The official negotiations were done and the political deal had been struck. Now the two people who were going to have to make the public, symbolic front- end of those agreements work were meeting in a conference room. Archduke Franz had one of his uncle’s negotiators at his side while Vordamma Princesza Rune sat opposite him with a man who seemed like a family solicitor beside her.
His Imperial and Royal Highness had a list both of issues and of things that simply needed to be decided. The first one was, “Where will we live? I had expected we would get a larger apartment in the Schloss Leopoldsberg but the treaty specifies that we will live in this country.”
“Yes.” Rune acknowledged the treaty’s provisions. “That’s a requirement from my father’s family. Unless something surprising happens, I will be the Sjeldnjar Ruhtig and our child will follow me into the position. It’s unacceptable for the future Ruhtig to be raised as a foreigner.” A slight hesitation then, “Might I ask why the Leopoldsberg and not one of the palaces in the capital? Do you prefer the countryside?”
“It’s less occupied by family and retainers and everything else that revolves around the Emperor.” He shrugged. “There are days when I can imagine that the whole place is mine. I like it that there are very few people around to question my comings and goings.” He smiled at her and added, “I like your hair, by the way. That cut’s very fetching. You shouldn’t cover it up.” The other two men looked at Princess Rune’s bare short, dark hair and the solicitor raised an eyebrow.
“Thank you,” she smiled back and added, “I don’t yet have an opinion on beards. My Uncle Algernon has offered us the wing of the Sjeldnjar townhouse with the nurseries. As I’m the only member of my generation in the direct line, the implication seems to be that we should fill them. If you don’t want to live in the city, I’m sure we have other options.”
“I would like to see the townhouse before I make a decision.”
“That’s probably wise.” She nodded in agreement while the solicitor made a note. “What’s next on your list?”
She cut him off with a gesture and started talking. “I’m glad you brought that up. I’m resigning my position and I expect you to resign from any and all military and/or intelligence positions you now occupy.”
“Archduke Franz holds no military positions,” inserted the diplomat seated at the Archduke’s side smoothly. “Your Highness’ request is unnecessary.”
“Indeed?” Rune opened the folder in front of her, picked up the black and white photograph that sat on top of the papers inside and placed it right way up in front of Franz. “Just so neither of us can put the other in an uncomfortable or difficult position if we talk in our sleep.”
The diplomat looked at the six Imperial Nachtjäger soldiers in the picture. He’d seen it before in an article on Imperial assistance to one of the remaining satrapies. “I don’t see what-.”
“Thank you Hermann, I’ll take this.” The Archduke put his finger on the photo and pushed it back towards the Princess. “Where did you get this?”
“The picture? It was published in an international current affairs magazine two years ago. The connection? It came up during the security assessment of my foreign husband-to-be.” Rune pushed the picture back towards him. “I’ve pencilled your squad mates into the guest list, not that I have names, as I assume you’ll either be inviting them or they’ll be among your groomsmen. Would a partner and an average of three children each be about right? If you want to invite them personally, I can arrange for you to receive the requisite number of blank invitations after you firm the numbers up for me.”
“Your Highness?” The diplomat was getting a little worried that this was about to be undiplomatic.
“This,” the Archduke told him tersely, “is that ‘there are no friendly foreign intelligence services, just the intelligence services of friendly countries’ thing they tell you about.”
“Yes,” the Princess agreed with him, “it is. The other thing I’m trying to say, Franz, is that I don’t see why you should lose your friends on top of leaving your home and losing your job. I don’t see why your friends,” she indicated the photo again, “shouldn’t come to the wedding. There are quite enough unrelated people on the guest list that I’m sure neither of us know,” she finished tartly.
Franz sat back and folded his arms. “What do you think I’m going to do with myself?”
“I have no idea,” Rune admitted, “but I’m out of a job too. I thought we might be able to work it out togther.”