Accompanied by a small entourage as he rode through a light dusting of snow, Marc Kerne arrived at Bordeaux in the middle of January 1129. After being quickly settled in the most sumptuous guest apartments of the castle and seeing to the disposition of his staff, the Breton Bastard was directed to the audience chamber for his meeting with his host, the Aquitanian King. Nearly the entire court was present for the occasion, word of the young man’s entrance had traveled rapidly in the gossip circles, and each waited with baited breath when the introductions began.
For King Guitard, the time between hearing of the Bastard’s arrival in Poitiers and his arrival in the Aquitanian capital had been spent in close council with his advisors; the issue at stake being exactly how they would deal with possibilities presented by Marc’s arrival. Some conservatives eager to let Breton affairs fall by the wayside considered the Bastard’s presence an unwholesome gift and advocated denying sanctuary or even capturing him to be turned over to Meogon Penteur or Llywelyn. Others with more vision for opportunities on the peninsula pointed out that the Marc could only be a boon to their own foreign policy, a tool to be employed in the divisive and chaotic politics of the war wracked region.
Most of the councilors agreed that, despite not holding a legitimate claim because of his base birth, Marc Kerne stood a better than decent chance of being accepted by the lesser nobles of the region. Rosa and Ramonda’s diplomatic and spy networks reported a continued decline in support for both Llywelyn, having retreated to his last enclave in North Africa and seemingly abandoned the peninsula, and Meogon who had no strong heir as he stood at death’s door while suffering from an illness contracted while on campaign. The barons of the land, tired of the incessant squabbling and destruction, would no doubt adhere to even the veneer of legitimacy presented by the Breton Bastard should he be propped up by Aquitanian force.
Hope of salvaging a functional Breton ally from the mess of the pass years was on the minds of all involved with the council. With both Meogon and Llywelyn now impossible choices for differing reasons, Marc Kerne stood as the last best chance for Aquitania to stabilize the region under a friendly and cooperative ruler; the Breton Bastard would owe his position entirely to King Guitard and keeping him between thumb and forefinger should be a simple enough task. The risks and costs of further intervention were thus closely balanced by the rewards the course would allow for.
Overhanging the discussions was the weight of the recently signed treaty with Meogon, Duke of Brittany and the single most powerful force to emerge from the Civil War. One of its stipulations clearly forbade further Aquitanian intervention in the region and it was in arguing this point that served as the conservatives of the council were at their strongest. Aquitanian merchants were already making great use of the trade concessions also set down in the treaty, they said, and the binding word of a King was not a thing to be overthrown at every opportunity. Renegotiation was liable to be out of the question as well since it would likely require a show of military force to bring Meogon or those acting in the ill Duke’s stead to the table again.
Thoughts of the “alliance” that still existed between Llywelyn and Aquitania were given little consideration at all since that faction’s precipitous decline and the dramatic events between Mateu de Bourbon and the Breton King. The tattered scraps of the mutual defense agreement between the two countries were strewn like ashes to the wind, no more force behind the pact than the ink on the pages. Llywelyn’s disfavor with any sort of Aquitanian operation being mounted in Brittany would be worthless.
Those advocating intervention and support of the Breton Bastard insisted that the agreement had made no provision for the circumstances they now faced. Muslim raiders had captured the former capital of the Breton Kingdom and presented a threat to Aquitania’s northern border and the welfare of that province’s population that could not be left to fester. Bringing the ravaged land around Nantes to liberation from the infidel whip would be a sort of Christian duty above and beyond whatever treaty obligations bound King Guitard to staying out of the peninsula. Installing Marc Kerne with title over the released land would only add to the legitimacy of the actions.
After countless hours of these meetings and discussions, a strong consensus was finally eventually reached. King Guitard would meet with and fan the hopes of Marc Kerne, promising to uphold his interests and advocating the capture of Nantes from the Muslims as an initial step toward the long term goal of securing the crown. Confronting Meogon and Llywelyn directly would only come later as events dictated, not that either could raise sufficient force to resist a determined Aquitanian attack. The conquest would have to progress slowly and with the appearance of legality in order to avoid damaging Guitard’s reputation more than it already was by the recent events involving Llywelyn and the necessary violation of the word and spirit of Meogon’s treaty.
Speaking no Occitan, Marc was forced to make use of the court translator as he stood in front of the raised dais of Guitard’s throne. The young man cut a strong figure as he began his address by being tall for his age, simply dressed yet carrying himself in a self assured manner despite the many courtiers watching in the galleries and the King in front of him. Assertively introducing himself as the dispossessed King of the Bretons, Kerne continued on to thank the Aquitanian monarch for the hospitality he had been shown so far in welcoming him to the capital. After Guitard returned the formal greeting, the Bastard showed remarkably little tact in making his goals and expectations known to all that were present.
The Breton Bastard called on Guitard to honor the friendship that had existed between his father, the late Marc Kerne, and the Aquitanian King and listen to the story of the wrongs he had suffered. King Guitard could hardly contain his mirth at the tone and body language of the teenager became more exaggerated and dramatic as he railed against the usurpers and false allies that had seen him exiled from his home three years earlier and launched into a colorful rendition of his adventures to his present circumstances. The court translator himself gave a nearly silent chuckle under his breath when he related a harrowing story of how the young man had fought off three assassins with nothing more than a serving knife in the dining chamber of a French baron the year previous. As the Bastard wound down from his energetic retelling of his flight and fight from Brittany, Guitard knew what to expect next. His mother and other councilors had told him to be ready for the moment Marc breached the subject of direct assistance for recovering the throne.
The Aquitanian King was all too ready to make the reckless youth his puppet.