Written By Abdun Nur
The Bastard Educator
“When I was a boy all the lords warred, Normandy suffered famine and death. Torment and hardship reigned everywhere for Lord and slave alike.
I was forged upon the anvil of those times.” William said, as he looked past his guests to the log fire that raged in the centre of the hall, he spoke as if recalling what he considered a golden age.
“You think yourself a bandit Lord, Earl Godwinson, like William Talvas, but I think you’re more like his enemy Giroie.” He continued now looking directly at the figure standing before him.
“I think perhaps they were before my time, my Lord, I don’t recognise the names.” Replied Harold, who was a tall sinewy man well over six feet, flaunting an air of wealth in his fine clothing, even though they were dirty and well worn.
“You know the family name Bellême?” William asked.
“Of course my Lord.”
“Well it’s the story of William Talvas Bellême.
Talvas was a man after my own heart, he acted as his nature.
He was married to a woman named… Heudebourg. They had two children, he, or by his order, strangled her to death for reproaching his nature. He was a cruel, deceitful man, one who freely indulged every vice; rape, murder, theft, torture, he was held back only if prevented. And few could prevent him.
Anyway, he arranged to marry the daughter of Robert of Beaumont shortly after; and a fine wedding was organized. Not to let an opportunity go to waste, Talvas invited his most hated enemy to his wedding.
To his surprise the fool turned up!
Much like yourself.” William explained, the man before him looked shocked and stepped back slightly looking about him.
“My Lord, we’re not enemies.” Harold Godwinson pleaded.
“His enemy was William Fitz Giroie, he was a large man and was confident in his strength and his fighting skills. Of course arrogance and pride are a fools clothing. His problem was, at a wedding you don’t go armed, and there he was defenceless. Much like yourself.” William pointed out. The man and his companions were becoming nervous at these remarks.
“Giroie took with him a large escort of men, just like you, but this didn’t save him. Talvas welcomed his enemy, but when the time was right, his men sprang upon them, Talvas took a knife in his own hand and gouged out Giroie’s eyes, cut out his ears, and chopped off his bollocks while he was held down screaming in agony.” William smiled.
“Then Giroie was given to the monks, he didn’t want so a hated enemy to die, he wanted him to suffer a long and horrific life.” William explained; then there was a short silence.
“I’ve a problem.” William continued.
“I’m being forced to attack the peoples occupying the land that the Angles wish to occupy, your desired land Harold, I myself have no desire to do so, but am compelled.
The Angles and the Saxons were formerly the Vatican’s military Muscle; but now Europe is in total turmoil, as you found when you petitioned the Pope for aid in the struggle against your enemies Earl.
The Albic have joined with the Danes, and the Danes are no easy enemy. They’ve driven your support, either into the grave or into hiding. But mostly, into the grave.
You’ve tried every white slaver in the Vatican’s empire. And now, here you stand, like a man with an empty cup attempting to offer me the memory of its wine.
You haven’t faired well in your would-be Angle land.
The Angles and Saxons are no longer the force to be reckoned with, no longer the slavers of the past; here, in Gaul exist the white slavers of feudal dominance, we have perfected slavery, while you only toyed with it.
We show absolutely no mercy, we take everything, we rule through absolute fear, we are dread, we are fear, we are relentless.
But to travel to Albien and help the Angles means I leave my lands at the mercy of my enemies, and I can’t fight here if I’m there.
I’ve informed all the land Barons of our mutual masters wishes, warning them against attacking my lands, on the grounds that my mission bears the Papal banner and Papal ring.
The slaver, Lord Conan the Duke of Brittany is a problem. My spies sent me warning, telling me that he would take the opportunity to invade the duchy. So now I’m forced to war with him, before I can advance to aid the Angles.” William said calmly.
Harold stood attentive. “I would aid you, as you intend to aid me and my kin, my Lord.” Harold’s French was good; he was a well-educated man, speaking many languages skilfully, in contrast to William who spoke only his own native tongue.
“I murdered, with poison, Conan’s father in the past, and that may have embittered Conan towards me.” William smiled. “In my view the Angles are a lost cause, and I’d waste no time on them, let the Danes have Albien, they seem to love that feeble race.” He continued.
“Your master has commanded you to give us aid!” Harold stated coldly and with a strong tone of authority.
“You don’t understand what a master is.” The Bastard shouted with a cold and arrogant tone, looking down on the men before him. Then once more relaxing on his wooden throne at the head of the hall.
“I was invited to your great hall, is this how you speak to your guests?” Replied the Earl, aggressively.
“I invited you under sword, that’s true. But who would accept an invitation from the devil; only a fool. Better you fought while you had the chance and secure your liberty?” The bastard answered.
“I don’t understand?” Replied his guest.
“I ‘have’ no master!” The bastard told him.
“Your master, is my master?
I don’t understand what you’re meaning?” Harold replied, now nervous.
There was a pause as the Bastard considered the well-dressed man standing in the great feasting hall of his keep. “It’s a miserable night, cold and wet, and I’ve nothing pressing. So I’ll teach you something about a bastard.
Something that will give reason; after all I’m the greatest of all bastards.” William’s brow furrowed and his face became hard and angry.
“Hildebrand is our master, yours by choice maybe, but mine by deceit, blackmail and the intimidation of greater force.” William said bitterly.
“Do you work against his plans?” Harold asked.
“My duchy must be secured before I depart for the coast of the land of the Angles.” William stated almost rhetorically.
William pondered the figure standing before him. “You like having masters?
You’d have another?
I’ll be your master Earl, you can do my bidding.” William stated.
“I was born a Lord’s son from a noble mother, I’m more a nobleman, maybe not a higher rank, but a higher purity of status than you. I’ve full nobility of blood. I’ll not bow to you as my master.
You openly admit to the iniquitous murder of nobles and now you would intimidate me, threaten me?” Harold replied indignantly, feeling his status should be enough to give protection.
“Blood does not make a man a Lord, their nature does. A lord after all is nothing more than a soulless shackler of the souls of men.” The bastard replied.
The bastard gestured for his men at arms within the great hall to take the companions of the Earl under sword.
“You see a Lord has no soul, why do you think we’re tested as a child, the rituals of our birth right are not mere ornament, we’re exposing our true natures, to be certain our natures are sound. You cannot enslave your fellow man if you care about them in the slightest.” The bastard continued. The Earl looked around the hall concerned. He was realizing he’d made a grave mistake entering the feudal regions where deception and murder formed all noble interactions.
“Only one with blue-blood can be Ba’al. Is your blood so cold it chills the blood of all who stand before you?
You’re not Ba’al Harold, you don’t own the souls of those around you, you don’t make them tremble within, fearing your every word.
I ‘AM’ Ba’al.
And Ba’al means ‘OWNER’.
No one here doubts I own this Dutchy, or every living soul upon it, every stick of wood, every drop of water, every blade of grass is ‘MINE’!
No one would refuse my command, because ‘I AM BA’AL”.
You wait for my decision, you tremble, you panic at my every word Harold, because you are ‘NOT’ the ‘owner’ of the souls of men.
You’re the slave. The mere puppet of ‘owners’.” William stared at Harold, and the hall was silent.
“Do you intend ransom?” Harold asked.
“I do, or worse.” William replied coldly.
“Do you intend murder?” His guest asked.
William smiled and said nothing
“Who among your men is your most trusted?” William asked.
“It would be my cousin.” Harold replied.
“Have your cousin stand forward.” William ordered. A young man in his mid twenties stood forward among the crowd of Harold’s companions. William looked at his bailiff and nodded his head towards the young nobleman.
While the group was held under sword Harold’s cousin was manhandled by three soldiers and held to the ground. “I want to demonstrate power to you Harold, I want you to understand a Lords nature.” William said as he stood and walked over to the man held to the ground. He took a small knife from his belt and kneeled by the man, slowly he placed the knife close to the mans eye, then cut it out, Harold’s cousin screamed and thrashed around, as William removed his second eye. William wiped his knife on the tormented mans clothes and stood sliding the small knife back into its sheath, as he casually walked back to his chair and sat.
Harold was flustered, “What could I do to repair the mistrust you hold against me?
I would give you my word I’ve no knowledge of the methods or abuses of Hildebrand, not in the past, present or future. What would tie my word?” The Earl asked through his growing hatred of this cold bastard holding him powerless.
“Earl, you fear even to mention the act of torture and disfigurement I just committed against your most trusted kin…
That is power!
You’re the next in line for the control of the Angles kingdom, not much of a kingdom by all accounts, the Allodiarii with the help of the Danes have all but vanquished your flames, you’re now left cowering in the city fortress of London; sneaking out to raid the vulnerable; stealing what you may to scratch out an existence.” William replied.
William considered his advantage, and his mind suddenly changed, he breathed in deeply and shouted. “Lanfranc.” The name echoed through the hall.
A thin man in his mid fifties dressed in a heavy brown cloth, which looked layered against the cold, walked into the hall, as he approached he’d a tough unhappy face with a white beard cut to square the outline of his balding head, he carried a long thin staff made of metal scrolled at the top.
“Abbott, meet the next King of the Angles. He tells me.” William said with a smile, Lanfranc bowed his head slightly as he approached the Earl in fained subservience then passed by him.
Lanfranc walked to Williams’s side and spoke softly into his ear, standing close by William who listened with an expression, as if the air was filled with the thick stench of excrement. When Lanfranc had finished speaking William gestured him to move well away from him aggressively.
“Well the Church, Hildebrand, has granted you reprieve Harold, luck is with you, the Abbott who is Hildebrand’s voice, has determined your ransom.
Hildebrand wants you to sign a feudal bond with the Vatican, if you break your word it will be with the church, and they’ll use all their considerable power to rectify such a violation, they want an annual tithe of gold and considerable land grants with military protection, this is the price of your salvation.” William then gestured his men to lower their weapons and retreat, at which the group of men held constrained rush to the aid of their injured companion, still wailing and writhing on the floor.
“You’re their victim Harold, so it’s their mercy not mine. Enjoy my hospitality.” William continued now seeming disinterested in the Earl as he stood and walked towards the long banqueting table.
Harold talked with Lanfranc they walked from the hall together and after about an hour Harold returned. He talked with his companions and they all prepared to leave.
“We shall leave now the bond is sealed.” Harold was cold in tone and manner.
With his mouth full William replied. “Leave?
Is that your wish?
But you gave your word, defend my lands before I might defend yours.
So, rest up we leave when the weather breaks.” Then William changed his mind, and lifted his head from the trough of the banquet table, waved Harold over to him, who left his companions and walked to William’s side.
“You can spend time with me, see what a bastard is really like, learn the bastard king techniques, after all only a supreme bastard can be a king, who else could do kingly things?” William said looking up fleetingly from his food as he ate heartily at the head of his table.
“You’re merely a Duke.” Harold replied.
“Make no mistake this is my ‘kingdom’. Here, I, am, God.” William stated aggressively.
William’s burly and robust frame was very strong, bull like, under the obese layer of fat, when standing he was 5 feet 10 inches, and he spoke with a guttural voice, he was a man who enjoyed and demanded a constant flow of rich foods; he always indulged himself gluttonously in every pleasure or vice.