This article will be diverting from my usual science/technology articles. Enjoy an alternate history story instead.
“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Herr* Adelwine thought the party was snobby. As he walked down the halls of the royal palace he could feel stress flowing from the organizers. Workers in the dozens buzzed around completing tasks, much like worker bees.
The party, which would be hosted in the royal palace, would include the cultural elite of Europe and lands beyond, so the organizers were justified to be stressed. Philosophers, businessmen, princes, politicians and more would all be attending.
The party was in dedication to the recent passing of the Franco-Iberian emperor, Benjamin Alexandre III and to the crowning of the new emperor, Bernard Alexandre IV. It had been planned for months and every detail had to be perfect. Every detail was perfect, too, yet it did not satisfy Herr Adelwine. Herr Adelwine has his own image of what things should be like.
Part of the legacy he created was a series of books that attacked and criticized parts of society and culture. He attacked the church and earned many enemies; He attacked imperialism and earned many enemies, yet he always persisted in getting his point across to whatever amount of people that may listen to him. Why? To him, that was his life’s goal. To him, motivation was priority. In his words,“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
He had some rich friends who agreed with his philosophy and were part of the reason he was able to give lectures at universities and speeches in cities. They were all bumbling buffoons, however, living off of fortunes their relatives made decades previously. Herr Adelwine kept them around only to use their immense wealth for his ambitions.
Although the party did not start yet, the royal palace was open to all who received an invitation. Herr Adelwine sat at a table with some of his rich friends mentioned previously. They were having a conversation about the monarchy.
“Wot is with this king business anyway? I mean, he doesn’t do anything anyway!” said Herr Frankenswine
“Yeah, I mean, at least Benjamin is a dead man. And Adelwine, surely you can spread your ideas from coast to coast now!” said Herr Brotkopf.
Everyone at the table murmured in agreement.
*Herr is the German word for Mister
“I suppose you are right about nobody being able to stop you. Bernard has not inherited any administrating knowledge from his father apparently. Cheers to your upcoming success, gentlemen.”
“Cheers!” they all exclaimed.
For what must have been hours they talked, laughed and made merry until a short, fat figure waddled over to their table. He was not at all intimidating, for even the tablecloth laughed at his presence. He plopped in a seat at the end of the table and asked, “You’re this Adelwine fellow everybody’s talking about, right?”
Herr Adelwine looked at the various badges and medals on the strangers vest and recognized various military awards and honors, some of which can only be awarded by the emperor himself. Herr Adelwine was in the presence of a high ranking military officer. He answered, “Absolutely.”
“Excellent, I wanted to strike a deal with you for a while now.”
A military man proposing something to me? How very strange. I’ve criticized the military many times before.
“I suppose I would need to hear the terms of the deal first.”
“Right. Are you familiar with the Templum Custos?
Herr Adelwine remembered seeing something about the Templum Custos in his studies. It means “Holy Guard” in Latin. It was an order designed by Roman nobles to protect the Greek and Latin legacy during the Great Retreat*.
“There is a rule in their code that restricts them to dealing with internal threats only. Well, Rome still recognizes Western Europe as a sphere of influence, so the Templum Custos can go anywhere in that sphere. Because of this, they will be paying us a visit later today due to multiple concerns regarding Bernards lack of abilities.”
“I see, because they only want capable monarchs in power. That is dangerous for the dynasty. Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you are of their kind. They are in the town square branding Bernard as a fool and I was hoping you could persuade them to disperse.”
*An era in Western Europe were the Roman Empire gave up large amounts of land to save itself
Bah! Bernard is a fool! I may as well join them! Wait, perhaps I could make the dream of a republic a reality. There are probably enough people in that group to take over the city! Brilliant work Adelwine! I’ll be off at once!
“Of course, good sir. Consider your problem solved.” Herr Adelwine felt quite excited
The fat man tossed an envelope, probably full of money, across the table.
“I knew we could reach an agreement. Have a nice day Adelwine.”
He waddled away to join his other military friends while Herr Adelwine exited the palace with his mission on his mind.
He heard the Templum Custos before he saw them. He walked towards the town square among commoners and peasants. Men, women and children all recognized him and shook hands with him. That would probably be greatest honor they would ever get. Herr Adelwine led this mob of his into the town square to join the Templum Custos. When he got the there he saw men and women in fancy uniforms shouting insulting chants and phrases about the Emperor. One of the women noticed Herr Adelwine and shouted, “The Imperator wants to speak with you Adelwine!”
She pointed to a large carriage and went back to chanting. Herr Adelwine elbowed his way through the rowdy crowd and entered the carriage. There were two old men and one old woman discussing something when Herr Adelwine opened the door. They greeted him with warm smiles and got a chair for him to sit down in. The first man stood up and introduced himself.
“I am Maximus Augustus, Imperator.”
The second man stayed seated and looked Herr Adelwine in the eye.
“Alexander, nice to make your acquaintance.”
The woman shook hands with Herr Adelwine and did not speak.
Maximus took out a dozen or so sheets of paper and showed them to Herr Adelwine and said, “This is our plan to dispose of the Emperor-to-be, Bernard. He is a fool, and the legacy of the Roman Empire will not be tarnished by men such as himself. Adelwine, this plan has the backing of the Emperor himself. I think you know all of this though.”
He is correct. The Roman Emperor has been scheduling secret meetings with me for the past few months. He said if he could annex southern France he would let me establish a republic in the North. Rebels in Iberia would be allowed to break away from the Empire, however. Still. it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Maximus continued to speak,“We are going to attack the palace and kill Bernard in the confusion. We have a small army here and any protection they have will be vastly outnumbered. We march immediately.”
He handed a rifle to Herr Adelwine and said,
“I hope you know how to use this.”
Herr Adelwine nodded eagerly. When he was a boy he hunted rabbits with his father and became very good at it. He trembled at the thought of shooting people however.
Maximus exited the carriage and shouted,
“We will dispose of Bernard the fool now! We march to the palace now as a group! We go now!”
Shouts of ‘Huzzah!’ could be heard in the crowd as they walked the short distance to the royal palace.
Maximus poked his head in the carriage and said, “You all stay in here, it’s probably more comfortable here than it is outside.
It was a hot summer day, complete with flies and warmth. Adelwine didn’t want to argue with Maximus. The old woman exited so she could drive the chariot, which left Alexander and Herr Adelwine alone in the carriage.
“Where are you from?” asked Herr Adelwine
“I grew up in Canada with me mother and the wilderness. My father died when I was an infant, so me mother taught me everything I know. It seemed like every day we would go out into the woods and come back with a feast. Life was great. But then she died in her sleep a few years ago. I found Maximus when he went hunting in my area. What about yourself, Adelwine?”
“I grew up in a little village in the Black forest in Germany. I realized my true calling was philosophy when I finally saved enough money to go to college. It was the best time of my life. Like yourself, I would hunt in the woods with my father. My mother died at childbirth. The only reason I’m here is because I called the King of Germany a walrus, and exile immediately followed. I have some friends in the nobility who are from Germany as well, now that I think about it.”
Alexander laughed and looked out the window.
“Looks like we’re here. You might want this.” He tossed a pistol to Adelwine “A sidearm could save your life, if you’re quick enough.”
The carriage came to a grinding halt and Alexander and Adelwine exited onto the crowded street. The mob of Templum Custos and rioters did not wait to force the door open and fight their way to Bernard. Gunshots rang out everywhere and wounded on both sides cried for help. Bernard had a Swiss royal guard that was rumored to be the most disciplined force in Europe. This guard managed to hold off the attackers for some time. They fought valiantly, but retreated when somebody lit pigs on fire and let them loose in the palace. Maximus himself ran through the fire and dragged Bernard out onto the street.
With Bernard pinned to the ground he gave a big speech about how the rest of the Alexandre Dynasty died in the fire and that people like Bernard were the downfall of any empire. Bernard himself had a look of utter confusion on his face. That was until he noticed Adelwine. Any confusion Bernard had was replaced by anger toward Adelwine.
“You damned maniac! Do you know what you’re doing by killing me? Innocent people will die and the Empire will fall apart! And what was the intention? So you could achieve your little dream of democracy and so these psychopaths (he gestured at the Templum Custos) can fulfil some nationalist philosophy!
“So far you’ve killed my entire family and countless nobles just because you had doubts about my leadership abilities!” Bernard calmed down a little bit. “You people are disgusting, but I shouldn’t have expected anything better from you, I suppose. I-”
Bernard’s lifeless body fell flat on the street, Maximus had shot him, unflinching. The only noise was the fire raging in the background, licking the palace walls.
He looked over to Adelwine, as if expecting him to say something.
Adelwine took a few deep breaths, then said in a very soft tone,
“The Alexandre dynasty has come to an end, my friends. Bernard was right, there will be violence, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, as they say. For those concerned about what will happen next, expect the Empire to lose much of its territory almost overnight. Then, expect peace in our time.”
The crowd dispersed, most going to loot what was left of the royal palace.
Maximus whispered something to a Templum Custos member, who then travelled away from the scene on horseback. Adelwine wondered how many times Maximus had to shoot people in cold blood like that. He wondered if violence like that was just human nature…
The next few months were chaos for Western Europe. With no ruling monarch separatists in Iberia became strong enough to break away from Imperial control and establish a powerful despotism. As promised, Herr Adelwine became President Adelwine of the new Republic of France, and the Roman Emperor annexed southern France, restoring considerable power to the Empire. The Roman Emperor even guaranteed the independence of the two new republics, shielding them both from any outside threats.
President Adelwine, despite his responsibilities, would go to remote peasant villages and ask them directly what they needed from him. He served three 5-year terms before retiring at the humble age of 51. He died in his sleep with a smile on his face. His two children spent their lives abolishing tyranny in faraway lands, much to the pride of their father.