9 The Summit at Morn: Aftermath
"What! How did this happen?!" Albert shouted aloud.
"Fff…Father Brother Leopold managed to convince the men and the garrison to defect along with him back to the Prince. He said, that the path we were going down was treasonous and he would have no part in it. Father, what do we do now?"
Albert sighed deeply. In these past few minutes, it seemed he had aged decades and now truly looked like a sixty-year-old man. He looked over at Franz and Sophia who looked just as shocked as he was. His eyes were naturally drawn to the presence of the mastermind behind this plan.
Prince Frederick von Erlitz. Albert had made the big mistake of underestimating the Prince. He had thought that his years of experience in dealing with the Prusens and the previous Prince were more than enough to deal with this young pup. Yet he was now full of regret. He had been too brash and too hasty.
He should have suspected something was up when his youngest son Leopold suddenly agitated for his plans. He had been convinced and blinded by his own ego that he had been able to persuade his own strong headed son, so how could he not force the young Prince to back down. Alas hind sight was always a curse.
Albert knew he had lost. He could not continue to fight like this now that he had no place to return to. He was not confident he could take the Prince hostage, not with the presence of both Franz and Sophia. He was truly all out of options. Since he had failed, he would rather not drag his children down with him. After all, he had only decided to come down south and try to force the Prince to change his mind because it would effectively take away his children's futures. They would have nothing to inherit. No land, no power.
However, now free from the shackles and his responsibilities. He wondered about the possibilities and the opportunities the Prince's decision would open up. Perhaps his children would and could go further than being merely a lord of a small region. A father could only dream.
Albert took another glance at his eldest son Bertrand before he made his decision. It was time for the old to make way for the new.
Frederick watched the many stages of grief play out across Albert's face as he processed the new situation. Albert was not a dumb person. He was just blinded by ambition and too stuck in the ways of the past. Inflexible and rigid.
However, Frederick did feel a little sorry for the old man. After all, he had served the country and protected its borders for the many years he had been Count. Now that his own son betrayed him, soon it would all end. Of course, Frederick had no plans to execute Albert. He would merely have him sent to the countryside to live out his days in peace. He deserved this much at least.
Frederick glanced over at Franz and Sophia and saw that they were still processing the situation. He had seen their looks of shock eventually morph into disbelief, then acceptance and finally relief.
Franz was the first to sigh in relief, Frederick never kept it a secret from him that he had an alternative plan in place. He knew about the spy network Frederick had cultivated and had an inkling about who he had as an operative in Stolitz. Yet he could never have imagined that all along, they had been dancing to his palms and that even the Count's own son would actually betray his father.
As for Sophia, Frederick saw her nod her head and looked thoroughly impressed with his preparations. The three of them exchanged glances and waited patiently for Albert's decision.
It did not take too long, as Frederick saw Albert walk back over towards the table and kneel before him.
"Your Highness, I surrender. This old man only hopes to live out his days in peace and see what world you wish to build. I hope you treat my children kindly." Albert spoke in collected tone.
"Please rise, Count Albert. Nothing changes here between us. You will always be a Count and your children will too. However, I understand your sentiments and I will make sure to not let you down. The Erlitz of tomorrow will be grander, mightier and more prosperous than the Erlitz of the days behind us. That I can promise you."
"Very well, then this old man can retire in peace. Your father would have been proud of you. You finally realised the dreams of your Great-Grandfather."
Frederick helped Albert stand up and had a servant arrange another seat for Bertrand. He was still standing awkwardly in the corner, still a little rattled by the events of the day and slightly unnerved by Frederick.
"Come Bertrand sit. We have not spoken in many years." Frederick directed.
"Ye, yes Your Highness. Thank you, Your Highness." Bertrand stammered before he hurried over and took a seat beside Sophia. She gave him a pat on the head in consolation.
"Now what will you do, Your Highness?" Franz asked, full of curiosity.
"Finish this meal. Then I will head to Stolitz, I need to ensure the smooth transfer of power and meet Leopold."
At the mention of Leopold, Albert perked up and could not help but ask.
"Your Highness, how is that you and my son Leopold are acquainted? I don't believe you two have ever met before."
"That is indeed true. We have only exchanged letters, but your son is a very interesting person. His ideas are rather fascinating." Frederick responded happily.
"Ahh… so it is that. I have never been able to get along with him too well. After my wife died a few years back he became fearless. Always advocating for change. Yet I berated him strongly for it. He is a dreamer that son of mine is. I guess I deserved it, I knew he was discontent, yet I let it stew for so long. Please take care of him, Your Highness." Albert sincerely replied.
"If he is as he seems in real life as he is on paper then I can gladly take him on board. However, we have spoken enough today, the food has probably gotten cold. Servants, bring out the food." Frederick ordered.
Frederick watched with his mouth watering a little, as plate after plate of food was brought out. He was a little shocked at the range of delicacies that Mayor David had been able to procure. For a small town like Morn to be able to source and afford such ingredients, David was truly a miracle worker.
There was the infamous Northern Sea Barramundi that even in Erlangen was difficult to find, let alone buy. Frederick had seen a noble bid eighty silver coins for a single fish, in comparison a normal fish would cost about 20 coppers and was even cheaper here in Morn.
In Erlitz and most of Agenor, currency was more or less the same. Although each major power minted their own coins, the system and what it was worth was standardised. One copper was the lowest denomination, one hundred copper was worth one silver. One hundred silver coins were worth one gold coin. Nothing in this world had reached an obscenely expensive amount as to require a higher denomination than gold, well at least not yet.
There had been five nations whose coins were commonly spread across Agenor. Styria, Iberia, Talia, the Frankish Empire and after the war against Svea, Prusen coins replaced the Svean coin. However, now that the Frankish Empire had imploded, it gave an opportunity for a new nation to take its place. Of course, it would require careful planning and expert diplomatic manoeuvring as it would be essentially acknowledgement that the nation was a major power.
Major power rankings were a rather arbitrary assessment of the distribution of power across Agenor. However, it was a prestigious club that any nation would die to have access to. After all the octennial conferences would dictate the direction of the continent for many years to come. It was also a place for many nobles to become acquainted and make connections across the continent that would otherwise be difficult to attain.
Behind the scenes the major powers would come to arrangements and responses to various events that had occurred in the recent past or were about to occur in the foreseeable future.
Erlitz had never been a major power and so it had never been a party to the talks. However, the conference was open to observers and side events occurred there to allow smaller nations the chance to get to know each other. As a result, there had been times were his father had attended. However, the next conference was in three years' time and would be held in the Prusen capital Prusenberg.
Frederick hoped by the time the next conference came around, Erlitz would have a seat at the table and not be merely observing from the sidelines as it had always done.