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A Temporary Truce (Plantagenet Series)


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Poitiers, Aquitaine

"Where the hell is Henry?" Richard paced impatiently back and forth, kicking up some of the floor rushes with his boots. "For the love of God, even I'm on time, the least he could bloody do is show up!"

Geoffrey, a year Richard's junior and much more laid-back, reclined on the sofa, cutting an apple into small slices with his dagger. "I'm sure there was a roadblock. He should be here soon."

"I'm sure he'll bring Margaret," Richard sighed, sitting down beside Geoffrey. Not a minute later, he was back up and pacing again. Geoffrey thought the epithet "Lionheart" suited Richard perfectly, because he was like a caged, restless lion- not to mention his fiery mane of thick curls.

"He is his wife and queen," Geoffrey pointed out, popping an apple slice into his mouth. He ate it quickly and mused, "Strange, isn't it? All of us rebelling against our father the king yet Henry's the king as well. Why must we always copy France? I think one living, senior king is enough." He yawned and stabbed an apple slice with his dagger, biting it off. "Anyway, it is unlike him to be so late. Then again, I suppose none of us have seen much of each other lately."

The rebellion against their oppressive father, Henry II, who had imprisoned their mother, was originally intended to be a joint effort. But with an empire as wide as the Angevin, spreading across Britain, Ireland, and half of France, none of the three oldest princes could be satisfied in sharing, nor could any of them agree on how to rule. Richard insisted on expanding the army and his territories, but had little interest in actually spending time in the land he would primarily rule. Geoffrey believed in strategy, playing politics so he didn't have to bring the empire to war unless he had to. Geoffrey's chief talent was diplomacy, and it was how he intended to rule. Henry, the oldest, though he was strong like Richard and smart like Geoffrey, was first and foremost dedicated to the people. He spoke their language, bought from the poor business owners to support them, donated to orphanages and hospitals, and made sure, in every action he took, that it would benefit the common man.

Geoffrey admired Henry's heart for the people, even if he did think he should focus more on politics. If he was honest, the youngest of the three would say that he missed when he, Richard, and Henry were all friends and not torn apart by their desire to rule. But Geoffrey was never honest, especially when it came to the things that pained him. Sighing, he finished his apple and tossed the core out of the nearest window, sheathing his dagger at his belt.

The door to the small room swung open, and Henry walked in, wearing his heavy blue cloak despite the July heat. He sniffled and regarded his brothers each with a nod and a smile, feeling rather awkward since he was technically at war with both of them. The only thing they could really agree on was that their father was not fit to rule.

"Now that you've called us here, Richard," he said, sitting beside Geoffrey, "can I ask why we've suddenly come to this temporary truce?"

Richard sat on Henry's other side. "This is the last straw." His green eyes shone with anger, and Henry recognized the determination in his brother's knit brows. Immediately he knew.


Richard nodded. "Now Papa's made an ally of Sicily, I suppose, but at the expense of Jo's childhood."

Henry gave a mirthless laugh similar to a small cough. He and Margaret had been married when he was five and she was three. Their little sister was eleven, at least she knew what she was getting into, though he supposed that could make it harder.

Geoffrey sighed. "Both of you tried to stop it, and at least you gave her safe passage to her ship. There was nothing more you could do. You're not king, Richard, and Henry, well..."

"I have a title odly," Henry finished bitterly, "I know." Six years after having him crowned junior king, their father had only been stricter to his oldest than ever before. Richard and Geoffrey got to rule their duchies and act independently, but Henry was chained to his father's wrist.

"I want to know everybody's plans to actually stop Papa," Richard explained. "I let Joanna down, I can't let the whole kingdom down." Henry could hear the hurt in his brother's voice. Richard was the closest to their youngest sister, now on her way to become the queen of Sicily.

"I-heh-HUSSsshhHHUUU!!" Henry bent over and sneezed into the crook of his arm, having no time to pull out his handkerchief. "Pardod. I tagke it you mean how to overthrow him?"

"Bless you." Richard rolled his eyes. "Of course, what else would I mean?"

"Well, you have to have a plan on how to rule afterward," Geoffrey pointed out. "I've brought all my papers, if you'd like to see mine in detail."

Richard shook his head. "If I wanted to be sedated I'd get drunk."

"I-heh-hpp'schHHH!! Hnxxgshh!!" Henry sneezed into his handkerchief and dabbed at his nose. "Sorry. I've been tryidg to cobe up with a dnew plad, but Papa's watchidg my every bove."

Richard raised an eyebrow, noticing the flush in Henry's cheeks. "Are you ill? You'd better not get me sick."

"I've had a mild catarrh for the past couple of days," Henry admitted dismissively, sniffling. "It's nothing to worry about."

Geoffrey frowned. "If you say so." As close as he sat to Henry, he could hear the congested rattle of his brother's chest when he breathed.

"I'b fi-fide...N'Xxgshhh!" Henry groaned and coughed into his fist. The cough was harsh, dry, and crackling. Rubbing his chest, he went on, "But I have a solid idea of what I wadt to do whed I tagke the throde."

"For the love of God, blow your nose," Richard complained. "Your voice is driving me mad."

Stung, Henry looked down at the floor while he blew his nose. "I really cad't help it, Richard."

"That cough sounds awful, Henry," Geoffrey told him, a hint of concern in his typically cold voice. "Mayhap we could postpone this meeting?"

Henry shook his head. "I'll be all right." He shivered, despite feeling overly warm.

"You're ill." Richard frowned. He took the glove off his left hand and laid the back of his hand on Henry's forehead. "You have a fever," he informed him in a voice that was half annoyed but half concerned.

"Like that ever stops you," Henry pointed out. Richard suffered from periodic malarial fevers but was always determined to fight through them, no matter how much their mother Eleanor told him to rest and let them run their course.

"But I'm always sick," Richard argued, putting his glove back on." You're not." Richard knew Henry was a little more sensible and wasn't quite as stubborn as himself, and hoped he could win this argument.

"I'll shagke it off by bordidg," Henry insisted. "That's what I always do when I have a fever." He coughed again, leaning forward. After the fit he felt hot and dizzy, and Geoffrey laid a hand on his arm.

"You really ought to go to bed, big brother. At least one of us has common sense not to go riding with a chest cold." Geoffrey sighed and helped him gently to his feet. Henry swayed a little getting up, and Geoffrey realized just how pale he was.

Richard followed Geoffrey as he escorted their oldest brother down the hall, bumping into Margaret. By the looks of her, she hadn't slept much, probably up all night worrying about her reckless husband. Her dark hair was tied back in one simple, practical braid, and she took Henry by the hand with the gentle, longsuffering expression of an expert. Geoffrey wondered how many times Henry had fought sick during the rebellion.

"He's gotten sicker, hasn't he?" She walked with them to the chambers Henry occupied when he visited Poitiers.

"I'b fi-" Henry was cut off by Richard's interjection: "He's got a fever."

"Let me know if anything changes," Margaret told the boys, removing Henry's cloak and laying him down in bed. She yawned. "I am retiring to bed for the night."

'The poor girl's probably been up all night these past few days caring for him,' Geoffrey thought, 'it is good that we can give her a break.' He nodded. "We'll do our best, Majesty."

Richard raised an eyebrow when Margaret left. "Why do you address her as Majesty, Geoff?"

"Someone's got to be," Geoffrey replied, taking the sheets off Henry's bed.

"What was that for?" Henry complained, rubbing at his nose.

"Your fever," Richard replied. "Sweating it out is an old wives' tale, you know. You need to get cool to bring your temperature down." He wrung out a towel over a bowl of water and laid it on Henry's forehead.

"Ipp'SHUuu!! Since when did you get so good at caretaking?" Henry croaked, sitting up to cough.

"When you're sick as often as I am, you learn the secrets of the trade." Richard laid a hand on Henry's shoulder and pushed him back down. "So let me take care of you for a while."

Henry laughed, which turned into a painful-sounding cough. "Aren't we supposed to hate each other?"

Richard bit his lip, casting his eyes to the floor. "I-I don't hate you, Henry. You're my brother. We're rivals, but I don't hate you."

Henry smiled a little at this. "I know, I just wadted to hear you say it."

"Bastard," Richard grumbled, but didn't mind that much. He would never admit it, but he missed being friends with his brothers, too. He'd spent his whole childhood playing with Henry and Geoffrey in the nursery. He even looked up to his older brother a bit.

Henry closed his eyes, looking strangely young and innocent with his fever-flushed, freckled face and boyish grin. Geoffrey gave a half-smile, laying two fingers on his brother's neck to take his pulse.

"His heartbeat isn't terribly fast," he said with a relieved sigh. "I just hope we get that damn temperature down."

"I'll get a doctor in the morning," Richard decided.

Henry groaned. "I hate doctors. All they do is poke and prod the life out of you just to say, 'Looks like you're sick. Get drudk off you arse'."

"I couldn't agree more," Richard laughed. "But you do need a little help."

"Fuddy how you're suddenly beidg responsible," Henry whispered, his voice hoarse and weakening.

"Funny how you're supposed to be resting, but here you are arguing." Richard didn't smile, but his words were fond. He took off his gloves to lay his hands on Henry's cheeks again. "Burning up. You trying to set the castle on fire?"

"I'll leave that to you," Henry quipped. Moments later, he was asleep with his mouth wide open.

"This could be worse," Geoffrey mused. Richard looked his way, his eyes questioning. Geoffrey looked down at his oldest brother asleep in the bed, sweat running in little streams down his feverish forehead. He turned his gaze to Richard, who was watching Henry with a worried frown. "At least we're together."


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