Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Chapter 4- Imperial Suspicion

Over a year after the accession of Albrecht to the rule of Lagerburg, Although His Imperial Highness had been receiving regular payments of his share of the profits from the Duchy’s tax revenues, he was suspicious of the complete silence from the Herzog concerning political and military happenings within it’s borders. "Haven’t we received any reports from our agents?" he queried his intelligence chief advisor. "Your Majesty, there is a veritable wall of mounted scouts of some sort patrolling the borders that our spies cannot penetrate… it is as if he is hiding something he doesn’t want Your Majesty to find out." "He must be up to something, all right! But what… there’s only one way I’m going to get to the bottom of this, and that is to go there myself! Call for the commander of the Guard!" growled the Emperor. The advisor smiled, thinking, "Maybe if His Majesty catches Albrecht in some misconduct, there might be a vacancy for a new Herzog…who knows, it could even be me!"
…In the wee hours of the morning four days later, on a back road inside the Lagerburg frontier, a pair of the Emperor’s Guard Hussars trotted up to a road crossing, stopped to listen and look both ways on the cross road, then quickly moved onward. Two minutes later, a small mud-spattered nondescript coach and two approached, followed by a dozen more mounted Guardsmen. Behind the drawn curtains, the Emperor sat brooding. Normally this trip would have only taken two days, but not by the circuitous route that would ensure that no one would know of his presence. His double, wandering about the grounds of the winter house for all to see, wasn’t hurting either. The Emperor had done this trick a few times in the recent past, and thus far the deception was yet to be uncovered by the Empress, thank goodness. So far, there was no sign of Albrecht having the slightest idea he was about to receive a rude and early awakening.
At three-thirty, as the coach drew into the courtyard of Albrecht’s estate outside of Felsenfall, the Emperor noted a dust-covered trooper of the Lagerburg FieldJagerKorps, leading an exhausted, sweating horse towards the stable. As the coach came to a halt, the Emperor was taken aback to see a troop of Horse Grenadiers in dress uniform in ranks along the front steps of the estate. The Herzog and his senior officers, impeccably dressed, stood at the landing.
Albrecht bowed sharply and said, "Always a pleasure, Your Majesty…" The others followed suit; no one mentioned that it was at the very least unusual for the Emperor to arrive for a social visit at half past three in the morning. The Emperor’s eyes widened in surprise when he saw von Grunt among the officers. "You! I thought that you had been done in years ago!" "Fortunately for me not so, your Majesty," rumbled the Graf. Only the uncurled ends of his mustachios revealed the haste with which the officers had dressed.
"If Your Majesty pleases, I would be glad to take you on an inspection tour of the Duchy!" said Albrecht. "Perhaps later, after freshening up" replied the Emperor. After a day’s sleep, he thought; so much for catching him red-handed. Those damned mounted police of his probably knew he was at the border before he did.
"You have certainly been busy, Albrecht", declared the Emperor two days later. The inspection had gone without a hitch, and his Majesty found the degree of organization of both Duchy and army both impressive and mildly irritating. As they walked to the Emperor’s coach, he stopped abruptly. "How the devil did you accomplish so much so quickly, and without keeping me informed? If I didn’t know better, I might think you were preparing to take arms against me!"
"Not at all, Majesty" replied Albrecht, bowing innocently. "I was merely so deeply absorbed in solving the problems here that I simply forgot to send word to you of my progress. As well, I had hoped that you would be favorably impressed by the improvement in security on this part of your border." "That much is true, you have done extremely well. My compliments on your work here; just don’t forget who obtained this position for you, and just how fortunate you are to have it!" Of course, Sire… You there, Helmut! Is that the best of the Merlot from the cellar?" "Yes, milord, as you instructed!" grunted the valet, securing the case of wine in the carriage boot. Albrecht gestured towards the wine. "For you and Her Majesty with my humble complements."
"Thank you, Albrecht. Nevertheless, I will expect frequent reports in the future. The Emperor climbed stiffly into the carriage, and growled, "Don’t disappoint me!"
"Never, sire."

1 comment:

Frankfurter said...

Nefarious goings-on, eh?
How's the armies coming ...
also, Frankszonia.blogspot.com wouldn't mind being listed ...