Speed Of Light
January,1290, The Vatican
Charles of Valois
Winter had come, bringing with it the promise of a cooler climate and much more measured responses to issues. Winter bored Charles, it had never held the same appeal to him as summer had, and yet as he grew older he found himself wondering whether or not much and more could be done during the winter, where fighting was not as valued, but the skills of manipulation were. That his brother had given him leave to come here, to the holiest placed on Earth, was proof enough of that. Proof that he could weave his spell once more time.
Philippe was busy with Gascony, and ensuring that the preparations for taking it were in full movement before he acted. His brother was far too cautious, there were times when Charles wondered where his brother had actually learned such caution, their father had not been this cautious, in fact perhaps if he had been a bit more cautious, Charles might be sitting in Aragon now, a crown atop his head. But no, he was not, and Philippe was doing everything he could to ensure that the last of the English holdings in France fell to them. It was a noble pursuit if somewhat frustrating for Charles, he could not see how they could stop their cousin, the King of England who was a fierce man and was pushing down on Scotland pushing forth from York if word were to be believed.
It would take a brave man to cross him, and yet there were other things on Charles’ mind. Aragon foremost among them, it still angered him how easily his brother had stopped their ambitions from running true. Too much was lingering on Gascony and not enough elsewhere. His brother was far too single minded, it was highly frustrating for Charles, he wanted to scream, but he knew doing so in this holy place would bring nothing but the condemnation of God, and that was something he did not want. Instead he was relying on His Holiness to change his brother’s mind. The Pope had agreed to meet with him today, and for the first time in a long time Charles felt hopeful.
Charles bows low before the Vicar of Christ. “Your Holiness, thank you for agreeing to meet me. It is an honour.”
The Pope, looking imperial in his robes, gestures for Charles to rise and says. “The honour is ours Sir Charles. We know you come with noble intentions and we would hear them now.”
Charles straightens and says. “Thank you Your Holiness. Yes, I have come from my brother King Philippe to seek Papal approval for his plans for Gascony. We have long wanted to bring an end to the unrightfully hold the English have over Gascony and other lands within our beautiful kingdom. King Edward is nothing but a mad man who would not look to stand to the charters that were signed long ago. He has not shown any concern for them, and we believe that it is time he was taught the right lesson.”
The Pope looks at him a long moment and then says. “We agree with that and we do believe King Edward must look toward accepting the loss of his French possessions, otherwise there will be nothing but war.”
Charles nods. “Of course Your Holiness. There is nothing more important to my brother the king, we believe that King Edward has begun to go in the direction his forebearers wished to pursue."
A look of deep despair passes over the Pope’s face then. “That would not be good at all. The empire was something that was a threat to our own beliefs and ambitions. You have proof that King Edward wishes to restate this?”
Charles hesitates for a moment and then says. “I do believe so Your Holiness. Our own sources believe that the man’s ambitions are being extending beyond the borders of Gascony. Our spies suggest that the arming of his forces within Gascony is a merely a precursor to bringing more troops from within England to engage on the French borders.”
The Pope stares at him a moment and then says. “Edward coming to France whilst waging a war within England? I do not think that is possible. He might well want to bring back his ancestor’s empire, but he does not have the strength within England to do anything about it. He can look to his alliances within France on the borders is something that King Philippe should look into also. There is something more going on there, and it is within our own interest that Gascony falls.”
Charles is stunned by this. “It is?” he asks.
His Holiness nods. “It is.” The man takes a sip of water and then continues. “France and Our Holy See have long been allies. England has become too trapped within a scope of vice and sin, it is time that was changed. The only way that this can be changed is if Gascony is brought back to France. Anything else will not be of a satisfactory nature to us.”
Charles looks at the Pope, and then says. “I thoroughly agree Your Holiness. Gascony must fall, and for it to fall we must have the right approval and force behind us to do so. And so we come to the heart of why I am here. Will you give your outward approval?”
His Holiness looks at him and then says. “I will, and have already done so. The Vatican would never allow such a wrongness that is England’s possession of Gascony to stand. This is something we have long considered, and it is something that must be done for the good of the Church and for our realm.”
Charles bows then, and kisses the man’s preferred ring. “We thank you Your Holiness. And we promise that you shall not regret it.”
The Pope nods and then says. “Now there is one more thing that we wish to discuss with you, and it is an issue most pressing to us.”
“Of course Your Holiness, what is it you wish to discuss?” Charles asks.
His Holiness looks at him then and then says. “Your brother has begun to put some harm on our plans for Sicily. This deeply grieves us and we would know why he has done this.”
Charles hesitates for a moment, uncertain of how far to proceed with his response, after a long moment he does say. “I believe my brother, King Philippe does not mean to deliberately hinder your Holiness’s plans for Sicily, and I believe he is merely focussed on ensuring that we have the right amount of strength to ensure the fall of Gascony.”
Pope Nicholas looks at him a long time then, and says. “King Philippe does realise that without his support the war on James of Aragon, otherwise there will be far too much grievous debt that we must face. If you wish for the crown of Aragon you must ensure that things must be done to ensure that King Philippe does not forget what promises were made here.”
“Of course Your Holiness, and I will ensure that he does not forget.” Charles says, the thought of wearing the crown of Aragon an eager thought. Hesitating a moment he then asks. “Has there been word from King Charles?”
Pope Nicholas looks at him then and says. “King Charles is preparing for war as he should be as a rightful servant of Rome. We are most pleased with his preparations and await eagerly for news from Naples to see what response the King has brought with him.”
Charles feels something akin to nerves fill him then. “And King Charles still wishes for Sicily to be retained within his possession?”
The Vicar of Christ stares at him and Charles feels himself begin shift uncomfortably then. “King Charles knows that should he fight willingly that what is rightfully his will become his once more, there is nothing more preventing him from reclaiming it.”
Charles nods. “Of course Your Holiness. I was not questioning that, I was merely asking if he was so bold as to state his full intentions.”
“Yes, he is no great fool so as to not state his intentions when the open season is coming into the fore.” The Pope replies.
Charles nods and then says. “So should King Philippe remove his inhibitions regarding Sicily, the Aragonese Crusade shall resume?”
“Yes.” The Pope replies.
Charles bows once more and says. “Thank you Your Holiness.”
Before he can turn around and leave however, His Holiness speaks. “There is one more thing we wish to speak of Sir Charles.”
“Your Holiness?” Charles asks, nervousness begins filling him.
“King Philippe has entered into a tacit alliance with King David of Scotland. With that king’s unlawful actions, we have decreed that any who side with him are to risk condemnation, through the man having been excommunicated for the wrongness of his crime.” The man replies.
Charles swallows then. “King Philippe understands just how wrong King David’s actions were. They were unprovoked and he did not gain Papal approval. King Philippe does not wish to do anything as part of an alliance with the young king of Scotland, for he is not a fool.”
“Even if it were to mean a lack of Scottish support for his attacks on Gascony?” Pope Nicholas asks.
Charles hesitates for a moment and then responds. “Of course Your Holiness. All know that to work with a man condemned to the pits of hell is not a man worth working with. My brother is the foremost man of such knowledge, and wishes nothing more than to remove himself from such a person’s influence.”
Pope Nicholas looks at him intently. “One can say one thing now, and later make acts to ensure that it appears as if that was truly the case. King Philippe is developing a reputation for being a sly sort of man. Tell us Sir, how certain are you that your brother means the words he says?”
Charles can feel the uncertainty begin to wash over him then, his brother speaks little, and yet there had been some tension there when last he had been in Paris. Anxiousness over the King of Scotland’s actions and possible consequences for them. Looking at the Pope now, Charles does not know what to say, and so he remains silent for a long time, longer than decorum would permit normally. Eventually, and with great effort he says. “King Philippe is most sincere in the words he says Your Holiness. He does not wish for association with a man who would attack his fellow King without prior reasoning and approval from your own Holy See. King David’s actions show just how savage he truly is as well as the way he is implementing change, it is wrong, just wrong.”
Silence falls then, as Charles and the Pope look at one another, only the scuffling sound of servants is heard in the room, and Charles wonders what the man before him is thinking. His legs are beginning to ache, and he is tired, tired from playing this game he so loves, but the Pope merely looks at him, and says nothing. This is the most worrying thing of all, this silence, he remembers such a silence once with his mother and it terrified him. As the silence stretches on, Charles cannot help wondering if perhaps he has not said enough, or if he has said too much. He knows that Pope Nicholas is not as much of a fanatic for order as his predecessor was, but he is still a man who believes deeply in the rightness of the Holy See, and as such, one wrong word, or wrong impression could significantly hinder many things. Just as Charles begins to wonder how long the silence will last His Holiness speaks. “We have taken what you have said into consideration Sir Charles, and we believe you. It is unfortunate that King Philippe misjudged King David, but we all make mistakes, and as the Vicar of Christ, it is our duty to ensure that all are forgiven. Go now and know that we hold you in the highest regard.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, Charles bows and says. “Thank you Your Holiness.”
February, 1290, Bergen, Norway
King Eric II Of Norway
Winter, a time for reflection, a time for planning. It was cold outside, far too cold to be doing much more than planning, and yet the people of his kingdom would do just that, for they were a hard folk and would not break for something as trivial as snow on the ground. Snow which was growing higher and higher with each passing day, sooner or later something would happen, as it always did during this time of year, and Eric looked forward to it. He would not lie to himself, he was looking forward to whatever the people of Bergen planned, it was always interesting to observe, and it made for a nice change during the short days and long nights.
Such things made for far more interesting viewings than the constant talk of war. War was a way of life for him and his people, and yet that did not prevent it from becoming a grim reality, and one that they sought to get away from. In fact Eric would be more worried if such things did not happen. This war with Denmark was taking over much and more of his time, and as such, that was why he was currently sat in his command room speaking with his advisors about the war. Sighing he takes a deep breath and then speaks. “What word has there been from the front? Have the Danish been attacking our ships once more?”
His brother Haakon speaks then. “It would seem that the Danish are looking to conserve their strength Your Majesty. Since we threatened Copenhagen they have been looking to cover themselves in protection, our spies report that there is growing dissent within the court of their king.”
“That does not surprise me.” Eric says. “With a child sitting the throne, they are like to be disgruntled about something or the other. Tell me what plans has that woman put in place should we look to invade her shores once more?”
His brother takes a moment to look through his notes and then says. “It seems that she has begun fortifying the defences of Copenhagen, the nearness of our attack last year scared her and the nobles of her son’s court. They are throwing themselves into preparing the city and its people and are leaving themselves vulnerable elsewhere.”
Intrigued Eric asks. “Which places are most vulnerable?”
“The northern coast is most vulnerable right now Your Majesty.” His brother replies. “It seems that they are more willing to allow to take blows there than allow us to come close to Copenhagen there once more.”
Eric feels something akin to relief fill him then. “Good, the northern coast gives us a foothold within Denmark to work with. That is better than nothing. Now we must work to further their weaknesses. Count Jacob, what can you tell me about King Eric’s mother?”
The count is silent man most of the time, but when he does speak, one listens. This is one of those times. “She is a formidable woman. Her family is a powerful one and will likely be there to aid her in supporting whatever decision she makes. There might be a chance to break through her influence at court, but it would need to be done quickly.”
Eric considers this a moment and then says. “And what would need to be done to undermine her hold over the regency court?”
“Creating divisions between her and Peder Nielsen Hoseøl, that could well ensure that there is enough chaos within Denmark that could give us a chance to land within the northern coast and bring down their resistance.” The count replies.
Eric looks at the man for a moment and then replies. “And how likely is that to occur? I did think that Sir Peder was a man who knew where to remain should he wish for such influence, surely such a man would not be easily swayed.”
There is a long silence then, and then the count says. “Men are fickle creatures my king, should there be reason for them to change from one side to the other, if there is something there for them to take, for the right price they will take it.”
Eric looks at the man then and asks. “Are you suggesting then that I offer a bribe for the man to ensure his loyalty? And if so, what chance is there that he would not merely change sides when the next highest bidder comes along?”
There is silence then, before the count speaks once more. “Because the man might well be led down the road to our own side. He is an ambitious man, a man who would not want to leave such things to chance. With the raiding on their coasts and the coming close to Copenhagen, the man must know that we are coming close to taking what is rightfully yours Your Majesty. He will want to be part of the side that wins, not the side that loses. Opportunities create many a strange bed fellow, it would be a shame not to seize on the initiative and make use of it.”
Eric considers this for a moment, and then turns towards his treasurer Thorfin Haakonson. “Tell me Thorfin, what is the state of our treasury? Do we have the funds to ensure a man such as Peder becomes our man?”
His treasurer looks at him a moment and then responds. “Yes Your Majesty, we very much do. There is enough gold within the treasury to ensure Sir Peder has what he wants for many years to come.”
Eric looks at the man and then says. “Then let us begin making our preparations for such a thing. Haakon send word to our men within Denmark, and let them know that we are looking to further our own cause and theirs.” Pausing, turning to Stig he says. “Your men are in place correct?”
“They are Your Majesty.” The man replies.
Eric nods and then replies. “Then see to it that they begin the first step of our plan.”
Haakon speaks then. “Are you sure that is a wise move Your Majesty? Sir Peder is a man known for sticking to his word, what is there to say he would be willing to move from the Queen Dowager’s court to our side?”
Eric looks at his brother, “We must make all the plans we can make brother. We must ensure our position is strengthened.”
His brother says nothing then, and seeing that his brother is not going to say anything more on the matter, Eric speaks. “What word has there been from my goodbrother King David?”
A moment’s silence and then his brother speaks. “It would appear that King David is most intent on finishing his campaign in England Your Majesty. So far his success has been mostly unchallenged, and as of yet King Edward has not ridden out to challenge him which is leading to many of his nobles questioning him.”
“Interesting, very interesting. And has the man looked for any more assistance from elsewhere?” Erick asks.
His brother shakes his head. “He has not, Your Majesty. Though he has begun to ask when this war with Denmark will end, due to his own frustrations over it. He says that he wishes he could help, but he is currently busy with other things.”
Eric snorts then, laughing at his brother in law’s humour, before turning serious once more. “Very well, tell him that we hope to have this war concluded soon enough.” Pausing he looks at his advisors at large and then says. “It is time we set the final nail in the false man’s coffin. We shall begin another campaign when the spring comes, we must ensure that our advantage is not lost.”
There is murmur of agreement then, and Eric calls the meeting to an end. Turning and walking out of the room, Eric feels content, many things are happening, and things are beginning to fall into place for him and his family. He nods to one of the guards and then walks into the nursery where his daughter Margaret is playing with a doll, nodding to her maid, he sits down next to his daughter and says. “You are well my sweet?”
His daughter looks at him then and smiles. “I am Papa, and you?”
Eric smiles. “I am now that I have seen you Margaret. Now tell me, what have you been doing today?”
“I have been learning my numbers Papa, and about our family’s history.” His daughter says.
“Oh, have you now my sweet?” he says. “And pray tell, what of our history have you learned?”
“I learned about Haakon the Old Papa.” His daughter replies. “I learned about his struggles for the throne, and how he fought to make our family great once more.”
“And what do you make of him?” Eric asks his daughter.
“A good man, with a violent temper Papa. He scares me.” His daughter replies before she throws her arms around him in a hug.
Eric puts his arms around his daughter then and says. “I know, he scared me too my sweet.”
“Really Papa?” his daughter asks, looking up at him.
“Yes, when I was your age he scared me, but now, now he is only a memory.” He replies tickling her, as she begins laughing he smiles.
She stops then and asks. “Papa, who is King David?”
Eric stops then and says. “He is your uncle my sweet. Why do you ask?”
“Because Aunt Hilda keeps mentioning him. Is he a nice man Papa?” his daughter asks.
Eric considers this question for a moment and then says. “Yes, a very nice man. And he is very fond of you my sweet.”
“He is?” his daughter asks. “How can that be, if he has never met me?”
Eric considers this a moment and then says. “Because you are his niece and he is a very affable man.”
His daughter looks at him for long time then, and then asks. “When will I be able to meet him Papa?”
Eric thinks about this for a moment. “Soon my sweet. He is a busy man, but he will make the time for you, I know he will.”