Barry’s chamber was accessed through an anteroom, where two frightened squires and a whining dog waited in nervous confusion. Balian strode past them and tried the tall, pointed door, but it was indeed bolted from the inside. He lifted his arm and pounded on the door with the side of his gloved fist so hard that Eschiva started as the hammering reverberated. “Barry! It’s Balian! Open the door!”
Everyone in the anteroom held their breath as they listened for some sign of life on the far side of the door. There was none.
“Fetch me an ax,” Balian ordered over his shoulder to one of the squires. Eschiva sank down on the arm of a chair, her hand over her mouth and her eyes wide with horror.
The squire ran, but it took him several minutes to find and return with one of his lord’s battle-axes. He was followed by Barry’s household steward, two other clerics, and Michael, as well as a gaggle of other staff.
Balian took the ax and weighed it in his hand, getting a feel for it, while the other occupants in the room drew back out of his way. Then he drew an audible breath and swung the ax. The head landed just beside the door handle with a crunching thwack, embedding itself several inches into the door. Balian had to brace a foot against the base of the door to yank the ax free again. He raised it and brought it down a second time, close to the first blow. With a cracking sound, one of the planks gave a little.
Abruptly from the far side of the door Barry roared, “You don’t have to vandalize my home! Damn you!” Then he wrenched open the door from the inside and glared out at the assembled company with wild, furious eyes. His haggard face was covered with stubble and framed by a tangled mane of dull gray-blond hair.
“Leave me alone!” he barked at her, gesturing for her to stay where she was, and then turned to shout at the rest of them. “What are you staring at? Get out!”
Balian did just the opposite. He moved into the doorway before his brother could close it again, and stared his brother down. “The priests have come for Godfrey’s corpse.”
“What are they going to do with it? Eat it?”
Balian didn’t bother answering, just gestured for Michael and his colleagues to come and get the boy’s body from behind Barry while he held his brother in place, the ax still in his hand. Barry made no move to stop them from taking the body away. He just stared at it listlessly, his whole form sagging with indifference born of despair. As soon as the priests were out, Balian moved deeper into the chamber and closed the door behind him to be alone with his brother.
“Godfrey,” was all Barry said.
“Godfrey is with Christ, but you have a tiny newborn boy who needs you.”
“I’ve lost count of how many newborn boys I’ve buried. Godfrey was the only one who lived long enough to be a son to me.”
“You didn’t know in the first forty-eight hours that he was going to live.”
“I did, though,” Barry told Balian firmly, if irrationally. “I could tell. But this boy won’t live. His mother’s dead.”
Balian said a prayer for Elizabeth, who even now to Barry was only the mother of his sons.
“This is the end,” Barry told him in a dull voice.
“What do you mean?” Balian asked in alarm.
“Can’t you feel it? Smell it? The vultures are gathering for Arma-geddon.”
“What I feel and smell is your grief, Barry,” Balian answered steadily.
Barry shook his head. “No. The forces of evil are on the move. They are gathering their troops and sharpening their weapons. And Christ—” Barry made a deprecating gesture and snorted. “Christ is as effective as that pathetic stepson of yours. A powerless man of peace, when the gods of war are about to devour us alive.”
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