1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 27
“And the cardinal’s as well?”
“It wasn’t mentioned, Highness.” She looked at the pad, running her finger slowly down the long message. “The king and a number of guards. That’s what he said.”
“Ask him,” Gaston said. “Ask if the cardinal’s body was recovered.”
Terrye Jo looked at Monsieur Gaston curiously, but after a few seconds she turned her attention to the radio and sent the question.
The answer came back quickly: NON.
“No,” she said. “It wasn’t recovered.”
Gaston made no secret of his anger this time: whether or not he was upset by the news of the king, he was clearly upset that the incident had not killed Cardinal Richelieu. It was almost as if . . .
“He is certain.”
“I made sure to have him repeat the message, Sire. The soldiers were his guards — Cardinal guards — ”
“The Cardinal’s Guard. Yes. They have a distinctive uniform.”
“Your servant said so. He said that the king was dressed as a Cardinal’s Guard.”
This time it was even more confusing: Gaston was upset, but in a different way — she wasn’t sure why — but she was even more convinced that this report wasn’t a surprise for him.
He knew this was coming.
“The king is dead,” Gaston said at last. “I am now king. I shall have to proceed to Paris at once.” He turned away, adjusting the lace on his cuffs. “There is much to do. I . . . may require your assistance.”
“The duke made it clear that I am to help you in any way you require, Highness,” she said. “If there is a message — ”
He turned back to her. “I will need a skilled telegrapher in Paris. It is my wish that you accompany me.”
“I’d have to discuss that with Duke Amadeus — ”
“I shall speak with him, Mademoiselle.” He walked to the door. “You should prepare to leave as soon as possible,” he said, and left the radio room before Terrye Jo could answer.
Turenne’s commanders tramped up the hill through the rain to the villa, stomping into the entry room with their muddy boots. The Marshal had arranged for three grooms to be on hand to clean them, so as not to ruin the carpeting in the ground-floor morning room where the council was to take place.
He was not much inclined toward that sort of meeting. Turenne’s army was as much a modern, professional force as Sherrilyn had seen down-time: particularly over the winter and into the spring, it had become more and more like the sort of army that the USE was developing — organized, well supplied, with specific tasks and responsibilities. It still had some good old-fashioned seventeenth century brawling (and the occasional duel: that was illegal in France, but Turenne turned a blind eye to it — he would rather have such deep-seated feuds resolved in camp than on the battlefield); but by and large, it was a well-delineated chain of command, with a small number of senior officers that dealt directly with their Marshal and handled their respective departments.
Thus, when he called the commanders — including her — together for a conseil de guerre, it was an occasion. It took a little time for them all to assemble, and a little longer for them all to settle into seats. She found a place in the back near Johann Glauber, Turenne’s munitions expert and the man who had developed the new percussion caps. Most of the commanders steered clear of him. He was a little wild-eyed and had a sort of persistent chemical smell around him that tended to spook down-timers.
When the Marshal came into the room they all got to their feet. He was accompanied by another man who bore a distinct family resemblance, though he was older and a little more weathered. Most of the people in the room knew who he was, and some of them doffed their hats to him. He caught Sherrilyn’s eye and seemed to fix his attention directly on her, as if there was no one else in the room.
“Most of you are acquainted with my older brother Frédéric,” Turenne began. “As Prince of Sédan and duc de Bouillon, he outranks me — everywhere but here.” He smiled. “I thought his insights would be valuable.
“We have received confirmation of something that some of you may have already heard. Our sovereign lord, King Louis, is dead.” Turenne took his hat off and bowed; everyone else did likewise. “There was an attack of some sort at some distance from Paris, on a party that included His Eminence Cardinal Richelieu and His Majesty. The king’s body has been conveyed in state to Paris, but there is no word on the cardinal — whether he is dead or alive, there is no news.” The officers began to murmur, and Turenne held up his hand, quieting them.
“There is no way to know,” he continued, “who might have performed this criminal act. The person who benefits the most from the king’s death is his brother, but I have intelligence that indicates that he spent the winter in Tuscany with the queen Mother and is now visiting his sister, the duchess of Savoy, in Turin.”
“He was behind it,” de la Mothe said. “You can count on it.”
“There is no way to know that. It is possible that a group of Spanish horsemen ambushed the king’s party; there are certainly agents provocateurs for Spain within our borders, reporting to — or working with — the Marquis de Mirabel, King Philip’s ambassador in Paris. It is known that in the past he corresponded with Her Majesty.”
“There is no reason to believe that the queen is complicit,” the duc de Bouillon said quietly. His voice was very similar to Turenne’s, quiet but forceful. “At least at this time.”
“She wouldn’t benefit from his death,” de la Mothe said. “With the king dead, Gaston would have no more use for her — he’d send her back to Spain.”
“These are reasonable inferences,” Turenne said. “But there is a further complication: the queen is with child, and is due within the month. Monsieur Gaston has no son: if the queen gives birth to a boy, he would be Gaston’s heir. That makes her either valuable — or vulnerable.”
“I have a question,” Sherrilyn said, raising her hand. The other commanders turned to her; she lowered her hand to her side, feeling a bit silly at the gesture.
“Frédéric,” Turenne said. “It is my honor to present my commander of sharp-shooters, Colonel Sherrilyn Maddox, a Grantvilléuse.”
Bouillon made his way across the sitting-room to where she sat. As he approached she stood, wondering if she should bow or curtsy. Instead she stuck out her hand and he took it, offering a firm grasp. Before he let it go he turned it this way and that, as if examining it.
“A pleasure,” he said at last, letting it go. “Henri has told me a great deal about you, and I have made the up-timers a matter of personal interest. I have collected reprints of a number of interesting books from your wondrous future world.”
“We seem to fascinate lots of people.”
“You do,” he agreed. “You certainly do. Now. Mademoiselle Colonel. What is your question?”
“I’m just a hired gun here, but most of your — most of the Marshal’s — troops are Frenchmen. Their loyalty is to their king, I’d guess; and now their king is going to be Gaston. What does that mean for us?”
Bouillon smiled and turned to face Turenne. “An interesting question, Henri. What do you intend?”
“It is my decision,” Turenne said. “But that is partly why I have assembled you here — to advise me. I do not trust our new king: but he is, or soon will be, our king nonetheless. Cardinal Richelieu assigned me here, and gave me specific directions. Until I know the circumstances of this criminal attack upon our late monarch, I must assume that those directions are still in force.