Are you a RAPper or a RAPscallion?


The Prize is Not as Great as You Think: Chapter 5

5) My Son is Dead

Being escorted to the Celebont Palace and to the Grand Prince’s drawing room was going to be a first for Gerald. He had never been taken to that part of the Celebont Palace before. As he left the private train car he had spent the trip from Nantz in, Gerald speculated it had always been that he had entered through the main gate of the palace, then walked up so many stone steps that it hid two levels of the building. He then stepped into the entry hall with its great bronze doors. Another walk up a wide flight of stairs, these made of marble, into a large room at the top so the stairwell, the throne room. Athelstan had told Gerald there were three throne rooms and that his father used them all, for a variety of reasons.

Gerald had spent a good deal of time in the train thinking about what he was to do now he had become the de jure  Crown Prince. How he had little time to make an impact, but he was going to have to make one. No one really knew him in the capital. Not Athelstan, not Sir David. Not really. It was similar to when he had been given command of his platoon. He had received several pieces of advice.

“Take a moment or two and listen to your sergeant, learn how we do things, then make your changes.”

And opposed to that, “The only way you can get things to change is to jump right in and start changing things before anyone can catch their breath.” Gerald thought about each, in the very short time he had, and then chose the latter course. The man who had given it was a fighting, respected general. The first piece of advice was from a general who sat in an office and was concerned with politics.

Athelstan had come to meet him at the train station, and instead of protesting, Gerald accepted his cousin’s company. There also was a guard detail from the Guard’s Regiment and after a moments discussion, Sir David and Sergeant Phillipe were tasked with picking out men to complement the unit. Sir David was told to have ten more men then the guard contingent had brought.

“Cousin,” Gerald said to Athelstan. “I requested some information be waiting for me on my arrival. Is there anyone here who has it?”

Athelstan shook his head, “I am sorry but I do not know of any information, highness.” Gerald did not think Athelstan was being completely honest. That he hid something.

Gerald then turned to the Captain of the guard detail. “Captain, who commanded the squad when Prince Reginald was killed?”

“Not I!” the man, a Baron, said. Captain Gladdes was of the nobility, a little overweight from eating good food, and doing little to earn his place as a Captain in Almondy’s military.

“I did not say you were in charge. Was it the Guard? Another one of these units?”

“Well yes,” the man was still indignant.

Gerald used a deep, guttural command voice. “Then my men here from the First Cavalry will augment this detail. Now, I have requested information all afternoon about the murder of Crown Prince Reginald. Do you have it?”

Gladdes shook his head, “No. I don’t know anything about that. I have orders to take you to the Celebont Palace. And the First Cavalry can be dismissed. My troop has matters well in hand.” The Baron waved his hands as if he was flicking away dirt.

Gerald clenched his teeth. He was getting angry. “Captain Krabe is my aide. Captain please provide this captain with a list of all the information I have required.” Turning back to Captain Gladdes, “Your orders now are to get me this information and attend me at the Celebont Palace when you have it. I expect it to take you no more than a half hour, for you have been here in the Capital and I have been waiting for news or traveling all day. I think that is fair.”

“You cannot be serious!” the man exploded again.

“Highness! You can not be serious Highness!” Gerald was conscious that there were many enlisted men listening. “Stand up straight you shit of a man! I should have you courtmartialed for your insolence. How many times did you not address me by title? Do you even know? And to suggest that I am not serious, are you a fool!”

“You can’t order me about. Highness,” Gladdes said through gritted teeth.

Gerald sent one glance to Athelstan.

“He can you know.” All the others now turned their eyes to Athelstan. “He is the second in command of all Almondy’s forces. Only the Grand Prince outranks him. Any order you have received from anyone lower is automatically overridden by an order from the Crown Prince. As long as he has done his training in the army and is over twenty-one. His Highness is all that, Captain. I would suggest you follow his orders. Oh and show him some respect which you have not done yet, Captain.”

Gerald did not smile. He only wanted to break the man’s arrogance. Not to destroy him.

“Now Captain Gladdes, I see that Captain Krabe has the list. Half an hour. The Celebont Palace. I should not stand there waiting, your time is disappearing.” Gerald said then turned to Sir David. “How long to get the mounts all assembled for your guard detail, ten minutes?”

“Less highness. We shall be ready in less than five!” Sir David quickly turned to his team and started issuing orders, looking for the Guard Lieutenant who was close by and discussing the route they were going to take. There was a crowd of citizens in front of the station as well, but Gerald was ignoring it

“Athelstan, cousin, what do I do next?” Gerald asked.

“Well highness, we take you to the Celebont Palace. There you will meet with father. He is grieving though. Terribly. He will require that you are invested soon as Crown Prince, but I think we will have your Coronation not too much later. Yesterday he was a robust man, now he is broken, and he has not been well either these last few months.” Athelstan appeared to have his own look of sorrow but Gerald had not heard it in his voice.

Athelstan had mentioned the Grand Prince being sick with chest pains when Gerald had come up for the St. Michael Pageant. Cousin Michael Alan did not look totally well, but he did not look as if death was just around the corner.

Athelstan still had more to say, “We probably will have the funeral for Reginald, in five or six days. Word has already been sent to the crowned heads of Europe, Presidents and Premiers so they may attend the funeral. I do not know how many will come, unless they can stay and attend the Investiture of you as Crown Prince as well. Many will want to meet you. Especially when they hear of the way you handled that pompous piece of work, they will especially want to meet you now. A Crown Prince with a firm resolve. It shall make many of them nervous.” Athelstan looked pensive. He looked as if his thought was a surprise.

Waving the others nearby away, Gerald said quietly to Athelstan, “You were the one who gave me the inspiration for that. You have been telling me that we have to show the foreign elements some backbone else they will walk all across us. We have a better rail system here than Germany and France, and that helped Germany in their last war. Now we need strong leadership as well and then they will think twice about attacking us. Perhaps we can be the deciding factor of any war they start. Or convince them that they should not include us in their folly this time.”

Athelstan took a breath and reached out to offer his hand to shake. “Oh very good. You listen. Reginald never did.” The shook hands firmly then. Athelstan said, “I should have looked at that list you sent the Captain after. Anything that I can tell you?”

“Yes. How did Reginald die?” Athelstan looked surprised then. His cousin began to tell Gerald what he knew. Gerald learned how Reginald was out riding in the countryside to an assignation with a lady from one of the taverns he frequented. Reginald had one or two houses that he used for his trysts. He had a small squad of the Guard with him. Several bombs were thrown at his carriage and this time he was killed, along with one of the guards. Most of the others were wounded.

Athelstan said he had heard that what was left of Reginald was not pretty. Reginald was killed early that morning and the anarchists were claiming credit.

“How do they do that? They can’t just walk up to a constable and say they’re an anarchist. That someone from their organization threw a bomb.” Gerald asked.

Athelstan said, “No. They send a letter with some details that only those who did throw the bomb would know. The constables don’t tell everything to the papers. The letter is usually addressed to Lord Hermes who father has as Minister for the Homeland.”

“The Chief of the Chief Constable.” Gerald said and that was indeed the man’s position too. Though he covered several other portfolios that had to do with the running of the country. Hermes was also the Greek messenger god. Gerald wondered if Lord Hermes would be as punctual as the God was with news.

“I have a great deal of reading to catch up on if I am to take over from your father. Though you and I have had so many conversations these last years, I am half convinced that we are ready for some other type of government. If your father can hold up, then perhaps I can be the last Crown Prince and we can make the Grand Prince more of a ceremonial position rather than one where radicals feel the need to throw bombs about.”

Athelstan smiled and then said, “Best you don’t say that any louder, or to anyone else but me. We need to work on this, but you are right, we have talked about changing the government. I think you will find, though, that many would be reluctant to change the status quo.”

“Of course. We can only talk to those who know they stand to gain. I would not tell another farmer that he had to drop the price of milk he charged unless he was sure he was going to get something greater for it elsewhere. No I understand. Come, Sir David has the horses ready. I fear we are about to gallop all the way to the Palace.”

Athelstan looked at him in surprise. “I have a carriage…”

“Come cousin. I go to your father who is, as you’ve said, in a terrible way. We are to hurry. Much of the day has been wasted already.” Gerald still did not hear any anguish from Reginald's murder from Athelstan. That was a curiosity. Perhaps his cousin was in as much shock as Gerald was.

Athelstan should have seen the two men with rifles approaching him but he did not. Athelstan did feel them nudge him. His cousin look as if he had jumped out of his skin.

“Stop that. He is the son of the Grand Prince.” Gerald said. Even if they treated him like a bastard, he was still much higher in rank than they ever should be.

Finally the party was on horseback and Sir David and his men were leading to South Street that would take them almost to the gates of the palace without any twists. It was not overly crowded for here were homes and smaller shops not open at night. Though in the Capital most shops were closed at this hour, but for restaurants and places of entertainment.

At the gallop, it took less than ten minutes to advance up the hill though the horses were tired. The guards at the Palace gates passed them through quickly and then Athelstan and a few other royal retainers were taking Gerald to see the Grand Prince.

“Well cousin you look harried. Hard day?” the Grand Prince said before Gerald even had time to say hello.

“Highness, I am mortified by your loss. This tragedy is of course something that weighs heavy and you will hear that from everyone. But I never wished ill on Reginald and know that this has to devastate you. I would not say I wish I could have taken his place in regards to the bomb. I just wish it did not happen.”

The Grand Prince looked at him. Not that they had not seen each other before. He and the Grand Prince never spoke much. Reginald was always there and was always going to be there. Now he wasn’t. “Well you are honest, that is true. They said you were and you are. You will forgive me if I do not care too much for Almondy and it’s future now. They have robbed me of my son.”

Gerald nodded. “Athelstan is here also and he grieves as you do. I am sure of it.”

“Yes, Athelstan. Son, leave us. No fetch me some ice cream. This is a horrid day and I will indulge myself. Sickness and health be damned.”

“Yes father,” Athelstan said.

Athelstan left quickly shrugging his shoulders at Gerald. Then when he was gone, “The rest of you leave me with the, the Crown Prince.” Michael Alan did not look like he had wanted to say that.

They were soon quite alone. “Do not trust my son. I am serious. The spymasters will almost all say the same, but if they see you consorting with him they will couch it in other terms. He has ambitions and always has had them. Beware that he look for you to legitimize his claim to this throne as well. There is a reason we do not let bastards inherit from their fathers’ now. It is given the appearance that it is tied up with the morality of marriage. It would be one thing if the boy had been born to a woman I slept with and I had been married also. I could have married his mother and he would not have been a bastard. But I could not make his mother the Grand a Princess and so he is a bastard. We set examples, we who rule. He pays for my mistake but he would probably make ten more to correct my one. When they are in the womb we have no knowing what they will be when grown.

"When I die he shall have enough land and rents from that land to stay in the Assembly but, any power he has derived ends when I die. Even his marching in the St. Michael Pageant. I suppose that ends for you as well when I die,” then the Grand Prince chuckled and stopped. He must have remembered what reasons had brought Gerald to the room.

“I do not know if you, the spymasters or the constables will find who killed Reginald. If you do after I am gone, promise me. Draw and quarter them. That law is still on the books. A noose is too good for the murderers of royalty.”

Gerald knew the man was grieving, but he nodded.

“Say it Gerald. Say it Crown Prince Gerald, for you give your oath as Crown Prince and I shall know you will carry it out,” Michael Alan said. His voice cracking.

“Very well Highness. I shall do so,” Gerald promised.

“Good. You are a strange fish are you not? You keep Cows is it? How can a man who is so highly placed in our lands want to milk cows and call that a life? They shall make a mockery of you in the papers for awhile. And then when I am gone they shall always mock you as the farmer prince or some other stupidity. I should never have allowed papers, or their damn cartoons,” the Grand Prince said.

“I think I shall laugh with them. Perhaps we can cartoon the papers and newspeople for is it better to laugh with them than to have them think we are upset by their laughing at us?” Gerald said.

“But we are upset by their attacks this way,” the Grand Prince said.

“Of course highness, but you yourself once told me to just ignore them and they will find something new to titillate themselves with.” Gerald had been given that advice when he had become the second to the throne. The papers had then showed Gerald with a small crown milking a cow as a cartoon.

He had cut the cartoon and framed it. Perhaps Gerald would be lucky and they would be sending it with his things when they packed up the house. If they did, he would have it displayed somewhere that all could see it when they came to speak to him. Especially when he did something brilliant and the press wanted access. It would remind the newspapermen that they had treated him poorly. That would be the best of revenge against the papers. He would have to remember to tell Krabe to ensure it was sent for. His friends in Splatz might think Gerald saw it as an insult and not send it.

Athelstan returned with the ice cream for his father. “Good lad, have a seat and we shall discuss Reginald and what we are to do now. Gerald, you will have to take the lead in the investigation. I know that the anarchists have claimed credit, but be apprised that it could just as easily have been agents of the French or the Germans. The Austrians or the English. Any of the great powers who think that the Crown Prince leans too far away from their favor becomes a target for such a murder.”

“Sire, you wish me to take charge?” Gerald asked. He could have a found a lot in what the Grand Prince had said to comment on.

“You will be in charge of everything soon enough and I can not deal with much now. I have already signed a document saying you will rule here pending your investiture as Crown Prince, when you would not need a document to rule. Stupid law. An Assembly law. Before the Assembly we did not need such nonsense. You spend far too much time with those fools, Athelstan,” Michael Alan said.

Gerald thought to speak, “Sire if I am to lead the investigation I fear I will spend time with the Assembly as well. I need to discover which are fools like you say, and which are serious men dedicated to Almondy. And most especially find those which also think they are dedicated to Almondy but only by being friends with our enemies in France and Germany.”

Michael Alan thought for a second before he spoke, “Far too many of them I am sure. And though those two powers are the most to be feared, do not forget the others. I always told Reginald to find men he could trust. I fear he thought that if he looked indifferent to the Great Powers and that he was not serious, then he was not going to be a target for them. He was wrong and I was wrong to not insist he take better precautions.” Gerald saw his cousin grip his chair arms. Michael Alan was upset by Reginald’s death and desperately trying not to show it.

“I may want to make some adjustments with the guard details on those who are to serve me,” Gerald said

Prince Michael Alan nearly spat, “The damn guard can all go to the devil. Dismiss them all. Hang them. They let the Crown Prince be blown up. They have done little good. Popinjays, every last one.”

It had taken the death of Reginald for the Grand Prince to say that. “Then may I have a free hand in making some changes?”

Michael Alan said quickly this time, “Yes, of course yes, but I should make friends of the Generals if I were you. I am too old and sick to do much more than read the paper and sit on one of these chairs when there is a need for an audience. Now, I can’t even begin to think straight. I see Reginald’s face everywhere I look. Athelstan, I need a drink. Brandy. The good brandy. Thank you.”

There was a decanter on a small table very close to the Grand Prince and Gerald could see the man had been drinking.

“You will have his castle of course,” the Grand Prince said and surely referred to Gerald taking over Reginald’s house. It was down at the plateaued section of the hill. Near the Cathedral of St. Alban. Gerald had seen it, though he had never been invited inside.

“Thank you highness, but perhaps I shall stay here for a day or two, or a hotel if that is an inconvenience. I think some of his retainers should clear it of his personal items before I take up residence there.”

The Grand Prince nodded, “Of course. You are right. You see I do not think straight. Athelstan, make those arrangements will you. The Crown Prince had a wing of the palace at one time. See that Prince Gerald is given that. You will also want to meet the ministers of my government. They are here, or coming here. There is a chamber below on the ground floor, do you know it? No, then there is an equerry outside that will show you. Go, the whole thing is yours now. I am tired, and I can not focus for the life of me. Catch the killers. Yes do that. I want them dead. Even if it means invading France, Germany or Tasmania! Someone will pay for this. Promise me! Damn it man. Promise me!”

“Yes highness. It is a promise. Those responsible will pay.” Gerald said again then took his leave.

As the Grand Prince had said, an equerry with some guards ready to form a cordon around him were there outside the room to lead him to the next meeting.

“One moment.” Gerald looked at the guards, a lieutenant, a sergeant and four troopers. All men of the Guard’s Regiment. Four men of the First Cavalry sat on a nice sofa across the hall. “Has Captain the Baron Gladdes appeared?”

“Uh, no highness.”

Gerald asked, “Your name lieutenant?”

“Sir Malcolm Schweppen, highness.” The man stood to attention.

“You may do, but I have a task. You will note that I do not put much faith in Guard Officers. You are to report to your Colonel and tell him that I assigned the Baron Captain a task which he has failed. Gladdes is to be confined to the barracks. If his quarters are not at the barracks, have an office cleared out for him at the barracks, a cot installed, and a bucket for his needs. He is not to leave that room until I decide his fate. If the Colonel protests or does not follow these orders I have given you, he will have the next such cell. Is that clear?”

“Yes sir.” He snapped his heels smartly.

“Good. I was regular army and it is no secret what we feel about the Guards. Tell the Colonel I would like your personnel file delivered to me within the hour. If the Colonel is not at the barracks, I suggest you rouse the duty officer, give him my orders regarding Gladdes and then after they have begun to be carried out, have the duty officer accompany you to repeat the orders to the Colonel. If, as I think it a possibility that the Colonel has left the barracks without saying which mistress he has gone to, or what whorehouse, then you may return here. I am meeting with some ministers and an order for the immediate appearance of the Colonel shall be given. Let me stress in case you do not comprehend, I am angry. The Crown Prince has been murdered. The Guard was to protect Prince Reginald, and failed. The Grand Prince wants the murderers and instead of the Colonel of the Guard standing at his Grand Prince’s side protecting him, or greeting me to protect me, I am sent a buffoon like Gladdes. Go lieutenant. I have shared with you my indignation at your unit. We shall see if you can restore some honor to them.”

The man was in shock but nodded, saluted, and then began to walk away. “You may run. Time is critical,” Gerald called to his back.

Gerald then turned to the Guards Sergeant. “Are you any good at this?”

“Sire? You mean guarding the royals? My men and I are very good.”

Gerald looked at the five Guards who all snapped to attention, their heels clicking. “Very well, you may guard me. And these four men of the First,” Gerald motioned to the men who had been sitting. “Your uniforms are not functional. When we reach the next meeting room, you may ask a maid and cut away all that crap they’ve saddled you with, and you may laugh and chuckle when I say things like that addressed to you, just not when we are impressing others. And as long as your eyes and other senses to not detract you from your primary duty which is to…”

The Sergeant smiled and looked beyond him, “Keeping you alive, highness.”

“Yes. Equerry, lead on to this other room, and once we are there, I have a mission for you and the other staff of the palace.” They began to walk, the guard forming around him.

Gerald continued his instructions, “If there is no constable assigned as chief lead to the murder, I need to know, or if there is, I do not want to interrupt him. He however may need more manpower. Ever precinct has a chief constable here in Steilenberg. I should like runners sent to them and they be instructed to come to the castle as quickly as they can. That means they finish what they are doing right then, and the very next thing is to come to the castle, not to stop in the middle of something that might be important because I screamed for them,” Gerald explained.

“It shall be done sire!” the equerry said.

“Wait, I shall explain so your men can explain. We only have so long before the trail for these killers goes cold. I learned this from my own chief constable back in Splatz. Every man we have should be working this, rousing all the criminals they know for information. Seeing who sold what to whom that could make such a bomb, or bombs. All that. That is why we make sure that the Minister for the Homeland has instructed the Chief Constable of the Realm to have the constables bring in all their men.” Gerald did not want to share his observation that it was evident at the train station and during the ride to the Palace that the High Street had far too many constables at work keeping the citizens at bay instead of perhaps solving the crime of Reginald's murder. He said, “The High Street had an armies worth of constables.”

“It did?” The equerry asked.

“No I was being facetious. Tell all that I can be that, and also tell all, unless I dismiss a servant, an aide, whomever, I want to explain my thoughts so that they can better convey my thoughts. Has anyone seen my aide? Captain Krabe. I wish him found and to attend me in the room with the Grand Prince’s counsellors.”

He could see the doors to that room approach for they had walked back down the stairs to the main entry hall. The hall itself was probably three stories high, for the landing of the main stairwell that opened on the first floor to the throne room, had two stairways on the left and right sides that led up to the second floor. It gave the impression here in this hall that it was very tall. Statues of Greek and Roman gods seemed to make regular appearances as one walked the stairs and on the ground floor, that led out to the courtyard in front of the palace, the wall were adorned with pictures of the greatest of the Grand Princes. And one of Michael Alan. Gerald assumed that the current Grand Prince was able to decide which of their ancestors would adorn the yellow-white, and gold covered walls.

On the main floor, though, this was two floors above the ground of the courtyard, servants quarters, kitchens, and work rooms below, they turned left. The procession then had gone through a side room, and now were at the end of a corridor, wider than the main room of his house at the farm, where two more guards stood. “Sergeant have these men alter their uniform for function as well.”

“Yes, Sire!” that order made the man happy. He seemed to enjoy such an order.

The two guards saluted as he approached then one turned and opened the doors. “His Highness Gerald!” he shouted into the room and Gerald could see several men who had turned to look at the opening door prepare themselves for his entry. He held up his hand as he entered so that he would not have to hear fawning words, or introductions.

“I know who each of you are, and you know who I am. Minister Keller, you are the minister of Justice and if his royal highness has told me correctly, the proclamation he signed that imbues me with the authority of the Crown Prince’s office until my investiture resides with you. Is that correct?”

“Ah, yes your highness,” Keller was thin, but of regular height, so he was not anything extraordinary.

“Good, are the rest of you apprised of this. That the Grand Prince has given the powers of the government to me and that only he may override my decisions?”

They were nodding or saying yes. The Chief Minister, Winter, and a cousin with FitzRoy Perry blood said, “It is more complex than that.”

“Minister Keller, tell me, who runs the government, is it not the Grand Prince?”

“Well, yes of course highness,” Keller said.

The Chief Minister was well connected, that Gerald knew before he had become the second in line to the throne. Gerald also knew from the papers that he was tireless in his service to the realm. Winter stood straight, and he was thinner than a hat rack. Easily two, and possibly more, inches taller than Gerald, “Good. Cousin Winter, please do not slow me down just now. I shall make mistakes I am sure, but cousin Michael Alan has asked me to find Reginald’s killers and that is one of my primary concerns. Especially as they may target me now that I have assumed Reginald’s role. However the document that Minister Keller has, also most likely purports, that should the Grand Prince not actively reign over our country, the next to become Grand Prince does. The Crown Prince. I would not be here if that were not me. And I think you are all quite assured that I do not want to be here.”

Lord Hermes spoke, “Yes highness, we are aware. We have been working hard to make safe your arrival, and to reassure his royal highness that the country will survive this crisis. Also to catch those who are responsible.” Hermes was a few inches shorter than Reginald had been. At his age, he must have dyed his hair blond, to match that of the God his family was named after. And he used too much dye to try and recapture his youth. Perhaps then he had looked more like the god, now his middle was his largest section and his vanity made a farce of his appearance.

“Yes? Lord Hermes, the realm’s constabulary reports ultimately to you?” Hermes nodded. “Have you or the realm’s chief constable appointed someone to head the investigation yet?”

Lord Hermes looked blank. Gerald turned to his cousin, the Chief Minister. “What have you been doing? Waiting for me? In this room only competent men should be allowed. Are any of you here not the most competent men for your posts? I will find out if that is the case and make adjustments. If you know someone who should do your job better than you do it, you can save your reputations by nominating such a person to me, else I shall be brutal. Reginald should be in this room, not I. If we had the best man for each of your jobs, then perhaps we would not be in this predicament. Cousin Charles-Marie.. I am going to purge the Guard’s Regiment of incompetents. Do you have a problem with that.”

Charles-Marie FitzRoy Perry was of course a prince. He also was the Minister of the Military. There were some few branches besides the army that reported to him, and he was responsible for ensuring that everything that the army needed aside from men, was taken care of. The Chief of the Command Staff, General de Poitier reported to him. So the generals to de Poitier, and de Poitier to Charles-Marie.

Charles-Marie said, “What, why?” Gerald knew that both the man’s sons were in the Guard.

“Because they failed and have been nothing really but a showpiece for tourists. When I was in the army I was on duty twelve hours each day, or night, sometimes the whole day. Seven days a week. We have so many guard officers that they work four hours a fortnight and thus any anarchist can throw a bomb amongst them because they are really not soldiers. They are actors.”

Charles-Marie looked indignant. “You generalize.”

“Perhaps I do. But you men are the advisors to the Crown. Do most of you think that I am wrong? Or do most think I am right? The army needs to be shaken up. We made some progress after the Franco-Prussian war, since we saw how effective our neighbors to the east were, but we did not do enough. Fortunately we have a great many men in the army, and our arms are as up to date as any other nation.”

Charles-Marie nodded. “You are a friend to the Glaus as I recall.”

“Yes, I am. They are patriots I am sure. They also enjoy being one of the main suppliers to the principality and they have become rich because of it. I think many men and women too, like to be rich. I also think that sometimes the richer you are, you forget what so many or our people want, and more importantly, what they need,” Gerald said. All the men in the room were rich. Certainly a great deal richer than he had been that morning. Now he was probably richer than any two combined. Maybe any three.

The Chief Minister said, “Perhaps we should sit and talk about that?”

“Not now. Lord Hermes, I am having all of the capital’s chief constables brought to the palace and you will sit and listen to what I have to say to them when they arrive. Cousin Charles-Marie, will you take charge of purging of Guards Officers or shall I? By this I mean that one of us will have to talk to de Poitier that such is to take place. You or He may make the criteria on how we reduce the fluff that is the Guards to a professional group of soldiers who are very well trained to stop bombers and other assassins. Those guards officers who wish to remain soldiers, may be reassigned. Many may be reduced in rank. Real reform there. Later we shall talk about the war college. You know as well as I that it is not preparing our officers for true command and the war that will come. If we do not make a change, do you not think that the Great Powers will walk all over us? We are one fourth the size of each. A few weeks work and they will destroy us.”

The ministers nodded at that. They knew the danger, but had not addressed it.

“Yes, that is important,” Charles-Marie looked bitter at the moment.

“Do not worry cousin,” Gerald said. “I shall handle the Chief of the Command Staff in regard to that. The Generals may be top heavy with men who are not prepared to lead our men into battle as well. So much to do. So much to do. Now do you find fault Chief Minister Winter with my current agenda. Find the killers of the Crown Prince. Make the army strong and restructure the Guard?”

“Cousin, there is a great deal more to discuss…” Winter said.

“Chief Minister, I to could address you as cousin but I am now the Crown Prince, and I think you should only call me cousin when we are in private. I stand here as your superior in the government. You all have to be aware what the Grand Prince just told me. He is overwhelmed by the tragedy today. He is unable to reign and so I must do this for him. Now I am sure that we should talk about our neighbors and the rest of the world,” Gerald nodded to the Minister of the Foreign Office, “And the state of our finances. Or anything else that you all think I must know. But what do I have to decide right now? Not much, I can see by the looks on your faces.”

There was a knock at the door as he had finished that last sentence and then Captain Krabe quickly entered. “This is my aide de camp. Major Krabe. Tomorrow and the day after, Major, you will schedule all these ministers for private interviews with me here at the palace. His royal highness shall have us here until the Crown Prince’s palace can be made ready for us. Then at the end of the day, in two days, with an agenda for our meeting Chief Minister, we shall sit down and discuss the countries ills and needs unless anyone has something of immediate attention?”

Lord Forte cleared his throat, “Highness you should give us a date, or together we should choose a date, for Prince Reginald’s funeral. Also if you feel the need to approve some of what we have already decided for the former Crown Prince… In any event we need to pick a date for your investiture also.”

Lord Forte was the Minister of Industry and these were not items that would have been his to decide or oversee. It must have been things that the council had already talked of, and Gerald in his rush to move to the next thing, the hour getting near midnight, had not said anything about. “You are quite right. Will my cousin lay in state in St. Albans?”

“Yes, by nine tomorrow morning,” the Chief Minister said.

“Good. Four days too much or too little? And then we have the funeral?” Gerald asked.

Lord Winter said, “We had thought six, if that meets with your approval. A high mass this Sunday and then your Investiture next Saturday.”

Gerald had to use his fingers, “Funeral on Wednesday, and then Investiture. I can live with that. What else beyond that?”

Lord Forte said, “There are many details with a royal funeral like this. The royal secretary of the chambers, Lord Peter FitzRoy Perry has the honor if you remember. He is charged to organize this. And Lord Hermes is charged with your Investiture as it involves ceremony and coordination with the Archbishop of Steilenberg…”

“Certainly so does the Funeral,” Gerald said.

Lord Forte continued to take the lead on this, “Yes that as well. But two different ceremonies by tradition have two different lords to see to their planning. It is customary for a report to be submitted to your approval or that of the Grand Prince.”

“You will give the report to me, and the man in charge will then accompany me to the Grand Prince and we shall see if he wishes to make any changes then. Is there anyone who writes speeches? Or some wit for the papers we can turn to for releases of statements to the papers? I should like help with my speeches.”

The Chief Minister said, “Yes. Would a lady do? Mistress Keller is very adept with a word.” He looked to the Minister of Justice.

That man nodded, “My youngest daughter wished to learn the law and if we allowed women to speak in a court, she would do well. She is a very close aide to me…”

“She rewrote the proclamation that the Grand Prince signed today. His royal highness likes Mistress Keller as well. She, I think, would well be worth your time for an interview,” the Chief Minister continued. Gerald shrugged. He turned to Krabe.

“Can you have Mistress Keller join me in the morning. I rise at four, but I think with no cows to milk I might sleep in to five.” Gerald turned to Krabe and added, “I should like my breakfast at six with all the papers to read as well please. Then be ready for interviews starting at seven. Now is there anything else?”

No one seemed to have anything to say. Gerald was taking to heart the advice to shake things up. “Lord Hermes let us see how many constables have come and work towards finding the killers of my cousin then.” He turned and made to leave, stopping at Krabe for a moment. “Make a schedule with these men and then come find us.”

In the hallway he saw that the guards had made their uniforms better. Easier for them to get to weapons and ammunition. It still required alterations, but it was more serviceable. Also at attention was the Colonel of the Guards. His uniform was not altered. He had a portfolio with him and Gerald returned the salute then said, “Walk with me. Sergeant to the room where the constables are gathering.”

“Sire!” he snapped then arranged his men so that they could begin their journey to the next room. It was another of the audience rooms, for there were many men and the equerry thought this the best place to have all gather.

“Colonel the portfolio, is that of Lieutenant Schweppen?”

“Yes sire. Sire I must protest…”

Gerald stopped him by speaking over him, “The portfolio first. Thank you. Lord Hermes, please hold this for me. Now Colonel, you were protesting about something.”

That man was flustered, but he started again. “Yes. I must protest your interference with Captain Baron Gladdes…”

“Did you install him in a room in the barracks?”

“Yes, sire, but I protest this treatment of one of my officers,” The Colonel was flustered by being interrupted by Gerald. That Gerald had learned at the war college. Superiors would interrupt their juniors in the midst of reports to unbalance them.

“Let me be frank, Colonel. Your regiment is filled with officers who are a disgrace to Almondy. Idle, indulgent gadabouts. If you do not get these self important pimples in line. Then I will. They are tasked with the safety of the Royal line. They have key posts here in Steilenberg and at other royal properties. They have also become the slackest of any regiment in the army. Yet they are entrusted with some of our most critical installations. And people. The second most important person that you were to guard is dead. So heads will roll. A lot of them. Fortunately the enlisted men of the Guard’s Regiment do their jobs. It is your officers that have little aptitude and have come to serve in the Guard so that they may wear fancy uniforms, parade, carouse, and attend the social season of Steilenberg. That is not their function. Do you hear me?”

“Sire, you are wrong…” The Colonel said and then saw the look upon Gerald’s face.

Gerald stepped in close, “I would strike you for that. Instead, I shall just demote you. You are relieved of command of the Guard. You will return to the barracks, find a room to be your cell as well.” Gerald stepped back, “Sergeant, you will find an escort for the Major for he is to await our pleasure in a similar cell at the Guard Barracks as Captain Gladdes. Is that understood.”

Gerald heard the Sergeant give an affirmation.

“Major, you will find that the death of my cousin under your care is going to reflect poorly on the Almondy Guard’s Regiment. You are going to find that your laxness in allowing officers to act as overgrown spoiled boys not only ends the career of many men, but impacts on your honor and reputation directly. But do not worry. There is a war coming to Europe again, and you shall have a chance to prove to me that you are a soldier.” Gerald heard the man sputter. The furthest thing from his mind was probably that he would act as a soldier.

Gerald, however, moved on. He had to deal with the investigation of the death of Reginald.

Arriving in the capital of Steinlenberg, Gerald knows he has choices, but what are they? Take the bull by the horns, or does he have a tiger by the tail? Knowing that the more successful generals he admired were by the horns type of commanders, he elects that. He meets with his grieving cousin, and then with the countries chief ministers, surprised to find that no one is really taking the time to look for who killed his cousin. The previous Crown Prince. People who actually may now have put him on a short list to kill as well.

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