2004-07-15 03:09:21 UTC
I am so angry with the one whom I loved,
Because I loved him more than anything:
But Mercy nor courtesy moves him,
Neither does my beauty, nor my worthiness, nor my good sense,
For I am deceived and betrayed
As much as I should be, if I were ugly"-Maria, Empress of Rome
Nuremberg, May 1235
Maria, Empress of Rome, continued writing her letter to her daughter. "I do
hope you are well, and, as always, I will endeavor to secure your release
from the Emperor. If God wills it, we shall see you for Christmas." She
looked over the letter and nodded. Taking out juice of lemons, she began to
write things in the margin. She had been doing this for years now, and she
had not been caught yet. If all went well, she wrote, Eleanor would be freed
from her imprisonment on the 4th of July. Smiling, she set the letter aside.
The Emperor entered her private chambers, in a surprisingly jovial mood.
"Italy will soon be taken care of," he said . He was courteous, as
always, to his wife. "Writing another letter?" he said, looking at it.
Maria nodded. "Something to take up my time, in addition to the loom. Will
you not reconsider your treatment of Eleanor? She is your stepdaughter,
Frederick paused as if to consider it. "Perhaps," he said at last. "May I
see your letter?" Maria passed it to the Emperor. Then Frederick smiled and
placed it over the flame of a candle.
Maria's heart stopped. Her message began appearing. Frederick savored her
reaction, and had to resist the urge to gloat. "I've known about what you've
been planning for years, Maria. About your plan to free your daughter. How
you wanted to work with the King of the Greeks to overthrow me and take
Sicily back." Frederick had to grind out the words. "About how you wanted to
assassinate me, and place Henry in my place."
"How did you know?" asked Maria. "It was thought out so carefully!"
Frederick smirked. "Come now. The Empress begins acquiring quantities of
lemon juice and takes to writing long winded letters?" He paused, and then
added another line. "I had you watched, as well."
They were silent for several minutes, as Frederick stared at his wife.
"Why?" he said at last. "What did I do to you, that you hate me so?"
Maria looked as if she could kill him. "You imprisoned my daughter. You
tried to kill my grandson. What did you expect, that I would scatter rose
petals before the feet of our glorious Emperor?"
Frederick began to get angry. "Your sister married a rebel against the
Empire, and hoped to use Aquitane as a stronghold against me. Your grandson
is the last true heir of the Capetians and Plantagenets. He must go." He
stared at his wife. "I did what was necessary to ensure peace. You of all
people should understand that."
"Assassination?" said Frederick. "Consorting with Greeks?" Frederick said
this without emotion. "You hated me that much?"
At that point, Maria broke down in tears. Despite himself, Frederick found
himself going towards her. She was his wife, after all.
"Hush," he said. "We'll get you to a nunnery with your daughter. I will not
free her, but at least she shall not be alone." Maria sobbed, and reached
for a dagger on her desk while Frederick was distracted. He knocked it aside
and pushed her back.
Maria tripped backwards, and fumbled over a piece of furniture. She
desperately flailed her arms, but to no avail. It was at that point that she
fell out of the window. She hit the ground with a loud thud mere moments
Frederick looked down at the corpse, or what remained of it. "The Empress,"
he told his guard, who had been waiting outside the entire time, "has
fallen. Attend to her corpse, and leave me be."
History would record that Frederick II, the Wonder of the World, cared
little for his wife. After all, he had no problem having affairs on the
side, and having several bastards. And aside from his attitude towards his
children, the Emperor was never known for being particularly soft and
sentimental. It was rumored by some that the Emperor had pushed his wife, or
had some one else do it. And there would be many historians, in the future,
who would believe it.
Historians would never know, after all, that, by himself in his wife's
chambers, Frederick II wept.
"As the desire to sing takes hold of me,
I will make a song about my sorrow;
I will no longer be a servant of love
In Poitou nor in Ile de France.
For now I will go into exile:
In great fear, in great peril,
In war, I will leave my son
And the Caesar will harm him.
I seek mercy on my companion
If I have ever wronged him, may he pardon me,
And I pray to Jesus on the throne,
In French and in Latin.
I have left behind all that I once loved
Chivalry and pride;
And since it pleases God, I accept all that
And pray Him to retain me in His presence
Thus I renounce joy and pleasure
The brown, grey, and sable furs."-Eleanor of Aquitane, in Trifels
Trifels, July 1235
Du Lac fixed his robes carefully. Posing as a respectable monk, sent here to
tutor the poor Duchess Eleanor, he knew he had to look the part. People
would begin to question just why he spoke with a Poitevin accent, and begin
to wonder if the Emperor had approved of his visit.
Trifels was a tall, imposing castle that dominated the landscape. It had
been the site of Richard the Lionheart's imprisonment, and, it was rumored,
the castle where the antipope Innocent III had lived out his final days.
Lancelot shivered as he approached its walls.
"Pax Vobiscum," he said to the two guards at the gate. "I am a tutor for the
poor child Eleanor of Aquitaine, daughter of the former Empress. I have been
sent by the Caesar himself to tutor the child and bring her back to the
fold." He gestured at the two nuns and the other monk. "They are here to
help me, of course."
One of the guards guffawed. "Help you with what?" Lancelot glared at him, as
any proper monk should. He produced a letter bearing the Emperor's seal,
which had been produced by a forger in Bristol.
Du Lac smiled inwardly as the guards read the letter slowly. He was but a
minor noble, true. But just because he was a minor one did not mean he could
sit by while the rightful Duchess of Aquitaine was imprisoned in a castle by
the Emperor It was an unchristian thing to do.
He climbed to the highest room of the tallest tower, with the other monks
and nuns in tower, past the other guards. "My Lady," called Du Lac, "I have
been sent to instruct you."
Eleanor sat before him, dressed in black. "Oh, another one of the Emperor's
lackeys?" she said, looking up from a Bible. "I am a tad busy, as you see. I
am reading the Book of Revelations." She smiled. "There are quite a few
similarities to the Emperor in here, you know."
Du Lac looked to make sure the door was closed, and nodded to the other
"monk", who began lecturing her on modesty, chastity, and obedience.
Lancelot leaned close to Eleanor. "Frankly, my Duchess, I don't care if the
Four Horsemen ride out of Nuremberg tomorrow. I am Du Lac, and I am here to
Eleanor blinked. "You are who?"
A few hours later, Du Lac, the other monk, and the nuns walked out of
Trifels. Du Lac sighed walking by the guards. "The strumpet, I fear, has yet
to be conciliated to her new surroundings."
One of the guards laughed. "Yes, she is a whore, isn't she? Always
complaining and sobbing. " He became seriously quickly, however. "But we
have received word from the Emperor himself that some one might try to help
her escape." The guard eyed the nuns. "Disguising her, perhaps. We will have
to check to be sure."
Du Lac looked at the nuns nervously. "Good man, I must protest! These are
women of God!"
"Then God won't mind, will he? He would understand that we do this for the
Empire." The guards began checking the nuns most thoroughly as they blushed.
At long last, they were apparently satisfied. "Pass on, pass on." One of the
guards gave the other monk an odd look, but said nothing.
One of the guards walked up to Du Lac and apologized. "Forgive me, good
monk. We had merely received word that some one had been sent to help the
Duchess escape from the justice she richly deserves."
Du Lac nodded sagely. "And indeed, God smiles upon your efforts. I am
certain that she will receive everything she deserves."
The other monk spoke up. "Yes, indeed she will."
As they rode on, the other monk took off her hood, revealing the radiant
Eleanor of Aquitaine.
"A strumpet?" she said. "Surely you think that was a bit much?" She looked
behind them, at the Castle Trifels. "How long do you think, good knight, it
will be before they realize I am gone?"
Du Loc pulled out a telescope and looked at the castle. He could make out
men on horseback running down the hill. He turned towards Eleanor. "About
now, I would say." And with that, he and Eleanor galloped off towards the
channel, and passage to England.
"One thing," said Eleanor, as they rode, "I do not know the name of my
Du Loc thought for a moment. "My name," he said gravely, "Is Lancelot Du
Eleanor thought about asking which lake, but remained silent. "Very well,
Lancelot of the Lake. I am with you."
(The Poems are actually by La Comtess de Dia, and Guillame IX, Duke of
Emden, July 1238
Lancelot Du Lac looked over the city and sneered. Filthy streets home to
smugglers and pirates. "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and
villainy," he said.
Eleanor looked over the cities, and stared at the ships in the dock
thoughtfully. "Excellent," she said. "That means the Emperor will never
think to look for us here."
Emden was one of the many cities that had thrived as a result of the Emperor
's attempts to forbid trade with England. The continent needed English wool,
especially in Flanders. Even Eleanor had heard rumors of discontent from
that land, as the Kaiser's efforts to forbid the import of wool had been
The people of Emden had taken to smuggling with gusto. They were, after all,
a good sensible people, who would never let trade be interrupted by
something as trivial as a war over the salvation of mankind and the
restoration of Rome's glory.
Therefore, Emden was an ideal place for those who wished to pass to and from
the Empire sail to England. A dangerous city, to be sure, but one in which,
it was said, anything could be had for a price.
Lancelot ended up taking Eleanor with him, for lack of a better option, to a
tavern on the harbor. A few words at the bar, and he ended up sitting with a
captain by the name of Hans Soren.
He nodded to Eleanor and the two sat down. Eleanor looked around her at the
chaos, the fights, and the drunken men. She made a show of placing a dagger
in her hand while Eleanor discussed the price with Hans.
Hans leaned in close over the table. "My partner Christian tells me that you
're looking for passage to England."
Lancelot looked around and decided it was safe to speak. "Yes, if it's a
Hans laughed. "Fast ship? You've never heard of the Adler Jahrtausend?"
Eleanor spoke up. "Should I have?"
Hans waved about the tavern. "It made the Bergen run in twelve days!"
Eleanor remained unimpressed as Hans continued. "I've outrun Hansa ships
serving the Emperor, you know. Not the local river barges, but good Hamburg
ships. She's fast enough for you, boy. What's the cargo?"
Lancelot looked around. "Two passengers. Myself and the girl. No questions
"What is it?" asked Hans. "Some kind of local trouble?"
Eleanor smiled. "Let's just say we'd like to avoid any Imperial
Hans leaned back and smiled. "Well, that's the trick, isn't it? And it's
going to cost you. A thousand denarii, all in advance."
"A thousand denarii?" said Lancelot. "We could almost buy our own ship for
"And who's going to sail it, my lord? You?" Hans sneered.
Eleanor held Lancelot's hand down firmly. "We will pay you two hundred now,
fifteen hundred on arrival in London."
"Seventeen hundred, huh?" Hans rubbed his chin. "Alright, I'll take it."
 I underestimated the Emperor's strength in Italy. As in Japan
underestimated America's industrial strength in WW2.
 Ah, if only he'd brought along a Troubadour.
Okay, enough joking, for now. The next post will deal with the thing you've
all been waiting for: The fiscal policies of the Empire and it relation to
the gold supply coming on caravans from Tunis.