INDIEBRAG BLOG HOP PRIZE & GIVEAWAY
It began with belly cramps and loose bowels, common enough afflictions when water was often foul and tainted meat served disguised by heavy sauces, and seldom proved fatal except in the very young or the very old. There were days when he seemed well, rode for hours, his usual good-natured self. But the symptoms returned, grew more severe, until at Martel, a small town just north of Rocamadour, he took to his bed. In the night the fever came. A physician was found who got a potion into him. His friends, his intimates, watched over him, bathed his face, cleaned him and changed his linen when he soiled himself. In the morning the fever was gone. That day he joined his knights for dinner and it was hoped he was over the worst, but he didn’t eat and he was very weak. By then he looked wasted, his cheeks hollow, his eyes sunk in dark caverns, his complexion ashen. That night the fever returned and with it delirium, and when his friends tried to clean him they wept to see his feces mixed with blood.
During lucid periods, Harry expressed his agony over his sins and his fear of damnation. He begged them to send to his father, whom he had so deeply offended, contrary to the decrees of Heaven itself.
Messengers told King Henry his son was gravely ill. They spoke of dysentery, fever. They said he was unlikely to live and he begged his father to come so he could obtain his forgiveness. Henry didn’t believe them. No one believed them. He was loudly reminded of the bolt stuck in his mail and the one that lodged in Geoff’s shield, the deceit, and the betrayals. He sat in silence, not really listening, but remembering Harry as he last saw him, in the bailey at Mirebeau in all his glorious young manhood, his face shining, his hand lifting in farewell, his heart full of evil. Henry knew how it would be: he would arrive to find a miraculous recovery had taken place, and Harry would cozen him with tears and smiles and all that boyish charm that he knew how to use to such effect.
The messengers tried to assure him it was no trick, but he sent them away. Then Henry was beset by doubts. Was it just his suspicious nature asserting itself? What if Harry really was dangerously ill? How could he ever forgive himself for not answering that plea? He was tormented by the image of his dying son waiting vainly for him to arrive, dying without the consolation of knowing that he was forgiven and loved even to the end. He could not bear the suspense. Twice he changed his mind and gave orders for an escort to accompany him to Martel, only to be persuaded to stay by those who were convinced that Harry was once again trying to take egregious advantage of his father’s trust.