Wherein I introduce the Archbishop of Montreal. I think, but not yet know, that this is his own act, not that of the Canadian government. As Aurie says, the centripetal forces of Canada, noted in “Obligations of Rank,” are already tearing their country apart.
Should I be capitalizing the Y in “your Eminence?”
“And how shall I address you?” he asked.
“Depends on why you are here,” she answered with a tiny twinkle to her eyes.
“I,” he began, with a twitch to his mouth, “am a man of God. A man of peace. You have brought an army to the doorstep of our land. I wish to know your intentions.”
“Your land. Interesting,” Aurelia mused. “Canada or Quebec?”
“I can only speak for my flock in and around Montreal,” he countered after a small pause.
“If we speak of our peoples then this is politics. Thus I am Princess Aurelia,” she concluded. “What you call an army is merely my bodyguard for my visit to lands north of my aunt’s realm.”
“A twenty-thousand-man bodyguard?” the archbishop asked.
“Closer to twenty-six, but yes. I am a princess, after all.”
She enjoyed watching him suppress his smile. I like him!
“And the purpose of your visit…?” he led.
“Primarily to make the Northern Federation into a Friend and Ally of the imperium,” she answered truthfully. “If other regions wish to explore relations with us, I am all ears.”
“Having an ally of your country on our border could be unsettling to some,” he mused.
“Indeed. It could in fact increase the centripetal forces which even now are tearing Canada to pieces.” The princess showed her teeth. “The west is now under Russian hegemony. The Maritime Provinces have more in common with the Northern Federation than you Québécois. Know I speak for the Empress herself: we seek only peace; for our children and their future.”
She watched him consider this girl. And her army.
“May I invite you to stay the night, your Excellency?” she offered. “I’ve not heard Mass nor received the Lord in weeks.”
“I think,” he said in a measured tone, “that is possible. I can retire to Immaculate Conception Church in St. Albans…”
“I meant here,” she dropped a hint of sonics into her voice. “Our camp, as my personal guest.”
“Guest?” he pushed.
“You and your men are free to come and go as you please. Our gates are locked at night but can be opened in seconds if that is what you desire,” she clarified.
“My desire, Princess Aurelia,” he said, extending his hand, “is that we all be at peace.”
She first kissed his ring again, to acknowledge his spiritual authority, then shook his hand.
“Then be welcome, your Eminence!” She used her hand to turn him slightly and have him walk just a step ahead of her south toward the fort. Hartmann noted the first team of nine fell in behind them about five yards back. “And may I introduce a new friend of mine? This is Miss Colour Jansen of the NorFed. While she does not share our faith, she has my trust and love.”
Forewarned, the archbishop offered his hand for a handshake.
“Miss Jansen,” he said, “a pleasure. Have you known the princess long?”
“About two weeks, sir,” she replied with a dip of her head. “But I confess it seems much longer. The general is a remarkable woman.”
“General to you,” he said softly. “How interesting. I look forward to hearing the story of this sudden friendship. After all, we do have something of a tradition of suddenly dropping everything to One who says, ‘follow me’!”
When Colour lost some color at that, Aurelia bottled up her howl of laughter. During their brief exchange, they both heard Hartmann rattle off a series of orders for tents for her guests and a change to their customary dinner of soup and bread.