All For One- Chapter Twelve
12. Condé and César
César, Duc de Vendôme, Beaufort and Etampes waited at his home less than patiently. His estate in Vendôme was about one hundred miles southwest of Paris, close enough to visit quickly, but far enough away to avoid the usual politics of Parisian life. The estate was vast, surrounded by a large stone wall. The mansion itself was three stories, with massive stone columns. Inside opened to a spacious foyer with a grand staircase and an elaborate chandelier. The top floor was where the servants stayed. And the second floor contained all the guest rooms and his personal suite. On the main floor, in addition to the dining room, kitchen and pantries, there were several drawing rooms. It was in one of these rooms that César waited for his guests to arrive. He was uneasy about this meeting. The day before a beautiful young woman approached him about a meeting with a “like-minded individual.” He consented to the meeting with reservations. He was all of twenty-two and inherited both his mother’s good looks and his father’s appetite. He felt like a stranger in his own house sometimes, feeling that the house was too big for the man.
His thoughts were interrupted by his own valet announcing that he had visitors. The valet seemed surprised that anyone would call at night, but César correctly surmised that these were his awaited guests and he ordered his valet to allow them entrance and to leave them alone once they were engaged.
Two hooded figures entered his sitting room. He could tell that the leading figure was a woman, most likely the blonde woman who arranged this meeting. She moved silently, like air. The other figure was bigger and bulkier, obviously a man. He moved with slow measured steps, as if he was used to being the most important person in the room.
“Are we alone?” the woman asked, after the doors were closed.
“I have arranged it to be so,” César assured them.
They pulled their hoods back, and once again César was stunned by the blonde woman’s beauty with her stunning blue eyes. He was stunned by the man as well, but only once he recognized him.
“Condé!” he exclaimed.
“Keep your voice down, César,” Condé spat, looking about. “We didn’t go to all this trouble to conceal our identities to have you blurt them out for any nosy servant to hear.”
“But why are you here?” César asked, clearly amazed and confused.
“He is here at the request of my benefactor,” Milady explained.
“And who is that?” César asked.
“He prefers to remain unidentified at this time,” she said in that infuriating dismissive way of hers. They sat down. “What we are about to discuss is of a very dangerous nature and he wishes that nothing can be traced to him.”
“And what are we about to discuss?” César inquired.
“The King, the Regent, and those Italian vipers in the Palace,” Condé said.
“There is a growing resentment in this country about the way the government is run,” Milady began. “The meeting of the Estates-General was certainly evidence of this resentment, but the meeting itself did nothing to change the situation. It was merely meant to pander to us, to placate us. They feel we are too stupid to tell the difference.”
César waved his hand in dismissal. “You tell me nothing new,” he said. “What do you expect us to do?”
Milady smiled. “Who should be ruling France? The French? Or Hapsburg foreigners?”
“The Regent will shortly no longer be in control now that Louis is thirteen. Nobody likes the Concinis,” César said. “Soon they will be nothing more than a footnote.”
“And yet they are still in power,” Milady said. “Louis may be king, but he has no desire to rule the country. If he had his way, he wouldn’t ever have to lift a finger. The Concini’s are already in position to be his closest advisors.”
“But what about the Infanta?” Condé said.
“What about her?” César asked, skeptically.
“She’s a Hapsburg heir. Once she is Queen, she will have prodigious influence over a king that could care less. And what of their children? The next king will be one of them. Not one of us,” Condé said.
“So what do you suggest?” César asked.
Condé took a deep breath. He was about to plunge deep into dangerous waters. “Let us say for the sake of argument, that Louis suddenly died,” Condé said.
“Not that we’re saying that,” interjected Milady.
“So, just hypothetically, what would happen if Louis were suddenly gone?” César acknowledged.
“Who would rule France?” Condé asked.
“I suppose Gaston would be the next in line,” César said casually, referring to Louis’ younger brother Gaston d’Orléans.
“He’s seven years old,” said Milady.
“Another minority,” Condé said. “The Queen Regent and those Italian vermin control the country while a son of Henri IV sits here with nothing to do.”
“But what can be done about that?” César said.
“Well the first thing that has to happen would be the removal of the Infanta,” said Milady. “Rid the palace of her Spanish presence.”
César grew uneasy. He lowered his voice. “You understand we are now discussing treason,” César said.
“I suppose we are,” Milady said.
“You know I could simply go to the Queen with this,” César said.
“Are you going to do that?” Condé asked.
César paused. “Tell me what would happen after the Infanta is removed.”
Condé nodded. He knew that César was interested. “Then Louis and Gaston meet with an unfortunate accident,” Condé continued.
“And when I am King…” César said. Milady felt Condé stiffen beside her, but the Prince said nothing. “I will get rid of those Florentine fools,” César continued grinning.
“Of course,” Condé said coldly.
“But first, the Infanta,” Milady said. “We intend to kidnap her.”
“Why not kill her?” César said.
“And risk war with Spain? King Philip has been keeping the peace for years. Imagine all his resources currently devoted to the New World marching over the Pyrenees.” Condé asked.
“We kidnap her,” Milady explained. “We bring her here and send letters to her father that all is well.”
“Once the King is no more, we send her back to Spain, the marriage unachieved.” Condé added.
“It’s very risky,” César said. “We could be caught. Did you see what they did to my father’s murderer? They even forced his family to change their surname. They erased his name.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Milady said. “I am Sabiné du Luçon. Have you heard of me?”
César frowned. “No, not at all.”
She smiled, that charming crooked smile. “And neither has anyone else. The agents that will execute the plan will be men of my choosing, with no connection to either of your Graces,” she explained. “Even if they are captured and tortured, no one will suspect your involvement.”
“And what of you?” César inquired. “How do we know that you won’t reveal us?”
“What makes you think I gave you my real name?” Milady asked with a smirk. “If things go wrong, I will simply disappear.”
“Perhaps you do not trust us,” he countered. “You will not give us your real name, yet we are to believe that you have the ability to accomplish kidnapping the Infanta?” César asked.
“I mentioned by benefactor earlier,” she said. “He is close, very close to the King. He can get us in and out of the Palace with ease. I don’t want to give you too much information. If our endeavor fails, you can claim ignorance.”
“For the good of the country, César,” Condé said. “We must take action.”
César thought for a moment. “If we do this,” César said. “I will be king?”
“Of course,” Condé replied casually.
“You won’t try to wrest control yourself?” César asked.
Condé smiled. “You may rest assured. I only ask for a place in your government,” he humbly said.
“Ah, yes,” César said, with a satisfied smile, that also betrayed a small amount of relief. “I thought as much. That is acceptable.”
“So it is settled?” Milady asked.
“Yes,” César said.
“Yes,” Condé agreed.
“Very well,” Milady acknowledged. She stood up, the two men stood as well.
“When will this happen?” César asked.
“Leave the details to me,” Milady said. “The less you know, the safer you are. Plan on the first of May. Find someplace you can conceal her here, and make sure you can take care of her,” Milady said. “I will arrive with her. Leave instructions with your men to allow me access. Find men you can trust.
César nodded. “I shall await your arrival,” César said.
Milady and Condé replaced their hoods and slipped out of César’s drawing room. They did not speak until they had passed through the massive wooden doors and climbed into their waiting carriage.
“I’m surprised,” Milady said after their carriage began the long nighttime journey back to Paris.
“About what?” Condé asked
“That you would simply let him become King, without a fight,” she said.
Condé laughed. “That’s what he thinks. The final act of this plan will be the unfortunate death of César.”
“How tragic,” Milady said with a grin.
- All For One - Chapter eleven
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- All For One- Chapter Thirteen
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