far. Even if he is not in the realm, he resides on its border.”

    “To what ends?” the steward said. “Geoffrey no doubt moves against you, but she cannot have any love lost for a man who abandoned her to her fate. Even her uncle - you would merely discuss with her how her family does not wish her to return to his court. If she believes this court to be the only place she may call home, she should treat it as such.”

    “I will watch her like a hawk,” Adrien added.

    The duke looked at de Cholet once more. “Does that allay your concerns?”

    “Enough,” the baron said. “Enough that I do not have a strong objection.”

    Foulques looked toward Bishop Ebbon. “And you?”

    “I believe mercy is the proper choice,” the bishop said. “I would also send her to be with her husband, but I suspect that is not a true option.”

    “Correct,” Foulques said. “She has some value. I will not hand that over to Geoffrey, or her uncle, out of kindness.”

    The duke sighed. “I have made my decision. Let us return to the hall.”

    Foulques led the others back to the main hall, though he stopped short of entering, allowing the council members to do so first and position themselves. Then the duke followed and took his seat in his uncomfortable chair.

    “Upon deliberation, I have decided to release the girl,” Foulques said. “Lithuaise shall remain in our court, and as the count suggests, she shall be one of the duchess’ ladies.”

    “What?” Beatritz said. “But you said…”

    “I have thought better of it,” Foulques said. “She will be one of your ladies though you are free to give her a role among them as you see fit. Treat her with the respect befitting of someone of noble birth.”

    Beatritz’s pale complexion reddened and Foulques could see her lips tremble. She was not the bravest of women but he wondered if perhaps this would prompt stronger resistance.

    “As you wish, my lord,” she said after a moment. “I shall welcome her among my ladies. I am sure she is well-versed on some of proper etiquette my lower-born ladies lack.”

    Foulques nodded. He suspected she would protest in private to him, but that was something he could handle.

    A few minutes later Lithuaise was brought forth before the duke and duchess. She was mostly well-kept - despite being in their custody she was kept under house arrest, rather than the dungeon.

    “My lady, your uncle has pleaded for your release,” Foulques said. “I feel generous enough to grant it.”

    Lithuaise looked up with some relief as a small smile formed on her lips. “Thank you my lord. You are most generous. Then I am to return to Eu?”

    “You will not,” Foulques said. “As you are still my brother's wife, your uncle requests you remain in this court and serve the Duchess as one of her ladies.”

    Lithuaise’s mouth hung open. Shaking her head she muttered: “My father would not. He would request to my uncle would have me return to Eu or request I join my husband.”

    “Your husband hides in Bourgogne,” Foulques said. “Perhaps your family has no use for a son who cowers. And you are married and thus cannot marry again. If you would like to see what he has written…”

    Ebbon offered her the letter. Lithuaise gave a slight shake of the head. Foulques doubted she could read.

    “If you wish to leave, I will not stop you,” Foulques said. “You are free to find your place elsewhere.”

    He could see her eyes widen and her hands tremble. He knew she could not go. A stronger woman might have taken her chances. But she was not.

    “I… again am thankful for your generosity, my lord,” Lithuaise said. “I will happily serve the duchess in any form she sees fit.”

    “Be warned, “ Foulques said, “the duchess expects the highest of standards.”

    He gave Beatritz a sly smile. Her only response was a glare, first at Foulques and then at her new lady.

    “Come girl,” Beatritz said, “the others should meet you. We can then go over… your duties.”

    Her head drooped, no doubt sensing the duchess’ discontent. But Lithuaise obeyed, following Beatritz out of the hall.

    “That may be trouble, my lord,” the steward said.

    “She is fortunate the duchess is not cruel,” Foulques said. “But we shall see what comes of it.”

    “Aye, my lord. We shall.”

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    • 1Love
    Chapter 10 - November 1067
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 10

    November 1067 - Anjou, France

    Foulques kept his eyes on the map laid out on the large table before him.

    His eyes kept drifting toward Maine, the county which he desired most. A battle with William the Bastard was what he dreamed about in his most fanciful moments - a chance to prove his mettle against a man who had developed quite the reputation as a leader and conqueror.

    And yet, while that increase in William’s reputation increased the duke’s desire to test himself against him, they also made such a test impossible.

    With William in control of England, how could Foulques stand a chance against his forces? Even if Foulques won a battle, or two, he could not win the war. Not with the troops on hand. Not with the gold on hand. Perhaps if there was a revolt?

    “You wished to see me, my lord?”

    Foulques looked up to see the familiar face of the Baron de Cholet in the war room. The duke smiled.

    “Ah, hello my friend,” Foulques said. He walked over to a metal pitcher. “Care for some wine?”

    “Aye,” the baron said. Foulques poured him the cup and then raised his toward his vassal. The baron sipped it then raised an eyebrow.

    “It’s from the south,” Foulques said. “A gift from my brother in law.”

    “It is different,” the baron said. “But pleasant enough.”

    “Yes,” Foulques said. “Now then, to business. I wished to talk to you before this council meeting. Your stance on my title revocation law.”

    The baron took another drink. “If I may speak freely, my lord.”

    “You may.”

    “As a vassal who… may have land revoked, I am not keen on it.”

    Foulques nodded. “I suppose I understand such a concern. But know I would not turn on you, my lord, unless you gave me cause.”

    “I… believe you my lord,” the baron said. “But only because I believe you look for prey larger than Cholet.”

    Foulques swirled the wine in his cup, while giving the baron a sly smile. “I have not my claim yet. But I think I shall, soon enough.”

    “And you need this to legally revoke it from the boy,” the baron said. Foulques gave him a nod. “I still have to give pause, my lord.”

    “Aye,” Foulques said. “But… I would ask of you to set aside your reservations, and vote alongside myself and Mayor Guilhem.”

    “You have the mayor’s support?”

    “I do,” Foulques said. “He has agreed to back me on council matters for a time - something we had worked out when I was a mere count. As I did once, for you.”

    The baron chuckled. “I wondered when you would ask that favor returned.” He sighed. “My word is good, my lord. You shall have my vote.”

    “Thank you, my friend,” Foulques said. “I do expect some… grumbling from the council. But they will not be able to stop it, with your support.”

    An hour later, Foulques proved to be right. There were voices of discontent, specifically from Guillaume and Bishop Ebbon. Guillaume warned of how naked Foulques’ intentions were, and how the regents for the young Count Bouchard would see the act of aggression coming.

    “Yes,” Foulques said. “But he is a boy. He can do little. Once you have gotten me the claim, and our troops have recovered sufficiently from the war with Geoffrey, Vendome will be ours.”

    “Does it speak well of us to do such things to loyal vassals?” Bishop Ebbon asked. “Geoffrey was a different matter - he had violated the will of the church, and you had rights to Anjou. But the boy has done you no wrong.”

    Foulques nodded. “You are right. He has done me no wrong. But I have a larger goal in mind. Vendome is a necessary step.”

    “I do not like such things,” Ebbon said.

    “In this case, you do not have to,” Foulques said. “I have the votes I need from the Baron de Cholet and Mayor Guilhem.”

    “Then the matter has been resolved,” the steward said. “The council approves the right of the Duke of Anjou to revoke territory if the vassal has violated his oath, or the lord has a claim on the county.”

    Guillaume sighed. “This may make my job more difficult, my lord.”

    “I have faith you shall succeed despite such difficulties,” Foulques said.

    There was a knock on the door to the war room. Louis peeked his head in.

    “Forgive the interruption my lord,” he said. “Lady Hildegarde has arrived.”

    “Then business is concluded for the day,” Foulques said. “Where is the duchess?”

    “She is being informed so she may meet you in the main hall,” Louis said.

    “Then let us not dawdle,” Foulques said.

    The duke was expecting Hildegarde and her daughter Vainmonde on their way through to Burgundy. His sister was newly widowed - her husband Joscelin de Courtenay having passed over a month back. He had hoped to convince her to remain in Anjou, but his sister was stubborn in her plans.

    The short, stocky woman trudged into the main hall of the keep, still wearing her hood. The young girl was by her side, along with a another woman. When they finally reached the duke and duchess, she lowered the hood, revealing her long red hair and stern expression.

    “Hello sister,” Foulques said. “I hope the journey has treated you well.”

    “No rain, so well enough,” she said. Hildegarde smiled and bowed before Beatritz. “Congratulations on your new title, my lady. Anjou has never had a more beautiful duchess.”

    “You are as kind as you are lovely, sister,” Beatritz said. “And I am very grateful to meet you Vainmonde. I did not get to see you at the wedding.”

    The young girl, who was just six, looked at the duchess nervously. She remained clutching the third woman’s hand. Foulques guessed it was her governess.

    “Wife, may you show Vainmonde how a duchess lives?” Foulques asked. “I’m sure she would be quite interested. After all, she may be fortunate enough to be one herself one day.”

    Beatritz nodded. While Vainmonde was hesitant to follow, a push from her mother got her moving, though she continued to hold the other woman’s hand.

    “Who is that?” Foulques asked.

    “Alix,” Hildegarde said. “She has a stern hand but will do until I choose a proper teacher for Vainmonde.”

    Foulques nodded before showing his sister toward a hallway. Now alone, they walked through the keep, Hildegarde taking stock of their surroundings.

    “When was the last time I was here?” she wondered aloud. “Was it Geoffrey’s first wedding?”

    “Too long, sister,” Foulques said. “I was hoping you would consider staying longer.”

    Hildegarde shook her head. “No. We should make quickly for Burgundy before the weather turns sour. If we dawdle here, that will surely happen.”

    “Is there a great rush?” Foulques asked.

    “Mother and Duke Robert aim to find me a new husband,” she said. “Time is of the essence in these matters. I am over 30 summers. Soon, I may be considered too old.”

    “You concern yourself too much with such matters,” Foulques said.

    Hildegarde glared at him, hands on her wide hips. “Yes, I am certain you are not the least bit concerned over your wife’s lack of children. And surely, you have said nothing to her, or others, about it.”

    Foulques’ gaze drifted away from his sister. “She is a bit older than you.”

    Hildegarde continued on. Foulques followed, though they remained in silence for a time. She seemed reticent to chat.

    “If I may inquire,” he spoke up, “what befell Joscelin?”

    Hildegarde sighed. “I do not know. My poor husband complained to me he had felt tired in the late summer. Then, one morning, he did not rise at all. When the physician saw him, he said his soul had already left his body.”

    “And they could discern nothing?”

    “None that I was privy to,” Hildegarde said. “I suppose it matters not.”

    “If it were foul play,” Foulques said.

    “I do not suspect it,” Hildegarde said. “He did not suddenly fall violently ill. He merely… did not wake.”

    “I am sorry for your loss,” Foulques said.

    Hildegarde responded with a grunt and continued on. Finally they reached a set of ramparts, overlooking the Maine, which flowed into the Loire a little further downstream. Hildegarde leaned out, seeming to take in the view.

    “Lovely,” she said.

    “Yes, one of the strong points of my new home,” Foulques said. “Which, you congratulate my wife on attaining, yet nothing of me, who actually attained it.”

    Hildegarde turned to him. “Oh forgive me. I was planning on waiting until I was able to give my condolences to Geoffrey, who lost it.”

    Fouqlues did not respond.

    “I offered my congratulations on the duchess for her new title,” Hildegarde said. “She did not do anything ill to obtain it. You wish for a pat on the head for stealing from your own blood.”

    The duke narrowed his gaze. “I did not steal. I should have you know, I could have. My advisors wished for me to plot his murder. I refused.”

    Hildegarde shook her head. “You wish commendation for not stooping as low as to be a kinslayer?”

    Foulques slammed his fist onto one of the stones on the rampart. “I took what he could not defend. I shall not have you judge me.”

    “I shall judge you as I wish,” Hildegarde said. “You may not want to hear it. But then you should not have asked my opinion.”

    “I did not expect my sister to think ill of me,” Foulques said.

    “What would you expect Geoffrey’s sister to say?” Hildegarde asked. “Because I am his sister as well.”

    “I did not expect you to favor him,” Foulques said.

    “I favor no one,” Hildegarde said. “I care for both of you. And that is why it angers me you would turn on your own blood for a title.”

    “A title he could not defend,” Foulques said. “It was my duty to defend the duchy.”

    “Yes, from your wicked, excommunicated brother,” she said. “I heard of your reasons. I do not believe them for a moment. Lie to others Foulques, but do not lie to your sister and expect her to accept it.”

    Foulques took a deep breath. “What would you like me to say?”

    “The truth,” Hildegarde said.

    Foulques did not face Hildegarde, and took a few steps away from her. “I did it because we need to reclaim the lands lost. We would never do it under Geoffrey.”

    Hildegarde nodded. “Thank you.”

    Foulques turned back to her. “Is that enough to reclaim your favor?”

    “You have never lost my favor nor care,” Hildegarde said. “I do not approve of what you have done. I will never approve of what you have done. But why does that matter if I still wish the best for you and your family? Do you feel as though you have done him wrong?”

    “No. I did what was necessary.”

    “Do you seek to convince me brother?” Hildegarde asked. “I am not so sure.”

    “Did you speak to your husband in such a manner?” Foulques asked.

    “No,” Hildegarde said. “But you are not my husband. You are my brother - the same brother I slapped on the hand years ago for stealing treats before supper. I’ll not slap you now, but I will tell you my thoughts when you ask for them.”

    “Then I will not ask for them any further,” Foulques said.

    “That is your decision,” Hildegarde said. “Now, I will ask you - do you think ill of me, for my opinion?”

    “I think you lack understandings of these matters,” Foulques said.

    “Mmhmm,” Hildegarde said. She sighed. “Do you wish more of me brother? I do appreciate you opening your home to me and my Vainmonde, but I am tired from the day’s travel.”

    “Of course sister,” Foulques said. “Let us return to the main hall.”

    That evening Foulques stood alone in the war room, goblet of wine in hand. His eyes lingered on Vendome.

    The boy has done nothing.

    His eyes drifted toward. Maine. He wanted it. It belonged to Anjou. It had been stolen from his family’s demesne. Yet… it was beyond his reach.

    Geoffrey was different. There was reason there.

    His gaze slid to the east. Nantes, perhaps? The petty king of Bretons did not pay homage to any liege but did not command numbers like William could in England. And Foulques’ family had once held influence in the region...

    I’ve betrayed blood. Am I truly different than Robert the kinslayer?

    But they could still command numbers beyond what Foulques could muster. Unless he secured Vendome. With all three counties, in time, he could challenge the Bretons.

    It is the way of things. It is my nature. The nature of all great men. Did Alexander ask permission to march across Asia? Did Caesar when he conquered these very lands a millenia ago?

    It all started at home. Anjou must be his in its entirety. From there… new roads would lay open to him.

    She will never understand. Neither will they. That is why they are where they are. And why I will be more. So much more.

    Foulques finished his wine in a gulp and slammed the goblet down. He knew his path.

    And that path took him next to Vendome.
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    Chapter 11 - March 1068
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet- Chapter 11

    March 1068 - Bourges, France

    Note: In this chapter the in-game event references something happening at Foulques' court. In this case, since the location does not matter for the event, I felt it better to include it here. Hope that does not bother anyone.

    Another year, another wedding.

    In truth, Foulques did not expect to be present at one so soon. But his mother worked quickly.

    Hildegarde was the bride as she married Etienne, the Count of Bourges. He was a man some 16 years her elder, though that was no more than a minor concern for the duke.

    The larger issue was Bourges bordered Tours. It was no secret the count desired the county and was rumored to be petitioning the king to create the Duchy of Berry, which would grant him claim over Tours.

    Of course, now he might not even need that. If Hildegarde bore him any children, they would have proper claims through her.

    And if that wasn’t bad enough, he was on the verge of being drawn into a conflict he did not seek.

    Some of Duke Guilhem’s vassals, led by Count Hugues of Lusignan, had recently rebelled against their lord. And naturally, Guilhem looked to his ally for aid.

    Foulques had joined the war. But he had not mobilized his armies yet. Between his army and his brother’s, the levy of Anjou had been severely weakened. Leading it into battle now would put him at risk - while his forces with Guilhem’s were stronger than the rebels, isolated, the Anjoy levy was not.

    And any men lost now would take time to replace. Time he did not wish to waste. Once he had the claim on Vendome, he planned to make his move as soon as he had the numbers to siege it down. He suspected he’d need at least 2,000...

    The situation left Foulques in a rather foul mood as he looked out at the rest of the hall. As it was at his wedding feast, his family was here, including his half-siblings, Robert, Simon and Aureade, and Duke Robert. There was no Geoffrey of course, and Robert’s neither Robert’s oldest son, Henri, nor his now-married daughter, Constance, were present.

    In little mood to talk, Foulques had worried his half-brother Robert would be a bother. But the younger Robert had hardly said two words to Foulques since arriving. In fact, he seemed rather cold to him.

    Perhaps he had taken my refusal to offer him a place at court harder than expected.

    Still, it suited Foulques fine. It allowed the duke to keep mostly to himself, examining the quality of food and entertainment, comparing it to his wedding to Beatritz.

    “Stag,” Foulques said. “But little boar. Given his age it is hardly surprising. I doubt the count can hunt an animal so dangerous.”

    Beatritz rolled her eyes.

    “My lord,” she said, “While boar would have been more appealing to our tastes, the feast prepared is still magnificent.”

    “Yes, you have sampled enough of it to know,” Foulques said.

    “I enjoy myself,” Beatritz said. “It is a feast. That is its purpose.”

    Foulques gulped down some of his wine.

    “And when will you fill your purpose?” he said. “And give me a son? This count eyes my land you realize? And now that he is to bed my sister, he has reason to seize it if I have no sons.”

    “I… I am certain in time…” Beatritz stammered.

    “In time,” Foulques started as he drank down his wine. “Your time is nearly up, is it not?”

    Beatritz stared at him for a moment - her lips trembling and her pale complexion reddening. But she did not argue. Instead she pushed herself away from the long table and disappeared down one of the hallways.

    You should not have said that.

    “Bah!” Foulques said as he quickly washed the thought away with more wine.

    “Sending the wife away in tears,” Duke Robert said as he took Beatritz’s seat beside Foulques. “I have not managed that in some time.”

    “You… brag to me about sending my mother away in tears?” Foulques asked.

    “Did I say your mother, boy?” Robert asked. “She has never been one for such things. No, but the ones before…”

    He chuckled. Foulques stared at Robert with some trepidation. “Do you need something of me, lord Robert?”

    “I need nothing,” Robert said. “However, the king…”

    Foulques poured himself more wine. He had heard Philippe had, as one of his first acts upon assuming full control of the realm, appointed Robert his chancellor. Such a move surprised Foulques since Robert was not the most diplomatic man, and Robert’s desire for the crown was well known.

    “I’m surprised to see you serve our liege,” Foulques said. “I seem to remember a conversation not long ago about how most Kings of the Franks are not worth our time?”

    “I’m sure you also remember Duke Guilhem?” Robert asked. “You think it wise to allow him unchecked influence over our liege? I thought it not.”

    “The Duke has problems of his own right now,” Foulques said.

    “Aye,” Robert responded. “And you have been asked to help him?”

    “I will honor my alliance,” Foulques said. “The rebels will receive no quarter from me.”

    “I suspect Guilhem expects more than that, boy,” Robert said.

    Foulques sipped his drink. Such talk left him feeling stressed. So Foulques turned back to other matters.

    “So you serve the King of the Franks now. Then do you still believe him a weak boy?” Foulques asked. “That may not make you an effective chancellor if you cannot convey your belief in your liege.”

    Robert said nothing at first, swirling his drink, staring at it, before taking a sip. “I… admit, the boy has impressed me. He speaks well. He is well-informed. And I am not alone - those that meet him find him cordial, well-mannered and likable. I think he has much greater potential than my brother ever did.”

    That is surprising to hear. To impress Robert, who had done nothing but sneer at the very thought that he was subservient to his nephew during the campaign, Philippe must have some talent. Whether it was as impressive as Robert said, or if the old Duke merely sought to expand his power in a different manner, is something Foulques would have to see for himself.

    “He thinks highly of you, boy,” Robert said. “And I do not believe it is entirely Guilhem’s doing.”

    “Perhaps I shall meet him soon,” Foulques said. “I have yet to pledge myself officially to him.”

    “You would be wise to do so soon,” Robert said. “I believe he has a place for you. But places can be taken… by others.”

    Foulques stared into his drink. He was not certain how to respond to that. However, he did not have to as his half-sister Aureade, who had just come of age, approached and stood by the two men, in silence.

    “Do you want something girl?” Robert asked.

    “Mother wishes to see you, brother,” she responded.

    “What does she want?” Foulques asked.

    “She did not say,” Aureade said.

    “I should not keep her waiting then,” Foulques said. “Where is she?”

    Aureade directed him to the hallway where Beatritz had run off to. As he approached, his wife emerged. Tears were drying on her cheeks. They traded looks at one another, but said nothing.

    Any lingering guilt Foulques had was replaced by a sense of dread. He had a feeling he knew what this was about.

    “You wished to see me mother?” Foulques asked as he found her, leaning against the stone in the dimly lit hallway.

    “I tire of this,” Ermengarde said.

    “Of what?”

    “Of having to remind you of what is proper at every wedding we attend together,” Ermengarde said.

    Foulques dropped his head. “I voiced a concern.”

    “You belittle your wife for not giving you a son,” Ermengarde said. “I was unaware Beatritz had ordered you away from your marital bed, to galavant around Anjou attempting to bring your brother to heel.”

    “I had a duty,” Foulques said.

    “You have a duty to your wife,” Ermengarde said. “The physicians all say it is required for her health. For any woman’s health.”

    “I… shall strive to do better in the future,” Foulques said. “Since returning, I feel I have done as I should with her.”

    Ermengarde let loose a loud, sarcastic laugh. “My son, you believe you should belittle your wife and force a pretty young woman upon her ladies?”

    “It is my right,” Foulques said.

    “I never said it was not,” Ermengarde said.

    “Did you just wish to question my relationship with my wife?” Foulques asked.

    Ermengarde shook her head, then motioned for him to follow her further away from the feast.

    “No, but it was a good chance to remind you to treat your wife well,” Ermengarde said. “She may bear you a son yet. And more importantly, a man who makes an enemy of his wife gives his other enemies opportunity to strike.”

    “Do you know of an enemy?” Foulques asked.

    Ermengarde lowered her head. Her eyes fell away from Foulques'. “Geoffrey seeks to end your life."

    Foulques’ stomach sank. He did not know why he should be surprised - his brother surely hated him for usurping his title and chasing him from the realm. And yet… it stung.

    “Then I should return the favor,” Foulques said.

    “I think it a waste for you,” Ermengarde said. “You will find few allies in Bourgogne. You would be wiser to make sure Geoffrey cannot touch you. Keep an eye to suspicious activity in your duchy and court. Make sure your master of spies is favorable to you. And keep your wife a happy woman.”

    Foulques nodded. That he was the target of a plot by Geoffrey was… concerning. But he would not hide. He was not craven.

    And it did reassure him that his mother appeared to back him, unlike Hildegarde.

    “I do not back you over Geoffrey,” Ermengarde said upon receiving his thanks. “I support all my children. I do not wish harm on any of them. That is why I warn you of Geoffrey’s plot. And that your half-siblings look upon your gains with envy. And Robert encourages them.”

    “I don’t… understand,” Foulques said.

    “That they would want what you have?”

    “No,” Foulques said. “That I understand. But if you do not favor me, why tell me such things?”

    “Because if you are prepared, then they will think wiser of even attempting it,” Ermengarde said. “You were able to attack Geoffrey because he did not keep himself strong. But if you maintain your levy and keep gold flowing, it will be hard for Robert, Simon or Aureade to press any claim. Same to for the Count of Bourges, regardless of how many children Hildegarde gives him.”

    “Worry not mother,” Foulques said. “I would crush whoever stands against me.”

    Ermengarde grabbed his face and pulled it toward her, her stare pinning him as much as her hand did.

    “Do you not hear me? I do not tell you this so you may kill your siblings. I tell you this so you understand how to avoid needless conflict entirely! I am sick over what transpired between you and Geoffrey. I could not stop it - but I will stop any further war between my children.”

    Foulques did not say anything to that.

    “Silent?” Ermengarde said. “Good. Think upon what I have told you. It may save your life one day.”

    “I will… mother,” Foulques said.

    “Let us return to the feast,” Ermengarde said. “We should congratulate your sister once more before she joins her new husband in their marital bed.”


    Foulques awoke the next morning with a slight headache and his mouth dry. He looked for water, but did not see any. He shook Beatritz, who was snoring beside him.

    “No water?”

    Her long, dark hair covered much of her face. She pushed it away, revealing half-open eyes. “I must have forgotten, my lord. I apologize. I’m certain your sister’s new servants will fetch you some.”

    The duke frowned. She normally was not one to forget such matters after Foulques had drunk heavily the night before. But perhaps she had as well? Foulques did not know how much Beatritz had drunk, just that he had listened to his mother’s advice and taken her to bed with him.

    Throwing on a tunic quickly, he opened the door to this quarters. However, there seemed to be a bit of a commotion with servants and courtiers bustling about.

    “What is this about?” Foulques asked as he grabbed one of the men.

    “The Duke of Burgundy and his family are preparing to depart, my lord,” the man said.

    “So quickly?”

    “It seems to be a matter of great import,” the man said.

    “And that matter is?”

    “I do not know my lord,” the man said. “My apologies.”

    Foulques let the man return to his duties, closed the door to his quarters before throwing a dress at Beatritz. She stirred once more.

    “What… is something happening, my lord?” Beatritz asked.

    “My mother and the duke depart,” Foulques said. “Urgently it appears. We should see why.”

    There was no resistance from Beatritz, who did her best to quickly climb into her dress. The two hurried toward the guest chambers where his mother had been residing.

    “Foulques!” Ermengarde said. “I was about to find you.”

    “What is going on?”

    “Your stepbrother Henri…” Ermengarde said. “He is dead.”

    Foulques’ eyes widened. “Dead? What happened?”

    “He was on a hunt,” Ermengarde said. “And struck by an errant arrow.”

    “An accident?”

    “So they say,” Ermengarde said. “Though no man is willing to admit who fired the arrow.”

    “You are not convinced?”

    “No,” Ermengarde said.

    She pulled Foulques close in an embrace.

    “Henri was not my son by blood,” she said. “But I feel his loss all the same because I do have sons. And one who is a target. Remember what I told you. Promise me you will remember and listen to my words.”

    “I will mother,” Foulques said.

    Ermengarde kissed him on the cheek and then did the same for Beatritz.

    “Fear not my lady,” Ermengarde said. “It will not be long before you are with child. As I told you, I have dreamt it.”

    “Thank you,” Beatritz said. “And my prayers are with your family.”

    Footsteps approached the chambers. The three looked to the doorway to see the younger Robert.

    “Are you ready to depart mother?” he asked.

    “I am,” Ermengarde said. She looked at Foulques once more. “Please, remember my words.”

    He nodded and gave his mother one last embrace before she departed.

    As he looked at them walk away, Foulques remembered his conversation months before with his half-brother - how he said there was suspicion and intrigue rampant in Burgundy and how he hated it. This likely only served to further his distaste for his home.

    And yet, Foulques remembered his mother’s warning - that his stepfather had likely poisoned Robert and his other half-siblings against him. Not totally, but suggestions of greatness was all an ambitious man like the younger Robert would need to dream.

    He did not know why he opened his mouth. Only that he did.

    “Robert!” Foulques called out. His half-brother turned.

    Offer him friendship. Do him better than you did Geoffrey.

    “I am sorry… both for your loss, and that you were right.”

    The two men stared at each other from across the hallway. Foulques searched anything more he could say - many things came to mind, but nothing escaped his lips. Finally Robert just shook his head.

    “Small consolation, that,” he said as he turned back and continued on his way.

    “So tragic,” Beatritz whispered to Foulques. “Do you think… your mother suspicions are right?”

    Foulques said nothing He just continued to watch them as they walked off, with his eyes increasingly focusing on his half-brother. Henri did have plenty of sons. And yet...

    He… couldn’t have… could he?
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    Chapter 12 - June 1068
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 12
    June 1068 - Bordeaux, France

    It had been a long time since Beatritz sat at this table.

    The last time it had been far more crowded. Her brother and his wife had been there. Beatritz’s niece, Aines, had joined them for supper. There had been a few of Guilhem’s knights and even Beatritz’s old friend Melisende and her husband had joined them. Candles lit the room. A large boar had been the main course. There had been music. Entertainment. It had been quite the feast.

    This… was a bit different.

    The room was dimly lit, so much so that Beatritz could barely make out her brother’s bearded face when it drifted from one of the few candles. It was also quiet - that was not surprising as she and Guilhem were the only ones present. And there was no grand meal -there was no food at all.

    But then, this was not a celebratory dinner to say goodbye to her as she went off to be wedded to a count - this was her acting a representative of her husband.

    She had travelled to Bordeaux along with her ladies and a small guard, led by Armaury. It had been a smooth trip, until the end, when they were forced to quicken their pace to avoid rain, making it just before the skies opened up.

    Yet stormclouds they had narrowly avoided could not compare to ominous feeling Beatritz soon found herself having upon arriving.

    To her surprise, Duke Guilhem was not there to greet her. Instead, his wife, Duchess Matheolde, and Aines were. The duchess, who was very heavy with child, apologized, saying the duke was in a strategy session and would see Beatritz once he was done.

    Beatritz thought she would be entertained by Matheolde or spend some time with Aines. Instead, she was shown to her quarters. There she waited. And waited. And waited.

    Finally, a courtier came and got Beatritz. He led her to a the dining hall. It was, at the time, empty. And once again Beatritz waited, and waited.

    Guilhem arrived eventually, giving his sister a short embrace and a kiss on the cheek. Then he took a seat at the other end of the wooden table and poured himself a goblet of wine. Beatritz already had her own.

    “I would have expected others to join us if we are to sup,” Beatritz said.

    “We are not eating yet,” Guilhem said.

    Beatritz felt her stomach tighten. Her hand shaking, she moved the goblet to her mouth and took a sip. Her brother said nothing, taking a large swig from his goblet.

    The duchess awaited something more from her brother. But he remained silent, with just the cackle of the fire providing the only sound in the room.

    “Are you feeling unwell brother?” Beatritz asked.

    Guilhem lowered his goblet. “Shall we drop the formalities, sister? I know why you are here.”

    “You do?”

    “Your husband intends to dishonor our alliance,” Guilhem responded. “Why else would he not send an emissary informing me of his levy being raised or marching south, and instead send my sister to deliver a message?”

    An uneasy feeling made Beatritz’s stomach clench tighter. She knew she had to respond. But she tried to remember her words…

    “Well?” Guilhem said as he raised his voice. “Answer? Does he send you to tell me he betrays our agreement?”

    Beatritz felt her brother’s gaze on her. He was not always the most diplomatic man, and his temper would often get the better of him. Still, she steeled herself in the knowledge that as another duke’s wife, he would not dare lay a finger on her. Though, her mind drifted of other unpleasant results from this conversation…

    “My lord, the duke does not dishonor the alliance,” she said, her voice unsteady. She cleared her throat. “He has declared himself an enemy of your rebellious counts. He presents himself a target, and should they cross into Anjou, he will deal with them.”

    Guilhem’s stern look melted away into a smile, then to full on laughter.

    “Ah, so he thinks himself clever?” the duke said. “A turn of phrase. That if they come to Anjou, he will fight.”

    “Fighting defensive is all he can manage at the moment,” Beatritz said. She steeled herself in the knowledge that she spoke the truth. “His levy has not recovered from the war with his brother. It has not even been a year since it ended.”

    “I am aware,” Guilhem said. “His war weakened my numbers so that Count Hugues dreams of gaining more say in the duchies. You should remind Duke Foulques of the extra men I tossed away so he may end his conflict sooner.”

    “He does not forget,” Beatritz said. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before adding: “And… would 200 knights have truly deterred these rebellious counts from striking?”

    Guilhem paused a moment before chuckling. “He has counseled you on what to say.”

    It was true. But Beatritz did not wish her brother to know that.

    “I was to be my lord’s diplomat,” she said. “I asked for what you had given to him against his brother. That is all.”

    Guilhem stroked his beard for a moment. But he remained in silence.

    “He promises to aid you in time,” Beatritz said. “Once the levy recovers.”

    Guilhem shook his head. “He eyes something else. Does he seek to reclaim Saintonge while I am weak? Do not lie to me. You may be his wife, but you were my sister first.”

    A sister you would stick in a convent if this alliance dissolves, she thought.

    “No,” Beatritz said. “He does not plot against you. If you must know… he seeks to take Vendome from his boy vassal, Bouchard. He hopes to secure a claim soon. And then, he plans to move against him.”

    “So that is it,” Guilhem said. “He forsakes his alliance for his own selfish gains.”

    “He forsakes nothing,” Beatritz said. “Brother, consider the circumstances. His desire to take Vendome hardly secret. If he moves to aid you with his levy understrength, the boy’s regent and advisors may take their opportunity to strike against us. And you would not be able to assist.”

    “He has Robert.”

    “Robert may also plot against him,” Beatritz said. “In favor of his children with my lord’s mother, Ermengarde. We cannot rely on him.”

    Guilhem pushed himself away from the table and wandered over to the hearth. Poking the fire, he then turned to her. “You speak of valid reasons sister. But why should I care for them, while I fight against a dangerous foe without the assistance promised?”

    “Why did you agree to marry me to him, brother?” Beatritz asked.

    “His talent was evident when we clashed for Saintonge,” Guilhem said. “I believed I might gain a powerful ally.”

    “And you have,” Beatritz said. “One who seeks to grow stronger, as you do. One, who, together with your forces, would be the start of a union that could challenge kings - not only here but outside the realm. You would toss that away for a war that you can win without his aid?”

    Guilhem said nothing at first and continued to poke the fire instead. Finally he asked: “And should I not win?”

    “You shall, brother,” Beatritz said. “The king has trusted you with his armies for a reason. You are one of the finest leaders in the realm. However, should luck not be with you, Anjou will come to your aid, once we have dealt with the matter in Vendome.”

    “That matter could take years,” Guilhem said.

    “I do not believe it will,” Beatritz said.

    “You hope it will, you mean,” Guilhem said.

    The duke returned to his seat. “He is lucky to have married you sister. You have stated your case well enough. I do not like it, but I shall trust what you say and not dissolve our alliance over this matter. And I shall accept the duke’s help, whenever he is able to provide it.”

    Beatritz bowed her head. “You are most gracious, brother.”

    “Yes,” Guilhem said. “See to it he does not forget it.”

    Beatritz nodded.

    “One more thing sister,” Guilhem said as he slouched a bit in his wooden chair. “Remember why he sends you here.”

    “What… do you mean by that?”

    “I mean, he sends you because he believes this alliance to be precious,” Guilhem said. “And you are the tie that binds us together. He cannot afford to lose you.”

    “I… I am afraid I do not understand,” Beatritz said.

    “You speak of him as if he stands above you,” Guilhem said. “Remember that he does not. You were the daughter and sister to multiple dukes before you were the wife of a count. And if not for you, he may still be a count, serving under his incompetent brother. He needs you. Always remember that in your dealings with him.”

    Beatritz smiled and raised her drink to her brother. “Thank you. I shall.”


    Early the next morning, with the weather cleared up, Beatritz was out in the castle town, by herself. Armauy had offered a guard, and suggested that she at least take one of her ladies with her. But the duchess declined - this had been her home for years. She felt perfectly safe making her short trip alone.

    Besides, she prefered to keep this matter to herself.

    Hood on, Beatritz made a short walk into the nearby town. There, she noticed the bustle of the early morning and smiled. It was as she remembered. She could easily slip in and out without anyone noticing.

    The only question was whether Melisende was home.

    Beatritz knocked on the door to a relatively small, hut toward the outskirts of the town. A young brunette dressed in clean linen who couldn’t have been 12 answered. She looked the duchess over and raised an eyebrow.

    “May I help you?”

    “I did not think myself disguised that well, Alearde,” Beatritz said.

    The girl’s eyes lit up. “My lady!”

    She gave Beatritz a tight hug before pulling back with a fearful look on her face.

    “I am sorry my lady!” Alearde said. “That is not proper of me. You are a duchess now!”

    She dropped to her knees. Beatritz smiled and offered her hand.

    “It is fine dear,” Beatritz said, helping the girl back to her feet. “My, you have grown over the last two years!”

    Alearde blushed. “Yes, mother thinks I’ll be a woman soon enough.”

    “Speaking of your mother, is she home?”

    “Aye,” Melisende said. “And if I was not, you were loud enough for me to hear halfway across the town, girl!”

    Alearde lowered her head. “Sorry mother.”

    “Leave us,” Melisende said. “I am certain the duchess has come to see me for important matters. Go to the baker, ask how his wife fares and bring home some bread.”

    Alearde bowed her head and hurried out the door, leaving the duchess and Melisende alone. Beatritz looked over the greying woman before her for a reaction. Her expression betrayed nothing -that was hardly new however. Melisende was always one to keep her emotions in check -which was probably useful when dealing with women in childbirth.

    “Would seeing an old friend not be enough?” Beatritz asked.

    Finally, Melisende’s face gave way to a smile, followed by an embrace.

    “It is good to see you, my lady,” Melisende said.

    “It’s still Beatritz to you,” the duchess said. “Nothing has changed between us.”

    “Nonsense,” Melisende said. “When we last met you were the sister of the duke. You became a countess and a duchess since! I would say that is a great deal of change.”

    The two wandered over to a table where Melisende poured two cups of water, giving one to Beatritz. “How does life treat you?”

    “Well,” Beatritz said. “As you say, I am now a duchess, here to help my husband keep his alliance with my brother. And I believe I have.”

    “Perhaps I should have offered wine then,” Melisende said. “That is more proper for a diplomat.”

    “That you are here to see me is celebration enough,” Beatritz said. “I confess, I was concerned you might be aiding in a birth.”

    “The baker’s wife is close,” Melisende said. “But close is not ready.”

    “As is my brother’s wife?” Beatritz asked.

    “She is a little further off,” Melisende said. “But her time will come soon enough.”

    Beatritz nodded. As a midwife, Melisende could easily be called away at any moment. But the duchess wouldn’t need much time to make her request.

    “How is your husband?” Beatritz asked.

    “Last I heard, alive,” Melisende said. “I pray he stays that way.”

    “Aye, you have mine as well,” Beatritz said.

    She did not feel comfortable saying much else. After all, Foulques had sent her here to excuse not taking part in the war when her friend’s husband was laying his life on the line as a soldier in it.

    “I admit,” Melisende started as her eyes drifted away from the duchess, “when you left for for Tours, I did not expect to see you again, Beatritz.”

    “Yet, you do not seem all that happy,” Beatritz said.

    “I am… but…”


    “I have wished that you would return, so I might ask you a favor,” Melisende said. “But now that you are here, I wonder if it is right.”

    “Why would it not be right?” Beatritz asked. “You’re my oldest friend. I have asked things of you, and you of me in the past. And… I was going to ask something of you as well.”

    Melisende smirked. “So you did come for something.”

    “I would have come regardless,” Beatritz said.

    “What would you like?” Melisende asked.

    “You first,” Beatritz said.

    “My daughter,” Melisende began, “One of the stablehands has his eye on her.”

    “Young love,” Beatritz said. “Is that a problem? Both you and I had the eyes of boys at her age.”

    “She is not yet a woman,” Melisende said. “She is too young.”

    Beatritz rolled her eyes. “She’ll be woman soon enough… which… I suspect is the problem.”

    Melisende nodded. “I wish better for her than a stablehand. But she is young and naive. And the boy has the look of one who will not be denied.”

    “You wish for me to speak with her?” Beatritz asked.

    “No,” Melisende said. “I wish for you to take her with you.”

    “Take her? To Anjou?”

    Melisende nodded.

    “If you could have her among your ladies,” Melisende said. “Watch over her. Make it so that if she marries, it is to a man in good standing. A knight perhaps…”

    “Are you certain?” Beatritz asked. “She is your only child…”

    “If she stays here, she will end up the wife of a poor man,” Melisende said.

    “She could follow you as a midwife,” Beatritz said.

    Melisende shook her head. “She follows orders well enough. But I do not think her smart enough to handle situations when the birth is difficult.”

    “She is young,” Beatritz said. “In time…”

    “In time, you will not be here,” Melisende said. “If she is unable to, she will not have a duchess to aid her as she does now... If you are willing to help me.”

    Beatritz sighed. She did not feel particularly good about agreeing to this - she did not really wish to take Alearde from her mother and father, even at her request. Yet, how could she turn her friend down, especially given she had a request of her own?

    “As you wish,” Beatritz said. “But now I must ask something of you.”

    “Anything,” Melisende said.

    “I need help… in making sure I give my husband a child,” Beatritz said. “I remember… you know of ways to help a man’s seed take root in his wife. Can you share them with me?”

    Melisende nodded. She wandered over to a shelf, took a small box down and produced a small badge.

    “It is of St. Anne’s,” Melisende said. “The saint’s blessings should help. So too will drinking the blood of a horse that carries a foal, mixed with cow’s milk.”

    Beatritz nearly shuddered at the thought of drinking blood, even if it was mixed. But she knew she had little choice.

    “I shall do it,” Beatritz said. “I will instruct… one of my ladies to prepare it.”

    “Alearde has done it before,” Melisende said. “She will be able make it so that it will work.”

    “It all works out then,” Beatritz said with a smile. “I shall wait here until she returns then.”

    It wasn’t long until the girl returned with some bread and a meat pie.

    “The baker says he was going to send for you,” Alearde said. “His says the pain in his wife’s belly and back come more frequently.”

    “I will go soon,” Melisende said. “But first, gather your things. You are leaving with the duchess.”

    Alearde’s eyes widened. “What? For how long?”

    “Permanently, girl,” Melisende said. “The duchess is such a kind and gracious woman, she has offered her home to you. You are to serve among her ladies.”

    Alearde looked to Beatritz. “Is this true, my lady?”

    “Yes Alearde,” Beatritz said. “Your mother speaks… highly of you. She was kind enough to allow you to join me in Anjou. If you are willing, of course.”

    Alearde dropped to her knees. “Of course my lady, I would be honored. So very honored.”

    “Go,” Melisende said. “Get your things. The duchess does not like to be kept waiting.”

    Alearde quickly pushed herself to her feet and hurried off to get her belongings. Melisende, with a wide smile, walked over the Beatritz and whispered: “You sold it well.”

    “I suspected you wanted it to be my idea,” Beatritz said.

    “As I said,” Melisende said, “She may not be the brightest but she follows orders. She will serve you well.”

    “I’ve always known her to be a good girl,” Beatritz said. “She will do fine.”

    Melisende hugged her tightly. “Thank you, my lady.”

    “Thank you,” Beatritz said. “For the badge and advice. I will…”

    She was going to say she would see her soon. But Beatritz knew that was unlikely. In fact, it was more likely than not that she would never see her friend again. Then again, one could have said the same thing when Beatritz left Aquitaine…

    “I will see you again,” Beatritz said. Melisende responded with a smile.

    “Of course, my lady,” Melisende replied. “One way, or another.”
    • 1Love
    Chapter 13 - October 1068
  • JabberJock14

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    Dec 3, 2015
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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 13

    October, 1068 - Melun, France

    “It’s about time boy.”

    Foulques looked up at the top of the stairs, outside of the main entrance to the castle in Melun. The old figure of Duke Robert stared down at him, his smug sense of satisfaction plastered on his face.

    After months of delay, Foulques had finally decided to make his journey to pay homage to the teenage King Philippe. Accompanying him were a small group of knights and Renaud, the mayor of Saumur. There were also a few servants, tasked with carrying and presenting the king with two casks of wine from Anjou.

    “You took your time in arriving,” Robert said. “The king expected you months ago. He grows impatient.”

    Foulques rolled his eyes at the old man. I delay a visit while you demean and plot against him, yet I am the villain, Foulques thought.

    “Please beg my forgiveness of the king,” Foulques said. “I have been busy with cleaning up Geoffrey’s mess in Anjou.”

    “We’ll see if the king is more tolerant of your excuses than I would be,” Robert said as he looked over Foulques’ party. “Ah, the mayor of Saumur. I hope you don’t hold any ill-will for the sacking. Business of war, you understand.”

    Renaud narrowed his gaze. “I do, my lord.”

    Robert snickered and turned back to Foulques. “I shall inform the king of your presence. He is holding court, but surely make time to finally see his wayward vassal.”

    Foulques glared at his stepfather as he walked back into the hall. Incredibly, he seemed to have grown more pompous and arrogant as Philippe’s lap dog than he was as his troublesome vassal.

    “You handled that well, Renaud,” Foulques said.

    “And you as well,” Renaud said. “Duke Robert does not realize the times move forward. His star dims, while yours brightens.”

    Foulques smiled at that thought, though he could not deny Robert’s alliance was still valuable. Duke Guilhem was the most powerful ally he could find in the realm. But if the situation turned sour, Foulques and Robert could potentially prove a match for him.

    Foulques and his men followed Robert into the keep, where a large group had gathered as the king conducted his business. The crowd was large enough that Foulques could not get a view of Philippe. He soon heard him though.

    “Throw him in the dungeons!”

    The voice cracked as it delivered those words. Foulques was not surprised, given Philippe was just a young man of 16.

    “Presenting Foulques, Duke of Anjou,” Robert called out soon afterward.

    Foulques pushed his way through the crowd and finally got a view of the king. The handsome young man sat on a wooden throne, small metal crown around his head with his short brown hair falling just above his eyes. On his face, the makings of a beard had taken root, though it was still patchy in spots.

    “The duke is here to pay homage to you, my king,” Robert said. “After much delay, for which he begs your forgiveness for.”

    Foulques did his best to ignore Robert’s smirk. Instead, he stepped forward and at the base of the steps, dropped his knees, raised his hands and lowered his head. “I have come to pledge myself to you as your man, my king, from this day forward.”

    Philippe rose up and stepped forward, with Foulques sneaking a peek at the young king. He was tall, perhaps even taller than the duke himself. However, he was thin, with his robes hanging loosely off him. The king clasped Foulques raised hands.

    Foulques continued: “I swear to be good and faithful to you, and the faith, upholding its tenants as you would it, as I serve you, my king.”

    Philippe then pulled him up, before giving him a kiss.

    “I accept your pledge, Foulques of Anjou,” Philippe said. “I am honored you would serve me.”

    “Thank you, my lord,” Foulques said. “And please accept this gift - wine from the duchy of Anjou.”

    The servants hurried forward and brought forward the casks. Philippe gave a nod and then motioned for some of his servants to take it.

    “Your kind gesture is most appreciated, Duke Foulques,” Philippe said. “Now, please, return to the others. I have more business to attend to, but I would like a word in private once the day’s business is done. It shall not be long.”

    Foulques nodded and returned to the gallery. Renaud nudged him.

    “A private word with the king,” the mayor of Saumur said. “Could be of great import.”

    Arms crossed, Foulques wasn’t so sure. There were any number of ways this meeting could go. Given the choice, Foulques would have preferred to stay out of the king’s eye until he was stronger. But given both Robert and Guilhem’s conversations, that was perhaps a pointless dream. He was the Duke of Anjou now with the only man above him the King of the Franks - he had to be prepared for all that came with that.


    A short time later, Philippe and Foulques walked alone through the keep’s hallways. The king had conducted a few more matters, and then had ended court for the day. He summoned Foulques at once and the two had left those in the hall behind, with Robert looking a tad frustrated to be cut out of the loop.

    “I am pleased to finally meet you,” Philippe said as they walked. “I admit, I was concerned you thought ill of me, with how long it took for you to arrive.”

    Foulques lowered his head slightly. “Forgive me, my king. I have had much to deal with in Anjou. Administering a freshly conquered duchy takes more than I had expected.”

    “I can sympathize,” Philippe said. “I have found the management of the kingdom no simple task.”

    You manage a smaller demesne than I do in Anjou, Foulques thought.

    “My lords,” Philippe said. “They are an independent bunch. All with their own interests and opinions. One even fancies himself a king!”

    Philippe showed Foulques to a large room. Judging by the large map across a table, it was a strategy room. The king poured himself out a drink, and did the same for Foulques.

    “A gift from that so-called king,” Philippe said. “Ale. He says it is all those Saxons ever drink.”

    Foulques took the cup and looked the liquid over. “I should hope you have had a taster sample this, my lord. I would not trust the Bastard.”

    “I appreciate your concern,” Philippe said. “I am young. But I am not stupid.”

    The king raised his glass to Foulques, who responded in kind and took a drink.

    “Yes, my taster only grew mildly ill,” Philippe said. “He did not die.”

    Foulques’ stomach sank as a chill ran down his spine. The teenage king laughed.

    “I jest, I jest!” Philippe said. “I assure you, it is perfectly fine.”

    Foulques raised an eyebrow as his breathing slowly returned to normal.

    “In truth,” Philippe said. “I am pleased you have come at this time. My uncle speaks highly of you, as does Duke Guilhem. As you might know, having them agree on anything is quite rare.”

    Foulques had to smile at that. “Too well, my king.”

    “They speak to your talent on the field of the battle,” Philippe said. “That you are an able leader of men and have a fine grasp of strategy.”

    “I know not if that is true, my king,” Foulques said. “I merely did what I had to.”

    “Modesty does not become you Duke Foulques,” Philippe said. “There is no need to be false with me. A good commander must believe himself equal to no man on the battlefield. Do you think Duke William of Normandy thinks any man can best him?”

    “No,” Foulques said.

    “Tell me, do you think you can best him?” Philippe asked.

    “I… I do not know my king,” Foulques said. “But I would be honored to have the opportunity to test myself against him.”

    Philippe smiled and raised his cup toward Foulques. “Now there is the truth of it. Most men say they wish they could face William. But few truly believe it. You, Foulques, you, I believe truly does wish to test yourself against him. Whether it is because you want glory, or simply Maine, I am not sure. But it does not matter, does it?”

    Foulques did not respond. Either his stepfather or Duke Guilhem must have mentioned his desire to reclaim the county to the king. Possibly both. What else had they told him?

    “I must… commend you on convincing your uncle to serve you,” Foulques said. “I was surprised when I learned of it. I thought he believed himself to be the proper king.”

    “He still does,” Philippe said. “But my uncle is old. And most in the realm do not trust him. In truth, Robert has a claim. But that is all he has.”

    Foulques smirked at that. He wondered what Robert would say to such things. Probably a profanity-laced tirade and liberal use of the word “boy”. But would he do much beyond that? Foulques was not sure. With Geoffrey gone, Robert, for all his bluster, might now have become the weakest Duke in the realm, at least when it came to the number of men he could raise.

    “And Duke Guilhem?” Foulques asked.

    Philippe laughed. “The Duke is a wise man. Why else would I have entrusted him to lead my armies? I am eagerly watching to see how this Count Hugues matches wits with he. I hear they trade victories as they lay siege to each other’s keeps. Speaking of which… I am surprised you are not there alongside your wife’s brother.”

    “My levies require time to recover,” Foulques said. “I will join him in time. ”

    “For selfish reasons, I am happy to hear you say such things,” the young king said. “I have a request to make of you, Duke Foulques.”

    “What do you need of me, my king?” Foulques asked.

    “I plan a war,” Philippe said. “I need commanders to lead that war.”

    Foulques eyebrows rose. “You seek to reclaim Normandy?”

    Philippe shook his head. “William is a tempting target. His Saxons chafe under his rule. But, no, I look to the south.”

    His fingers scanned the map, stopping on the island Mallorca.

    “The Muslims here are weak. We could seize the island, and it could be a launching point by which we move into Iberia, or Africa,” Philippe said. “And, unlike with William, I will not draw the attention of the Pope.”

    Foulques did his best to withhold a sigh. He wanted a chance to clash with William. He thought for sure that’s what Philippe was building toward. Instead, a war in the Mediterranean? Where was the glory in that?

    “I see, my king.”

    “Duke Foulques, you have turned me down before because you led your men in a war of your own,” Philippe said. “I understood. But now, you sit in your keep. Come with me to the south. Together, we’ll lead our knights to glory in a holy war for the cross.”

    Foulques ran his hands through his hair. This is not what he wanted. He desired to prepare for a war with Vendome. He also did not wish to leave Beatritz, as he knew his time to produce a son with her was running short.

    But could he really refuse the king again? He had a viable excuse last time. He also was turning down a boy that technically was not fully king yet. Now, despite him being not much older, he was the King of the Franks. And he was also standing before him.

    “I… am honored my lord,” Foulques said. “But I cannot.”

    Philippe’s smile melted away. “You… cannot?”

    “I plan a war myself, my king,” Foulques said. “And I would trust no one but myself to execute it.”

    “You would refuse your king’s call?” Philippe said. “Remember the pledge which you just gave.”

    “I remember it, my king,” Foulques said. “I will provide you with the levy that I am bound to. Perhaps a few more knights as well for how you have treated me. But I cannot join them, or you, at this time.”

    “Being named a commander is a tremendous honor,” Philippe said. “I thought you a man seeking glory. Perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps we all were.”

    “I understand your anger, my king,” Foulques said. “But--”

    “I am not angry, Duke Foulques,” Philippe said. “I am disappointed.”

    The young king looked down at the map before him, then lifted his head. “But I am no tyrant. I will not force you to join me. If you wish to battle children instead of dangerous heathens, that is your choice.”

    The dig stung. But what could Foulques really say in response?

    “Thank you for your understanding, my king,” was all he could muster.

    “Well then, Duke Foulques,” Philippe started, “I believe there are a few other matters that require my attention. I have to plan a war, and my Marshal has not yet arrived back from Aquitaine. I hope to have some ideas for him to see when he does. I had hoped to have your feedback, but, I can see it is not your concern.”

    Foulques did not need to be told anymore. He got the hint.

    “I pray for your success in this endeavor, my king,” Foulques said.

    “And I pray for you, Duke Foulques,” Philippe said.

    Foulques turned to leave.

    “One more thing!” Philippe said. Foulques stopped. “Before I depart for the south, I plan to recognize the Duchy of Orleans. Are you aware the county of Vendome is considered, by some, to be part of that domain?”

    Foulques felt a chill run down his spine.

    “I was not,” Foulques said. “Do you declare intentions, my king?”

    Philippe shrugged, but maintained a sly grin. “I have other intentions, as I have told you. But I cannot speak to what intentions in the future will bring.”

    Arrogant little welp, Foulques thought.

    “We shall see then, my king,” Foulques said. “I shall take my leave if there is nothing more.”

    Philippe waved him out, leaving Foulques to wander the halls of the palace in a slight daze. The king seemed as knowledgeable as Duke Robert had said. There was potential in the young man - and being an enemy of a king, even a weak one, was not something Foulques desired.

    But, the fact remained, he still was not strong. His demesne was little more than the Ile de France and Orleans. He relied on Duke Guilhem to keep his vassals at bay… and Foulques still maintained his alliance with Duke Guilhem and Robert...

    “Gather the men,” Foulques told Renaud as he found him in the keep.

    “My lord… we do not stay, at least the night?” Renaud asked.

    “Nay, instead we will make quickly to Paris,” Foulques said. “There will be more for us in the city than there would be in this keep. We shall have an enjoyable night, then make for Anjou in the morn.”

    Renaud nodded. “I will gather the men at once.”

    Foulques sighed as he watched his man head off. He remembered Armauy’s words from the year before. Philippe did not make such offers out of charity. Nor did he make threats lightly. He wanted Fouqlues to serve him. That would not change.

    But there would be backlash - even if Philippe himself was limited in what he could do.

    The path remained clear. Foulques needed to continue to strengthen himself, anyway he could, as quickly as possible.

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    Chapter 14 - May 1069
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 14

    May 1069 - Anjou, France

    As the keep in Angers came into view, Foulques looked back proudly at his haul – three dead boars.

    This should suit nicely, the duke thought.

    The hunt was not something he had planned to do. In fact, it had only come about as a result of a series of events, which left Foulques frustrated and in need to prove his worth.

    It all had begun in February, when Guillaume had finally managed to secure the claim on Vendome. Though he did believe the levy had not yet recovered enough to attack, to celebrate, Foulques spent the night drinking with his council, during which feats of strength came up. The Baron de Cholet had mentioned in passing that Bishop Ebbon was one of the strongest men he’d ever met, to which the duke disagreed. Foulques was willing to wrestle the bishop then and there but instead, Ebbon suggested a spear-throwing contest.

    Foulques acquiesced and organized the event. Men across the duchy took part and, much to the duke’s dismay, he did finish second behind the bishop.

    Angry over the result, it took the combined efforts of the Baron de Cholet and Mayor Renaud to stop Foulques from both firing the bishop from the council and from issuing his demand to Count Bouchard to relinquish Vendome immediately.

    Instead, the pair convinced Foulques there were other ways to display his strength - the best of which was organizing a hunt and going after wild boar. It was a dangerous beast, which made it all the more appealing to the duke.

    So in the spring, Foulques had led a hunting party out. In the main party consisted of Baron de Cholet, Mayor Renaud, Bishop Ebbon and commanders Leon and Amaury. The group had successfully killed three boars, with the Duke delivering the coup de grace on two of them. Cholet had finished off the third – an honor he had earned with a desperate but effective attack.

    Foulques and his party were chasing the boar down, and they thought it near weak enough to finish. However, the Duke slipped and fell and the boar had charged at him. The Baron had hurled his spear at the beast, and struck it. The Duke was able to scramble to safety as a result.

    “They will be most impressed with your exploits, my lord,” the Baron said to Foulques.

    “And I shall make sure they hear of yours,” Foulques said. “Your quick thinking may have saved my life.”

    “I would have done the same for any man,” Cholet said.

    “The duchess shall be very grateful,” Renaud said. “You will have delivered her husband safely back to her, and provided her with her favorite meal.”

    Foulques smirked. Beatritz would be pleased. While she had not been pleased to learn Foulques was going on the hunt, she admitted she had dreamed of feasting on boar a great deal lately. He hoped it was a sign she was with child, but he tried to put such thoughts far from his mind. The previous times he had raised his hopes he had them dashed each time.

    Upon arriving at the keep, the three dismounted and gave their steeds to the stable hands They did not get far before they were greeted by the steward, Mayor Guilhem, alongside a man Foulques did not recognize.

    “My lord,” the steward said, “An emissary from Duke Robert.”

    “This concerns?” Foulques said.

    “Your mother, my Lord,” The emissary said.

    Foulques looked toward Baron Cholet, Renaud and Amaury. There was no assurances from the men. Such messages were rarely good.

    The duke looked over the words, which quickly hit as hard as any blow he’d been struck by in training.

    “What does it say my lord.”

    “My mother is dead.”

    “I… I am sorry,” Renaud said.

    “The poor woman,” Cholet said. Amaury nodded.

    “There’s more,” Foulques said. “Robert has decided our alliance is over.”

    “Surely it can be repaired?” Amaury asked.

    Foulques turned back to the emissary. “See what the good duke would like to renew our friendship. I’m sure we can happily find some common ground, as we have in the past.”

    The emissary nodded.

    “I shall have my steward, Mayor Guilhem, draw up the letter,” Foulques said. “If you will stay the night, you will have it in the morn.”

    “Of course my lord,” the emissary said.

    Foulques directed the steward to find lodging for the emissary and to draft the letter. Then the duke slowly trudged to his quarters.

    He had not spoken with his mother since the day of his sister’s wedding to the Count of Bourges with the last thing he said to her his promise to abide by her warning.

    But despite not seeing him, Foulques knew she had been working for his benefit – he doubted the selfish Robert would have ever agreed to an alliance if not for Ermengarde’s assistance. And he doubted Robert would renew the alliance now that she was gone – though Foulques had to try.

    He arrived at his quarters and fell onto a chair, still in thought. He wondered if his sister Hildegarde had been informed. The Duke grimaced. Just before departing on his hunt, he learned his sister was with child. At the time it just added to his own frustration. Now? He wondered if his mother had ever learned of the news that would surely have filled with joy – and was then saddened that she never saw any of her children produce a boy.

    As for his brother… would he want to know? Foulques never did learn if Geoffrey had blamed their mother for Robert interfering in the conflict, but he couldn’t have taken it well given everything that had happened.

    Foulques glanced up as he heard footsteps. A young servant carrying two goblets of wine approached alongside Beatritz, who was beaming.

    “Husband, I am happy you have returned safely,” Beatritz said. “I hear it was a successful hunt! My ladies say they spotted you had three boars when you arrived! Truly joyous news. They will be perfect for our celebrations when I tell you my news.”

    Foulques didn’t respond and Beatritz’s smile disappeared.

    “Leave us Alearde,” she commanded. Alearde bowed before the duke and then swiftly exited the room. “What is the matter husband? You normally are quite pleased when you return from a hunt.”

    “My mother is dead,” Foulques said. “An emissary from Robert told me when I arrived.”

    “Oh my word,” Beatritz said. “What happened?”

    “She had been ill… apparently,” Foulques said as he looked over the letter again. “She had been confined to her bed recently, barely able to lift her own head. And now she is gone.”

    Beatritz bowed her head. “She is with God now. She no doubt has a place by his side in heaven.”

    Foulques was not sure he believed all of that. But it was at least mildly comforting.

    “You said you have news?” Foulques said. “Are you finally with child?”

    The smile returned to Beatritz’s face before she nodded emphatically.

    “Truly?” Foulques asked. “Are you certain?”

    The duchess nodded again and before gently patting the small swell of her belly. Foulques followed suit – whereas before it had been somewhat soft, he felt a definite hardness there. He let loose a small chuckle.

    “Perhaps my mother found it fitting to send me one gift before she passed,” Foulques said. “Or perhaps when she met God, she begged this of him. She did want her sons to have sons of their own.”

    “Of that, I have no doubt my lord,” Beatritz said.

    “Then we shall not waste this gift,” Foulques said. “I want you well-rested. You are not to be strained. If you have need of something, then you need but ask. Food, drink, blankets… whatever you desire, my wife.”

    Beatritz bowed. “You are a most charitable man, my lord.”

    “And you a dutiful wife,” Foulques said as he kissed her forehead. He picked up the goblets, handing one to his wife. “To my mother! May she watch over us, and our child, from heaven!”

    Foulques cracked a smile as the sweet liquid hit his tongue. Fortune was with him now, he was sure of it. While he did not wish to lose his mother, nor the alliance with Robert, if he had to trade it for a son, he would gladly do so. And surely, that was God’s plan. Foulques knew he was walking a fine line with Beatritz age, but it looked like his gambit had now paid off in full.

    He swallowed his drink.

    If Beatritz delivered a boy.


    That night Foulques expected to dream of happy things. It began well enough, with him laying with his wife, though as he was with her, her belly grew. For some reason, the physician Adalmode was present, where she told him that it was surely a boy, based on the shape of her belly.

    Only when Foulques looked back, Beatritz was not there - his sister Hildegarde was. She admonished him for leaving her to go fight in war, for ignoring their mother’s words, and placing their child at risk for his own selfish gain, as he had with Geoffrey.

    He wanted to argue, to validate himself to them all. He sought his mother, but she laid in a bed, weak, ill but just strong enough to raise her hand and plead for him to not forsake his family for his ambition. All the while King Philippe laughed behind him at his folly.

    Foulques was powerless to shield himself from the teenager’s derision, but a more pressing concern was when he looked back to his mother, it was again Hildegarde. He held her hand as the strength left her, and she fell away…


    The duke awoke in a cold sweat. He did not see his sister. He was alone in his chambers.

    His breathing slowly returned to normal. A nightmare, nothing more.

    There was no Philippe, nor was Adalmode present. Hildegarde was in Bourges. And his mother…

    Foulques sank his face into his palm.

    His mother had left him for good.
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    Chapter 15 - September 1069
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 15

    September 1069, Anjou, France

    Foulques sized up his opponent carefully.

    Armed with sword and shield and dressed in mail, Foulques circled him, believing him to be on the defensive. He wanted the duke to attack.

    He may wish for it, but I shall make him regret it has come true.

    Foulques attacked. His sword struck his opponent’s wooden shield with a thud. The man slid out from under the blow and slashed. Expecting that, Foulques was able to evade the blow without blocking it. Instead he maneuvered around his opponent, and slammed him across the side of the head with his shield, sending the man’s helmet flying off.

    With his opponent, crumbled to the ground, on all fours, Foulques brought his sword to the man’s neck.

    “This round to me, Renaud,” Foulques said.

    The duke raised his dull blade and allowed the mayor of Saumur to roll onto his rear. Renaud checked his head, but found no blood. He blinked quite a bit, however, seemingly dazed from the blow to the head.

    “Did I hurt you?” Foulques asked as he offered a hand to Renaud. The mayor took it and pulled himself up.

    “It stung,” Renaud said. “But I will be fine, both in body and pride. I thought I had you for sure, my lord.”

    “You were close,” Foulques said. “On another day, perhaps.”

    It had been another successful day of training for Foulques. He aimed to keep himself sharp for when he made his move against Vendome. It was no certainty there would be a war - Bouchaud might surrender without a fight. After all, the boy had no allies. Philippe would not interfere - he was off in Mallorca. All that would happen is the boy count would end up in Foulques’ prison.

    But the duke was treating the situation as if the revocation of Vendome would result in a fight. Better to be safe than sorry.

    As Foulques and Renaud made their way back to the keep, they thought they heard a strange sound. Investigating, they found Lithuaise de Normandie by the kitchen, sobbing into her hands.

    Normally, Foulques would have let her be. But Lithuaise was the woman he went to most frequently for updates on Beatritz’s condition, since as one of her ladies, she spent a great deal of time with her. He had to be certain nothing was wrong with his wife or the child.

    “What is the matter?” Foulques asked her.

    “Oh!” Lithuaise said as she quickly dried her eyes. “It is nothing my lord.”

    “Do not be false with your lord,” Renaud said.

    Lithuaise nodded. “The duchess is angry with me, my lord. That is all.”

    “Why is she angry?” Foulques asked.

    “I do not know,” Lithuaise said. “I wish to please her, but… no, I am sorry my lord. I will do better. It is not the duchess, it is my fault.”

    Lithuaise quickly tried to hurry off. But Foulques stopped her.

    “Lithuaise,” he said. “I will talk to her.”

    “Please do not, my lord,” Lithuaise said. “That will only anger her further. And she should not be upset in her state. I will manage.”

    As Lithuaise walked off, Renaud turned to the duke. “Something odd there, for sure.”

    Foulques shook his head. “Nothing odd. She believes Lithuaise my lover.”

    Renaud’s eyebrows rose. “Is it the truth?”

    “It is not,” Foulques said. “But I have not shared a bed with Beatritz since she told me she was with child. It is a sin to do so.”

    “Forgive my surprise my lord,” Renaud said. “You usually are not the most pious man.”

    The comment was met with a sly smile. “I confess, I am not. I have been tempted, but as she grows more delicate, especially given her age, I do not wish to risk her health or the child.”

    “A sound decision, my lord,” Renaud said.

    “I believe the duchess disagrees,” Foulques said. “And she suspects it is an excuse for me to bed others. And she has always suspected Lithuaise.”

    “I see,” Renaud said. “A difficult situation.”

    “Needless aggravation,” Foulques said. “But what am I to do? As her belly grows so too does the duchess grow more paranoid. And the physician, Adalmode, says it is common for women as far along as the duchess is to be ill-tempered.”

    The two continued on toward the keep’s main hall but were stopped by the Baron de Cholet.

    “By your smile,” Foulques began, “I assume you have good news for me.”

    “Aye,” the baron said. “By my count, we now have a levy of nearly 2,500 men. I believe we now have enough men to maintain a siege on Vendome should the boy resist your revocation.”


    “I can have the men at the ready within the week. We can march on the keep at Lavardin and demand the boy’s surrender,” the baron said. “If all goes well, you will have Vendome by the end of the month.”

    “We shall see,” Foulques said. “I will look over the plans we have drawn up and see if it is enough if the boy does not surrender.”

    “If I might have a moment of your time in private my lord,” the baron said. “For another matter.”

    Foulques agreed and told Renaud he would meet with him later. Then the duke and the baron walked to Foulques strategy room.

    “What is this matter? Foulques asked.

    “May I speak freely, my lord?” the baron asked. Foulques nodded. “I am concerned about you.”

    “Concerned about me?”

    “In my years of knowing you, even when we were both on your brother’s council, I have always seen you as a true knight,” the baron said. “You would throw yourself into all you do, unwavering, unflinching.”

    Foulques could see where this is going. “In truth, I did waver. But I did not show it.”

    “Aye,” the baron said. “And now you do.”

    “You think me craven?” Foulques asked.

    “No,” the baron said. “I know something restrains you. I am not sure what, but I know you have dealt with much of late. And I know you worry something will befall the duchess.”

    “And you seek to tell me there is nothing to fear?”

    “I am no soothsayer,” the baron said. “I have been fortunate to have two children with my wife - my daughter just a month ago. I will not tell you I had no concern. But I placed my trust God would deliver them safely. It was all I could do.”

    “You hid your concern well,” Foulques said.

    “I could not shirk in my duty to you, my lord,” the baron said. “As I will not now as I remind you of how much you have desired to take Vendome. You called in favors to gain the right to revoke the territory. You delayed aiding Duke Guilhem and risked your alliance to be ready to strike when the opportunity arose.”

    “Perhaps I seek to make sure nothing can go wrong,” Foulques said.

    “A wise course, in moderation,” the baron said. “But we are men of war, my lord. We know it is impossible to completely secure any goal by just preparation. Even if you assembled an army which no man could defeat, you could fall while mounting your horse and crack your skull open. Nothing is certain.”

    Foulques chuckled.

    “You remember I had reservations about this action,” the baron said. “But as your marshal, I set aside those reservations to aid in your plans coming to pass. Your plan is ready. You need not wait any longer. There will be no better time to strike. And, if the boy surrenders quickly, you may take your forces south and deliver the coup de grace on Count Hugues, earning some favor with Duke Guilhem as well.”

    It was not a bad plan. The course of the war in the south had swung heavily in Guilhem’s favor, to the point where Foulques’ levy could win a fight with the rebels.

    “You state your case well, my friend,” Foulques said. “Ready the men. We will make for Vendome once your preparations are complete.”

    The baron bowed. “Thank you my lord. It shall be done soon.”

    With that decided, Foulques knew he had to deliver instructions to those who would remain behind. While he hoped this would be quick, he had to prepare as if he would be gone for months.

    Which meant there was only one person he had to see first.

    Beatritz was not alone when he came to her chambers. Her ladies, with the exception of Lithuaise, were present, doing various tasks while the duchess knitted a blanket.

    “Leave us,” Foulques ordered. The ladies gave a look to Beatritz, who motioned for them to depart.

    “Is something the matter, husband?”

    “I have decided to move against Vendome,” Foulques said. “We will leave as soon as the Baron de Cholet has prepared the men.”

    “I pray it will not be long,” Beatritz said as she gently patted her belly. “I wish for you to be in Anjou when the child is born.”

    Foulques sighed. “If it goes well, I will likely turn my attention south, to aid your brother.”

    Beatritz’s eyes drifted away from him before she turned her gaze elsewhere. “I understand, husband.”

    “While I am gone,” Foulques began. “I wish for you to rest. The steward is capable. He can handle the administration of tasks here.”

    Beatritz’s head shot back up and toward him. “You… mean to let him run Anjou? Did I not do a capable job of ruling Tours in your stead while you fought Geoffrey?”

    “You did,” Foulques said. “But I do not wish to endanger you or the child.”

    The duchess furrowed her brow and pushed herself from her chair - or at least she tried. It was an awkward process as she hefted herself up the best she could with a fairly large belly weighing on her, as she twisted and contorted herself into an upright position. Foulques did all he could not to grin.

    But Beatritz was in no joking mood as got close enough where on her tiptoes, her nose almost touched his.

    “Ever since I have told you of this child, you have treated me as a prisoner,” Beatritz said. “You have confined me to my chambers. I have barely seen the sun in months!”

    “Do you not have all you need?” Foulques asked. “Food, drink?”

    “There is more to life than food or drink,” Beatritz said. She ran her hand on his cheek. “I have other needs, and desires. As you do, though I’m sure those have been taking care of.”

    “I have told you,” Foulques said. “There is nothing between Lithuaise and myself. As for your desires, you know it is sinful for to share a bed while you are pregnant.”

    Beatritz rolled her eyes. “It is also sinful to be a glutton, which you have called me before. It is also sinful to be slothful, which others have called me. And husband, I have never known you to follow the will of the church to the letter. You often take liberties with the teachings.”

    “This is different,” Foulques said.

    “Because you fear punishment from God,” Beatritz said.

    “And you do not?” he asked.

    “I do not pretend to know His will,” she said. “I just know I am lonely. I have not felt your touch in months. I only speak with my ladies and Adalmode when she checks in on me. I trade letters with your sister, and even she has more freedom in Bourges than I do, though she is further along!”

    Foulques could see tears welling up in her eyes. While he didn’t wish for anything to happen to Beatritz or the child, he did not wish her to be miserable either. In truth, he had also suppressed his desires, both with Beatritz and with Lithuaise. The duchess was not wrong that he looked at her, but he had not touched her, though he wondered if that might still be more for fear of incurring the wrath of God than anything having to do with his vows.

    Still, he could not risk giving into temptation, even with Beatritz, now. Too much was at stake - the revocation of Vendome. The child. Even the fate of a march south to aid Guilhem.

    However, he could still throw her something - he did not forget his mother's warning to make sure to keep his wife relatively happy.

    “I cannot solve that problem,” Foulques said. “However, I see it is foolish for me to not allow you any say in the duchy while I am gone. I would like you keep the steward close, so that you do not take on too much. Should you feel anything odd, you are to stop and go see Adalmode. Is that understood?”

    “Of course husband,” Beatritz said as she wiped her face. “Thanks you.”

    They embraced as he kissed her forehead, before giving one final pat to her belly.

    When I return, hopefully you have given me a healthy son, he thought as he left her chambers.

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    Chapter 16 - November 1069
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 16

    November 1069 - Vendome, France

    “I do not understand what the fools hope for,” Amaury said as he and Duke Foulques stood on a hill, overlooking the walls of Vendome.

    “That we waste ourselves against or outside their walls,” Foulques said. “And that if we become too weak to lay siege to the keep, Duke Guilhem’s internal revolt keeps him from aiding us.”

    Amaury stroked his beard. “That is… a great deal to ask. Almost praying for a miracle.”

    “I wonder if the boy made the decision,” Foulques said. “Or if it was his handlers. If it was the boy, I can understand. He believes it his county, and he knows not what he brings upon himself. If it was made by his handlers… they fools, deserving of condemnation.”

    “You remember the letter he sent?” Amaury asked. “It was surely written by a child.”

    “Yes, but he may not understand what he does,” Foulques said. “No matter. His fate is decided.”

    “It will take some time before the keep falls,” Amaury said. “But you and I understand sieges better than most my Lord. We will triumph here within a few months, I believe.”

    Foulques nodded. The quicker the better. He still had lingering concerns about Beatritz – he imagined she must be great with child by now. But he knew his duty was here, with his men, going about their bloody business.

    There was also the matter of the revolt in Aquitaine. Foulques hoped the rebels lasted long enough for him to finish aid Duke Guilhem in finishing them off, but the longer this siege lasted, the less likely that became.

    The Duke’s thoughts were interrupted when a hooded man ran up toward them. As he neared, the firey, red beard identified him as Louis. He approached and took a knee to the Duke.

    “I am sorry my Lord,” Louis said. “But I bring ill-news.”

    Foulques heart skipped a beat. “Is this about the duchess? Out with it!”

    “Nay my lord,” Louis said. “She remains well, and well attended to by Adalmode, and her ladies.”

    “Then what is it?” Foulques asked.

    “It regards your sister, Hildegarde, Countess of Bourges,” Louis said. He handed the duke a letter.

    Foulques looked over the letter. The words soon lost meaning as his eyes moved up and down the parchment.

    “What of this?” Amaury asked.

    “My sister is dead,” Foulques said. “Died birthing a child. A boy.”

    “My… lord,” Amaury said.

    Foulques returned to silence as he processed it. His sister dead? Just months after his mother? Impossible.

    “Was there any problems before the birth?” Amaury asked Louis. “Answer!”

    “No… it did not appear so,” Louis said. “But I only learned of this from an emissary from Bourges. I know the labor was difficult and there were problems… but what those problems were, I cannot say. I ask for forgiveness for that, my lord.”

    “What of the duchess?” Amaury asked. “Does she know of this?”

    “No,” Louis said. “The duchess was resting when the messenger from Bourges arrived. The steward took the message and insisted we keep it quiet. He did not wish to stress the duchess with such news given her day no doubt comes soon.”

    “As I hoped,” Amaury said. “A wise decision.”

    “Leave us,” Foulques said. “Return to the camp. I will have instructions for you before you depart.”

    Louis bowed his head and then quickly scurried away. Amaury placed his hand on his Duke’s shoulder.

    “My lord,” he said. “I am sorry for such ill-news. Your sister was a beautiful woman. I pray for her soul, though I needn’t – I am certain she is with your mother now alongside the Lord.”

    My sister was a slothful, glutton who stuffed her mouth full of food and drink whenever they were presented, Foulques thought to himself. But he knew Amaury had always fancied her when the men were teens, and still commentated at how beautiful she was when she visited Anjou just a year before, despite how fat Foulques thought she had grown over the years. He even commented to himself how she was the only person there who might eat more than the duchess on the night of Hildegarde's wedding...

    “She reminds me of Beatritz,” Foulques blurted out.

    “Your sister?” Amaury asked.

    “Yes, who else would I speak of?” Foulques demanded.

    “Of course,” Armaury said. “Forgive me, my lord.”

    Foulques closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. “Nay, it is me who should apologize my friend. I am of ill-temper.”

    “With good reason my lord,” Armaury said.

    “At the wedding,” Foulques said. “I thought ill of her. She was angry with how I treated Geoffrey when she came to Anjou. At the wedding I barely said more than a few words to her. I snickered to myself at how fat she had become. And those are my last thoughts of her!”

    The duke crouched, head in hands.

    Amaury lowered his head. “You did not mean your ill-will my lord. Arguments between siblings happen.”

    Foulques picked his head up before standing again. “I must return to Anjou.”

    “Return to Anjou? But your troops need you here!”

    “I shall return when the child is born,” Fouqlues said. “It should not be long.”

    “My lord…”

    “My mother’s passing,” Foulques said. “I held reservations about moving forward with this until the child was born because I wondered if perhaps it was a sign from God. Now I receive word my sister, who reminds me so much of the duchess, has died birthing a son, so close to when my wife is due to? Surely you cannot ignore such tidings!”

    “May I speak freely, my lord?” Amaury asked. Foulques nodded. “A woman’s work is to bear children. There is risk in it. Just as there is risk when we take to battle. Your sister… sadly fell doing her duty. It does not mean the duchess will suffer the same fate. She will do your duty the best she can, as your sister... has. And you must, here.”

    “Duty?” Foulques asked. “I sit here, taking a keep from a boy who cannot fight back. I have forsaken my duty to my brother in law, to my liege, in pursuit of my own ambition. I leave my wife alone while she prepares to birth our child. It is exactly what my mother warned me against.”

    “You are a skilled warrior, my lord,” Amaury said. “Where you excel is leading men, crushing the enemy, destroying his walls and routing him on the battlefield. It is your place. Surely your mother, if she would here now, would agree!"

    “I cannot abide by such talk now,” Foulques said. “It was not your mother. It was not your sister. It is not your wife and child who may draw the Lord’s wrath for disobedience.”

    "My lord, you are not a man of the church.," Amaury said. "I would caution you not to interpret such things – even those of whom it is supposedly their life’s work struggle to make sense of such signs.”

    "You will not convince me," Foulques said. "I am not needed to watch the boy's garrison starve. I am needed in Anjou."

    “What shall I tell the men?” Amaury asked with a sigh.

    “I needed to return to Anjou for a short time,” Foulques said. “I hope to return by the new year. And you have my full trust to operate as you see fit – as you always have.”

    “And if the boy sallies forth?”

    “Crush him,” Foulques said. “You are more than capable Amaury.”

    Amaury gave a slight shake of the head. But if was momentary, followed by a proper bow.

    “I shall pray for your safe return,” Amaury said. “And for the health and well-being of the duchess and the child.”

    “Thank you my friend,” Foulques said as he began his walk toward the camp. “I promise, I shall see you soon.”
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    Chapter 17 - December 1069
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 17

    December 1069 - Anjou, France

    Foulques rode with great pace toward his keep in Angers. Flanked by Louis and a few knights, the Duke was remiss to stop anywhere as the fear of arriving home to find his wife or child dead pushed him forward. However, even with their pace, it still took them a full day with a brief stop at the inn for the horses, to complete the journey.

    Finally they returned to the keep, where the courtiers and servants were surprised to see their lord return so soon, and not at the head of the army.

    “Is something wrong?” Mayor Guilhem asked after hurrying down to greet him. “We did not expect to see you back before the siege finished.”

    “How is the duchess?” Foulques demanded.

    “She… it has begun,” the steward said. “It started late in the evening. Adalmode was alerted, and the nun believed the child’s time to have come. There was some skepticism, but by the morning, the pain in the duchess’ belly had grown considerably and arrived with greater frequency.”

    “How is my wife?” Foulques again demanded.

    “She is birthing a child,” the steward said. “She is in distress, but I do not know of any greater difficulties. You must ask your physician for that.”

    Foulques nodded and started toward the duchess’ quarters.

    “Wait my lord, where are you going?”

    “To see the duchess,” Foulques said.

    “To enter a woman’s chamber while she is birthing a child?” the steward asked. “That is not our place. It is woman’s work. The duchess has her ladies, she has Adalmode and even the local midwife from Angers. She is well taken care of.”

    “And I am certain my sister had all the best care a countess could ask for,” Foulques said. “Yet she is dead all the same.”

    The steward raised his hand to object but said nothing. Satisfied, Foulques bounded up to Beatritz’s chambers where he pushed open the wooden door to reveal Beatritz in her bed, with three ladies attending to her and Adalmode overseeing matters.

    The room was light with candles, and many crucifixes were hung around - something that did not surprise the duke given the Adalmode was a nun. There was a large horseshoe shaped chair Foulques had not seen before - while all the cabinets and drawers were open.

    “Husband!” Beatritz exclaimed. Her shock was replaced by a grimace as she clutched her swollen belly and then let loose a shriek.

    “What is happening?” Foulques demanded as he rushed to her side. “Is she in danger?”

    “The duchess is bringing forth life,” Adalmode said. “It is a difficult process. But a natural one.”

    “A natural one which took the life of my sister just weeks back!” Foulques said.

    “Your sister?!” Beatritz exclaimed. “She is dead? I had been told there was no word yet from--”

    The duchess shrieked again and Foulques was pulled aside by Adalmode.

    “We had not told the duchess of your sister’s passing,” Adalmode said. “Your wife is not the bravest of woman. If she heard Lady Hildegarde had passed while birthing a child, I feared it would make things more difficult upon her.”

    “It is not your job to hide things from my wife,” Foulques said. “It is to make sure than she births a healthy child and lives to tell the tale.”

    Adalmode met his glare with one of her own. “Then you would do best to stand aside and let me deliver this child, as I have done countless times before.”

    “How many times?” Foulques demanded.

    “Many times,” Adalmode said. “And I have watched over a hundred more babies delivered.”

    She stormed past the duke and ordered Alearde to grab a wet cloth and apply it to Beatriz forehead. The duchess was in tears.

    “What… what happened to the Countess of Bourges?” Beatritz moaned. “How did she die?”

    “I care not,” Adalmode said. “Because I did not treat her. I treat you, and I shall not let anything happen to you or your child, my lady.”

    Beatritz screamed once more, grabbing her gown around her belly.

    “Is it supposed to hurt this much?” Beatritz asked.

    “It means it is nearly time,” Adalmode said. “You are good hands dear. Remember how they doubted me when I said your time was near yesterday? They guess. I know.”

    The tears continued to stream down Beatritz face, but she nodded. Adalmode turned back toward Foulques.

    “I cannot force you to depart, my lord,” Adalmode said. “But you do nothing but cause commotion in here. If you wish for a healthy wife and child, you should leave this room at once.”

    The duke looked around. The ladies, even Lithuaise seemed at best surprised by his presence. A few looked disgusted and a couple even looked fearful. He thought he may have even heard one whisper it would draw God’s displeasure for him to have violated the room as the duchess birthed the child.

    Head still held high, Foulques walked back to Beatritz and took her hand. “Be strong my wife. I shall not leave the keep until the child is born.”

    “Th—thank you husband,” Beatritz said.

    With that Foulques left the room, the door shut behind him. He could hear another scream from Beatritz, and the muffled orders of Adalmode on how best to relieve the duchess’ discomfort.

    There was nothing he could do. It was not a comfortable feeling, and it was largely unknown to him. Even with the passing of his mother and sister, both had happened before he was aware. He could mourn them, but he could not rewrite the past.

    Here, the duchess was beyond that door. She might be hours away from death… and yet, he could do nothing.

    “My lord,” Mayor Guilhem said. Foulques looked up. When had he arrived beside him? Had he always been there? “Shall I instruct the servants to fetch you a drink? Perhaps you wish to look over a few things, to take your mind off the duchess?”

    “Nay,” Foulques said. “I believe I shall retire to my chambers and await the news. Fetch me as soon as there is word.”

    Foulques turned his back to the steward and walked off, not paying the slightest bit of attention to his surroundings, or the mild panic his sudden reappearance and the sound of his booming voice in the duchess’ chambers had elicited. He cared not anyway.

    The Duke closed the door to his chambers, knelt, and prayed.


    The sound of pounding on his chamber door aroused Foulques from his sleep.

    He had found focusing on anything difficult since retiring to his chambers. And yet he longed for his mind to be taken elsewhere from the keep, the duchess’ labor.

    It did not seem as though he had slept at all. He did not remember any dreams or nightmares. Just that he could swear he could hear the Beatritz’s screams periodically as he sat in silence.

    He had not changed from his traveling attire as he sprang up from his bed and opened the door. There, the young girl Alearde stood before him, her dress stained with reddish liquid. Blood? She lowered her head.

    “I apologize if I have woken you my lord,” she said. “But I bring news of the duchess.”

    Foulques waited for her continue. When she didn’t, he bellowed: “Well?!!”

    Alearde inched back, but recovered her composure quickly.

    “It is a girl, my lord,” she said. “The physician says she has a strong cry.”

    Foulques felt a sense of relief wash over him, before being replaced by another gut-wrenching fear.

    “Is the duchess safe?” he asked. “How is she?”

    “She is tired,” Alearde said. “But she appears in good health.”

    Foulques made the symbol of the cross across his chest before whispering “Thank you.”

    “If there is nothing else you need of me my lord,” Alearde said. “I would like to return to my lady.”

    “I will accompany you,” Foulques said.

    The two hurried back to Beatritz chamber, where they saw the duchess, her eyes bloodshot, her hair a sweaty, tangled mess and her face tired. But in her arms was the child.

    “A daughter?” Foulques asked. “Let me see her.”

    Beatritz nodded and handed the swaddled newborn over. “I know you wished for a son, husband…”

    Foulques did not say anything. He simply stared at the small thing, pink, and seemingly so delicate. It seemed one wrong move could break the girl permanently.

    And then she cried.

    A loud wail, relative to her size. Foulques did not think this small child capable of producing such a sound, but it was strong, as promised.

    “She wishes to be fed, no doubt,” Adalmode said.

    Foulques smiled. “She is strong-willed. Takes after her father.”

    He handed the child back to Beatritz, and then kissed his wife on the forehead. The duchess returned the affection with a smile and let loose a sigh as she brought her newborn to her breast.

    "She is so pretty," Beatritz cooed.

    “I… have to attend to matters,” Foulques said. “But I will return to you before I depart for Vendome.”

    “Of course husband,” Beatritz said. As Foulques turned to leave she called out to him. “I am glad you returned. I was frightened when I saw you, but I believe it was for the best.”

    The confirmation felt nice as Foulques wandered the keep. He had wanted, no, expected a boy. Yet he had ended up with a girl, which did not fully solve the issue of the lands passing from his family eventually. It should have disappointed him.

    But the fact that the child was healthy, as was Beatritz, proved far more joyous to him than any disappointment over the child’s sex. He had spent months worrying, fearing the worst. And instead it had turned out well.

    It wasn’t perfect. But it didn’t need to be.

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    Chapter 18 - July 1070
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 18

    July 1070 - Anjou, France

    Foulques d’Anjou sat perched in his ducal chair in Anjou.

    The court remained on each side of the hall with some knights interspersed, while a pair of men dragged a small boy forward. Though he was not in irons, he was just as unable to resist, as he would stand no chance against two full-grown men.

    Upon reaching the chair, one of the men forced the boy to his knees.

    “Count Bouchard,” the man said.

    Foulques stood up and approached the boy. He could see dried tears on his face. It wasn’t a huge surprise - the boy was a mere five years old.

    “Do you understand you have defied your lord?” Foulques asked.

    The boy didn’t seem to fully comprehend the question. Instead the tears began to flow again.

    Foulques sighed. Perhaps it was because he had just become a father, but this did not feel good.

    “Take the boy away,” Foulques said. “I will decide his fate later.”

    The knights grabbed hold of the Bouchard and led him away, his wimpering echoing in the relatively silent hall.

    Letting loose another sigh, Foulques dismissed his knights and ordered his council to follow him his strategy room.

    After the birth of his daughter, who had now been named Agnes, Foulques had returned to his army - he was gone less than a week. The siege of the keep in Vendome continued, with the defenders not confident enough to sally forth. In June, the keep surrendered. Foulques then turned his attention to the town of Lavardin, which fell with ease in just over a month’s time.

    After that the boy’s advisers knew they were beaten. They negotiated the surrender to Foulques, handing the boy over for him to be presented in that show moments before - a show that seemed good when it was proposed, but now felt dirty.

    “That boy knew not what he was doing,” Foulques said as he leaned forward the large table. “I am not sure why ever thought him capable. He is too young.”

    “I agree,” Mayor Guilhem said. “But… the situation is as it stands. We must decide what to do with him.”

    “He is a child,” Foulques said. “He is no threat. A child his age has never hurt anyone.”

    “Agreed,” Adrien the spymaster said. “But he will not be a child forever. And men have long had the ability to hurt. And scheme.”

    Foulques lowered his head. “You mean me to kill him?”

    “Nay, my lord,” Adrien said. “But he should be locked away in your dungeons, where he will be no threat.”

    “That is hardly much better,” Bishop Ebbon chimed in. “To throw him into a cell, he shall see no sun, nor interact. What kind of man would he grow up to be?”

    “It will matter not,” Adrien said. “Because he will never leave your cell.”

    The duke pushed himself off the table and paced around the room.

    “So I may as well deprive him of life,” Foulques said. “Baron de Cholet? Your opinion?”

    “If you release him, he may be grateful,” Cholet said. “But he will never forget you usurped his county. And he will not believe it just.”

    “A show of strength,” Mayor Guilhem started, “may be necessarily as well. Some have whispered of your decision to return during the birth of your daughter, leaving your men behind.”

    “Are those men you?” Foulques asked.

    “I would not,” the steward said. “But it was unusual. And when the unusual occurs, people will talk. That your daughter and the duchess are healthy aids in matters but…”

    “Your point?”

    “Locking the boy away,” the steward began, “Would show your will is not to be defied. But it would also suggest mercy - you could kill the boy, but you do not. A measured show of strength would be wise.”

    Foulques turned to chancellor Guillaume. “Your thoughts?”

    “It may seem cruel, but… your first duty is to yourself and your family, my lord,” Guillaume said. “Eventually Bouchard may strike if let free. Not only against you, but against your daughter as well. I am certain the duchess will not want the boy free.”

    The mere thought of it caused a knot to form in Foulques stomach. He would protect Agnes at all cost. Even if he would hope in a similar situation she would be shown mercy, he knew it would be prudent for anyone in his position not to.

    “Very well,” Foulques said. “The boy will be held in my dungeon in here, away from any possible supporters.”

    “It is the wisest course of action, my lord,” the steward said.

    Foulques rubbed his eyes. “This meeting is adjourned. You may go.”

    The council all departed with the exception of the baron.

    “Do not dwell on such things,” de Cholet said. “We must look forward. You have achieved your goals! The whole of Anjou is under your direct control. With that your levy grows larger. Soon, you may be able to match all but Duke Guilhem.”

    “True enough,” Foulques said. “I shall not waver.”

    “I know that well enough, my lord,” the baron said as he departed.

    Foulques closed his eyes and tried to force the child’s fear and sadness from his memory. If such things were the price of his ambition, it would a price he had to pay.

    Mother and Hildegarde likely frown, he thought.

    He left the strategy room and made his way up to the duchess’ chamber. She had what he wanted in her arms, their daughter Agnes.

    The babe was suckling from her mother’s breast, or had been, as she had drifted off to sleep. Beatritz handed Agnes over to her husband with a smile, though Foulques did not reply with one of his own.

    “You were right not to want to see the boy,” he said.

    “I am thankful you are strong for both of us, husband,” Beatritz said. “You have done what needed to be done then?”

    “He is locked away,” Foulques said. “I did not kill him, but I shall not set him free.”

    Beatritz sighed before dropping her head and whispering a prayer.

    “I have some private matters to discuss with you husband,” she said. “Though it can wait if you wish to hold our daughter longer.”

    Foulques gave the sleeping girl another look over, admiring how she seemed to have inherited his brown-ish red hair, before handing her back to Beatritz. The duchess then gave her to Alearde, who took the child away.

    Beatritz produced a letter. “From my brother. He congratulates you on your victory.”

    Foulques poured two cups of wine. “I can hear his voice now, mocking me as he reads it, for defeating a child in war.”

    Beatritz smirked as she took the cup. “Perhaps. But he may well be happy these days. He has crushed Count Hugues and your poor step-sister’s unlucky fate has solved his other concern.”

    Foulques sipped his wine. The rebellion in Aquitaine had ended a few months before, with Count Hugues now locked away in the duke’s dungeons. Foulques had regrettably not been able to send his troops to the south, in time, though the duke had seemingly understood.

    Perhaps it was because not only had he dealt with the rebellion, but one of his potential threats had been weakened, at least temporarily.

    The alliance between the Duke of Toulouse and Robert in Burgundy was no more. Foulques’ step sister Constance had died - though it had supposedly been an unfortunate matter.

    She had taken ill with fever. While it was rumored to be nothing more than the flu, the court physician believed the solution was relieving the pressure around her face. The procedure had cost Constance her eye, and, perhaps ultimately, her life, though in the end, it mattered not. She was gone, having given the Duke two sons, but no longer provided the alliance Guilhem feared.

    “Is your brother the only matter you wished to discuss?” Foulques asked.

    “No,” Beatritz said. “There is the matter of where to turn your focus next.”

    “I desire Maine,” Foulques said. “But William has held the Saxons in check. There has been no rebellion.”

    “Yes, which is why you must forget about it for now,” Beatritz said. “Instead, look to the west.”

    Foulques’ brow rose. “You mean to suggest I attack the Bretons? They would be a more difficult foe than what I would find here in the realm. Bourges would be a more appealing target. And now that my sister… no longer is the countess, I shall have no hesitation.”

    “That is true, husband,” Beatritz said. “But there is another factor to consider - King Philippe.”

    “What of him?”

    “His war in Mallorca goes well,” Beatritz said. “I have heard some he has already won. If not, he is close.”

    “That is fine for him,” Foulques said. “Let him have his duchy in the sea. It is far enough it does not concern me.”

    Beatritz sighed. “Husband, this is a young king who will have tasted victory in his first war. He will return the toast of the church for vanquishing Muslims. He will have earned the respect of some of his subjects for his victory. He may not be much stronger in men, but in belief he may think himself a giant.”

    “Then he will be in for a rude awakening,” Foulques said.

    The duchess rolled her eyes. “You sound like Robert. And at least he has royal blood in his veins.”

    “What is your point, woman?” Foulques asked.

    “The king will not like another vassal growing strong,” Beatritz said. “Especially one who has defied him in the past. Rest assured, he will favor Etienne retaining his county to you taking it.”

    “I have your brother’s alliance,” Foulques said.

    “Which is useful,” Beatritz said. “But does not completely save you from the king’s ire if you draw it.”

    Foulques sighed. “How does attacking the Bretons stop me from drawing the king’s ire? I would be one of his dukes going to war on a duchy that pays homage to no liege. Would that not insult him?”

    Beatritz shook her head. “He may not like you feeling bold enough to attack. But what king would dislike his vassals expanding the realm? You assume all the risk and the King of the Franks gains another county by which to call his own. And you do desire Nantes, do you not?”

    He did. And Beatritz did make good points. But Foulques had largely been careful to avoid fights with enemies stronger than him. Challenging the Bretons was not the same as challenging William - but it would put him, at best on even ground. With Duke Guilhem he would have an advantage, but that was if the Duke took part. And given Foulques’ actions in the rebellion, that was no guarantee.

    Still, Nantes was appealing. And moving into Brittany would potentially check William, who also had interests in the region. And that latter not only would serve Foulques well, it would also be an incentive for Philippe to approve of the action.

    “Very well,” Foulques said. “I will send Guillaume to Nantes. Hopefully he can secure us reason to take the county.”

    Beatritz smiled and gave her husband a tight embrace. She had been placated by his decision to allow her to run the duchy while he attacked Vendome, and been pleased he had returned home for the birth of Agnes. Those acts had thawed their relationship a bit, and this would obviously help matters along further.

    After all, despite being very happy at having a daughter, Foulques had not entirely given up hope for a son. Beatritz was nearing the end of her childbearing years, but there had been women in the past who had managed to have children past her age.

    Still, some of his advisers had suggested he begin to make plans should it become clear Beatritz did not give him a son. Adrien led that charge, but even Mayor Guilhem and the Baron de Cholet had hinted at needing to entertain the possibility of taking other actions.

    But Foulques did not need to concern himself with that today. Guilty conscience or not, he had all of Anjou. The first stage in his ambition was met. Tonight, he could look at pride at what he had accomplished in his duchy.

    Tomorrow, he would look toward Brittany.
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    Chapter 19 - January 1071
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 19
    January 1071 - Paris, France

    The spread was magnificent.

    There was boar, stag, beef, pork and birds Foulques was not even sure he had ever heard of. Fruits from Italy and Spain. Wine from all over Europe. Ale from England.

    And then there was the entertainment. Men who made mastery of fire, making it dance to their whims and even breathe it from their mouths as if they were part dragon.

    It is good to be king, Foulques thought as he sat in the hall of the palace in the Ile de la Cite.

    The palace sat in the middle of the Seine in Paris and was not the normal residence of the King of the Franks, which was Melun, a little further to the south. But Foulques had heard the teenage king Philippe found its views impressive and wished for it to be where he hosted a grand feast for his vassals, and celebrated his triumph in Mallorca.

    Philippe had emerged victorious in his war, and claimed the former Muslim duchy as his own. It was not the most strategic of victory - Philippe’s levy on the Mediterranean island would need to be transported to influence any war - but it was a victory nonetheless.

    For a teenager who was not long emerged from a regency, and whose father struggled to maintain control over anything but the Ile de France, the symbolism was important.

    Thus, Foulques was not surprised by the effort Philippe had put into this feast. Yet, he remained impressed by just what the king had accomplished - not just in the food, but those who joined him.

    Every duke in France was present, even those who did not serve the king on his council. Foulques spied the Duke of Toulouse, also named Guilhem, and Boudewijn, Duke of Flanders, who, along with the Duke of Aquitaine, stood as the strongest men in the realm. Of course, Robert of Burgundy and Guilhem of Aquitaine were present as was Duke Thibault of Champagne.

    Toulouse was seated near Robert and Foulques wondered if they discussed perhaps another betrothal.

    Toulouse had not remarried since Constance’s death and Robert did have a granddaughter, Helie, though she was no more than 10. However, Toulouse was not an old man and Constance had borne him two sons. So perhaps he could be convinced to wait.

    The same could not be said for Boudewijn. The only man who could rival Guilhem of Aquitaine in the realm, and father in law to William the Conqueror of England, his wife had died a few years before, but the old man had not remarried. Still, he also seemed to be interested in Robert’s attention.

    Perhaps that had something to do with Robert’s new wife. Imagina was a lowborn girl, daughter of a Dutch knight of no reputation. Foulques thought her attractive enough, but Robert could not keep his hands off her.

    Mother would have had to lecture him away from the gallery, Foulques thought. Though, the duke then realized if his mother were alive, there would be no Robert and Imagina.

    Foulques took another drink of his wine. Beatritz was enjoying generous portions, as was her way at feasts, but Foulques felt much more forgiving toward her gluttony these days.

    “You should speak with some the other dukes,” Beatritz said as she licked her fingers. “That is the benefit to feasts as these.”

    “What am I to say?” Foulques asked.

    In truth, he was unsure what to say. His dealings with Guilhem and Robert were over alliances - he had a goal in mind and move toward that end.

    But here? He had no designs for these men and little to offer in terms of marriage alliances.

    “You quickly have risen to one of the realm’s more powerful dukes,” Beatritz said. “They have interest in you even if you have little to say. Your levy speaks well enough.”

    Foulques remained unsure. But Beatritz stood up and kissed him on the cheek.

    “I am going to speak with my sister in law,” she said. “You may sit here by yourself or you may talk to others. I would suggest talking with others.”

    The duke watched his wife walk off and found himself surprised at her confidence. Perhaps it was because she was at a feast where she could blend in, or perhaps it was a new belief brought on by the birth of Agnes. But the duchess seemed more in her element here than he did.

    Taking a large gulp of his wine, Foulques pushed himself up. He scanned the room for someone to speak with and settled on Toulouse.

    He did not wish to have an extended conversation with his brother-in-law yet and all the other dukes were so much older than Foulques. He and Toulouse were close in age - Foulques was just four years older. They both had dealt with Robert, through marriage, and likely could at least commiserate over that.

    He approached the Toulouse as he sat alone, drinking wine from his goblet.

    “Duke Guilhem of Toulouse?” Foulques asked.

    “Ah, Duke Foulques of Anjou,” Toulouse said. “I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

    Foulques could see the man’s face had food dripping from his chin, though his thin moustache limited how much could accumulate in his facial hair. Though he was not fat, Foulques could see that changing in the future, judging by how many bones were left on the plates before him.

    And just to complete the picture, Toulouse let loose a loud belch.

    And they think me boorish, Foulques thought.

    “Have you grown tired of all the old men in our midst?” Toulouse asked. “Everywhere I look I see men with gray hair, or some with no hair at all! Poor Duke Boudewijn. It is good he has Flanders or else I believe he would never find a wife.”

    “I hear you search for a wife too,” Foulques said. “My condolences.”

    Toulouse poured himself another drink. “Sad business that. And gruesome.”

    “I have heard the rumors,” Foulques said. “That he removed her eye.”

    “But part of the horror,” Toulouse said. “She was heavy with our child at the time. Not her time yet, but the fool insisted on his extreme treatment. She died on his table. And then they were forced to cut my son from her womb, in hopes of saving him. Thankfully, he lives, so I merely threw the fool of a doctor into my dungeons.”

    Foulques poured himself a drink. He suddenly found himself grateful for Adalmode.

    “I have heard you have much happier news,” Toulouse said. “Your wife lives, despite giving you a daughter.”

    Foulques chuckled. “Aye. For that I am thankful.”

    “As you should be,” Toulouse said. “But I wonder, have you begun to give thought as to who you shall marry her to?”

    “She has had her first birthday,” Foulques said. “I cannot look that far into the future. Why? Do you propose something?”

    Toulouse shrugged. “My Borel is but months from her age. And my son Guilhem nears his fourth birthday. Certainly not too far apart. As you say, 15 years is a long time, but perhaps it is something we can revisit in the future.”

    Far in the future, Foulques thought. Agnes had just come into his life. He would not plot her exit to this boor so quickly.

    “Yes, in the future,” Foulques said.

    “Guilhem, why do you waste your time with this fool? He has nothing to offer you. And he is in the hold of the Duke of Aquitaine.”

    The two men turned to see Robert standing there, with a large leg of lamb in one hand and a goblet of wine in the other.

    In the past, Foulques would have had to hold his tongue. But his alliance was no more, the old man turned his half-siblings against him and he could not muster an army as strong as the levy of Anjou.

    Instead, Foulques drank his wine and then stared Robert down.

    “Then why does he come to you?” Foulques asked. “You offer him… fewer men than the Count of Bourges. For what, a girl he will have to wait six years for?”

    Robert’s smirk turned to a full on scowl. “Watch your tongue boy.”

    “Or what?” Foulques asked. “You may run to the dutch knight whose child you fondle in front of your nephew, who has done more in three years than you have done in thirty? Perhaps you and your father-in-law can challenge myself and… actually, I believe I can handle you myself.”

    Robert threw aside his food and goblet and stood over Foulques. “Do you wish a fight boy?”

    Foulques stood up, knocking Robert back with his head as he rose to his feet. “I would fight you here. I would fight you on a battlefield with my army. It matters not. Your time is past, old man. Your bluster only it makes it clear for us all to see.”

    “My good men! This is not the time or place for such things!”

    Foulques looked over to see the tall, lanky and bearded King Philippe by their side.

    “My apologies, my king,” Foulques said.

    Robert smirked. “Yes, pity your mother is not around to protect you in, boy.”

    Foulques glared at the duke, and had half a mind to strike him then and there.

    “From where I stand, you need Ermengarde’s guiding hand more than her son does, uncle,” Philippe said. “You would be wise to remember as my chancellor, you represent the king at all times. Do you think your king appreciates you antagonizing one of his loyal vassals?”

    Toulouse smirked, though he quickly brought the goblet of wine to his lips to hide it. Foulques did no such thing, letting the the Duke of Burgundy see the pleasure in his reprimand. Finally, Robert lowered his head and skulked off.

    “Thank you my king,” Foulques said. “You saved us from some unpleasantness.”

    “I do not thank you,” Toulouse said. “I looked forward to seeing the old fool whipped. Someone needs to do it.”

    “I cannot have my younger dukes whipping my older ones,” Philippe said. “They outnumber us by a healthy margin. We would have quite the rebellion on our hands.”

    “Let them try,” Toulouse said. He let out another loud belch. “I doubt Robert or Boudwijn could stay on their horse long enough to win a battle, let alone a war.”

    Philippe shook his head. “Let me know when your older vassals come and challenge you. I shall like to watch.”

    “I will send you an invitation, my king!” Toulouse said.

    “If you will excuse me my friend,” Philippe said. “I would have to pull Duke Foulques away. I hope I am not interrupting anything.”

    “Nothing Robert had not already ruined,” Toulouse said. He raised his goblet. “Duke Foulques, we must talk again one day soon! I think we have much in common.”

    Foulques raised his glass to the duke before leaving with Phillipe. They wandered away from the hall, through the hallways of the palace.

    “Guilhem of Toulouse,” Philippe said. “Such a confident fool.”

    “He has been a problem for you?” Foulques said.

    “Independent,” Philippe said. “Thankfully, he is not ambitious. It makes him more of an annoyance than a problem. But I will find a place for him. He is important, as are you - the kingdom must look forward.”


    “Look at that hall,” Philippe said. “Men nearing or past 50. Robert is over 60! They are my father’s men… No, they were not even that. They were petty kings who my father did little to corral. I tire of them already, and I have not been long back in the realm.”

    “Robert can grate on even the most patient man’s nerves,” Foulques said.

    “Yes,” Philippe said. “But they will not trouble us forever. Their time will pass soon enough. Which is why you and the Duke of Toulouse are important. We are the future. Our time comes. One day soon, we shall remake the realm, and perhaps the world beyond it.”

    “You seem to be doing that already my king,” Foulques said. “I must congratulate you on your victory in Mallorca.”

    “Ah yes, Mallorca! You missed quite the experience,” Philippe said. “I joined the men as we climbed the walls in storming the keep! Arrows rushed past my head, the shouts of both our knights and the enemies… and then the moment when my feet touched the ramparts. The enemy screaming as he charged, and I silenced his tongue by drowning it in his own blood. I have never felt so alive.”

    “That you are still alive after such a battle is providence,” Foulques said. “Assaults on keeps can be fickle things.”

    “Yes, I thought you might see it that way,” Philippe said. “I heard you waited the boy out rather than seek glory in Vendome.”

    Foulques knew it would be unwise to respond to the barb. Though he was not certain he could - he did not find much honor in it.

    “Not much glory, but a county that is mine all the same,” he finally responded.

    “True enough,” Philippe said.

    The two emerged on the ramparts. Foulques could see Paris in the moonlight, illuminated by torches in the town. It must have been quite the view during the day - he would have to come back here during the day before he departed.

    “Where are my manners?" Philippe asked. "I must congratulate you on the birth of your daughter. I did not doubt you, but Robert and Guilhem certainly appeared surprised, from what I hear.”

    Foulques looked at Philippe. “You seek to play me against them.”

    Philippe laughed. “I am transparent, I’m afraid. But in truth, I know where you stand. Robert is a nuisance you wish to be gone, and Guilhem is a powerful ally you would not do without. We share those opinions, by the way, you and me.”

    “It appears I am as transparent as you, my king,” Foulques said.

    “About a great many things,” Philippe said. “I have heard your chancellor is in Nantes, where he is making a great nuisance of himself to the Bretons. And I would ask why the chancellor to one of my vassals is in another realm, causing trouble, but then, I am no fool.”

    “And I would not hide such things from you, my lord,” Foulques said. “I made no attempt to.”

    “So, you think I will be fine with allowing you to start a war with the Bretons,” Philippe said. “Or you believe I cannot stop you. That, I cannot discern.”

    “It is the former, my king,” Foulques said. “It would benefit you.”

    “You are to tell me you do this for my benefit, and not your own selfish gain?”

    Foulques shook his head. “I do it for my gain for certain. But it does not change that you will benefit. If I go to war and lose, you will lose neither men, nor prestige over the venture, and I will be humbled. If I win, your realm is expanded into Brittany, where William no doubt plots to expand his influence.”

    “My realm expands, but it falls under your control,” Philippe said.

    “It does,” Foulques said. “But would you want a county so far from your own? Mallorca could be a staging ground for further moves into Spain. But Brittany?”

    “You would be wise not to presume what your king need and wants, Duke Foulques,” Philippe said.

    “Forgive me my king,” Foulques said.

    Philippe leaned on one of the stones. “I was going to ask you to become one of my commanders once more, but I know now, my request will again fall on deaf ears.”

    “I would serve you my lord,” Foulques said. “But perhaps in a greater capability. I just do not make the request, for I do not wish to come up against an ally.”

    Philippe turned to Foulques. His lips formed a sly smile in the moonlight.

    “So, you wait to be my marshal,” the king said. “You know I cannot make such a thing happen. As my marshal, Guilhem is kept happy.”

    “Perhaps another role for him?” Foulques said. “Advisor?”

    “I have given that role to Boudewijn,” Philippe said. “Such is necessary to hold the realm together.”

    “Yet, you have no role for me.”

    “Do you seek to make trouble?” Philippe asked.

    “You know well that I do not,” Foulques said. “I keep to Anjou and never move against you. Not once have joined in any who plot against you. I simply do not serve as a commander. But I am loyal. You have ears everywhere, and you know much about me. Does anything I say ring false?”

    “No, it does not,” Philippe said. “You are a man of ambition. But thus far, your ambition does not seem to have affected me, beside to deny me perhaps my most able commander.”

    “The day you need me to be marshal, my king, I shall be there,” Foulques said. “Until that day arrives, I shall supply you the men you request. And I shall never support another over you as king. I remain your faithful servant. And… perhaps help you in reshaping the world beyond your realm.”

    Philippe shook his head, but could not hide his smirk. “You are quicker with words than you let on.”

    The king leaned up off the rampart. “So is your wish. I remain disappointed Duke Foulques. But I am not deterred. I will one day see if your reputation is deserved. Until then, I will watch. It would do well for you to make certain what I see pleases me. I see a place for you in my grand future. But it is not guaranteed.”

    Foulques bowed before Philippe and then made his way away.

    “Duke Foulques!” Philippe said. “You may not mind being so transparent, but it is unwise when seeking to expand your holdings. The boy in Vendome could not stop you, but the Bretons are another matter. You would do wise to speak with Eudes, brother to Herbert of Vermandois.”

    “A Karling?”

    Philippe nodded. “They say his religious education has made him a fine ambassador. But that is a mere suggestion.”

    “Thank you my king.”

    “And yes, Duke Foulques, a Karling,” Philippe said. “I may still be young, but I no longer fear ghosts.”

    Foulques chuckled as he left the king.

    That had gone as well as he could have hoped. His point had been made and Philippe seemed content to let him be, so long as he gave his king nothing to suggest he would move against him.

    Of course, there was always a chance others may seek to the poison the king against him, but that risk existed no matter his status. As long as he kept his head down and made no outward move against Philippe, that likely would suffice.

    Returning to the feast, he decided he had enough for the evening and sought his wife. He found Beatritz alongside Duchess Matheolde of Aquitaine and another woman, Duchess Adelaide of Champagne. Upon feeling her husband’s tug, Beatritz bid the other women a good night.

    “An interesting conversation, that was,” Beatritz said. “There are rumors the king has taken a lover.”

    Foulques shrugged. “What he does in his chambers is no concern of mine.”

    “Aye,” Beatritz said. “But what if I told you she was a teenage girl from his conquests?”

    Foulques brow rose.

    “She is an Andalusian girl of 14. Not high-born,” Beatritz said. “And she is not of our faith! Yet, the king wishes to marry her…”

    “Who tells you this?”

    “Both duchesses,” Beatritz said. “Their husbands have seen the girl, and others have seen her enter the king’s chambers at night.”

    “And he calls Toulouse a confident fool,” Foulques said. “I do not know if the people will tolerate a girl like that as their queen.”

    “He likens himself to his father,” Beatritz said. “His mother is from the East. It was not common.”

    “But a Christian,” Foulques said. “Regardless of that, speaking of the king, I had a conversation with him.”

    “And did it go well?”

    “As well as it could,” Foulques said. “He accepted our reasons for war with the Bretons, should we get a claim and even recommended a new chancellor, should I wish it. He remains steadfast in his desire for me to become one of his commanders, but I told him I would only serve as one of his councillors, marshal, ideally.”

    “My brother will not be pleased.”

    “I did not want your brother removed,” Foulques said. “And told the king as much. The Duke of Flanders though….”

    Beatritz rolled her eyes. But she gripped his arm tightly and rested her head on his shoulder. “After nearly coming to blows with Duke Robert? Do I need to be by your side in conversations now husband?”

    “No, but I should have you by my side tonight,” Foulques said.

    “I hoped you would ask that of me,” Beatritz said as she kissed his cheek.

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    Chapter 20 - May 1072
  • JabberJock14

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    Before Plantagenet - Chapter 20
    May 1072 - Anjou, France

    A lone messenger pushed his horse as he quickly made his way down the path.

    Louis knew he was pushing the beast harder than was advised. One wrong step could send rider and horse tumbling to their doom. And yet, he could not stop himself. The news was too important. His lord must know.

    The sight of the keep in Angers just made Louis push his steed harder as the rushing wind blew his hood off and made his unkempt red hair flow freely in its streams.

    The gate opened and Louis charged his horse through. He barely was able to bring it to a stop ahead one of the stablehands.

    “Something the matter, Louis?” the boy, Henri, asked as he grabbed the reigns.

    “I must speak with our lord at once,” Louis said. “I believe these are matters of great import.”

    The courtier hurried up the stairs to the keep and made his way into the main hall, where court was in session. He pushed his way through the small crowd and sought out Mayor Guilhem. Moments later, Louis was kneeling before Duke Foulques and Duchess Beatritz.

    “Louis,” Foulques said. “You were not expected to be back so soon. What is this urgent message?”

    “There are two, my lord,” Louis said. “Had it been one, I would not have departed with such haste.”

    “Two?” Foulques asked. “What do they concern?”

    “England,” Louis said. “And Duke Robert.”

    Foulques adjusted himself in his chair. “Let’s hear of Robert first then. Has the king finally grown tired of him?”

    “No my lord,” Louis said. “He is dead.”

    “You jest!” Foulques said. “What felled him?”

    “They are uncertain, my lord,” Louis said. “He had been travelling around the realm at the behest of the king, working tirelessly. And there had been rumors of troubles in Burgundy between his new wife, with the child she recently bore him, and his other children. When he returned to Melun most recently, he retired upon arriving and did not wake the next morning.”

    “Who rules in Burgundy then?”

    “Duke Hugues,” Louis said. “Grandson of Robert, son of the dead Henri.”

    “I am certain my half-brother is pleased with that arrangement,” Foulques said. "Hugues would be wise to have someone taste his food from now on.”

    There was a small round of laughter in the hall, with the duchess noticeably amused, trying to hide her smile and chuckling behind her hand.

    “In any case,” Foulques said. “The old man is dead, and I suspect many are glad for it. I… I did not always deal well with my stepfather, but he did honor our alliance. Rest in peace, you old fool.”

    Many in the court, including the duke, lowered their heads made the symbol of the cross across their chests.

    Louis knew Robert and Foulques had a tumultuous relationship at times - one that had soured a great deal over the last few years. But it was undeniable Robert had an effect on Foulques' life - whether it was aiding him in taking Anjou, to his demeanor with the king. And who knew what effect this might have on Foulques' half-siblings...

    “What of your other news?” Foulques asked.

    “William of England is dead as well,” Louis said.

    Foulques eyes widened. “What felled him?

    “Illness my lord,” Louis said.

    Foulques shook his head. “So after his many great victories, he dies having not been bested by man, but by disease.”

    “There is something both impressive and pathetic about such a thing, husband,” Beatritz said.

    “Yes, though I am saddened I never received a chance to test myself against him,” Foulques said. He turned back to Louis. “Robert now rules in England?”

    “He does not my lord,” Louis said.

    “One of his brothers then?”

    “No, my lord,” Louis said. “It is a Saxon. A man by the name of Morcar, Duke of York.”

    Foulques sat upright in his chair, his expression one of shock.

    “How? How did this occur?”

    “The Saxons grew united,” Louis said. “As William lay dying, they threatened rebellion if he did not offer his successor was not chosen by the lords of the English realm.”

    Foulques leaned against the back of his chair.“I do not believe your tale. William would rather the kingdom be burned to the ground than hand it over.”

    “Though it is known William held little love for Robert,” Louis said. “I agree my lord. It is possible it is a story fabricated by Morcar himself. From the Normans I spoke with, he does not appear to be one to be trusted.”

    "Perhaps he circulates the tale to make himself seem as a man of the lords," Beatritz said. "Even if he is not."

    “What of Normandy then?” Foulques asked.

    “Robert controls the duchy,” Louis said. “He is not happy.”

    “So the Normans find themselves under the rule of the Saxons,” Foulques said. “Amusing.”

    “It is more than that,” steward Guilhem said. “It could be opportunity. If the Normans do not like their new masters, then there is a chance they may rebel. Robert, is, from what I hear, a strong military mind himself.”

    “And should they rebel…” Foulques began, “We could attack them and potentially reclaim Maine.”

    The steward nodded.

    “It would not be without risk,” Foulques said. “The English would view us as their enemies… and they would certainly outnumber us.”

    “It would be your decision, my lord,” the steward said. “There would be risk. But it may be the opportunity you seek.”

    “There is more,” Louis said.

    “More?” Foulques asked. “Are you next to tell me something has befallen my brother-in-law?”

    “No,” Louis said. “It still pertains to the Normans. Of who Robert owes allegiance to.”

    Foulques paused for a moment. “We speak as though Morcar is now Robert’s liege. But William never renownced his oaths to Philippe. Robert should need to pay homage for Normandy to our king.”

    “That is what the king believes,” Louis said. “But it is not what King Morcar believes. He claims Normandy as part of the realm as it was prior to William’s death and no agreement was made to return it to the King of the Franks.”

    “Our king must be displeased,” Foulques said.

    “I have heard as much,” Louis said. “Though in public he remains as calm as ever. They say when told of Morcar’s refusal to release Normandy, the king merely looked to his advisors for a moment and then to the messenger and calmly asked him for negotiations with the Saxon, hoping to find some common ground.”

    “And in private?”

    “He raises funds,” Louis said. “For what there can be one explanation.”

    Foulques stroked his beard. “Philippe will not rush into war. He will look for an opportunity - then strike. The Saxons should be wary not to underestimate him.”

    Louis said nothing. Such talk was more than a common courtier like he could know. He did as his lord asked - nothing more.

    “Is that anything else, Louis?” Foulques asked.

    “No, my lord,” Louis said. “I hope those messages were of enough import to justify my haste.”

    “They were,” Foulques said. “You may go.”

    Louis bowed his head and wandered from the hall. He thought after the delivery of those messages, his heart my slow. But it did not.

    These deaths had sent tremors through the realm. Even he, a lowly courtier, could feel it.

    The question now was not if, but when the earthquake would arrive. And if it would tear them realms of not just the Franks, but also England, asunder.


    That's this update. But as a bonus, I said I could not show Ermengarde's stats because I had forgotten to take a shot of her when she was alive - but also when Robert was alive! So here it is:

    So she was brave, wroth, shy - so I imagined she would not mince words when dealing with those she was familiar with (her sons). But she had also grown paranoid in her later years, so I felt her impassioned speech to Foulques about how she was worried about him and all her children, represented that well.

    I may do this with a few key figures who pop up in the story but whose traits I can't show because I didn't take the shot before it would reveal spoilers. Especially in the case of things that happen that may seem unbelievable, but actually occurred!
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