Emmeline had spent most of the travel riding near the baron. But it was during a break to give horses food and rest she quietly approach her lady in waiting. “Amelie? Can you tell me a little about Lord Arles?”
She said, “the lord is the younger son of the Duke and heir to the Duke’s realm and is just slightly younger than the Baron. He is very much into horsemanship and is a fair soldier. In his youth he was quite the tournament champion. He is married to a commoner from a wealthy merchant family in Breven. Her name is Margarite. They have several children including Maria, Ana, Margot, François, and Louis. Maria is married to a minor noble. Ana serves the Lady Rivanon. Margot is training to be a priestess. Francois and Louis are still very much under age. None are in the line of succession, though their father is.”
She asked, “Anything else?”
“Yes. How can he be in the line of succession? He married a commoner,” Emmeline said.
“He is, but his children are not and will never be. That said, rumor has it he is not interested in the role despite a recent rapprochement with his father,” she said. “The Baron,” Amelie added, “is more likely the choice, but much is in the air as the Baron himself sees himself a soldier, not a politician.”
“What would happen if, for whatever reason, the Duke passes on and Arles does become the next Duke. He could decide to recognize his own children, couldn’t he? I would imagine he could even get support from Thalassa for that.”
Amelie replied, “No. He signed a contract to that matter. We are an aristocracy, but a constitutional one since the days of the Haalkhan invasion. If Lord Arles, as Duke, decided to rescind orders given by his predecessor as a matter of will as opposed to reason, then no agreement, fief, or contract in the realm would stand. I don’t know much about Thalassan internal politics, but I doubt they would interfere, or if they did, they would do so to put in who they want.”
“He signed a contract to that? How very odd,” Emmeline remarked. “I guess he really doesn’t want to become a duke then. Or at least, he takes his personal happiness as a priority over succession. I can only imagine signing a contract like that was some sort of compromise with his father.”
Amelie replied, “An order more accurately.” She added, “Or the marriage would be nullified, the children labeled bastards, and Lord Arles stripped of title and rank.”
Emmeline gazed over at Lord Arles, watching him give instructions to a horse groom. “Do you feel sorry for him?”
Amelie disagreed, “On no. It is quite a love story. Arles, short for Charles, met Margarite, a gentlewoman of merchant stock who was a lady-in-waiting to a cousin’s wife, at a ball in Cameret I believe — it was love at first sight. This was long before Hugo’s scandal, some 25 years in fact. Although of gentle blood, Margarite is not of a noble line, and the ancient rules regarding marriage with the Eterian noble families can be very strict. Particularly as potential heir to the duchy (Hugo was unmarried at the time), the marriage was deemed unacceptable, but Arles refused to consider any other match, and it is said that he and Margarite began a clandestine affair, mostly via letters and stolen moments together. Isn’t that beautiful?”
“He and his father clashed frequently over this issue, until at last some twenty years ago, shortly after Lady Rivanon was born, the Duke agreed to allow the marriage to take place, although Margarite would have to be Arles’s morganatic wife, meaning that she could never share her husband’s rank or status, even after he became duke, and their children could not succeed. The Duke had great faith in his elder sons. One died without issue, and the other was mired in scandal.”
Amelie cautioned, “Do not feel sorry for Lady Margarite. She has been granted the title Baroness of Derrienport in which her social status improved considerably over what she was born with. But the couple are very happy and had five children.”
“Does he get along with our Baron?” Emmeline asked.
“They are both soldiers. The Baron never lets on his opinions to others without reason. But they did serve together with Captain du Triel in their youth.” she replied.
“Like du Triel’s daughter and El and Typhon and I,” Emmeline said. She looked from Alres to Baron Roland smiling as she thought about some of the parallels they had in their lives.
Turning back to her own horse, she saw that it had finished with water and the feed bag and was attempting to get at some grass. Emmeline chuckled and patted the horses neck as she removed the feed bag and put it away. The break was over and it was time to get moving again.
Amelie nodded, “yes. My mother once adventured with them early on. She and the Baron were and are good friends. I think the Captain, Vorn, Natine, and their priest friend – his name escapes me – were later on. If you need anything else, ma’am, I am here.”