Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Chapter 7 - Consquences
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.”
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.