Louis Montjoy, chief French herald, poured his fifth cup of coffee of the night. He was up, yet again, in an all-nighter to prevent a war, this time with the low countries. What brought him to this was convoluted and quite frankly ridiculous-- but international diplomacy was always a powder keg.
He'd made a sort of graph on his wall of notes, photos, and flags, all connected by red ribbon. It quite frankly looked like the work of a serial killer. He just had to figure out where everything connected. There had to be some common denominator. He also had to make several calls.
"Come on, pick up..." Montjoy begged to no one in particular as the phone on the other end rang. After three rings, the other side answered.
The Constable's phone was ringing. At 3 am, which was never a good sign. He groaned but picked it up, blearily trying to read the caller ID and hit accept. Orléans shifted beside him but didn't wake up.
"D' Albret," the Constable mumbled.
"Charles. Oh good, you picked up. There's a situation needs addressing." It was Montjoy on the other end.
"Can it wait?"
"No. Sorry to wake you up but this is urgent. It has to do with last night." Somehow Montjoy sounded perfectly coherent and awake.
"I've been trying to forget last night, thank you very much," the Constable said.
"Do you still have him?"
"You know who I mean."
"Yeah. Unfortunately." Orléans, on the verge of waking up, kicked the Constable, who was still in bed. He took that as a cue to get up and take the conversation elsewhere. He stumbled to the living room. "Yeah. He's on my couch, passed out."
"What happened after I left?" Montjoy asked.
"Charles and I got him into the back of the car and left," the Constable replied. "He was still awake then. Passed out when we got back, not sure if it was the drink or the fight." He sat down at his desk.
Montjoy sighed. "He's the reason this whole thing is happening. He punched the ambassador from the Netherlands."
"I seem to remember that guy from Belgium being involved too," the Constable said. "Or was that wishful thinking."
"I don't know what that means," Montjoy said.
"He was drunk," the Constable continued, ignoring Montjoy.
"That's even worse," Montjoy said. "It reflects beyond poorly on the royal house if the prince gets smashed in the first place, and then gets into a fight with an ambassador." He sounded increasingly agitated.
"So what's the damage?" The Constable asked, failing to suppress a yawn.
"I got a very angry call from the Dutch consulate," Montjoy said. "And, the public relations man from England, Exeter, is on my back because England wants part of the deal that we're probably going to lose now."
"Of course they do," the Constable mumbled. "So am I damage control? You realize that I'm not Louis's father, right?"
"Yes I realize that. However, you are his father’s second in command, and... it hasn't been a good couple of weeks."
"Yes, I know. " The Constable didn't want to talk about it any more than Montjoy did. "Alright, you want me to call the shots."
"Don't let it go to your head, Charles."
"Of course not. Who else did you say is involved in this mess?"
"England isn't fully involved yet," Montjoy said, "but judging by what Exeter said in our last meeting, they want to be, so we have to keep King Henry on our good side. And of course the Netherlands. And I got an email from the Bosnian consulate, so I suspect they're not too happy with the Prince and the Dutch ambassador getting into a fight during a party they were holding."
"Sounds reasonable," the Constable replied.
"One more problem. If the deal doesn't go through properly, we may have damaged our relationship with the Netherlands beyond repair, which according to my projections will result in the entire Benelux hating us, which we can't afford at this point."
"Okay, just get England on our side. Call Exeter and get him online in a call with us."
"I can do one better, if I have to," Montjoy said.
"Okay, whatever. Gimme like five hours more sleep, I'll call you back."
"Alright, I'll talk-"
But the other end had already ended the call. Montjoy suspected the Constable had fallen asleep.
He wished he could too.
Okay so yeah I'm back more or less. I've had this chapter in the works for a couple of weeks and just finished it. Hopefully this will hold you over until I'm off of school.
Anyway, back to Montjoy.
Montjoy took a shower and made his third pot of coffee for a total of nine cups so far. He had to keep up his energy if he wanted France to stay on everyone’s good side. Just how they had gotten into this mess, he didn’t know. It would be easy to pin it on the Dauphin, but that was too easy.
It had all started at a party at the Bosnian embassy the previous night. It was the 20th anniversary of Bosnian independence from the collapsing Eastern Roman Empire, and in attendance were Montjoy, the Dauphin, the Constable, and the Duke of Orléans. The night was going fine until the Dauphin, apparently having had one too many drinks, picked a fight with the Netherlands’ ambassador to France. The resulting argument (Montjoy, on the other end of the room at the time, had only heard the word “horse,” giving him some ideas but no context) had gotten so out of hand that the Dauphin punched the ambassador in the face. Montjoy just remembered running across the room in a panic, and the Constable grabbing the Dauphin and pulling him away, apologizing profusely to the ambassador.
Montjoy’s headache began in earnest when the Dutch embassy called him later that night, understandably offended at the situation. Montjoy would have been offended too, were he to be punched in the face. The embassy demanded an apology, which Montjoy tried to explain he couldn’t issue, although he personally was very sorry for the incident, it was not something that happened regularly, he’d discuss this with the king tomorrow and he was sure an apology would be forthcoming. As soon as he ended that call, the Bosnian embassy called, angry because the whole mess had occurred while their guests. Montjoy promised what he could, then hung up to talk to the Constable, which had brought him to this point.
He had promised he’d call someone higher than Exeter if he had to. Montjoy was one of the few people to have this number, and he didn’t have to be told it was only to be used in emergencies. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to use it.
Montjoy sat down at the kitchen table and opened his laptop to a barrage of emails, most from the Dutch consulate and from the higher-ups in the French government. He was only a herald, it was just his job to pass on messages and work PR, not make or execute policy. He set to work writing answering emails—yes we’ll meet with you today, we’re very sorry for what happened, this in no way reflects what France thinks about your fine country, please don’t take this personally. He emailed Exeter asking whether he wanted to have a meeting soon. He emailed the King (or more accurately his secretary) about the pressing need for an official public apology. King Charles was a nice man and would no doubt agree to apologize. That is, if he was feeling well.
That made things all the worse. The King was not well, which put a strain on everyone at court, especially the Constable, who was the King’s second in command, and the royal family. It was hard enough to have a family member struggling with mental illness. It was even harder when that family member ran a country. Montjoy worried daily (of course, he worried about a lot of things) about the precarious future.
But surely the Dauphin getting drunk and punching someone, even an ambassador, couldn’t cause a war, right? Montjoy knew that wars have been started over pettier things, but he hoped this petty insult wasn’t enough to start a conflict.
The situation with the Benelux countries was a strange one, to say the least. Tensions had been rising over some disputed land between France and the Holy Roman Empire, which made Belgium queasy since the territory in question was close to them. At the same, time, there was an unrelated issue with the Netherlands having ties to Burgundy, which still was pressing for independence. This complicated matters further since there had been talks for a trade agreement between France and the Netherlands, which they could now probably kiss goodbye. England was marginally involved because they wanted in on it too, which had seemed like a good thing at the time but now thanks to the glaring-at-each-other-over-the-fence rivalry France and England had, that was endangered since some people in the government across the channel were suspicious of their new ally—as were some people in France suspicious of England.
It had been a long road to peace with England, and Montjoy prided himself on being one of the guides. They had struck a bargain after five years of debate and there was some murmurings of France and England being united now that Henry had married Catherine—which of course was a controversial possibility. Montjoy’s job was to simply deliver news and serve as a go-between for King Charles and King Henry, relaying messages via internet conferences or, in situations requiring more security and official flair, in person. It was a job that required tact and a body that could run on little sleep and a great deal of stress, but he was partly satisfied with the direction things were taking.
Now if they could just keep it up with the rest of Europe.
Montjoy texted the Constable about the situation with the Dauphin and drank another cup of coffee, preparing for the day. He had to speak to King Charles today, about the official apology and he just hoped he was well. Montjoy wasn’t even sure that the King knew about what happened the previous night, considering that the Constable had cleared it up as quickly as possible and Montjoy himself had only seen part of it. Unless the Netherlands had somehow reached the royal office, the Constable would be able to break it to him gently.
Montjoy’s phone buzzed, alerting him that the Constable had texted back.
“No. Still fielding messages from the consulate and trying to get ahold of the King’s secretary. How is he? –M”
Montjoy groaned. He shouldn’t have needed to ask that.
“Heard from Exeter yet?”
“I have to go meet with His Majesty. With Pony Boy. Wish me luck.”
“Bonne chance. –M”
Montjoy pocketed his phone and dug through the papers and junk on the kitchen table, which he more often used as a desk than for eating. He found his keys and headed out, desperately praying he would be able to salvage things, or at least hold off war until the King could do something and hope that no one decided to shoot the messenger.
Some days he really hated his job.