Chapter III: Spanish Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire
January 18, 1557
For the man gazing upon the map wall in that Silent Room, the past seventeen years had taken its toll on the once pristine piece of artwork. The scrapings of past colouration still lingered as workers every few years were brought in to update the latest happenings of all the invisible lines of ownership in the world.
By then, Sweden and Norway were almost disappearing in the weight of the Grand Duchy of Moscow.
Lithuania and Poland were two halves of an unfinished circle spanning all of Northern Germany from Friesland and rounding through Poland’s native land onto the other terminal of the unfinished circuit near Pskov and the Baltic Sea.
Bohemia spanned middle Germany as well as its native lands resembling a large fish trapped in the middle of the continent. Austria dominated the rest of the lands north of the Alps and bulged out like the end of an ant around the Carpathian Mountains and resting its rump insultingly on the Danube border with the Ottoman Turks. The Netherlands still remained in Austrian hands and communications was secure between the Low Countries and Vienna through a healthy alliance with Bohemia who stood in between.
Everything south of the Alps with the exception of Modena, Rome, and the Two Sicilies was controlled by a behemoth Venice who colonial empire even now began challenging the south coast of Brazil. England too felt itself comfortable to have completely monopolized the emerald isle and the lands of Scotland with the exception of the Free City of Edinburgh—the last Scottish stronghold. Aside from Scotland, it seemed that Denmark and Silesia were the only city-states left as well, relegated to minimal independence amidst all these intense neighbors.
To finish off the European family portrait was Spain. Her golden colouration on the map spanned from Artois, down the Rhine and then Saone rivers all the way to the Peninsula and to its vassal of Portugal. The map also flew the cross of St. Andrew over the forts of Apulia and Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, Alexandria, and—naturally—the lands of Mexico and the Incan mountains. Half the islands of the Caribbean, the coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico, and halfway up the East North American coast sprang a chain of colonial settlements that all bore the flag of that Kingdom. Her mission was halfway complete—for half the day, the sun would not set on her glorious lands.
The now more experienced man touched the portrayal with his fingers as if making the grasp of temporal power more real to him just by feeling the gold dust rub off on his fingertips. His touch found strange places just recently scouted—China, Japan, and the East Indies. He caressed it like one would the cheek of an exotic princess.
But something caught the eye of the man, it was another hand gently grasping upward only being able, however, to touch the upper tip of Madagascar. He looked down with a smile and saw to his approval the enthralled grin of a young boy.
“Good, my son, good,” he gently whispered.
It was at the same time that Lorenzo, now almost two decades older, stood atop the battlement at Avignon, leaning almost pensively at the stone cold merlon. It was, naturally, a cold wind that afternoon but all the better to have a nice glass of Burgundy. After all, he was in the region for it. The sun would be setting soon.
“Preparations are ready, sir,” someone from behind entered.
“Good,” Lorenzo replied without looking away from the horizon. “Once we receive word of the Italians joining with the Bohemians and Austrians, we should focus on them first. Have the generals prepare a solution to push us all the way to the Alpine Mountains. We’ll force the Doge to recognize us as legitimate Emperor first.”
The aged Lorenzo didn’t even notice the lieutenant leaving his presence after receiving those orders. Despite the fact that he had nearly 100,000 men spanning the length of the former French border with the other major powers of Europe seemed to matter less and less as he went deeper into his thoughts. That is not to say that he did not meticulously plan these operations for his master back in the Silent Room. All the men in that chamber knew that once the unification process was finished with France, none of the other powers would stand for an all-powerful Spain.
“The Armada in the Dover Strait will hold the British,” he said offhandedly to himself, his finger toying with the brim of his wine glass. “We will hold the Rhine and Saone…” His eyes seemed to narrow, his recapitulating train of thought being eroded by those deeper thoughts that were distracting him. “…and forty thousand here and twenty thousand mercenaries in Modena will sweep through Venice…” The sun continued to set in his sight, and his eyes narrowed at the shining horizon. “…Austria after Venice…” as the minutes passed in between his words, the world seemed to get narrower as he burned his gaze against the burning horizon. “Then we shall crown our King Emperor of the –”
Finally his words stopped. He had a silent epiphany that almost had the effect of giving him a stroke. A soldier patrolling at the bottom of the castle nearly called out an attack as the wineglass shattered close to him; that object having left the now frozen fingers of Lorenzo.
“So that’s why you’re doing this, Jimenez!” he finally said with jolted conviction nearly convulsing his entire body. “That’s why you needed this land first!” came the second ejaculation.
His eyes were wide now. The sun was about to set behind the golden field of Southern France—Yes Southern France, he thought. The land where the Cathars and Templars left their—Yes! It all made sense to take Venice and Austria too. We needed the Imperial Title to open it! Jimenez was right all along!
He nearly laughed. He saw the treasure ahead of him seem to be reflected by the gold-orange shift of the setting globe. After all, he was looking West for the setting of the sun, not East towards the immediate struggle of Venice.
April 23, 1565
The delegates almost overflowed outside of the Cathedral of Bologne where the Spanish King was being crowned by Pope Paul IV. Despite the pageantry of the occasion, there were a few individuals not in attendance.
Within a cloistered building not far from the Cathedral, stood Duke Jimenez and his trusted lieutenant Lorenzo. Unlike the damp and abstemious nature of the Silent Room, this chamber was rich in the crème de la crème of renaissance accoutrements. The cushioned seats were provided, of course, for their guests.
“Thank you for coming, gentlemen,” began Francisco. “It’s been a long time, especially between me and Sir Roman General.”
“So it has, Janus.”
The delegates always worked this way, it seemed. In their closed-door meetings they had different names for each other. No matter what generation, the delegate from Spain had always been called Janus, for example, since somewhere in the 1450s. The Roman General was the Austrian Eminence. This was a meeting of… kindred spirits.
“I’m sure you understand your obligation now that our King is the Thrice August—”
“Oh stop that,” The Roman General interrupted. “Byzantium is gone.”
It elicited a grin from Francisco. Only the Byzantines were supposed to use Thrice August. The petty Western Imperial pretenders were only Semper Augustus, it seemed. The joke, apparently, was an old one between these two delegations.
“Nonetheless,” The Roman General conceded, “I suppose this is why we chose to play this little game. You’ve certainly earned it.”
An assistant procured a box from behind him. The emblem of the double headed eagle was emblazoned in brilliant gold upon the top of the domed container. It was presented onto the table in front of Lorenzo and Francisco.
Lorenzo was the first to approach it, and, touching it lightly with only enough force to prop the top open for his master to see, paused in a momentary trance.
“The timepiece is ours. Now only the keys remain.” Francisco confirmed behind the familiar grin.
“The other keys won’t be as easy to get,” admonished The Roman General as he stood up with his friends. The guards that had now just been almost furniture at the sides of the room stood up in attention. “The English fleet is notoriously difficult.”
“That’s nothing for you to worry about,” replied Francisco, “especially now that I’m forcing you into retirement.”
The reply was almost a bitter reprisal. He should know his place. Or perhaps it was just the thoughts of a war weary soul. Ten years of fighting just to inch their way into making the rulers of Venice, Austria, and Bohemia subservient to the King of Spain. Fifty years, Francisco thought as his old adversary left the chamber. Fifty years before the center of Europe would be… Unified as well. After all, it didn’t seem as if the monarchs of these nations were doing anything to staunch the Reformation. Spain would have to once again champion the faith herself.
But The Roman General was right; the English navy sat in the port of Essex ready for action as well as having scattered squadrons around the world along their colonies.
“Francisco,” Lorenzo called out as the box was shuffled away by servants.
“What is it?” Francisco responded from behind the reverie.
“I’ve received word from our admirals. We’ve engaged the English navy.”
“In the Dover Straits?” Francisco asked with some anxiety.
“Yes,” Lorenzo answered but took a breath and continued, “As well as off the coast of Tortuga, The Cape of Good Hope, and I’ve received word that an allied navy from Ceylon has engaged our expeditionary fleets trying to pass to the East Indies.”
Francisco looked at the gold gilded box being taken away from the room before giving a grave look at Lorenzo.
“Make sure that arrives in Avignon by carriage. Don’t let it go near the English fleets.”
Tom’s weekend came sooner than he imagined although he wasn’t complaining. However, after long nights playing sessions of HUIII, he was ready for the respite. In his middle-class home, he rested on his bed not even bothering to have taken off his shoes after arriving from school that Friday afternoon. They had a half day so he was home early by two hours so his parents had not yet returned from their day jobs. His father worked at the local law firm as an associate. Tom vowed not to emulate the job choice his father made. He had spent only ten minutes inside the firm once and he realized that the environment in there was probably why his father was losing most of his hair. His mother worked mornings like this at the library. It didn’t pay much but she said she only did it as a service to the community.
The television in his room gave him something to vegetate with before some sleep would kick in. At least that was his plan. Spanish sea captains were showing re-runs again. This time it was during the great 16th century sea battles with England. This particular episode was about some far off Sea Explorer miles from a friendly port trying to pass through the strait of Ceylon.
“It’s been almost a year now since we abandoned the twelve colonies in the Philippines,” the Commander stated to the audience. Naturally it was a dialogue only in his head. “We’re trying to make our way to the thirteenth colony to regroup but the surprise attack left us with only this battleship and the various survivors from the twelve colonies in a fleet following us.”
“Commander, Ceylon Base-Ship along the coast,” one of the lieutenants said to the commanding officer. “They’re launching raiders!” he added as multiple smaller vessels were now making their way with fierce tribal warriors commanding the oars towards the small wayward flotilla.
“Signal the fleet!” the Commander boomed as heavy drum music highlighted the situation. “Tell them to get to the starboard side of Galact—”
The dialogue was suddenly interrupted by Tom’s cell phone erupting in a Christmas tree of colours and sounds. He reached over from his slump on his bed to answer it.
“Hello?” he asked into the small microphone.
“Hi there, is this Tom Royce?” asked the almost enthusiastic voice on the other side.
“Yeah, who’s this?”
“This is Robert McDonald, the publisher,” was the reply.
“Oh yeah! Hi!” Tom replied suddenly sitting up against his headboard. The muted television was now fully turned off.
“Hi, well I was calling to see if you could come to see me sometime. I read your essay and I wanted to also ask you a few questions and maybe put that in the journal as well.”
Tom almost felt light headed but more so out of the fatigue of the past week.
“Sure! When would you like me to come over?”
“How about tomorrow 8pm?” One could almost hear the pen scraping paper as Mr. McDonald wrote down the appointment.
“Sure I’ll be there.” Tom assured as if it was an opportunity ready to slip away.
“Great see you then!” was the final statement before the click. It would have seemed almost rude but Tom was thinking more of the strange luck he’s having this week.
Mr. McDonald still had his hand on the phone after having put it back down onto the receiver. He was staring at his hand at the same time. He was a middle aged man and slightly stocky, but for some reason he seemed somewhat disarming. Like a better kept John Candy. He stared again at the phone for a while before looking up at his door and at the secretary tapping away at her computer.
“Linda!” he called out more so in urgency than in any anger.
A tall curly haired woman walked into his office.
“Yeah? What is it, Bob?” she asked, her Brazilian accent was a heavy one, but it was mostly charming.
“Get me everything you know about this kid,” he said and simultaneously held up a copy of the high school’s record on Tom Royce complete with an image.
Linda didn’t ask questions, she simply took the paper and teetered away on her high heels. Normally Robert McDonald would have watched his secretary walk outside without her watching, but this time his focus was on papers strewn around on his desk. Naturally, there was Tom’s essay, but there was also a copy scribbled with his own writing. He had circled certain words in the essay.
He scanned his editting once again and then glanced at the reference material he had brought up. A box was opened to his right with the label “Perpignan Murders” written on the side. He moved the box slightly revealing the mess of papers he had underneath it. One was of a strange photograph—an old black and white of something that looked like a small box with a dome for a top. Some kind of ornament was taken from the top of it, probably stolen in all the confusion of the Great War but it still left an imprint on the velvet coating: an afterimage of a double headed eagle.
He put that photo next to the copy of the essay and glanced at each piece back and forth as if following some strange connect the dots between the two documents. He quickly took hold of his pen and a notepad he had on his left. He crossed out a few things on the pad: “Paris, Vienna, Venice, Prague.” There was one left untouched by his pen: London.
Chapter IV: The Siege of London (coming soon)