“HUMPHREY! YOU’RE FIFTEEN! YOU’RE GROWN UP! You don’t have to put up with this anymore!” Isabella argued furiously with her future husband.
“If I don’t do what Oultrejourdain says, he’ll break my face in!” Humphrey countered just as angrily.
“He doesn’t have the right to do that! You’re his peer!” Isabella insisted indignantly. “You’re the Lord of Toron!”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Humphrey wanted to know. “It’s all very well for you to talk about my rights,” Humphrey sneered; “he’s never laid his fists on you!”
“Because he wouldn’t dare! Don’t you see, Humphrey? You have to make him respect you!”
“Why the hell should he respect me when he’s so much stronger than I am? I’m not even a knight!”
“The King has never been knighted, either,” Isabella pointed out. “But people respect him, don’t they? Even Oultrejourdain respects him. And you can’t say he’s stronger than Oultrejourdain, either. They say he can’t even walk anymore.”
“But he’s the King,” Humphrey pointed out in exasperation.
“And you are the Lord of Toron! If you don’t remind Oultrejourdain of that and insist that he treat you according to your rank, we’ll never get out of here!”
“Do you want to stay here forever?” Isabella demanded. “You are Lord of Toron! We should be living in Toron as lord and lady, not imprisoned here!”
“Oultrejourdain says I’m not ready,” Humphrey conceded, red with shame.
“Because he likes having your income! He’s never going to willingly give you your inheritance. You have to make him give it to you!”
“You make it sound so easy!” Humphrey protested. “If you think it’s that easy, you tell him!”
“All right, I will!” Isabella decided, and with clenched fists she turned and started striding toward the great chamber, where Oultrejourdain was consulting his household officials.
Humphrey ran after her. “Isabella! Don’t!”
“We don’t know what he’ll do to you!”
Isabella could see real fear in Humphrey’s flushed face, and she knew he was genuinely afraid for her. She appreciated that, but she was convinced that sometimes you had to be brave. She had had enough of being a prisoner. She was not prepared to wait any longer for her freedom. “I don’t care what he does to me,” she told Humphrey stubbornly. “I’m going to confront him!”
“Isabella! I’ll tell him about Dawit!” Humphrey used the threat that had worked before.
But Isabella was beyond being blackmailed. Her stepfather had reminded her that she was not a helpless child, she was a princess of Jerusalem, and she had more right to the throne than did Sibylla, the daughter of a bad woman. It was because people were afraid of her that she was kept imprisoned here.
Isabella swept into the great chamber with Humphrey in her wake, but the adults paid no attention to them. Humphrey seized the chance to try to pull her back, whispering loudly for her to come with him.
Isabella broke free of his clasp angrily and burst out in a loud, demanding voice: “I want to speak to you, my lord of Oultrejourdain!”
“I’m busy,” he retorted without even looking up from the document he was reading. “Later.”
“You’ll do as you’re told!” Oultrejourdain growled, looking up and frowning threateningly.
Isabella stood her ground. “I’m Isabella of Jerusalem, and you can’t order me around!”
Oultrejourdain burst out laughing and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest in bemusement. The fact that a chit of a girl, barely eleven years old, was willing to stand up to him like this amused him. Of course, he could have brushed her aside with a single backhanded flick of his wrist. He could have picked her up with one hand, dumped her in the deepest and vilest of his dungeons, and left her there without food or water until she begged his forgiveness, or he could have simply hit her until she was broken and streaming with tears. But what was the point of demonstrating his power over someone so weak? He used his strength to keep strong men from challenging him and to make weak men stronger, but he saw no point in employing brute force against a girl who would never be strong and never be a threat to him—at least not physically.
“So, Madame de Jerusalem,” Oultrejourdain asked with an amused smirk, “just what is so important that we have to discuss it now?”
“My husband—my future husband—turned fifteen last month,” Isabella told him, starting to feel afraid now that she was face to face with Oultrejourdain and he was staring at her so intently. His eyes seemed to communicate a mixture of malice and amusement.
“Did he?” Oultrejourdain asked back, feigning surprise. Then he turned on Humphrey and asked as if he could not believe it, “Is that true, boy? Did you turn fifteen?” Before Humphrey could answer, Oultrejourdain continued in a tone of utter contempt, “I never would have guessed. You act more like five than fifteen!”
“But it’s true!” Isabella insisted. “He’s fifteen, and so he is an adult! He is now Lord of Toron.”
“A lord who needs an eleven-year-old girl to speak for him!” Oultrejourdain countered sharply, shaking his head in a mixture of disbelief and scorn. “When he’s man enough to argue his own case, Isabella, I’ll hear him out. For now, go back to your nursery and take the little boy with you!”
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