There was a dinner, or some sort of meal. I'd lost track of the days. Time meant nothing. But I sat at a table in a small room, opposite the First Facilitator. The walls and ceiling were covered in a burnished, antique mirror-like finish. The floor was florentined copper tiles. I suppose one of the reflective panels was a door, though once inside and seated, I could not remember where it was. Light came from two carved glass candlesticks. Not too much... just enough.
Our leader poured the wine and motioned for me to drink. I did. Odd, how in just a few days (I assume it was just a few days) I'd grown accustomed to it.
The leader said - You've been watched since birth... before birth actually... even before conception. I knew your mother and father. Members of the order they were. And we placed you with that family to grow up normally.
I asked - Who were they? Why did you say 'were?' Are they dead?.
But he ignored me and went on - It's not that hard to control the world. What's required is determination and foresight. Not just on my part. Every member of the order contributes. And some of what we do is so easy. Even kings have secrets. We excavate those secrets and thus we control them - went the leader.
Do they ever rebel ? - I said.
Sometimes - said my host. But then we persuade them. A prince dies. A palace burns. Whatever fits the situation. There's not a royal bodyguard we can't turn.
Wouldn't the people notice all the dead royals? - I asked.
They never notice. They never know. We insert a double. Few outside royal circles ever see them close up. It's not hard to do. A gilt coach rolls by. A hand waves. The people cheer.
What if a monarch refuses to cooperate and before you can neutralize them, they kill themselves, but not before notifying the church of your presence? What do you do then? - I speculated.
You are clever. But tell me, are not churchmen an educated lot?
I suppose - I said.
We brush shoulders at the best universities all the time. They, officially, avoid change. We embrace it. Thus we respect each other . They follow their path and we do ours. Yet privately many a bishop takes the best scientific journals. And many a monsignor wonders about electricity. Now we've spoken too long. Lift the dome and eat.
I did and the fine breaded veal chop was still hot, so were the roasted potatoes and green beans..... The food. It's hot? - I asked.
Why wouldn't it be? - went my guide, as he buttered a light, fluffy roll.
And then we ate, apparently in the Continental manner, for after the main course, a footman entered through the secret door with a tray holding two plates of salad... savory, peppery greens topped with salty, Italian Anchovies and sweet onions. Dessert was lightly candied pears and shaved chocolate, some cheese too. I settled in very quickly.
It seems the First Facilitator often dined with newcomers, as a way to feel them out. He poured more wine and we talked some more.
I passed inspection, for the next day I took a coach to London. Not alone, a woman, ostensibly my 'aunt' went with me. Our trunks were fine, but not too showy and our garments were the same.
I'd never been south before and took in all the sights. Towns grew larger. Well kept canals funneled narrow, cargo laden boats toward the capital. Carriages became numerous and gardens more lush..... At night we stopped at the better inns, taking two rooms, but never overlooking the coach yard to avoid the noise. Some people engaged us in conversation. We were polite but never shared much. I was going south to read law with a learned London barrister and my 'aunt' accompanied me for the esteemed gentleman was a close kinsman.
Thus I sailed ever farther from my first life and into something new... mysterious, though enticing at the same time.....
<more to come>
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