Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chapter 9 - Troubles

The Emperor of the Imperial Empire cast down the missive he was reading with a gesture of impatience.

'Dam' politicals!' he fulminated, 'There looked to be a jolly little war developing there: wretched Rechburg and dinky Danemark on the one side, and Bloody-minded Bergatonia and Sly-beria on the other.'

'Surely, Sire, thou jesteth,' demurred his Minister of the Exchequer and breakfast companion, Count Manfred von Lustburgerstein. 'Things are delicate enough in Europia right now, what with the Papal election looming, and - begging your Imperial Majesty's pardon - the question of the Imperial succession unresolved-'

'Yes, yes, you are right, Manfred, of course,' The Emperor sighed. 'A large war - even the small wars we actually have - are not good for us, not good for trade, not good for peace and order, not good for the exchequer. But it might sufficiently have distracted the Herzog for us cheaply to make good the situation in Ulrichstein... Has Ferdinand yet got over that dreadful muddle he got into the other week? Terrible business...'

'He's recruiting vigorously, Sire, and seeks only the chance to redeem his reputation.'

'Very well. But we would have preferred the Herzog to have asked for terms to keep the Empire out of his disputation with Iberia and Bergatonia. Or even were we forced to take the first overtures, we might well have obtained an arrangement - I gather the issues are religious rather than dynastic or territorial - an arrangement we would have been sufficiently happy to accept.'

'Constantine would have demanded Bishop der Plonk's removal, Sire...' The Count murmured.

'I dare say, and, after a deal of harumphing, and appeals to precedent and the legal ramifications, blah, blah, blah, we would have agreed to that,' The Emperor mused. 'To ease Bishop der Plonk's deposition, I feel sure an opening might well have appeared in the College of Cardinals - the price of Our support in the coming Papal elections, of course.

'I do believe a friendly rapprochement would have been on the cards.'

'But we might equally well have been dragged into a Europian-wide war with who-knows-what consequences,' The Count shuddered at the prospect.

'Yes... Good thing events have turned out the way they have, really...' The emperor paused, deep in thought, seeming to drift off into a reverie. Suddenly he banged the flat of his hand on the table.

'Meanwhile, what of Ferdinand? What are his requirements? How soon can he try conclusions once more with those Ulrichstein rebels?'
“The last we heard Sire he was preparing to met the Rechburgians near Ulrichsburg”
“Damn this waiting Manfred, Damn it I say”
Charles could feel the welling up in his chest; I’m cursed with a weak body. He thought to himself.

“I need Ferdinand back here, we have the damned succession to sort out and now that bloody brother in law of mine in Wartenburg wants to muddy the waters, you know the vulture fancies himself as a Kingmaker or even a great Captain of men.  Manfred there was a time when the rank of Emperor meant something, now any gutter swine who calls himself a Duke assumes they have a right to tell me, the Emperor what I should do and whom I should appoint to god knows where."

The Emperor started hacking the deep cough again, Manfred quietly waited for the Emperor to stop

“Manfred, you know the accursed Iberians have the answer, they have still got those god awful inquisitors maybe I should borrow a couple, put a Duke or two on the rack and the rest will all of a sudden find the respect they should be paying me, damned if they will.”

Again the hacking cough, Manfred rose to go around to the Emperor and pour him a cup of opium tea, but the Emperor just waved him away, he waited a few moments to regain his breath.

“We have to get Ferdinand back here Manfred, otherwise the Empire will fall into a war of succession and I have to avoid that”.
“Yes sire I venture to say today would not be too soon for him to return, the reason I came to see you sire is to inform you the vulture, err the Prince Konstantin of Wartenburg is expected to arrive today”
The Emperor slapped the table as hard as a sickly dying man could, “Good God the bloody vulture doesn’t even have the decency to wait until I’m dead before he comes to picks me bones.”
The Emperor pointed a frail finger at the tea pot, “Manfred please, if you would be so kind.”
The count rose and poured a cup for the Emperor, placing the cup and saucer beside him he returns to his seat.
“Sire it seems your sister Princess Arabella is coming with him,”
“Oh my god two vultures” murmured the Emperor.
“Where is my brother Eugene, Manfred?”
“He is with the Haulic Council Sire; he promised he will be here when they have finished their business.”
“I made a mistake in my younger days Manfred, I allowed too much political freedoms to the damned nobles, now I can’t shit without checking to see if a noble isn’t in the pot beneath me. Everything I do is scrutinized Manfred, Im not a Emperor I’m a glorified clerk.”
Charles lowered his weary head onto his hands, his elbows rested on the table.

I just have to hang on until Ferdinand gets here, just hang on

Now please send for my man if you would Manfred, I need to rest for a while.”

Manfred rang a bell and Karl, Charles burly man servant entered the room, seeing his Emperor head resting in his hands Karl knew immediately his master needed rest. Slowly and gently he lifted the Emperor from his chair into a cane wheel chair placed alongside.
Karl pulled a rug up over his master’s knees.
Before he could be wheeled away Charles raised his hand for Karl to wait,

“Manfred whatever you do don’t let my brother in law Prince Konstantin or my sister summon a Haulic Council, and send word to Ferdinand he must return immediately, there has to be someone out there he can hand command over to, and send Eugene to me when he has finished his scheming to steal my throne”.

Emperor CharlesI, master of most of Europia was wheeled away to bed, head bowed, rug drawn up on his knees, he was asleep before Karl reached the doors.
Manfred walked over to the windows, he looked out onto the Palace grounds, the snow was already falling as the first of the winter storms blew in, despite the warmth of the fire in the room, Manfred shivered.

Archduke Ferdinand has received the summons back to Veronia (The Hapburgian Capital ) explaining that his brother Emperor Charles I was close to death and that Charles needed him home urgently.
Though the missive never mentioned it Ferdinand was already aware that there were plots being formed to ensure the succession of Emperor did not go to him but rather his younger brother Eugene.
There had been other threats such as those from his brother in law Prince Konstantin who claimed that if Ferdinand was made Emperor then Hapburgia would not get his papal vote.
Leaving Ulrichstein without having finished the task he set out upon was a huge disappointment but the issue of succession was of far greater importance, beside General Kyler was a good man to leave in command.

To Ferdinand the priority was to ensure the rights of succession were maintained and that in the absence of children to pass the title down to it went to the next eldest male in the family, that being Ferdinand. He was aware that Eugene was brow beating the Haulic Council into supporting his claim to the throne, but when it came down to a confrontation Ferdinand could dominate his young brother; besides which the army and its general Staff stood firmly behind Ferdinand.
The real threat was his brother in law and his threat to vote against Hapburgia in the Electoral college, the Emperors throne without the papal seat was a empty throne, he had to ensure that Hapburgia retained the Papacy. Therefore he had to ensure Prince Konstantin voted for Hapburgia in the Electoral College that was going to take either a deft hand in diplomacy or a severe show down between Ferdinand and Konstantin.
There were already rumours that Konstantin had been in secret negotiations with Franconia and Rechburg and if he could prove them true it would amount to treason.

The vicious blizzards and storms made his journey back to Veronia a much more difficult and therefore longer journey than he hoped, he was a week late in arriving back in the capital and  5 days after his brother the Emperor of Hapburgia had passed away.
As he and his guard rode into the grounds of  Sconberg Palace,Ferdinand was greeted by his young brother standing at the top of the steps, behind him he saw several of the army General staff and his brother in law Konstantin, who probably had a bigger grin that Eugene.

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