Elizabeth Stuart: Pawn, Avenger, Queen

So happy to see this is back. Also, @BigDestiny, Louis XIII's mother wasn't an Hapsburg, she was in fact an Medici whom he deposed in 1617 by exiling her and executing her followers, his wife (who he married in 1615) was an Spanish Hapbsurg, and she fought against her family as Regent of France from 1643 to 1648
Thanks, I got my princesses mixed up. And since we're going back to France soon, I appreciate the timing of your correction.
 
Chapter 30
Chapter 30: 8 Days Before the Olde New Year, 1616

Robert Carr crossed the meadow looking as much a stallion as the horse underneath him. He was well aware of how impressive he appeared. Young Louis, who was in the flower of youth himself, was certainly delighted. Carr dropped down from his mount and the boy king had almost instantly wrapped his arms around Carr's neck.

"I am so happy to be away with you," Louis enthused. "Not surrounded by my mother's spies."

Carr nodded, supportively though he was pleased how well he'd turned son from parent. "I am as well, my sweet Majesty."

They kissed, but before the lovers could settle in the sound of hoofbeats could be heard from two directions. "What is it now?" Louis complained.

The first rider turned out to be Henri de Condé. Carr knew he wouldn't interrupt them without reason, so he knew it was likely important. And likely to be something they didn't want the Queen Mother hearing about.

Which was why it was discouraging to see that Queen Marie had personally set out to intercept them.

Louis had missed all of that though. As the riders dismounted he angrily asked, "What is the meaning of all this?"

Marie spoke first. "I'd heard Henri had received word from the border and was on his way to see you." Since she was no longer Regent, she played a good game of pretending to be sheepish. "I was curious."

Henri's jaw tightened but he played the game as well. "Of course ma'am. We've intercepted a message from the British government to the King Consort, who is en route to Vienna."

Marie raised an eyebrow. "How was this accomplished?" she asked.

Carr was curious to hear the answer to that. He knew that any messenger the Queen sent would gladly give Henri a peek at what was going through. But Henri didn't want the Queen Mother knowing that.

Henri had decided to dismiss it though. "I have a sympathetic ear at the British court. Best we leave it at that."

"Of course," Louis told him. "The last I heard, the King Consort was in London. Why send a message right after him?" Louis could not supress a smile when Carr nodded, pleased at the probing question.

"The Archduke Ferdinand seems to be deliberately antagonizing the British Queen," Henri told them. "Assigning the Cardinal involved in her father's murder to her court. Summoning-"

"Wait," Marie interrupted. "The Archduke made the assignment?"

"He signed the paperwork," Henri replied. "I didn't hear how much was his idea."

Carr leaned in behind the King. "We need to know more," he whispered. Louis tightened his jaw, looking unsurprised. That was good to see as well.

Louis turned to his mother. "We need to know what's going on in Vienna. How soon could you leave?"

Marie started. "I- But our ambassador-"

"Is obviously out of the loop," the King told her. "You're our Dowager Queen, a de Medici. Your mother was a Hapsburg Archduchess. You can get further than any of our people right now."

"Your Majesty, I believe his Majesty is quite right here," Henri told her.

Carr was silent. His instructions were to subtly adjust the King's attitudes but to stay out of the way of the players at Court.

Queen Marie gave way. "Of course, if you need me, I'll leave at once." Though it took a minute's staring before she mounted her horse again and left.

Once Marie was out of earshot, Carr dropped his meek persona. "Is there anything else?

Henri nodded. "It might be nothing but the Cardinal waited until Elector Frederick was on his way to Vienna before he announced himself at Court.

Louis frowned. It bode well that he was able to participate in this meeting. "If we can get to the Elector, would he tell us what he thinks?"

Henri had to consider that. "It would depend on what was in it for him."

Henri and Carr watched to see the young monarch's decision. "I know you both want us to side with the Protestants." Carr was about to object but Louis held up his hand. "Right now there might be two factions in Vienna and that's scary."

"And who would you prefer to support?" Henri asked.

"I don't know," Louis exclaimed anxiously. "I can't decide without knowing what's going on."

Louis turned to Carr, desperately. Carr looked at Henri. They'd been fostering an alliance with the British but it was too soon to tell the youth what he needed to be doing.

"You want the status quo?" Carr asked.

And it seemed like that answered whatever doubts he had. "I do. Tell the Elector if he's willing to work unofficially with us, we'll do what we can to support the Emperor against the anti-Protestant factions in the Empire."
 
Oh Louis, you may want peace, but the way things are going, you'll probably still get the Thirty Years War

But look on the bright side, if you're siding with the British, maybe you won't have to squash the Huguenots later on
 
Chapter 31
Chapter 31: 7 days before the Olde New Year 1616

"Ma'am, Cardinal Garnet is here to see you."

Elizabeth grimaced, though it was she who had invited him to speak to him. "Thank you. Ask him to come in." The Queen stood up, preparing herself to deal with another diplomatic duel with the duplicitous priest.

"Good afternoon your Majesty."

Elizabeth decided to start things off with an implied threat. She had filled a wine goblet and now she gave it to him. "Father Garnet. Wine?"

The Cardinal winced. "I usually only drink wine if I've consecrated myself."

Elizabeth waved at the glass, as if daring him to do it. "Of course."

Garnet put the wine down. "My dear child, what can I do for you?"

Well, since he asked. "Your arrival here is provocative. And I don't believe that it's an accident. So I want to know why you are here."

Garnet shrugged. "I was not told why I was selected to lead this delegation. Sometimes the ways of Vienna are as mysterious as those of God."

"I think you're the first person to ever compare the Imperial Court to heaven," Elizabeth told him. "But I don't just want to know why you were assigned here. Why did you come here?"

The Cardinal lowered his eyes. "I hurt you Elizabeth. As much as I believed in my mission here, I allied myself with men that deprived you of your family. I have spent several years in quiet reflection on my part in that."

"And now you've come to a conclusion?"

"With the help of our Holy Father. He reminded me that I need to make amends to you as well as the Lord."

"So you're here for forgiveness?" Elizabeth asked, annoyed.

"By no means!" Garnet exclaimed. "I am here to make things easier between you and the Empire. I cannot restore what you've lost, but I can add to your future."

Elizabeth didn't respond. She picked up the wine glass and put it to her lips.

Almost.

She walked to the window and poured the wine out. "I hope you have the opportunity to help me. I have to get dressed for court. If you'll excuse me."

"Of course. I will see you there."

Garnet had barely left the room when Salisbury stepped in from a side room. "You didn't really poison his wine, did you?"

"As entertaining as that might have been, if he'd accepted it I wouldn't have enjoyed deciding between killing him and slapping it out of his hand," she admitted. "How honest do you think he's being?"

"I certainly wouldn't move to the other side of Europe without finding out why," Salisbury noted. "But then he has his own reasons to be here. Perhaps he doesn't care."

"So he's either trustworthy or he knows what's going on," Elizabeth noted. "That tells me something." And perhaps that meant he could tell her something more.
 
Just found and caught up on the action. Lots of intrigue and action going on right now and I definitely look forward to seeing what comes next.
 
Chapter 32
Decided to skip a day in the countdown. It seemed awfully fast for this to happen the day before.

Chapter 32: 5 days before the Olde New Year 1616

It wasn't unexpected to see ships from Dusseldorf rowing out to the Londinium to intercept it. While there hadn't been time to send word that Frederick would be passing by, they'd seen the jacks and even if the ship weren't stopping there, the Elector's city would be hoping for news, and to send news themselves.

But Frederick was surprised when messengers were brought on board and they were to be one French and one British, both equally exhausted. "Get them some wine," the Elector ordered.

The two were sat down, and given refreshment. Amazingly, it seems that they'd barely made it in time to catch the Londinium, arriving at Dusseldorf to almost immediately go out onto the Rhine. It seemed that perhaps up to two emergencies had broken out in the few days they'd been awater.

Frederick had a tense time waiting for the messengers to recover. But finally he could ask, "What has happened?"

Apparently the two had had a moment to confer before arriving, as the Frenchman deferred to his British counterpart. "The heir to the Empire has sent a delegation to the Court in London. They arrived as you were leaving but didn't reveal themselves until after they were sure you were gone."

"I saw them as I was leaving," Frederick admitted. "Perhaps we should have returned."

But Gin had caught something else in the man's words. "The heir? Not the Emperor himself?"

The messenger nodded. "Her Majesty was unclear whether this was even legal. She wanted you to know at once."

Frederick nodded. "She can demand that the delegation leave until they have papers signed by the Emperor. But even if that had happened while I was there, it would take time. Do you know why else they might have waited."

"Nothing official, sir," the messenger admitted, "but were the Queen my wife, I'd have decapitated the ambassador when I learned he was the papist forcibly attached to her."

Frederick saw red, and recognized the point. "You and I have that in common. Is the priest alive?"

"When I left, yes. Her Majesty hopes to learn more from him."

Gin smiled. "Her Majesty is most wise."

Frederick exhaled, hoping to the breathe in his wife's good sense. "I will then leave things there to her judgement. I do want Dusseldorf to send a scholar versed in Imperial law to make sure the Archduke isn't trying to pull something."

"The Queen asked that you would," the messenger told him. "Dusseldorf should have someone selected by the time I return there."

"Will you need a fresh horse?" Frederick asked.

"I fear so. The one I arrived at Dusseldorf with will likely need to be put down."

"Take whatever you need from my stables. You don't need to travel back at that speed though." At least he hoped so. Frederick turned to the Frenchman, relieved they could confer in the messenger's language. "I almost dread asking what emergency brings you here."

The messenger smiled. "The situation is grave my lord. But while his Majesty is not quite ready to throw his lot in with you, he has determined that there is a mystery in the Court of Vienna. And he wants to work together to unravel it."
 
I didn't catch the previous update, glad to see a couple quickly.

So, was Henry IV assassinated still in this timeline? Either way, did Louis XIII marry Anne of Austria?

Of course, because of the Rivalry with the habsburgs, the French we're on the opposite side in the Thirty Years War anyway. However, it does make things interesting this early.
 
Chapter 33
Chapter 33: the day before the Olde New Year, 1616

No one was there to meet Frederick when he arrived in Vienna. That was odd any time, but given that the Elector had been specifically summoned to the Hapsburg capital, and had sent messengers ahead to let them know he was close, this was just bizarre.

"So do we just wait for someone here? Or do we go in?" Gin, who was relatively new to diplomacy, was even more flummoxed than Frederick was.

Frederick looked up at the gate they stood at, outside the great walls of Vienna. There was nothing stopping them from going in. However... "I know where our messengers are likely to be. Try to find them, see how they were received. I'll have people ask around here."

"Yes sir."

People started asking around while Frederick settled into an uncomfortable wait which was not relieved by his group or the guards at the gate.

In fact, he waited silently until an unexpected voice came to his rescue. "Things here have certainly been poorly organized as of late."

Frederick didn't recognize the woman; he wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet her before. But that was where servants came in. One of hers played herald, announcing "Her Majesty, the Dowager Queen of France."

Frederick was so startled he did a half bow before it occurred to him that he may not have needed to. "My lady. I wasn't expecting to see you."

"Yes." Marie grimaced, clearly not happy with the proceedings. But she didn't choose to share her frustrations. "Well it's good that I happened along as it seems the government has forgotten about you."

Frederick decided that if she wasn't interested in opening up to him, he wouldn't return the favor. "So it appears."

"In the mean time, why don't you come to the palace in my carriage," the Dowager suggested.

Frederick didn't know if he could get more information out of the French Queen, but after giving his people some final orders, he took her up on her offer.

* * *

The trip to the palace did result in one bit of intelligence. It seemed as though the Dowager had been there over a day and still hadn't spoken to her ambassador there. That tracked with what the messenger from the French King had told him, but it worried him greatly.

Frederick was so concerned that he almost refused to meet with the Emperor when, after parting ways with the Dowager, he finally received word that he'd been given an audience. But that would certainly not solve his lack of knowledge so he agreed to be escorted to the Emperor's private apartments.

Once more he wished he could refuse the summons, though he didn't know if that was possible. Because he recognized the head of the guards leading him. It seemed they were correct to doubt the official word from Vienna. "Nice to see you again. How is your 'retirement' going?"

The Austrian officer looked surprised for a moment. "I'm honoured that you remember me, sir."

"That was an exceptional day," Frederick reminded him. "I take it these are the Archduke's men?"

The officer didn't answer. Before Frederick could insist though, a door was opened and they entered into the Emperor's sitting room.

The Emperor was laying on the floor.

Frederick hurried to his side, though neither the Archduke's guards, nor the Archduke himself who sat in the same room, seemed concerned. "What happened?"

The Archduke shrugged. "He seems to have had a heart attack. Stress from having to abdicate I suppose. I appreciate the expediency but it wasn't necessary. I have all the control I need."

Frederick examined the Emperor. "I think he's still alive."

"For now," Ferdinand countered. "Now sit with me, Elector. For we have much to discuss."
 
I'm sure i'm wrong but isn't this a perfect set up to nail him as the reason the Emperor is dead. . .
 
Chapter 34 New
Chapter 34: Late March 1616

Frederick was being housed far more lavishly than in the old days when Elizabeth's wicked Prime Minister ensnared him. But he was no more comfortable now than he had been then.

The sound of the late Emperor's rattled breathing finally ceasing rang in his head. His head was filled with the Archduke's plans for the future. And his heart yearned to be back home where he could warn his wife of the danger approaching.

His part of the Archduke's scheme was relatively straightforward. While Ferdinand had the votes he needed to be elected Emperor, he felt the Protestant Union would create less trouble if one of their own voted in his favor.

And of course if he didn't, circumstances now allowed for suspicion in the Emperor's death to be thrown Frederick's way.

He stalled; for several different reasons. First, he knew that eventually Gin would have a plan to get him out of there. Secondly, he was hoping to find out the full extent of the coup. On a hunch, pleading youth, he asked if Queen Marie might advise him. The Archduke pretended he'd ask her, but seemed alarmed by putting them in the same room.

Given what he knew about France's incommunicado ambassador, Frederick suspected she was still being blocked. And being told she was too busy confirmed it. He only hoped she wasn't confined like he was.

After three days, he'd been forced to give in to the Archduke's command. Though he'd been able to stall again by needing a speech explaining his reasons. Certainly not the truth. And there was nothing in Ferdinand's plans to spread Catholicism throughout the Empire that anyone sane would believe could attract Frederick.

It was a relief to hear the sound of rope outside the window. But to his surprise, Gin and her drafted lieutenants (the messengers he'd sent here), came down from the floor above. "Not that I'm unhappy to see you, but it's about time you got here," he told her dryly.

Gin wasn't making excuses, even in jest. "I know. It turns out getting out of Vienna is much easier to do than getting back to Britain."

"But you found a way?" Frederick asked hopefully.

"Of course. The rest of your party are back at the ship, at your request. Clever thinking that. They'll head off back up the Rhine and hopefully be the focus while we go overland."

"Sounds good. Which way will we be headed?"

"Swiss Confederacy," Gin told him. "They won't take kindly to Imperial troops looking for us. And we can slip into France."

Well that suited Frederick's plans. "I know you've got everything plotted out but I need you to do something for me."

"What do you need?"

"We need to break the French Dowager out of here and bring her with us."

Gin's jaw dropped. "She's a prisoner too?"

"I don't know. Either way I'd rather she came along."

Gin winced almost imperceptibly. But she nodded. "Yes. I will do that. This way."

Frederick noted the ropes again. "I was expecting we'd be going down."

Gin grinned at him. "Too great a risk of someone spotting us, sir. Not to mention a suspicious amount of rope to buy. But don't worry. We can get out of the palace. And as it happens, Queen Marie's rooms are on the way."
 
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