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The Prize is Not as Great as You Think: Chapter 4

4) The Safety of the Succession


“Well played, highness,” Sir David said when they had entered the dining hall and the guardsmen had given them a perimeter allowing some privacy. There were two small rooms above on the first floor that would have ensured privacy, but Gerald knew that he was not going to stay at the Inn very much longer. Ten more minutes, perhaps twenty at most.

“I am come to believe that this game is not anything we have ever played before,” Gerald said.

“No. You are right. Nothing like we have played before.” Sir David now looked serious.

As for Krabe, he seemed fit to be tied. He looked angered. “Captain Krabe, I may not keep you as my aide when we get settled in Steilenberg, but then I might. I trust David with my life and I think he still trusts me with his. We are distant cousins and I know something about him as an officer. I know that he is quite competent. Was it your idea, or his, to send the patrols to flank the building?”

Krabe took a moment then said, “Sir David’s, Highness.” Krabe clearly did not want to have admitted that.

Gerald said, “Yes.” Gerald than looked at his friend, “Sir David, that idea came from...?”

Sir David looked to Krabe when he answered, “You, Highness. We talked about something like this a few years ago. How the infantry should surround a building and how the cavalry would have to do so if given the task. This came from that discussion.”

“I want to say something that I hope you won’t say to any other,” Gerald began. “I do not like this. Sir David will tell you that I just wanted to live here in the country and tend my cows. My branch of the family has not been very good at being princes. My grandfather and father all but squandered my inheritance and now I think there is a rumor being spread that I have barely five crowns to rub together. I have a few more crowns then that, but many think of me as the bumpkin prince. Here," he waved his hand to encompass the room and beyond, "people don’t even call me prince which is why I like Splatz. It is a small village with just these few streets. Seven hundred people live here, and their children. When all come in from around the countryside we have maybe three thousand adults and then their children. We are a small village and I do not have to think about France or Germany, and how they hate one another when I am here.”

David said, “That is over now.”

Gerald nodded sadly, “Yes, I suppose so.” He had so much to think of, so many problems, that inevitably he could think of nothing. For a moment he was quiet then asked, “Did you two leave right away or did you hear any more of what occurred?”

Sir David shook his head. “The Colonel burst into the Mess and said that Reginald had been blown up and that a rider had to get to the depot. That we had to send out a company and find the next prince. He then asked who was the next prince, and where ‘was he.’ I knew of course and told him your name and that you lived here. He sent me to the depot to get Krabe and his company to come and protect you. So technically I have not returned from that assignment, though my company had evening parade. That will look a little suspicious at six o’clock.”

“We don’t have a clock in the bell tower of the church yet. A few more years Father Guiseppe tells me, but it is past six now.” Gerald gestured to a clock over the bar. They could have looked at their pocket watches too, but he supposed they had not thought to do that with all the bustle they had been about. Or perhaps they had before reaching him.

“I am sorry Highness but I must protest. You do not have the authority to take my command from me,” Captain Krabe said.

Gerald shook his head. “Are you one of them? Are you a traditionalist? You have now twice made it clear that this is not comfortable for you. Well the next time shall be your last and you will just be relieved of all duties until I talk to your superior in Steilenberg. It is Colonel Cartier who commands the 1st and he is a Traditionalist. Funny but I should have thought you would realize that I am the Colonel-in-Chief of your regiment. The heir to the throne is always the Colonel-in-Chief of the 1st Cavalry. I think following my orders would indicate to all that you have my favor. I suggest you think this through very carefully. I have had a few hours to think about many things since they told me of Reginald’s death.”

Krabe took a half step back as if he had been hit. Gerald had been living in the country for a long time. But that did not mean he was weak, simple, or in any way lacking in the command skills he had learned when he trained as an officer. He may not have used them for five years, but he still had them. And he still knew when to use them. Krabe clearly needed the boundaries of command established. The man clearly needed to know who was at the top of the tower in this case. And it was not Krabe.

“I believe you to now be thinking of our very different positions and roles regarding them. Do we have an understanding? Do you comprehend that you, a Captain, are not someone that I truly think significant if I am now to struggle with France and Germany and all the problems of Almondy? If I succeed Prince Michael Alan, then what does the ruffled feathers of a cavalry captain matter to me. A captain though that is my aide and helps me with this horrendous task that has been thrust upon me is much more important than any other cavalry captain in our army. And should I trust my safety to a man I have never met? Or to my cousin whose life I saved once or twice, and who has saved mine?”

“No Highness. Forgive me.” Krabe said. Though he wore his emotion on his face and still was not happy. The man could just be a fool. This was a promotion. Krabe might not last the trip out of Splatz let alone to Nantz, or back to Steilenberg.

Sir David cleared his throat, “We are actually three saves by you of me, and my one return to you, cousin Highness. But who's counting?” It broke the silence and the argument with Krabe.

“You will stop that nonsense Sir David. ‘Cousin’ when we are intimate like this is fine, and best you stick to highness in public. I have just given Captain Krabe a rather informal dressing down. I should not like to deliver another. I fear I shall have too few friends in Steilenberg when we arrive. Best though that you go see to your command and send over the Chief Constable. His name is Lestaing and he is a good man,” Gerald said.

“Yes cousin. Ten minutes I think and I’ll give orders to send riders ahead, but we should be back in Nantz in less than an hour,” Sir David said, and bowed with a click of his heels.

Gerald didn’t want to contradict his cousin, but with full dark, and only a sliver of moon that night, it might take longer than that hour. Sir David left the room and could be heard quickly issuing orders and consulting with the locals in the lobby. It stuck in Gerald’s mind that Krabe would not have thought to talk to the locals. Krabe would assume that no one but he could have managed matters. Either Gerald would break Krabe of such notions, or dismiss him when they returned to the Capital. That would probably end the man’s career. It was more important to Gerald though, that he himself had a life than that the officer in front of him had an outstanding career.

Most of the officers of Almondy when they were still junior commanders did not think about anything but an spectacular career. One that would lead all the way to becoming Chief of the Command Staff. The highest rank one could achieve in Almondy's military service. Often the position was held by a prince of Fitzroy Perry blood. Gerald had not thought of that during his two years of service. He had thought of a quite life and dairy farming. That was when the notion of a very small dairy farm began to appeal to him. Now he was sure that this life was gone forever.

Constable Lestaing entered. Gerald addressed him, “Chief Constable, I am not sure that I will be able to return to Splatz for some time. Can you have people pack up the house and arrange to ship my goods to the city? I should imagine that within the next couple days an address will be arranged and we will have it sent to you. I don’t need any of the furniture, so that should be covered with cloth. I may want my chair by the fire though. I will have someone instruct you on that.” Gerald had grown to like that chair a great deal. It was comfortable.

“We shall take care of it all, don’t worry highness. There are people here who will look after your possessions and we will see the cows get milked. We’ll have all the rest of your clothes sent up to you, and your other personal things. Don’t worry about anything here. You send a telegram and we will take care of it right away.”

Gerald nodded, “Thank you. Captain Krabe, can you see to it that you forward an address to Constable Lestaing when we have one? My thanks.” Gerald then took the constable by the forearm, “Also, over the years, especially since I became second in line, there have been strangers, you will recall, about the village and countryside. That might increase now. And men of the papers too, these reporters. How to tell who is a reporter and who is an agent of the French or Germans or some other foreign power is near impossible. If you could watch for such men and if you need more help to do so, please, you must contact us. We must lookout for spies.”

“That is a good point,” Captain Krabe said and turned to study the constable.

Constable Lestaing said, “We know who belongs here and who doesn’t. I may ask for some help, but not just yet. I’ll put some of the young men on this and they will walk all about the county and see if anyone is asking questions. People that no one knows. We shall be very respectful of all your privacy, highness.”

Gerald said, “Yes. I trust you Lestaing. I hope that I shall find as many men in Steilenberg to trust as I have found here. I fear, though, that it will be much more difficult to do so.”

The constable nodded, “I’m afraid highness you are right. And in Steilenberg it will be a great deal easier for someone to spy upon you. Best you remember that.”

Sir David stuck his head into the room, “When you are ready, highness.”

Gerald nodded then reached out a hand to shake the Constable's. “Now I must pay Master Kramer for the meal and for upsetting all his guests.”

Master and Misstress Kramer came at once and the crowns that he tried to pass them were just put back into his hands. Then Mistress Kramer produced a wrapped pie, and it smelled good. “It is a cold pork pie for the road. I made it yesterday and it has been in the cold room all day. I think you will like it and I know that these train rides can be horrible and there is nothing to eat as well. You should enjoy it, Gerry,” then she remembered and curtsied saying quickly, “Highness, sorry.” She covered her frustration using his title. He had been Gerry for almost five years with all these people. That showed once again how things were now changed in his life.

“Stay well. I shall return, I promise, but better, I shall tell all that the Blue Belle is my favorite Tavern and Inn in all of Southern Almondy and that Master Kramer’s Almondy Ale has something special in it that he will never tell me the secret, and it is the best I have ever had,” Gerald said.

Master Kramer beamed and then looked puzzled, “But highness, I don’t put anything into my Ale.”

“I know, that will be our little secret, eh?” Constable Lestaing could not contain himself and was laughing as if he had heard the funniest of jokes. Then Master Kramer and Gerald joined him. Captain Krabe even had a smile, though when Gerald saw it, the man wiped it from his face.

Sir David came back in and started laughing though he did not know the joke. If David hadn’t been competent as well, then Gerald might not have made the switch of officers, David had already shown the way to better protection of Gerald. That was the most important thing at the moment. Protection.

Stay safe, get to the Capital, and then he could learn more about his role as Crown Prince And prepare for a role as Grand Prince. The Grand Prince did not have many options to find another heir, except perhaps for Gerald to also be killed. A thought Gerry was not going to pursue.

“Come, we are off.” It would be redundant Gerry knew to say goodbye again, but as he left the comfort of the Inn he saw that the platz was filled with people. The cavalry positioned to keep them all a little away and allow him to leave the village.

Gerald stopped and looked at all of the friends, neighbors of the last five years. Then he waved and the crowd that had been silent broke into cheering and shouts. Applause and calling his name. Then three or four started to say, “Long Live Crown Prince Gerald!”

Others heard that, and they too shouted it, “Long Live Crown Prince Gerald!”

It was becoming thunderous and he knew he could stop them for a moment and speak to them, or he could wave and ride away. Torn, he knew that so many here were his friends, that to this crowd, if none other, he should speak. He waved for silence.

When it came, he began, “My friends. My dear friends. Tragedy is the only thing that takes me from you for you all know how much I love Splatz and my little life here. My cows, my farm. If not for this tragedy, I would stay amongst you and have no thought of the big world outside of our little valley. But I go. I will come back. It will be winter soon, and then spring after. If I can not come back sooner, Castle Grayton in spring has always been a place visited by my cousins and there I surely will come and see all of you. Give me your blessing and your good wishes for what now I do, I need the strength of all of you to do well. Is Father Guiseppe here? A blessing father.”

“Yes, of course,” Guiseppe said. The man was at the front of the crowd just across the street, with many of his parishioners near him. “In the name of the lord,” Guiseppe was a Roman Catholic priest and also the leader of the entire religious community of Splatz. Too many did not share his faith so a happy medium had been found for prayers, “God protect our good friend Gerry Perry. Give him strength, grace him with your guidance. And give him peace for he is called now to speak and think on behalf of us all. Amen.”

Gerald crossed himself for he was raised a Roman Catholic and also said Amen. He waved then once more and went to mount the horse the cavalry had brought for him. The cheering started again and he continued to wave once he was on his horse and trotting away. He hoped he could live up to his promise about visiting in spring, but the truth was he did not know if he could. He promised himself that he would try. Reginald had visited Grayton several times since Gerald had lived near Splatz. Usually to have long parties with his many friends. Parties that could get out of hand. When visiting in spring though, the man had gone hunting with others of his cronies.

Five miles to the train station at Nantz. Then a few hours to Steilenberg.

“That was well done. They love you here,” Sir David said.

“Yes. I told you to come visit, though of course I never expected that you would.”

“Ha, I am here today,” David said. “Now I should not expect another such display until we arrive in Steilenberg. Then I should expect tens of thousands to come forward. We will take South Street if you don’t mind when we return. I shall cable the Colonel to act as if we go up High Street, but then a gallop by one of the flanking patrols along South Street and you can get up to the Celebont Palace with little or no fuss. Then I am sure someone else will take over your safety.”

“The Guards for instance? I think they are due for some embarrassment. They had three warnings that someone meant to kill Reginald. The fourth time someone does. That is upsetting. Krabe, before the train leaves Nantz, I want you to send a cable and have an officer waiting for us with all the details when we arrive in Steilenberg. This is unacceptable. What if the enemy, the anarchists learn you transport me now and blow up a tree trunk across the rail line and then attack the train. Do you use the telegraph with a secret code?”

“Yes highness,” Krabe said. Taking the idea of aide seriously it seemed.

“You have heard too many tales of the civil war in America,” Sir David said.

“The reports I have heard about the other attacks on Reginald were that it was anarchists responsible. They are not that creative and are quite the coward. A bomb here though, in Almondy can do a great deal of damage. We are not a country that is ruled by common law, but by whim encompassed by common law. The Grand Prince has near absolute control on the army, on the treasury, on justice. Despite that we have the Assembly, their powers are limited. Great Uncle Simeon, our current Grand Prince’s father agreed that there should be an Assembly and that he needed men to legislate laws in his country, for having a council of advisors just was not working. He came to the throne in 1820 when my great grandfather Henry died. Simeon may have had the idea to give the Assembly more powers each year, but instead gave them limited power at the beginning and never let it grow. Michael Alan has not made any chances to what his father had done.”

Sir David nodded, “And I do not think your cousin Reginald was planning to make any changes either.” Gerald noted the way that David said that. Reginald had been cousin to both of them.

“Then best I tell people that I will be making changes when I come to the throne, and tell them what those changes will be. Krabe, I must meet with the leaders of all parties in the Assembly, even should the party have but one man, as soon as I can. It may be that the Grand Prince shall need me and I should imagine that whatever duties I am tasked with, my duty to the Grand Prince shall be paramount. But my first moment to think, I should want the factions within the Assembly to come and speak to me. If there are other factions who have some claim in our politics, then I must meet with them as well,” Gerald said.

“And the generals, highness?” Krabe said.

“Yes, that was astute. I should meet with them also. I should imagine the current Chief of the Command Staff shall be at the palace, for I noticed that he was very much in attendance on the Grand Prince previously.” General de Poitier, not a member of the Fitzroy Perry family, though his wife was and thus his children were, was the first amongst the many generals Almondy had. There had to be over one hundred generals in the army and most did not have commands, but were part of the bureaucracy of the army, or promoted to the rank on the whim of Prince Michael Alan. Military ranks needed to be awarded based on capabilities, and aristocratic rank could be awarded for caprice or impulse.

The Grand Prince was no fool and perhaps it was a secret of being the ruler of Almondy, but holding the loyalty of the generals in one’s hand was key. Having many of them family members, and having a large military bureaucracy kept the Fitzroy Perry’s in power. If there was no handbook of how to be a Grand Prince of Almondy, with such secrets, Gerald believed that he should work on one for his own use. Gerry’s book of Ruling. It would be a bestseller, he was sure.

The third leg of control of Almondy had been the church, but that had changed greatly in the last two centuries. First the Jews had caused this to begin to change. Gerald knew that the Principality had grown rich by allowing the Jews to settle within their borders, and that by the early 1300s Almondy had doubled in size.

The Catholic Church had then lost it’s hold on the principality after almost two hundred and fifty years. They had wanted Almondy to also expel the Jews which would have taken away all that money, and many skills as well. There was no Chief of the Command Staff of the army then. Just three generals, and two of them were Jewish. As was the minister of the treasury, the Grand Prince’s doctor, and the Grand Prince’s Chief Minister.

Wisely when the Grand Prince agreed to meet with the Archbishop of Reims the Jewish members of the Prince’s Council were elsewhere. The Grand Prince though spelled it out. The crown supported the Creation of two Archdioceses within Almondy, growing to three, and each Archbishop would have a seat at the King’s Council table if they also allowed one seat for the chief rabbi amongst the Jews. The Grand Prince did not want to allow the Catholic Church to have total control over his people and used the Jews wisely as a counter to the church.

Later, when Martin Luther caused the Reformation, it added a giant third piece to the religious pie to balance out the Roman Catholics. Now all Bishops and Archbishops, Gerald knew, were represented in the Assembly but they, along with Jewish leaders, Protestant leaders and even a Buddhist leader met together and worked together to keep the people and the Grand Prince spiritually advised.

Gerald knew that the next war between France and Germany would not be over a religious matter. Even though Germany was Protestant and France of the older faith, religion would have little to do with the matter. Here in Almondy, Gerald knew that his people would not feel that they must kill each other over religion, but that too could see cowardly men throw bombs at each other in the name of their god. That would be worse than anything they would do in the name of their cultural heritage. But religious upbringing was part of their cultural heritage.

“I have also thought that I should meet with the religious leaders too. I suppose the true opposition, the anarchists who have been attacking Reginald would be a group to meet with also, but that is probably not possible.”

Sir David said flatly, “No. How would we ensure anyone’s safety. How could we find them?”

“I must meet with our spy masters then and see if they have ideas who might I speak to that would get word to the anarchists." He moistened his lips.

Continuing, "The papers will want interviews and they can publish our ideas for reform. Athelstan has been at me for years that it is something that Reginald should have done. Speak out about changes to come. Though I am not so sure that he told his brother to do so. I asked Prince Reginald about that once and I did not have the impression that he had such a conversation with Athelstan,” Gerald said.

Sir David grumbled, “I would keep the Grand Prince’s son at arm’s length. I know that he befriended you, Highness. But I ask you, for I have known you long now, when was that? You have been marching in the St. Michael Pageant all the years we have been friends, as has Athelstan. But the Nonprince certainly was not your friend until you became directly in line to succeed, behind Prince Reginald.”

Gerald nodded. He said, “I had considered that as well. A long time ago. Athelstan acts like he is not upset that he is a bastard son of Grand Prince Michael Alan. Though I am not sure if he shows us his true feeling on the matter. I think he harbors resentment. The Grand Prince may have legitimized our cousin, but he did not bring him into the family with open and welcoming arms.”

“Yes, and it shows on occasion. You don’t live in the capital, so don’t see it, but it shows. Almost all those who you just named that you wished to talk with, I am sure I have seen Athelstan talk to as well. They are also men, and a few women, that Reginald should have talked to. I don’t think he ever did,” Sir David said.

“Krabe, you will need to find who were the aides to Reginald and enlist them in our service, but do not trust them. If my cousin was blown up, I do not rule out that those who did so might have known his plans. What better way then talking to an equerry or aide.” Gerald stated. It did not need to be a question.

“Yes, highness,” Captain Krabe said. Perhaps Krabe was settling his own resentments.

There were lights ahead which meant they were reaching the village of Glemaire. A little larger than Splatz, maybe by a third, but here there were few people out, it being an hour after dark and harvest having just started. Men were stumbling home in the countryside exhausted, and here, on market day, the people would call it a night early as well. All their custom would have retired after a day, though the taverns would stay open until midnight. Those who had a successful day at the market would no doubt celebrate, and be a good source to purchase one a drink.

These of Glemaire may have seen the cavalry company go through their town earlier that day, and they too may have heard the news on the telegraph wire, but perhaps no one in the village remembered that a few miles away was the farm of Prince Gerald. That meant that the telegraph officer here had not thought to tell anyone of the part of the message that had concerned the Prince. Quiet was good. The next stop was Nantz, which one could see the lights from, even as they rode out of Glemaire.

Less than two miles and they would be in that Town and harvest or not, Nantz had gaslamps now. One on each street and all around the central platz as well as all along some of the bigger streets. Nantz had well over ten thousand adult residents.

Gerald asked, “David, do you know why our census is only of adults? Krabe? I am curious. We have people count my chickens, cows, goats and horses. The schoolmarms and headmasters certainly know how many children and what ages they are, at least of those they will school, as the priests and rabbis know those they will teach to read and write for free.”

“Priests and Rabbis also seem to know who they will have in their own schools,” Sir David said.

The most pious of both religions sent their children to church schools and synagogues to learn. In Steilenberg the main Yeshiva for several hundred miles all around was right across the street from the school for officers. Very humorous placement, for the officer school was built during the reign of Michael VII, hundreds of years after the Yeshiva. The Yeshiva even predated the University of Steilenberg by twenty years. The original building of the University shared the same back wall of the Yeshiva and legend had it that instructors from the Yeshiva would teach at the University.

Now the University had moved, another change of Michael VII, who had given it grounds that had been outside of the city at the time. Not anymore though as Steilenberg had grown. Lecturers from the Yeshiva though still taught at the University, and also at the Officer’s College.

Gerald said, “But is it not interesting that we don’t think on our youth and how many there will be? I have heard that with these new antiseptics and cleanliness in the delivery rooms, more children are born and are living. The towns do seem full of them, do they not?”

“I suppose so,” Sir David said.

“Krabe, your thoughts?” he asked.

The man looked startled to be asked his opinion, “I have heard that there is a committee of the Assembly that thinks on how many people we have, and what professions there are. They think to advise the Grand Prince so incentives should be made to steer people to a trade where there is or will be a need. I have heard that one of the Assembly went to look for his favorite cobbler in Steilenberg and found the shop closed. The cobbler had no children and no one bought the shop. Then the Assembly man looked and found that in the next few years one in three in the cobbling trade would not have anyone to take their shops over. A crisis that he had to see to.”

Gerald laughed. He said “I am sorry that is good to know, but the cobbler in Splatz, let me tell you of him and the girl I was once sweet on…” Gerald told the story of Farmer Friedrich’s daughter and the cobbler. They too found it humorous.

David then said, “You do know now that you will have to marry? They were talking to Reginald about it, I am sure, for it was often in the paper. I advise you to read editorials and letters to the editor and those that seem to make the most sense, adopt their ideas. Or not. But now, now you will have to marry a princess and I think there is strong belief it should be a French girl. Though of course those who are German stock will want you to wed one of those.”

“Love of course is out of the question,” Gerald said wryly.

“Totally. Though I expect you can have a mistress or two or three. You will be the Grand Prince and if you make a dynastic marriage to keep the country at peace, they will not fault you for having something nice in your life,” David finished.

Gerald had thought to marry for love as soon as the succession was secured through Reginald and his cousin having sons. That had been the plan. Now that was not to be. He would need to meet a high ranking lady and Gerald knew that Sir David was correct. He had heard about the trade off of French and German ladies. His Great Grandmother was actually from the Low Countries and had a great deal of Spanish nobility in her roots. But then Spain had owned the Low Countries for some time.

“I don’t have to give thought to it this night. I just have to reach the Celebont Palace. Then I can think of it later. Much later.”

They were now at the first buildings of Nantz and soon in the thick of the Town. A lot of light ahead, and then the first riders halted as they turned the corner to the main Platz. One came back, “There are thousands of people, highness. I think they know we escort you.”

Gerald nodded then said, “Let us make a parade of it then. Troopers to ready arms and I will wave. No stopping though. Let us get to the train!”

That is what they did, riding through and there was a great cry as they did ride by. Shouting and cheers. He was their new Crown Prince. The word had gotten out. Gerald was not happy that it had, but he continued on and soon they were past the Platz. A hundred feet more and they were at the train station. The locomotive had turned around and reattached itself to the three transport carts and two passenger cars. One special car was also attached between the two passenger cars. Sir David said it had not been there when they had come down. A lounge car, obviously for Gerald. The station master, Mouton, was smart enough to take matters into his hand.

“Master Mouton, thank you. Thank you very much. I shall be glad of the car and a chance to think. All these soldiers about I do not believe I could do so,” Gerald said to the station master. Moments later they were leaving a ants. The train rumbling just as it had a week before to take him to the Pageant of St. Michael.

He waved off the officers who thought to attend him, and only allowed Sergeant Phillipe and six troopers to share the lounge with him. He told them, “You men will all be on guard duty though. Once we have reached Steilenberg and you can stand down, I will put in a good word for you. Be glad though that Sir David has not assigned you to the roofs. I am sure it will be quite chilly up there.”

Four men per car on the roofs. Sir David planned for the conductor to stop every half hour and relieve the men, actually just slow the train to a few miles an hour and make the switches. It would be safer if the train stopped, but the momentum to restart was not worth the cost in time. Gerald had to agree. Sir David had continued in the army these five years since Gerald left it, rising from Junior Lieutenant to Senior and now Captain.

Gerald had followed his cousin’s career and had visited him more than a few times in the Capital. There were other friends in Steilenberg as well. Men who he had trusted before, but then he was not anyone very special before. The friends had thought his time in the limelight would be short also. That Reginald would marry and produce heirs.

Francois Diedrou, Henry Levi, William Glau. Close friends and not any Fitzroy Perry blood though Glau was related to one of the Barons. His ancestor was with the Castle Snatch in 1066.

Glau was a man about town, as the saying went. His family was rich. Ammunition and arms. Deal making with the Krupps, for the Glaus had purchased land where crucial minerals were. Some horse trading and the Glau fortune, saw that Almondy had all the weapons it needed and more. William Glau’s older brother, Louis, ran the family company.

Levi was the intellectual, and the Jew, to Glau being the German of the group. Though that was just his lineage. Both were Almondians before they were anything else. Gerald was sure that was the case with all his friends. Almondy forever!

Levi though was published on several aspects of cultural thought and books of interaction amongst people and social classes. He had written a rebuttal treatise to the Communist Manifesto citing that although Marx’s ideas had merit for altruistic purposes, even should mankind have all its need met and could then begrudge no man anything; too many men, Levi had argued, would want more. Just because it is right to meet all of our needs somehow, it did not make greed, ambition, or desire disappear. So the Communist Manifesto was debunked in Almondy.

It did mean that Levi had risen high in the opinions of the socialists. He was a party leader, certainly number two amongst them trying to harness thought to implementation. What could be given to all, and how would that be paid for, so that the first of all men’s needs were met. What was that? Shelter, food or care? Levi was a good man but the last time Gerald had seen him, he had complained that there were questions that might not have an answer.

Francois, the French descendant of his three friends, remained at university. Gerald had studied and gotten a degree in one or the accepted arts that an unnecessary FitzRoy Perry prince could peruse, literature. The army and its two years, then off to farm. Francois had been at his studies nearly eight years and not only at the University of Steilenberg but had gone to take lessons at the two other universities in Almondy. He made a joke that he may not have finished his studies, but he was certainly well educated.

Talking to Francios could have been a trial if the man deliberately tried to make things sound complex. He did not though, at least not with Gerald. Francois knew a lot, but more importantly knew how to find things out. Gerald wrote their names down and then had Sergeant Phillipe take the paper to Captain Krabe and instruct that they all should be contacted and come to call on him at the same time as soon as he had time to see people. Even before he met with the Assembly members or Army Officers, if he were to do so, for his friends could advise him on things he needed to know.

What Gerald knew the most was to listen, though. Men said more and you certainly heard it, if you could cultivate listening. Though Gerald had observed that there was an ebb and flow to conversations. Sometimes he would talk and needed others to listen. Sometimes he would listen and learn.

He felt the train slow and knew this was not for a change of the men on the roof. They had done that enough times already so it was something else. He glanced out the window then and saw that the outskirts of Steilenberg had been reached. The Capital. Here he would learn how serious things were. Here he would understand how much his life had changed.

Gerald could see nothing for it. He had come to the capital to take the place of his dead cousin. Unless he too was killed, he would then become the next Grand Prince. Something that was not going to be easy to be.

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