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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”.

2 comments:

  1. 'Countess Bouteville.' Tsk, tsk, Barry. Tsk, tsk.

    A small quibble, if I may: 'paranoia' is not a word one, however learned, is likely to have used in conversation in around 1800. Clearly the Duke is afflicted with a pathological sense of suspicion, a deranged distrust of those around him, a feeling of persecution, perhaps. Scarcely to be wondered at. The man's a complete loon... Reminds me of Emperor Phocas...

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  2. A good observation and one I will change, thanks I should have picked that up myself. Darn

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