in Calm Before the Storm
Asha walked into the room, more annoyed than angry. Two males waited for her, bowed in ceremony and spoke in unison, “Your Majesty.” The atmosphere was far less cordial, the two males took a step away from each other and furtive glances spoke of lack of trust of the other.
“Yes, yes rise. Deveaux, this is not another of your flights of fantasy, I hope.” She found a chair and dropped into it in not a very regal manner. Paul-Andre Deveaux looked pained but held his silence. The Navak female turned her attention to the second male in the room. “Well, Chevalier, there is hope the interruption is not in vain. What is it? And sit down, I hate you two hovering over me.”
The two males bowed then Paul-Andre sat. Denis-Christian Chevalier remained standing and compounded the sin by speaking without invitation, “Majesty, I am happy to report that my team has abducted a member of The Rosebourg family.” Deveaux looked stunned at the nonchalance of the other Navak’s delivery.
The female was less than impressed, “This is the reason to inter-”
Denis interrupted, “Maurice le Rosebourg, your highness.”
The silence hung like a cloud, for several minutes then Asha laughed breaking it apart. “Denis you simply had to do that didn’t you? You have a devious sense of timing. When did this take place?”
Paul broke in, an attempt to recover some dignity. “Four days ago, he should arrive in the next two or three days. We should plan his trial, soon.”
She remained amused. “A trial, that is quaint, Paul. Though, it is good we have him, I hardly see a government when my subjects consists of a Royal Guard of 24 souls and two advisers and assorted spies in the Monarchy.”
“Some are highly placed, Majesty and there is still a feeling for The Banquarde name in The System.” Denis interjected.
Asha acquiesced, “True. However, the throne is held by Alexander le Roseburg and I am weary of games that have me a sovereign, whatever my birthright. So Paul, unless you are hiding a fleet and several battalions, let’s not be so pretentious.”
“I may have more than that Ma’am.” Paul-Andre smirked, then allowed silence to work to his advantage for once. Denis-Christian was caught short and as Asha looked to him his surprised look resulted in only a shrug. He did break the silence with, “How much more?””
Paul smiled, he enjoyed the discomfort that his rival displayed. “The might of the Gohorn military.
He toyed with the remains of the meal. It wasn’t too bad as shipboard fare goes, outside luxury vessels, but it wasn’t Dachette du vin. He would have worked at an escape plan, but there was little to be done while in space. As if to spur him on, he felt the familiar bump of the docking pods. This time he addressed the tray of food. “It shouldn’t be long now.”
Indeed a half hour later, the door opened and a stately Navak entered. The Archduke looked at the jailer as he approached, the face had a familiar look. That face spoke, “Maurice le Rosebourg.” It was not a question rather a statement of fact.
“I am Archduke Maurice of The Rosebourgs.” Then another Navak burst into the hold.
Paul-Andre leaned into the bars that separated Maurice from the rest of the hold. “Remember the Name Paul-Andre Deveaux. You -.” Denis-Christian intervened to rebuke the late arriver. “I’ll thank you to hold words, Paul, I remind you that you are a guest in this proceeding.” The Aggressive Male spun to face the speaker, then slowly backed away. Maurice watched and drank in the scene. The two were at odds it was clear, but it was too early to see if he could finesse that to his favor. Maurice waited on the first Navak.
“Maurice le Rosebourg you are in the custody of the Court of Asha IV of The Banquardes. You are to be removed from this ship and taken to Her Majesty. For your safety and the safety of The Court you will not be permitted to see where we are going.” Denis-Christian turned to give instructions.
Maurice stood, “ Did you say The Banquarde Court?”
Denis-Christian did not turn back, “I did indeed, Maurice le Rosebourg. Guards take charge of the prisoner. Prepare him for transport.” Six burly men all armed opened the cell door and entered. Maurice stood his ground more for deportment, he would not win this battle.
Quickly they unlocked his wrists and locked them behind his back and a bag of a soft and very opaque fabric was placed over his head. Maurice for the first time began to worry.
Asha examined herself in the mirror, her Tealfox attendant scurried to adjust, finish and primp The Navak. Asha nodded to The Attendant and the creature dashed to the door and opened it. Asha passed through it into the hallway walking alone down the quiet hall. She paused at the door at the end of the passageway. She touched her hair, took a breath and opened the door.
Paul-Andre Deveaux spoke louder than needed, “Her Royal Highness, Queen Asha The Fourth. All make your respect known.” With that said, he bowed deeply as did Denis-Christian Chevalier and held.
She approached a raised dais with a chair on it. On either side of it was a guard that sank to one knee as did eight other guards around the room. Only the two on either side of the door remained alert and at the ready. She strode to the chair turned and faced the room. “Rise.” The room full of men stood.
Paul-Andre started, “At the Banquarde Court The Queen is ready to-”
Asha spoke, “I have determined the order I will hold Court, Lord Deveaux.”
“Yes Majesty, as you will.” Paul-Andre stood waiting.
The Banquarde Monarch said simply, “I will see your emissaries now, before the captive. Call them.” She punctuated the command by sitting, quite regally.
Paul-Andre moved to the door as he spoke, “Immediately, Majesty.” He left the room through the guarded door.
Asha turned her gaze to Denis-Christian. His look was of surprise with a hint of a smirk. She spoke with a mischievous look. “You said I should be more commanding.”
“I have said that, Majesty and I approve, though I believe Paul was not prepared to. . . react to such changes.”
“A lesson you should take to heart Denis-Christian Chevalier.” The Would-be Queen smiled outright. She rose. “ I think We shall receive them at the table.” The two throne guards snapped to attention and Denis-Christian walked in that direction as Asha and her armed escort moved there as well. The trio arrived first and Asha sat. Denis-Christian approached the chair to her right.
“You point is made Madam. It may be wise in the future to not be quite so abrupt with your advisers?” He waited for the invitation to be seated.
“I have noted your advice, please sit.” He sat and the two escort guards stood straight and taut.
“At rest Guardsmen.” The men were then more relaxed but still vigilant. He turned his attention to the female at the head of the table as he took his place on her left. ‘Asha, I am uneasy about this. I was caught completely unaware.”
“As was I, still the oath we take is to restore the throne to The Banquarde and if he has a plan that leads to that, we must consider it.” She glanced at the door still closed guarded by Her Guard. Then she returned to Denis-Christian. “Unless you have something, then we listen to Paul’s guests.”
There was three distinct raps at the door. Asha simply nodded. The Door Guards opened the doors. Paul-Andre stepped through and again louder than necessary spoke, “The Ln’haeri Kuxto and his interpreter.” A female Avran and the Leethran walked through the door three steps. The two stopped and bowed.
“Please come to the table and sit. We are most interested in hearing what you have to say.” Denis-Christian rose and waited for The Two and Paul-Andre to come to the table. Paul-Andre guided the two guests to their places at the table and then strode to the seat at the right of Asha.
She turned to Paul-Andre and said, “This is your affair.”
Paul-Andre nodded to Asha and then started. “Majesty a certain party, who for purposes of discretion for both parties, reached through Kuxto, a merchant to inquire if we were capable of a certain service and if so, would the Banquarde consider rendering that service, which will generate Good Will and to reward that Good Will by assisting The Banquarde to ascend to the Throne of Beta Hydrae.”
The Pretender nodded and looked first to the emissaries and then to Paul-Andre., “This service is?”
Denis-Christian remained silent and intent on Paul-Andre. This surprised Paul-Andre, he expected something from his antagonist and the quiet was perhaps a moment too long.
Asha interjected, “Paul?”
“We are to procure certain papers and materials for our benefactors to assist in their war efforts.” He almost blurted it out. He felt suddenly ill at ease and not completely in control.
Denis-Christian wasted no time in wedging the moment. “Lord Deveaux, this is no time to play parlor games, your Queen has asked what that service is to be, have the respect to answer it not so cryptically.”
His momentum lost, Paul-Andre recovered the best he could, “Perhaps Majesty, it would be best to let the emissary explain it.”
“I wish someone would, Monsieur Kuxto?” The table turned their attention to the Leethran and his Avran translator. Monique Savoy, a diminutive Avran whispered something to the Leethran who nodded.
“Kuxto relays his greetings, Your Majesty. The service our client wishes is a vial of an antigen called RMSC21-A09V127 and all the accompanying documentation.” The speech was clearly rehearsed as the Leethran said nothing. Monique nodded in deference as a sign they waited for a reply.
The stunned quiet lasted for several moments. At last Asha spoke, “I wish to be clear, you are asking This Court to steal a biological agent and turn it over to the LMC?”
Kuxto hissed something to Monique who nodded. She responded, “Not precisely, our client is located within The Directorate.”
Denis-Christian did not wait. “You wish us to steal a biological weapon to use against Navaks? Impossible.” Kuxto’s tone changed and he hissed more to The Avran.
After what seemed a long exchange. Monique translated. “Honored Lords and Majesty, you misunderstand the intent. The Gohorn will attack no one, in fact, they will become the saviors of the day. The Rosbourgs will attack The Dividians with the agent!”
Maurice paced. There were no bars and the appointments were more keeping with his station. Though the shackles were removed, there were two sturdy Banquarde guards to keep him in line. The Archduke had braced for death, he certainly was not happy with the impending end he faced, but perhaps his death would waken Alexander and the court to the underpinnings of a rebellion with the reality of a Banquarde contingent working at the overthrow of the Rosebourgs. A noble thought, but the price was higher than he wanted to pay. Death was a powerful statement and it was something he would rather leave to someone else.
He wondered why they were taking so long to bring him to summary judgement and a summary end. “Guard!”
The door opened and the guard’s face appeared, “Yes, Lord Rosebourg?”
Maurice chafed at the title, but there was little he could do about it in his position. “Why am I kept waiting?”
The expression on The Guard’s face surely had to be chiseled from stone. “There is business before Her Majesty, you will be called when it is time.” The stone face disappeared as quickly as it appeared. The Archduke wasn’t sure whether he should be grateful for the delay or insulted by it. With no idea of the timing of his call to trial, he chose to sit on an ornate chair and read.
Asha watched as Denis-Christian had his say, “I can not in good conscious recommend this. . . offer. First, it is almost certain that this weapon would fall in the hands of The Directorate. I point out that they had no fear of invading the Rosebourg Territories. With no assurances that it would not be used against Navaks, we may have no people to rule. Second, even if that assurance was in place, to become a party to this action is tantamount to sentencing non-combatants to death, Finally, if The Directorate should lose and is discovered in their deceit, the Banquardes will ever be a hated name in the Galaxy. Majesty you should reject this offer, now.” Chevalier bowed and sat.
Paul-Andre rose and while he did he mused that he had learned much of Court Politics from his adversary, he still worked with a mind that his adversary was adept at changing the tide away from Paul-Andre. With that knowledge he began carefully. “Majesty, Our Rosebourg convert has made a good case for caution. The points he has made are not to be derided. Nevertheless, may I make a case for action? There are risks in taking the offer, I freely admit, nevertheless, it is risk that gives us progress. If your Highness does accept this path there is a good chance that a Banquarde will ascend the throne at Beta Hydrae Prime. That Banquarde would be you. By Lord Chevalier’s own work there is a swelling of discontent with the Rosebourg Court, with the discredit this will bring to the Rosebourg crown, the Monarchy will be ripe for a new Dynasty to arise: The Court of Asha The Fourth of The Banquarde Monarchy. Still, I feel I must address Lord Chevalier’s point that we will place a weapon of great power in the hands of The Gohorns and then place The Navak people at risk. I assure you Majesty, The Gohorn wish to punish The Rosebourg Crown’s ill conceived alliance with The Terrans. Not the Navak people.”
Deveaux paused for effect. “Chevalier also makes a point that non-combatants will suffer. This war already causes suffering for them and there is no reason to suppose that they would not similarly be killed by an encroaching war. If we can construct our part in this plan carefully, it never need be revealed Her Majesty’s part in this sordid affair. To quote the accursed humans, ‘one must break eggs to create an omelette.’ There are assuredly risks Majesty but the reward is a Banquarde Monarchy to benefit The Navak People.”
As Deveaux spoke, Denis-Christian sat stunned to realize that Paul-Andre was in the right in the argument. It was Chevalier’s feeling that his adversary was ham fisted in his ways, yet at this instance he had won Denis-Christian to his side. However, this Banquarde will need his help and he will need to force him into a situation to accept it. In the course of the lengthy oratory he had time to put together an idea. Cheavlier’s head spun as he realized that the die was about be cast. As Deveaux’s presentation wound down, Denis-Christian tried to get his head around the fact this was something that may fling this small court into the crystal palace.
Paul Andre finished and sat. Asha looked to her other adviser and asked simply, “Rebuttal?”
This time Denis-Christian remained silent long enough to evoke a query from the would be queen. “Denis?”
Chevalier nodded with a raised hand in a silent request for a moment. Asha promptly nodded. He looked directly at Asha. “More a question Your Majesty. How does he propose to keep our queen’s name out of it?” He slowly turned his attention to Paul-Andre.
Deveaux’s mood sank. He had offered somewhat of a bluff in hopes to gain agreement and work out the details. Truth be told, he had no plan and in this circumstance he dare not push the bluff. That damned Navak had bested him again. “I have none at present, Majesty, I must admit.” He and Asha were not in least prepared for what followed.
Denis-Christian nodded and turned to Asha. ”My young colleague is right, there is time to take cautious small steps, but when opportunity presents itself it is time to leap for it and take the risks.” Then he smiled and added, “And I believe I have a plan.”
It occurred to Maurice, that reading was not what he should be doing. He put the book aside and searched until he found a pad and stylus. He began:
Larue, my heart, my life
When you read this I will be in the Hands of The Quadaz. Never in my life had I expected my demise to come from the direction it comes.
Kiss the children, care for Charlotte for me, make sure she does nothing foolish. Please stand proudly by Our Sovereign, I suspect he will need much support in these days.
Know that the last memory in this life will be emblazoned in my mind as the end comes and it will be you.
May the Quadaz ease your life.
Goodbye bye My Love,
He locked the message with the code that his mate would know and use. Then he set to the last message.
My Liege, My King, my friend,
I am honored to be your subject and you know that I lived for you and your reign. Know that I gladly died for you.
It is the greatest of all ironies, that my death will confirm the truth of my side in the argument we have had for so long. The Past has claimed me. It comes to claim you as well, prepare to defeat it.
Your Humble Servant,
It was as though they were waiting for him to finish. There was a crisp knock at the door , it opened and six guards entered. “Mi’lord, you have been called to court. Please stand.”
The Archduke rose, “I see, if I may request that if it goes badly for me that you see that this is delivered to my family?” The Guard that addressed him took the pad and nodded.
“Lord Rosebourg, I apologize but you must be shackled.” Maurice’s response was to place his wrists behind his back. “No sir, in front, if you please.” The Rosebourg Peer offered his wrists in front.
He was promptly shackled and led from the room. As he strode surrounded by the guards, ventured to break the gloom with some gallows humor. “Good sir, what is the present method of execution?”
The only guard that seemed to have a voice answered. “Usually, a laser shot to the back of the head.” The march continued.
Maurice observed, “Humane, but messy. Well, now I know.” As they approached double doors. The talkative guard stopped the group.
“Lord Rosebourg, please remain with us until Queen Asha calls you forward and please wait to speak until you are asked to do so. Guardsman at the ready!”
In the midst of the guards he found himself in a large room. He wasn’t sure what he expected, but he wasn’t prepared for this on a raised, it must be a throne sat a attractive Navak on her right was the Threatening Navak from the ship and of course the other… Maurice looked closer as a dawn of recognition flooded in on him. He gave that Navak a stern stare. He said nothing. He was determined that he show no weakness in this room. The squad walked him forward bowed and let him stand there in the room.
The female on the throne spoke, “Maurice la Rosebourg come forward.”
The shackles rattled as The Archduke stepped before the Navak female. His gaze, was on the Navak on the left. He did not nod, let alone bow.
Chevalier returned the gaze of Maurice. However, it was Asha that spoke. “You have been taken prisoner by the Court of Asha The Fourth. We are here to decide what to do with you. Do you have anything to say?”
Maurice stood straight and said, “I do not recognize a court who in sits a traitor to The Rosebourg Crown, his own heritage and The Navak People.”
Asha was moved to anger, “Your arrogance is insufferable and your circumstances are precarious, Lord Rosebourg. I suggest you pay proper respect in My Court.”
Denis spoke, “If I may Majesty.” Then turned to Maurice. “Lord Rosebourg, I am most certainly a traitor To Alexander’s Court and I am certain my father considers me a traitor to the family. I am not nor ever will be a traitor to The Navak. I was vocal in my objections to The Crown before I left for all the reasons that I laid out. I stand firm in my opinion that The Rosebourg line, of whom I am one, has failed The Navak. Nonetheless, I entreat you to speak with respect here, as a kinsman, I wish you no ill.”
Maurice fell silent. This Denis-Christian Chevalier was not the one he recalled. The one he recalled was brash, raging and out of control with passion. So much so, that he had considered the idea of jailing him. The Royal Council would not back the request. Soon, Denis-Christian had disappeared.
The Archduke noted that The Chevalier standing next to The Throne, was neither brash nor raging. This one spoke with quiet authority. While Denis-Christian had been a gadfly before, he was an eagle now. A very dangerous eagle.
Maurice realized that bluster was not working. He was in a precarious circumstance. With as much contriteness in his voice as he could command, he apologized. “Lady Banquarde, Denis-Christian is of course correct. I did not speak with the respect due the court, I apologize.”
Asha looked the Rosebourg over. “Very well, Lord Deveaux, what do you have to say?”
Paul-Andre looked at Maurice. He spoke with venom. “Majesty if this were a Rosebourg Court there would be no question. Lord Rosebourg by lineage is worthy of death.”
The Pretender nodded, “Succinct enough. Lord Chevalier?”
Deni-Christian drew a long breath and started slowly, “Your Highness, Lord Maurice la Rosbourg is most certainly a member of the inner circle of Alexander’s Court. I do not subscribe to visiting the deeds of forebearers on the heads of their antecedents. On another hand, this Navak is shrewd and dangerous and so I must concur with Lord Deveaux in this matter. For the benefit of the Banquarde Court, Maurice la Rosebourg is better dead “
The Archduke felt sick at his center. He faced a death sentence, but he was determined not to bring dishonor upon his name nor that of The Rosebourgs. He said nothing. So, what happened next was nothing that he expected.
Asha stared at Maurice for a full two minutes. The silence fell like a lead blanket on the room. “Maurice la Rosebourg, do you want to die?”
He did not hesitate, “I am prepared to die for My Sovereign.”
The female on the throne shot back, “That is not what I asked.”
“That is what I answered.” Defiance built in him.
Asha, to the surprise of all in the room, rose and stepped down and walked slowly around The Archduke. She stopped in front of him. “Put him on his knees.” Two burly Guardsman in formal kit, stepped to Maurice and forced him to his knees. “Guardsman your sword.” She reached out as the blade sang it’s release from the scabbard.
The Archduke spoke, “Am I to be allowed to speak?”
The Pretender looked coldly, “Tetu offered no such courtesy to my namesake. So kneel in silence Rosebourg.” She looked at Paul-Andre, then to Denis-Christian and winked at him. She tossed the sword to The Guardsman, “Sheath your weapon.” She turned to Maurice and smiled somewhat maliciously. “And help him to his feet, he looks ridiculous.” She returned to her throne. turned, “I ask you again, Maurice la Rosebourg. Do you want to die?”
“No.” Was the terse reply.
She looked at him and her look was as to lecture. Then her look changed. “You are worth far more alive to me than dead. You see, soon your cousin Alexander will learn of your loss. If our plans go awry. I wager his love for you will not allow him to lose you twice. You are my card in the hole.”
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