Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 –

In the last week Duke Constantine had gone through a whole host of emotions, the anxiety of sending his two sons to war, both in their first campaigns as commanders, then the exhilaration of hearing both his sons had notable victories.
The concerns came when he received the dispatch from Leopold warning him of Anne Lehmann’s imminent arrival and the nature of her message. It had always been one of his greatest fears that one day the mad Duke or the Iberians would decide it was easier to not have Princess Charlotte around any longer.  It seemed that Anne’s warning indicated that the fear was most likely about to become a reality.
For years Constantine harboured the frustration of not being able to do anything to help her, Rechburg had too many enemies to risk a single war against Bergatonia, so his options were practically nil, all he had left were diplomatic initiatives and they all had been rebuffed by his bastard son the “Mad Duke” of Bergatonia. It was as if Rupert deliberately dangled his mother before him, enticing him to try some desperate action knowing that Bergatonia would immediately have the Iberian Empire to support him and even worse possibly the Hapburgian Empire. Over the last few years Rechburg had done all it could to avoid becoming involved in wars, the fact that this year it was involved in two wars was due purely to actions of two mad men on its borders.
It had been some years since the Rechburgian army had been in any wars and the battles of the last few weeks had encouraged him to believe the army had not lost any of its mettle and that he had two sons quite capable of holding field commands. Sadly Constantine also understood the actions started by the Bishop of Ulrichstein could very easily escalate into a full scale war against the Hapburgian Imperial Empire, especially now both realms had forces locked in battle. They were on a scale of Empire wars small engagements but Constantine was all to aware that these small wars escalated quickly into larger and more complicated affairs.

He had expected a quick campaign in Ulrichstein, a sudden strike at the Diocese Guard to punish them for their atrocities and then back into the Protestant regions of Ulrichstein to protect the remaining protestant people living there. He had hoped then to renegotiate the treaty with Hapburgia, to re-establish the protective treaty the Protestants had in Ulrichstein before the Bishop had decided to break the treaty. Sadly that was being diminished by the day, the Imperial forces had suffered a considerable bleeding nose in their defeat at Hamelin and that meant a loss of prestige, Constantine knew only too well how prickly the Hapburgian Emperor could be over his honour and prestige; he would seek retribution.
The Hapburgian Empire was huge, but it also had considerable issues of its own, those being mainly the war weariness of its people and the failing health of its Emperor. The death of the Hapburgian Emperor not only raised the spectre of succession for the Hapburgian throne but his death would leave a vacancy for the Papal seat. So Constantine had to believe that the prospects of the current war carrying through to the summer campaign season were as unpalatable to the Empire as it was to Rechburg.

The Bergatonian war had been a mild surprise if not totally unexpected, knowing the Duke from his past record Constantine suspected he might try some sort of provocation against Rechburg in the expectation that the Herzogtum was too involved in Ulrichstein to react. That was why he had sent his son Leopold to take command of the militia in the south, Leopold and the militia had seen to the Bergatonian threat in the Battle of Briel so for now the south was quiet. Unfortunately it did leave Rechburg in a state of war with Bergatonia, though at this stage he was not sure how the Iberian Empire would react if the Mad Duke called upon its ally. The main consolation for Constantine was Bergatonia was land locked and Iberia did not have a common border with their ally, any Iberian troop movements had to have the approval of either the Franconian Empire which was unlikely considering the distance an Iberian army would have to march and forage across Franconian territory or the approval of the Duchy of Neider, or even less likely the Kingdom of Hollandaise. Neider was a Franconian ally and a Catholic state so in that respect it was the most likely route for the Iberians to take, however currently there were greater issues at stake than simply Neider allowing Iberia to land troops on its coast and then permitting them to march to Bergatonia. Those issues revolved around the Papal Succession, Neider being a Franconian ally and having a vote on the electoral college needed to heed Franconian interests. When it came to Iberia gaining a foothold with an army on Franconia’s northern border in Bergatonia, regardless of the pretext that was a situation Constantine did not think the Franconian Emperor would allow.

Constantine then really only had to fear the Iberian Navy, and considering Rechburg relied largely on maritime trade that threat was a very real one; to counter the danger to his maritime trade Constantine was hoping the Britannic Empire would honour their alliance obligations. He expected to hear any day whether they would honour their alliance.
To the North Constantine had the Kingdom of Danemark to consider, never a friendly country to Rechburg it had remained neutral for many years over issues that it could have taken exception too. It seemed the greater threat Danemark represented was to the Rechburg’s ally Flensburg and any Danemark aggression against his ally would draw Rechburg into yet another war.

Constantine had spent a great deal of time trying to improve his countries relationship with Danemark and on the whole the efforts had been quite successful, but now he was not sure how the Danemark King would react to the Mad Duke imprisoning his sister because of the totally false accusation she had acted as  part of a Rechburg plot to overthrow him. Another complicating factor in the mix was Danemark also had a vote for the Papal seat, so Iberia would not want Bergatonia rocking that boat, and risk Iberia losing another Electoral college vote; however Constantine expected both Franconia and Hapburgia would be happy with Bergatonia mucking Iberian waters. To Constantine, it seemed the world was going mad, if winters were not bad enough to deal with in Europia, the entire continent wanted to be at each other’s throats.
It now seemed that Bergatonian was prepared to raise the level of tension between Rechburg by imprisoning Princess Charlotte and implicating Rechburg and her in a plot to replace the Duke. Constantine needed to know just who he could rely on in Europia. If there ever was a chance to rescue her it had to ne right now, but strategically and diplomatically it could be a disaster. So even before Anne Lehmann had arrived in Albany Constantine had advised the Danemark Ambassador that he wanted to discuss an issue of vital importance to both Rechburg and Danemark, he asked would it be possible to arrange a meeting with King Olaf.
Surprisingly the day Anne arrived in Albany the Danemark Ambassador arrived at the Palace with King Olaf’s response, King Olaf would be pleased to meet Constantine in the Neutral city of Eggsburg three days hence.

Anne spoke to the Herzog about Charlotte for some time, she had passed on the message but Constantine already aware of the details was more interested in the personal details concerning Princess Charlotte, her health, state of mind and any small detail Anne could remember; it was all important to Constantine.
Once the Danemark Ambassador arrived he was introduced to Anne and then she told the Ambassador about the message and the situation in Bergatonia.
The Danemark Ambassador Count Asmund Nielson was horrified as he heard the details, keeping his kings sister in confinement in a palace was barely acceptable as long as she had all the comforts her station required, but to imprison her was unforgiveable, an outrage that must be put to right. Constantine had often been at the receiving end of the Ambassadors indignities, though this time they were not directed at Rechburg or Constantine it just seemed unfair that Rupert was not here to share the experience.
Once Count Nielson had calmed down, he apologised to Constantine and Anne, and he said that his King would be equally indignant at the Bergatonian insult, they confirmed the details of the meeting in Eggsburg and then both Anne and the Ambassador departed for Danemark so she could deliver her message to King Olaf personally.
The meeting in Eggsburg did not take place, what did take place was Ambassador Nielson arrived back in Albany a two days later; he apologised but his Majesty was adamant that his sister be freed from captivity as soon as possible, so he had asked that the meeting be delayed until Count Nielson could determine the situation in Bergatonia for himself. He sought and was given permission to pass through Rechburg so he could take a message to Duke Rupert from his King, he apologised that he was not able to pass the exact details of his mission with the exception to say his Majesty King Olaf was furious.
Constantine was happy, at last someone else could share the infuriating business of trying to deal with his son the mad Duke. He did have one regret and that was he would not be there to see how Rupert handled the Counts infamous outbursts.

The Ambassador left Albany the following day, it took him almost a week to reach the Bergatonian capital of New Madrid, the announcement that a Danemark special Ambassador was coming directly from Danemark caused a reasonable amount of concern to the Iberians but almost none to Rupert.
In fact when Count Nielson arrived at the Dukes Palace to present his credentials and arrange an interview with the Duke he was informed by Secretary Gudrun that as the Duke was a busy man it might take a week before he could meet with the Ambassador. Count Nielson responded he would wait 3 days and if the Duke will not see him in that time he would leave Bergatonia, meanwhile he wished to see his Kings sister Princess Charlotte.
Secretary Gudrun asked the Ambassador to wait while he tried to see if the Duke would permit him to see the Princess, before the secretary left the Ambassador added “further more if I am not able to see her immediately I will leave Bergatonia in the morning and the Duke may deal with the consequences.”

The Dukes secretary scuttled away almost paralytic with fear about how the Duke was going to respond to these threats, he knocked on the door to the dukes office and entered,
The Duke was with the Iberian Ambassador and they were discussing how to handle the Danemark Ambassador. The Iberian Ambassador Marqués de Villanueva del Valdes was urging the Duke to take a gentle approach..
However Rupert had simply scoffed
“My dear Valdes you are simply terrified of losing the Danemark electoral vote, but let me assure you if you do not support me in whatever this Danemarkian wants you will lose my vote as well.” It was at that point that Gudrun entered the Dukes office.
“Well Gudrun, is a week acceptable to our dear Ambassador?” Duke Rupert asked rather smugly.

“Err no sire, he said he will stay three days and then leave if you will not see him before then, he also said he wishes to see Princess Charlotte immediately and if is not allowed too he will leave immediately.”

Duke Rupert rose from his chair, walking around the desk he approached Secretary Gudrun and stood toe to toe, face to face.
“And I expect you told him your Duke does not respond well to threats.”
“No sire, I came back immediately to see what you wish to do.”
The Duke very quickly raised his hand and hit Secretary across the face; he then did it again hitting him once more, all the while abusing the cowering secretary, the abuse and hitting continued with ever increasing ferocity.

The Iberian Ambassador had to try and separate the Duke from his secretary, but the Duke was in a rage and he just kept hitting and beating the secretary until the rage passed. The Duke stepped back taking a swinging kick at the still cowering Gudrun and then simply walked back to the drinks cabinet and poured himself a large glass of brandy, his hands shaking violently all the while. Secretary Gudrun rose from the floor, his shirt collars torn and his face bloodied and bruised, he looked at the Iberian Ambassador then to his Duke,
“What do you wish me to tell the Ambassador sire?”
Duke Rupert placed the glass down, his brow sweating heavily he glared at his Secretary,
“You go tell that bloody Danemarkian swine to go to hell and get out of Bergatonia before I set the dogs on him, hell I have a good mind to set the dogs on him anyway.”

Ambassador Marqués de Villanueva del Valdes had never seen such a display of temper at anytime of his life let alone in his diplomatic duties, but somehow he had to calm the Duke down and get this meeting with the Danemark Ambassador over and done with. Del Valdes was only too aware that his country stood on the brink of losing one or both electoral votes and as far as he and Iberia was concerned that was what all this was about.

“Please Sire, secretary Gudrun cannot go out looking like that, please I will go out and speak to Ambassador Nielson”.

Rupert looked at del Valdes and then at Gudrun who stood blood running down his face, dripping blood on to the floor,
“For god sake Gudrun don’t just stand there bleeding go get yourself cleaned up, you look a disgrace. How dare you come in here looking like a peasant wandering in from the streets?

Secretary Gudrun said “I am sorry sire, I will go and cleanup immediately” he turned and limped out of the office.
Ambassador Valdes decided he had to go for broke and keep the Duke calm,
“Sire it is extremely important for all of us that we get through this meeting calmly and quietly, in a dignified and diplomatic manner. Bergatonia does not need any more aggravation from another country while it’s still at war with Rechburg, and yes my own country certainly does not wish to lose the Danemark electoral vote, no more than it does yours Sire. So please  for your own realms sake as well as mine let us work our way through this together”.

The Duke sat down at his desk, he looked at his hands, and they were still shaking but not as badly as earlier,
“So at least we know he has definetly come about my mother, what do we do?”j

“Well sire you have to lay the ground work about why she has been imprisoned, that she plotted against you with Rechburgian help, we need to shift as much blame of this on the Rechburgians and sire you will need to play the part of the aggrieved and betrayed son.”

“Ummmphh play acting, I will not play any role other than who and what I am, my mother betrayed me and Bergatonia and thus for her treason she has been temporarily placed in confinement. That is what I will be telling that bastard out there, so del Valdes why don’t you go and bring the Ambassador in, and don’t worry I will be gentle with him”.

The Iberian Ambassador swallowed deeply, never in his wildest nightmare could he have dreamt himself into a more precarious position, if he lost one electoral vote he would be asked home and retired, if he lost two he would be taken home and shot.
He left the Dukes office and made his way down to the anteroom where the Danemarkian Ambassador was still waiting.

Valdes approached Ambassador Nielson he bowed,
“Ambassador Nielson, I am Ambassador Marqués de Villanueva del Valdes Iberian Ambassador to the Bergonian Duchy, I must apologise to you for I find myself in the err rather unusual situation of being a foreign diplomat welcoming another foreign diplomat into a another foreign country, all very odd I am sure”.
Ambassador Nielson had sometimes found himself in some interesting situations during his long and illustrious diplomatic career but he couldn’t recall one as bizarre as this.

“Indeed Marqués de Villanueva del Valdes a most unusual situation, but then I had been warned that such unusual situations are not so unusual in Bergatonia. Anyway allow me to formally introduce myself I am Ambassador Nielson of the Kingdom of Danemark”.

“Well Ambassador Nielson now that we have the formalities out of the way please come and join the Duke. Secretary Gudrun informed the Duke you wished to see Princess Charlotte, unfortunately the Duke and I had been in a meeting but as Secretary Gudrun indicated you were most anxious to see the Princess the Duke asked me would I mind foregoing our meeting so he could meet you.”

“So where is this Secretary, why did you come to greet me and not the Secretary or the Duke”.

“Ambassador Nielson, let me offer a friendly word of advice, the  Duke is a very unusual man, he does things differently and asking me to pop out and greet a new Ambassador to his country is not let me say at all unusual here in Bergatonia.”

The two men walked up the long corridor to where two Bergonian grenadiers stood on Guard, Ambassador Valdes knocked on the door and then entered, when the two ambassadors entered the room the Duke rose from behind his desk, Ambassador Valdes did the introductions.

“Sire may I present Ambassador Nielson of his Majesty’s kingdom of Danemark.”

Ambassador Nielson stepped forward towards the Duke, he noticed what looked like blood on the floor but chose to ignored it and  bowed and stepped forward offering his official credentials from the court of Danemark to the court of Bergatonia.

The Duke took the papers and said,
“You are most welcome Ambassador indeed most welcome.”
He quickly read through the documents and then placed them on the desk, he sat down,
“Now then my Secretary said you wished to see my mother your liege lord’s sister I believe.”

Ambassador Nielson looked over to Ambassador Valdes, who quickly grasped the significance of the Danemark ambassadors look, he stepped forward,

“Sire perhaps I should step outside while you have an audience with Ambassador Nielson, we can continue our business later I am sure.”

The Duke not taking the hint from either Ambassadors said,
“Nonsense, please I am sure Ambassador Nielson does not object if you stay, after all we are all friends here are we not.”
Duke Rupert looked to Ambassador Neilson,
“I have no objection sire for I am sure we can conclude our discussions quickly as I know you are an extremely busy man.”
The Duke rested his hands on the desk, “Fine, excellent, now then gentlemen please take a seat and Ambassador Nielson perhaps you can start by telling us what it is King Olaf wants.’

“Sire, King Olaf has heard you have his sister imprisoned in a cell, is this correct?”
Duke Rupert looked the Danemark Ambassador directly in the eye and said, Yes, indeed my mother is in prison and while I can understand how distressful the news must have been to his majesty to hear of the imprisonment of his sister, imagine how distressing it has been for me to have to imprison my own mother.”

“May I ask sire, why she has been imprisoned”

“Indeed, a good question. She is guilty of treason Ambassador, she was part of a plot sadly instigated by my first Minister in conjunction with that damned Rechburgian heretic Constantine, they intended to kill me and place my mother on the Bergatonian throne, which in time would have been bad news for your King no doubt”.

“I see sire, and you have proof of this treason.”

“Indeed I do, My first minister tried to encourage Iberia into the plot to replace me as well, fortunately Ambassador Valdes was a man of more integrity than my First minister he informed me of the plot”.

“Hmmm and the First Minister where is he now Sire?”

“He is dead, his body turned up in a river a week or so ago, we assume that after he deserted me at Briel he feared he would be exposed so he ran for  his life, unfortunately he must have fallen foul of some bandits who robbed and killed him.”

“I see sire, this is grievous news indeed, treason is a serious charge and I understand why you have placed the Princess in prison, when will the trial be?”

The Duke looked to the Iberian Ambassador then quickly back to Ambassador Nielson, “Trial, there will be no trial she is guilty and she will either be executed or kept in prison”.

“So when you say she is guilty sire, you are basing the evidence of her guilt on Ambassador Valdes word”.
“Indeed I am Ambassador, Iberia has been a very good ally to me and I have never had reason to doubt the integrity of Ambassador Valdes before.”

“Oh please sire, I do not doubt the integrity of the ambassador at all, merely trying to get a clear picture of events. So what did Princess Charlotte say when you charged her with treason, did she deny the charge?”

“Charge her, why would I charge her when she is already in prison, good god she is guilty by association with that heretic in Rechburg, she is guilty by word of the ambassador so no we have not charged her, there is no need, merely exchanged a larger cell that being the Scloss Palace to a smaller one.”

“So Princess Charlotte has been imprisoned and does not know why.”

“Oh she knows now, but only because we told her why.”

“And did she deny the charge sire?”

“What is with all these questions Ambassador, I am beginning to feel like I am trial here” demand Rupert.

“I am sorry Sire, but my King has asked me to investigate the reasons for the imprisonment of his sister so while I am doing my utmost to do my duty I do apologise for the intrusive questions, but I must solve this issue to my sovereign’s satisfaction”

Rupert stood up and made his way to the window, Ambassador Valdes was getting a little concerned because he noticed the Dukes hand was beginning to tremble again, the Duke must have realised it as well, he quickly went back to his chair and hid his hands under the desk.

“So if I may sire, just a few more questions and I will be on my way,”

“Well quickly then, Ambassador Valdes and I have much to discuss”.

“When you say the Princess was guilty by association with Herzog Constantine what exactly do you mean?”

“Good god man, I would have thought a Danemarkian would have understood if anyone did”
“My mother whored herself to that heretic and if she didn’t he raped her, so yes they do have an association”
“So you are inferring that by association it was when they last met well over 20 years ago, surely you are not basing her guilt on that sire.”

“Ambassador I am basing her guilt on her actions, she is a whore and a traitor, she was implicated in a despicable plot against me and I have a very creditable witness in Ambassador Valdes here, so yes she is guilty. But you can assure your King that I will be lenient with her as I have been all my reign despite her provocations, she will not be executed; she will remain imprisoned.”

“Sire I am lead to believe she is being guarded by Iberian troops and Iberian priests as jailors; is this correct.”

“Indeed it is Ambassador; it saddens me to say that the Bergatonian guards were too lax in their duties, so lax in fact that they allowed the princess to be part of the plot right under their eyes.”

The Ambassador rose, “Well sire you have been most kind, now if you will permit I wish to visit the princess, I have some gifts for her and a letter from her brother.”

“You may see her Ambassador but I will not allow gifts or letters without them being scrutinized by the guards”.
“Sire you are welcome to inspect the gifts, that is reasonable but I will not permit you to read a private communication between my King and his sister.”

“Then Ambassador, I am sorry you have wasted your journey, all communications must be inspected.”

“Why would you need to inspect a letter from her brother, it doesn’t make sense.”

Duke Rupert was becoming irritated and Ambassador Valdes could see this was starting to go wrong so he quickly interrupted,

“Sire, surely it could do no harm for the Princess to receive a letter from her brother.”

“Let me instruct you gentlemen on a few facts, Bergatonia is a independent country, it has its own rules and customs, and I am its ruler, therefore I judge what is harmful and what is not. Now the princess may be your Kings sister Ambassador Nielson but she is my mother and if I am satisfied that letters need to be inspected then your king should equally be prepared to have them read”

Ambassador Nielsen rose from his seat he was beginning to feel indignant.

“And how many letters have you written to your mother sire?”

“What the hell has that got to do with it good god man she is my mother whether I write to her or not is my business, now you will either leave the letter or you will not see the Princess”.

“Alright sire, you have been forthright with me allow me the same privilege, King Olaf will not be pleased his sister is imprisoned on such flimsy accusations which are not based on any physical evidence, merely on hear say by the same people who guard her, foreigners who have a vested interest in implicating her and Rechburg in a conspiracy that I am totally surprised you cannot or will not see through. You have not shown me one shred of evidence of guilt here and I can see why you would not allow this to go to court, it would quite simply be thrown out”.
Ambassador Nielson then turned to  Ambassador Valdes “Now Ambassador I can say with certainty that if you support this injustice my king will not support your electoral vote - ever. Princess Charlotte is a member of the ruling house of Danemark, as such she has certain rights and privileges all of which are being abused both by Bergatonia and Iberia, I can promise you unless you wish a war that will tear Bergatonia apart you will have Princess Charlotte by my side by this evening”

Rupert rose and thumped the desk
“How dare you speak to me like that, you bloody pumped up little pip squeak I will have your head on a pike at those gates out there”

“If that is the case Sire my head will have the dubious company of your head as well as the ambassadors when Danemark marches in here”.

“And how the hell is Danemark going to march in here you bloody idiot, they would have to march through Rechburg, a bloody heretic country”.

“Herzog Constantine and King Olaf are meeting in Eggsburg to discuss that very eventuality, by not giving Princess Charlotte to me today, you will drive Danemark and Rechburg into an alliance against you, I think even you sire can see the folly in that.  In fact you will have the dubious privilege of being the first nation in Europia to be responsible for driving a Catholic nation and a Protestant nation into an alliance.” He turned looking at Ambassador Valdes.
“I wonder how popular Iberia will be with the Electoral College when that happens", he then turned back to the Duke who was now visibly shaking and perspiring,
"Of course it won’t affect you sire for you will be dead”.

“You dare threaten me, I will have you thrown in prison you scum”
“Then Sire ensure it is a cell next to the Princess”
“Get out, get out of my office, out of my country” the Duke screamed

Ambassador Valdes started to raise his voice,
“For God sake Gentleman, this is no way for us to behave please, please calm your passions”.

The Duke walked over to the drink cabinet and while he was pouring himself a drink his hands shaking all the while, the Iberian Ambassador spoke with Ambassador Nielson”

“It is imperative Ambassador you try to remain calm, the Duke is infamous for his temper and while you two scream at each other nothing will be achieved, please just give me a moment with the Duke”.

Ambassador Nielson nodded, already he was calming down, however before Ambassador Valdes left him Nielson said
“It is clear I must leave Bergatonia with the Princess, that or the consequence for all will be severe”

Ambassador Valdes nodded and went to the Duke. Taking the Duke by  the elbow he walked the trembling monarch away to the windows,
“Sire, we have to let the Princess go, Bergatonia cannot be responsible for driving Rechburg and Danemark into an alliance, it simply cannot be allowed”
Rupert was sweating heavily, hands still shaking,
“I will not be dictated to in my own country, I will not do you hear me.”
Ambassador Nielson whispered, “Yes Sire I do hear you and I understand your anger at the Danemark impudence, but right now you need to think with a cool head. Danemark holds all the cards, if you keep the Princess you gain nothing but a war you can never win, by letting her go you rid yourself of a woman who has provoked and pestered you all your life; you would be free of her”.

Rupert looked at the Ambassador, and then turned to look out off the window, Ambassador Valdes glanced over to the Danemark Ambassador to see him waiting, he nodded.
Rupert turned back to look at Valdes, his trembling seem to be calming, the headache easing.
“She is my mother; I don’t want her to go.”
“Sire you must let her leave, surely you understand that.”
“But if she leaves she will never return, I will have no father nor mother, I will be ALONE” he shouted the last word. Valdes placed his hand on his shoulder,
“Sire you are never alone, you have a country who love you; I am here both as your friend as well as a Ambassador of a country that loves and admires you. In fact sire, by ridding Bergatonia of her, you can start a new here, you don’t have her constantly reminding you of her sluttish ways, and her snide provocations. Let her go Sire and free yourself from her evil spell”.

The trembling almost gone now, Rupert smiled at Valdes, nodded and then made his way back to the desk.
“Ambassador Neilson, I apologise for my outburst, it is merely the thought of losing the company of my mother than I err become passionate about things. After all Ambassador she may be a traitor and whore but she is after all my mother and that does invoke certain passions”.

Ambassador nodded and replied “Sire I apologise for my most undiplomatic behavior as well, just as your passions for your mother unsettle you, my devotion to my King do equally sometimes raise my own passions”

Duke nodded and sat down in his chair, he glanced to Ambassador Valdes, then back to Ambassador Nielson,
“Very well then Ambassador, I am prepared to part with my mother’s company but I will require certain conditions in return”

The Duke indicated that Ambassador Nielson should also sit down, both Ambassadors took a seat.

“And those conditions are Sire?”

“First my mother will sign an agreement that she will forgo all claims and rights to the Bergatonia throne, for the rest of her life.”
Ambassador Nielson nodded,” I am sure I can convince her to agree to that sire.”

Secondly and this is not negotiable Ambassador “Danemark pledges in writing to support the Iberian claim to the Papal seat.”

Ambassador Nielson sat back in his seat, “Sire that is a considerable obligation to ask of my country”

Duke Rupert nodded, “As is a son losing the privilege of his mothers company, no matter the manner of her behavior.”

The issue of Danemark buying the Princesses freedom with the electoral vote had already been discussed between King Olaf and his Ambassador, but Ambassador Nielson had hoped to bring the deal about without using it.

“Well Sire King Olaf did fore see that the Iberians may make this a condition of his sisters release..”

The Duke interrupted Ambassador Nielson
“Ambassador this is not being done at the behest of Iberia, this is a condition I seek on Bergatonia’s  behalf. It benefits Bergatonia to have our ally as Pope as I am sure it will benefit Danemark.”

An idea then occurred to Ambassador Nielson
“Sire Danemark will agree to support the Iberian claim on the condition of Bergatonia freeing Princess Charlotte and Iberia giving Danemark 4 ships of the line, ships not less than 10  years old and not less than third rate.”

Ambassador Valdes jumped up

“I cannot simply agree to that, I don’t have the authority”

Rupert looked at Valdes and said
“Well Ambassador Valdes if your country wants the vote you better get the authority, send one of your pigeons and we will await the reply, meanwhile my mother will be taken from the cell and placed back in Schloss Palace where you may visit her Ambassador Nielson”.

“Thank you Sire but we must be clear, for Danemark to agree to the Papal vote going to Iberia, you must free Princess Charlotte and Iberia will give Danemark 4 ships of the line, are we all in agreement in that we understand the conditions.”

Rupert smiled, “Well Ambassador Nielsen what I do understand is that my mother’s release is not an issue for Bergatonia any longer, it is conditional on Iberia whether she stays or leaves". The Duke then glanced at the Iberian Ambassador with some smugness,
"Naturally if they fail to agree it will be Iberia that drives Rechburg and Danemark into an alliance,” I wonder the chances of Iberia being offered the papal seat would be then.”

Ambassador Valdes wasn't sure at what point his country had slipped into being the pivotal issue on whether a Catholic nation allied with a Protestant one, whether 4 ships became the vital link to his nation even being offered the chance of gaining the Papal seat, the one thing was certain, he had just been out maneuvered by a mad man. 
Somehow the  Duke had neatly side stepped the blame issue and it feel squarely onto Iberia’s lap.

“I will send a message immediately, if you gentlemen will excuse me,” with that Ambassador Valdes rose from his seat, bowed to Duke Rupert and Ambassador Nielson and left the room.

Two days later Princess Charlotte left Bergatonia forever, Danemark had doubled its fleet in a week and Iberia was sure of at least one electoral vote. Though it did occur to Ambassador Valdes when he delivered the news to the Duke and Ambassador Nielson Bergatonia had not as of yet signed a papal pledge to support Iberia.

Constantine was almost delirious with joy in seeing Charlotte for the first time in 25 years; they spent several days together before she rode with Ambassador Nielson back to Danemark.

Needless to say Constantine was furious that Danemark now in a period of a week or so had a navy that equaled his own.

As he sat in his office, his Prime Minister Anton Seeger entered.

Constantine looked up, “Yes Anton what is it?

“Sire there has been another battle in Ulrichstein.”


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chapter 7 - Consquences

Chapter 7
It had been several days since the debacle at the battle of Briel; Duke Rupert had led his defeated army out of Rechburg through two  days of rain and sleet. Following the death of the legendary General Lumsdorf during the battle the Duke had appointed General Kunisch to command the army away from the battlefield. Duke Rupert had more important things to contemplate other than what to do with his defeated army; he had been betrayed and he wanted revenge.
It became all too clear now that he was able to look back on events that had led to the battle. He played the whole scenario over in his mind again and again. As he rode he pondered, and as he pondered he realised the traitor was Baron Schaeffer.
The Baron had claimed the whole concept of the raid come invasion was the mine, but no I am now sure it was the Baron who first suggested it. Of course things went awry for the Baron when I decided to lead the army, in fact the Baron practically insisted that the he and I should stay in the capital New Madrid while General Lumsdorf lead the invasion.
Then when the battle was at its hottest he suggested, no practically demanded,  that I should be in the frontline with General Lumsdorf, naturally when I told I expected him to come he was very reluctant and finally he fled, abandoned me and my army.
Yet if I had stayed in the capital and not gone with the army I would likely have been in greater danger. Yes indeed it seemed just too convenient that I would have been left in the Capital practically defenseless with the only standing army units not in winter quarters away from the city, that was it wasn’t it; the baron was planning a coup. He wanted me alone so he and his conspirators could kill me, but who were the conspirators.
I know he was in secret talks with the Iberians but what had the Iberians hoped to gain with me out of the way, I had been a faithful ally to them the only issue had been over the papal vote. The papal vote that was it, the bloody Baron had promised them the Papal vote. God damn that bloody whoreson I will string his guts from one end of New Madrid to the other, I will have his head on a pike at the Palace gates; a thousand deaths are not enough for that traitorous scum.
Hmmm but wait who would rule Bergatonia after my death, surely not The Baron, he didn’t have the support of the army in fact I fostered the animosity between the Baron and the army, it prevented one party becoming too strong. Unless of course I had been killed in battle and especially since General Lumsdorf was dead the Baron would claim there was no one left to rule. Yes that was another failing, this time mine, I have left no clear change of command in case of my  death, yet I did that deliberately to avoid the person who would replace me seeking an early opportunity.
No the other generals were just as loyal as Lumsdorf had been and its very unlikely they would accept the Baron as their ruler, the army are very predictable, they like a uniform chain of command, they like tradition and regalia. It’s reflected in their passion about the unit flags and banners, the songs and the tales they tell of past glories, it’s all part of the aura armies build around themselves and they like tradition not change. The Baron would have known that, so how would he keep the army down, he was not part of their tradition, no it had to be someone the army as a whole would be accept as part of Bergatonian hierarchy, part of the Bergatonian tradition. There was no one else, I have no children except my bastard son Alexander and no one, not even the Baron knew about him so he was not threat, I have no one else; except of course my mother.
Good bloody God that was it, the Baron was working with the Iberians to replace him with me with my mother, yes she was part of the Bergatonian tradition; the bloody army would follow her. Good god that whoreson of a Baron and the whore of a mother together, yes that was it; they would rule together. I would have been killed and my body left to rot while those two traitors gloried in my death, well if its death they want it death they will have; the Duke yelled loud and clear
“Well if its death you want, its death you will have but it won’t be mine”.
A startled voice from behind said
“Pardon sire, who wants a death?”
The Duke turned to see a rather startled cavalry Major Escano looking at him.
“Its nothing Major Escano, I was thinking allowed.”
Major Escano was in command of the Duke’s escort, he lead a Squadron of Dragoons as they made their way back to New Madrid.
Turning to the Major he asked
“Do you have a mother major, oh wait of course you do, is your mother still alive Major?”
“Yes sire, she is.”
“Hmmm well watch her Major, mothers can be dangerous.”
The Major couldn’t imagine how his 73 year old mother could hurt anyone.
The rest of the journey towards the capital had been quiet, the Duke deep in his thoughts, thoughts about revenge. They were a few miles from the capital when as they crested a hill they were surprised to see a line of heavy Cavalry astride the road, behind the cavalry were artillery and infantry, what the hell was going on.
The bloody Baron has rallied the army behind him, good god I’m dead, no perhaps there is still time; I could run now while they are uncertain about what to do. No, where would I run too, no country would give me shelter, I can’t run, that’s it I live or die here; at the hands of traitors.
“Sire, what would you have me do, there are too many troops there for us to charge” Major Escano said.
“No Major, you can do nothing, they have come for me, I will go forward and talk to them” he started moving towards the line of the enemy, the enemy his own countrymen, but then he stopped turned his horse around rode back to Major Escano.
“Major are you loyal to me?”
“Yes Sire of course I am, I and my men are yours to command”
“No, no major there will be no more commands”.
 The Duke dug deep into a saddle bag and took out a broach, he wrapped it in a scarf and handed to the rather confused major,
“Please give this to my son”, with that he turned around and once more and rode to face the enemy.
The major was left holding a bundled scarf as his Duke rode off up the road, he just wondered to himself,
What son, you don’t have one.
So he pocketed the bundle until later.
The Duke road a little way towards the line of Bergatonian Cavalry, wondering will it be a blast from the cannon, or a volley of shots from the infantry that he could now plainly see, or would it be capture and god forbid torture.
What happened next was totally unexpected, and that said a lot for the whole week had been full of unexpected occurrences. Instead of the roar of cannon fire, or the blast of musketry, there was a tremendous roar, cheers from the line ahead of him; good bloody god they were cheering him.
He stopped his horse, he was dumbfounded, then he saw two men riding towards him, he instantly recognized them the first and eldest was the Iberian Ambassador, the other was his personal secretary Joseph Gudrun.
The cheering soon subsided as the two men rode up to the Duke, Secretary Gudrun was clearly pleased to see him, however the Duke was less certain about the Iberian Ambassador. The Duke was now in a total state of confusion, not knowing what to expect at all.
“We are extremely glad to see you sire, we had word that you had been killed.” Gudrun said.
The Duke looked at his secretary, he reminded Rupert of a mother hen, since he been appointed the Dukes personal secretary he had fussed around the Duke constantly.
“Well Joseph the rumours are not true, I am very much alive I assure you”
All three of them had a short chuckle then Secretary Gudron said
“We were not sure what had happened, the Baron came back and said you and General Lumsdorf had been killed. I didn’t believe it sire so I decided to wait a few days before acting.”
“Then a Countess Bouteville came to me with urgent news for you, I told her that we were not certain where you were. I didn’t want word getting out that you had died so I am sorry sire I lied to her.”
The Duke, decided to get off his horse, he waved to Major Escano to come forward, the other two dismounted as well.
When the major arrived he said “Go to the troops over there” pointing to the troops that came with secretary Gudrun “tell them all is well and they are to return to New Madrid”.
He then turned back to Joseph, “So now tell me first, where is the Baron and what the hell did this countess Bouteville want;” wondering what on earth could have been so urgent to have made her break her cover.
Joseph fidgeted, a sure sign to Rupert that he was nervous,
“Sire, the Baron has disappeared, we don’t know where he is, he came back with the news you were dead, that there would be a change in Bergatonia. I didn’t believe him and told him until we heard formally off your death you were still the ruler, we argued he claimed that he was First Minister so it was his decision and he told me I was relieved of my duties.  It appears that after the Baron left my office he left the palace quickly all he told his secretary was he had urgent business and then left, we haven’t seen him since”.
“Even though I had been dismissed I felt until we had news or the baron returned I should remain close to your office, I spoke to General Auloch and he advised that we place the military on alert mainly due to the fact no one knew what on earth was happening. First no word about you, then the Baron disappearing as it all started to sound rather irregular and very worrying.
 Then the countess came again and was most insistent that she spoke with you,  she said she had vital news for you, urgent news,  I just lied once more as to your where abouts.”
“Did the countess say what the news was?”
“Only on her third visit Sire, she was most insistent by then, so she said I should  get word to you that you were in danger that the Baron was in a plot with the Rechburgians to replace you on the throne with your mother.”
The Duke looked from Joseph to the Iberian Ambassador then back to Joseph,
“Did the Countess say how she came about this news?” the Duke asked.
The Iberian Ambassador stepped forward, “That is where I came in sire. It appears one of our staff was to say the least indiscreet in that he had been having quite an innocent liaison with the countess and he had divulged the fact that we suspected the Duke of plotting against you. Naturally sire once I heard that this man had divulged our secrets I had him sent back to Iberia at once, in some disgrace may I add. For some time we have suspected the Baron of plotting against you, in fact just prior to the Rechburgian incident he approached us to join him in the plot, we refused and then the next thing we heard he had gone on campaign with you.
A few days later we heard he had returned claiming you were dead, so I approached Secretary Gudrun here asking for definite news as to your fate, it seemed most prudent especially considering the Barons treasonous actions prior to him leaving with you; only to have him return alone claiming you were dead. Secretary Gudron was equally obstinate in resisting our prodding’s concerning your welfare, so after we explained our suspicions he admitted he was unsure as to your exact umm err condition Sire.
I then suggested that he ensure your mother was safely locked up and that he bring the army out of winter quarters which as it now seems he and General Auloch had already done, a precaution  just in case the Rechburgians took advantage of the situation, or the Baron was away seeking to bring other Bergatonian forces into the capital.
The Duke stood looking from one man to another.
“So ambassador if you suspected the Baron of plotting against me, why didn’t you come to me sooner?’ the Duke asked.
“How could we sire? We had no proof and it would simply be our word against your First minister, and naturally you would have accepted your own mans word over ours, so we needed proof to confirm what our suspicions were.”
“Did you find proof Ambassador?” the Duke asked.
“Only in that he confirmed to me personally that since you were dead he wanted to place your mother on the throne, which would have ensured peace with Rechburg which I interpreted as meaning a Rechburg expanded state in months to come. As Iberia has always been your most loyal ally’s sire, and our own feelings towards your mother are well known there was no way we would allow a Rechburgian to rule in your place until we knew for certain you were dead and then the matter would have been out of our hands.”
“So you have no evidence to show me, just here say?”
“Sadly no sire, were it the case that we had evidence it would have made things so much easier for us, but with his disappearance we have no proof to offer sire, only that our subsequent actions along with those of this excellent and loyal Secretary of yours were done to secure the throne for you.”
“Indeed Ambassador, it seems you have acted with the utmost integrity, at least as far as I know at the moment, and as for you Joseph considering the circumstances you found yourself in, you acted most intelligently; I am very pleased with you. However for now I want to go home and have a bath, then we will investigate this matter more completely, oh by the way Joseph what have you done with the Countess?”
“I have detained her in the Capital Sire, her and her son. I was sure you would wish to interrogate her yourself.”
The Duke nodded, as he mounted his horse.
“You have done right Joseph, and yes I will interrogate her myself and find out her involvement in this whole squalid matter.”

Princess Charlotte Duke Rupert’s mother didn’t know what had happened to change her circumstances, but now that she was kept in a cell it was evident something considerable had occurred. The last she had heard was her son had gone to war with Rechburg; the next thing was the soldiers who had guarded her were moving her to a cell.
She had managed to get a message to one of her ladies before she was incarcerated in the cell, the message was a pre-arranged signal that she had to get word out to Herzog Constantine as well as her brother the King of Danemark. Anne Lehmann had been one of the princess’s lady’s in waiting and companion for many years; they had discussed such an eventuality where the princess’s circumstances would change and when that happened Anne would get word out. The Princess had no way of knowing if her brother would help or even care, nor was she certain that her one time lover Constantine would or could do anything, all she knew was she had to try something.
Despite her son keeping her captive in the Schloss Palace, she still loved him, she understood the difficult childhood the boy had, her husband Duke Franz was a cold and cruel man, not only did he beat her he also regularly beat his step son.
As Rupert grew into a teenager it was clear he was a troubled young man, he had a tendency to violent outbursts and was quite often cruel to palace staff. Franz sent her son to Iberia for twelve months and when he returned all he could talk about was the wonders of the Iberian Empire and the marvels of the catholic faith, for a while it seemed the violent tempers had changed. What did not change was his attitude to her and he regularly verbally abused her, accusing her of denying him the chance of assuming the throne of Rechburg, she was a whore, a heretic and a witch.

On her husband’s death her son became Duke and within 2 days of the coronation she was made a prisoner. The Guards were changed from the usual Bergatonian Garrison to Iberian jailors, the change it seemed was made as a precaution against the fact some of the Bergatonian soldiers may have sympathies for the Princess. The actual Jailors were Iberian priests who belittled her at every opportunity, calling also calling her Whore and heretic.
Twice she had tried to escape; both times she was captured and returned to captivity and even more humiliation.
Not much had changed over the years of her confinement except perhaps she had a few more luxuries in that she could do what most ladies did at the time, sewing, painting and flower arranging all of which she called Nuns pastime.

Anne made good her escape before Duke Rupert had returned from the war and she was across the Rechburg border within a week, she made her way along the border until she came across a Rechburg patrol, after explaining she had an urgent communication for the Herzog she was taken to Prince Leopold’s Headquarters in Pendalcost.

His headquarters was in a modest house near the town, the lounge of the house had been converted into Leopold’s office and all but one  of the four  bedrooms were taken by his small group of staff officers.
Captain Kann knocked on Prince Leopold’s open office door with a rather perplexing smile, it was not that the Captain didn’t often smile it was more that he had a smile of the cat that had just seen a mouse, in this case the mouse was Anne Lehman
All day Leopold had been hassled by local dignitaries all coming with complaints about soldiers plundering farm stock, or wanting their workers back out of the militia or they wanted a favour or two. This was definitely not one side of commanding an army that Leopold had expected nor enjoyed.
His second  in command General Molyneaux tried to share the work load but often it was too much even for two men. 

 “Sire you have a visitor”

“For god’s sake Captain can’t you see I’m busy, surely there is someone else in this hovel that take care of it, he looked at General Molyneaux, Ernst will you deal with it for me.”

“Certainly Sire”

The General walked to the door and as he looked out into the hallway to see who the visitor was he saw Anne Lehmann, it was like seeing a ghost from the past.

“Good God Anne, what are you doing here?” asked General Molyneaux.

Anne looked at the tall elderly staff officer, she saw a general but she also saw the man who had been her father’s best friend.
Anne looked exhausted, she was obviously almost out on her feet so he rushed to her side taking her by the elbow he walked her into the office. Leopold was totally stunned to see the General virtually carrying a young lady into his office, she was obviously worn out and going by the dust and dirt on her skirts she had travelled some distance.

Anne made to curtsy, but she was tired and now her journey was almost finished her energy all that remained at least seemed to melt away.

“Please madam, please sit, you look exhausted,”

“Sire” Anne said, looking from her father’s old friend to the young Prince, “Sire I have a most urgent message for the Herzog.”

General Lehmann quickly went from Anne’s side out to the hallway he summoned a staff officer and instructed him to prepare a meal for the lady; he then went to the cabinet and poured a small thimble glass of brandy.

Meanwhile Leopold was squatting at her feet, between holding her in the chair by gently holding her arm and reassuring her.

“Madam be assured I will get any message to my father, but for now you must rest”.
Ernst handed the small glass to Leopold,
“Please take a small sip of this, it will help a little” Leopold said as he offered the glass.

Ernst then knelt down on the other side of Anne, both men glancing puzzled and concerned at this most unexpected visitor.
Ernst said “Sire this is Anne Lehmann, her father General Max Lehmann was the Danemark Ambassador to Rechburg for many years and a man whom I am very proud to call one of my closest friends.”

Anne sipped the Brandy; placing the glass on a table beside the chair she then with her left hand pulled a folded piece of paper from her right sleeve.

She looked at the Prince kneeling beside her,
“Sire I have come from Princess Charlotte, she has been placed in prison, for what crime she nor I do not know, but now her situation is desperate I fear for her life every day now”.

Prince Leopold looked over at Ernst, he then rose and moved back to the desk, deep in thought. He knew all about the liaison between Princess Charlotte and his father, they had met at the coronation of the Britannic King William I, during the month long festivities the two had met and became lovers. It was not until they both returned back to Iberia, she to Danemark, Constantine to Rechburg that word reached Rechburg of Charlotte’s pregnancy.
There had been a huge flurry of diplomatic meetings, between Rechburg and Danemark, but the animosity between the two nations as well as the gulf in religions was too great to allow for any compromise that would allow Constantine and Charlotte to be married.

Charlotte was hurriedly married off to Duke Franz of Bergatonia, the only Catholic Prince prepared to take a fallen princess with a heretic child, and that was only because of a huge dowry he received from the King of Danemark. Charlotte gave birth to a boy she named Rupert but sadly instead of the birth of a royal prince being a time of celebration and joy  Charlotte and child were shut away from society, she was a Princess in a realm she rarely saw, both child and mother were frequently abused by Duke Franz and his Iberian minions.

Over the years Charlotte had managed to develop a secret system of communication with Constantine, they exchanged letters regularly but the communication stopped being regular when Constantine married and later became Herzog. The messages did continue sporadically they were messages of affection and encouragement, Constantine had written that she was his first love and he would do all he could to gain her freedom. To her these rare glimpses into the outside world gave her hope but as time passed however Charlotte realised that there was little Constantine could do, he could not risk a war just to free a Danemark Princess in Bergatonian captivity so she sat and waited for whatever god or fate had prepared for her.  She tried to keep the lines of communication open with her brother in Danemark, but he rarely replied and never with any sense of affection.

Over the years Charlotte’s situation waxed and waned with international events, for some months she would be allowed considerable freedom then for some unknown reason she would be confined to just a few rooms, the realization that her torment became even more constant under the rule of her son had affected her health considerably.
She had tried to escape, twice and both times she was recaptured and punished, so now she simply existed a prisoner in a gilded cage.

The news that her situation had changed for the worse would be of concern to his father, but Leopold realised just as surely his father would do, there was little they could do to regain Charlotte’s freedom. As young teenagers the story of the sad romance between their father and the Princess kindled the flame of adventure for Wilhelm, Caroline and Leopold. Together they would often scheme plans to free her, but each time their plans were discovered by Constantine and stopped.

Leopold again reassured Anne
“I will pass this message on to my father, I am sure he will be greatly concerned by this”

Anne looked up at the young man, he must she thought be around her own age, but he had the look of a man much younger.
“Sire I must go on to Danemark, so please allow me to take the message to your father the Herzog, then I need to go to Danemark and plead my ladies case there”.
“But, Anne, you are exhausted you need rest.”
“Sire allow me a bath and a good night sleep and I will be ready to travel on the morrow, please sire I must do this”.
Leopold glanced at Ernst who quietly nodded his head, “Very well we will have quarters prepared, and as you say a bath, but first you must eat something.”

So Leopold and Ernst led Anne away to the dining room, where the staff had prepared a meal for her.

Leopold and Ernst left her to eat alone, they returned to the office. Leopold turned to Ernst,
“What do you make of this?”
Ernst looked at his young Prince, “Sire I have known your father most of his life, I like to think I may even understand him and if I do, then I know this will shake him, believe me we will be hearing a lot more in a few days time.”

“Yes maybe Ernst but what the hell  can we do from here, we can hardly invade,” Leopold then smiled, “though of course Ernst we are officially at war so whatever we do does not have to be errrr diplomatically correct does it now.”

“Indeed sire it does not” Ernst replied noting the slight smile that indicated the boy in Leopold was scheming once more.

Next morning as per Anne Lehmann’s wishes she was sent on to Albany, Leopold gave her a coach and several cavalrymen as an escort, her journey would likely take 3 days at a leisurely pace, about 2 days longer than the dispatch rider Leopold had sent to his father the night before.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chapter 6 - New Plans

The Marqués de Villanueva del Valdes the Iberian Ambassador to Bergatonia was having less than a good day. Word had arrived of the Bergatonian defeat in Rechburg, that was bad enough but rather disappointingly Duke Rupert did not have the sense to get himself killed. To make matters worse the Ambassador now had Baron Schaeffer the Bergatonian First Minister out in the ante room pleading for an audience.

The Ambassador was absently mindedly toying with a quill, flicking the feather between his lips, across the desk from him sat Bishop Antonio Padro the Master Spy for Iberia in Bergatonia, a man as ruthless he was cunning, and he was very cunning.
The Bishop was all you would expect to see in a man of the cloth, he was overweight but very tall; he had the strangest beady eyes that seemed to intimidate you when he looked at you. His reputation was enough to make the staunchest Iberian patriot wonder question their own loyalty; finally he was a Catholic zealot but was not blind to the failings of the Mother Church nor indeed to this ambassador.

“Your Excellency” the Bishop said interrupting the flicking quill, “We have no choice but to support Duke Rupert over Baron Schaeffer, if the Duke has come back in one of his errr moods, he will be out for the blood of Baron Schaeffer for deserting him on the field of battle. We all know how unreasonable the Duke can be when he is in one of his moods and if we hide or protect the Baron we will be confirming what the Duke already suspects, that we have been working against him. On the other hand if we were to let the Dukes spies know that the Baron was working for someone else then we may deflect that retribution when it comes; and believe me your Excellency it will come.”

Ambassador Valdes rose from his seat, once again flicking the quill between his lips, he paced to the window, the window looked out on the fashionable Ducal Avenue with its high society houses and other foreign embassies neatly placed side by side.  Across the Avenue was the Trocadéro Park a favourite riding area for high society people. The Ambassador ceased his window gazing and now moved to the book shelves, he stood with his back to the Bishop as if studying his collection of books, and then returned to the desk, quietly sitting down again.

“The problem as you well know Antonio is we desperately need the Bergatonian vote for the Papal seat, nothing else matters at this stage. If I remember correctly you assured me that the First Minister was the path to gaining that vote, you also promised that it would be through the Baron that Iberia would have a client state in Northern Europia. Now you are suggesting we throw him to the wolves thus losing the very man you recommended. We have invested a small fortune as well as time in him to gain for us the vital vote our Emperor needs, to gain us that client state; despite all you promised it seems you have failed to achieve any of it. Hardly satisfactory Antonio is it”.

“Sadly your Excellency when dealing with sharks and idiots even the most reliable plans have a tendency to come adrift, and here in Bergatonia we have the worst kind of shark in the baron and the biggest type of idiot in Duke Rupert.
“As you so ably pointed out it was my suggestion that we use the Baron to pressure the Duke to get the papal vote in writing or in an extreme case we could over throw the Duke using the Baron thus achieving a client state, now to us the latter was the lesser option because oddly its easier to play the Dukes mind to our ends than it is satisfy the greed of the Baron, who demands much and has delivered little would likely make a difficult ruler for a client state.”

The Bishop leaned forward in his chair,
“However I believe the Barons cowardice can be used to our advantage in this situation, possibly with greater results than we expected before”.
The Quill stopped flitting between the lips once more; it was placed softly and deliberately on the desk,
“Now Antonio, tell me more, I’m intrigued about how a possible disaster turns into an advantage”.

“Your Excellency it is simply a matter of playing ones fears and hates against another, the Baron fears his Dukes retribution, at this stage I expect he will do anything if we protect him; which naturally as you rightly point out would be a disaster.”

The Bishop now eased his aching bottom back further in his chair; he wondered why with all the money his Emperor has lavished on this Embassy they couldn’t buy more comfortable bloody chairs.

“Now your Excellency who does the Duke hate most in this world?” the bishop asked.
“Well up to now I would have said the his father the Herzog, but right now I suspect the baron is running a close second and we a close third in that race”.

“Excellency you are quite astute and almost correct.”

The Bishop decided the damned seat was too uncomfortable and got up, rubbing his bottom to ease the stiffness, as he walked over the window looking out he smiled to himself.
“When it comes to his father the Dukes hatred is paramount, it never lessens and when it does one only needs to tweak it to revitalize an energy that is madness in its nature, where his natural father is involved the Duke looses all reason and that is our advantage.
All we have to do your Excellency is convince the Duke that the Baron was working against him and we have been working to support the Duke in our humble and quiet manner.”
“How on earth will we do that Antonio when I suspect the Duke won’t listen to a word we say, especially if he knows or suspects the baron was our man”.

“Oh that is the easy part, we don’t tell him, someone else will, but I digress the plan has even more to come”.
The Ambassador now rose from his chair and joined the Bishop near the window, he saw the Bishop gazing intently outside, clearly watching someone but there were many people about so the Ambassador would not have it as a guess who he was watching.
“I do love the way your mind works Antonio, if nothing else its entertaining, now tell me the rest of this ahhh grandiose plan”.

“Im gratified you are amused your Excellency, now the second part is the insurance, we let the Duke know that the connection here in the ultimate betrayal is  that the Baron has been working with the Herzog to place his the Dukes mother Princess Charlotte on the Bergatonian throne.”

The Ambassador was about to walk away, but all of a sudden he stopped, stepped back and looked into those beady eyes,
“Are you mad Antonia, the accursed duke would never believe that, and he would certainly never believe us if we told him about it.”
“You may be partly right; a sane and rational mind would at the very least question the rationale behind such a story. Fortunately in the Duke we have the smallest amount of sanity swamped by the largest pathological hatred for his parents, both of whom he already believes betrayed him by denying him the Rechburg throne. All we have to do is plant the seed that they now intend to take the Bergatonian throne from him as well and the man making it possible is the Baron.”

“Even if he was crazy enough to believe it, how could we convince him, he will already doubts our loyalty to him”
“No your Excellency he does suspect us of intriguing but it will be up to us to convince him what we have been up to in our intrigues, and our explanation is we have been working to find evidence of this betrayal.
Finally we won’t tell him about it” the bishop pointed out the window “she will.”

The Ambassador looked outside to where the bishop pointed, he wasn’t sure who the Bishop was pointing too until he recognized the Countess Bouteville playing with her son.
The ambassador had heard the Countess had left Ulrichstein fleeing Prince Ferdinand’s wrath, he remembered she had also been a mistress to the unfortunate Bishop der Plonk and she was the a Bergatonian spy but who for the Duke or the baron.

The Ambassador gulped, “she will, but how and why for god’s sake”

“Well your Excellency let us say we have no only been feathering the Barons nest we have also been feathering the Countess’s. We had an arrangement with the Countess in that she kept us informed of what Bishop der Plonk was up to, however as it so happens she was also the Dukes mistress some years ago and in fact if you look at the boy you will see a likeness Im sure.
It appears your Excellency that our Countess has been a busy lady, one time mistress to Bishop der Plonk, Mistress to Duke Rupert and mother to his bastard son and now she is back and does not have a patron apart from the Duke who keeps her and his son at a very long arm’s length. She also spies for the Duke, so I am sure he will readily believe her.”

“Goodness Bishop you live in a very weird world, but please tell me if the boy is the Dukes son why doesn’t he acknowledge the boy.”

The Bishop moved away from the window, “Yes your Excellency intriguing isn’t it, the father is a bastard son and he makes his own son a bastard. I cannot be sure of the why but I suspect the Duke refuses to acknowledge the boy because he still hopes to marry a Imperial Princess and a bastard son would cause hereditary problems so he pays her to keep him out of sight, oddly however my spies tell me when he does meet with the boy, which he does several times a year they get along extremely well. Why he never had both of them disposed off I will never know, but I suspect the boy is his insurance against him not having any more children or failing to snaffle a unsuspecting Princess. In the event of no more children the Duke still has a hereditary line hidden away.”

“My dear Bishop my head spins with where all this goes, could you simply tell me in simple terms how all this works for us”.

“Quite simply sire, we keep the Baron out of sight, obviously we cannot be seen to protect him so we must deal with him in another way. Secondly I will have a quiet word with the countess and help her in some small but tangible way and explain to her our suspicions about the baron and the link to Rechburg. I will ask her not to tell anyone until we have evidence that we can show the Duke, She will I am sure rush to the Duke with the information and we will have planted the seed of doubt in the Dukes mind, remember because of the Dukes errr state of mind the seeds of doubt are already there.
 Now if I am wrong and the seed needs encouragement we will do so by “dangling some evidence out” for his spies to find.
When the Duke hears how tirelessly and unselfishly we have worked on his behalf, he will be extremely gratified for saving his throne from the Herzog’s intrigues. I am sure you can convince him to find a suitable way to reward us, perhaps with a contract for the Papal vote”.

“Hmm it is a very risky game my dear Bishop, so much depends on ifs and buts and on how you expect a madman to react to a very illogical story”

“The one thing I am sure about, that is how the Duke will react, it will be in a rage and that is where I like him”.

“So my friend” the ambassador asked “what do we do about the Baron out in my anteroom?”

“Oh that’s easy, we kill him.”

“Good God Antonio, you just don’t go around killing Ministers of an ally’s Government.”

“Why on earth not your Excellency, we have been mudding the Bergatonia water for years and the Barons death won’t be the first accidental death we have organised in Bergatonia, but it is vital we take the Bishop out of play now. He is the one person who could reveal our past to the Duke; besides his body being found with incriminating evidence will be another step in our case against him. I would prefer it if he were not around to defend himself against all the accusations that will be coming his way.”

“You are sure that this will work Antonio,”
“ I am as sure as I can be when dealing with a person  with a strong tendency towards megalomania, paranoia and multiple personalities.”
“oh hmmm I see” The Ambassador said not entirely convinced.

“Well how shall we handle this?” the Ambassador asked, “After all do you not think it a coincidence that the Countess should just happen to be in the park when the Bishop visits.”

“Oddly I do think it a coincidence, as I said earlier the countess is on the prowl for a new benefactor, and what better place than in the park on a Sunday afternoon with all the young Gallants out riding. Now whilst I would hardly call myself a Gallant I believe the Countess will see me as a possible benefactor. It seems she has a penchant for older men and has it happens, Bishops.”

“Good God Antonio, you and the countess, surely not”

The Bishop laughed, “No your Excellency not in the way you are suggesting, I believe that lady out there is looking for a wealthy and influential protector where age is not an issue, after all she became der Plonks mistress how much desperation would that have taken”

“So what do we do now Antonio?”

“Well your Excellency” I suggest you ask the Baron in, promise him what you will and I will arrange some err gentlemen to follow the Baron when he leaves and deal with him at an appropriate place and time. Meanwhile I will leave by the side door and have a talk with the men I require to deal with the Baron and then I will take a stroll over to the park and have an accidental meeting with the countess and see if I can strike up a conversation, it might even be pleasant”.