1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 28
“Indeed, he provided me with a letter to be opened in case he was killed or presumed dead. I have opened the letter, and it informs me of the hidden location where the queen is secluded, awaiting the birth of her child. I am instructed to use my judgment in this matter, but if I believe the persons of the queen and the child to be endangered. I may, if I deem it prudent, choose to interpose my forces between them and the danger presented.
“Spain remains the greatest danger to our country, to our Queen, and to the prince — or princess. If the cardinal is still alive, the Spanish are a danger to him as well.”
“What does that mean?” Sherrilyn asked. “We’re going to deploy against an invader? Or are we going to go looking for this marauding band of outlaws that killed the king?”
“I will need to decide,” Turenne said. “I don’t know if finding the king’s killers is practical.”
“I agree. And I agree with the comte de la Mothe,” Sherrilyn said. “From everything I’ve heard about Monsieur Gaston, I have to believe he was involved in this attack.”
“And not the Spanish?”
Sure, she thought. This could have been Pedro Dolor. He could have pulled this off. But it doesn’t feel right . . . it’s something he could do, but not really his style. It’s too obvious, too direct.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “But I do think we need to be where Monsieur Gaston — King Gaston — can’t take control of our forces. If that means marching toward the Spanish border, then we’d better do it. Unless . . .”
The duc de Bouillon, who was still standing next to her, stroked his chin. “Indeed, Mademoiselle Colonel. Unless what?”
“Unless we think that Gaston isn’t legitimately the king. Unless we think we don’t owe him allegiance.”
The room was completely quiet.
“What are you suggesting, Colonel?” Turenne said. “You can speak freely here.”
“If you don’t want Gaston to be king, Marshal, you can make that happen. I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do, but it’s in your power. In our power.”
“You’re talking about civil war,” Turenne said quietly. “It ripped our country apart half a century ago. People take sides. Innocent people die. It exposes us to the predations of France’s enemies — and believe me, Colonel, France has enemies. Is your USE prepared to take sides in such a conflict?”
“I — I don’t know.”
“Does the Principal know?”
The question caught Sherrilyn by surprise. She wasn’t sure what Turenne was asking — what he implied.
“I have no idea. I don’t work for him anymore, Marshal. I work for you. Do you want me to ask him?”
“Have you not done so already?”
“No. You’ve clearly read my mail,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. She was a little bit scared, but refused to show any of it. “I haven’t asked him a damn thing. I’m guessing that the United States of Europe doesn’t have any interest in nation building, but they’d also prefer that there wasn’t another war going on — there are enough of them happening already.”
“So they will stand by and watch,” Bouillon said. “They will treat Gaston’s actions, direct and indirect, as no more than a sort of coup de theatre.”
I stayed in the back, Sherrilyn thought, to stay out of the way; and now I’m center stage.
“I can’t say. I don’t speak for the government. And other than personal contacts, I don’t speak to the government.” I’m really not a spy, damn it, she thought. Really not. Just someone trying to get along.
And next time I see you, Ed, I’m going to punch you in the mouth.
“Are you looking for advice?” she asked.
“Why, naturally,” Bouillon said. His voice had a bit of an edge to it, but his smile — the Tour d’Auvergne smile, the one Turenne employed to great effect — was broad and cordial. “Say on.”
“Turin is over the mountains, right? A couple of hundred miles. If Gaston is coming from there to France, he’d come this way.” Turenne nodded. “If you’re worried about being conflicted in your loyalty to Monsieur Gaston, then the best thing is not to be along his route. Wherever we go, whatever we decide to do, let’s not meet up with him.”
“We have a radio, Colonel,” Turenne said.
“There is some indication that he does, and that he has a confederate in Paris with whom he has been in contact. Could he not simply . . . send us an order?”
“He’d have to know how to find us — our call sign, I guess, and our frequency. I was never in the Signal Corps, so I don’t know the details. But there are a hundred reasons why radio contact fails; the best reason is if we just go off the air. Then he’d need to find us — and we could work hard at not being found.”
Turenne beckoned to his brother. Bouillon gave Sherrilyn a slight bow and walked to join him; they conferred very quietly for a few moments. Then Turenne turned to his assembled commanders and said, “You have twenty-four hours to break camp and be prepared to move. The quartermaster and his assistants will organize transportation for equipment not otherwise assigned, including your laboratory, Professor Glauber.” He nodded to his “alchemist,” who looked stunned by the possibility. “We will travel as light as possible, particularly the infantry; tell the men to take only what they must.”
“Where are we headed?” de la Mothe asked.
It was Turenne’s turn to offer the Tour d’Auvergne smile, which he bestowed in Sherrilyn’s direction. “It remains to be seen,” he said. “We will go where we’re needed.”
By the first grey light of the new day, Maddox’s Rangers were ready to ride. Turenne was there to see them off — most of the rest of the officers were still asleep, though a few were working on plans to get their units ready to pull up stakes.
“You will give my respects to those whose lands you traverse,” he said. “If they take issue with you — ”
“They could. I know that you will keep the men in line and I won’t receive a report of lands laid waste. But the southerners tend to be prickly about armed forces crossing their territory. Still, I don’t think anyone will be so foolish as to — ”
Turenne smiled. “As to start something. Up-timers always seem to possess le mot juste. Before I send you on your way, do you have any last minute advice?”
“Actually, yes. I’m concerned about the up-timer team up north, the folks working on the steam engines. They need to know about the king’s death.”
“Surely they know.”
“But there are others who don’t. Before you go silent, I’d like to ask you a favor — send them a message about King Louis’ death and the succession of Monsieur Gaston. But don’t encode it: send it in the clear.”
“Because . . .”
“Because it’ll be overheard.”
“By ‘the Principal.'”
“. . . Yes. And others. They need to know, Marshal. I don’t think they’re our enemy — your enemy. France’s enemy.”
“Plenty of people will overhear, Colonel.”
“I don’t think that’s a problem. Do you?”
Turenne thought for a moment, and then smiled again. “No. I do not.”