Chapter One Thousand Eight Hundred Thirteen
31st August 1967
The German Gunboat whose crew called the Little Greyhound was cruising on a parallel course to the Greek Flotilla. Her Captain had been unable to hide his disgust over how events had played out, the German Prince had gone on and on about unforeseen consequences. As if the Germans had any room to complain about the actions of those who lived in the Balkans. Anthypaspistis Fotios Papadopoulos was certain that it had not been a coincidence that many leaders of revanchist political parties throughout Europe had ended up dead back in the 30’s, particularly in France and Italy. It was an action that Fotios completely understood. They had known that they were going to be fighting for their lives against the Soviets and couldn’t afford to have an enemy at their back. The Greek situation was no different and like with the Soviets, Fotios knew damn well that if the other side had been the victors, they would have been far less merciful.
Fotios looked at the rust covered hull of the freighter as it slowly passed the ships of the Greek Navy, just one of the hodgepodge of old freighters he had seen over the prior days. It was a sign of the resounding victory that the Hellenic Empire had achieved and Fotios wasn’t finding nearly as satisfying as he had thought it would be. The Turks had started this war at a time when the Greeks and their Allies had been prepared to end it. The terms of the ceasefire that the Greeks had imposed involved the Turks taking the refugees from territories formerly known as Albania and Bosnia. Anyone from those people who wished to remain were more than welcome to, they just did it with the understanding that no one would stop the various other people they had been at war with for centuries from killing them.
It was a brutal but necessary action. The Croatians might be the wrong sort of Christians for example, at least they weren’t heathens like the Turks and those who were allied with them. There was simply no living with them.
Marie ran down the spiral stairs to the courtyard, emerging into the late summer sun. The others were gathering in a corner of the Great Hall for lunch and she didn’t want to be late. All morning she had been sitting with a woman from the town below the castle who had come to show the girls how an old-fashioned loom worked. The schedule said that they were being given a free afternoon and Marie still was finding new things when she explored the castle.
It had gotten cold the night before, a clear reminder of how the Summer Holiday was drawing to a close. In a few days Marie would board a train that would take her back to Berlin and her old life. Then it would be back to schoolwork and living her life vicariously through books and flights of fancy. Sure, Marie missed her dog Fleur and cat Cheshire, but here in the castle she was living the sort of thing that normally only existed in books or movies. The ankle length blue tunic and sandals she was wearing were a part of that, they were exactly what someone like her living in this castle would have worn at any point in its history. Marie wished that she could slow down time and spend a lot longer in this place. Being unable to do that, she was certainly keeping the tunic and sandals.
The younger girls were of all different minds. Nella and Nan wanted to resume their old lives. Nan had pointed out that Uncle Louis could well have engaged in all manner of deviltry in their absence. Nella had seconded that. She understood her father well. Considering that Marie knew who they were talking about, it was probably a fair assessment of what had happened over the summer. On the other hand, Sophie didn’t ever want to return home. Apparently, things were difficult for her there…
Walking across the courtyard, Marie had an unexpected sight. Standing there smoking a cigarette was Kage Akio. A trusted colleague of her mother who mostly stuck of his own volition when he wasn’t off doing the bidding of the Japanese Government. He said that life was rarely dull around Marie’s Mother. They had known each other for years and like always Marie had to remember to not run up and hug him, he really didn’t like it when she did that.
“Herr Kage” Marie said in greeting as she approached.
“Ojosama” Kage replied and he gave her a slight bow. Marie understood what that meant and having watched many Japanese animated films, knew that Kage was poking fun at her by using that formal address.
Marie returned the bow as he had taught her over one of their prior encounters and played along with it.
“What brings you here Herr Kage?” Marie asked in Japanese. Which got her a raised eyebrow. Over the previous school year, she had taken upon herself to learn the language and it had not proven as difficult as Korean or English. It also revealed a few things that Marie hadn’t quite understood. Kage’s name translated to Luminous Shadow and the reference material had shown woodcut painting of a dark hooded figure that was considered semi-mythological in his native country. Was Kage such an individual? That certainly explained a great deal.
“Your Mother is here to meet with Lady Kristina in the Hall about a bit of emergency surgery she did last month” Kage replied, “And to visit you, of course.”
Before she went into the Great Hall, Marie did have one last question for Kage.
“You have castles in Japan?” Marie asked.
“Yes” Kage replied, “Not as drafty and this place needs nightingale floors.”
Kage didn’t answer the question. Instead he gave Marie the sly look she knew all too well; Figure it out yourself. It was one of the rules of their exchanges. Kage would only answer questions for as long as he felt like it and if he felt like Marie should figure it out on her own, he wouldn’t give her an answer. With that Marie shrugged and ran into the Great Hall.