Percy felt ill. He knew he could not face the Inquisition again. He would kill himself first. He should kill himself at once, he realized, somewhat shocked that it had taken him so long to think of it. That was the only way to save Sir Geoffrey and the girl from arrest and possibly torture.
“I need a dagger,” he told Geoffrey softly.
Geoffrey went stock-still. “What for?”
“Don’t worry. I know how to use it.”
“To do what?” Geoffrey insisted sharply.
“To kill painlessly.”
“To commit suicide?” Geoffrey grasped Percy’s bony shoulders in his long, skeletal hands and shook him with a force neither of them had expected. “After all we’ve risked to keep you from dying, you would dare to throw your life away?”
Percy closed his eyes and didn’t answer. They didn’t know him and so could not possibly know whether he was worth saving. He wasn’t even sure himself – rationally – that he was worth saving. There was an inborn instinct that clung to life, but when he used his intelligence he saw only that he was a younger son, trained to arms and vowed to an institution which had been utterly annihilated. Never in his life had he done anything of sufficient value to warrant the sacrifice of others for his sake. He had not even, in the end, been strong enough to stop himself from adding his voice to the thousands who condemned the Order and thereby betrayed his brothers to further pain and endless humiliation. He had contributed to the ruin of the only thing that gave him status and purpose. Why should he go on living?
“Listen to me!” Geoffrey still grasped him in his claw-like hands, the knuckles white from the effort. “I am an old man who has lived much too long already. If I choose to die for your sake, that is my decision!”
Percy opened his eyes and looked straight at Geoffrey. “And the Lady Felice?” he whispered.
Geoffrey looked over his shoulder at his granddaughter. At sixteen, she still had soft, unfinished features and the half-mature body of a teenager, but the look on her face was not adolescent.
Felice answered for herself. “I am neither a child nor a fool. I knew what I was doing when I sent for my grandfather. To have left you there would have been to deny Christ himself. If the Pope, the King and all the clergy of France are too blind to see that, then God have pity on their souls! I knew the risks.”
Percy shook his head. No one who had not faced the Inquisition could really imagine what it was like. But she had reminded him of something: it was as morally contemptible for them to deny him help as it was for him to expect it under the circumstances. Checkmate.