Elizabeth Stuart: Pawn, Avenger, Queen

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by BigDestiny, Jun 3, 2019.

  1. Threadmarks: Chapter Four

    BigDestiny Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2015
    Chapter Four: October 1607

    Elizabeth had small hopes at the beginning of her reign that there would shortly be a revolution to overthrow the Catesby government. It hadn't happened, and seeing the situation in Scotland she could see that the issue was a serious lack of leadership.

    The Coronation was a clear example of this. Despite the fact that the Scots had had almost two years to plan this ceremony, infighting had delayed it until October. The weather was bad, and the fields of heather had turned an orange red.

    The one advantage was that Fawkes was busy trying to put out several metaphorical fires. Elizabeth had promised to help by meeting with the frustrated nobles and soothing their concerns. Fawkes refused to allow it, but Catesby became convinced that she would be acting for their benefit and told her to proceed.

    Fawkes was due to interview the nobles after the Queen spoke to them so Elizabeth had to be careful about what she said to them. She managed to convince disgruntled clergy to stay on and assured them that the Catholics were staying out of Scottish affairs. If she let them believe that she'd stop the English government before they were able to try, well it wasn't the fault of an inexperienced young girl. They certainly never mentioned it to Fawkes.

    It rained all Coronation Day. Elizabeth dressed herself, filling her gown with jewels where flowers had been in her London crowning. With almost nothing in bloom, Elizabeth ordered paintings of flowers to fill the Church and her own apartments here in Holyrood. When a priest and her ladies arrived to escort her to the Church, she selected one of the pictures as her bouquet.

    The priest was puzzled. "That's edelweiss from Germany, ma'am."

    "Is it? It's a nice size to carry."

    "Of course. It's just odd to find here."

    Elizabeth wasn't concerned, but then if it was a conspirator's message that was all good for her. "What does it mean?"

    "Loyalty, ma'am," one of her ladies noted.

    Elizabeth smiled. "That's lovely." The conversation was finished as far as she was concerned. She exited the palace and crossed the ground to the Church. There were some people waiting outside of the fence around the grounds. She waved to them and asked them for their prayers for her at her Coronation.

    The looks on her faces told them news of her crowning had not reached them yet.

    The Stone of Scone had come with her to Edinburgh and she knelt on it while another Catholic mass was celebrated for her anointing. It was still moving though. This was where her mother had been crowned and she was well aware the position it placed her in. She was even more determined to make sure that she was a good Queen, and that her father's killers were punished.

    And as she left the Church her hopes were given another sign of favour. Though the rain never stopped, the clouds briefly parted to allow the sun to peek through.

    The crowd, which had grown exponentially, cheered loudly at her return. "God save the Queen!"

    Elizabeth flushed with pleasure. She knew now what she had to do. She just needed to convince Catesby that she needed to be crowned in Ireland, and go on procession like her ancestors.
  2. Threadmarks: Chapter Five

    BigDestiny Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2015
    Chapter Five: November 1607

    A servant had brought Elizabeth a glass of wine when Catesby entered her chambers. She sighed as he spotted the glass and downed it in a fit of pique. It had happened frequently enough that she was anticipating trouble.

    He did as expected, though for reasons the Queen was baffled by. "What's this about you wanting to go to Ireland to be crowned?"

    "I thought it would help solidify--"

    Catesby gave her a condescending smile. "You do not need to think. You have an entire government to do that."

    "Wasn't I helpful to you in Scotland?" Elizabeth persisted. "Even Mr. Fawkes was surprised by how much a difference it made."

    "You sound proud. Didn't Archbishop Garnet tell you that was a sin?" And did he sound suspicious?

    Elizabeth giggled. And wondered just how much longer she could sound convincing. "Oh no, I don't pretend that it's me doing anything. But it seems to help them to know that they can talk to me and I'll listen."

    Catesby's jaw tightened. She wasn't sure if he recognized that she was putting pieces into place to counter him or if he believed her.

    She clutched her prayer book more tightly, thankful for the razor Raleigh had slipped in there.

    But Catesby had been simply thinking, and he now nodded. "Perhaps you're right. Still, Ireland is not even as safe for your person as the wilds of Scotland. I will have to discuss this with cabinet."

    "Of course. I was going to go riding, but if you need me for anything else I can cancel."

    The condescending smile was back. "No need. I am extremely busy; especially if I end up having to plan yet another Coronation."

    * * *

    Elizabeth had been informed that she would have a new groom today. But she wasn't expecting him to be her own age. And she was old enough now that she appreciated that he was cute and had a warm smile. "Your Majesty. My name is Frederick."

    Elizabeth was surprised to hear his accent. "You're German."

    "I am. Is that a problem?"

    Elizabeth shook her head. "No, I was just surprised. I've had a few foreigners added to my household. But you're the first from the Empire."

    "Well one thing I can tell you, about this German anyway, is I'm a good rider. So you don't have to worry about my keeping up with you."

    "I wasn't."

    The ride was pleasant. The conversation even more so. There was always the possibility that this boy had been inserted into her household as a spy for the Prime Minister. But if that was the case, he was going to be very disappointed because the last thing she wanted to talk about on her ride was business.

    But today, it seemed the cares of the kingdom followed her even here. As they returned to the stables, they saw Sir Walter Raleigh galloping towards them. Elizabeth braced herself, then called out. "Sir Walter. What's the word?"

    "We need to get you to the Tower, ma'am."

    Elizabeth sighed. "Why?"

    "There are revolts breaking out everywhere in the city," Raleigh warned her. Elizabeth was about to reply, but glanced significantly towards her groom. Raleigh shook his head. "You can speak freely in front of Frederick."

    Elizabeth was a little annoyed to not have been informed until after the fact, but it was far from her biggest concern now. "I wasn't aware anything was planned."

    "Not by us," Raleigh declared. "These are Calvinists that call themselves Puritans."

    Frederick swore. "I'm armed sir," he said, showing off a short sword at his hip. "I can come with you."

    "Good boy." The three rode off at top speed. There was smoke and the sound of riots at intervals as they rode. But they made it safely to the Tower. Which an annoyed Elizabeth found herself locked inside again.
  3. DTF955Baseballfan 12-time All-Star in some TL

    Oct 19, 2005
    10 miles north of 10 miles south
    As I read I was envisioning that some danger wood befall her on the ride or, more likely, in the chapter as she goes to Ireland. Indeed, the way she held that prayer book and was thankful for a razor to protect herself, I wondered if Catesby might decide eventually it was okay and think a tall white ship was a good way to get rid of her. Of course, that might be too obvious to the Protestants, even if an heir famously died before in that way. Although checking Wikipedia to be sure I have my facts right I remembered the century and Henry I but it was near Normandy.
    BigDestiny likes this.
  4. AntoniousTheBro Authoritarian socialist monarchist

    Aug 11, 2018
    i may have missed something but isn't she only 10 even in our modern cases they rarely seemed to have a disposition as you are describing Elizabeth who in otl would be somewhat of a similar fit in her later life, i do not believe this Elizabeth could fit this as easy for the fact for a while her education would of taken a complete left turn. though she also probably has a bit of a Bruce Wayne complex so i somewhat retract confusion, anyways it is great
    BigDestiny likes this.
  5. BigDestiny Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2015
    She is certainly acting more mature than a typical 11 year old, though some of that is the regal formality she was raised with. And I've only implied it previously, but her keepers can be... a little rough if she's not well behaved.

    A Bruce Wayne complex is certainly a fair diagnosis. And as she's getting older, the fact that she's not gotten her revenge yet is starting to wear on her.
    samoanbiscuit and piratedude like this.
  6. Threadmarks: Chapter Six

    BigDestiny Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2015
    Chapter Six: December 1610

    Three years.

    The Puritan revolt was now going into it's fourth year and it seemed the only people more inept than her government were her loyalists.

    Ireland had risen, because for some inexplicable reason Catesby had decided to replace the Catholics who were already there with Catholics from here in England. And Scotland was staying neutral, under the not illogical reasoning that they hadn't interfered during the last coup and shouldn't interfere now.

    Catesby didn't care for that, but couldn't get around the logic.

    Elizabeth had thought that this was the time. That they just needed to show her to the rebels and the Scots as a rallying point and overthrow Catesby. But Raleigh was blocking her on this. Apparently the rebels were not to be trusted and it would be just exchanging one set of problematic allies for another.

    So there was nothing to do except sit back and watch the two sides eliminate each other. Which would be all right, except that these weren't just two small groups of malcontents. Every conflict was bringing in word of dozens of casualties. And what little was being done was not good enough.

    Elizabeth was at the council meeting again. Demanding answers. Irritating the Prime Minister again.

    Catesby sighed. "I told you, your government has things under control. London is safe again and we are only months away from total victory."

    "Months? Thousands of people have already died!"


    "Subjects. Besides, I understand there are dead on both sides."

    "The price of war," Fawkes told her. "This is why your Majesty leaves these things to her government."

    "So these figures bother none of you?" Elizabeth asked. "Father Garnet?" She called him out with that title, rather than as Archbishop to remind him of his priestly responsibilities.

    It seemed to have worked as he couldn't meet her gaze. "We should be doing more to minimize the suffering of our fellow man."

    "Thank you for your support." So far, so good. But she suspected even Raleigh would be shocked by what she said next. "Lord Catesby, your services as my Prime Minister are no longer needed."

    The cabinet erupted in objections and Fawkes stood menacingly. Raleigh shouted to get everyone quiet. "Ma'am with all due respect I think such decisions should be made by your cabinet."

    "My cabinet hasn't been doing much of anything," Elizabeth reminded him. "I don't care which one of you is chosen, but I'm through waiting for action on this revolt."

    Raleigh sighed. "Your Majesty--"

    The Queen stood. "I'm going riding. When I return I want you to have made a choice for a new Prime Minister and a new plan for dealing with these rebels."

    She stormed out. Catesby looked to Raleigh, furious. "Raleigh--"

    "I'll talk to her."

    * * *

    "What on Earth do you think you were doing in there?" Raleigh was angrier than she had ever seen him. And she'd been in league with angry gentlemen long enough to instinctively shy back. But Frederick was waiting here for her, so she swallowed her anxiety and went behind her screen to change.

    "My job," she reminded him. "You should try it."

    "You asked for Catesby's resignation?" Frederick asked.

    Raleigh was even angrier now that it seemed Elizabeth was confiding in her groom and not him. "At least you told someone this was happening."

    "I have tried everything else," Elizabeth snapped. "You haven't left me with any options. Maybe you just don't want to try anymore."

    Raleigh paused, now puzzled. "What do you mean?"

    Elizabeth came out from behind her screen, in her riding outfit but looking tired. "I'd imagine you're feeling secure right now? With Catesby's ear? Maybe it's just easier to put off justice for my father for just one more day."

    "I haven't-" Raleigh insisted, shocked.


    Elizabeth was so sad and disappointed in him that it completely deflated Raleigh's anger. "You're right. I haven't been doing my best. ...I'm sorry."

    Elizabeth was a little surprised to hear that. "I think that's the first time since my father died that someone has apologized to me and meant it." She was suddenly in tears.

    Frederick hurried over to comfort her. "We don't have to go riding if you don't want to."

    "No, I want to."

    "I'll get back to the cabinet meeting," Raleigh told her. "Try to manipulate the vote if I can."

    Elizabeth nodded and Raleigh took that as his cue. As he headed back, he seriously thought about their resources. They had some contacts with the Irish. Maybe if he promised to make an official Church of Ireland that was Catholic, they'd work with him.

    Catesby was far too happy for Raleigh's taste when he returned. "I take it from your expression that you've decided to defy the Queen?"

    "On the contrary, we've decided to elect you as the new Prime Minister. I think I can trust that you'll act in my interests just as I've always acted in yours?"

    Raleigh nodded, stunned. "Of course."

    Fawkes chuckled. "Tell him the rest."

    Catesby smiled. "Well her Majesty is quite correct that we must submit to her. And since we don't have time to get a more compliant monarch, we'll just have to get someone she can't say no to."

    Raleigh wasn't sure what they meant. "Do you mean the Pope?"

    Several ministers laughed. Catesby too. "No, I meant a husband. I already have someone in mind."

    Well Elizabeth wasn't going to like this. "Who, may I ask?"

    "Me, of course."

    No, she definitely wouldn't like that.
  7. FalconHonour Well-Known Member

    Nov 16, 2018
    That's not going to work. For a whole host of reasons.

    One, Frederick's in England. He can't be shunted aside *too* easily, if only because the rebel government probably need his father's support in Europe.

    Two, unless I am much mistaken, Elizabeth is still underage. Marrying her now would mean Catesby would simply hand her a golden excuse to seek an annulment at a later date, especially given she'll be taking the vows under duress.

    Third, Catesby isn't good enough for the Queen. He's no more than a gentleman (by birth, anyway, I am far from sure about his conduct...). No one in their right mind is going to let him be King. If *anyone* is going to marry Elizabeth to keep her under control, it would have to be one of the more high-ranking plotters.

    All that said, though, excellent chapter, well done!
    BigDestiny and AntoniousTheBro like this.
  8. piratedude Pirate Lord of the Great Lakes

    Sep 8, 2017
    Thats assuming they know who the boy really is, but Fred's father's support, while helpful, isnt immediately crucial to the continuance of the 'Jesuit' regime. And something tells me that they are rapidly becoming very shortsighted
    savemase, BigDestiny and FalconHonour like this.
  9. AntoniousTheBro Authoritarian socialist monarchist

    Aug 11, 2018
    however, it still doesn't remove the fact that he is of far lower birth for that type of arrangement to seem right in anyway and she is by all means underage. and just enough of a host of problems that this marriage is bordering insane even if incredibly short sighted. and any suggestion of the higher level gunpowder plot marrying her well that won't really work because well known of them were that high ranking in English society and very few of them had any significant title to their name.
    BigDestiny likes this.
  10. DTF955Baseballfan 12-time All-Star in some TL

    Oct 19, 2005
    10 miles north of 10 miles south
    The last part of that scene, in my mind, was played out in Disney movie fashion. :)

    I am accustomed to hearing of Royal marriages that involve children that are below age, but that is usually on the continent. I don't recall if I have heard of any in England.

    With Raleigh the new prime minister things will be very interesting. I would imagine that he will have to start making some difficult choices.
    BigDestiny likes this.
  11. BigDestiny Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2015
    Oh yes, this isn't going to work. In addition to the reasons you mentioned (although the Palatinate is tiny and when Frederick is revealed as an Electoral prince he can be dismissed easily), the ministers are mostly the same rank. It may be funny now, but there will be cracks in the cabal as everyone starts wondering 'why not me'.

    The big issue for Elizabeth now is that she can no longer wait for whatever Raleigh has planned. She won't marry Catesby, so she is going to need to continue to defy her government and eventually it's going to come to a head. Ready or not.
  12. Threadmarks: Chapter Seven

    BigDestiny Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2015
    Chapter Seven: Christmas 1610

    The very problem that resulted in Catesby's wooing also provided the first obstacle.

    Elizabeth had ordered an end to the uprisings and the quickest way to do that was to come to an agreement with the Irish and Scots. But since they were negotiating anyway, both realms thought they should have a say in who ought to marry the Queen and when.

    And while they couldn't agree on a candidate or time, they did agree that Catesby and soon were off the table.

    Raleigh did his best to soothe Catesby. Keeping him in the decision-making. Assuring him that they could overcome the Queen's objections. But when Christmas week arrived and Catesby found himself excluded from court, he was not happy.

    Elizabeth had reestablished herself at St. James, and Catesby demanded that Raleigh get him an audience with her. Raleigh claimed to have asked several times but she'd refused every time.

    So he decided to go around formal channels. He contacted Fawkes and had him get Catesby inside.

    * * *

    It almost felt like Christmas, for the first time since the cataclysm.

    Yes, there were insurrections throughout England and Wales. And her government ministers mostly deserved a date with the executioner's blade. But she was finally in control of her own government. She had people she could trust, even if she couldn't trust everyone. She was even able to relax for once and enjoy the festivities.

    Until Catesby interrupted.

    Elizabeth sighed, but she decided to avoid him slamming down her drink by rising and going to him first. "Lord Catesby. Happy Christmas." It almost sounded sincere.

    "Your Majesty. How are things since I've been away?"

    "Things have gone rather well, thank you for asking."

    Catesby looked rather annoyed to hear that. "Really? I heard otherwise. Sir Walter may have to give away the Kingdom for peace. And by the time Ireland and Scotland agree on your groom there may not be any left."

    Elizabeth shrugged. "Perhaps I'll marry England, like my namesake and predecessor."

    "You do know that rumor has it that her chastity was fictitious."

    She didn't know that, and she was rather revolted by it. "I'm not sure this is appropriate conversation for an underaged Queen."

    Catesby smirked at her. "You have no idea how this works, 'ma'am'. You may have a semblance of independence now, but it is my people who will decide on who you'll marry."

    "And you think it will be you?" Elizabeth asked. "When was the last time you spoke to any of them?"

    Catesby wasn't expecting that. "What do you mean?"

    Elizabeth hadn't meant anything by it. But seeing Catesby's reaction, she couldn't resist stirring dissension. "The cabinet all have ideas on who I might marry. I don't know if you figure into that any more."

    Catesby frowned. "I don't believe you. Trust me, your Majesty. I will make this happen. And when you're my wife, I'll see to it that you're an obedient one."

    Elizabeth's eyes narrowed. "Trust me, Catesby. I work with these men because they get the job done. But I don't like them. And I despise you. And I will never marry you."

    Frederick came up behind her. "Is everything all right, your Majesty?"

    "Of course." And she left with him.

    Catesby located Fawkes again. "Who is he?"

    "The Queen's groom?" Fawkes replied baffled. "I don't know his name."

    "A groom, with a German accent, is spending Christmas AT COURT, and you don't know who he is?"

    Fawkes was concerned now. "Perhaps I'd better look into this." Catesby left and Fawkes kept an eye out for another half hour. And then the groom stepped out for a moment.

    Fawkes followed, waving to summon a clutch of guards.

    Once the groom was out of earshot, Fawkes moved in. The guards seized Frederick who was caught off guard. "What are you doing?"

    "You seem to be very close to our Queen," Fawkes told him. "So I thought it was time we got to know you a little better. Find a locked room," he told the guards. "Keep him there."
  13. DTF955Baseballfan 12-time All-Star in some TL

    Oct 19, 2005
    10 miles north of 10 miles south
    Methinks 'twill be a mighty row while Palatine finds out.
    His son treated thusly, and with the chance for alliance - however small - withering away.
    Fawkes cannot simply talk to the lad?
    Aye, but 'tis emblematic of the hastiness of the Catholic League,
    similar to the messiness in France of decades prior,
    to which they may well repent in leisure, in the dcungeon, or beneath the gallows,
    if things grow too hot.

    Sorry, I thought last night of how Shakespear's last years of writing might be impacted by this, and a bit of the Bard seems to have slipped out into my post :)
    piratedude and BigDestiny like this.
  14. Southern pride Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2017
    Queen Elizabeth will kill them all.
    BigDestiny likes this.
  15. Threadmarks: Chapter Eight

    BigDestiny Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2015
    Chapter Eight: The Next Day, 1610

    Catesby was surprised to get a summons to court the morning after the party. That surprise didn't go away when he arrived to find the Queen furious. "What's wrong, your Majesty?"

    "Where is my groom?" She demanded.

    Well, he had a guess, but he thought he'd better lead up to that. "Why do you think I would know that?"

    "Am I supposed to believe that it's just a coincidence that he disappeared the same day you try to return to our court?"

    "I would find that hard to believe myself," Catesby admitted. "Especially after the conversation I had about him."

    Elizabeth frowned, concerned. "What conversation?"

    "I was rather startled to find a mere groom here last night. Especially a foreigner. So when Lord Fawkes told me he also had no idea why the boy was here, I suggested he find out."

    "You're saying Lord Fawkes has my groom?"

    "Unless the boy fled," Catesby countered. "As I said, he puzzles me."

    The Queen, on the other hand, did not seem puzzled, turning immediately to a guard. "Find Lord Fawkes. Tell-- I mean, ask him to come here. Thank you for coming, Lord Catesby."

    So there was still a limit to what she dared do. Good. Catesby accepted his dismissal with good grace. But in another surprise, he found Fawkes before anyone else did.

    Fawkes was looking shaken up though. "Catesby!"

    "My Lord Fawkes. I'm guessing that you've somehow mucked things up."

    Fawkes growled, annoyed. "I detained the boy last night. But when I came to question him this morning, he was gone."

    Catesby rolled his eyes, wondering again how he'd managed to get this far with these people working with him. "I would have questioned him last night and then released him before the Queen found out."

    "I tried," Fawkes insisted. "I thought the boy might be more forthcoming after an uncomfortable night. But he's gone. And supposedly no one saw anything."

    Just like Coronation Day. "It sounds like you have a traitor then."

    Fawkes was shocked. "In the Queen's employ?"

    "Don't be ridiculous," Catesby scoffed. "A nine year old girl didn't put together a secret opposition by herself. No. Someone else is pulling the strings on her behalf."

    "Well--" Fawkes stopped, and it was obvious he'd thought of something. "He claimed his father spoke to someone who brought him here and didn't know who it was."

    "That is highly unusual." A sponsor basically vouched for them. At the very least someone would have spoken to the boy to make sure he behaved himself.

    Fawkes agreed. "I'll see if I-"

    "Lord Fawkes." The long expected summons had arrived.

    "Good luck, my lord," Catesby told him. "You might need it."
    Hoyahoo9, RyuDrago, FossilDS and 4 others like this.
  16. DTF955Baseballfan 12-time All-Star in some TL

    Oct 19, 2005
    10 miles north of 10 miles south
    Very entertaining. If the boy managed to escape by himself where would he be? It's not like he could hop a plane. Of course, if he is hiding but got word to his father, there could be some serious problems. I wonder what an uncomfortable night means. Just a stone floor with no bad or blanket or pillow? Or worse.
    BigDestiny likes this.
  17. piratedude Pirate Lord of the Great Lakes

    Sep 8, 2017
    It could be any number of things, but if i recall correctly there was a small cramped room where it wasn't possible to rest comfortably. Its a relatively mild torture as the times go, meant to induce sleep deprivation, and given Fred is so young Fawkes probably thought that would be enough. Or he could have suspended our undercover prince by iron manicles for some time before tossing him in a room for the night.
    BigDestiny likes this.
  18. BigDestiny Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2015
    There would have been some chairs but not much else. Certainly a light hand for a groom though inappropriate treatment of a prince. What Fawkes didn't factor in, because he doesn't know who Frederick is, is that the son of Frederick's protector was also at the party, and is keeping the secret prince safely at his London house. Even the Queen won't find out at first
    perdu42 likes this.
  19. perdu42 Well-Known Member

    Dec 27, 2014
    The Land That Time Forgot
    How to ruin the suspense ;)

    Enjoying this TL. Keep it up.
  20. Threadmarks: Chapter Nine

    BigDestiny Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2015
    Chapter Nine: January 1611

    The Queen was furious again.

    Fawkes had tried to explain what had happened, but with Frederick missing Elizabeth couldn't trust anything the man said. She demanded his resignation.

    But here she was blocked by her own ministers. Cabinet was equally concerned that the Queen had such an intimate relationship with her groom and thought Fawkes had done the right thing.

    And Raleigh had agreed with them. Privately he told her it was all right. That Frederick was safe. That they'd have better odds against Fawkes later. The same old words.

    Elizabeth had never before felt more vulnerable. And she was furious.

    Raleigh had spent the last few years getting the local troops under his control. Sending Fawkes' loyalists out against the Puritans and bringing in his own people. It was a risk, but Elizabeth decided to go directly to some of them to discretely search for Frederick. Without telling Raleigh.

    And they obeyed.

    They brought their Queen news in a few days. The message made no sense to anyone but her (and Raleigh had she been able to show it to him).

    'Palatinate secured. More news to follow.'

    Which was something, but not much.

    * * *

    The Queen spent the next few weeks gathering her forces under her own control. Slowly contacting Raleigh's allies and personally gaining their trust.

    Until one day, when the people hiding Frederick were willing to meet with her.

    Finding a time was not difficult. Elizabeth had been dodging cabinet meetings often enough that she chose a day her ministers were at the Tower. She waited in her drawing room for them, all of Catesby's spies sent on errands.

    The person who met her there was a surprise. Lord Salisbury had been the son of one of her father's most powerful ministers and as such was mostly a hanger on at court. "My lord. Do come in."

    Salisbury surprised her again by bringing in a pair of men in monk's robes. One merely bowed, keeping his face hidden. But the other quickly removed his hood to reveal a familiar face. "I've missed you, Majesty."

    "Frederick!" Elizabeth skipped formality to embrace him. "I was so worried about you."

    "So was I," he smiled. "Fortunately the Cecils have been keeping a close eye on me."

    Elizabeth turned to the only member of the group she hadn't been introduced to. "Are you a Cecil as well, then?"

    "Yes, your Majesty." He removed his hood as well.

    "Lord Salisbury!" Elizabeth gasped.

    Robert Cecil, his face scarred from the explosion at Parliament, shook his head. "As far as anyone knows, I am dead. And I have given full authority to my son."

    Elizabeth nodded but she was still shocked. "I had no idea you were still alive. I'm very relieved to see you."

    "And I'm very relieved you seek to take control of this conspiracy," he replied. "I fear Lord Raleigh can no longer help us. Lord Fawkes suspects there is a conspirator on the council and it is very dangerous to contact him now."

    Elizabeth nodded. "I almost never speak to him. I don't know how much longer we can go on in secrecy. Even if we don't do anything else, Fawkes is getting too close to finding him out."

    But it was as if putting the thought out into the universe was too much. There was a knock on the door and one of Elizabeth's loyal guards poked his nose in. "Ma'am I'm sorry to disturb you and your guests, but there's a problem."

    "Of course. What is it?"

    The guard looked around before slipping into the room. "It's Lord Raleigh. One of my men has come from the Tower. He says that Lord Fawkes has had the Prime Minister arrested for treason."

    Elizabeth gasped. "Is he alive?"

    The guard nodded. "He's in the dungeon for now."

    Cecil's son was shaken. "We aren't ready for this."

    But Frederick shook his head grimly. "It's all right, my lord. The Queen and I do have some ideas. With your permission ma'am."

    "Yes. In fact, I've furthered our preparations these last few weeks. But I need to see Raleigh myself."

    Cecil shook his head. "That is far too dangerous ma'am."

    "I must."

    "I'll go with you," Frederick declared.

    But Elizabeth had the same objection. "People are looking for you. That would make it riskier for me." She turned to the guard. "Can your people get me in and out?"

    "We can."

    The others didn't think this was a good idea. But only Salisbury spoke, and then only to wish her "Good luck."