It’s Mothering Sunday today and as I thought a few days ago about parents in my fiction, I realise how many of my characters are childless. There are a few exceptions though, probably not enough, and my favourite interaction is between a minor villain and his mother from Dieu et Mon Droit. Gervaise is a 19 year old boy recently elevated to the throne of France. He is sly but easily-manipulated, has bravado that will become his downfall and has a very high opinion of himself. It is down to his mother to attempt to make him see sense. This is my favourite interaction.
‘We must not stop in our mission to destroy this heretic evil. Lives will be lost for the greater good, mother.’ He returned to his throne.
‘There is a difference between a just war and petty bloodlust. French soldiers will die for nothing – if you start a war with Aquitaine it will not be a just war.’
‘Who said anything about French soldiers?’ Gervaise leaned forward, pressing his hands together. ‘I have friends who are willing to help. All they ask is the help of our army. Our forces will be used in equal measures – perhaps even fewer of us than them.’
‘Who?’ The Queen Mother puzzled. ‘Who could possibly be willing to start a war on our behalf and expect so little in return? Spain? The British? Italy? I can’t see any Islamic army marching for our cause.’
‘Wrong on all counts, mother.’ He smiled his revolting grin again.
‘Who’s left? No one else has the power or the sufficient numbers.’ She stopped and realised then. ‘Gervaise. Tell me you’re not letting the Inquisition lead us into war.’
He clapped like a child with chocolate. ‘Yes mother! I knew I had to have obtained my intelligence from somewhere.’
‘No Gervaise!’ Her booming voice shocked all men in the room. Throughout the conversation, the others had watched the proceedings in silence.
‘Mother, calm yourself. You’ll make yourself ill.’ Gervaise giggled.
‘The rest of you leave, now!’ This time they did as ordered.
‘You stupid little bastard!’ Lysette slapped her son hard across the face. ‘The Inquisition will bleed us dry! Are you willing to risk everything we have here? Don’t you see what they’re doing?’
Gervaise could not respond. The shock of the first slap he’d ever received from his mother stung not only his cheek, but his heart too. ‘Mother…’ His lip quivered.
Turned by the sudden backing down of her eldest son, Lysette took pity and approached the throne. She took his head and pressed it to her breast. ‘I’m sorry Gervaise; I don’t know what came over me. Please forgive me.’
She was too busy consoling her son that she never felt the cold steel of a blade at her throat.
‘You are too easily swayed mother – a weak and pathetic woman.’ She looked down into his eyes and saw only malice and rage. ‘If you strike me again I will kill you. I don’t care if you’re my mother or Virgin Mary herself.’
Lysette slowly stepped away from the blade. ‘Do you think the Lord would forgive you for murdering the woman who brought you into the world?’ She swallowed hard. Her pulse was racing but her bravado was not yet diminished.
‘God put me on this throne. There is no such thing as an accident. The Lord had my father killed so that I can take my rightful place.’ He placed the blade across his lap.
‘Gervaise, you may be my son but I shall pray every day that you produce no heir and your brother becomes King when he is ready. One maniac in France is enough.’
‘Caleb is too stupid. I don’t think he even has the brains to oppose me. He’s no threat.’
Lysette said nothing.
‘You have had your word as always. If only God never gave women a tongue, what a happier world this would be. You can leave now mother, I have a busy day.’
Lysette’s temperature rose. ‘It’ll be a cold day in hell before I take an order from you. Don’t forget who gave birth to you. Someday Gervaise, you will get your comeuppance.’ She turned to leave, angry and defiant.
He will get his comeuppance but not before tragedy strikes. Their relationship will become more cordial – all will be revealed in time.