173. In Castle Inter Lucus
Five days later:
“Have you worked out the wording on paragraph seven, concerning the House of Commons?”
Whitney Ablendan looked at her counterparts in their frames near the center of the interface wall. Gentian Bearning and Aweirgan Unes nodded agreement. Whitney stepped back from her writing desk to allow Merlin Averill to read the paper on it. Whitney’s working copy of the Instrument featured widely spaced lines of text, with lots of emendations between the lines and in the margins. Coming to the desk, Merlin made eye contact with Martin Cedarborne. Both men smiled.
Marty had attended every day of the debate, though he rarely spoke to anyone except Whitney. At breakfast, before the conferences with Mariel and the nobles, Marty and Eadmar had advised Alf extensively. During the meetings, Alf addressed the other lords and ladies frequently; Marty never.
Merlin bent close to examine the document. Most of its language had come from Marty, but Merlin had helped frame certain sections. Running his finger over the paper, Merlin tracked the changes Whitney had indicated. Finally, Merlin said, “Aye.”
Whitney sighed. “We have, Lord Alf.”
“And we previously agreed on paragraph eight.”
“We did, Lord Alf.”
The boy lord pushed a lock of blond white hair behind his ear, suppressing a smile. Whitney calls me Lord Alf. He looked at the interface. “Your Majesty, I suggest the Instrument of Union be read in full. As scribe to the Sovereign, this honor should go to Aweirgan Unes.” Between Videns-Loquitur sessions, Eadmar had repeatedly urged Alf to defer to Mariel and her servants when he could.
Mariel and Aweirgan whispered to each other, inaudible to those watching via Videns-Loquitur. The queen’s scribe took a sip of water and began reading.
Instrument of Union
Between House Grandmesnil, Sovereign of Pulchra Mane, and the Lords and Ladies of Castles and Free Cities of Herminia and Tarquint.
1. We hereby proclaim the United Kingdom of Herminia and Tarquint.
2. The Head of House Grandmesnil, of Castle Pulchra Mane, is rightful Sovereign of said United Kingdom.
3. The Army of the United Kingdom will serve at the pleasure and under the command of the Sovereign.
4. Free cities and Castle Lords and Ladies retain authority over matters within their regions, albeit under the superior authority of kingdom law. No army or body of sheriffs may trespass on any region outside that allotted to the Free City or Noble to which the army or body of sheriffs belongs without express authorization in kingdom law.
5. No kingdom law shall exist without majority approval by the House of Commons, majority approval by the House of Lords, and the consent of the Sovereign.
6. The members of the House of Lords are those castle Lords and Ladies who pledge allegiance to House Grandmesnil. Such castle Lords and Ladies each have one vote in meetings of the Lords. Such meetings will occur at convenient and regular times announced by the First Lord, who shall be elected by members of said House of Lords, and conducted via Videns-Loquitur. A Rightful Heir of a castle not able to join in such meetings due to limitations of youth or incapacitation may be represented in the meetings of the House of Lords by a regent appointed by agreement between the First Lord and the Sovereign.
7. The members of the House of Commons are those representatives selected by any free city that pledges allegiance to the United Kingdom and House Grandmesnil. The number of representatives of any city in the House shall be proportionate to the population of that city. Meetings of the House of Commons will occur at convenient and regular times announced by the Speaker of the House, who shall be elected by members of the House of Commons. The House of Commons shall meet in the town called Senerham, in the region of Castle Inter Lucus. Communication between the House of Commons and the House of Lords or the Sovereign shall be conducted via Videns-Loquitur at Castle Inter Lucus or by written correspondence. Should Castle Inter Lucus begin producing steel, the House of Commons shall relocate to a town agreed upon by Commons, Lords, and Sovereign.
8. The House of Lords and House of Commons may create other offices to serve their needs and appoint members to fill such offices.
Aweirgan paused. “That is the entire document.”
“Paragraph eight is unnecessary. The Instrument need not say everything,” complained Avice Montfort.
“I still think there should be a population requirement for cities,” said David Le Grant. “You can’t have villages with four families sending representatives to the House of Commons.”
“By the Gods!” swore Rocelin Toeni. “Not again!”
Jean Postel said, “That question doesn’t concern us nobles, Lord Le Grant! The Commons can decide that on their own.”
Simon Asselin weighed in. “The biggest problem is the definition of ‘free city.’ No ‘free city’ should be within forty miles of a castle. We cannot grant representation to a city like Pulchra Mane, no matter how large it is.”
“Why the hell not?” demanded Ames Hewett. In the lead-up to today’s meeting, Hewett had argued repeatedly that the town around his castle, Faenum Agri, ought to have representation in the House of Commons.
“Because no lord or lady, not even the queen, should have voice in two Houses. It’s a straightforward question, and only self-serving fools won’t admit it,” said Asselin. There was no town close to Asselin’s Lata Alta Flumen.
A half-dozen voices joined in at once, some reproving Asselin for his intemperate language (though some would have agreed that Lord Hewett was indeed a fool) and others weighing in on both sides of the question. Even Isabel Baro, who rarely spoke up, contributed to the disorder. Alf shook his head, smiling wryly. It was as if the lords and ladies enjoyed wrangling and feared that once the Instrument of Union was adopted, their opportunity for debate would end. Queen Mariel smiled as well. She said something, but Alf couldn’t make it out through the insistent noble voices. Alf gestured to Leo Dudd, standing close by. Leo put two fingers in his mouth and whistled—a loud, unmusical shrillness. Over the past five days, Leo’s obscure talent had proven itself invaluable. The whistle brought the nobles to silence.
Queen Mariel held up a hand. “Lords and Ladies, as the Sovereign I am willing to agree to this Instrument. As a practical matter, I urge the House of Lords, when it meets in future, to adopt more circumspect manners of speech.”
Alf said, “Queen Mariel says she can agree to the Instrument. Master Averill, will the free city of Stonebridge agree to it?”
Merlin Averill stepped in front of Whitney Ablendan’s desk to face lords and ladies of eleven castles, four in Herminia and seven in Tarquint. “I s-s-speak for S-S-Stonebridge t-t-today. B-b-but other cities will f-f-follow us. S-S-Stonebridge says aye.”
“Thank you, Master Averill,” said Alf. “As of this moment, the Instrument has not been agreed. It says that any lord or lady may, by pledging allegiance to House Grandmesnil, become a member of the House of Lords. My scribe will call the roll one by one. Lords and ladies, if you now pledge fealty, you will by that act join the House of Lords. Whitney, if you will.”
Whitney held up a piece of paper. “Lord Wymer Thoncelin, of Ventus in Montes.” The order of the roll call had been determined by Marty’s advice. The three loyal lords of Herminia came first.
“Aye.” A rumbling bass voice, pleased to go first.
“Lady Avice Montfort, Tutum Partum.”
“Lord Rocelin Toeni, Prati Mansum.”
Seven lords and ladies of Tarquint (in addition to Alf) had participated in the five days of debate. Fraomar Silver, who would be lord of Oceani Litura some years in the future, might someday join the House of Lords, but not today. Alf had tried several times to make contact with the lords or ladies of castles Flores et Fructus, Mitis Sinus, and Mare Sudere, without success.
“Lady Jean Postel, Aurea Prati.”
“Lord David Le Grant, Saltas Semitas.”
“Lord Marin Dufour, Altum Canyon.”
“Lady Isabel Baro, Argentum Cadit.”
“Lord Ames Hewett, Faenum Agri.”
“Lord Walter Troy, Vivero Horto.”
“Lord Simon Asselin, Lata Alta Flumen.”
There was a pause, while Whitney finished writing something. She turned to Alf. “Lord Alf Cedarborne, Inter Lucus.”
Alf couldn’t help smiling. “Aye,” he said.
Whitney handed Alf a sheet of paper, and he read what Marty had dictated over breakfast.
“Her sovereign majesty Queen Mariel, the free city of Stonebridge, and these several castle lords and ladies have agreed to the Instrument of Union. By the words of that Instrument, the United Kingdom of Herminia and Tarquint now exists. I propose that communication of these facts be spread far and wide, to all interested persons. In particular, I urge that Down’s End and Cippenham be invited to pledge allegiance and elect representatives to the House of Commons. I urge further that the lords Godfrey Giles, Denis Mowbray, Osmer Beaumont, and Paul Wadard, all lords in Herminia, and Aylwin Mortane of Hyacintho Flumen in Tarquint be invited to pledge allegiance to House Grandmesnil and join the House of Lords.”
Mariel raised a hand, gaining everyone’s attention. “Thank you, Lord Alf. I have already sent written communications to lords Giles, Mowbray, Beaumont, and Wadard. I will also contact them via Videns-Loquitur, and I expect to receive satisfactory responses from them. Frankly, they should be grateful that I am willing to overlook certain recent indiscretions. I leave it to you, Lord Alf, and General Ridere, to communicate with Lord Mortane.” In private conversations with Alf and Marty, Mariel had agreed that Aylwin Mortane would have opportunity to pledge his allegiance to House Grandmesnil and that Aylwin might respond better if the invitation came from Alf. But she had adamantly refused Marty’s idea that Aylwin be included in the conferences that produced the Instrument of Union.
Alf inclined his head. “The general and I have already discussed how we should contact Lord Mortane. We will do so soon.”
“Lord Alf!” The voice was Wymer Thoncelin’s rumble. Alf held out an open palm, inviting Thoncelin to continue.
“Since the Union has been effected,” Thoncelin said, “It will be to our advantage to elect a First Lord immediately, so that we may all know the times the House of Lords will meet. I therefore propose and nominate Lord Alf Cedarborne for the office of First Lord.”
Marty had predicted this.
Alf waved his hand vigorously, and the gold-green glow of globum domini auctoritate brightened. “Lord Thoncelin does me honor. Nevertheless, by reason of my youth, my advisors have counseled me against this proposal. I decline the nomination.”
“But Lord Alf…” Jean Postel led the chorus of protest.
“I am not Martin Cedarborne!” Alf cried. “I am willing, even eager, to join others in supporting Videns-Loquitur for meetings of the House of Lords. But the First Lord cannot be a mere youth. He or she must be ready to contradict the Sovereign if need be. Her loyalty to Mariel must be unquestioned, even when her duties require that she oppose the Queen. She must direct our meetings and lead us to good decisions. Therefore, I nominate Lady Avice Montfort.”
“How can a lady be First Lord?” Someone said. Alf thought it might be Simon Asselin, but he couldn’t be sure.
“If not Alf, it should be Wymer.”
“Why not someone from Tarquint?”
“Lord Walter, what about you?”
Eventually, they voted, choosing between Avice Montfort, Ames Hewett, and David Le Grant (after Wymer Thoncelin refused to be nominated, saying he was too old, an excuse derided by several). Lady Avice Montfort of Tutum Partum became the First Lord of the House of Lords. Then, after a lengthy debate, the House of Lords failed to pass a bill to revise the Instrument of Union, a bill that would have renamed her office “First Lady” whenever a Lady was elected to it. Lady Montfort undermined support for the bill when she opined (as she often had) that the Instrument of Union need not say everything. Smiling: “I think it’s charming that you have elected me the first lady to be First Lord.” Montfort announced a date and time for the next meeting of the House of Lords, in two weeks.
Queen Mariel predicted Lords Wadard, Beaumont, Giles, and Mowbray would join the House of Lords before the next meeting. Regiments of the Herminian army had reached Pulchra Mane while the lords had debated the Instrument of Union, she said. The four lords’ army sent to Pulchra Mane to inquire about her health had begun to evaporate even before Commander Hengist arrived. She was wondering, she said, whether she might have to compel Allard Dell to return to Beatus Valle. The captain seemingly had little enthusiasm for going home to Paul Wadard.
The lords and ladies of the United Kingdom laughed at Mariel’s words. But pity colored their laughter; Allard Dell faced an uncertain, but likely unhappy future.
Copyright © 2015 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.