The room was blessedly silent. James leaned his head against the cool, damp stone and hammered his fist into it as hard as he could. It hurt when the skin split and blood dripped down his wrist—a welcome pain. It made the pain in his chest seem less.
How could he? To give up. Their father had let Robbie die. Now he had abandoned James—alone—imprisoned.
James turned and propped his back against the wall, cradling his bleeding hand against his chest and blinking back the burning in his eyes. He wouldn’t weep. He wouldn’t! Not for a father and king who cared so little for him.
The door creaked half-open and Gruffudd stood in the opening, a flagon in his hand. “Sir Thomas sent this for you. He’s not so bad once you’re in his good graces, and I think you need it.” He closed the door behind him and poured some wine into a cup.
James nodded but he looked away, swallowing. He felt as though there was a stone in his throat. Perhaps the wine would help, so he took it with his left hand, his right still dribbling blood.
“Have anything to wrap that?” Gruffudd asked.
James took a deep drink of the wine—sweet and not much watered. With a sigh he hooked a stool with his foot and sank down on it. He turned his hand to examine the split. “It’s nae so bad. It will stop soon.”
When Gruffudd had helped himself to a cup of wine, he flung himself on James’s bed, propping up a knee with an arm flung over it. “Your bed is softer than mine.” He gave a wry twitch of his mouth.
“Is it?” James poked at the shallow split on the side of his palm for a minute, but the bleeding had already almost stopped. He looked up at Gruffudd and the words tumbled out. “Your father. Do you—honor him?”
He gave James a rather apologetic look. “My father is a strong man, you see.” He shrugged and took a sip of the wine. “Too strong mayhap. He could not abide the English ruling over us. Grey de Ruthyn seized out lands and because we are Welsh the English shrugged at it.” He swirled the wine in his cup and looked pensive. “That doesn’t matter. But… Aye, I honor him--failed him though I did.”
“I—I did not—honor mine.” James looked sadly at his cup of wine and swallowed down the rest in a gulp. “He was a poor king. I kent that when I was still but a lad.”
He couldn’t stand the hot anger burning through him, and he jumped to his feet. The stool toppled. He hurled the cup against the wall. “Damn him!” It clattered onto the floor, a smear of wine marring the wall.
Gruffudd shook his head. “It may be that he could not help it. He was as he was.”
James’s shoulders slumped. He righted the stool, eyes burning with tears he would not let fall. He walked slowly back and forth across the room before he sat back down. Propping his elbows on his knees, he sank his hands into his hair and gripped. “He let them kill Robbie. Did nothing. He never did anything. If he was so grieved at my capture, why did he nae do something? Only my mother did—when she lived. Wha’ kind of king is that?”
“You will be different.”
“Why do I feel so—so lost though?” His voice choked. “I should nae care.”
“He was your father. He would not have grieved so if he hadn’t cared for you, lad.”
James rocked where he sat and tears began to run down his face. “That makes it worse. Don’t you see?”