Lully’s “Marche Pour La Cérémonie Des Turcs” played from the gallery, as her Orthodox and Serene Excellency Theofilia, Princess of Morea and Achaea, Duchess of Apulia, and Countess Palatine of Cephalonia and Zande, marched regally towards the throne dias at the end of the Throne Room of the Palace of Mystra, brilliant in her coronation robes of pearl, and red, velvet and gold. She was in her late fifties now, but still had a luster in her brown eyes, and grace in her movements, although her girth had grown with age. She was flanked by two huge Janissaries, resplendent in their gold, red and peach uniform, holding fearsome halberds. Behind them came two Cuirassiers of the Hungarian regiment. Huge men as well, with Cossack moustaches tied around the left ear, and eyes full of cruelty and pride. Further behind them came the ladies in waiting in their beautiful western dresses, among them a daughter of a Sultan, and a niece of a King. Behind them, came the ministers, senators, and officials of her OSE government; Greeks and Muslims in their long silk and fur robes with elaborate headdresses or simple roman hats. Franks, Germans, and Italians in fine western dress of silk, velvet, silver, and gold. And Albanians in white kilts and red vests, gold and silver embroidered.
They where priests in that lot, orthodox and catholic, the Bishops of Mystra and Zande, respectively, vying in their resplendent clothing to show God’s favor of their flock. The Qadi of Morea was also there in simpler clothing, holding a resplendent copy of the Koran. There was also that crazy Bektashi, Ahmed, holding his wooden sword. Also present where the Chevalier di Monfferato, Lord Treasurer of the Duchy of Apulia, short of statue, but quick of mind, and the aging and with amble girth, Knight of Kifissos, Herman von Grotz, general in her OSE army. Also there was Mihail Sotiriadis, secretary of her Excellency, dressed in his customary black and velvet, holding his papers. Beside him marched defiantly Rotmeister Loudovic Anafli II, leader of the Hungarian Calvary regiment, and many others. All part of the government machine, all marionettes for the regal lady that marched at their head. Some, maybe something more. Last came, the old war - dog, victor of the Battle of Salmaneco in 1739, her OSEs favorite Greek, Heraclius Andritsiotis, in the uniform of the Colonel of the Old Regiment.
On they marched, under the sound of Lully’s sweet music. The marched through an ancient hall, its walls covered in murals presenting Orthodox Saints, Emperors, and Despots. Kings and Ceasers long forgotten, long turned to dust. Added to them where more modern paintings of Princes, battles, Kings and Sultans. The vulgar and the pious, the insane and brilliant, the cruel and meek, all now cohabitated this hall. War trophies lined the walls, Ottoman, Hapsburg and Venetian standards and swords, armor western and eastern. Left and right were the courtiers and supplicants. Like the people whose march they watched, they too where a mixed and exotic lot. One could see Anatolian and Western styles, sometimes mixed to ludicrous effect. All kept at bay by lines of Janissaries and Old Regiment soldiers, soldiery in their peach-brown and maroon uniform.
Most important among them, though where the five new ambassadors. With the corner of her eye Theofilia, looked at them, measuring them. The regal and seemingly self assured ambassador of Grand Duke Karl of Hetzenberg and the nervous ambassador of Cavenderia , who kept giving furtive glances either to the young and beautiful ambassador of the Duchess of Gorlstein or the shifty looking ambassador of the Dey of Bizercca. Also present was a hefty, jovial looking man, the ambassador of the Duchy of Beerstein. Theofilia, smiled inwardly at the thought of seeing how these six would interact in one of her parties. But that will have to wait the arrival of the ambassador from Monte-Cristo. Now there is a people that know how to enjoy a party.
The music came to an end just as Theofilia reached the dias and turned. The mistress of ceremonies, Anna Tzanetou, struck the floor with her scepter and announced her title. All bowed, and she sat on the throne of Mystra. Anna, then read the name of the first supplicant. The ambassador of the Duchy of Beerstein stepped forward, bowed and proceeded to inform Theofilia of the honor bestowed upon her by Reich Duke Wilhelm. Theofilia conveyed to the ambassador her gratitude and assured him that Basil, King of the Romans, would honor his Grace the Reich Duke with a visit, also bearing gifts.
Next came the young ambassador of the Duchess of Gorlstein. He began to inform Theofilia of the felicitations of the Duchess to her sister ruler and then presented the Gorlstein case in their dispute with Bleiherzen. Theofilia thought, that this young man is just too beautiful to be only an ambassador. Maybe the Duchess of Gorlstein had sent a lover as a gift. How scandalous a thought. Theofilia smiled, as the young man laid forth his case. Or maybe there are other reasons. Does the Duchess think that Theofilia is going to be blind because of carnal urges? This one might need to be watched by the Curiosi. She responded graciously, that she knew awfully little of this dispute and would not take a decision before hearing all sides and attaining more knowledge. But she thanked that young man for his eloquence and assured him that Basil’s, King of the Romans, visit to Gorlstein will be an excellent opportunity for the Duchess to make her case, and for her to learn of the situation better. Interesting, Bleiherzen had yet to send an ambassador. Why?
After him, came forward the newly arrived envoy from Cavenderia. He was a nervous lanky man, with a gray mustache and goatee, thought Theofilia. His name was Graf Claus von Eckehnheat. He then presented the salutations of his Majesty the Prinz Geoffry of Cavenderia and an acceptance of the offer for Basil, King of Romans to visit. Damn that fool! Theofilia thought, while keeping her composure. Doesn’t he understand that this was supposed to be a secret visit? Curses, she had heard stories about the Prinz, but she never thought they had some truth. Damn her information network, It was weak up north. The ambassador then went on presenting his case against Bizercaa. Theofilia listened patiently and then responded to him the same way as she did to the young man from Gorlstein. She also added that secure maritime trade in the Adriatic is of value to Morea, and that is why she sent two ships to Bari. If need be more can follow. But that is for all interested monarchs to decide.
Next was the ambassador of Grand Duke Karl of Hetzenberg. He was a well spoken man, of middling years. Theofilia took a instant liking to him. Could I steal him for the Duke? Probably not, he seems to be the loyal type of man. After him came forward the ambassador of the Dey of Bizercaa. He put forward the salutations of his Eminence and the answer to her request for Dukas. Ahhh my dear Dey, thought Theofilia. Kissing up that quickly? Obviously there is honey in this tree. Theofilia mused for a moment. And then she informed the ambassador, that while she is grateful for the Dey’s offer, a monarch should punish his own subjects. Otherwise how can one legitimate authority, if foreign rulers do ones tasks? No, Dukas will come here in chains, and be punished here. She stood up at those words, to emphasize them. These ambassadors should get a firm idea of her mettle, now than later. But they should also see her generosity. Theofilia announced that she would hold a party in honor of the ambassadors the day after tomorrow. The court hurrahed in approval.
Supplicant followed supplicant in an endless line. God she was to old for this. After Basil completes his grand tour, he will need to do this, thought Theofilia. After two hours, she decided to retire to the inner divan, with the Bektashi Ahmed, the Chevalier di Monfferato, Herman von Grotz, Mihail Sotiriadis, Loudovic Anafli II, Heraclius Andritstiotis, and also Anna Tzanetou. In the divan they were also joined by Radu Castrioti, head of the Curiosi in Morea.
As the others settled down, either on chairs of plush divan, Theofilia, was helped in another room to change to more comfortable clothes. She than entered and inclined herself on a divan. Coffee and Nargile was brought for all.
“This didn’t go so bad, I think” said Theofilia.
“Indeed”, answered Sotiriadis,” I believe that your behavior will have persuaded the ambassadors of the policy of this realm”.
Ahmed, puffed his Nargile and then remarked: “ That Cavederian did not seem comfortable my princess. I wonder why?”
“I would too” retorted von Gortz, “if the rumors about Prinz Geoffrey are true.”
“Yes, rumors”, mused aloud Theofilia, and sipped her coffee.” Radu.”
“Yes your Despotissa?” asked the Wallachian expatriate.
“I don’t like rumors, Radu. I need eyes and ears beyond those of ambassadors in the north. Sotiriadis, give Radu 1000 ducats. Radu, find me eyes and ears.”
Radu thought, for a moment, as Sotiriadis jolted the order down on his notebook. Then he spoke.” It will be hard. But we can use the King of Romans visit also as a recruitment opportunity.”
“Good” said Theofilia.
Andritsiotis, exhaled some smoke and spoke, “Your Excellency, what should we do about the situation between, Cavenderia and Bizercaa?”
” My inclination is to keep neutral. I am worried by Elisavetta’s moves in the Balkans, and want to keep out of a war in the Adriatic, if I need to fight for the Sultan”, responded Theofilia.
“True” said Loudovic, “but it seems both expect us to make a move”.
Anne, puffed some smoke and said “I think we should, wait to see their reactions, when the Andronicus and Naumaxos, arrive at Bari. They should be reaching it by the day after tomorrow”.
Sotiriadis had a thoughtful expression. “We might want to send another frigate there”, he said.
The Chevalier di Monfferato, spoke “I disagree, it might scare them. We already have substantial forces in Corfu and Apulia. And when the Apulia is refitted, we will have a lot of naval force there. The King of Naples might get drawn in.”
“Other ideas”, asked Theofilia? Loudovic and Castrioti supported the Chevalier. Anna, Andritsiotis and von Gortz supported Sotiriadis. Theofilia puffed her nargile for a minute. Then she spoke, “Here is what we will do. Both of you have a good point. We will move some of the forces in Corfu to the army of Attica in a weeks time. After a week from that, we will send the 64 gun ship of the line Nikiforeus to join the frigate squadron in Corfu. That way in case we need more force in the Adriatic, we can send the ships through the Patreiko Gulf to take the army of Attica from Megara and send it to Bari. Alternatively, we just use our fleet to blockade the Adriatic , while we send the rest of the fleet from Monevasia to join it. But for the time let us wait.”
Andritsiotis spoke, “it is risky my lady. We could just scare them into action.”
“I understand, my dear general, but we must act.”
Sotiriadis then informed the divan about the preparations for Basil’s journey. He would travel on two frigates. His retinue will be around 100 persons. Among them will be 20 Janissaries as Guards. There would be ambassadors for every state, and merchant lords to close deals. Also there would be Curiosi agents to spy, and philosophers, acrobats, and poets to impress. A whole troupe of theater would also travel, and perform the ancient comedies of Aristophanes. The gifts would be worth up to 50000 ducats.
Theofilia mused for a moment. “What is our gift to Prinz Geoffrey and the Duchess of Gorlstein?” Sotiriadis went through his notes, “For the Prinz a golden icon of Saint Demetrius, a silver sword, and Arabian Stallion. For the Duchess three sheets of Chinese silk, a monkey, and a mechanical golden toy.”
Theofilia, smiled “I trust you all saw the ambassador she sent us?”
“Ah roared” von Gortz “der kinder”.
Ahmed puffed some smoke “It seems that the Duchess wishes to curry your favor my Despotissa through the bed, rather than the table.” All laughed at that.
“ Ma to theo, he is beautiful my lady” said Anne.
“Well Anne, you can have him if you can get him”, responded playfully Theofilia.
Anne blushed, as all the others laughed. “Anyhow add the following to the presents. For the Prince a copy of Oedipus Tyrant , for the Duchess a slave from Smyrna. A strong, manly slave.” said coyly Theofilia and sipped coffee. Andritsiotis coughed” Despoina mou, what are we going to do if the Dey, decides to keep Doukas?”. “Why of course kill Doukas.” said Theofilia in a surly manner. But her eyes where cold. “I am not starting any wars, until I know what Elisavetta is going to do with the Sultan.” She finished her coffee and got up.” My friends I have missed my grandson. I will go and play with him and tell him stories. I trust in you to see that my orders are all put to effect. May God watch over us all”. “And you the most our Lady”, they responded and left.