Pagan's Untold Story, pt 2 Title: Pagan's Untold Story (part 2 of 2) Rating: FRT Characters: Pagan, Mrs. Darlian, King Peacecraft, Queen Peacecraft, Milliardo, and Generals Khushrenada and Catalonia Notes: Thanks to the_dw and guiltyred for their help! Time: AC 176-AC 182
Pagan's Untold Story by Arabian Princess
Katrina and I kept changing the king as much as we dared. He came to believe many members of Romefeller were not as bad as he originally thought, and he began associating with non-pacifistic nations. Winston had always made sure all treaties were in line with Total Pacifism. I managed to get a few approved that were in the grey area. Many extended family members were mysteriously dropping dead left and right, so Katrina kept pushing for a guard to keep herself and their son safe. That, however, was where Nicolo drew the line clearly and boldly in the sand. He was not a weak king, and he held true to his ideals. His senators and courtiers could be swayed against one person inside their group occasionally given the right conditions, and with that many voices, Nicolo had to allow the court's will. He, however, was a stubborn man. I could barrage him with tragedy and cause him to grieve heavily. I could have him spend more time with those in favor the military expansion, hoping to have some influence. I could impose on him a much younger wife and newborn son. I could make his mind and his decisions venture to the grey area of his teachings, but he would never go past that. He would never take on any weapons, even for his son. He would not play the politics or games of Romefeller. This annoyed me greatly. I could only push him so far without arousing too much suspicion, and he refused to go any further. I knew the Alliance breathed down Dermail's neck, wanting to do more and in a manner of which he would approve. I guess he succumbed to pressure or became too impatient because a little after Milliardo's second birthday, Dermail sent a little tart.
"I am not a tart!" Mrs. Darlian insisted in an indignant tone. "I believe you forget how you were at that age," Pagan said nonchalantly, taking another sip of wine. "I may have been much younger than you, but that does not give you the right to call me a tart!" she cried. "I never did anything to warrant the name!" "What about General Catalonia?" She hesitated. "I never touched him after marriage." "I saw you two at parties when you believed you were in private." "Sneaking a few kisses does not merit calling me a 'tart'!" "Let's ask Mrs. Catalonia if it does. Of course, I always preferred her names for you: 'la puta,' 'la zorra,' and 'la cabra.'" "She would use Spanish terms—probably just in hopes of luring her husband to her," she sneered. "I thought you said you never touched him after marriage." "I didn't!" "Then why do I sense a mistress's jealousy? Is there truth to Mrs. Catalonia's names?" Gritting her teeth, she stood angrily. "I won't take these insults!" "Calm down," he said in the same blasé tone of voice. "You take things too seriously. If it makes you feel better, I won't refer to you as a tart anymore." "Or any of its synonyms," she added. He smiled amusedly, "Or any of its synonyms."
Dermail had taken a different route this time. The tar—woman did not come from an unknown family. She came from one of the families directly below the Dermails, who was the ruling family for all intents and purposes. Marquis Weridge had made a name for himself, and his sons had continued his legacy by joining the military. His youngest son had died under one of Dermail's sons-in-law's command, and I believe that was the cover story for sending in this young woman. She was a daughter of Weridge and had been very close to the deceased. I knew she was trouble from the start. She was not a good pacifist, and everyone could see she did not want to be there. I believe the story was that her family was turning toward pacifism and sent her there to gather more information and to calm her soul hopefully. Unlike some, I had the privilege of knowing who her lover was. He was a married man, and I was afraid she might corrupt Katrina, who was getting unhappier and unhappier in her marriage. Yes, I should have known she and Katrina would get along nicely and would—"
"—I did not 'corrupt' Katrina!" Mrs. Darlian shouted, interrupting Pagan's story. "I barely knew the woman! When I met her, she was thirty-one. I was twenty-five. We did not grow up together! Our families didn't even know each other." "You were still one of her ladies-in-waiting." "Yes, and she may have known who I was, but I had no idea her family was in Romefeller. I thought she was the queen everyone else thought. I didn't know she was your little pawn and spy," she explained. Pagan took a moment to be proud of the late queen before Mrs. Darlian continued, "And, I believe I just finished explaining I wasn't anyone's lover! I never did anything inappropriate with Alejandro after he married that witch! Though, believe me, he wanted to do things with me. I remained a proper young woman." "Because you're so virtuous?" he sneered, not believing her. "Because if Anda so much as got a whiff of his being unfaithful, she'd have run home crying to Daddy, and you think Duke Dermail wouldn't do anything to my family? No, once he learned I was the 'tart' who made Alejandro stray and caused Anda to cry, he would have started his revenge faster than you could call your troops," she retorted with a snort and a roll of her eyes. Pagan filled his glass and took a long, slow drink, allowing her to cool off. Once she had calmed, he continued with his story.
Either way, the trouble did not start until Lady Cassandra Elizabeth Weridge, a younger daughter of Marquis Weridge, showed up at the kingdom. She was made a lady-in-waiting to the queen, and things definitely picked up at a faster pace once she arrived. With more ladies-in-waiting and her son getting a little older, the queen wanted to hold more parties. Nicolo was a very indulgent husband and allowed her to throw all the parties she wanted and left the guest list to her. With no one reviewing the guest list beforehand, many new faces appeared in the kingdom, faces no one had ever thought would be seen in the kingdom. Alliance military personnel, Romefeller members, and popular musicians for the war now frequently visited Sanc. At first, I was happy with this. Things were changing rapidly and in our favor. However, I began to notice little things. I brushed them off as being nothing more than times changing, but soon I could not ignore them. General Alexander Catalonia, Prince of Gerona, Count of Barcelona, and his brother-in-law General Tretton Khushrenada, Duke of Austria, were the most frequent visitors. They even came when there were no parties. Sometimes the men's wives accompanied them, and they were the best of guests. However, both men were starting families, and the women frequently stayed elsewhere with the young children. Nicolo and Katrina always insisted the children were welcome as well, but Tretton seemed to think his daughter and sons were too rambunctious for the mild-mannered country. I believed they just wanted an excuse to leave their wives behind. This was more or less confirmed as Anda Catalonia became pregnant with their first child, and Alexander spent more time in the kingdom and around a certain lady-in-waiting, who now insists nothing inappropriate happened in all those midnight visits. Besides being away from his wife and youngsters, I am not quite sure why Tretton kept coming except maybe as a chaperone for his brother-in-law, for his eyes never strayed from Eleanor. Nicolo welcomed them but eventually felt they were visiting too frequently. Katrina either was oblivious to his feelings or else simply ignored them. He asked me to help his eyes and ears at his wife's increasingly frequent parties. "You want me to chaperone?" I asked, fairly amused at the time by the proposal. "More or less," he acknowledged, watching out his window. The queen, her ladies, and the small prince were having a picnic in the open field outside the window. "Surely you don't believe the queen is being unfaithful, Your Majesty." "I don't, but I am worried about this new set of friends she's acquired. Romefeller is filling her head with ideas. She's becoming almost fanatical about this arming the Imperial Guard idea." He shook his head. "You know how protective new, young mothers are," I assuaged. I joined him at looking out the window. "I'm sure she just wanted to reconnect with old friends, and with being in the Alliance, I'm sure their tales have caused her to worry even more." I watched the group outside. "It's good to have her socializing, sire. She was suffering from depression for too long after the prince's birth." "She wanted a girl," he said. "She thinks that boy is her only child, and she wanted a girl. I understand why she got depression." He paused for a moment. "She barely spends time with him. Milliardo doesn't know his mother. Look, he's even with that lady-in-waiting. Katrina is ignoring him, wrapped up in conversation with the ladies." I looked and noticed he was with Cassandra. "One glimpse of a moment does not translate to her neglecting her son." He shook his head. "I've been watching her for some time, and I've talked with my son. She's drawing away from him." "Give her time, my king," I implored. "She may just be going through a phase." Eyes on his son, he nodded. "What do you know of Lady Cassandra?" "Only what you know, sire," I admitted. Well, I knew she also sneaked out to meet with General Catalonia, but I did not think that tidbit of gossip was something he really needed to know. "Do you know of any lovers?" "I don't think anything serious. Why?" "She's a good maiden, and she spends a lot of time with Milliardo. I want to reward her for her loyalty. One of my senators is quite taken with her. Do you know Richard? I think they would make a fine match. Perhaps part of her reward can be a nice wedding." He smiled at me, eyes twinkling. He was a hopeless romantic sometimes. I turned to look at Cassandra. Yes, I knew Christopher Richard Darlian, and I knew of his crush on "Lady Cassandra." He followed her around like a puppy at times, but she seemed to hold no affection for him. I was under the impression she just wanted to shrug him off and have him leave her alone. However, Nicolo was set on the match, so I kept my mouth shut on the matter. "It's okay, Pagan. I know you hate discussing this," he said at length. "Just...just keep your eyes open and your ears alert at the parties." I nodded. "That, I can do."
I only had to break up a few young couples in bushes for the first couple months. There were no military coups being plotted within the borders. No one was scheming to poison any member of the royal family. I was a little amused and a little irritated at having to play chaperone after everything else through which I had been. However, as you can imagine, I came across something that changed everything. "I suggest you go find a room or wait until the end of the party," I told a young couple. They blushed deeply and ran out from the garden, toward the party. I chuckled and shook my head. Some things never changed. I knew I could always find couples in the garden, and their conversation was always the same. "Are you sure? What if someone finds us?" "That's what makes it so exciting. Hey, no, we won't get caught." I broke up yet another couple when I saw a familiar young man. My son Ethan had made it to the party somehow. As I made my way to him, I wondered why he was there. I was happy to see him, but he knew of my mission, so I knew he would not just show up. Something had to be wrong, and I worried about my children. "Ethan! You came all this way and didn't tell me you were—" I stopped mid-sentence. I saw the reason he came and the reason he did not tell me. He was busy with a woman. I chuckled inwardly at the thought of having to break up my own son with his lady friend, but my amusement ended when I saw who his companion was. "ETHAN!" I bellowed. The two broke away but did not appear ashamed at all. "Father!" he coughed, straightening his clothes. "I...I thought you don't attend these sorts of parties." "What the hell do you think you're doing?" I asked in a strained voice. I glanced around the garden, making sure no one was near. I pulled them into one of the gardening sheds before anyone else could see. "Of all the stupid, idiotic things..." I started angrily. "Don't judge us," warned Ethan. "We're in love." I rolled my eyes and snorted. "She's a married woman! A queen!" I turned my eyes onto her for the first time. "And you, Katrina, you should be the most ashamed! You have a son, you're a queen, and you're helping Romefeller. This incredibly stupid, selfish act could jeopardize all our hard work." "Our hard work?" sniffed Katrina. "You're not the one married to a geriatric. You're not the one who can only have one child—a boy nonetheless—because your husband is too old to produce another one naturally. You didn't throw your life away just for some stupid foundation that doesn't even care about you!" She wiped her eyes. "If you mess up, things are done. If I do, my life is ruined. I'll always be known as the traitor queen. Even though my family is proud of me for this, if I get found out, I have nowhere to go. No one would touch the conniving queen who tried to trick and take down the great King Peacecraft." She turned her back towards us. "You said I could pull out any time. I want to pull out now. I don't want to be in this marriage anymore. I want to be with a husband who loves and cares for me, who's my age." "It's too late. When you took those vows, there was no turning back. You knew it then." "Father!" my son gasped. "Please, be sympathetic. Peacecraft doesn't care for her like he should, like I do. When you came that day to get her, we had just started our relationship. It was nothing serious, and we both thought it was just a passing fling, so she agreed to your proposal. Father, in the five years we've been apart, all I did was think about Katrina. Ask Oletia; I've been a wreck!" "The same has been true of me, Pagan. It took time and distance to show us how much we're in love with each other." "Just remember Romeo and Juliet died in the end," I snarled. "You worry about Nicolo exiling you? Well, if that is all that should happen, you should count yourself lucky. If our covers are broken, do you think Dermail will hesitate at all in ordering our executions? And there won't be any mourning for us. He'll have our memories stamped out of history. You'll be forever known as Nicolo's unknown middle wife and queen who could only produce one heir, one who died with her." I gave her another glare for good measure. "Go back to your husband and stay by his side for the rest of the night!" I barked. She gave a look at Ethan before she fled the shed instantly. "We're alone now," he said eventually. "You were too hard on her." "If I could, I would tan your hide right here and now!" I shouted at him, ignoring him. "Why would you travel here for that woman? Are you looking for trouble?" "Believe it or not, I didn't come here for Katrina." He gave me a look I had never seen before in him. It was dripping of deliberate disobedience. "Khushrenada and Catalonia are some of the closest brother-in-laws I've ever seen. Catalonia needed a unit to work with his Specials for some test or something, so Khushrenada volunteered us. They've been spending time here, so I have, too. I met up with Katrina a month or so ago, and we both told each other how big of fools we have been. I didn't come here with the intentions of having an affair with a queen and endangering your mission. However, now that I have and have seen how miserable Katrina is, I won't just leave like nothing's happened. I won't. I'm going to do something." "Don't you dare," I hissed. "Leave her to me. I'll take care of her." "I don't believe you." He had solidity and resolve to his eyes. "I'm going over to Marseilles for a few weeks. When I get done with tests there, I'm coming here for Katrina. Nothing you say can change that." He tugged stiffly on the edge of his military jacket and walked briskly out of the shed without letting me respond. I watched his back for some time even after I could no longer see it. I knew who was to blame. Catalonia was more or less his commanding officer for the time being, and Katrina had surely seen Lady Cassandra with him. I knew then and there that the tart was to blame for the infidelity.
"Excuse me?" Mrs. Darlian cried. "That was my thought at the time." Pagan shrugged. "It's how I saw it." She pursed her lips, clearly biting her tongue as hard as she could. "I told you quite obstinately before that I didn't do any of that. We may have kissed a little inappropriately and may have wanted more, but we didn't go any further." "I thought you said before you were the strong one, he was the one who wanted more." She looked way. "We were good friends and talked a good deal—we weren't always snogging as you so blatantly imply. When things got a little heated between us, he did mention he wished things could be as before he was forced to marry Anda, but I was always the one who brought him back to reality. He may not have picked Anda given the chance, but he did care for her in some way, I suppose. Don't blame us."
I requested a meeting with Generals Catalonia and Khushrenada. I needed to speak with them on my son but also on my future plans. I felt I had changed the king as I ever could and the time had finally come when the kingdom would be crushed. We met outside the kingdom at one of Khushrenada's summer homes. Their wives and children were absent, spending the day in town. "Please, take a seat," Khushrenada offered. I sat opposite of the two great Alliance generals. I'm sure they wondered why I would even consider contacting them, even if they knew my mission. They were the poster boys of the Alliance and Foundation. They were young, successful, good-looking, and very charming. The fact that they were good friends only helped their causes. "First I'd like to offer my congratulations. I hear your wife had a daughter," I started. "Yes, she did. Thank you. We named her Dorothy; she's so beautiful." Catalonia was very much the proud father. He probably would have kept talking except for the look Khushrenada gave him. I looked at the other. "I also heard rumors of your wife expecting another one?" Khushrenada chuckled. "Oh she better not be! I've been away for months, and she wasn't pregnant when I left." The two young men shared a look of amusement. "You've been mostly in Sanc," I said in a serious tone. "We were invited," replied Catalonia indignantly. They must have taken offense at my tone of voice. "You've been spending a lot of time with Lady Cassandra." "My brother-in-law has done nothing inappropriate and has not broken his marriage vows. Of that, I can assure you," defended Khushrenada before Catalonia could. "Yes, I thought that was why you were there. Give each other alibis," I muttered. "I'm not here to blackmail you or to get you into trouble with your wives or father-in-law. I only bring up this because I believe your behavior may have had some affect on my son." "Oh?" "Do you know my son?" I asked. They both looked at each other; searching their memories, I'm sure. Suddenly, Khushrenada's face lit up in recognition. "Oh! Yes, your son is Ethan, isn't he?" He smiled and reminded Catalonia of my son. The two smiled yet again and turned back to me. "What can we do for you? How do you think we've been a bad influence on him?" "I've recently discovered he's carrying on an affair with Queen Katrina." Both men took a deep, sharp breath and wore shocked expressions. Obviously, they had not known. "My reaction was slightly more explosive," I commented. "He wants to 'save' her from her marriage." "We can't let that happen," agreed Catalonia looking to the older Khushrenada for advice. "We could relocate him?" Khushrenada nodded in approval. "I'll have him re-stationed. We don't need to make a scene out of this, nor do we need to let him know we know about it. I could send him to space. That should keep him away from getting to her any too easily." I shook my head. "I'm not asking for anything like that, not yet at least. I hear he is heading over to Marseilles for a month or so?" "He'll be there with his squadron. They're staying as long as it takes, but we're estimating about a month, yes," confirmed Khushrenada. "Would that even be enough time?" "I just need time to work with Katrina. If I have enough time, I may not need Ethan moved." "But you want us to give you time to do that," offered Khushrenada. "And you want us to re-station him if you fail," finished Catalonia. I nodded. "I hope that's not asking too much?" It honestly did not matter whether it was or not. They were going to help me no matter what. They could not afford to be the ones who caused this mission to fail. "We'll help you however you need," Catalonia promised. "That brings me to my other reason for visiting," I said. "I believe the time has come for the downfall of the Sanc Kingdom." Both sat up straighter. "Are you sure?" "Are you absolutely sure?" "Yes, I am. I don't believe I can push Nicolo any further. This is the best chance we'll get at their destruction." "Have you spoken to our father-in-law?" asked Catalonia. "I did not realize you needed his permission for every decision." Seeing their reactions to my statement, I quickly added, "Your Graces." "It's not that we need his permission," started Catalonia. "It's just that Duke Dermail is starting a new...strategy. One that we've helped him with, and we'll have to make sure we have all the information on your thing before we proceed," continued Khushrenada. "After all, our strategy is guaranteed. We don't have all of your information, so we can't make a decision on whether or not your 'mission' would benefit ours or not—whether it is even feasible at this point," finished Catalonia. All I could do was stare for awhile. They stared back for a few moments. However, they eventually let me think and turned to speaking with each other. I was so wrapped up with my thoughts that I cannot even recall what the subject of their conversation was. It was clear that both men would need a lot of proof before they made any move. If they had come up with this other plan personally, they would be even more stubborn and loath to do anything against it. I was saved from making my case right then and there by the women. The voices of young children became louder, and I turned to see Khushrenada's children and both men's wives approaching us. The two oldest children, a boy and a girl, went straight to their father wanting him to play judge to some argument between them. The women stood in the doorway, staring at me. The younger woman, whom I guessed to be Anda Catalonia, was holding an infant in her arms. Her older sister, Eleanor Khushrenada, stood by her side and was reassuring a small boy by stroking the back of his head. Their youngest child had his head buried in the folds of his mother's skirt. "Chelsea, Dix, where are your manners?" reprimanded Khushrenada sharply. "We have a guest." He gestured toward me. Both children turned and gave a slight nod, not looking at all ashamed. The women came over, and we were all introduced. "I believe it's time for me to leave," I declared. I left the residence believing I had hit the highest wall.
"I want another test," Katrina demanded weeks later. I looked at her, perplexed. "It took some time to get that old man to return to my bed, but I did it, and I got another sample. I want to have another baby, and this time it's going to be a girl." "Katrina," I started. I did not have time for a prima donna right then. "Don't start, Pagan. You get me a daughter, or I'll tell Nicolo your son raped me." "You don't have any evidence to support that." "He'll admit to it if you don't do exactly what we say." What an idiot I had for a son. "I don't respond well to blackmail." "I'm having a daughter one way or another. You want a little princess for the king? Then make me one. If you won't help me, I'll keep my affair with Ethan until I get pregnant, and that's when I'll cry rape." I was too haggard to argue it. While I did not like caving into demanding women, I needed her, and it was a small demand. I took her sample and returned to Dr. Romero who gave me less than thrilling news. "King Peacecraft can't produce anymore offspring," he said. "You mean naturally." "I mean at all. Even with in-vitro fertilization, the chance of creating a zygote is less than slim." "Can you try anyway? It'll pacify her for a couple weeks," I requested. He sighed and yielded. There was no danger in the procedure; at the worst, it was just a waste of time. Knowing the procedure already, Katrina prepared herself properly. We returned to his clinic later. I waited in the office while she was with the doctor. Last time, I had waited a little more than an hour. This time, Dr. Romero came to me in less than ten minutes. "Is something wrong?" I asked. "I told you the chances of making another heir with his sperm were very low," he reminded. I cursed inwardly. Katrina would not let go of this so easily. "However, even if we could make a zygote, I can't impregnate an already pregnant woman." "What?" "Queen Katrina's pregnant right now." "You're certain?" He gave me a look. "What are the chances that the child is the king's?" He looked away. "I...I suppose there is a one in a hundred billion chance the child belongs to King Peacecraft, but don't bet on it." I closed my eyes and this time did not bother keeping my curses inward. When I opened them again, Katrina stood before me, gloating and glowing.
The pregnancy went by very quickly this time. A princess came to the kingdom, and it was abundantly clear Katrina was the prouder parent this time around. Nicolo was very happy to have a daughter, and he named her after his first wife. I thought at first Katrina would fight that, but she was too happy to have a daughter to care. She had forced me to hold her son before. Katrina refused to let me near her daughter—my grandchild. It was quite clear to anyone that Katrina was happier with a daughter than with a son. She displayed the little princess everywhere, and she was quite giddy with all the little dresses. While most people shrugged this off, the one person who could not was Milliardo. The young prince was only four, but he noticed the difference. He may have believed before that his mother was simply too busy to deal with her children, or he may have simply not known the difference. However, he saw how his mother was with his baby sister, and I was not the only one who observed this. Nicolo grew very impatient with his young wife, and one day during a particularly loud argument, I made sure the lad was far enough away in the palace that he could not overhear any of it. "Your birthday is coming up, young prince. What do you want?" I asked as we walked the halls. His brow creased, and he put as much thought into this serious matter as a four-year-old could. His left hand went to his chin in a mannerism he copied from his father, and he bit his lower lip in one of his mother's mannerisms. "I want...my baby sister gone," he decided. "I heard you can make that happen. Can you?" He looked up at me with wide eyes. "Now, you don't want that," I told him. "You love your little sister." "Mama loves her more." "Your mother is just excited about a new baby. Just wait. Besides, getting rid of your sister won't solve your problem, will it?" "It might." I chuckled. "It won't, and if you got rid of her, you'd miss her." "I guess I might." "Who told you I could make your little sister go away?" I asked gruffly. "Mama," he answered. "What did your mother tell you exactly?" "Let's go in here!" he squealed and ran into the room near us. That was the problem with carrying on a conversation with someone under the age of seven: short attention span. I followed the child into the room, which turned out to be one of the sparring rooms for fencing. "Be careful," I warned. He insisted he was and proceeded to inspect the foils, sabers, and epées. He grabbed the hilts of several and tried pulling them out but, for whatever reason, kept them in their place. Eventually, one pleased him, and he pulled it out. It had a shorter blade, but it was still too long for him. He ignored this fact and began waving the weapon around haphazardly, giggling. "That's not a toy," I told him but let him continue, watching him carefully. "It's Daddy's toy," he squealed happily. "And he won't like it if a certain little boy hurts his toy or gets hurt by his toy." Milliardo stopped, and I was impressed he was listening to me, but he returned to the equipment after a moment and pulled a large foil out, handing it to me. He took his own weapon and attempted to take position. "Fight me! Fight me!" Afterward, I would insist we both wear proper protection when sparring, but that first time, I did not believe we would be doing any serious damage or sparring (he was four for heaven's sake!). Thus, I lightly corrected his stand and got into position myself. He made a few tentative pokes, which I deftly deflected. Getting more comfortable with his blade, he started jabbing and swinging it almost as if it were a bat. I merely blocked all his "attacks" and moved to keep my body from sustaining any harm. "Fight back!" he demanded through grit teeth. "Excuse me?" I said before I could stop myself. I had thought the tyke merely wanted to play with equipment from which he was normally forbidden. "You don't hold back on Daddy. Not me either," he insisted and gave a look more intense than I thought possible in a child his age. He took a step back to look me straight in my eyes. "Fight back!" There is a literary term called "tragic irony." The characters make a decision, and with special knowledge unknown to them, the audience knows it to be doomed. Looking into his eyes, I came to realize the term also applied in the real world and not just in books and plays. He was a small child and up to that point had had his life engulfed in luxury. Except for his mother's engrossment with his sister, he was a very cheerful child. Whether by my plan or that of someone else, I knew that soon this would end. His childhood would come to an abrupt end when the kingdom fell. (He would be lucky if his life did not end with it as well.) I would be at least partly responsible for his future hardship. He did not yet know what true sadness was, and he should have had to wait until he was in his teens at the very least to know even a tenth of what was about to come his way. I was going to shatter this little boy's world. It was easy to look Nicolo in the eye and know what was going to happen. He was a grown man and had probably seen worse in other countries. The members of his court and senate were also adults, and they would understand what happened. Katrina knew full well what was going to happen. Milliardo would barely be able to comprehend the gravity of his kingdom falling, and he would see death and destruction on a scale no young prince should ever see. I always had a soft spot when it came to children, and the guilt that came from looking in his determined eyes is probably what prompted me to say what I said next. "Little prince," I started. "How would you like to learn to fence just like your father?" His eyes lit up in delight. "Could I really? I could fight like Daddy?" It was such a strange thing to come out of a pacifist's son's mouth, especially that of Nicolo, and I could not help but laugh. "Yes, I'm sure he'd be quite proud to have you learn." I clapped him on the back. He dropped the foil and jumped in excitement. "I'm sure he's done with your mother by now. Go ask him permission right now so he can see the excitement in your eyes." He grinned at me and ran straight down the hall. King Peacecraft enjoyed the sport as I said earlier. I was one of his favorite opponents. When he asked me later why I wanted to instruct his son and at such a young age, I told him of Milliardo's apparent affinity for the sport and how he wanted to emulate his father. This, of course, gave me instant permission. While the kingdom thought the child just enjoyed the exercise, I again had ulterior motives—private ones. I could not have stopped the destruction of the Peacecraft family then even if I had wanted to stop it. (You see, the original plan and the plan even this late had been only to take out the family and invade the capital, not destroy the entire kingdom—aristocrats hate things to get too messy.) No, I could not stop the assassination of any member of the family, and I could not stop the prince from witnessing troops march down the streets, but I could arm the prince. Under the guise of instructing the prince in a simple sport, I was able to teach the prince something he would never learn from his father: how to fight back.
I kept waiting for word from Dermail or his sons-in-law, but nothing ever came. I continued my lessons with Milliardo, and I came to learn a great deal about the lad. As for Katrina, I believe she stopped remembering her true purpose for being there. Her whole life revolved around that baby, the baby I was not allowed to get anywhere near. No one really knew I was forbidden from seeing the babe, not even Nicolo. Katrina used various tactics to keep me from my granddaughter, and she was good at having no one suspect anything was amiss. Instead, it was Nicolo who believed they could be attacked at any moment. He was very alert as to every little thing that happened in the kingdom, and he was sure that the Alliance had its hand everywhere. This is not to say he was paranoid and believed assassins were behind every corner, but he could feel the tension in the air better than anyone that the time was soon coming for the Alliance's attack. The only reason I could see for the attack's delay was the coalition Peacecraft was forming. He had over the years converted many countries to Total Pacifism. However, lately the Alliance had been increasing its military presence everywhere, and production of mobile suits was at its highest peak ever. While borderline countries may not have thought it was good to do away with all weapons, they certainly disapproved of the mass production of weapons the Alliance was creating, and they felt war would be a self-fulfilling prophecy under these conditions. Thus, they flocked to Peacecraft, and his power in Romefeller grew. I thought this was a very strange and bad move on the Alliance's part, and I wondered seriously about Khushrenada and Catalonia, for they had to know the consequences of these actions. However, an overheard conversation cleared it for me: "You're sounding like one of them!" our favorite lady-in-waiting sneered. I had been on my way to see Katrina and stopped in my tracks to listen. "Liza, you're not being reasonable," said a voice. After a moment, I recognized it as belonging to Catalonia. "You're becoming a pacifist! You're just too cowardly to say it!" I thought I heard a growl from the great general. "You say that again, and you'll regret it. I don't tolerate being called that, and I won't take it from you just because of our past." "Like you'd do anything to hurt me," she sniffed. "I never meant I'd physically harm you. You know I'd never strike a lady." His tone still had a menacing connotation. "Then tell me why you want to help our enemy?" "King Peacecraft is not our enemy! He's a well-respected member of Romefeller and has always been. I will not be called to turn my back on friends just because Dermail disagrees with their policies. I don't care if he's my father-in-law. Look, I'm not a pacifist, but all this has to stop. I don't agree with Total Pacifism. Weapons are still needed because war will never be stamped out of humans' hearts, no matter how hard anyone tries. There will always be those who will get frustrated with words and take up a sharp stick. However, making all these weapons is dangerous! "I'm a father now. Tretton and I only want to keep our children safe and away from blood-soaked battles. Increasing weapons is only going to draw them into it more and endanger their lives. We don't want to throw away weapons, but we don't like the direction the Alliance is heading in. There's a median between Total Pacifism and total war," General Catalonia argued. "That's why you two are increasing mobile suit production?" Lady Cassandra mocked. "Yes," he responded without shame. "Increasing weapons is forcing the undecided countries to take a stand, to choose a side. For the most part, they are choosing pacifism. With more pacifists, the government will be forced to take the median, to compromise for both sides. That's what we want." "It still smacks of pacifism and treason to me." While the young lady may not have understood the plan (she was too young to grasp the politics of the time), I did. I saw now that the number of pacifists was quickly equaling the number of belligerents. Dermail, though it would probably kill him to admit it, would have to give Peacecraft the time of day.
"The time is soon coming," Nicolo told me one day as we watched Milliardo playing with Relena. "Coming for what?" "Yesterday, before I returned home, I had a private meeting with Duke Dermail," he explained. I stiffened a little, knowing it had some sort of importance. "I've felt a change in the air for some time now. Haven't you?" He did not wait for a response. "Now I have two children to care for. Provisions need to be taken. I won't have their lives cut short because their father defied the Alliance. When my children were grown before, it was fine because they were able to understand the situation, to realize my ideas and sacrifices, and to know when and how to leave when trouble started. Milliardo and Relena are too young to understand anything that's happening now, and they cannot sense the danger in the air or know what could possibly lay in store for them. It's my duty to make sure they're kept safe. I just need to find a way." Here he paused for some time, waiting for my response. "You're not thinking of arming the Imperial Guard, are you?" I asked eventually. "What? No, of course not!" he responded, making it quite clear the very idea was absurd. "I want you to be the one to take them to safety." "Sire?" asked I, taken aback. It was true that since the years with Winston gone, I had filled his place more or less, but I still felt the king would have turned to someone else before entrusting me with his children's lives. "You have the best knowledge outside the kingdom. You could hide them easily until it was safe for them to emerge again. I trust you the most with saving them, Pagan." He looked me directly in the eyes. "Tell me you'll take the children into safety when the time comes and you won't let them come out until their time comes." "I'll do it." I already had in mind a certain family to take the children. I could easily hand both children to Catalonia and Khushrenada, and they could in turn hand the youngsters into Dermail—thus keeping my true identity safe until after the fall. "You have a place in mind already, don't you?" smiled Nicolo. I nodded and told him I did. "Good! Don't tell me. God forbid, should I fall into some military man's hands, I don't want to tell them where my children are on accident. I don't want any knowledge of it. If the kingdom should fall and I somehow live, I also don't want to be tempted into going to them and leading the Alliance to them. No, it's best if I don't know, and I want you to keep this safe from everyone else. Don't even tell Katrina I asked you to do this. She'll raise hell over it." I told him I understood and asked when I should do it. He did not have a set time, but he said soon he would be returning to Brussels and then to Moscow. He had more business with Romefeller—they all feared the Alliance's impatience—and had only returned home to see his children for perhaps the last time. He would call the day before he arrived, and I was to gather the children's things. The children would see their father the next, and after they had greeted him and returned to the nursery, I was to take them to safety and to keep them there until either he sent for them or it was safe. The only other person who was trusted with all this secrecy was one of the Imperial Guards, for I needed someone to help me navigate out of the palace without being caught. Nicolo spent the rest of the afternoon with his children, and I went to one of the heads of the guards, the one who frequently played bodyguard to the royal heirs whenever needed, Baldassare Noin. "I don't think he knows when he'll be returning exactly, which is why I'll have to wait for his call," I explained. "Yes, he explained it all to me," Noin informed. "There's a secret passage in the back of the nursery. When the king arrives, all we have to do is get the nanny to leave, and no one will see a thing." "If I should need to leave without you, can I get through it easily enough?" "There are side passages," he admitted. "Come; I'll show you the way through." I accompanied him into the empty nursery. Noin stood on a stepstool and slid his hand around the light fixture until he tapped some switch. I heard a large click, as if something heavy was unlocking. Then he pushed on the wall behind a bookshelf, and it opened up to a dark passageway. We flicked on our flashlights and headed down it. "It's not an easy thing to open," I observed. "Well, it'll keep the little ones from opening it accidentally. No one knows it's there now. Well, we guards know it, and the king knows it from growing up in the palace, but the kids aren't old enough to have discovered it yet, and we don't let any of the maids know about it. They sneak in enough gentlemen as it is." He gave me a wink, and I struggled to return it with a small smile. "That passage will take you directly to the kitchen, and that passage leads to maids' quarters, linen closets, and the Queen's music room," said Noin, gesturing as he went. "If you take the right path down that way, you'll end up in the gardens. It's the same path King Nicolo's great-grandfather took to flee from Iaşi troops back in AC 48." "Fascinating," I muttered. We continued down the passage, and he showed me where to watch my step and at which corners to turn. Of course, I had to endure endless conversation in between these tidbits of information. When I emerged, I would be at a cathedral a few miles from the palace, but we did not enter the church then. We turned back and entered the palace in another room in case the nursery was being occupied. A maid followed by an Alliance soldier approached us as soon as we returned. The maid had been helping the soldier find me, so Noin returned to his post. The young soldier told me that General Khushrenada wanted a word with me and to meet him in Queen Katrina's quarters. I knew at once it concerned Ethan, and though I wanted to make my way as quickly as possible, I walked at a leisurely pace so that it appeared I had no idea what was really happening. Had Tretton Khushrenada re-stationed Ethan farther away, my son would have realized what was happening and would make it a point to let the world know he fathered the princess of Sanc—ruining everyone's plans. Instead, Khushrenada offered him and a couple other officers the chance for a promotion as well as a substantial raise. The catch? The job was in space. Of course, all accepted the position, and he had them compete for the promotion. Naturally, Ethan won and had been in space for over a year now. I worried that he might be heading home, ready to cause trouble. "Pagan, thank you for joining us," General Khushrenada greeted gravely. Katrina was sitting, looking very nervous. She had not been given the news yet; they were waiting for me to come. I took a seat and looked at Tretton after a flicker of the eyes on Katrina. "What's happened?" Katrina blurted out. "I'm...I couldn't send you a note or a proper notice as you two are, well, undercover, so I thought it best to tell you in person." He paused here, composing his thoughts and probably letting us be happy for a few more moments. While he waited, it came to me how strange it was to see the general without his brother-in-law. Catalonia came to the kingdom many times alone, but Khushrenada had never come alone. "I'm...I'm sorry to say that Ethan died at the L-2 battle last Thursday." I stared at him for what felt like an hour but was probably only a second, for Katrina let out a strangled cry and collapsed in her chair. Her head fell into her hands, and her body shook. She was heaving and making sobbing sounds, but I think her eyes were closed too tightly to let any tears fall. Khushrenada went to comfort her, but I did not see if he had any success. I left the room.
I did see Khushrenada again before he left, and I told him of my plan. He assured me he and Alexander would gladly take the children, but I had the feeling he would not turn them over to Duke Dermail. This suited me fine as I had only been handing them over to the duke to keep the three of us alive. Should someone know I was keeping them from him, the children and I would be killed. Khushrenada promised me he would send me word if the Alliance went ahead without the consent of the Foundation. With the government sorely needing the financial backing of the Foundation, I did not think they would even think of attacking without the Foundation's blessing. This, however, showed how out of the loop I had become since being sent to the Sanc Kingdom.
"I'll be leaving tonight," I whispered to Noin barely a week later. I had just gotten off the phone with Khushrenada not ten minutes earlier. "Tonight? The king just left yesterday!" "And there'll be an attack in three days!" Noin gasped. "Make sure the nursery is empty tonight. I'm leaving and taking the children with me." That turned out to be half-false. Katrina had a doctor come to the palace, and it turned out Relena had a cold. She ran a small fever, but she was still unfit for travel. I found I was quite relieved for this. If Relena stayed behind, I could take her with me somewhere else, and I could stay with her. I had not thought of it too much, but I now realized that I could never see my children again. My grandchildren already born and those yet to be would never see me. It was horribly selfish of me to stay with this baby, but she was all I had left of Ethan and the only family I would ever be able to see. It was a beautiful day, so only those who absolutely had to be indoors were. I headed to the young prince's room and put together a travel bag. Most things would be provided by the generals, so he only needed clothes and toys. I grabbed the most comfortable looking outfits and one formal set. He was probably not too fond of the formal set and would not care if he were given a new one. I knew his favorite toys, so I set them next to pack and made sure everything was ready. I kept rehearsing my steps in my throughout the day, so when the time came later that day. I was prepared. I was able to sneak into his room and take him without any problems—which was quite sad. "Where are we going?" Milliardo yawned as he walked with me down the hall. He rubbed his eye and stretched. "Is 'Lena coming too?" "She was, but she's sick, so she can't," I explained. I grabbed his things then scooped him into my arms. "Just...put your head on my shoulder and try to sleep." "I can't, Pagan," the boy whined, but he obeyed. Noin flicked the switch, and we made our way through the secret passages. The child had fallen asleep quicker than he let on, so the journey was thankfully in silence. I entered the cathedral and bid adieu to Noin, assuring him I could get back into the palace just fine on my own. He gave his final goodbye to the small prince and then went back. After the guard had left and shut the door, my contact came out of hiding. "Here's the boy," I said handing the young child to General Catalonia. I had called him mere seconds after my chat with General Khushrenada. Catalonia was still stationed near the kingdom, so he agreed to take the lad personally. I also had made up my mind not to have the boy sent to Dermail. Both generals had agreed to this, but I had wanted to make it official and understood between the three of us. I may have ruined the small prince's childhood, but I was not going to take away his life. "The princess isn't up for travel yet; so leave her to me. It's probably best if they're separated anyway." "He'll be safe with me," Alexander promised. "I'm sending him to my wife. You saw how close Anda and Eleanor are. They're staying together while Tretton and I are away. Dorothy can play with him, but I think he'll have more fun with Treize, Tretton's youngest. The lad's ten, but he hasn't hurt Dorothy yet while they play together, and she's only three." I nodded and handed him Milliardo's things. "If Dermail finds out you and your brother-in-law—and now your wife and your sister-in-law—are harboring the little prince.... Well, I can only imagine how he'd feel about his daughters and their families. Your children are at risk." He waved off the danger with his hand. "My father-in-law thinks we're dutiful soldiers and follow his every command; he thinks that even more of his precious daughters. He doesn't like children much and doesn't spend much time with his grandchildren until they're older. If he happens to see Milliardo (which I'll doubt he'll notice), we'll tell him he's a friend of the children. He won't recognize the boy, and if he somehow did, he'd figure they just look similar because his daughters would never take in a pacifist prince. "If I were you, I'd be more worried about myself. With the children missing, he's going to suspect you've turned, and he hates traitors more than pacifists. If I were you, I'd disappear." "Oh, I will." "The sooner, the better," he said and readjusted Milliardo in his arms. "I should get going. I don't want him anywhere near this place when it falls. The Alliance is completely disregarding Romefeller this time, and who knows how bloody it'll get because of it." I saw him bite his lip to stop from continuing. He probably had had many disagreements over this already. "Get that princess out as soon as you can." I nodded, and we parted ways. I never looked over my shoulder as I went back into the underground passage. I knew that would be the last time I ever saw Milliardo Peacecraft.
Getting Relena out of the country was harder than I expected. With the girl being sick, Katrina was extra cautious. Only the closest maids and the nanny were allowed to be with her, and there was no way I would tell Katrina about the plan. Since Ethan's death, she had clung to the toddler more than ever. There was no way she would let the child out of her sight for any reason. I wondered if she even noticed Milliardo was absent. For two days I tried in vain to get close to Relena. Nicolo returned on the third day. He asked about Milliardo when he saw Relena was still there, but no one could answer him. I was not able to speak with him at all, neither privately nor publicly, and so I could not explain the situation. I never knew if he knew of the attack coming that day, but I was too anxious to care. I had to get Relena out of there. Nicolo and Katrina had lunch together—Relena with them. I tried once again to get her through maids and ladies-in-waiting, but nothing worked! I tried to impress upon them the importance and the urgency of the situation, but they were somehow immune to the electricity in the air before the attack. I began to despair that for my arrogance in trying to keep one little grandchild with me, God was going to punish me by killing off the babe.
The attack happened just as dinner was getting underway at dusk. The sirens went off, and I could hear the sound aircraft, tanks, and mobile suits nearby. The bombings started soon after, and the marching of troops echoed through each hall. I made my way to the royal quarters. Before, I had been banned, but no one cared who went where in that chaos. I made my way to the nursery. It had already been hit, and the ceiling had caved in on top of a crib. The sight of blood caused my heart to stop, but when I investigated, it was only some poor maid. I went to Katrina's rooms, but she was not there. It was then that I heard the shouting of soldiers followed by a barrage of gunshots. When the shooting had stopped, I dared to look into a nearby hallway. Katrina lay on the floor, a bloody mess. I cursed quite vividly and turned her corpse over. Still no Relena. I told myself that meant she was still alive somewhere, but a part of my mind said that if she was not dead yet, she was most likely hidden where no one would find her and she would die one way or another. I ran throughout the palace carefully avoiding the brutes of soldiers that were invading the palace. Eventually flames and smoke started to fill every corridor, and I knew that I could not stay there any longer. Taking a few scared maids with me, I evacuated the palace and fled into the city. The city was not much better than the palace—it was more chaotic if that were possible. The Alliance was still dropping bombs to add to everything. However, I was able to meet up with a couple of ladies-in-waiting who informed me that they had seen Lady Cassandra fleeing to the outskirts clutching Princess Relena in her arms. I ran immediately to the northern side of the city, for it was the only place Cassandra could have fled in safety. All other borders were blocked by soldiers. I arrived in time to see Cassandra consent to being the former senator Richard Darlian's wife in order to hide herself and Relena from Romefeller. After a moment, I walked up to them and made my proposal. Lady Cassandra naturally refused, but Richard had a different view. Neither knew I was Relena's true grandfather, for they both thought—as the whole world does—that Nicolo was her father, and Richard certainly never knew I was a lower member of Romefeller, the spy that started the downfall. I did not know how much Cassandra knew of me, but I never brought it up. As a compromise, I offered to stay as a butler, which was a considerable demotion, and this pleased both. Lady Cassandra felt she could start a new life, and without my being over her, she could pretend that was how things always were. Richard thought I was a loyal subject of the Peacecrafts, and he was honored to have me stay with the princess. I was able to stay with my granddaughter, and throughout her life, I made sure to try my hardest to be in her life...always.
They sat in silence for quite some time. Both just sipped their wine, staring off into space, thinking about the past and what lay in store for them. Finally, Pagan broke the silence. "You never loved Richard, did you? Your heart remained with Alexander through all these years." "Alejandro and I knew we could never wed, and he knew I would never be his mistress, so we enjoyed every moment we could. The Dermails still practice arranged marriages; he had been promised to one of the duke's daughters almost since birth. Richard knew my heart stayed with Alejandro but also knew I would keep true to him. We started to care for each other after a time, but it was never a passionate love." "Nicolo saw the crush Richard had on you and assumed you felt the same way about him," he said softly. "I...never found out quite what happened to him that last day." Mrs. Darlian shook her head. "I never knew either. Richard saw what happened, but he always refused to tell me." "At least the children survived...." "I knew Relena wasn't the king's." "Excuse me?" "I never told Richard, but I knew Relena's father wasn't King Peacecraft. A wife may have secrets from her husband, but a queen has no secrets from her ladies-in-waiting whether she likes it or not. I didn't know Katrina's lover was your son, and I never knew he died, but I did notice a change in Katrina." She put down her wine glass and looked Pagan in the eyes. "I'm sorry to hear about your son, and...I'm...sorry for how I've treated you over the years." Pagan waved the apology off much as General Catalonia had waved off the danger posed to his daughter and niece and nephews. "You're young. You didn't know. I must admit I didn't make it too easy for either of you." She smiled a little just for a moment. "I'm not apologizing for anything else." "I'm not apologizing at all." They both turned as the television caught their ear. They were broadcasting Relena's speech again. Mrs. Darlian turned up the volume to listen again, and they sat in the dark room, drinking wine, watching Relena.
"I wish to make an announcement to the entire world. As of this day, I, Relena Peacecraft, have taken on the duties as Chief Representative of the Romefeller Foundation. ..."