Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chapter 10 - Hapburgian Succession

Archduke Ferdinand dismounted from the coach, he shivered in the evenings cool wintery breeze. Standing beside the coach as he pulled his cloak tighter around him Ferdinand looked up the steps  that lead to the palace doors, on the large patio he could see  his younger brother Archduke Eugene, his brother-in-law Konstantin along with Konstantin’s wife and Ferdinand’s sister Arabella; all were coming out to see who was arriving in the coach this late in the evening.
My god now don’t they look like the cat that’s been caught with its paw in the fishbowl.
Archduke Eugene stepped away from the others, quickly making his way down the steps, smiling effusively,
“My God Ferdinand we thought you dead”

“Indeed little brother, I wonder why on earth I would be dead. I know I am late Eugene, the damned blizzards blocked the passes, the snow was up to my chest in places. On the way here I heard Charles had died, I am so sorry that I missed seeing him before he passed away.”
He embraced his younger brother, he was always fond of Eugie, it was good to see him again and there was no doubt Eugene had always looked up to Ferdinand, almost paternally.

Releasing his brother together they started walking up the steps to where the others were waiting, Ferdinand could see the nervousness in their faces, and he paused halfway up the steps and turned to Eugene.

“Eugie what has happened, is something wrong?”

Eugene looked up the steps to the others, “Ferdinand there is much to discuss let us go inside where it’s warmer, besides you must be famished.”

The others were already moving inside, so Ferdinand and Eugene followed. Down below in the courtyard Ferdinand could hear the commands of the sergeants bellowing orders for his escort to dismount. As he walked through the grand doors of the palace he paused and turning to his adjutant who was following close behind he quietly said

“Have the escort stand down.”

His adjutant looked around the Palace foyer and he sensed there was something wrong, clearly
Ferdinand was aware of it.

“Should I have some of them remain here Sire,”

Ferdinand smiled, patted him on the shoulder and whispered quietly,
“No that won’t be necessary however once they are settled come and find me, I may need you.”

The adjutant bowed and made his way outside, Ferdinand meanwhile turned to the family who were all gathered together in the foyer, they looked like a bunch of sheep being threatened by a wolf by the way they were huddled together.

“Does someone want to tell me what is going on?” he demanded.

Prince Konstantin said “Perhaps we should go somewhere more private; we can then discuss the details of what has happened away from flapping ears”.

Ferdinand nodded so they all walked down the long marbled floor of the corridor to one of the family rooms, just as Ferdinand was about to enter he signaled to a elderly servant who stood waiting near the door to come closer
“When my adjutant comes you are to tell him he is to wait outside these doors.”

The servant nodded and shuffled his way back down the corridor.
Ferdinand being the last one in, closed the doors behind him, the family had gathered near the roaring fire.

Ferdinand took off his hat, and then removed his cloak, placing the cloak of the back of a lounge chair he made his way to the table where he left his hat.  It was by no accident that he pulled out the seat at the head of the table and sat down; it was after all where the Emperor always sat, but he did notice the glances the others gave each other.
Eugene was the first to move away from the fire, then the other two finally followed, they pulled out chairs and sat down.

Konstantin was the first to speak,
“Ferdinand much has happened and you must understand what has occurred here happened because we all thought you dead, and with Charles dying and then us getting word that you may be dead; the city has been in turmoil so we have had to act quickly”

Ferdinand looked around the table, “Who the hell told you I was dead.”

Eugene spoke up,
“The courier you sent told us there had been a battle and that you were missing believed dead, he had a message signed by a General Buttner or some name like that.”

Ferdinand looked at Eugene in total puzzlement,
“Firstly little brother I was not involved in another battle, I left before it was to be fought in response to Charles’s summons, secondly the dispatch rider I sent had a message to tell Charles I was on the way. Unfortunately the bloody weather closed in on the passes and the blizzards delayed me for a week. Clearly the dispatch rider got through before the blizzards closed the passes but what I would like to know is how a message that I wrote saying I would be late, arrives here saying I was dead and I don’t have a General Buttner on my staff”

Ferdinand’s sister Arabella spoke up.
“Well the man arrived here about a week ago, yes it was the day before Charles died, he delivered a message saying there had been a battle and that you were missing believed dead.”

“Well I would very much like to talk to this dispatch rider.” Ferdinand rose from his chair and made his way to the door, he opened it to find his adjutant seated just outside.
“Anton would you come in for a moment?”

Ferdinand and his aide walked into the room, the fire was welcoming but the glares Anton received were not, if anything they looked rather bemused.

“Now this is Colonel Anton Bessieres, he is my aide and secretary while Im out on campaign, now Anton I want you to tell these people what the nature of the last dispatch I sent to the Emperor was.”

Anton explained that it was to confirm the receipt of the Emperors summons and that he would be departing the following morning.

“Now Anton would you please explain to them who General Buttner is on my staff.”

Anton looked puzzled and a little worried; he prided himself on his memory and his unique ability to remember the slightest details.

“Im sorry Sire, I don’t understand, we don’t have a General Buttner in our command, in fact if I recall there isn’t a General Buttner anywhere in the Hapburgian Army, though I believe in the Veronia Military school there was a Colonel Buttner but I am sure he would be out of the army by now as he was due for retirement when I met him many years ago.”

Ferdinand smiled, “Thank you Anton, would you be so kind now and check which dispatch rider delivered my message to the Emperor, and then bring him in to me, just knock on the door when you have him”.
Anton bowed and smartly made his way to the door.

Ferdinand walked slowly back to the table, smiling at the family all of whom remained sitting and glaring at him.
“Anton’s memory is remarkable is it not?  He has the ability to instantly recall the smallest detail, a gift I often use to my advantage I do assure you”.
He leaned back in his chair,
“Now then it becomes clear that the message I sent did not arrive and the message you received I did not send, so next we need to determine what happened to my dispatch rider and who sent on a false message and why.”
The room was silent, Ferdinand glanced to the fire and saw one of the larger pieces was about to fall out of the fire place. He rose from his seat and made his way to the fire, he gently nudged with his foot the burning log easing it deeper into the fireplace. He stood watching the flames and then turned back to the table. As he walked back to his chair he said.

“So onto another matter while we wait, Charles has died, no one yet has told me of any of the arrangements regarding his funeral and when is the succession ceremony to take place”.

 Eugene spoke, “Ferdinand because we were told you were dead, father changed the will and testament, I am to be Emperor, it has already been decided and the ceremony is two days hence as for Charles funeral, it was yesterday Ferdinand”

Ferdinand slowly sat down back in his chair; he slowly looked around the table.
Eugene was plainly nervous; he always was when it came to confrontations.  Konstantin sat with that sneer of his, now there was a man ready for a fight but never face to face, and then finally his dear little sister, the viper. Never have two people been so well matched as Konstantin and Arabella, yes it was there between those two that something was being hatched.
“Well Eugene I am not dead, and I am the eldest member of the family and therefore legally entitled to the throne of the Emperor”

Arabella spoke up, “Well before we decide legalities and end up squabbling over issues we don’t understand I think we should have that dreadful Exchequer  man come in here, I am told he knows all there is to know about the rights and wrongs of these things.”

Ferdinand nodded “Yes if you wish, why not.”

Eugene rose from his seat and made his way to the door, he spoke to someone outside and then returned to the table.

Ferdinand as usual decided attack was the best form of defence, so he launched himself into the attack.

“Now regardless of whatever Manfred decides is legal or not, let me tell you all a little fact we need to know before we discuss the niceties of law.  I am going to be Emperor, I am the eldest and the rights of succession clearly dictate that the throne will be mine. Now I am sure you have all sat down here this week and schemed your plans in the event I arrived here and I know this because whoever wrote the message regarding my death had to know I would be here for my brother’s funeral or at least I would turn up sometime and so here I am. However let me assure you whatever plans have hatched let me tell you here and now” I will be Emperor or I will be the sole surviving member of this bloody family, nobody and I repeat nobody will steal what is mine by right and by birth” Ferdinand fulminated adding emphasis to his message with the hammering of his fist on the table.

Arabella spoke undauntered by what she regarded as Ferdinand’s usual tactics of bullying Eugene.
“Ferdinand the reason I suggested we get Manfred in here was to prevent just what you are trying to do, you are not bullying anyone this time” she looked over at Eugene who sat at the table with head bowed; “For god’s sake Eugene don’t just sit there and sulk, Charles made you Emperor speak up for yourself for a change”.

Eugene looked up, he looked at Arabella for a few moments and then down the table to Ferdinand.

“What I want is what is best for Hapburgia, and the Empire, that is a quiet transition, after all that is what Charles would have wished for. Yes Ferdinand we did discuss the possibility that the news we received regarding your death may be wrong, after all it didn’t say you were definitely dead but that it was most likely, however for better or worse we had to decide on what we knew at the time. Charles was near death, the lines of succession made you Emperor but we were informed that you were most likely dead and so rather than just keep the country hanging indefinitely we had to act. Legally following you on your death I was to be Emperor, Charles confirmed that by changing his will and testament declaring me the legally and duty bound to accept the responsibility of Emperor on his death. Now I don’t know the legal niceties in the event you become resurrected or as you have now done finally arrived here but to the world outside; they have been informed I am Emperor, ambassadors and Royalty are coming to a coronation to see me crowned.”

“Well little brother I am sure the world won’t be disappointed, they will see a coronation but instead of yours it will be mine”.

There was a knock on the door and Manfred the Hapburgian Exchequer walked rather nervously into the room, Arabella said,

“Ahh Manfred, would you please take a seat here, we find we are in need of your advice”

Manfred had been the exchequer to the Hapburgian Kingdom and the Empire for many years, he had served this family’s father for a few years and then all his career with Charles, now he presumed he would see a new Emperor though he was not sure how much longer he would be capable of serving him.
Manfred had heard the rumours that had quickly circulated through the palace and of course with rumour came speculation, especially in regard to the throne and who would be sitting on it come morning.

Manfred nodded and quietly shuffled his way to the chair, he slowly eased himself down, his elderly hands resting on the table.

Arabella spoke first.
“Manfred we are in need of your excellent advice regarding the laws of succession as to the way they pertain to us here at the moment. As you know, we all were greatly saddened to hear that our brother Ferdinand had been likely killed in a battle in Ulrichstein, and based on that Charles being near death decided to alter the last will to make Eugene Emperor. Now we find ourselves in a dilemma, Ferdinand has finally rejoined the family and is claiming the throne of King and Emperor over and above Charles instructions. What we would like to hear from you Manfred is which has precedence in Hapburgian law, the succession to the eldest male or the last Emperors instructions as per his last will and testament.”

Manfred looked nervously at Princess Arabella, then to Ferdinand who looked like he had a thunderstorm building around him. Of all the Imperial children he liked Ferdinand the best; he had always been the young man who was willing to do his duty. He had gone into the army as per his father’s wishes; he had studied and excelled in military matters, and finally he had served Charles as a very capable and what is more a very loyal general.
As a young man Ferdinand had always been aware that one day he would possibly be Emperor, particularly with Charles being a sickly man most of his life.
He looked over at Eugene, that poor boy though he was the middle child was the one that was forever being dominated by his two siblings; he was always trying to please both and rarely achieved pleasing either.
Then he glanced at Arabella, she was so like her mother. Empress Elizabeth was a domineering woman who had been used to getting her own way, and if she couldn’t get it one way she would scheme to get it another, and in her daughter, Manfred had seen those traits develop to a new level. She was a dangerous woman he had decided long ago.
Then there was Prince Konstantin, he was without a doubt danger to the throne, Manfred had known that for many years, he had seen reports from Hapburgian agents that suggested Konstantin had as recently as a month ago been in secret negotiations with the Franconian Emperor. There were other things he knew as well, more recent things that he would not reveal here, nor this night.

“So” Arabella demanded, “which takes precedence.”

Manfred looked directly at her, drew a deep breath,
“Imperial law states that the eldest son succeeds to the throne, and failing that the next direct male heir in the hereditary line. The law of succession is indivisible which means that no ruling emperor may change the law without the full approval of the Haulic council.”
Manfred then looked to Eugene,
“When the Emperor passed away last week the Haulic council meet in emergency and ratified the Emperors change of succession based on the fact that Archduke Ferdinand was dead”

Ferdinand asked, “What If the Haulic approval of the Emperors change of succession was based on incorrect information, or was deliberately mislead as to the true situation?”

Manfred looked around the group, a deep farrow settled in over his eyebrows, his gaze settled on Prince Konstantin,
“I believe that very question was raised in the council meeting by his majesty Prince Konstantin”.

“Was it indeed” interrupted Ferdinand.

Konstantin replied “Indeed I only wished to avoid a situation such as we now find ourselves in.”

Ferdinand then looked back at Manfred,
“So what was the answer to the Haulic question Manfred.”

“Sire the answer was that if for example Eugene was ratified as Emperor by the Haulic council and at some later date you were discovered to not be dead then the decision would have to stand, Eugene was Emperor and that cannot be changed”.

Eugene let out a huge sigh of relief and the smiles between Arabella and Konstantin were in themselves a picture to tell.

Then Manfred continued, “However in the event that the information that influenced the Haulic decision was proven to be deliberately false then naturally the decision would be void”.

“Thank you Manfred, you have been most helpful, now could you please tell me the situation that centred around the changing of the will, who was present when that occurred”

“Well all those present in this room sire, excepting yourself naturally, and there was also the Emperor’s personal Priest Brother Bohan.”

“Who drew up the articles of the change in succession?”

“I did sire, as instructed by the Emperor Charles.”

“Who witnessed the Emperor sign the document Manfred”.

“As far as I recollect sire the Emperor finally signed the document in front of Princess Arabella, Prince Konstantin and his confessor brother Bohan. You see sire after the document was finished I delivered it back to his bedroom, but the Emperor was asleep and only the three I mentioned were present, so as instructed by Princess Arabella I left the document on the side table and left”.

Manfred paused for breath, he looked around the room
Hmmm Ferdinand smells a rat, haaa just as I knew he would.

“Next morning I was informed that overnight the Emperor had signed the document and the signature witnessed by Princess Arabella, Prince Konstantin and brother Bohan”.

“Thank you Manfred you have been most helpful, can you ask brother Bohan to come here please, I just need a brief word with him.”

“Sire that will not be possible, Brother Bohan has been sent on new duties I believe, I am not certain what those duties are and nor where. As they relate to ecclesiastical business not Government concerns they are outside by jurisdiction, I am most sorry sire.  I have no knowledge of the comings and goings of church business, you would need to talk with Cardinal Moyham regarding brother Bohan’s posting.”

“Thank you Manfred, as usual you have been most helpful, please keep yourself available we may want your advice again” Frederick said.

Manfred rose from his chair and bowed to all he then as smartly as possible shuffled out of the room. Ferdinand leant back in his chair, watching both Arabella and Konstantin.

“Well Ferdinand, are you satisfied, I do hope the inquisition has finished and we can move on, it’s been a long day and I wish to retire” Arabella sighed.

“Oh on the contrary sister, I am a long way from finished, it is clear that someone was deliberately misleading the Haulic council, I intend to find out who and when I do I can assure you it will be very unpleasant.”

Eugene rose from his chair and moved to the fire,
“Ferdinand what you are suggesting is preposterous, it means someone in this room was scheming to deprive you of the throne, and as I am the only one to gain from that your accusations would seem to be directed at me. I can tell you with hand on my heart and if necessary on the bible that I would never knowingly or otherwise sink to such a low level as you seem to suggest. I resent the insinuations; and  I deny the accusations and can only add that I have acted always in good faith for the sake of the Empire.”

Eugene then rose from his chair,
“Well quite frankly  I am not sitting here while you persist with this charade, I have much more important things to do, and after all I am to be Emperor in two days there is much to prepare for.”

At that moment there was a knock on the door,
“Come in” Ferdinand called out.

Eugene sat quietly back down.

Moments later Colonel Anton entered,

“Sire I have done as you asked and it appears the dispatch rider who arrived here is not the same one I gave the message too, and the one that delivered the message has been sent back to Wartenburg.”

Ferdinand glared at Konstantin, then smiled at the colonel, “Thank you Anton, I won’t need you anymore tonight.”

Once Ferdinand’s aide had left the room Eugene rose from his chair once more, he walked over to the fire, turning he was glaring at Konstantin, Ferdinand rose from his chair and walked over to his brother,

“Eugene unless you intend to make the biggest mistake in your life, you will postpone the coronation for a few more days, I have only been back a few hours and already I have discovered that there are many irregularities in events that forced Charles to rescind the succession laws that have stood for centuries. I will over the next few days no doubt discover more, and when I do those responsible will be held accountable, as I am sure we all here would desire. I am not accusing you of anything Eugie and believe me when I say I would love to find out it was a matter of coincidences and simple errors, but you must understand for the sake of the Empire and our family I must know the truth of the matter.”

He walked back to the chair that he had placed his coat over, picked up his hat, he turned to the other three who were by now all standing,
“What do you think the chances are of brother Bohan has either disappeared or sent on duties well away from Hapburgia, interesting but we will find him or what has happened to him, just as we will find out what happened to the dispatch rider I sent.”

With that he walked out of the room, when he closed the door behind him, he found Colonel Bessieres was till there,
“Anton I thought I said you could stand down if you wish.”

“You did sire but there are some matters I need to discuss with you first.”

“Very well Anton, what is it?”

“Sire I have sent two of my best men back out to track which staging post our dispatch rider was last in at, we will then know the area where he disappeared and hopefully some clues, however I doubt following the recent snows there will be anything to find.”

“No Anton there won’t be, and I am willing to bet you will find he disappeared somewhere in Wartenburg, but good work, oh and another thing I expect there will be a dispatch rider leaving here soon, I would like to know where he is going and what message he carries, do you understand?”
“Perfectly sire, I will take care of it personally”.

“Thank you Anton, but not personally just use some more of those good men you have earmarked for special duties.”

Anton smiled “Certainly sire, it will be done”.

Ferdinand watched the Colonel march down the corridor, hearing a door open at the other end of the hallway Ferdinand turned to see Manfred leaving his office.

“Ahhh Manfred, thank you for your help in there this evening, and I know I haven’t had time to say this before,but I also want to thank you for being a loyal friend and servant to Charles. I know he very much relied on your wisdom, we often used to talk about the fact how you ran the Empire not the Emperors.”

Manfred smiled, “Sire you do me too much credit, I am after all a mere servant, but it is nice to know the Emperor regarded me as a friend, he was as much to me though naturally I would have never said such before”

“Indeed Manfred, now I wonder if you would do a thing for me, could you tell me are the members of the Haulic council all in town for the Coronation”

“Yes sire they are indeed”

“Excellent would you please summon them for a special meeting tomorrow, you may tell them it concerns the succession”

“It will be done sire.”

“Thank you old friend”

Ferdinand then strode down the corridor heading for the grand stairway; he was after all very tired and ready for rest, tomorrow promised to be a busy day.

Meanwhile Manfred was chuckling to himself,

Oh its just like the old days, there is much of his grandfather in our Ferdinand, well if I must summon everyone I best start with those in the family room, now that is going to ruffle a few feathers.

Meanwhile back in the family room Eugene glared at his sister and brother-in-law.
“What the hell have you two done?”
Pointing to the door Ferdinand had just minutes ago existed,
“He knows something is wrong, and you know what; he knows more than me. Good God I trusted you two, I believed the damn charade you have set up; what I don’t know is why.”

Arabella rose from her chair and walked closer to Eugene,
“Keep your voice down Eugene, and don’t play the innocent with us, you knew only too well why we ensured you were Emperor, you are to make Wartenburg a Kingdom and for that we errr simplified the transition. All you have to do Eugene is not panic, the reason we didn’t mention about the couriers was simply because we knew you would cave in when confronted by the accusations. You last little speech was from the heart Eugene and Ferdinand knows that so don’t fear.”

“Well he suspects you two, that is for sure”

Konstantin joined the other two near the fire, placing a reassuring hand on Eugene’s shoulder,
“Eugene you have done nothing wrong, and yes I don’t doubt Ferdinand suspects us, good god even when we didn’t do anything wrong he always suspects us. However Eugene as long as we remain firm
he can prove nothing and with no proof in two days you will be Emperor and Arabella and I will soon after be King and Queen of Wartenburg.”

“But what if Ferdinand finds that dispatch rider or brother Bohan, I think I knew all along you bribed Bohan to acknowledge the fact that Charles signed that decree, when in fact he didn’t; I knew one of you had to have signed it and I don’t care which one. If Ferdinand finds either of the courier or the priest we are guilty of treason, while you two can make a run for it, this is my home I have nowhere to go, and what’s more despite how it looks I did nothing wrong. But Ferdinand won’t believe that.”

Arabella smiled at Eugene trying to reassure him,
“Eugene darling neither the dispatch rider nor Bohan will be discovered, we will make sure of that, now go and get some rest; we are not running away and you have done nothing wrong, so please sweetheart don’t worry yourself; Konstantin and I will protect you.”

They all were making their way to the doorway when it opened and Manfred was there with a beaming smile.

He bowed most eloquently,
“Your Majesties, his Royal Highness Archduke Ferdinand has summoned the Haulic council for a urgent meeting tomorrow, he says it is in regard to the succession.”

The look of horror their faces was as rewarding a gift that an old man could ever hope to receive, he bowed once more and withdrew from the room.
As he walked down the corridor he tried whistling, but it had been years since he had whistled and he found it too difficult, so he just chuckled instead.

Meanwhile back in the family room the three conspirators stood silent. Eugene stepped back to the fire, the others followed, it was Konstantin that spoke first.
“If Ferdinand presents to the Haulic council even what he suspects, they will rescind the changes in the succession laws, we all know how twitchy they were in accepting the change in the first place, they wont hesitate to change back to the old laws of succession”

Eugene looked from one to the other

“What you mean, I won’t be Emperor?”

Arabella for the first time in her life was unsure of what to do, she looked at Eugene

“No Eugene, you will not be Emperor and what is more Konstantin you have to make sure that both the courier and Bohan are taken care of, permanently. There is a world of difference between Ferdinand suspecting us but with no proof and Ferdinand presenting the courier and or Bohan as witnesses to what will amount to treason”

Konstantin nodded,
“I will send some men tonight, they will be taken care of by tomorrow evening.”

Eugene walked over to the table he sat down,
“You don’t know Ferdinand like I do, he won’t wait for proof, once he is Emperor you and your precious Kingdom won’t be worth a damn and we will all be dead or in a dungeon”

Arabella nodded her head, she knew Eugene was right. Ferdinand was always vindictive when he suspected someone had played a trick on him, but he would be uncontrollable as a Emperor with people he even suspected committed treason to steal his throne from him.
She knew they would lose the fight in the Haulic council, even though Eugene had more support there
than Ferdinand, it would evaporate very quickly when tested by even the suggestion of treason. No they were alone.

She looked at her husband and he nodded,
“We have to get back across the border to Wartenburg tonight, even if we leave now it will be a close race”

Eugene looked from one to the other,
“What, you mean you will run away, leave me; so much for your words and promises, as soon as your own skins are threatened you run and leave me.”

Arabella was gathering her coat and things,
“No Eugene, you must come with us, you won’t be safe here”

Eugene looked at both of them horrified,
“No, No I am not running away, I didn’t do anything wrong and what would I be in Wartenburg, just another homeless Prince, a tool for you two to use against Ferdinand and Hapburgia, no whatever I have done I will face it.”

Konstantin just looked at him briefly before he opened the door, he looked back at Eugene

“You are a bloody fool Eugene, a brave one but a bloody fool anyway”.

With that the Prince and Princess of Wartenburg fled the Hapburgian palace in the middle of the night. They would ride for their lives to gain safety in Wartenburg, already Prince Konstantin knew he would raise the banner of the new Kingdom of Wartenburg, he had Franconia’s support; The Kingdom of Wartenburg would succeed from the Empire and at last Prince Konstantin would be King Konstantin.

Eugene just pulled up a chair beside the fire and burst into tears.

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