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Serafina
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"No one needs to be executed, but we do need to make an example, to set a precedent that these sorts of plots and intrigues will not be tolerated or go unpunished," Freddie went on. There would be no public show of floggings or beheadings, as he believed them barbaric, but he seemed to be saying that the perpetrators and their allies would be dealt with swiftly and completely in some way.

"On that point, the king and I differ in opinion," Franz offered. "I maintain that, if duly found guilty by a jury of his peers, the earl should be executed and his lands made forfeit to the crown. The king disagrees."

Serafina glanced between them. "Whatever is decided upon, the punishment must serve as a deterrent to any other who might consider such action, surely?"

"I prefer imprisonment," Freddie pointed out. "Life imprisonment, as he has proven he cannot be trusted," he added, assuming the man's guilt in light of the evidence, though he had not yet been judged by his peers. "I realize death is the preferred punishment, but we are not barbarians, Franz. There must be another way."

"Would you consent to the judge giving a sentence of death that you, as king, may commute to life imprisonment?" Franz suggested then. "Along with, perhaps, a legal declaration that Earl Rivers is dead?"

Serafina frowned curiously. "How can a man be legally declared dead if he is still alive?"

"In a way, he would be dead. He would be stripped of his title, his lands, his privileges. He would be imprisoned for life, with no chance for freedom. Some might prefer death to such a punishment, but he need not endure life in a dungeon." Freddie paused a moment to consider, his hands steepled in thought. "Perhaps if he were to devote the rest of his life to the Goddess," he suggested.

"That would be acceptable," Franz conceded, making a note of this.

Sera, however, had spotted a loophole. "A man once turned traitor cannot be trusted to be loyal afterward," she pointed out to them both. "How can you be certain that he would not incite further treason, even from a monastery?"

"I do not think he would be sent to a monastery straight away," Freddie replied. "We would certainly have to ensure that he has no opportunity to cause further trouble," he said, knowing this was not going to be an easy thing to accomplish.

"It would be a relatively easy task to prevent his having any contact with the outside world, even with his family," Franz said thoughtfully. "Though if he could be constrained to declare his guilt before anyone who might be tempted to try as he has, that would go some way toward preventing further attempts."

"I would prefer that he offer up a confession without duress, without the threat of death or imprisonment. We have proof of his guilt, but how can we make ensure he will publicly declare his own guilt?" Freddie asked, his question for Franz.

"An offer of leniency for his family, perhaps," Franz mused, thinking it over. "A guarantee of the title remaining with his son, in exchange for the declaration of his guilt and the renewal of his son's vow to be loyal to the crown?"

"That is rather like buying his son's loyalty in exchange for Rivers' life," Freddie pointed out, though it could work if they were careful about their approach. "Why would the son remain loyal to the crown if we have his father imprisoned?"

"Why would he remain loyal if we imprison his father and disinherit him, while also dispossessing his mother and sisters?" Franz countered. "It is the lesser of two evils that he will have to choose between. There is no black and white here for those caught in Rivers' net."

"It is sad to know that he has brought such pain and suffering upon himself and his family simply because of his desire for power," Freddie mused aloud with a sorrowful frown. "There is so much good he could have done instead, and I would have rewarded him for it."

"For some men, power is their only desire." It took a moment for Serafina to realise she was the one who had spoken, blinking in surprise at the impressed look on the chancellor's face. "That is ... well, my father used to say that," she went on. "He-he taught me to look at a person's actions, not listen to their words, to judge them. Tell me ... the earl's marriage. Was it arranged? Did the lady bring wealth or influence to the match?"

Franz nodded to her. "The lady in question brought both," he told his queen. "A good deal of wealth, as her own father's only child, though her family title went to a distant cousin. But she also brought with her connections to several noble houses that Rivers has used to raise his position in society. As I understand it, the match was pursued by Rivers, and his wife believed it to be a love match at first. He has done his best to keep her pregnant since the day they married - ten children who have survived infancy, and more besides who did not."

Serafina bit her lip, pity welling for the woman in her heart. "Then it would seem that all this earl does is for the accumulation of power," she said quietly. "It is to be hoped that his wife has taught her children another way."

"How old is the eldest son?" Freddie asked, depending on his chancellor and friend to know those things he might not. The age of the son could be paramount and whether he had been part of his father's plot or left out of it.

Franz shuffled the papers on his desk. "The eldest son entered the Church," he said as he scanned the papers. "He has been in Gelre these past eight years, I believe .... ah. Yes, the son who is heir is Edmund. Newly seventeen, and just returned from education and service in Alanic. It seems unlikely he was involved, but he will have to be questioned, sire."

"Yes, of course. I do not wish to hold the family responsible for the crimes of their father." The king quieted a moment in thought, knowing that even the best laid plans sometimes had to be changed from time to time. "Well, our first step is arresting the man and bringing him here. Then, we will see what he has to say for himself."

"One moment." Surprising herself again, Serafina laid her hand on Freddie's arm to still him. "Franz ... how many of the earl's daughters are married? And to whom?"

Franz blinked in surprise, tilting his head back to his paperwork. "Four of his daughters are married, it would seem," he said, his frown deepening as he came across the names of those husbands. "To the barons of Solan, Rombay, and Farislay, and to the earl of Rombuie. Powerful men, especially when taken together, and placed all over the country."

Freddie turned a thoughtful look on his wife, wondering what she was trying to get at. "What is it you are thinking, love?" he asked, curiously. Though not a stupid man, he depended on those around him to advise him, and that did not stop with his wife, the queen.

Sera turned troubled eyes to him. "I think that those gentlemen should be taken and questioned as well," she said quietly. "The earl has used his wife to raise his fortunes. What is to stop him from using his daughters to build a cabal against us?"

"That is true," the king replied. "Questioned, but not arrested. Not yet." It was true that if Earl Rivers was that ambitious, he must have had allies of some sort, in addition to the king's cousin, Albert. "We could send them to the High King for judgment," he remarked further, though he thought it might be better to handle the matter themselves. Pomerania, though, would be far less biased in their judgment.

"If it proves that this is more than a single man's ambition getting the better of him, we should request the aid of Pomerania in judging and sentencing," Franz agreed. "If the queen is correct in her suspicion, this may run far deeper than we first believed."
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Serafina
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Shall we bring them all here for questioning, do you think, or ..." He trailed off, another thought emerging. "We could invite them to court, as we are inviting Albert," he suggested, though he wasn't sure he liked the idea of bringing people who might be his enemies to court, where those he cared for lived in relative security and safety.

"Any man under investigation for treason must be imprisoned, Freddie," Franz reminded his friend firmly. "However lenient you choose to be in the end, this must be done as it has always been. They will be placed in the Caranta Gaol until such time as their innocence or guilt can be established."

"Very well," the king agreed. "I trust you in this as in all things, Franz," he said, vocalizing his trust in his friend and giving him permission to do whatever he thought needed to be done. As king, he could not be in ten places at one time, after all.

"With your permission, I will coordinate with Sir Hugo, so that all parties may be taken on the same day, sire," Franz told him. "Preferably after Albert has begun his journey to the capital."

"Yes, very well, Franz," the king agreed, rubbing his temple with a soft sigh. "This has been most trying." And it had only just started, but he hoped that that at least, a plot with tragic proportions had been averted. Everyone he cared for was safe and sound.

Franz paused, looking over at his monarchs. "And may I suggest you change for dinner, sire?" he suggested with a faint smile. "At least dry the queen off before she catches a chill."

Freddie arched a brow as he looked over at his queen. "Yes, of course. Forgive me, love," he said as he pushed to his feet. He drew his coat around the queen, as well as an arm. "Come, love. Why did you not say something? I did not realize you were so wet."

Drawn up onto her feet and wrapped in her husband's coat, Sera found herself blushing in embarrassment once again. "It is my own fault," she assured him. "I left my stockings by the shore as well. I simply ... miscalculated how enthusiastic small children get when they have the leisure to play in the surf, that's all."

"You took the children to the beach?" Freddie asked, his expression brightening. After the last few hours, he needed to hear some happy news, such as this. "I assume they enjoyed their outing, but did you?" he asked, smiling in amusement.

"When I left, they still were enjoying themselves," she admitted with a quiet laugh. "I may have scandalised poor Hugo, however. I am not entirely sure the nobility of this country is ready for a queen with her skirts hooked above her knees being splashed liberally by children who were definitely winning that little battle of ours."

Freddie chuckled at her confession. "I am sure Hugo is honorable enough not to say a word ... except perhaps to Rolly," he added with a grin. "But you did not answer my question," he teased her as he drew her from the study to the bedroom, where he turned to face her, rubbing his hands gently against her shoulders to warm her.

"That is right, I didn't answer it," she teased him in return, aware of her bare feet against the warm rug and the disgracefully heavy hang of her cold wet skirts. Her smile softened. "I did enjoy myself," she admitted almost shyly. "I do not think your queen is going to be the distant beauty you might want her to be in a court that has children in it, Freddie. I enjoy their company too much not to engage in it."

"Is that what you think I want of you?" he asked, his smile fading, turning serious. "What I want is for you to be happy. When you are happy, I am happy," he told her, leaning close to touch a soft kiss to her lips. "Now, let us get you out of those wet clothes and dressed for dinner."

She smiled as he kissed her, though she, too, turned solemn as he drew her away from the window to begin unlacing her gown. "Everyone admired Elena so much," she said softly. "She is their image of what a queen should be. I don't match her, Freddie."

His smile faded again, as he mentioned the former queen. "You are not Elena, and I do not expect you to be. In fact, I am glad you are not Elena," he told her, as he had before. He had not loved Elena. Though the people might have been fond of their queen, they had not really known her. "Give the people a chance to know you and they will come to love you," he assured her, as gently as he could.

"I don't want to disappoint them," she confessed, forgetting that they had already seen her more exuberant personality on her own wedding day, when she had insisted on dancing in the market square with the merchants and commons, rather than the hall with the nobles.

"I doubt you will ever disappoint them or me," he assured her again. "Try not to worry so much, dearest. When they learn that you are with child, they are going to celebrate in the streets," he told her, trying to hide the worry from his voice and his expression. It wasn't the people who worried him, but those who were plotting against them, but hopefully the guilty parties would soon be brought to justice before they could cause any more harm.

Shedding the heavy layer of her dress in a rather unfortunate slap of wet fabric against the floor, she turned to look up at him. "Freddie ... No matter what happens, I am glad to be here, with you," she told him softly. "I love you. I'll try to find my place swiftly, I promise."

He was there to help her with her clothes, as careful as any of her maids, if not as skilled. "I know it will take time for you to feel comfortable here, but everyone who has met you adores you. There is no reason to think the people will not follow suit." What he said was true - Franz, Rolly, Esme, even the children seemed to adore her. It would not be long before Hugo and Leopold followed suit.

She paused, her fingers stilling in the act of untying the ribbons of her petticoat. "Freddie ... is it possible to send an escort for the Duke of Ansburg?" she asked him uncertainly. "I know he is unwell, but a well-prepared escort ready to take their time and care for him on the way would be able to make the journey bearable, wouldn't they?"

"Yes, of course," Freddie replied, a little surprised by her question. Did she really think he expected an elderly and sickly man to make it to the castle on his own? He had already asked Hugo to arrest Earl Rivers; he could not very well expect the knight to escort the Duke of Ansburg there, as well.

"Soon?" she pressed him, remembering the heartbreaking upset Matias had tried so hard not to show her when he had spoken of his grandfather. "The children ... Matias is frightened that his grandfather will die before ever meeting them."

"I will send an escort to bring him here as soon as we are finished here," he assured her. It was a simple enough matter to arrange, after all, and one he had been considering.

"Thank you." Heedless of her undressed state, she leaned into him, brushing a kiss to the corner of his mouth. "You should change your coat for dinner. I'm sure Esmerelda will be bullying her little family into changing for the meal as well; we can't let them down."

"I suppose I should," he admitted, with a chuckle, glad to have her change the subject to that of their guests. There had been too much talk of treason, and he longed for lighter conversation. "It is good to hear the sound of children's laughter in the castle," he said, though he had already expressed this thought once before. He smiled at her kiss, knowing that if he let his body choose for him, they might be late for dinner.

"There will be plenty of it, I assure you," she promised, shrugging her way into a fresh chemise. "We will have to bring in tutors for the children after a month or so has passed, to give them some structure to their day while their parents are at court."
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Serafina
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2018 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Yes, of course," he replied, agreeably as he washed his hands and face and changed into a fresh coat. He smiled as he listened to her talk, glad she was comfortable enough with him to speak her mind, share her dreams and desires, even if those thoughts were not for herself. She was going to not only make a fine queen, but a warm and loving mother - he was sure of it.

"Young Matias is greatly enamored of the idea of becoming a knight," Sera mentioned as she tied the last lace of a fresh gown, turning her attention to the state of her hair. She lifted the rose the boy had given her from the twist of her hair, smiling as she set it down before the mirror. "I believe Hugo may speak to you of it later."

"Is he?" Freddie replied, with the arch of a brow. That was interesting, but not entirely surprising. What boy didn't want to be a knight and serve his king? But not every boy had the opportunities available to him that young Matias had. He moved over to help her with her hair. Though he wasn't nearly as good at it as one of her maids, he enjoyed the silken feel of it in his fingers and he was surprisingly gentle. "Do you think he is sincere is his wishes?" he asked, wondering if it was just a passing whim.

As Sera relaxed into the sensation of his hands in her hair, she smiled. "I think he has not had much to excite his ambitions in his life, and the thought of being duke scares him more than he would like to admit," she said thoughtfully. "Training to be a knight, especially under Hugo, would give him the strength of body he seems to believe he lacks, as well as the education he will need to be a good leader."

"I agree, but the question is, will his aunt and uncle think the same?" he inquired, as he took up a brush and started to smooth out the tangles in her hair. "He is first in line to inherit the duchy. It would be good for him to train under Hugo, but he will need lessons from a tutor, as well."

"So long as they are at court, both sides of his training can be easily undertaken," she mused, watching him in the mirror with a faint smile. "And when they return to their home, for however long such a visit might take, they can travel with the same tutor and armsmaster, so that he can continue his training. If they are agreeable to it, of course."

"I don't see why they wouldn't be," Freddie said, as he stroked the brush through her hair, before setting the brush aside and carefully separating her hair into three strands, which he started to then plait together. "Master Kramer does not yet know what we have in mind for him, does he?"

"I believe he knows that we intend for him to be given the title of earl, but I do not believe he understands that he is to be given the guardianship of Ansburg, together with his wife." There was something very soothing about having Freddie brush and plait her hair, something he did for her every night without fail, ever since the first night they had spent together.

"He will have to find someone else to run his business," Freddie said, thinking out loud. He wasn't sure how the man was going to feel about that, though that business was really no longer necessary in order for him to earn an income.

"It is his choice, in the end," Sera murmured. "Whatever he chooses, I am sure Esmerelda will be able to help him find the best means by which to live. They don't need our interference there, love."

"No, I am sure they will sort it out. I have noticed that the couple seems rather fond of each other," he said, having noticed that already, despite that the couple had only arrived at court that day. He wouldn't go so far as call it love, but there was a definite sort of quiet affection between them.

"They do seem friendly," she agreed with a smile. "And the children look to both of them in everything ... though a little more to the uncle than to the aunt. But even that will come in time."

"It bodes well for their future and their happiness," Freddie said, as he took up a piece of ribbon to secure the long plait of her hair. He leaned close to brush a gentle kiss against the side of her neck. "That should do for now," he said, of her braid.

Her smile softened as he kissed her neck, her hand rising to touch his cheek in answer even as she turned to him. "I will no longer be a disgrace at the dinner table?"

"You could never be a disgrace, even if you were fresh from a mud fight," he teased in return, though he thought that highly unlikely. He let his hand drift to settle gently against her womb. "How are you feeling, my love?" he asked, knowing how women often felt ill in the first stages of their pregnancies.

Her hand covered his, feeling the familiar thrill that came with knowing she had done her duty so very quickly after marrying. The thrill that came with knowing he was more excited about the birth than she was. "Weary, but well," she assured him. "The dowager assures me that I will not feel so very tired in a few weeks; that I will begin to glow, whatever that means."

He smiled, glad she was not feeling very ill, at least. "We do not have to stay long," he said, regarding dinner. He might have suggested they have dinner brought to their quarters, but he knew they'd be expected to join the others in the dining hall, given the fact that they had guests.

"I do not think the meal will last long," she considered. "The children have had a long day, and I am sure Rolly will want to get Hugo alone at the first opportunity again."

Freddie chuckled and rolled his eyes at the thought of that. "Yes, I'm sure my sister and her new husband are eager to further celebrate their marriage," he said, hinting at the fact that the couple could hardly keep their hands off each other. And given the fact that he was sending Hugo off to Ansburg in the morning, he knew Rolly would want to give him something to remember her by.

Serafina laughed, lifting onto her bare toes to kiss his cheek affectionately. "I suppose I should find some shoes to wear," she sighed as she settled back onto her heels. "I do believe your sister is rubbing off on me."

His chuckled again at her remark about his sister. "Is that such a bad thing?" he asked, eyes bright with amusement. He ducked past her a moment to find a pair of slippers he thought might be more comfortable than shoes, and knelt to fit them onto her feet. "No one will see them beneath your dress."

Lifting her skirt, she stepped into the slippers one at a time with his help. "You are far too comfortable on your knees before me, your majesty," she teased. "If anyone were to find out, they might be scandalised."

"If that is all they have to gossip about, so be it," he replied with a grin as he fitted the slippers onto her feet, taking her hand before rising to his true height in front of her. He tipped her chin up to meet him, brushing another soft kiss against her lips this time and lingering a moment in that kiss.

She leaned into him as he kissed her, and even when the kiss was done, there she stayed, her arms wrapped about his waist as she laid her head to his shoulder. "I love you," she told him softly. "You know that, don't you?"

"I know, love," he assured her quietly, as his arms went around her. "I can see it in your eyes, hear it in your voice, feel it in your touch. I only hope that I am worthy of your love," he said, holding her close. "And I hope you know that I love you, too," he added quietly.

A soft smile curved her lips as he embraced her. It seemed that the plan she and little Matias had discussed truly did work - that telling loved ones how you felt brought their own feelings to the fore. "I do," she whispered to him. "Always."

"Well, then, the sooner we join our guests for dinner, the sooner we can retire," he told her with another grin. Even if all they did was lie together in each other's arms, it would be enough for him.

Tipping her head back, she smiled up at him. "You say the nicest things, dear heart." Laughing, she stepped back, taking his arm. "Shall we, then?"

"I think we shall," he replied, linking her arm with his and steering her toward the door. It had been a long, trying day for them both, but at least they knew that no matter what happened or awaited them in the future, they had each other and their love to keep them strong.
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