The Courier Ch. 16bycaligula97236©
Chapter 16 -- The Prime Minister's Dilemma
The Sunday evening before Criminal # 101025 was to be transferred; Spokeswoman Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna sat alone in her office. She watched the news, catching a glimpse of her former host sister and future nemesis as she attended a dedication ceremony with her husband, the Grand Duke. Also present was the country's Prime Minister, along with the country's first lady, as they celebrated the opening of an important bridge in the northeastern part of Danubia. The ceremony marked an important event for the country, because the new bridge would cross a canyon and cut travel time between the eastern city of Rika Chorna and the country's northern border by more than an hour.
In spite of the importance of her husband and her father, it was Grand Duchess Anyia who commanded the adoration among the local residents. The crowds surged towards her as she passed out flowers to all of the children within her reach. She did not hesitate to kiss any child who came up to her. The flowers were significant for those receiving them, because each had a ribbon tied to it that contained a Church blessing. Yes...the lovely Grand Duchess...so young...smiling so kindly with her arms full of flowers...surrounded by crowds of happy and well-behaved children...while her husband and her father stood in the background chatting with the bridge's engineers. It was a pleasant event and a flawless photo-op, a happy moment for a nation that was moving forward in the world. And...as the news commentator noted, the bridge already was paid for. No money needed to be borrowed to build it, so all tolls would go directly to local schools and road repairs. A totally satisfying moment for the country, epitomized by the country's lovely young Duchess.
Kim wondered how long the illusion could last, how long before Anyia's split existence caught up with her, and more importantly, with her father's government. There was no question that Anyia was very good at what she did; the act she presented to common citizens was perfect. There were times it seemed she really did embody the soul of a nation obsessed with tradition and yet confidently finding its proper place in the world and among its neighbors in Europe. There were times even Kim felt convinced...but she knew Anyia well enough to know that ultimately it couldn't last. Not with the direction she was moving.
Kim turned off the television and buried her face in her hands. The Grand Duchess Anyia that the public knew was not the one the Spokeswoman knew. Anyia smiled much less in private. The way she carried herself was very different. Her voice was different. The way she talked to people was different. The kind expressions and tender kisses for cheering school children were absent in the Royal Residence. The Anyia that Kim had to deal with was not the pleasant girl passing out flowers on that bridge. She was very, very different in private.
Kim picked up her desk phone, but then remembered she had forgotten something very important. Because she faced taking action against another person, her faith required her to pray. She would seek the guidance of the Ancients, of the ancestral spirits that watched over the ancient land of Danubia. She understood that she was being forced to do something that easily could expose her to false visions of The Destroyer and the very thought of that terrified her.
She got on her knees and closed her eyes:
"Oh Creator and the spirits of those who came before me...I wish to speak the truth...let me speak with honesty...I ask of you to keep the Destroyer's visions from entering my thoughts and speech...to protect those to whom I wish to speak...I ask of you...to let me speak with humility...but to use my words to bear honest witness to the time in which you have placed my life...If any evil from my actions should befall anyone...please let it fall on me alone. That is what I ask of you...Oh Creator and the spirits of those who came before me."
Once she finished praying, Kim took a deep breath and dialed the private line of the residence of Prime Minister Vladim Dukov. He picked up, on a phone that was exclusively for family members and a few of his most trusted advisors. With a shaky voice, the Spokeswoman told the nation's Prime Minister that she needed to talk to him and the first lady about his daughter, and talk to them in private.
Kim left the Central Police Station and crossed the Central Plaza. She entered the National Parliament Building and a minute later was standing in the reception area of the Prime Minister's Office. Vladim and Maritza arrived a few moments later, brought over in a police van. A pair of cops escorted them, which was the only security they needed or wanted. As demanded by protocol, Kim snapped to attention and saluted. The First Couple saluted back before inviting the Spokeswoman into the back office.
Kim's hands shook, because she didn't know how to begin. Indeed, even if you are close to him, just how do you tell a Prime Minister that you think the country's Grand Duchess, who just happens to be his daughter, is demented and should not be allowed a Royal courtesy that is an 800-year old tradition? Finally the Spokeswoman began with:
"Prime Minister, I...I need to ask if you remember my client, Criminal # 101025?"
"The Colombian girl?"
"Yes Prime Minister. The Colombian girl."
"Indeed, Kimberly, I do remember her. If I am not mistaken, she is the criminal that you have chosen to keep at the house of my brother."
"...and the one who, if I might add, you represented admirably during trial. I was very impressed when I reviewed that case, by how well you defended her interests."
"I suppose, sir...yes...thank you."
"...and the one my brother has fallen in love with."
Kim's face went pale and her heart pounded.
"Yes sir...the criminal that Merchant Victor has fallen in love with."
"Is that what you wish to discuss with me, Kimberly?"
"No sir, I've got a different problem. I...the problem is that...Anyia...the Grand Duchess...Grand Duchess Anyia...wants my client to go to the Royal House...take her out of Victor's house...transfer custody...and take her tomorrow...and I...I don't think she ought to go."
The Prime Minister and his wife exchanged glances. Maritza tightened her lips.
"She should not go...because of my brother, or because of Anyia?"
"Because of Anyia, sir...and the whole Royal House. I don't think that's where she ought to go."
"...and the issue of my brother is of no concern to you?"
"Not at this time, Prime Minister...I'm not worried about that right now."
"You will understand, Kimberly, that I am indeed concerned about my brother's behavior. What he is doing is not appropriate at all."
"I...I understand that, sir. If...I...if Merchant Dukov were my only problem I'd be trying to address it right now...but...the Grand Duchess is what I'm worried about. I don't want her to have custody of Criminal # 101025. I really don't think she should have custody of any criminals and I think the ones she already has ought to be taken out of her house and turned back over to the Ministry. She may be your daughter, sir, but I believe her soul is damaged and she's not suited to hold custody over anyone, and I don't want my client to live under her control."
Kim shook and went pale, because it had not been her intention to express her opinion so forcefully.
Dukov exchanged glances with Maritza...but stayed silent for a moment trying to think how to respond. Finally he sat back and tapped his fingertips together as he answered:
"You will understand that I am indeed aware of the situation in my daughter's house. The guards assigned to protect the Royal Residence are required to report anything unbecoming and I have heard many unpleasant things about my daughter and my son-in-law. You will understand that I am distressed about my daughter's behavior, and I feel that is an unfortunate reflection upon myself."
Kim interrupted: "No sir, it's not a reflection on you, really it isn't."
Dukov gave his guest a harsh look: "Kimberly, you must accept that if Maritza and I brought Anyia into the world and nurtured her, ultimately we are responsible for what she does."
The Prime Minister continued: "You will understand that my position, and my ability to moderate Anyia's behavior, is compromised by a clause in the Constitution of 1780. You will understand that the Grand Duke reserves the right to adjourn Parliament. By tradition that is a mere formality, never to be exercised. However, my daughter has threatened to ask her husband to do just that, dismiss the government and rule by decree. Such an action would precipitate a constitutional crisis. In theory I would not be allowed to serve as Prime Minister until the crisis is resolved, and if I do attempt to serve, my administration would be illegal. You will understand to what extent this nation's enemies would be pleased with such a development."
"But would the Grand Duke actually do such a thing? Dismiss your government?"
"If Anyia tells him to, he would."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that, Kimberly. Just like that. I know her...I know both of them, and I know she's capable of doing such a thing...on nothing more than a whim..."
Dukov and Maritza exchanged glances again, and she nodded slightly. The Prime Minister continued:
"You are aware that my daughter's thinking is detached from reality. Her Path in Life is to serve the nation, but her belief is that the nation's Path in Life is to serve her. That includes all of us: Criminal # 101025, you, and even myself and my ministers. According to her thinking the very purpose of our existence is to serve her. She exercises emotional control over the Grand Duke that I do not understand, but that control is such that he will do her bidding."
"Even if it destroys the government..."
"What about changing the Constitution and getting rid of that part about the Grand Duke dismissing Parliament?"
Dukov smiled sadly.
"To change the Constitution requires a unanimous vote in the Parliament, approval by all of the nation's provincial governors, and a signature by the Grand Duke. There is no possibility that such a thing could happen. You will understand, at my daughter's urging, our monarch has expressed a desire to reassert the role of the Royal House as the supreme secular authority in Danubia, not see it diminished. Among other things, Anyia has expressed that she wishes to have the country's name changed back to "the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia". I am convinced such an action would defy reality and damage this country's reputation among its neighbors. That is an example of what she wants that concerns me."
"But...so...you're just trapped? You can't do anything?"
"I did not say that, Kimberly. I did not say that I have no intention of countering my daughter and her husband, and I do believe the Creator has enlightened me concerning what I must do. My hope is that I can resolve the conflict with my daughter with minimal harm to her, to my son-in-law, and to the nation. But I also am aware that I must exercise restraint, and I cannot counter her as quickly as I would like."
Noting that Kim was increasingly confused by what he was saying, Dukov decided he needed to get to the point.
"Earlier today I was visited by a Priestess from the Temple of the Ancients. I believe you know her; she is the custodian of your sister and of your friend Jason Schmidt. She also is the mentor of your client. She described to me the conversation she had with Criminal # 101025. She also related to me a vision of enlightenment that the Creator provided her last night. The Priestess explained that when the moment comes for me to confront Anyia and my son-in-law, I will have the backing of the Church. However, for the Clergy to take sides in such a dispute, there must be clear evidence that one side is following the will of the Creator and the other side is following the will of the Destroyer. The Priestess must have such proof before she or her superiors can take any action to assist me. But once I have their support, no one, not even the Grand Duke, will be able to act against orders issued by the Clergy."
"You will understand that the Danubian Church normally refrains from interference in the affairs of the government. The Clergy are fully aware of the corrupting influence that politics invariably has on people of authority, and they have no desire to sully their relationship with the Realm of the Ancients by mixing with those of us who lust for power and material wealth. And yet, in times of extreme moral crisis, the Clergy can arbitrate. The Priestess expressed to me that she believes my conflict with my daughter and my son in law presents such a crisis. When the time is right, she and her superiors will confront the Grand Duke and tell him that his household will no longer enjoy the blessing of the Church unless he and my daughter desist from their ambitions. Should the Grand Duke not comply, the Church has the authority to abrogate his title. It is an authority the Church has used very sparingly. The deposing of a monarch has happened only three times in this nation's history, but those three incidences serve as an important reminder to the Royal Family that they must be humble in their service to the nation. Anyia has failed to uphold the burden the Creator has placed upon her, so the Clergy will need to remind her."
"Thus, the issue will be resolved...quietly and with minimal risk to the nation. But to exercise such extreme authority, the Clergy must first feel justified, and I understand their concern. They cannot act unless they have firm proof concerning Anyia's troubles. So in my confrontation with my daughter I must exercise restraint until the proper moment arrives. I must leave that decision in the hands of the Creator."
"You are concerned about your client's well-being. I am concerned about your client's well-being as well. I wish I could allay the unpleasantness that awaits her, but her Priestess believes it is her Path in Life to serve the nation by living in the presence of my daughter. The Priestess believes that even before she boarded the plane in Panama, the Creator chose her for the task she is about to undertake. Once the Creator is satisfied her task is completed, Criminal # 101025 will leave the Royal Residence. She will return to your custody and re-enter the house of my brother."
Kim took a deep breath. "So...did she pray with you...the Priestess, I mean?"
"Yes. She prayed with me, actually with both me and Maritza. She also obligated us to be present at the Temple of the Ancients every Sunday for the ringing of the Sunset bell. We are to assist with the ringing of the bell, and then we will consult with her about the situation with my daughter. We are obligated to do that every Sunday until our troubles have been resolved."
Dukov paused, and his wife spoke next.
"Kimberly, we would be honored if you could come with us, every Sunday when we go to the Temple. It is appropriate that you pray on behalf of your client, just as we must pray on behalf of our daughter."
"I would be very happy to accompany you, Historian Orskt-Dukovna."
Kim left the Parliament Building with a heavy heart, because the gravity of what was going on with Anyia was far more serious than she could have imagined. However, at least one of her fears was resolved; the worry that the Prime Minister would not take her seriously. It was obvious he took the threat from his daughter very seriously.
Kim struggled not to feel hatred towards Grand Duchess Anyia. Her behavior was completely odious, but given the circumstances under which she became Grand Duchess, it was not surprising that she would see herself the way she did. If only she could have had the chance to train for her job as the Crown Princess for several years under the old Grand Duchess, probably she would have been alright. Sadly, she never had any opportunity to prepare for the position into which she had married. Her lack of maturity left her vulnerable to the false visions of the Destroyer. Really...how much could she be blamed?
Compounding Anyia's delusional behavior was the obvious personal weakness of the Grand Duke, who seemed to be an even more helpless figurehead than his father. The Grand Duke was a handsome and dashing man, but in reality he was nothing more than an amateur sportsman. If he was not riding his horses or playing golf or mountain climbing or playing soccer, he was restless and bored with life. He escaped to his various activities, leaving Anyia in charge. He adored his wife, in part because she was so supportive of his life of leisure. A deadly combination...a malleable week-willed monarch and a megalomaniac wife...how many times in history did such a combination wreck a country?
Marie Antoinette...yes, thought Kim, that comparison is appropriate...or worse yet, a better comparison would have been Czar Nicolas II and Alexandra...
The Spokeswoman shuddered at the thought of what could happen. Things in Danubia could go terribly wrong, thanks to Anyia.
The next morning Kim and Carmen passed by Merchant Victor Dukov's house to take Criminal # 101025 to the Central Courthouse. Victor could not bring himself to watching the official transfer ceremony, nor did he have any desire to risk a confrontation with the Grand Duchess and her staff. Therefore he and Maria Elena agreed that they should say goodbye at the house and she would depart with her Spokeswoman alone. Cecilia Sanchez also would go, to perform her duties as Maria Elena's translator one last time.
Maria Elena and Victor Dukov gave each other one long last kiss while the other three women nervously stood by. The couple no longer was concerned about what the others thought, given that they were going to be separated anyway. Victor squeezed Maria Elena's hand a final time and she walked off his property without looking back. The others caught up with her on the street and with that four women, two of them naked with collars and two of them dressed in fine linen, walked to the trolley stop.
When they arrived at the Central Courthouse, they noticed a minivan from the Royal House parked in front. Seeing that van dashed Maria Elena's last hope, a vague thought that maybe the Royal Family would simply forget and not bother to send anyone to pick her up.
There was to be a brief ceremony to celebrate the transition of custody. In the past such a transition was an important event in a criminal's life; the abandonment of a harsh sentence of heavy physical labor and periodic switchings in exchange for one that was clean, relatively easy, and for a criminal, honorable. Maria Elena and her companions saw her transfer as precisely the opposite; a productive life forsaken for a much harsher one under an abusive Mistress. It certainly was nothing to celebrate.
The two Lords were present, still wearing their ridiculous hats with those huge feathers. Accompanying them was a doctor from the Royal House. One of the Lords was holding a Royal House collar while the other was holding a chain and shackles. The thought of being shackled terrified Maria Elena, but tradition mandated that a criminal being transferred to the Royal House had to be restrained while en route to her new life.
With Cecilia standing and Carmen kneeling off to the side of the room, Kim led her client before the judge. She motioned with her fingertips for Maria Elena to kneel and place her head on the floor. She ordered her client to arch her back and spread her legs to fully display her genitalia, which unfortunately was part of protocol for a criminal being transferred.
The judge entered the courtroom. Immediately everyone saluted and shouted "Doc-doc Danube!" Maria Elena trembled slightly, but otherwise remained silent. The judge addressed Kim: