Vox Populi Forum
Your Eminence, my Friend, it is good to see you once more.
As I had predicted in the last letter I had sent you, once we passed Madrid and entered Genoan waters, Admiral Humphries abandoned his pursuit. The remainder of the voyage to Paris was utterly uneventful.
Alain Gignot met us at port, along with David Stanton - your man, I believe? Nemo McMoridin, Thomas Guy, and Hector Szelbano accompanied Gignot and Szelbano to the Louvre. The wounded Louis Brighteyes returned to his own dwellings to recover, while Birmingham Brown handled the business of paying off the crew, dock fees, and assorted bribes.
Gignot was able to confirm Prince Henri was still in residence at the palace, and so, we made our entry, boldly, via the Mott and Bailey, made our way past where Parliament was in session, and continued to the Oak Bannister.
It seems the Republicans who control Paris have been making sweeping changes to the civilized order of things, for the Bannister was filled with the Solicitors and Barristers along with their clients and assorted guards one would expect to find at the Courts of the Azzise.
Our mission depended more upon stealth than steel, and so, we desired to avoid contact first, conflict second, and bloodshed most of all. Contact and conflict were to follow. Bloodshed? None noticed.
To our discomfiture, the manners and respect of the barristers and guardsmen have been dragged down to a baser level from the influence of the rude Republicans. Stanton entered first and found himself confronted by hostile soldiers. Stanton attempted to reason with the brutes, but their taunts quickly exhausted his patience. Stanton was the first to clench a fist.
I’m afraid, despite our best efforts to pass quietly, we were unable to avoid the use of force. Gignot and Guy were the only two to pass without incident. McMoridin had to defend himself again unprovoked strangling, while Szelbano and I resorted to using our boots against the shins and knees of the sullen soldiers. McMoridin and I were able to laugh off the blows and corroborate our own credentials as Solicitors fairly quickly, while Stanton resorted to fist against jaw and an impassioned reading of the Rules of Conduct within court. The guards were more thug than lawman, and it seemed they guards were attempting to entertain themselves or, perhaps, make a few doubloons via extortion.
Besides the changes in protocol, the Republicans are altering the very architecture of the Palace, itself! The east passage leading from the Oak Bannister to the Inner Courtyard had been bricked up. My familiarity with the Palace enabled me to plan another path via the Rear Promenade, yes that required us to pass back through the Oak Bannister again. Perhaps it was for the best, for we found Szelbano in the midst of being arrested. The soldier had brawled with the soldiers to the continued amusement of guard, solicitor and prisoner, until Szelbano smashed open a trophy case and attempted to arm an ancient signal cannon. Broken glass and the damage to a prized antique changed amusement to anger. Szelbano is lucky that the full force of my stature, force of personality, and command of Law was successfully brought to bear to convince the arriving Guard Lieutenant the fault lay with the guardsmen for being overzealous with “my prisoner.”
We proceeded through the rear sections of the Palace - only to find the Side Gallery also bricked up. Here, again, my experience at Court was useful. The servant’s door was still accessible, and the catch still oiled an maintained. Stanton led the way through the warren of servant’s tunnels and we emerged within the chambers of the late Queen. The apartment remained unused, seemingly untouched (to judge by the dust), and seemed a good candidate in which to reformulate our plans.
I left the rest behind while I ventured down passage and hall, scouting and seeking our goal. It was near the Nursery where I heard the voices, and to the nursery I returned, after fetching my associates.
Stanton drew his pistol and kicked open the door. Within, Prince Henri. Also within, the “Prime Minister” for the Republic, Alan DaVinci. DaVinci had recently self-styled himself, “Minister of Coin,” which made him, Thomas Guy scoffed, “a less-Monarchist title than ‘Prime Minister’ with more graft.” The wily Marco DaVinci possessed the fierce speed of a new world Lion, despite his advanced age. Alan, a younger man by far, demonstrated the same facility as his more notorious relation. In a blur of motion he drew the Prince into his arms, folded him against his chest and laid the edge of his dagger against the Prince’s throat.
DaVinci’s cold, blue eyes took our measure, his scheming mind calculated. A smirk twitched across his thin lips before he drawled, “If you seek bloodshed, rest assured, Mssrs. The first shed will be Royal. If you seek anything else, you shall put up your weapons.” Stanton was first to holster his pistol, I the first to sheath my blade. One by one we each sheathed or holstered our weapons. We spread throughout the room, encircling DaVinci as he slowly wheeled the Prince in place, his eyes darting from person to person. DaVinci was speaking softly, arguing that there was no reason for fighting, that, certainly, no one would risk one’s self in service of an idiot - even a Royal one. He promised position within the Republic, commensurate with the skills one could offer to the State.
It was obvious the fiend was stalling. Perhaps he was hoping for aid from a patrol, or trying to lull us before he committed some act of treachery. Gignot pressed the issue. Recklessly, the soldier dove forward and proved DaVinci a liar. Rather than carry out his threat of opening the Prince’s throat, DaVinci’s blade arced in a white and red flash. The red was drawn from Gignot’s cheek.
At the same time, the doors flew open as five Tri-Color guardsmen crashed in. Gignot’s eyes flicked sideways to assess the new threat. Davinci stepped forward and drove his fist into the same cheek his blade had opened. The sound of the thud revealed that what seemed to be gentleman's gloves were the weighted gloves of a ruffian. Gignot staggered, but didn’t fall. Two of the guards stepped forward to grab his arms, when Gignot unleashed his full fury. From the way he fought, it seemed Gignot has obtained something similar to the bracing Incago brew developed by our Friend, Admiral L’eonce. He whirled his body, dragging the guards along with him, shrugged the Tri-Colors into their compatriots, then dove after them.
Guy had circled behind DaVinci and laid a knife to his throat. The Prince was thrust aside, to stumble into McMoridin, Szelbano and myself. We three drew the Prince aside and our weapons free to shelter him from possible harm as DaVinci’s elbow struck back at Guy. With feline agility, DaVinci spun free from Thomas Guy and blocked, with his knife, the incoming blow from Stanton’s cutlass. Fast as DaVinci was, he hadn’t been given quarter to fully prepare for battle. DaVinci's other hand blurred as it drew his rapier from it’s sheath. Stanton, while nowhere near as fast as DaVinci had the advantage of already having a blade in both hands. While DaVinci’s sword rang clear, Stanton lunged forward, crashing his body against DaVinci, who dropped, like a stone, to the rushes. Stanton’s off hand had reached around DaVinci’s waist and driven his knife upwards into DaVinci’s kidney.
Meanwhile, Gignot’s fists had bludgeoned all five of the Tri-Color guards into unconsciousness, or, to judge by the state of Gignot’s sleeves, worse.
We retreated back to the late Queen’s chambers to plan our departure. The Prince was vacant and stumbling as we walked - almost as if he were drugged. It also seemed as if there were some sort of alert regarding our presence, and a search must have been in progress. The Queen’s chamber had been disturbed. Many of the furnishings and items lay strewn about the room. No matter, we had other matters to discuss, and, if the Queen’s Chambers had been ransacked by dishonest, dishonorable, disrespectful Republicans, it merely meant we would be left undisturbed.
First, I was concerned that the Prince might have been under the influence of some foul narcotic, designed to mask a brilliant mind in a false fog of idiocy. Alas, no. For, in my opinion as a physician and apothecary, I tell you that the information we had come to verify had proved wrong. The Prince showed no signs of injury, bore no effects of any narcotic known to science, nor was under a mesmeric influence. The seeming childishness of the Prince was due entirely to having the mind of a child.
We had confirmed the man we had come to assess was truly an idiot. However, we wished to confirm the man’s identity. Was this truly Prince Henry, or some poor innocent being used to discredit the true Prince? He had the look of the Capetian. Yet so did half of the upper ranks of the Nobility.
It seemed most expeditious to report directly to you, no matter the truth of his identity, rather than travel to Genoa, Seville, or Turin to find Prince Phillip William, Ambassador Dackombe, or Lady Antionette Phillippe to verify the identity of the man we brought to you as “Prince Henri.”
I see, Your Eminence… I do not know whether or not to be relieved or disappointed that this Prince Henri was an impostor. For, idiot or not, this means the true Prince remains free in Europe, out of our safe hands, and vulnerable to the schemes and depredations of those who work against the restoration of the Throne.
Ah! Monseigneur, that is, indeed fortunate news - for if Robespierre himself was deceived then there is hope that the true Prince is in hands friendly to his health and our own plans.
Might I ask, my Friend, if Alexander Pope remains in residence here? In our previous encounter I found myself utterly charmed by his wit, wisdom and ribaldry. I would be obliged if I had the opportunity to speak again with the man before I return to Caterina and the children at my Estates?
Of course, of course, I agree, Monseigneur! Turin seems a most safe haven for the false Henri and for Pope.
Yes, my Lord, I agree, if you will be joining them, it would be wise for myself to lead your escort.
No, Your Eminence, I will be glad to accompany the escort under the command of Stanton. I see your wisdom and remain your humble servant.
~Lord Bailey Baylee Baileigh
Lord Bailey Bayley Baileigh
Correction -- Chronicler Mike (posted: 8/1/2019)
Fine telling, Twists ahead -- red (posted: 8/2/2019)
If flattery it be... -- Chronicler Mike (posted: 8/8/2019)
Mission 34 "Truth of an Affair" Cutlass Play 7/31/19 Part 2 of 2 -- Lord Bailey Bayley Baileigh (posted: 8/4/2019)
A few more notes for Tony and Conrad -- Chronicler Mike (posted: 8/4/2019)