The Italian Hatmaker: Eliminating Check Mate

Henri rode into camp. Sir Robert had sent a messenger, and a sealed note for Henri’s eyes only. It said to meet him in Alan’s tent. If anyone asks, he was only to say that he was going to Alan’s camp, consulting with Sir Robert, and meeting with the Whispering Merchant.

Henri got off his horse, and walked into the tent alone. Sir Robert was seated at a desk. There was a screen that covered half the room. A voice greeted them both from behind the screen. “Welcome gentlemen!”

Henri smiled. “Is this where the performance happens?” Sir Robert laughed. “Most times it is, of course they are are usually about twenty years apart. Our family have a talent for mimicry, and throwing our voice.”

“When did you know?” “When I saw how Alan’s soldier looked at you when you asked if Alan was here?” Sir Robert nodded. “Alex is a good man, but not an actor. Go ahead and ask Henri.”

“What is the purpose?” Sir Robert sighed. “To eliminate check mate. Tell me Henri, how do you keep two chess kings from gaining superiority, one against the other?” Henri, somewhat of a good player himself, said. “You force a stalemate.”

“Many years ago, Alan The Great proposed a plan to the Kings Of England and France. Kings know that there is only one Kingdom that lasts forever Henri.  His plan was this, whichever line was eliminated in the future, that line’s memory would be kept.  Not to honor, and not out of vanity, but as a tool.”

“It was to be a way to keep the other two kingdoms in check. Through the possibility of a third party with a hereditary pedigree. To keep the others from needless bloodshed.  They turned him down, so he secured a promise from his family.  Generation after generation of Alan has kept the threat in the public.”

“So, given the escalating threats of our two young kings, you felt the need to produce a stale mate.  How did you secure the Whispering Merchant?”  “Over time, my ancestors have added to the legend.  They produced, when necessary, a family to substantiate Alan, usually, the heir in disguise.”

“You’ve never had to actually produce the heir.”  Sir Robert smiled.  “Never. ‘The family of the merchants’, have successfully discouraged either country from following through.  This is the closest we’ve come, but our kings are young, and stubborn.”

“So where does the legend of ‘The Flying Swordsman’ factor in?” “That started with my Grandfather.  He found himself in service to the King Of England, his bravery earned that title.  My Father, and myself, have tried to do it justice.  I love England, and I miss it. I love my country’s king. I have always served loyally.”

“Like you, I am a royal cousin. I am a legitimate and direct heir to Alan, but I have no wish to rule.  Also, I wish no ill to the King Of France.  I am afraid Henri, that their youth will overtake their welfare.  You and I have some gray in our hair.  We have fought enough battles to hate the taste of it.  If we can, safely introduce this fear to them today, it will save many lives.”

“What of my Princess, and the two prisoners?”  “I would encourage them to do what my family has for generations.  Hide in plain sight, serve in some quiet way, and live happily ever after.” Henri agreed.  “As you miss England, I miss my house.  Let’s get everyone home.”

A production was set in motion, one involving soldiers instead of actors. This group included a collection of misfits with noble hearts. Two valiant soldiers, an escaped princess, and two brave fugitives.  One of which was, ‘The Italian Hatmaker’, whose particular skills would be vital, if they were to secure the peace.