Thursday, March 12, 2015

Castles 146

146.  In Castle Inter Lucus

After the departure of Godric Measy and his Herminian escorts, Marty pitched his parliament proposal to some lord or lady every day, often two of them.  Whitney Ablendan and Caelin Bycwine took turns at the scribal desk; these negotiations were too important to use them as practice sessions for other students.  Whitney and Caelin’s notes summarized a dismal reception of Marty’s plan by almost everyone.
            In Herminia, Godfrey Giles of Calles Vinum, Denis Mowbray of Rubrum Vulpes, and Osmer Beaumont of Caelestis Areanus expressed open hostility to Mariel, but this did not make them supporters of a parliament.  Marty’s plan might circumscribe the Queen’s tyranny, Mowbray said, but that wasn’t enough.  The only real solution would be the end of her rule.  Of course, if Marty reported Mowbray’s words to Mariel, Mowbray said he would deny them.  Paul Wadard of Beatus Valle regarded Marty with overt suspicion and hostility throughout their talk and refused to even ask questions about his proposal; Marty got no sense at all whether Wadard could warm to the parliament idea.  Wymer Thoncelin of Ventus in Montes and Rocelin Toeni of Prati Mansum liked the idea of a house of lords, but they had no sympathy for a house of commons.  Avice Montfort was the only one of Mariel’s Councilors who seemed to grasp the importance of a system that gave a voice to everyone.
            In Tarquint, Marty talked with Ames Hewett of Faenum Agri, Walter Troy of Vivero Horto, Jean Postel of Aurea Prati, Isabel Baro of Argentum Cadit, Marin Dufour of Altum Canyon, Simon Asselin of Lata Alta Flumen, and David Le Grant of Saltas Semitas.  There were other castles in Tarquint, he learned.  Eclipsis Lunaris on the northern downs had been a ruin far longer than Inter Lucus.  Flores et Fructus was not a ruin (according to Jean Postel, anyway), but its lord or lady never responded to Marty’s summons.  The lord of Oceani Litura was a five-year-old boy, not yet bonded and unable to respond.  And, of course, Aylwin Mortane of Hyacintho Flumen was well aware of Marty’s proposal.
            None of the lords or ladies of Tarquint genuinely welcomed the idea of bowing to a queen.  They realized that if Mariel could conquer Hyacintho Flumen she could eventually control all of Tarquint, which was, in essence, the heart of Aylwin Mortane’s argument that they should band together now.  But they didn’t trust Aylwin, some of them still resented Hereward Mortane’s arrogance, and they feared for their dignity.  Marty could not grasp the full meaning of dignity, but he knew that for the lords and ladies of castles it was immensely important.  Somehow, uniting to save Aylwin was almost as much a threat to dignity as being forced to acknowledge a queen.  A few of them—Isabel Baro, Ames Hewett, and Jean Postel—were reluctantly willing to accept a sovereign if her power were limited by Marty’s “house of lords.”  But even these did not like the “house of commons.”
            Postel’s attitude disappointed Marty.  He liked the square-faced lady, and respected her opinion on most matters.  Yet she rejected a House of Commons, not because it infringed her dignity but because she thought it would only exacerbate the injustices of the free cities.  “The aldermen, bankers, and merchants of Down’s End already run roughshod over the laborers and peasants.  What would they do if they controlled this House of Commons too?”  To Marty’s contention that poor people could use their votes to improve their lot in life, she replied, “What foolishness!  The poor give all their attention to avoiding starvation; they would happily sell their vote for bowl of beans.  In a proper world, castle lords should care for their people—surely you agree with me on that, Martin.  What we need are better lords and ladies, not some strange plan that requires peasants to do things they can’t do.”
            Surprisingly, it was David Le Grant, alone of all the nobility in Tarquint, who fully embraced Marty’s plan.  Le Grant often reproached his ancestors for the dignity lost when Stonebridge won its independence.  And yet, Marty realized, perhaps that was precisely the reason Le Grant could support the parliament plan.  The others all fear a queen, or each other.  Le Grant fears Stonebridge.  He has a sense that the free cities grow stronger with each generation.  They hold the key to the future of Two Moons.  Someday they will field armies large enough to defeat castles, and General Ridere has already shown how.  A patient siege—someday the lord of Saltas Semitas may have to bow to the Speaker of the Stonebridge Assembly.
            Marty wasn’t absolutely sure why Le Grant had come aboard, but he began including the lord of Saltas Semitas in all his conversations with the others.  He will persuade them in ways I never could.  So it’s time he saw the whole picture.
            “Ready, Lord Martin.”  Whitney Ablendan stood at the scribal desk, close on his right so he could see her work.  Marty laid his left hand on the knob, mentally summoning David Le Grant.
            “Fair morning, Lord Martin.”  The lord of Saltas Semitas had been waiting for the Videns-Loquitur light to shine.  Orde Penman stood at a writing desk close by.
            “Fair morning, Lord David.  Today I want to introduce you to someone new, Lady Avice Montfort of Tutum Partum.”
            “In Herminia?  One of Mariel’s Councilors?  Does the Queen know about this?”
            “I’ve spoken with Lady Avice several times recently.  And aye, she is one of the Queen’s Councilors.  As far as I know, Mariel has not been told.”
            The pink light of Le Grant’s knob flickered.  “But she will surely learn.  You can’t keep a conspiracy secret from such a strong lady.”
            Marty raised an eyebrow.  “Is that what you think we are about, David?  A conspiracy?  Well, maybe it is—a conspiracy to prevent war, not just the one between Mariel and Aylwin but also future wars.  And not only here, but also in Herminia.”
            Le Grant looked puzzled.  “Whatever your noble purpose, Mariel will not appreciate her Councilor going behind her back.  Lady Montfort may have put her neck in a noose.  For that matter, we may have too.”
            “Maybe.  Let’s talk to Avice.”  Before Le Grant could object further, Marty thought: Avice Montfort of Tutum Partum.  Lady Montfort, her hands enveloped in gray light, appeared immediately.  Her younger scribe, Gentian Bearning, was ready to write.
            “Fair morning, Lord Martin.”  She inclined her head slightly.  “I see you bring someone new.”
            “Fair morning, Lady Avice.  This is David Le Grant, lord of Saltas Semitas.”
            Avice Montfort and David Le Grant greeted each other and introduced their scribes.  There were polite compliments, bowing by the scribes, and blessings for good health.  Marty and Whitney listened to the formalities without interrupting.  Marty thought he could read tension in Le Grant’s voice and trepidation on the face of his scribe, Orde Penman. 
            “Lady Avice, Lord David.”  Marty launched into the business of the call.  “Of all the lords and ladies of Herminia and Tarquint, so far you two are the only ones favorable to the creation of a parliament.  That is reason in itself to introduce you.  But there is another reason.  I have kept the news about Mariel secret from all in Tarquint, except Eudes Ridere, of course.  I think David should hear the facts from you, Lady Avice.”
            Montfort wrinkled her brow.  “Lord Martin, you surprise me at every turn.  Why keep things secret?”  Then she smiled.  “Ah.  You are a clever one, aren’t you?”
            She looked at David Le Grant.  “Lord David, eleven days ago, Queen Mariel gave birth to a son.  As sometimes happens in childbirth, Mariel lost much blood and might have died.  I suppose it was only her youthful health and the quick action of the midwife that saved her life.  Since that time she has been unable to bond with Pulchra Mane.”
            “Will she recover?”  Le Grant asked the obviously crucial question.
            Montfort grimaced.  “We don’t know.  We may be sure that if she does, she will go to her lady’s knob to speak to her Council.  She hasn’t yet.”
            Videns-Loquitur requires strength.”  Le Grant was thinking methodically.  “Perhaps she is recovering slowly and not yet able to bond.”
            “I pray that is so, but Aweirgan’s letters have not been encouraging.”  Montfort pursed her lips.  “Aweirgan Unes is Mariel’s scribe.  Knowing that I am the Queen’s most loyal Councilor—and lady of a fortuitously placed castle—he has told me the truth about Mariel’s condition.  He has also written to the lords of Herminia, telling them precisely what you suggested—that Mariel is recovering slowly, that she will return to globum domini auctoritate soon.”
            Le Grant diagnosed the situation.  “The Queen’s scribe deceives the lords of Herminia to prevent them rebelling.”
            Lady Montfort smiled wryly.  “I think ‘delay’ would be more accurate than ‘prevent.’  Once they know with certainty that Mariel cannot fight them, some of my fellow Councilors will promptly attack Pulchra Mane.  There will be civil war.”
            Le Grant opened and shut his mouth several times.  Finally he said: “General Ridere knows all this?”
            Marty answered.  “I hope so.  I sent him a letter a week ago.  Unless my postman ran into trouble along the way, he should have reached Ridere two or three days ago.”
            “What will he do?”
            “We can’t know.”  Marty sighed.  “Aweirgan Unes and Lady Avice both think Ridere should bring the army home to protect Pulchra Mane.  Perhaps even now he is aboard ship, sailing west from Hyacintho Flumen.  Unfortunately, the lords of Herminia can reach Pulchra Mane more quickly than Ridere can.”
            Le Grant laughed aloud.  “This means the siege of Hyacintho Flumen will disappear.  Aylwin has won.”  He paused, and frowned.  “But you have not told this news to anyone, you say.  Why not?”
            “For several reasons.”  Marty closed his eyes and rubbed his nose.  “First, Ridere has an army of ten thousand, and we do not know what he will do.  You know what they say about bears; they are most dangerous when wounded.  If Ridere does not return to Herminia, he could march his army north to fight Milo Mortane or sack Down’s End.  Second, Mariel still lives.  She may recover.  She may reassert herself at any moment.  Third, I still hope that we may somehow avoid a civil war in Herminia.  Aweirgan Unes is doing what he can to delay a rebellion; the longer he can do so, the better.  Fourth, if Mariel’s threat suddenly disappeared, lords and ladies of Tarquint might simply revert to their old ways of thinking and acting.  We must not do that.  The free cities are growing more and more powerful.  We need some way to build peace between castles and cities.
“I believe Mariel is basically right: Herminia and Tarquint should be a united kingdom.  But the Sovereign’s power must be countered by the House of Lords and the House of Commons.”
Avice Montfort cleared her throat.  “In your own way, Martin, you are as ambitious as Mariel.  You will happily extend her rule, so long as your parliament constrains her.”
“It won’t be my parliament,” Marty replied.  “It will belong to all of us.  I want to make this point clear: the parliament plan should probably be amended.  Not erased, but adapted.  We ought to ask castle lords and ladies how the plan can be improved.  Similarly, we ought to ask the Stonebridge Assembly and the Down’s End Council what changes they would like.  You see, in my own way, I am more ambitious than Mariel.  I want a system that includes all voices, and restrains all sides.”
The lady chuckled.  “What next?  Should the kingdom annex Horatia too?  And then Sestia?”  She smiled.  “For now, it seems we are waiting on Ridere’s decision and Mariel’s health.  Is there anything we should be doing?”
Finally.  The point of the whole conversation.  Marty gestured toward David Le Grant.  “I think so.  That is, there is something I think Lord David could do.”

Copyright © 2015 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved.  International copyright secured.


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