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All For One - Chapter Thirty
After two days rest, Athos felt he was ready to continue. His shoulder still throbbed, and he could barely left his right arm, but he felt that any delay longer could put Marie at risk for another attack. They chose another route. By boat they sailed on the Royal Canal to Carcassone, their horses tethered in the hold. Carcassone was known for its fortified ramparts which successfully repealed the Black Prince Edward of England. On horseback, they followed the Aude River to the independent province known as Roussillion, and they knew they were no longer on French ground. The Pyrenees loomed before them, but they knew that they had chosen one of few easier spots to cross the mountains. As soon as they reached the Spanish border, they were stopped. Athos recognized the striking silhouette of the Spanish soldiers in their morion helmets with the turned-up brims. It was a silhouette that was known throughout the New World. They had their corselets, metal breast-plates, along with tassets made of overlapping armored plates protecting their thighs.
One of the reasons that Doña Consuela Estefania was chosen to accompany Marie de Rohan was her native tongue. Athos did not speak Spanish, and Marie’s knowledge of the language was rough at best. Wishing to avoid any more attacks, Doña Consuela informed the border patrol that Marie was of noble blood and she bore a message from Anne of Austria to her father, the King of Spain. She requested an immediate escort to Madrid. The guards conferred with their garrison commander and plans were made to escort the party to Madrid in the morning.
The next day, they traveled through the Pyrenees and spent the night in Zaragoza, the former capital of the Kingdom of Aragon on the Rio Ebro. Athos slept through the night, confident in the guards that watched over them. When they woke up in the morning they trekked their final leg of their journey and arrived in Madrid in time for a late supper. Athos remarked that the plains of Spain were very similar to those of France, and the workers in the farms growing the same crops that farmers grew in France. He also noticed that the buildings had a very Arabic look to them, no doubt the result of hundreds of years of Moorish occupation.
Compared to Paris, Madrid was a relatively new capital, as was the Kingdom of Spain. The marriage of King Ferdinand II of the Crown of Aragon and Queen Isabella of the Kingdom of Castille in 1469 forged the new country. While Aragon’s capital was Zaragoza and Castile’s capital was Toledo, they felt that a new city should be the capital of the new country. While at first the capital was located at Seville, King Felipe II moved the court to Madrid in the Antiguo Alcázar.
When they arrived in Madrid, Athos received a quick lesson in Spanish politics. Felipe III, King of Spain and Portugal was thirty-eight years old. Before he assumed the throne at age twenty, his father, Felipe II, moaned that God had not given him a son capable of ruling his vast empire, and guessed that his son would entrust everything to his servants. King Felipe spent most of his time attending festivities and wasting money, but he believed in peace. Once Queen Elizabeth died he made peace with England and King James and signed the treaty of London in 1604. He also fostered peace in the Spanish Netherlands known as the Pax Hispanica, and the peace with France via the royal weddings of his children to the French heirs. However he also enforced the expulsion of the Moors from the entire Iberian Peninsula.
Felipe II was right about his son: he was controlled by his advisors. They were invited to dine with the King’s closest advisor, the Duke of Lerma. They were tired, but Doña Consuela informed them that the Duke of Lerma was a favorite of the King, and it would help their chances of meeting the King. They bathed, changed clothes and arrived at his residence. Don Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas, Duke of Lerma was sixty-four and a descendant of the ancient and powerful Sandoval family from Seville. He was a thin man with short cropped hair that was black but liberally peppered with gray. He had dark eyes, a flat nose and a narrow beard. He was quite intelligent and still active for his age. He was known as the “king’s shadow,” the sieve through which all information passed. He was a lover of art, and collected many valuable paintings. He was curious about Anne of Austria and how she was enjoying Paris for he knew the Queen when she was the young Infanta. Indeed, it was he who organized the royal marriages. They were joined by several of Lerma’s confidants, including his son, the Duke of Uceda, and his secretary, Don Rodrigo Calderón, Count of Oliva. Calderón was considered a greedy upstart, and some even thought he was a witch. Doña Consuela translated for Marie and Athos, although Athos rarely spoke unless he was asked a direct question, preferring to allow Marie and Doña Consuela to field questions. When asked how he hurt his arm, he fabricated a story about a botched robbery attempt that he thwarted. He didn’t want anyone to construe that anyone was after them.
The next morning they were brought before the King. As expected, Athos was asked to remove all weapons. He surrendered his rapier, his wheellock pistols, his boot poniards, even his bandolier of powder charges to the palace guards. He did not dare keep any weapon on his person, for he did not wish to jeopardize Marie’s mission. He noticed that Marie and Doña Consuela were taken away and searched by the ladies-in-waiting. They were reunited and led to a long hallway. They were announced and allowed to enter through a doorway into small, but nicely decorated room in the palace.
King Felipe sat at one end of the room, apparently bored. Athos thought he had a weak pale face with short brown hair and a sparse moustache. He also wore a full thick ruff around his neck which harshly framed his face, making his already odd appearance even stranger. He was surrounded by his advisors, Lerma, Uceda, Calderón, and a Dominican priest, whom Athos later learned was Aliaga, the king’s private confessor. Athos was unimpressed. He realized how few leaders actually lead. Louis XIII was no king; he was ruled by his mother, who in turn was controlled by the Italians. James I of England was influenced by whichever handsome man was in his court that week. Now he could see that Felipe III was a mere puppet to these men. He thought of Henri IV and wondered if he’d ever see the like of him again.
“Doña Consuela Estefania,” the King said in Spanish. “Así que bueno verte de nuevo.”
“Gracias, su majestad,” she replied, bowing.
“¿Cómo está nuestra hija?” he asked.
“Esa es la razón por la que estamos aquí. Traemos un mensaje de ella. Permítanme que presente Marie de Rohan-Montbazon, hija del duque de Montbazon, y nuestro compañero, Athos.” When Marie and Athos heard their names, they bowed to the King, who acknowledged them with the slightest of nods. Athos was fluent in English, but didn’t know Spanish so he could only guess what was talked about.
“¿Y qué es este mensaje?” the King asked.
Doña Consuela deferred to Marie, and realizing that it was finally time to complete her mission, Marie stepped forward. She was clearly nervous, but she took a deep breath and began.
“‘Querido padre,’” she began in Spanish she clearly memorized. “‘Estoy enviando a mi amigo a usted porque soy miserable. El hombre a quien se han casado no es un hombre en absoluto. Se me ha hecho caso omiso de todos los de París y me pasan mis días atrapado en mi habitación. Antes yo era casado, me secuestraron. Si no fuera por este señor y sus amigos, me han sido asesinados. Después de que el matrimonio se vio obligado a sentar con mi esposo. Sálvame. Me protege. Declarar la guerra si tiene, pero me lleve a casa.”
Athos had no idea what was said, but he could tell by Doña Consuela’s face, that the message was shocking. The King’s advisors were glancing at each other, some with interest. The King was impassive.
“¿Habla usted español?” he asked Marie, who looked confused.
“He asked if you speak Spanish,” Doña Consuela translated.
“Obviamente no, es Doña Consuela lo que si no le importaría traducir…” Doña Consuela nodded, and the King continued to speak.
“Tell my daughter, that I am sorry that she is unhappy,” Doña Consuela translated. “It is unfortunate that her marriage is not a blissful one, but she knew beforehand that royal weddings are made for political reasons and nor for reasons of love. I will not declare war on France simply because you are unhappy. I have dedicated my reign to peace in Europe. I have made peace with England, with the Dutch, and I will not break peace with France.”
Athos was shocked. The Queen had sent him on a mission of treason, even after he said that he would not accept such a mission. She had lied to him. Or did she? He didn’t remember her saying the message was not treasonous, only that it was a message between a father and a daughter. He was furious, but he held his emotions in check in the presence of the king.
The king then addressed Athos. After a moment, Doña Consuela translated. “He wants to know if it is true that you rescued his daughter from kidnappers.”
Athos nodded. “Myself and three friends,” he said, which Doña Consuela relayed to the King.
“He said that he is grateful to you and your friends and that you have earned the respect and gratitude of the Spanish Empire,” Doña Consuela relayed.
Felipe signaled to one of his advisors who stepped forward to present Athos with a small bag of gold. Athos took the bag and bowed to the King.
“Gracias,” he said, the only Spanish he knew. He looked at the others. It was clear they were dismissed. They bowed once more and left the King’s presence. Once they were outside the palace, Athos growled at Marie.
“You lied to me,” he said.
“I didn’t,” she replied. “I didn’t know what the message meant until I heard the translation.”
“I don’t believe you,” he spat.
“It’s true, Athos,” she insisted. “Anne taught it to me in Spanish, made me memorize it so no written word could ever be discovered, but also so that I would be innocent of anything.”
“And you,” he barked at Doña Consuela, “what did you know?”
“Nothing,” she said. “I’m as surprised as you.”
“Please don’t be mad, Athos,” she said.
He stopped, inhaled, and then turned to her. “I swore I would get you to Madrid and back without any harm coming to your person, and I have every intention of keeping that promise. But know that my duty is to France and her King. Never ask me to do something like this again.”
- All For One- Chapter Twenty-Nine
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Thirty-one
The Next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel