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The Rechburg story. chapters 9 - 14


Chapter 9 - Troubles




Hapburgia
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.


Chapter 10 - Hapburgian Succession

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.

 *************************************************

Chapter 11 - Defeat & Victory

Hapburgia

The Coronation of the Hapburgian Emperor Ferdinand was held two days later than originally intended, however the dignitaries and nobles that attended the Coronation did not mind at all as the week was full of festivities, balls and organised events.
However behind closed doors the Emperor elect Archduke Ferdinand was doing all he could to repair the damage done to Hapburgian prestige as well as securing his throne. The morning after Prince Konstantin and Princess Arabella Ferdinand had fled Veronia, Ferdinand was surprised to discover his younger brother Archduke Eugene had remained behind.
Ferdinand had suspected that Konstantin and Arabella would flee, though he had half expected them and perhaps hoped that they would try and bluff their way out of the predicament they had made for themselves; however running away to save ones skin was what both Konstantin and Arabella were good at. The surprise however was Eugene staying, and as far as Ferdinand was concerned Eugene staying and accepting his part of the charade meant a lot to him as well as the Empire, he therefore decided this was a time for building bridges not seeking retribution.

There had been much heart to heart talking and in discussions with all those involved it soon became clear that almost the entire palace and indeed the Government had been duped by the charade Konstantin had evolved. It was worrying to all that such a simple plan could have had massive detrimental effects to the Empire. It seemed that his plan was to have Eugene made Emperor before Ferdinand had arrived back from Ulrichstein, once Eugene was Emperor clearly Konstantin was intending to manipulate and use Eugene to achieve his own ends, essentially he would have had Eugene create Wartenburg a Kingdom thus elevating Arabella and himself.

Konstantin’s plans relied on timing and everything falling into place. He had not expected Ferdinand to leave his army before he had settled the Rechburg issue, he was being kept informed by dispatch riders sent from Wartenburg’s General Romer who commanded a Brigade in Ferdinand’s Army, obviously he heard incorrectly as it turned out that Ferdinand would not advance on the Rechburg army for at least a week or more. Then Konstantin had been further encouraged by the news from the couriers that the first of the snows were falling on the high passes, so he assumed if Ferdinand was still in Ulrichstein for another week, preferably two he would not make the passes before the blizzards hit and cut the roads. The journey around the mountains was much longer and would have taken several more weeks and by that time Eugene would have been Emperor for several weeks or even months and in that time he would have convinced Eugene to elevate Wartenburg into a Kingdom.
All Konstantin had to do was replace the courier message with one that read Ferdinand was dead, and with no news for several weeks it would have been too late when it was discovered that Frederick was indeed still alive.  Konstantin would not expect Ferdinand to try and start a civil war just to replace Eugene, he was far to loyal to the Empire to risk that. Besides regardless of what arrangements Ferdinand and Eugene would finally arrive at once Wartenburg was a Kingdom and independent of Hapburgia there was nothing the Emperor whoever he was could do, short of declaring war.

It was a plausible plan Ferdinand assumed, it really only went wrong because Ferdinand left the army the day after he received the summons from Charles to return immediately, he was confident General Kyler could handle the Rechburgians and Ferdinand was determined to see Charles before his brother passed away. As Ferdinand remarked to Eugene the morning after his return, Konstantin’s real mistake was not having Ferdinand assassinated and thus making his death a reality, he then would have been secure in his ambitions. He was willing to wager that fact there was no assassination attempt was most likely due to Arabella, even she could not sink as low as having a brother killed just to become a Queen.

During the week before the Coronation Eugene and Ferdinand had done much to repair the breach made by their sister and her husband, In the first instance Ferdinand summoned the Haulic Council and informed them that their approval of Eugene as Emperor had been as a result of intrigues, it was a simple matter from there to reverse their decision acknowledging Ferdinand as the true heir to the throne. Eugene accepted that now Ferdinand was back he must be Emperor, what Eugene worried about more was what would become of him.
So the discussions between the Haulic council and Eugene really centred less on Ferdinand and more what was to be done with Eugene and then later Konstantin and Arabella.
Ferdinand finally convinced the Haulic council that he and they should accept Eugene’s pledge of loyalty made both to him personally as well as at Ferdinands coronation. After the coronation Ferdinand appointed Eugene commander of the southern Army facing the Attaman Empire, it was a way of getting him out of Veronia without a loss of honour, plus it gave Ferdinand peace of mind at not being constantly reminded of how close he came to not being Emperor.
Emperor Ferdinand I of the Hapburgian Empire now had another problem to settle and that was the Papal throne. It was pivotal to the strength and security of the Hapburgian Empire, but it was the one throne that was elected and thus could not be taken for granted.

To test the strength of the remaining loyalty of Prince Konstantin and Arabella, Ferdinand had written to them that they were to contract a pledge to vote for Hapburgia for the Papal seat, if they did so he was prepared to forgive them their intrigues; he had not received an answer. In fact he learnt from other sources that Konstantin had been in negotiations with Franconia and to a lesser extent Iberia, so from that news he was prepared to accept the worse.

In fact as far as Ferdinand could predict the race for the Papal seat would be between Franconia and Iberia.

Iberia could count on its own vote as well as those of Bergatonia and Danemark.
Franconia had its own vote and as well as those of Buchenwald and Neider,
Hapburgia had its own vote and the Kingdom of Vandahalla, possibly but not likely Wartenburg, if Wartenburg did vote for Hapburgia then it would be a three way split for all the applicants and most likely a war if reason didn’t prevail; and when did reason ever prevail on Europia.

So with the assumption that Wartenburg would betray Hapburgia once again, it left Hapburgia as the maker of the Papal throne that is if Franconia were to enter the competition. Even if Wartenburg were to vote for Franconia, Ferdinand still had had two votes to add and that would give Iberia the Papal seat.

God help Europia then.

Of the two likely to become the seat of the papal throne Ferdinand preferred Iberia simply because it has fewer issues with Hapburgia than he would if Franconia become the seat of the Papal throne. He was equally sure that Franconia would soon make its claim for the Papal throne known. He based this assumption on the fact that as soon as Franconia could be sure of the Wartenburg vote then it really was being forced to try and gain the Papal throne. If only because Franconia had too many issues with Iberia already just to allow it to gain such a powerful leverage of its own ecclesiastical destiny.

Ferdinand then realised that his Empire could be on a point of where it would decline through the loss of income and prestige usually created by the Papal throne. On the positive side Hapburgia would not bear the responsibility of defending the faith and forever spending fortunes on wars to prevent the erosion of the true faith, another positive would be that he would at least be able to develop Hapburgia from the bottom up. Without the constant threat of wars erupting in areas of little interest to Hapburgia other than defending the faith, he could modernize Hapburgia through overhauling its economy; then at least his Empire could compete far more effectively that it has over the years that Charles reigned as Emperor.
 To Ferdinand it came down to two issues, he was going to lose either the Papal throne or Wartenburg, but he would not lose both, if he must lose one is was better that it be the Papal throne.

Therefore Hapburgia’s destiny was really entwined with Franconia entering the Papal race; if they did he could barter his Hapburgian votes for Franconian neutrality in the argument between Wartenburg and his Empire. If on the other hand Franconia remained indifferent to the Papal seat as they have done in the past it would likely mean war with Wartenburg and possibly the Franconian Empire.
If he was to risk a war with Franconia and that was a big risk, for that he needed Iberia on his side, with Hapburgia to the Franconian east and Iberia and its ally Bergatonia to the north and south, then the Franconian war effort would be hopelessly divided.
The final key was what happens in Ulrichstein, if General Kyler can gather a victory, then perhaps the Rechburgians may be more receptive to a negotiated settlement. If there was no victory then any negotiations would mean loss of territory but more than that even more loss to Imperial prestige; that was not something Ferdinand would accept very easily.

The Papal vote was in two weeks, Ferdinand prayed he would hear from General Kyler before then, otherwise Ferdinand would have to play out a huge gamble.

News did arrive from General Kyler a week later.
He had been defeated at Ulrichsburg and had to retreat back to Quedinburg, the capital of Ulrichstein he had lost 2,500 men in the battle and his army was beyond any offensive capability, he intended to place his troops in winter quarters and await further instructions, a few days later more bad news arrived that General Romer had been defeated at a place called Penie near Newhausen.
This news came as a thunderbolt, Ferdinand was sure he had the troops to defeat that damned Rechburgian Prince, failure now meant a host of other ills would likely start to rise. Not the least being that he would have to negotiate with the Rechburgians, the worst likely effect was that this defeat could only encourage Prince Konstantin and Princess Arabella to strike out on their own.
The defeat mixed with the likelihood of Hapburgia losing the Papal throne would in the eyes of many in Europia be seen as the beginning of the decline of the Hapburgian Empire, he would have to send a message in such a way that all of Europia would understand that Hapburgia was far from weak and declining.
It was just unfortunate that the timing of all these events occurred when Hapburgia could not strike out, all he could do until the campaign season resumed was negotiate and intrigue while he prepared for a war that must now come.

Rechburg
Herzog Constantine II sat at his desk, opposite him sat Rechburg’s Prime Minister Hienrich Schmettau, General Molyneaux the Army chief of staff who had recently returned from the Bergatonian border where he had been assisting Prince Leopold and finally there was his daughter Princess Caroline.

Constantine’s smile told volumes as he read the reports just received from his son and heir Prince Wilhelm, nodding with each sentence read and the grin was becoming infectious, now the others were smiling and grinning at each other and they did not have a clue what was in the dispatch.

“Well father, are you going to tell us, or must we all sit here waiting forever.” Caroline demanded.

Constantine placed the missive on his desk, he leaned back in his chair and looking at Caroline said

“Your brother has just won a major battle in Ulrichstein, he has clearly defeated the Imperial army, in fact the victory is so complete the Imperials have withdrawn back to the Ulrichstein capital of Quedinburg, which means most of Ulrichstein is now under our control. It appears General Walmoden has also gained a victory near Newhausen so the Imperils have only Quedinburg to call their own.”

Caroline squealed with delight, she had been so worried about Wilhelm she knew he would put every fibre of his essence in fighting these battles and she also was aware that he would not hesitate to put himself in danger if he had to, and for that reason she had always feared something awful would happen to him.

“Is Wilhelm alright father”?

Leopold nodded, “Yes, yes my dear he is fine and he sends you all his love.”

General Molyneaux was smiling as well, something of a rarity thought Constantine, he handed the General the statistics of the battle, while the General quickly read through the details Constantine turned to Prime Minister Schmettau.

“How do we take advantage of this victory Hienrich?”

The Prime Minister sat with his small brief case sitting firmly on his lap clutching it as if its contents were giving him reassurance. Staring at Constantine over those rather thick lenses in his spectacles he said,

“Naturally Sire this is excellent news, indeed most excellent. However it does rather emphasise that we find ourselves in an awkward situation, these victories that the two young Princes have gained for us will place the Herzogtum on top of the list for many nations in Europia, in some cases those lists will be good, and for others it will be bad.”

The Prime Minister paused for breath,

“Our allies will be heartened by these victories sire, so much so they may themselves be emboldened to chance their luck in wars, I am thinking in particular of Pomonia who has been making noises about the Kingdom of Vallahalla again. So perhaps one of our first requirements is to consult with the allies and try to keep them from doing anything foolish, especially something that will require us to step in and help. It does also places us in the dominant position in deciding what to do with Ulrichstein, and that will likely create its own dilemma’s. For example if the Emperor decides to drag negotiations out until the spring we will likely have a new war over there, so we need to negotiate with some urgency, it will require some delicate discussions for should we be too firm in our demands the Emperor will simply delay, too lax in them and we will one day have to do this all over again.
Finally sire, it means nations such as Bergatonia and even Danemark will look upon as an increased threat, which may prompt one of them to try and bring Rechburg back to size.”

General Molyneaux looked up from the papers he was reading, glancing at the Prime Minister he said

“Surely Heinrich you are not telling us that because we won these battles were are in greater danger than if we lost them”

“No. no General I am not inferring we are in greater danger, merely in a different type of danger, if we had lost we were vulnerable as a weak nation, so the more aggressive neighbours would have wasted no time attacking us for whatever pretext they wished. Now however we will be seen as a dominant and more powerful nation, so it is more likely that our enemies will unite against us, so it is the alliances developing we must watch out for, for in them we will most likely see our next enemies.”

The General nodded, and then pointing to one of the pages on his lap he said
“It says here Archduke Ferdinand was not commanding at Ulrichsburg, prisoners state that he was summoned home because the Emperor was dying, what do we know of that Heinrich.”

“Indeed general, the news we have from Veronia is that Emperor Charles I has indeed passed away and that Archduke Ferdinand is now Emperor, however I have reports from our agents that there was some sort of Coup attempt involving the Prince and Princess of Wartenburg.”

Constantine laughed, “Good god when it rains bad news for Hapburgia it does so by the bucket load. So Hienrich what do we know of this supposed Coup and how has it affected things there between the new Emperor and Wartenburg, by god I would love to be a fly on the wall in Ferdinand’s palace when he found out about that.”

“Well sire I gather that Hapburgia now has other issues as well and that involves the papal throne, I have been calculating the possible outcomes of the votes and as far as I can see, the most sure new seat for the throne would be Iberia; however if, and I do stipulate If Franconia throws in its hat, then it could go to them, for then it would depend on how the Hapburgian and Wartenburg cards are played.”

Constantine rose from his chair, he walked over to the window for a moment, a slight breeze was coming in, a definite winter chill, and he closed it and then returned to the desk.

Constantine spoke, perhaps more to himself than the others; but they all overheard him anyway.
“If Iberia gets the Papal seat, we could very well be in for a lot of trouble, not the least from that bloody mad Duke, but also from Danemark as they seem to have cuddled up with the Iberians over the voting issue, I can full well see that Danemark would seek Iberian help to regain Flensburg and that means a war for us.”

Caroline interjected
“Surely not father, these past few weeks I was sure things were improving with Danemark, I mean with the visits between you and Princess Charlotte becoming so frequent half Rechburg is expecting to hear the wedding announcement.”

Constantine smiled, he had heard the rumours and he wondered how many had been started as wishful thinking on behalf of his daughter, for she and Princess Charlotte and now become firm friends as well.

“Well my dear I can assure you there will be no wedding bells, far too much has happened for that, no Caroline and I are the dearest of friends but that is where it will stay. Oh I suspect her brother Olaf has been pushing the wedding idea along, if merely to gain Rechburg’s approval through a family alliance for his war against Flensburg. No there will be no wedding and no alliance, my commitment to Flensburg is as strong as the day I announced it.”


General Molyneaux then spoke up,
“So if Iberia gets the Papal seat we can expect troubles from Bergatonia and Danemark, that then means troubles for our colonies and the maritime trade, Sire we are not strong enough to deal with such combinations, we must increase the defense budget considerably.”

Constantine sat back down.
“Yes General and as Hienrich pointed out, as a result of our victory in Ulrichsburg and the papal seat possibly moving to Iberia we are moving into an era of new dangers and we must prepare for them, both militarily as well as diplomatically.”

Charlotte asked “So if we don’t want Iberia to have the Papal throne, who on earth is acceptable to us.”

“Oh I should think Franconia would be my preference, first of all Franconia is much more stable and reliable than Iberia, but also Franconia and Hapburgia will be a counter balance to each other in central Europia, especially as far as Wartenburg is concerned.”

Constantine looked at the three of them in turn, and then his eyes settled back on the Prime Minister,
“Hienrich we need to settle Ulrichstein and quickly, also I think we need to look at conscription in the spring, it won’t be popular but I don’t see we have any choice if we are to survive the next year.”

“Very well Sire” the Prime Minister replied “What will our conditions for Ulrichstein be?”

“The Hapburgians can no longer claim a ecclesiastical interest in Ulrichstein, particularly if they lose the throne, it will simply come down to a territorial issue, so this is what I demand.
Hapburgia gets to keep Quedinburg and we keep the rest under a new treaty where we will guarantee the protection of the Catholic subjects that choose to remain in our territory. It’s the same treaty they imposed on us last time, it’s merely this time we have the boot on their throat instead.”

Hienrich nodded, “I doubt the new Emperor will be keen to sign up to that Sire, being new he has to create an impression of strength to survive, and these demands will sound like a defeat to him.”

“Yes I know Hienrich, it will be galling for him I know, so let us see what he comes back with, but he does need to be reminded; regardless how we nicely we present this it was a defeat for him personally and for his Empire.”

“And the papal throne Sire, what should we do there?” Hienrich asked.

“We will wait and see, just wait and see who fights over the crumbs”.


                        ***********************************

Chapter 12 - Papal Intrigues


Franconia
The King of Franconia Jean I was not a patient man, he had sat with his council of state listening to the pros and cons of Franconia putting forward a candidate for the Papal throne, it was discussion as pointless as it was overly long; but it was necessary to placate the egos of the nobles and members on the council.
The council was not constructive in its advice, but that hardly surprised King Juan because the members of the council was so ridden with self interests they could rarely agree in what order they should walk through a door way, let alone agree on matters of state.
It was not that King Juan needed the Council of State, in fact he sat here listening to the droning of members as if he hung on to every word, whereas in fact he is mind traversed the real issues. What the council achieved in a day King Juan would have decided within the hour, perhaps even less.
Sadly since the revolt of the Nobles those many years ago the nobles and functionaries of Government had assumed a position of authority over the Franconian Kings, however since Juan I had been King he had been on a pathway of re-establishing the authority of the throne. Naturally there were his opponents who would hang on to every thread of hope through intrigue or open opposition just to retain power and prestige in Franconia. The opposition that the King faced was no better represented than by the very annoying and ambitious Cardinal Patel, a man that saw himself as a candidate for the Papal throne. Sadly he was not a man without influence and power, so King Juan had at least to go through the motions of paying attention to the words, even if both detested each other.

Cardinal Patel had been for over the last 30 minutes extolling the Council about the benefits of Franconia having the Papal seat, not just a papal seat but a separate papal throne from the traditional joint throne that had been the custom for hundreds of years; now King Juan had finally decided he had paid enough sufferance to the imbecile.

The King raised his hand, which was a polite way of saying “shut up, you have bored us long enough”,

“Thank you Cardinal Patel as usual your advice has been informative as it has been interesting. Now if I may abbreviate your discussion you propose we put a candidate forward because it offers Franconia the power and influence over other Catholic states that we cannot achieve through diplomatic means. However your eminence I am more than a little concerned that you wished to return to the old ways of having two separate thrones within a state, the throne of the Royal House and a separate ecclesiastical throne.
To my mind the joint thrones as practiced by nations such Hapburgia has served them well, it focused the power and attention where it matters, at the head of state rather than possibly having a situation where powers and responsibilities will eventually over lap and in the end cause confusion and discourse within the realm. To my mind this is unacceptable at this time”.

The Cardinal rose “Your Majesty, I sincerely believe that by having the dual throne system the odious duties of the church can be lifted from your shoulders so that you have much more freedom to guide our realm.”

King Juan nodded “Your consideration for my welfare is touching Cardinal Patel, but believe me if and I do say IF we put a candidate forward it will be under the single throne system, and please my dear cardinal you do not need concern yourself over my well being. With a council of State with such an illustrious grouping of advisors as I have here I really do not see the need to share power further. Besides if I remember correctly am I not a part of Royal dynasty that was appointed by god, what better way for me to serve god but as his earthly representative”

The Cardinal sat, quietly fuming, he knew before the meeting he would not have a chance to wrestle the papal throne away from the King if he chose to put himself forward as a candidate, but for the cardinal this was only the first shots in a long war for power and he was really testing the waters within the council as to the level of support for his proposition. Sadly he pondered to himself, most of these dull minded royal lackeys wouldn’t raise a finger to help themselves let alone raise the power and influence of the church in Franconia, his church.

The King continued,” Alright gentlemen for now we will stay the course of keeping the throne a singular entity with dual responsibilities, both royal and ecclesiastical, now Cardinal Patel has quite rightly reminded us of the power and influence a Papal seat gives us; do we take chance of this opportunity now or is there a different path”

The Minister for Foreign affairs and younger brother to the King Prince Louis rose.

“Sire I have listened to both sides to this worthy discussion and if I may I just wish to offer a few suggestions and guidelines that I have seen from my position as Minister of Foreign affairs.
Over the last decades Franconia has come from a nation that was broken and divided, the colonial wars in Gurania ruined generations of lives, the plague and winters of the last two or three decades treated all of Europia badly, but Franconia in particular.
Despite that gentlemen, today Franconia sits once more preeminent amongst the Empires of Europia, we are economically and technologically far more advanced than Iberia and Hapburgia and we have managed this not only through the devotion and excellent service such as yourselves but because we have avoided the pitfalls that Iberia and Hapburgia both have fallen into.”
The prince looked straight at cardinal Patel, a man he hated with a passion.

“That pitfall Gentlemen is defending the faith, quite frankly having the papal throne means war, it means we are automatically in a state of war with every Protestant nation in Europia, oh it may not be a declared war but the war of defending the faith does mean the nation with the papal throne must defend that responsibility, not only defend it but to destroy the enemies of the true faith, the catholic church.
What does that mean in real terms?  For Franconia it means our maritime trade is threatened, not only with our own colonies but with rich nations such as Britannia and her colonies and the trade with the Empire of the Tsars which has been increasing annually.
Will we risk this for the income from the holding the Papal throne, the income is I will admit quite significant, but in accepting it  we accept that it is our nation that must led the war against the heretics, not only the protestant nations such as Britannia and Rechburg but nations such as the Orthodox church of the Empire of the Tsars and the Islamic church of the Attaman Empire. In other words Gentleman that income is swallowed up by the need to produce more men, more ships and more armaments; in brief our economy will at best stagnate at worse shrink just as it has done with Iberia and Hapburgia when they have held the Papacy.”

Cardinal Patel rose to speak, but King Juan rose his hand which meant – you have had your time sit down and listen you might even learn something.

The Prince smiled at the Cardinal, “Now gentlemen I am sure Cardinal Patel would remind us it is our right and duty to defend the church, and I am in agreement with that, but not as the pre-eminent nation of the Catholic Church. Let Hapburgia or Iberia lead that struggle and deal with the consequences, we can support them as a supporting and dutiful Catholic nation and still not be drawn into the consequences of a continuous state of war.  
Finally gentlemen I wish to add that while I see wars defending the faith may be a necessity of the faith, I would rather Franconia fight wars that in the first instance benefit her economically, secondly gain territory and finally and only then fight to support the faith. We are entering a new age gentlemen, it is no longer the age of prayer and sufferance of the soul, Franconia has shown the way in how to govern and survive. We should choose our enemies not because some Pope says we should but because we can gain economically or gain diplomatically from it.”

Once gain the cardinal rose and this time the King let him speak
“Gentlemen I can think of nothing more primeval and horrible than fighting wars for money and the glory of Kings, Good grief if that becomes a principle then the world will soon be at war with each other just so Kings can bask in their earthly glory, a pathway that leads to ruin for us all except the winning ruling house, which will be a house that rules a world of devastation. It is the very pathway of Satan and I do not say that lightly gentlemen.
There is no doubt in my mind that war for the aggrandizement of Kings is a pathway that leads to ruin, the ruin of our souls as we sell the love of god for the love of man made glories, defending the faith however raises us above that primeval energy that would bring us ruin, fighting for the glory of god gives sustenance to our souls just as it does to the purses of Government.
His highness speaks of Iberia and Hapburgia shrinking economies, yet we see Iberia expanding its colonies at the expense of pagan natives, we see Danemark crawling to Iberia for favours and ships, does this sound like those nations are on their knees. Hapburgia has fought wars and has held back the wave of heretic nations, we should have done more, I have over the years lamented the fact that we favoured filling our purses while true godly nations like Hapburgia carried the burden. But despite the last two decades of holding the Papacy Hapburgia still stands strong as the defender of the faith, I am sure no one here calls Hapburgia a ruined nation, a weak nation and now it has a new vital Emperor I am sure it will also be a grand supporter for that nation that takes up the torch.
Please gentleman, let us hear no more of short term earthly gains at the expense of our spiritual goodness, let not our fellow Catholic brother’s fight alone, it is our duty to share the burden of defending the faith as much as it is in sharing the glory of god.”
The cardinal sat down once more.

King Juan sat looking around the room, it was time he thought to himself, this may not be taken to well and I must be ready for dissent but if Franconia is to be strong I must do this.

“Gentlemen, I have listened to your wise council and believe me when I say all your pleas and arguments have touched me dearly, sadly I now must make the decision for which way Franconia will go over the next decade or so. It is a decision I do not take lightly, but it is one that I have considered benefits us all. Franconia will not be putting a candidate forward for the papacy unless Hapburgia declines to do so. In fact it is my intention to urge Hapburgia to resume that role, even though at this stage they have not declared whether they will do so or not.”

The Cardinal rose to his feet” My god sire, you will damn us in the eyes of god, we are ruined”.

The King turned to cardinal Patel, “Cardinal you forget yourself, I have the floor and I will brook no interruption from anyone in this room, is that understood sir?’

“Sire I have meant no disrespect but this is a matter of papal jurisdiction that needs to be fully discussed, I am sure sire the other members of this house are not aware that the Franconian Papal Financial obligations have not been met for the last two years, in truth sire that leaves us open to being expelled from the College of cardinals and taking even being allowed to have a vote let alone place a bid for the Papal throne. What do you intend to do about this sire?

The King stood, glaring at the cardinal he said “Your eminence I am on my feet, you will be seated please.”
The Cardinal slowly sat down; it seemed every fibre of his body was shaking with fury.
“The cardinal is quite correct in some aspects; Franconia has not paid its full fees for two years because
And I have discussed this with the late Pope Charles I, the Papal throne has not invoked a state of war for this period and we do not see the need to finance the Papacy for a situation that has not occurred. What we have done is pay the fees due for our membership within the College of Cardinals, and his eminence must have known that considering it was paid through his offices. If he didn’t he has been negligent in running his office, if he has and he has just falsely accused me of a wrong doing, that has much more serious issues. However gentlemen I do not wish to haggle over the rights or wrongs of how the Cardinal runs his office, that matter will be discussed in the appropriate place and time.”

King Juan ticked off a mental box in his mind, step one in gaining full Royal control; exert direct control and authority within the council, the King continued,
“Gentlemen in the event Hapburgia does not place a candidate then I will reluctantly put my name forward, but I will only do this so that Iberia does not gain the throne by default.”

Then once again looking at the Cardinal and his allies within the council,
“If I am declared Pope I can assure you the way the Papacy will be run will be vastly different than it has in the past, as Pope I will defend those who are of our faith, but I will no longer seek to convert and punish realms that have made their own secular choices, in short gentlemen I want to put an end to the religious wars of the last century, as mentioned earlier, we are heading into a new age of enlightenment, and under my Papacy that will include the catholic church.
In the past years when the world suffered what seemed eternal dark winters and years of plagues it suited nations to have the papacy and the King in the one entity, for the nation that held the Papal throne was seen as the nation favoured by god, the ruling house was deemed to be gifted and protected by the hand of god and thus the people would accept their sufferance with some spiritual forbearance; knowing that God acting through their Kings and Emperors would guide them to a period of peace and tranquility.
 I don’t believe god ever intends it to be otherwise.
 By the same token however I don’t believe that it is necessary to have the papal throne for a nation to prosper, our own Kingdom is a classical example of that. We can see God has blessed Franconia by its growing influence, the betterment of its people and its increasing wealth, all this without a Papal throne and even with not persecuting other religions within our Empire.
If I am blessed by the faithful to assume the Papal throne I will as mentioned change the ways things have been done, the throne of Franconia and the Papal throne together will protect the Catholic faith, but we will not persecute those who believe otherwise.
The one thing I will not do is allow a corrupt and backward regime such as Iberia to bring the aura of the Papacy into disrepute, I will offer my support to Hapburgia because in my mind they have acted faithfully, if they feel unable to accept that task for now, then reluctantly I will accept the challenge, but if I do so it is under my rules and my guidance, and those are not the dictates of the past.”

With that King Juan I declared the council session closed and rose and left the room, he was shortly followed by his brother Prince Louis and the Constable of Franconia Duc de Boise.
The trio made their way down to the Royal apartments, once there all three collapsed down in the lounge chairs, they sat there looking from one to the other, then the king started laughing and before long all we laughing.

Prince Louis said “My god I thought the cardinal was going to have a fit when you said there would not be a papacy in Franconia, and did you see his hands when you said you support a Hapburgia claim to the Papal throne, my god they were shaking with rage.”

The King rose from his chair and went to the desk ringing a bell, moments later a servant entered,
“Would you please bring us three coffees.”

The servant bowed and left the room.
The King once again walked back to his chair and eased himself down, he said

“Yes well right at this moment two things will be happening, there will be a courier from the Cardinal heading to Iberia very soon, no doubt informing them that we will support Hapburgia if Hapburgia choose to hold the papacy and the second is the Cardinal and his friends will be quietly testing the waters with the other members of the council to see if they can wean any more support away from me.”

Prince Louis asked “Why do you let him get away with this Juan, why not simply dismiss him and get rid of the dissent, for god sake we might even enjoy the council meetings were he not there anymore”.

“Yes well little brother” the king replied, “I like to keep my enemies close, it’s much easier to watch them and know what they are about rather than allow them to go underground and meet secretly, they already do enough of that without encouraging them.”

The Constable of Franconia Duc de Boise asked,
“Sire what is it your really intend, I have more than a sneaking feeling what we heard in there was not where you intend to take us?”

There was a knock on the door, the servant wheeled in a trolley with three coffees, he moved amongst the trio placing their cups on the appropriate side tables, he then bowed and left the room.

King Juan looked at de Boise, he was the one man within his close circle  apart from Louis he trusted most, and therefore
 was a valuable advisor and friend.
“Yes you are quite perceptive my friend, I have not been entirely open with the council, the reason for that is twofold, firstly I intend to do away with the council before long, I am sick and tired of the factional arguments they spend days trying to resolve the simplest arguments. It is an archaic system and it is bad government. I do expect the nobles to scream and perform and so at the moment while they think they have a chance to weaken me in the council my own people are determining those who we can rely on and those who will betray us at the first opportunity. Have no doubt, before this week is over Franconia is going to be vastly different, a difference that will make our Kingdom much stronger.

Secondly I have already heard from Hapburgia, they want to buy our neutrality with an offer of their two votes if we stay neutral in their argument with Wartenburg, I have heard from Wartenburg they will support us with their vote if we support them, so it would seem if I support Hapburgia I will be the Pope.”

Prince Louis sat looking, “yes and so what will you do?”

The King leaned forward taking the coffee cup; again he eased himself back in his chair, gently sipping the coffee.
“I will accept the papal throne from Hapburgia, and when it is appropriate I will as the advocate of the Papal throne intercede with Wartenburg and Hapburgia to prevent them from going to war.”

Duc de Boise looked on incredulous,” My god Sire, that means you would go back on your word, if you accept Hapburgia’s vote then are you not duty bound to act on it.”

The King continued sipping his coffee, then said “No not at all, I will act in the first instance what is best for Franconia and then what is best for the Papacy, in this case I will have Wartenburg beholden to me for protecting them but I will not allow them to claim independence from the Hapburgian Empire, so both parties will gain what they seek, the Prince and Princess of Wartenburg becomes King and Queen, and Hapburgia retains Wartenburg as a client Kingdom. Sometimes Louis we must treat these Kings and Princes like we do our children, and like all parents sometimes it is convenient to twist the truth a little.
In the end they will see the wisdom of me acting in such a manner both sides hold their honour and both will consider Franconia a reliable friend.”

“But Juan you cannot be sure it will go as you expect, we could end up in a real mess, what off Iberia how do you think they will respond?” Louis asked.

“Well Iberia, like the Cardinal will see me as the instrument of Satan, what they will do is plot against me, Iberia will plot from the outside and try to build a coalition and the cardinal from within, when they do I will act.”
Duc de Boise placed his coffee back on the side table,

“So you expect a war with Iberia then Sire?”

“A war possibly but I doubt it, but what I will be doing is seeking a reapproachment with Brittania and possibly Rechburg, if we can come to some ahhhh diplomatic arrangement with both of them then Iberia will be less than enthusiastic to make war on anyone.”

“Good God” Louis squealed “You will make peace with the protestants our own people will likely revolt Juan, that’s madness.”

“They won’t revolt especially if I end up with the Papal throne, but even without it our people will be glad of the extra trade and wealth that comes from improving our relations with the Protestant nations. As I said to the council, we need to bury the old ways, we are in an age of enlightenment and the time of religious wars should be over; now each nation should seek its own pathway based on its own merits and its own abilities. It is the time of nationhood and we should embrace it.”

Louis said, “As the cardial said back there, It sounds like a time of Kings and god only knows where that will lead.”

Juan smiled, “God and the Pope know my friend.”

“Just one more question Juan if you will” asked Louis? “What if Hapburgia will not take the throne and you don’t agree to remain neutral in Wartenburg, he will likely vote for Iberia just to remain in favour with the new Pope”.

“Well Louis, if that happens then we will live in interesting and dangerous times, but we will see.”




Hapburgia

Emperor Ferdinand and Count Manfred von Lustburgerstein who had under Charles I been the Empires Exchequer was now the First Minister of the Hapburgian Empire.
They were sitting in the Emperors office, it was 5am and dark outside, the one big and main difference Manfred had noted between this Emperor and Charles was Ferdinand was a workaholic; he rose at 4am every morning and usually went to bed around midnight.

It meant Manfred had to change his old routine of being in the office at 7am but at least the Emperor granted him the luxury of being able to go to bed earlier than his master.
This morning Ferdinand and Manfred were discussing the mail and events that have come in over night, they had heard back from the Franconian Emperor and it was not particularly good news.

“So Manfred it seems King Juan will honour us by allowing us to vote for him in the Papal vote, yet he offers nothing in return; he has not agreed to remain neutral in the Wartenburg affair so I suspect he has his own plans for my little sister, either allowing them to become a Kingdom or worse allowing them to cede into the Franconian Empire”.
“My god sire that is a gross violation of Hapburgian sovereignty no matter which option he chooses.” Manfred gasped almost spilling his early morning cup of tea.

“Yes you are quite right my friend, a gross violation and he knows it, but he will no doubt explain the violation away in some nice papal legalistic judgment, a situation which means if we oppose it we are in opposition to the Papal jurisdiction to make judgments between ruling houses.”

“So what will you do Sire?”

“ First I will vote for Iberia and if somehow he should still become Pope I would ignore his judgments, you see in King Juan I I think we have a new type of ruler, he has been hiding his talents away and there is no doubt he has done a marvel with the Franconian economy, Of course it is easy to do so when you fail to honour your obligations to allies, every time we have sought assistance from Franconia they have come up with some excuse not to get involved. All the wars we have fought on behalf of the Papacy Franconia has benefited from, either by not paying its share of Papal financial obligations, or lining up for the spoils latter.  Also this King has developed a skill for intrigue and diplomacy; in fact I suspect he rather enjoys it, as one would enjoy a game of whist.  So Manfred we must amuse our new playmate, I too love a game, so we will have to see how well he understands the rules.”

Manfred nodded his head, since Ferdinand had become King and Emperor everything was in a state of change, new rules, and new organisations formed from many older ones that had often duplicated duties, it certainly was a case of the new broom making a clean sweep.

“Now Manfred has everything been made ready for the College of Cardinals?”

“Indeed Sire the Dessau Palace has been made over to them and we should have the first guests arriving in the next day or so. On that matter sire I have been asked to offer a guarantee of protection and immunity for Prince Konstantin and princess Arabella.”

“Denied” Ferdinand replied.

“But sire if they do not have the offer of protection they will not be able to come and vote.”
“Indeed my old friend I believe you are quite right, and so if they cannot come and vote I will vote on their behalf as their liege and lord. My sister and her husband are about to learn the new rules in the game of Kingship, and the first rule is if you don’t own a throne you don’t get to play.”

Manfred muttered, “I think I may like this game sire, but it makes me extremely nervous.”

“It shouldn’t Manfred, embrace the thrill and together I am sure will enjoy ourselves.”

“Sire may I ask, being since I am getting a little old for new games, there is every chance the aims of the game may get lost in my rather simple mind.”

“Firstly Manfred you do yourself an injustice, you are neither old nor simple, it is the one reason I chose you as my first minister. Now secondly the aim of this particular game is not to be the one caught with the Papal throne though I suspect Juan has not become aware of that yet.”

“N,n, not to have the Papal throne, I don’t understand, I thought it was what nations almost went to war to claim, and now you are saying you don’t want it.”

Ferdinand laughed “Its not that I don’t want it, its just I would prefer not to have it. Juan only wants it if Iberia is likely to get it, and Iberia wants it to rule over the rest of us, but you see Manfred neither Juan or I really place any value in the papal throne anymore. So it really doesn’t matter at least to me whether Iberia or Franconia gets it; in fact as Charles found out the Papacy can be a liability. I would prefer to see the Papal throne given a permanent small realm of its own, and then the cardinals can go and play their games leaving the ruling of the kingdoms to those that matter.”

“But surely sire, if Iberia or Franconia has the Papacy, we are obligated to obey its judgments, that is the way it always has been.”

“No old friend, that’s the perception, for example when Rechburg invaded Ulrichstein, neither Iberia nor Franconia answered the call. They both had excuses and even Iberia’s ally Bergatonia only attacked out of spite and not obligation, so you see Manfred, kings don’t respect the papacy anymore. The reason they don’t respect it is the Papacy lacks teeth. I am sure Juan understands that, Emperor Fernandez of Iberia is likely about to learn that.”

“But surely the papacy has the power of excommunication.” Manfred replied.

“Indeed it does, and that’s its only weapon, but the papacy that uses it will likely make all Catholic Kingdoms nervous, and that creates its own problems. No Manfred I don’t fear excommunication, I doubt Juan would use it and if Miguel Fernandez does he may learn a valuable lesson that is use excommunication and every catholic ruler will likely turn on you, you see Manfred we Kings are a prickly lot; we may backstab each other but use a universal weapon like excommunication on a brother Sovereign and you would invoke a war of unbelievable ferocity purely out of the fear the next time it could be you or your Kingdom.”

“So Sire, I think I understand, the Papacy is irrelevant other than a tool in diplomacy, it’s sort of sad in a way, I wonder how god would feel about that.”

“I have no doubt my friend that one day we will find out”.

“Now then what else have you for me this morning?”
“The matter of the Rechburg demands for Ulrichstein, what shall we do there sire?”

“Alright then Manfred this matter requires some delicate negotiations, clearly their first demands are the opening shots and we will respond in kind, but I want you to handle these negotiations personally so I need you to understand my thinking.
First come the next Campaign season I wish to reclaim Wartenburg, there is every chance I may get Iberian support for this, even if their support does not amount to actual military help they could demonstrate on the Franconian border if Franconia makes a move to help Arabella and Konstantin.
First and foremost Wartenburg is Hapburgian territory so if Franconia intercedes it does so knowing they are making war on us, personally I don’t think Juan wants a war, there is little profit in it besides his army is untried so it’s a risk he may not like to try.
So if I am to be involved in a war in Wartenburg either against Franconia or my sister  the last thing I need is to have the Ulrichstein mess blow up on me again, everything in its own time and place eehhh Manfred, so this is what I want you to do.”

By the time Ferdinand finished explaining his strategy for Rechburg Manfred was totally aghast, my god the world is a changing place he thought to himself, he then snickered as he left to pack his travel bags,
 I like this new game.

                                     ***********************************


Chapter 13 - Changes



All the Cardinals from every Catholic nation had assembled at the Dessau palace, however the meeting and purpose of the Electoral College turned out for many to be an anti-climax. The results of the elections were known before anyone sat down to formally discuss the business of the college.
Once it was known that Hapburgia would vote for Iberia, the Franconian Cardinal Palet had withdrawn his sovereigns bid (as per King Juan’s instructions) before the college even sat down for the formal business. King Juan I had realised there was a possibility that Hapburgia might do the unthinkable and support his rival because he had not agreed to promise to remain neutral in the Hapburgia-Wartenburg argument. It had been a risk in not issuing that promise and now Franconia paid the price for it. Juan was certain that Ferdinand of Hapburgia would weigh up the two remaining candidates and decide Juan was more reliable than Miguel Fernandez of Iberia.
In his heart of hearts Juan was not too disappointed that Franconia would not have the papacy, it merely complicated his plans but it would not stop them, and at least now he had a free hand to rule for Franconia and not the Catholic faith. He had sent cardinal Patel to represent him at the Electoral college, so uncertain was he that he would gain the papacy he decided the risk of loss of face in being there personally was too great, if by some miracle he had gained the Papal throne he could have been in Hapburgia for the Papal coronation within a week.
In the end King Juan realised he had misjudged Ferdinand, obviously the new Emperor of Hapburgia was playing a longer game than Juan had given him credit for, but he had other ways of tweaking the Hapburgian king. The first things to do would be to write to the Prince and Princess of Wartenburg with a few words of encouragement and advice.
Cardinal Palet King Juan’s Papal representative was not at all surprised at the result either, in fact he had kept the Iberians informed of what King Juan’s attitude to the Papacy was, the Iberians were just as concerned as Cardinal Palet  that perhaps King Juan was turning his back on the Catholic faith.
If the surprise was to be complete for anyone it was to the man who received the honour, for Emperor Miguel Fernandez this was the moment of crowning glory, he had finally reached the cherished goal of Pope, the highest office in mother church. He was 72 years old but this was literally his crowning glory. To him the past Popes had been too weak, the Papal throne had fallen into disrepute and the word of God was not given the respect nor the priority that it deserves, but all that will change now he decided.
When he arrived in Hapburgia for the Electoral College vote he was surprised to find the new Emperor Ferdinand had prepared rooms in his own palace for him to stay in, it was he realised a singular honour that was being presented to him however  as Ferdinand had said on his arrival it was beneficial for both to learn more about each other.
On that first night, Ferdinand had told Emperor Fernandez that he would be supporting him in the vote, in that moment the Iberian monarch knew he had the papacy and his gratitude was manifest at this unexpected boon. He like King Juan had expected Hapburgia to vote for Franconia, so this new development needed to be explored further.
Over the next day or so Ferdinand had explained the treachery that Prince Konstantin and Arabella had displayed towards him, though the Iberian had heard the story as gossip to learn the details first hand raised his anger. In fact so much so Ferdinand had to cool the Iberians ardor for he feared the man might go to war then and there. So passionate was he about a sovereigns own princes being faithful to their liege lords that he said he felt almost as insulted as Ferdinand was.
Ferdinand had explained to Miguel that he had sought an assurance from Franconia that they would remain neutral, and when Franconia had not agreed to give that assurance in writing Ferdinand said he realised King Juan was not the man to hold the Papal throne. It required a man of integrity and wisdom and that was why he had decided to give Miguel his full support.
Miguel Fernandez King of Iberia and Emperor or the Iberian Empire as well as Pope elect was horrified that a fellow Catholic sovereign would conspire with another’s Prince to try and steal his lands, he at that moment assured Ferdinand his new friend that Hapburgia would have Iberia’s full support, no matter the consequences.
From that moment on the Papal elections were but a formality, at the end of the whole process Pope Miguel had left Hapburgia full of love and goodwill to his new friend Ferdinand, the other cardinals left soon after.
Now alone at last Ferdinand wondered how his first minister Count Manfred von Lustburgerstein was doing in the Herzogtum von Rechburg.

Rechburg
The journey to Ulrichstein had been a long and arduous one, the roads were often blocked by snow and long detours had to be made, however 2 weeks after leaving he arrived in the  Ulrichstein capital Quedinburg, he rested there for two days having to get over the effects of a serious chill he had picked up on his journey. However once rested and feeling much stronger he made his way to Ulrichsburg to meet with Prince Wilhelm.
The Prince had initially expected the Hapburgians would negotiate an Ulrichstein treaty with him personally but after Manfred had assured him though no disrespect was intended his brief was such that he needed to speak with the Herzog directly.
Prince Wilhelm left the army in winter quarters and decided to accompany Manfred back to Rechburg. Wilhelm had taken the precaution of sending a courier ahead to warn of the Hapburgian Ministers arrival.

As the coach arrived at the steps of the Herzog’s official residence Manfred was surprised to see the Herzog’s family were all out  on the steps to welcome him, even though it was late at night.
 Manfred was only too well aware that he was the first Hapburgian Minister to visit the Herzogtum in decades, so he was really uncertain of the nature of the welcome he would receive. After the many years of animosity and wars between the two nations there was every reason to suspect he would be received very coolly or at least with suspicion.

The Herzog descended the steps and waited for Manfred to step down from the coach; Prince Wilhelm did the introductions and then in turn received the biggest welcome from his sister Caroline followed by bear hugs from his younger brother Leopold who had come up from the south for this special occasion. Caroline literally smothered him in kisses and hugs then getting between her two brothers shook hooked her arms between theirs and marched them up the steps.

 A footman helped Manfred step down from the coach; Constantine was there to greet him as he stepped down on the snow covered pathway.

As his children made their way up the steps they left Constantine and Manfred smiling at each other,



Constantine said
“I must apologise Minister Lustburgerstein, my family have been separated for some time and as no doubt you will discover they do have a rather nasty habit of allowing family bonds to overrule official duties, but please let us go in out of the cold, you must be very tired and I am sure you will need a rest”

Manfred simply said, “Sire you have already shown me a great consideration in allowing me to share in the family reunion and yes I must confess the journey has been a long and a very tiring one, sadly I am not as young as as I once was when I used to race around the continent on the Emperors business. But please sire, if you will allow me one instant of informality please call me Manfred as I am afraid my name becomes a mouthful when in official discussions.”

Constantine nodded “Manfred it is then, so Manfred a nice warm fire and a good nights rest, a chance for you to gather your strength and a chance for me to listen to my children tell tales all night.”

The two men climbed the steps, Manfred was offered a supper which he respectively decline, Constance made polite conversation but he could see Manfred was wearying  and Manfred eventually asked if he could excuse himself as the journey had taken a severe toll on him, he was shown to his rooms and allowed to rest.

Meanwhile down in the family room, the Herzog’s family was laughing and jesting with each other, Constantine stood with his back to the fire basking in the warmth of the fire and the joy of having his family together.

Wilhelm came over, Caroline was still attached to him, arm in arm.

“So father” Wilhelm said “what do you think the Hapburgians want.”

Constantine had been wondering just that since he had received the message that the Hapburgian First Minister wanted to discuss new terms and arrangements over a host of new issues. It was apparent they were to discuss more than Ulrichstein, and apart from that he wondered what else they had in common, he hoped it was not some issue with Pomona and Vandahalla; he had enough on his plate right now.

“Well son I am at a loss, so I guess we will find out in the morning.”

The rest of the night and into the early hours of the morning Constantine and his family discussed much from wars and battles to Caroline’s plans to marry their father off to Princess Charlotte of Danemark, eventually the whole family tired and made their way to bed.

The next morning Manfred who was by now usually conditioned to waking at 4:00am and going to work this morning struggled to get out of bed early, he realised as he dressed that he was far more tired and weary than he first thought so by the time Manfred eventually made his way down stairs it was 8:00am. Even at that late hour the only one of the family up and about was Princess Caroline, she as was her manner immediately latched on to him and walked him around the palace, her arm through his as she explained paintings of the family and various Rechburgian scenes. They eventually made their way into what she described as the family room, it was a large comfortable and quite informal room, the fire was already burning and the staff had just laid out what clearly was a breakfast table. Manfred was a little aghast at all the informality, he wasn’t sure of the protocol when one found themselves in another sovereigns family room waiting for the family to descend for breakfast.
Caroline asked Manfred if he would like a tea, which he eagerly thanked her for, before long she had him seated in front of the fire and was bombarding him with questions about society matters in Hapburgia.

He found it difficult to remember that Hapburgia and Rechburg were still enemies even more so than when he found he was being treated almost like one of the family. It was vastly different from the stiffness and formality of court life in Hapburgia, and it was many years that he had even remotely enjoyed the sense of a family gathering. Eventually the whole family came down and gathered in the family room, once more there were the hugs, kisses amongst Herzog and the family and all came and shook his hand once again.

Constantine then lead them all to the table and Manfred who had expected to be lead out of the room while the family ate, found instead he was expected to sit down with them, Caroline patting a seat beside her, “Come sit here Manfred I have hundreds of questions to ask yet.”

“Now come on Caroline, leave the poor man alone, there will be time to pester him later”.

As the servants were bringing platters of breakfast foods for them to choose from, Constantine looked at Manfred and said.
“Now Manfred, what brings you all this way from Veronia to Albany in mid winter, it must be of some urgency.”

Manfred was once more thrown of balance,
“Well Sire I have been instructed to discuss matters of mutual interest to both our nations including peace in Ulrichstein”

“Excellent, I am all ears on what your new Emperor proposes.”

Manfred looked at him, then at the others gathered around the table,

“You mean now Sire here, I thought we would talk these matters over err privately as it were.”

The whole family smiled, Constantine looked up, with a piece of bacon hanging from his fork, he looked around and there were no servants so he said

“We are fine now, the servants won’t come back in until we finished….”

Caroline then giggled, she whispered overly loudly to her father.
“Father I think Manfred means he feels you and he should talk privately, is that not right Manfred?”

“Err yes well your highness, that is the normal way we discuss diplomatic matters”

Caroline reached across with a reassuring arm

“Manfred we do things very differently here don’t we father”

Constantine had to quickly swallow the bacon and taking a napkin he gently wiped his lips
“Oh indeed Manfred, if you have matters to discuss with me, you must tell all of us. Don’t worry I will make any decisions but my family will always have input into our nations business, so please my friend, talk away; I’m all ears.”

Manfred swallowed and it wasn’t the food that made a lump in his throat, however he had decided if this is the way one does business so be it.

“Sire, Emperor Ferdinand very much regrets the situation our two nations have found themselves in over these last few months, in particular of course I am referring to Ulrichstein, he has personally asked me to assure you that Bishop der Plonk will be punished most severely for the actions he committed in the Bishopric. Furthermore Sire the Emperor asked me to let you know that what the Bishop has done in Ulrichstein was totally without our knowledge, his actions were his own and as such even if Rechburg had not responded he would have been treated as a criminal by us. His actions were unforgiveable and for that you have my Emperors most sincere apologies..”

Prince Wilhelm placed his fork on the plate,
“I am sure the apologies are well meant Manfred, but you did not see the suffering and inhumanities the Bishop and his men inflicted on the Protestants, and might I add not all were Protestants there were Catholic people who suffered at their hands as well. It will take a lot more than the Emperors well meant apologies to make matters right.”

“Your highness you are quite correct and the little damage I did see was horrific enough without seeing the worst of it all, My Emperor did not only wish me to pass on his sincerest apologies he has asked me to ensure that the Protestant people of Ulrichstein are kept safe from future reprisals.”

Constantine looked around the family, here it comes he thought,
“And how does the Emperor intend to do that Manfred?”

“Emperor Ferdinand is convinced the way nations viewed each other in the past must change, the old Catholic versus Protestant or Calvinist attitudes are attitudes of the past, we must all view each other as neighbours who share similar values, be they religion, political policies or even similar cultures.
His Majesty believes the way we connect together as neighbouring nations will reflect the new emerging Europia, it is he feels obligatory upon us all to find new ways of understanding each other, failing to do so means we continue on a pathway of eternal war and conflicts simply because we are off different religious persuasions.
He feels nations should be tied together for economic, military or even philosophical reasons, these are attitudes that become tangible and real to the people; alliances and relationships based purely on religion are doomed to repeat the failures of the past simply because they are based on bigotry and bias.”

Constance looked around his family; all of them had stunned looks on their faces, if what Manfred was suggesting were true, the religious wars could indeed finally be a thing of the past.

“Manfred, the views you have just reiterated here are very much the attitudes of this house, we have always been convinced of the failings of diplomatic relations simply being based on religion, however sadly in the past it is how nations of Europia would only view each other.”

Manfred continued, “My Emperor would be heartened to hear that Sire, it is the  same view  he has cherished for many years, but until he was in a position to implement change it has remained an unfulfilled desire, possibly until now it seems.”

Manfred looked around the room, he had seen how is Emperor’s views had impacted on them, he knew those views were getting a sympathetic hearing so he continued.
“Sire it is my Emperors most cherished wish that the Hapburgian Empire and the Herzogtum von Rechburg put the enmity of the past behind them and show Europia a new way for nations to respect each other, not based on religion but on respect and mutual necessity. The possibilities for trade between our nations are wholly undeveloped, for example, there are potential markets in both nations that have for decades remained unexplored simply because we walked into different churches.
Based on this my Emperor has asked me to put forward these basic principles to you, the details of each can be worked through  at a later time so can if you understand this is his new broad stroke of how he wishes relations between our nations to develop.

a)     In the first instance a cease fire in Ulrichstein is declared with a view to discussions on how the matter in Ulrichstein can best be resolved.
b)    We declare a trade agreement between our nations and allow each nation to develop markets within the other.
c)     All religions in our combined territories are respected, no religious intolerance in any of our territories will be permitted.
d)    An alliance be negotiated between our nations that will ensure that war between us is a thing of the past. Such an alliance would have immense repercussions throughout Europia therefore my Emperor believes it would be best if our relationship as an alliance was based on a royal marriage between the two houses”.

Manfred looked around the family circle, he thought to himself

If a pin were to drop now the sound when it hit the floor would be like a thunderclap

Each of the family were literally stunned, Constance simply smiled and said
“Well Manfred I can certainly say your new Emperor has vision, but with so much at stake in all you suggest I am sure you will understand that we will need some time to discuss your proposals, what sort of time frame was Emperor Ferdinand thinking in allowing discussions.’

“Emperor Ferdinand has suggested that I leave Rechburg as soon as practical and return to Quedinburg in Ulrichstein, there are matters there I need to settle, not the least ensuring a cease fire is maintained at least until I hear from you. If you agree with the proposals in the basic format then my Emperor has suggested you and he meet in either Quedinburg or Ulrichsburg to discuss the details.”

Princess Caroline asked “In this royal marriage, just who is marrying whom?”

Here comes the deal breaker Manfred thought to himself.

“Your Highness the marriage would be between yourself and Emperor Ferdinand, you would be Empress of the Hapburgian Empire”

“Oh, I see” she said keeping a perfectly straight face,

My God she has such self control; I wager she would make a formidable Empress.

The others in the family were less controlled, all looked immediately to her, and taking the cue from her they tried to maintain the same self control.

“Manfred, give us two days before you leave, by then we will, be able to tell you what we agree to and what we don’t and then your Emperor can decide if he wishes to continue.”

“Sire my Emperor expected that you might need a week or more to discuss this, it was for that reason
He suggested I return to wait in Ulrichstein for your reply, but if you feel you able to arrive at a decision within two days then yes, I would certainly like to wait, there is just one request my Emperor asked of you and that was that all I have spoken should remain secret for now, I am sure you understand there are many nations that would seek to take advantage or sabotage any agreement between our two nations.”

Constantine nodded, he placed the knife and fork down on the plate, wiping his lips with a napkin again he smiled at Manfred,
“Well that was an excellent way to start our day, Manfred would you prefer to enjoy the comforts of the palace or would you like me to arrange a tour of Albany while the family and I begin to discuss these matters.”

“Sire I would be most pleased if I could perhaps enjoy the benefits of your library, Princess Caroline was most kind to show me around this morning and I was most interested in some of your books, so indeed a book or two and a warm fire and I would be most comfortable.”

Caroline asked “Manfred, I don’t know anything of your Emperor and before I sit down and discuss any possible marriage there are things I need to know, so perhaps while the men in my family get themselves ready for what will be a heavy day of talking, perhaps I can have a chat with you in the library, at least I can then have a inkling of what I am likely to get into by marrying a man I have never met”

“Most certainly I would be most pleased and in my room I have a small picture of the Emperor he thought it best for you to see the likeness before you even considered it”.

The other members of the family then finished their breakfast discussing everything but the purpose of Manfred’s visit, then following the meal Constantine and his sons retired to the Herzog’s office to discuss business, and Caroline and Manfred departed for the library where she questioned  Manfred about the Emperor Ferdinand.
He had gone and retrieved the picture of Ferdinand and as she asked questions she would often look to the picture perhaps trying to imagine the answers this man would give her. By the time they were finished Manfred had divulged everything about his Emperor he ever knew; he was sure she had a reasonably good mental picture in her mind of the man she would possibly married.

Following the interrogation Caroline left Manfred to his books and before she joined the others Caroline sent a message to the family she would join them directly and she went to her room, it was the one place in the Palace that she could hope to find peace and solace.
Walking into the room, her beds were already remade and the room cleaned, Caroline made her way to the bedside table and gathered a small picture from it and then made her way to the large armchair in front of the window, sitting down she looked outside, it was snowing heavily and the ground and trees covered by the snow looked so pure and clean. She burst into tears.
In her lap she held two small pictures, one the Emperor Ferdinand the other the man she had been in love with these last few years the Brittanic Ambassador to Rechburg Lord Geoffrey Anders.

Caroline had extracted a promise from her father many years ago that he would never arrange a marriage with a man she didn’t want to marry, over the years that agreement had frustrated her father as he had hopes of making dynastic alliances through her marriage, however on each occasion she had declined the man and despite his own hopes and desires he respected her wish and the matter passed.

Several years ago Lord Geoffrey Anton had come to Rechburg as the Brittanic ambassador; Geoffrey had been a soldier but had lost an arm in the Gurania wars so had ended up in a diplomatic career. Since his arrival in Rechburg Geoffrey and Caroline had fallen in love, though they kept their relationship as secret as possible but it was generally known by the family. Geoffrey never asked for her hand in marriage because he knew her father still held hopes of a royal marriage. Caroline though she pestered her father never urged him beyond a certain point that she be allowed to marry Geoffrey. It was as if there was this unseen line that none would cross so the Caroline and Geoffrey’s relationship just drifted on and existed. 

However now Caroline knew this was different, this was no marriage to a Protestant prince of some small unimportant Duchy. Her marriage into the Hapburgian Royal family would heal a breach that existed between Hapburgia and Rechburg for over a hundred years; it could alter the way Europia moved forward. She looked at the picture of King Ferdinand, it surprised her to find he was so handsome and from what Manfred had told her he was a man of strong character and determination, clearly this was evident in the proposals that he had suggested through Manfred.
So she sat in her chair, looking at the likeness of the two men, the man she loved and wanted to marry but couldn’t, and the other the man she could marry and change the future of her beloved Rechburg possibly Europia.
She knew what her father wanted, but she also knew no matter how important this was he would never insist she make a choice that she wouldn’t accept.

She sat for a long time just watching the snow fall, then eventually there were no more tears she walked over to her bedside kissing the picture of Geoffrey she gently placed it in a draw, the picture of the Ferdinand was placed on the top of the bedside table and she left the room to see her father.

The discussions of the other matters that Ferdinand had proposed were actually quite easily agreed on by Constantine and his family, from the outset they all knew that the entire agreement had hinged on Caroline. That was why none would urge her, it was decision she had to come to and when she came back into the Herzog’s office they knew she had made the right choice. It broke Constantine’s heart to see her trying to be so brave, because he knew what she was giving up, he had been in a similar position many years ago when he was told he was not allowed to marry the woman he loved, the woman that would carry his bastard child, he too had to make a dynastic marriage and now his daughter was in the same position.
They had asked Manfred for two days to discuss the proposal but by the end of the first day they had Manfred come to the Herzog’s office, As soon as he entered the office he knew history was being made, he glanced at Caroline, but she had her back to him looking out the window, at the still falling snow.
Constantine signaled to Manfred that he should take a seat and then Constantine handed him a sheet of paper, on it were the conditions that Rechburg would agree to.

a)     The treaty of Ulrichstein be settled on the basis of land occupied by the forces currently in place, in other words except for Quedinburg all of Ulrichstein would become Rechburgian territory.
b)    It was agreed that trade be expanded between the two nations.

c)     Everyone living in Hapburgian and Rechburgian territories were to be guaranteed religious freedoms and protection from persecution.

d)    The alliance and marraige would only be agreed on under the following conditions

i)              Princess Caroline and King Ferdinand would meet and if both parties were agreeable to the match then a marriage would be agreed upon.
ii)             Each would maintain their own religious choice, so two marriage ceremonies would need to take place.


As Constantine pointed out, these were in response to the Emperors broad stroke proposal, there would need to be details to be hammered out at a later time.

Manfred read the brief document, he looked up at the Herzog and then he glanced towards Caroline, she in turn was watching him with a stone cold face, he thought to himself

I would dearly love to know who the man is you have just given up.

Manfred smiled at Constantine,
“Sire don’t you think its rather a anti-climax that nations of opposing religious beliefs can war against each other for a 100 years without giving an inch and then in one afternoon peace can be made.”

Constantine nodded, looking at Caroline then back to Manfred,
“Well Manfred it is only possible now because of two extraordinary and brave people, Emperor Ferdinand for making the proposal and my daughter Princess Caroline for having the selfless courage to accept them. They are going out into a world that will do everything it can to break this marriage and the alliance between our two houses, so if this agreement does happen the wars are far from finished my friend and they won’t be limited to catholic against protestant.”

“Indeed sire, we are all going to enter a new age and for a while it will be rocky but things will change for the better, of that I am sure”

Constantine replied, “yes well it has taken a hundred years of war to get to this point, I suppose ten years to force peace may not be unrealistic.”

Manfred stayed on in Albany for another three days, the weather being so bad it had prevented any movement for that time, eventually he left the capital accompanied by Prince Wilhelm who was returning to Ulrichstein, it was agreed that in one month they would all meet again in Quedinburg to determine if the alliance and marriage details could be settled.


                                         ********************************


Chapter 14 - Shifting Alliances



It had been five weeks since Count Manfred von Lustburgerstein had left Rechburg, the heavy snowfalls had blocked many of the roads and by the time he had passed through Ulrichstein he was both exhausted, impatient and very late returning to Veronia the capital of Hapburgia.
On his arrival back in the capital he had hoped to have a day to gather his energy and recover from the journey, however the very next morning he received a summons to come and make his report to the Emperor.
Emperor Ferdinand was impatient for any news but in particular he was eager to hear of the Rechburgian response to his proposals. Much had happened since his first minister had left on his journey, and most of it involved Wartenburg and Franconia.
His agents had been sending back a steady flow of reports indicating that there had been a constant series of two way visits between Franconian and Wartenburg diplomats. He knew something was in the wind and guessed whatever it was likely to eventuate in the spring, just in time to correspond with the campaign season, so Ferdinand wanted to be ready before then.

It had also been reported that the Pope had warned Franconia to stay out of Wartenburg – Hapburgian internal problems, how effective those warnings were he would not know until spring, sadly events were to overtake his hopeful outcome.

Manfred arrived early on the morning of his summons, Ferdinand was shocked to see how grey and drawn his First Minister was, he felt some pangs of regret for being so impatient but for Hapburgia and in particular for Ferdinand time was of the essence.

Manfred was ushered into Ferdinand’s office, the Emperor rose and went to greet his minister, and giving a large pat on the shoulder he indicated a chair so Manfred could take a seat.
As Ferdinand made his way back around his desk to his own seat he said:

“So Manfred I am glad you are back, what news have you for me, I want to know all”

“Well sire the news from Rechburg is good, the Herzog has agreed to all your proposals, with conditions naturally; but in essence I don’t see why you could not have an alliance with Rechburg”.

“Excellent, and what is your opinion of Princess Caroline?”

Manfred drew from his folder a small picture that Princess Caroline had given him to present to Ferdinand. He passed the picture to Ferdinand.
“Sire she is both beautiful and intelligent, she will not be a Queen to be taken for granted and she like the rest of her family are very strongly family orientated.  I believe she is the ideal Empress Sire; she would make an ideal Royal partner so long as you involve her in ruling Hapburgia. The Herzog consults with his entire family over all matters in ruling Rechburg and all their suggestions are listened to and considered So she is used to all aspects of Governing and ruling. I would suggest that you would be well advised to continue that practice sire.”

Ferdinand was running his fingers around the small golden oval frame with the likeness of Princess Caroline.
“My god Manfred she is beautiful is she not, how is it she has not married before?”

“Sire it appears the Herzog promised her as he has done with all his children that he would not make them  marry into dynastic alliances unless they so choose, if she chose to marry it was to be her decision, so the decision to marry you sire was hers not the Herzog’s”

“Hmmm she chose me” Ferdinand smiled, “This is excellent news Manfred most excellent. Now tell me about the others.
“Well the Herzog is very capable ruler sire, he rules with a gentle but firm hand and he is ambitious for Rechburg, he is also loyal to his allies so I would suggest he would make an excellent ally for us sire.

Prince Wilhelm is a very able young man, I formed the opinion that he is very capable, but very suspicious of things he doesn’t understand. He will also speak his mind; it would appear the Rechburg High Command hold a very high opinion of him as might I add does our own General Kyler. As far as I could ascertain he is neither married nor  betrothed, I would say he has possibly deliberately or not made himself into a true warrior Prince and for that he is popular amongst the soldiers.
Prince Leopold is as you know the youngest, but again the common opinion is he is learning to command extremely well, in listening to General Molyneaux Prince Leopold he made short work of the Bergatonions with just a militia force.
From what I could see off the Herzogtum countryside, realising of course sire that it is mid winter the nation seems very well run, it is wealthy and industrious and as we already know its army and its commanders are of a very high standard.
It appears that there has been some improvement in relations with Danemark; Princess Caroline tells me she has been working very hard to get her father to marry Princess Charlotte of Danemark, but he refuses because he feels it would compromise his alliance with Flensburg.
Rechburg still has strong alliances with Brittania, Flensburg and Pomonia.”

“Hmm thank you Manfred, now I will expect a full written report but I want  you to take the rest of the day off, oh before you leave Manfred, have the Rechburgians heard about our troubles with Wartenburg and Franconia?’

“Yes they are aware of what happened with Prince Konstantin and Princess Arabella but I don’t think they suspect any Franconian involvement. They were surprised that you supported Iberia in the Papal elections and they are very weary of Iberia which is understandable when one considers the intrigue Iberia has been committing against Rechburg and using Bergatonia as their tool. I suspect Sire there will be more issues between Rechburg and Bergatonia, and therefore Iberia in the foreseeable future.”

Manfred made to leave but sat back down again,
“Oh one other thing I noticed Sire, when I passed through Quedinburg on the way to Rechburg I spoke to General Romer, and he said the Wartenburg Contingent had recovered from the battles, but they were quite weak and he was seeking permission to march his army back to Wartenburg, when I came back from Rechburg General Romer and his men had already left for Wartenburg. General Kyler said he had received a demand from Prince Konstantin for the release of his troops and as he had no instructions to the contrary he had allowed them to leave.”

“Damn, Damn, I had hoped to isolate Romer and have a word with him in the hope I could persuade him to stay loyal to the Empire, Damn this winter everything is getting out of control and I am hampered by the damn weather.

“From my own discussions with the man sire I suggest there was little chance he would betray his Prince, he struck me as being rather a fanatic in his loyalties to Wartenburg and the Prince”.

“Now Manfred back to Rechburg for a moment, when are we to hold the negotiations?’
“Well sire as I was held up by the storms getting back and realising you need this settled urgently I would say right now, I would suggest you send a courier letting the Herzog know you will meet him as soon as possible so you can settle the negotiations before the spring, which will likely be 4-6 weeks away.”

“Very well Manfred, you get some rest and write up a report tomorrow, and I will do as you suggest, I will arrange a meeting for 3 weeks time which should give everyone time to get to Ulrichstein, but barely enough time to deal with my other issues.”

“Very well sire and thank you.”

Manfred rose, bowed slightly and quietly left the office, Frederick was gazing at the new picture he had on his desk.

News

Since Prince Konstantin and Princess Arabella’s hasty return to the Duchy of Wartenburg there had been a lot of diplomatic activity. But their first move was to start setting up a new capital in Trensburg in Western Wartenburg. It was felt that the historical capital Dreisden in Eastern Wartenburg  was just too close to the Hapburgian border. So a new Government capital including Diplomatic missions were being set in Trensburg. Dreisden would remain the historical centre of Wartenburg however, for example the royal couple intended to have their coronation in Dreisden.

On arriving back in Wartenburg Konstantin’s was fearful that Ferdinand may gather an army and immediately march on Wartenburg, just as he had expected Eugene to be severely punished perhaps even executed for his part in the failed coup. As neither had happened in fact Eugene had been given an army command and allowed to go, it just confirmed in Konstantin’s mind that Ferdinand was yet another weak Hapburgian Emperor.

On his return his first priorities had been to gather support from Franconia and to extract his military units out of the clutches of the Hapburgians in Ulrichstein.

In the first he had been moderately successful but not as much as he wished. Konstantin had realised that the Franconian King Juan I was treating Wartenburg as a pawn in his own game, just as the Hapburgian Emperors had been doing for years.
However as Konstantin had often remarked to his wife Arabella that for now they play their games but very soon the Empires may find their plaything has a bite of its own.

King Juan I was encouraging Prince Konstantin to announce his independence from the Hapburgian Empire in the coming spring, Juan claimed until he does so the Franconians cannot do anything to help Wartenburg.
Konstantin however was wary of making such an announcement without concrete support from King Juan I. From the moment he made such an announcement Prince Konstantin and Princess Arabella as well as their entire Duchy would officially be in a state of rebellion. Konstantin knew how unforgiving Europian monarchs were about rebellious states, he had already been warned by the new Pope not to intrigue with Franconia and that any word of rebellion from Hapburgia would bring down the wrath of the Catholic world on his realm and on him personally.

Then a week or so later General Romer had arrived with his army from Ulrichstein, and with him came a snippet of news that intrigued Konstantin.
General Romer had met the Hapburgian First Minister Count Manfred von Lustburgerstein in Quedinburg; the minister was on his way to Rechburg.

Konstantin wondered about the significance of that piece of news, surely if a peace was to be made in Ulrichstein protocol if not convenience would suggest that it should be negotiated on the spot, that is in Ulrichstein. However that was not the case and Romer went on to add that the First minister was accompanied by Prince Wilhelm and they left Ulrichsburg rather hastily heading for Rechburg. The implication from this news was that there was more at stake than a mere peace treaty.
Now he was also holding a missive from one of his agents in Rechburg that the Hapburgian First Minister actually stayed in the Herzog’s own palace and was seen being entertained by the Royal family. The message ended with a further intriguing snippet, the Herzog and his family had been seen preparing to make a long journey. He wondered what would be important enough to drag the Royal family out of the warmth and comfort of Albany in the middle of winter, why the rush and to where?
Obviously it had something to do with the Hapburgian Minister and his mission, but what.

On a hunch he had sent a courier to the Hapburgian capital Veronia to ascertain whether the Emperor was in residence and if he was not where had he gone? He had received no replies from there yet.

Meanwhile he sent this snippet of news to the Franconian Ambassador to Wartenburg Marquis D’Aubigne who had recently installed himself in the fashionable area of Trensburg the new Capital of the Wartenburg. The Ambassador had ironically received a message the day before from his own agent in the Hapburgian Capital, the report indicated that Emperor Ferdinand was preparing to travel to the Kingdom of Vallahalla which was another Hapburgian fiefdom, looking at both messages it was too much of a coincidence, the Hapburgian Emperor and the Herzog of Rechburg were clearly going to meet somewhere, but where and why.

The final piece of the puzzle arrived 3 days after the Wartenburg Foreign minister Count Wraxell had sent his original messages and suspicions onto Franconia, a Catholic sympathiser in Quedinburg reported that Rechburg Guard units and Hapburgian units were jointly garrisoning Quedinburg and that the Palace of Sainte – Anne was being prepared for special guests. It was clear now that the Emperor of Hapburgia and the Herzog of Rechburg were meeting secretly (or not) in Quedinburg.
This news raced though the catholic church’s own lines of communication faster than it did through the various embassies and their associated bureaucratic methods of communication, Pope Miguel Fernandez, the man who envisaged himself as the warrior Pope destined to cleanse and purify the faith received a short message.

“His most catholic Majesty Ferdinand of the Hapburgian Empire is expected to meet in secret the pseudo defender of the so called protestant church in secret at Quedinburg in Ulrichstein.”

He threw the message on the floor

He had been betrayed by a man he called his friend.


Quedinburg

The meeting in Quedinburg appeared to be going very slowly, the impression most observers had drawn was that the negotiations concerning the peace treaty were being argued down to the smallest details. Sainte-Anne Palace was cut off from the General public as well as the many notables that had gathered in Quedinburg to witness this rare event, rumours circulating seemed to indicate it was a historical event because it was a case of a  small realm having defeated a much larger one and was thus dictating the  terms or so it seems.

For those uninvolved observers however there was much to entertain them, so the length and details of the talks were of little interest, every night in Quedinburg there were balls and soirees, during the days horse riding, military Parades by Rechburg Guard and then Hapburgian Guard so for the socialites and noteables who gathered it seemed the negotiations were secondary to the entertainment. Another encouraging sign was the last of the winter storms seemed to have passed, this winter having been one of the easiest and shortest in living memory.

Behind the scenes however the peace treaty had been settled very quickly, it had been agreed that Hapburgia would cede Ulrichstein to Rechburg, but Hapburgia would have access through Ulrichstein to Eggsburg the neutral city on the Eura River, this would allow Hapburgia to trade with shipping coming up river, also Rechburg would open the port of Darvik to Hapburgian shipping thus increasing the markets Hapburgia could reach.
The rights to free choice of religion were guaranteed by both sides.

The real delay was in working the details of the proposed marriage and the alliance. In the first instance everyone was stunned how quickly Princess Charlotte and Emperor Ferdinand took to each other, it was clear from the outset that any fears either may have had over being rejected were gone within hours of them meeting.
Charlotte and Ferdinand would spend many hours walking arm in arm around the Gardens of Sainte-Anne Palace while the officials inside argued over the mechanics of the alliance as well as the wedding details.

For the alliance arrangements the main obstructions were how existing alliances which were based on religious associations would sit with this new alliance based on mutual need and security and cemented with a dynastic mixed marriage.
Ferdinand conceded that he would likely face considerable opposition from Iberia and possibly Franconia.
Constantine would face opposition as well; probably the strongest opposition would come from Pomonia and then Brittania. Both countries also had their unresolved issues, Rechburg had the unresolved war in Bergatonia and Hapburgia had the Wartenburg issue looming. These side issues were likely to spread out and draw in the other allied partner.
Constantine and Ferdinand undertook to try and convince their respective alliance partners of the Duchy of Pomonia and the Kingdom of Vallahalla to enter into their own peace treaty, and possibly even join this new alliance at a later date.

Eventually 5 days after the talks began the details were settled and the new Rechburg-Hapburgia treaty simply known as the Quedinburg treaty would take effect in one month’s time, this time delay would allow each of the signatories to notify the other existing alliance partners.
The biggest surprise to those not involved in the negotiations was the announcement of the betrothal of Princess Caroline and Emperor Ferdinand, the wedding to take place on the first day of Spring, ironically it was also normally the first day of the Europian campaign season.

It was without a doubt the marriage announcement and its ensuring alliance would have far greater impact than the mere signing of a peace treaty
A new alliance such as this altered the entire security arrangements of Europia, it would seem too many monarchs that either religion was not a guaranteed basis for alliances anymore, or it would become imperative that alliances had to be formed to destroy such an abomination as the Quedinburg heretical treaty.

Even within Rechburg and Hapburgia there was much disquiet, many saw years of wars coming as a result, others the opportunity for new trade and growth. Religious ministers in both countries were shocked, some had to first decide their loyalties on faith or Realm, those who chose faith fled for sympathetic realms, those who chose to remain faithful to the realm adapted to the changes. There was no doubt both realms would feel the effect of this huge schism created by a Catholic King marrying a Protestant Princess and both remaining loyal to their own religion.

The international effect was felt no greater than in Wartenburg.
This was the golden opportunity that Prince Konstantin and Princess Arabella had prayed for but never in their wildest dreams could they have foreseen.
Prince Konstantin immediate made ready to announce the independence of the Kingdom of Wartenburg, this great and regretful rebelling from a Kingdom was forced on him and his wife because of the unholy alliance and marriage that had just been announced in Hapburgia. Wartenburg could not in all its conscience remain faithful to a monarch that was in essence heretical and in violation of basic precepts of the mother church.
The Franconian Empire’s ruling council met to discuss the ramifications, they too condemned this new arrangement in Hapburgia, but King Juan I urged patience and caution to his own ruling council, as he had pointed out later to his brother there was more than one way to skin a rabbit and why should Franconia do its own skinning when there were plenty of others willing to do so.


Franconian diplomats were sent scurrying to Iberia, the new Kingdom of Wartenburg, the Duchy of Bergatonia and the Franconian satellite realms of the Duchy of Buchenwald, the Duchy of Neider.
The principle aim behind King Juan’s foreign policy was that  Franconia would support a holy crusade against Hapburgia  and Rechburg. Most diplomats picked on the message of holy crusade, and not the 'only support';  which was as King Juan had hoped. He understood it was vital for Franconia to remain aloof from it, there was far more profit to be gained by supporting a war than there was to become directly involved. He could step in later when the armies were weaker and the booty would be taken at a lot less risk. His main priority was to limit the damage to Franconian maritime trade and to this effect he sent assurances to the Kingdom of Britannia that if they limited their support to Rechburg, Franconia would not become involved.

Iberia also sent a host of diplomats forth, but these were to catholic realms and all urged destruction of Rechburg and the punishing of the Hapburgian King who had clearly fallen under the spell of the heretic witch from Rechburg, the Pope announced that she should be killed at the first opportunity.

This new Bull of the Popes authorizing the death by assassination of the Empress Arabella was by far the most polarizing effects to come to date so far.
For both Hapburgia and Rechburg had expected the opposition to the new alliance, however the Papal order to kill the daughter of one and the new wife of another was to add a new dimension to the war.

Though no nation had declared war just yet, apart from the declaration of rebellion in Wartenburg Europia held its breath and waited for the inevitable.




In the next positing I will describe the various national reactions to this event in greater detail as well as a description of likely military forces involved, it promises to be a busy campaign season.

1 comment:

  1. H'mmm... the assassin that Konstantin sent to make sure the rumour of Ferdinand's death was not so greatly exaggerated must have decided the gold he was paid up front would be enough to set him up for the time being, and hightailed it for the border... Possibly he suspected the 'post mortem' half of the reward would more likely a sharp pointy object between the ribs than a bag of gold similar to the first.

    Aside from that, Ferdinand appears to have among his attributes those that would have made him a formidable poker player.
    Cheers,
    Ion

    ReplyDelete