In which a letter is received
(Braunschweig Manor, February 1076)
Otto, by divine grace and imperial favour duke of Meissen, to our noble brother Ekbert count of Frisia and Ostrofrisia, greetings and wishes of good health and fortune.Young count Ekbert read through the letter again. It took him some time. The monks had taught him reading and a bit of Latin, but some of these words he'd never seen before.
We wish to congratulate your lordship on your recent sixteenth birthday. We remain certain that your county will see much progress and prosperity under your guidance. We also need to inform you that we have recently discovered certain documents in our keeping that were issued at the court that was held by his Imperial Majesty Otto in our lands of Meissen in the year of Our Lord 946. These documents show that the county of Brabant were granted in fief by his Imperial Majesty to your illustrious ancestor Ludolf from his Majesty's hand. It gives us great pain to see your family suffer the injustice of not having been able to take these lands in your rightful possession, and so we do herewith forward said documents to your keeping. Given in our castle of Albrechtsburg on the day of Saint John the Baptist, in the year of Our Lord 1076. Under our ducal seal.
"I don't understand this, Aunt Ida."
"Really? It seems clear enough, doesn't it? The Latin's not that difficult."
"Well, I understand what it says, and it's nice of him to write and all, but I don't understand why he does it. Why would he care if we have some claim we didn't know about?"
Chancellor Ida smiled. "It's quite simple, really. You see, duke Otto's wife is the aunt of the young count of Brabant."
"And that means that duke Otto was the brother-in-law of the former count, who died about seven years ago, and so knew him well. Now, I happen to know that that they had rather a large conflict some years before the count's death, because…" – she looked at Ekbert for a moment – "…well, it's not really important why, but in any case, they got very angry with one another, and have been enemies since then. Apparently, he's going after his old enemy's son as well."
"So this is simply a way of taking revenge? But why us?"
"One possibility is that that the claim is genuine. Just because something is unlikely doesn't mean it's necessarily false. But if it is something he made up, I'd guess he's using us because there's no particular risk or loss for him if we fail. Doesn't really matter either way."
"I see. So we have a claim now. What are we going to do with it?"
"Use it when the right opportunity arises, of course. We're going to take the county of Brabant and legitimise it with this."
"But, Aunt?" The young count frowned. "Is it right to just take the count's lands from him? I mean, wouldn't that be a rather un-Christian thing to do."
Ida van Braunschweig sighed mentally. The boy showed promise, but by God, there were so many obstacles. "Yes, of course it would be wrong if we were just going to take it from him. But what if the claim is genuine? Then it would be Brabant who's holding lands that rightfully belongs to our family. Wouldn't it be even more un-Christian to allow him to get away with that?"
Ekbert mulled that over for a moment. "I guess."
"Good. Isn't it about time you should be out practicing with the marshal, by the way?"
"I am sixteen now, Aunt Ida."
"So you are, but that doesn't mean you don't need to practice your combat skills. Quite the contrary, in fact. You'll be expected to lead your own troops now. So off with you."
"Yes, Aunt Ida."
After the annoyed Ekbert had left, Ida picked up the claims documents. Smiling, she carefully hugged them to her chest like a favourite puppet. She had never felt better in her life as she thought about the possibilities. Yes, Brabant would be a rare jewel to add to the Braunschweig treasury. Now, it was just to be patient and wait for the right opportunity.