All the thanks in the free world go out to Mike. And to all the writers I swear by, Lois Lane, Helen, Lemon, Kat and crew.

Disclaimer : It’s not true. Duh.

King and Country 5 - Trouble
by Schuyler

“What!” his voice filled the hall, booming and echoing.
The two Italian Dukes who lounged on either side of his chair protested weakly, with amused smiles on their faces. “Calm yourself, Your Eminence.”
“I will not calm myself. My niece’s life is in danger.” Pope Enrique Martin strode angrily down the three steps to the brown-clad man, grabbing him. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, Your Eminence. The Cardinal of Barcelona sent me to tell you that your niece, my Lady Christina, is soon to be tried and hung for treason. Someone is leaking information to the Germans and King Christopher is certain it is her.”
“And it will be soon?”
“A month at most.”
He almost tossed the messenger. “I am leaving for France tomorrow. Prepare my carriages and my luggage and notify the cardinals here,” he screamed at the scurrying nuns.
His head fell as he sighed, long and low. His companions appeared at his side, hands on his shoulders. “Are you all right?” Marc, Duke of Florence, asked.
“One of my beloved girls is about to be executed and the other is on her way to join her.”
“We’ll take care of you,” Enrique, Duke of Venice, replied, holding the Pope tight with an arm around his waist. “Sister Rose?” The tall, commanding nun looked up at him. “His Eminence will be in his chambers.” Sister Rose smiled knowingly and nodded.

He had no idea what time it was; it was late. It was winter. Why, in God’s name, was it so hot in Versailles. Trying to force himself to remain lying down, Lord Howard tossed and turned in his fancy French bed. This was silly, horrendous even. He had lied under the name of God and started rumors which could lead to war. He had frightened a pregnant woman and severed her relationship with her brother and guardian. For his soul was certainly doomed.
And at that, Howard leapt up from his bed and gathered his things as quickly as he could, and ran out into the night, bound for home.

“What is wrong?” Lance asked, coming across his lover with his brow tightly knit.
“This letter from Nicholas. I’ve read it four times and I cannot make it make sense.”
He perched himself on the arm of Christopher’s chair. “What does it say?”
“That he’s heard that I’m going to take back my sisters and he wants to know if that’s true.” He looked up at Lance. “Of course it isn’t true!”
“Would you believe me if I told you it was probably a Spanish plot?”
“I’ve never had reason to distrust you before.” He sighed and folded the letter. “I’m going to him. He needs some reassurance, they all do.” He stood and stretched before turning to his lover. “Would you come with me?”
Lance smiled gently, trying to hide his exquisite joy. “Of course.” Chris ducked his head and smiled his little boy smile then reached out to Lance and kissed him.

Sitting in her bed, Christina suddenly shivered, top to toe. Joseph, coming towards the bed, stopped and touched her elbow. “Angel, are you all right?”
“Just a bad feeling, love.” He slid into bed and held her, letting her curl into his warmth. “Something terrible is coming, Joe.” He stroked her hair soothingly, lovingly. “I can feel it.”

Riding as fast as they could, they’d reached the Pyrenees quickly, but winter’s snow had made this part difficult. Howard’s company had stopped for the night at The Whiting, a cozy inn high in the mountains. The inn was just as charming as he’d remembered it, but it was the sight on the stairs that stunned him. “My Lady.”
Leighanne smiled once at him, then came down to him. “Lord Howard, I wonder if we couldn’t speak tonight? Perhaps you will come to my room for a drink after you’ve settled in,” she whispered.
Howard’s breath came in quick gasps. Spain’s most beautiful courtesan had her fingertips on his ear, her delicate lips were blowing hot air onto his skin. His throat trembled. “Of...of course, my Lady.” She smiled, turned, and sailed up the stairs in her rose colored skirts. And Howard just watched her go.

“How are things going?” Kevin wasn’t really listening to the words coming out of his own mouth. He was staring absently out at the garden below him.
The Cardinal cleared his throat. “My men in England report that the King has grown quite attached to the Marquis, so there’s little chance of him coming voluntarily.” Kevin sighed. There was a young lady in the garden, a far distant cousin of someone or other and Greek in descent, so her skin glowed golden brown under the sun. “But King Nicholas wrote to him about Lord Howard’s visit and now he and the Marquis are coming to France.” The soft valley of her bosom, Kevin felt as if he dove into it, he’d be lost forever, and he wanted to be lost forever. “We can send men after him and capture Sir Lance in France, while raising an army in the northwest in case of emergency.” Her eyes, as they cast upward at him, a clear brown. “Sir?”
He looked up at Alexander, startled and annoyed. “Yes, yes. Whatever you think is necessary.”
“Thank you, Your Highness.” The Cardinal bowed and left.

With a trembling hand, Howard knocked once on the Lady’s door. She opened it and retreated, allowing him to let himself in. Leighanne sailed about the room in a white shift, like the sort holy sisters wore on the day of their vow. her hair fell in waves about her shoulders. She floated around the room like an angel, then settled on a chair beside him. “I’m so sorry to bother you, Lord Howard, but I needed to talk to you. I am having a crisis of conscience.” Leighanne knew all the right buttons to push.
“Your conscience, my Lady?” he stuttered a touch.
Leighanne found it endearing. “Yes, my Lord, my conscience. Both of us, you and I, have been brought into service lying. Lying to England, to France, to our Holy Father himself. We are destroying marriages and monarchies. We are courting war!” She fell into tears and tender Howard instinctively reached out to hold her, and Leighanne held on to him tightly.
“What can we do to right our wrongs?”
“We must confess. Go to King Christopher and tell him everything we know.” Howard was silent. “End the war before it happens.”
Quietly, fearfully, Howard said yes, but just to be sure, Leighanne led him to her bed.

When Earl Robert’s ship moored at Bilbao, he found a youth waiting on the pier. “What do you want, boy?” Robert said, leaning off the side of the boat.
“A message, sir, from my Lady Leighanne.”