11 Bertrand von Har
Frederick came back to his senses after experiencing an uncommon bout of nostalgia. Of course, in his first few weeks as he slowly adjusted to this new world, he came to miss certain things he took for granted in the past. The thing he missed the most apart from his parents, was the internet and electricity equally.
With just the click of a button he could know of things from all over the world, whether it had occurred thousands of years ago or merely two seconds ago. The power of the internet, this distribution and instant access to information and the ability to connect with people from all over was sorely missed. This was partly the motivation for setting up a spy network, so that he could remain informed of the world's events.
Frederick went back to his room, to pack up a few sensitive things he could not leave to the servants. Mainly correspondence from Phillip and Leon as well as issues the Prime Minister believed demanded his attention.
It would take nearly three days to reach Stolitz from Morn, especially since the weather appeared to be taking a turn for the worst. If he was travelling lightly without the entourage his position required, he could cut it down to two days. However, he could not arrive in Stolitz in a dishevelled state after all, now that he was effectively the supreme authority in Erlitz, appearances mattered a great deal more.
However, he would never admit it was mainly because he had become too comfortable having servants and attendants at his beck and call.
Frederick looked out the window and saw the cloud of dust raised by the troops departing with Franz back to the east. He sighed and truly hoped Weser would not do anything. He needed time to stabilise and reform the administration of Erlitz.
Frederick quickly finished packing and walked out of the manor, only to find Albert and Sophia waiting for him outside.
"Your Highness, please take Bertrand with you. I think it is time he looked at the world from a different angle. I have coddled him for too long." Albert sincerely requested.
Frederick saw no harm in this, after all, he could use all the help he could get. Provided they were able to pass his character test. Frederick would use this time to evaluate Bertrand and assess how far he could go in the new Erlitz.
"I have no issue with that. Countess, Count I shall be on my way. See you in Erlangen, hopefully in a weeks' time."
Albert bowed while Sophia curtseyed as Bertrand came running up out of the house.
"Come on Bertrand. Let's go." Frederick ordered as he got into the carriage already prepared.
Frederick stopped by the camp and met Erhart and his Royal Guards who had already formed up. However, there was an unfamiliar face beside Erhart and Frederick looked over the man in curiosity. The man in question looked to be in his mid-thirties and was dressed in the uniform of a Colonel, he had a sharp face and was fairly handsome. But he had an undeniable military aura about him, which made it surprising that he did not know of him before. Erhart and the man came forward to greet Frederick.
"Your Highness, the men are ready to march. Ahh, let me introduce you to Baron Sigmund von Lark, he is the man in charge of the forces Count Albert brought with him."
"Your Highness. The men have received your orders and are ready to follow you. Let me reaffirm my allegiance to you, Your Highness. I Sigmund von Lark pledge my life and my sword to you, until my death." Sigmund gruffly declared.
Frederick was a little taken aback by Sigmund's rapid oath. Upon hearing his name, Frederick could finally put a face to the man who Phillip had warned him about.
Sigmund von Lark was from a small family of nobles, that been enfeoffed a barony only two centuries ago by Albert's family, the von Harts. The territory given was on the border between Pruse and Erlitz and as such was always on guard against the Prusens. As a result, the von Larks had become staple figures in the military ranks of the von Hart forces.
Sigmund was no different and at the age of twenty-four in a border skirmish repelled a Prusen raiding party of one-hundred men with only twenty of his own. As a result, he was elevated to the rank of Colonel and had held the position since. Hailed as the youngest and brightest star in the Erlitz military Sigmund was well known across Erlitz. However, since he never attended parties, social events nor visited the capital, Frederick had never seen his face before. In fact, the man hardly ever left the territory of Count Albert.
Frederick quickly accepted the man's oath and had them all set out immediately. After all, Stolitz needed the men back as soon as possible and Morn could not afford to continue feeding so many mouths.
Throughout this entire time, Bertrand remained inside the carriage and made no noise, merely staring out the window. Frederick saw Sigmund give Bertrand a hostile stare before he bowed once again to Frederick and left with Erhart to carry out the orders. Frederick looked at Bertrand and could not help but ask.
"It looks like Sigmund doesn't like you very much. Why is that?"
Bertrand looked over in shock and realised that Frederick had been asking him the question, after all there was no other person in the carriage. He quickly stammered.
"Your, Your Highness, umm, well, Sigmund and I have had in the past some disagreements. He was unhappy that we had mobilised men to come meet you. He is what some could say a loyalist. But he is also a man of honour and so he could not find it in himself to refuse my Father's orders. As a result, he has been conflicted and that unhappiness was taken out on me. In fact, Father had me placed under his command and so we have had our gripes."
"So, that is what happened. Sounds difficult, but you should be happy now after all we worked things out didn't, we? So, you can work things out with him too, surely he isn't scarier than I am?" Frederick teased.
"Of course not, Your Highness. Of course, we can work things out. We will definitely work things out." Bertrand hurriedly replied.
Frederick laughed as he watched Bertrand panic a little and decided now was as good as a time as any to test the man.
"Bertrand, what do you really think about my decision to abolish landed titles?"
"Well, Your Highness, it puts me and my Father in a difficult position. My Father loses his power and me as the heir essentially loses my inheritance. This should make me mad and I guess, I was, angry at you for treating my Father and my family like that." Bertrand replied in all seriousness.
"Was?" Frederick asked with curiosity.
"Well, now that I have had time to think through things a little. I am actually a little glad. I was not and will not be a good lord for Stolitz. I don't think I have what it takes to takeover after my Father. So, you have relieved me of a burden."
"Well, you could have always declined the position and foisted it onto one of your brothers?"
"No. I cannot. My brothers are just as unsuitable. Also, they too have no wish for the position of Count. My second brother wishes to chase after Baron Sigmund, while Leopold wishes to serve in Erlangen and chase the position of Prime Minister."
Frederick's eyes widened a little hearing the honest thoughts of Bertrand. It appeared Bertrand had quite an analytical mind and had been hiding his talents from his father. He could see through his brothers and was even able to admit to his shortcomings, this greatly impressed Frederick. Frederick decided then and there to give Bertrand an opportunity in the near future to prove himself.
"Bertrand, you still have not answered my question. What do you think about abolishing landed
titles?" Frederick warned.
"Ahh, Your Highness, I did not mean to disrespect you, I was merely caught up in my own thoughts. My apologies. If you were to ask me for my objective opinion on the matter. Well, I believe it is the right decision. Erlitz and Agenor is no longer the same, we cannot fall behind our neighbours on the path of reform. Just look to Pruse, after they managed to defeat Svea fifty years ago, they took that opportunity to solidify their position as a new power. They prioritised their military, changed their administrative structure and tightened the powers of the King. This has allowed them to recover quickly after the devastating war and are now even stronger than ever before. It is truly a miracle." Bertrand finally noticed the smile on Frederick's face and realised that he had fallen for his trap. He sighed aloud before he lamented.
"Ahh, I said too much. Your Highness, I am no match for you."
Frederick was very happy that he had managed to uncover another talent. He had always had an inkling that Bertrand was hiding something and indeed he had been. Bertrand had been trying to remain low-key, perhaps a little too hard which was the incongruence that Frederick picked up on and with just a little pressure, Bertrand had revealed his true colours.
"So, Bertrand are you planning on staying hidden?" Frederick asked politely.
"Your Highness, you have too high an opinion of my meagre talents. I do not think I can serve you as well as you think I can." Bertrand humbly responded.
"That is not an issue, Bertrand. I think you and I will have a great future ahead of us." Frederick laughed and held out his hand and Bertrand although a little reluctant shook his hand.
Frederick grinned as he asked Bertrand to continue speaking. The two spent the next couple of days together constantly exchanging their thoughts on the current state of Erlitz.