In The Service Of Princes


On the first Saturday of Charlie and Martin’s stay in Strelsau, Bastian determined over breakfast with Freddie that they would all ride out to the hills north west of the Neustadt. He responded to Freddie’s raised eyebrow with a double explanation.

‘They say the new Assembly Rooms at the Spa are worth a look, and on a fine September day like today, a large number of the fashionable in the city will be there. The boys can take the air, admire the views and watch the city promenade past them. They can try the waters if they like. They’re said to be beneficial for all sorts of things, from worms to the pox.’

Freddie shrugged. ‘I’ve not been out there myself. But I thought the main attractions for young men are the card and dance rooms, which ought to be off limits to my brother and his companion in sin. From what Frank wrote about their time in Munich, I think they need watching.’

‘There’s another reason they should try the waters,’ Bastian continued.


Bastian rolled his eyes. ‘The pair of them aren’t too particular about hygiene. Their presence around the house is very … noticeable. I doubt they’ve bathed since leaving England.’

‘Point taken,’ Freddie laughed. ‘We’ll drag them into the Spa’s famous hot pools.’

‘… which they’ll no doubt turn brown briefly. Good. I count on you to force them into the waters.’

‘Don’t expect me to have any authority over Charlie. All he’ll talk about is your sister. It’s you he’ll obey. He’s in awe of you as much as he is of her, and naturally enough. The resemblance plainly stunned him when he first saw you. He keeps staring at you covertly. You don’t think she did her magic on his mind, such as it is?’

Bastian shook his head. ‘No, I’d think his enslavement to my sister is engineered by his cock alone, not the mystic forces of the Universe. I dread to think of what sort of poetry she’ll inspire his imagination to create. It’s a vent baffled adolescent lust often takes. Horrible.’

The conversation abruptly switched course as their two visitors arrived in the dining room in shirts and breeches, looking hungry. They were agreeable to Bastian’s plan and so at ten o’clock by the cathedral’s bells all four rode out under the arch on to Westergasse and trotted down the hill of the Domshorja, across the Neustadt bridge and up through the New City to find the tree-lined road out to the Spa Hills at the Lindenstrasse Bar. They overtook several carriages heading in the same direction, some bearing rather forward ladies lolling out of the windows, flirting at passing gentlemen with their eyes, then concealing themselves behind painted French fans. The two English boys gawped at the sight.

‘My word, Freddie,’ Charlie gasped. ‘These Ruritanian ladies are up for it, eh? Nothing as lewd as this happened in Munich.’

‘I should think not, youngster,’ Bastian replied sternly. ‘The elector’s agents would have such offenders carried off to the house for loose women, and as for the men who flirted with them … well there are houses of correction for such perverts.’

A Spa had been in business in the hills outside the city for nearly a century. But until the reign of Rudolf III it had been no more than a well house and therapeutic bathing pool. Then over the past thirty years gardens had been laid out and new buildings erected, not least a large Assembly Room, which offered concerts and dancing. The old baths had been demolished and a new pool house constructed, with an indoor hot bath, where the natural sulphuric springs were piped into a vaulted room modelled on the Baths of Diocletian, though much scaled down from the original in Rome.

‘Oh … well … I’m not sure, captain’ Martin responded hesitantly, when Bastian confidently headed for the bath house.

‘It’s for your health, youngster,’ Bastian declared as he paused. ‘The springs here are famous for their health-giving virtues. Some people even drink the water, which I wouldn’t recommend. But the baths are very good for all sorts of ills: the stone, joint pain and gout particularly, that and the great pox.’

‘The pox?’

‘Men who frequent whores pick it up, and it’s not a joke. It begins with sores and itching around the cock and then there’s a rash. After that, it can get very ugly. The waters here are hot and pungent, and immersion is thought to be cleansing.’

The two English boys shared uneasy glances and consented, Martin reflexively scratching at his crotch. ‘That was cruel,’ Freddie observed to Bastian as they disrobed in a side room.

‘So? It is medicinal, everyone says so.’ He twitched his head at the boys. ‘Your brother has the same ass as you, Freddie. Very nice. And Martin’s schlong is really quite formidable, even at rest.’ He laughed. ‘Time to go!’ He slapped the boys’ bare backsides hard as he loped past them. The outraged pair chased Bastian and piled in on him as he leapt into the steaming, green waters of the spa pool. Freddie followed at a more relaxed pace and paused to admire the echoing space under the vaults before his brother reached up, grabbed his ankle from the pool and pulled him in.

Though the state of the two boys did not in fact turn the pool brown, there was a distinct improvement in their appearance when they climbed out. Freddie played on their insecurities to persuade them to visit the barber’s shop next to the pool house to dress their hair and remove the fuzz of emerging beard from upper lip and chin.

As they waited for the boys in the warm sunlight on a bench outside the shop, Freddie and Bastian mused over the contents of the letters Charlie had brought from Munich. Frank Potts’s had been the most informative, and alarming.

‘His little trip to Ingolstadt turned up more than he expected,’ Freddie concluded. ‘He’s certainly made a connection with Professor Weishaupt.’

‘Maybe so,’ Bastian said. ‘Though in doing it he’s already compromised himself as a diplomat. He’s not supposed to join what seems to be a domestic political association the professor is forming amongst his colleagues and students. If the elector’s police get to hear about it he’ll be declared persona non grata by the minister of state, and briskly marched to the frontier. It won’t do Lord Burlesdon’s mission much good.

‘You know what Bavarian society is like: all very urbane on the surface but the elector’s police and their informers are always on the lookout for heretics and conspirators even amongst the aristocracy. It’s an uneasy place to live. Informers are paid by results and they’re not above inventing what they can’t find. With Weishaupt, Frank seems to have blundered into the genuine article, for all that the professor’s enterprise is dressed up as a society for moral improvement. But the elector regards himself as the source of moral improvement. One false step will bring Frank and the embassy into danger.’

‘And it’s plain your sister is behind the professor, but what’s her game, eh?’

‘I’d love to know,’ Bastian replied. ‘We’re going to have to rely on Frank for now, for all the danger it puts him in.’


Freddie and Bastian decided that they’d accompany the two boys on part at least of their onward journey to Vienna. They had a good excuse to make a party of it. Prince Henry was in Glottenburg advising his aunt on the affairs of the new Rothenian University and required Freddie’s attendance on him. The university had opened for its first term, and the prince was proving invaluable as chair of the appointments panel. Freddie had a satchel of papers to take down to Glottenburg for the prince’s attention, and a trunk of books for his former colleague Waclaw Kara, who had been appointed to the chair of Latin at Glottenburg; one of a number of bright young Rothenians Prince Henry had placed in the new faculties. So Charlie Winslow and Martin Griffiths could ride along with them.

The party travelled with permission in the prince’s coach and four, his second-best vehicle, though they had to hire a coachman since his best coach and its team was with the prince in Glottenburg. The country was still green, the foliage just beginning to turn. The Starel valley was gorgeous in a golden autumnal haze. It inspired Charlie, who it seemed actually did aspire to be a poet, and took to travelling on the box next to the coachman with his notebook, pencil poised for when inspiration struck.

‘When did the poetry start, Martin?’ Freddie asked his brother’s companion, sitting across from him.

‘Oh, he was always scribbling away in school when the lessons got boring. But since we began our travels it’s really got prolific.’ He became confidential. ‘Charlie filled a book with odes and what-have-you to the beauty of a certain unnamed lady, but I think we all know who.’ He giggled. ‘Some of it’s really good, though I suppose I’m biased in Charlie’s favour. Don’t tell him I told you.’

They broke their journey on two nights, as they were not travelling post, so the boys got to sample the modest joys of the towns of Luchau and Ostberg. The pair boarded a river barque early in the morning, after their night at Ostberg. It was a broad and bluff-bowed vessel that would take them down the Starel to its inflow into the Donau below Linz, from where they would journey on to Vienna. The two youths did not quite conceal their feelings at being liberated from the supervision they felt they had endured in Munich and Strelsau. But they gave a show of regret as they made their farewells, grinning broadly with an exaggerated display of leave-taking from the ship’s side as it left the quay, blowing kisses and waving handkerchiefs.

‘You think they’ll be alright?’ Freddie asked Bastian.

‘God takes special care of lunatics and puppies, so I suppose so. But it’s better they tackle Venice and Rome after a couple of months’ schooling in European travel with Lord Burlesdon and us. Being sent there direct would have had dangers. Your father showed some judgement in planning their expedition out. The pair may be a little mad, but they’re not entirely without sense. You’ll have noticed how they’ve made us pay for most of their stay in Ruritania, Freddie! Now they have Lord Burlesdon’s letters of introduction to the British missions in Venice and Milan, and to his good friend the Prince Ludovisi in Rome, so people will look out for them. Also they’ve not got quite enough money to go really insane. I suppose we’d better be on our way to the Casimirhof, where Prince Henry is staying, I believe.’

‘Along with his aunt,’ Freddie confirmed. ‘I do hope she’s somewhere else when we visit. Meeting her is a challenge I’m reluctant to face.’

‘Understandable,’ agreed Bastian. ‘But we’re not likely to find anything more about her schemes unless we do meet her, are we? Remember what Frank said in his last letter. Jonas Niemand erected a sort of fortification in his mind which makes him proof against these female wizards and their ability to alter our memories and the drift of our thoughts. So maybe he did the same for us.’

‘I’m not sure I want to find out.’ Freddie paused and pondered for a moment. ‘There’s another thing, since you mention Jonas Niemand.’

‘What’s that?’

‘It’s been nagging away at the back of my mind for a while. A couple of times when I was with the young duke Willem Stanislas, he mentioned someone called Jonas who seemed to mean a lot to him. I was told by his grandmother and your sister that it was his “imaginary friend” but I wonder …’

‘Wonder what, Freddie.’

‘Whether we’ve all of us been looking in the wrong direction. Where are all these hidden plots focussed, Bastian? What’s the future of the Rothenian people? Is it in Ruritania or is it in Glottenburg? Ruritania is the bigger and more powerful state. But Glottenburg is truer to the heart of Rothenia. And if so, little Duke Staszek may turn out to be the future, not Princess Osra Madeleine, Rudolf III or any Elphberg. And that could make the boy a target for one side or a banner-bearer for the other.’ Freddie sighed and looked down the great river at the disappearing vessel. ‘Come along, Bastian. The boys’ ship has taken the bend in the river. It’s time to be on our way.’


The city of Glottenburg was much changed from the devastated shell that Freddie had last seen. Many new brick houses had risen to replace the old timber rows. The city centre had lost its Gothic appearance as a result, which on balance Freddie thought was a pity. Still, it was at least more secure from catastrophic fires, and it was now taking on a brisk modern appearance which put it in tune with the Princess Regent’s reforming regime. There was an optimism in the air rather than the somnolence that Freddie had found in all too many of the states of similar size in the Empire. It stood out to an Englishman used to the commercial energy and rapid change of life in Great Britain, even in rural Norfolk.

The ducal castle of Glottenburg looked much the same however. It had not entirely escaped the ravages of the great fire, but this and the looting of the uprising had not much affected the thick medieval walls. Damage had proved repairable, but there were changes. Instead of guardsmen in striped boxes at the cavernous entrance gate Freddie found youths in green student robes clutching books, lounging, gossiping and laughing. The conversation was all in Rothenian, a language that Freddie had yet to come to terms with. It was not high on his list of priorities. Bastian found porters at the gatehouse lodge whom he tipped to take Professor Kara’s heavy trunk of books up to his room, which proved to be in one of the castle’s corner towers, with a rather splendid prospect of the cathedral across the city square.

The new professor was delighted to see them. Freddie complimented him on the view.

‘I don’t really have time to look out the window, you know,’ Waclaw replied. ‘And the climb to get up to this eyrie leaves me gasping in the chair for a full half hour.’

‘Ha!’ Freddie laughed. ‘You walked all the way to Hofbau between dawn and sunset, just to see your parents. Don’t give me that.’

‘Stairs use a different set of muscles, Freddie.’

‘And how are the students?’ Bastian asked.

Waclaw beamed. ‘I have to say they’re quite the surprise and very different from the Rudolfer types I’m used to. Maybe it’s the newness of the enterprise, but my Rothenian students here seem to me to be brighter, keener and far less likely to spend the days in alehouses and nights in whorehouses.’

‘They sound boring,’ Bastian shrugged.

‘I’m just saying that it makes a pleasant change,’ Waclaw responded. ‘They gave a very warm reception last month to a professor from Ingolstadt who gave a public lecture on moral reform. If it had been the Rudolfer, the hall would have been near empty.’

Freddie’s head shot up. ‘Adam Weishaupt?’

‘You know him? We had an absorbing discussion on civic virtue in Cicero’s rhetoric. I’ve been invited to lecture on the subject in Bavaria in the new year. He’s promised me a large audience.’

Freddie and Bastian exchanged glances. As they left the university Freddie commented, ‘That man Weishaupt is getting so universal it’s frankly sinister.’

An hour’s drive brought them to the Casimirhof, the immense palace on a hill north of the city. Its completed main block lay along the entire brow of a low ridge, with a great expanse of gardens, canals and fountains stretching below. Freddie reflected that if the late duke who had planned it and given it his name had brought the full design to completion it would have dwarfed the palace-city of Versailles, which was apparently its inspiration.

The carriage brought them along a broad drive through the grounds intended to bring home to the visitor the sheer scale of the building. The drive was lined with trees that it seemed to Freddie had to have been planted as mature; quite a feat of engineering as much as horticulture. The rear of the palace proved less imposing, with only one half-completed wing to the north, and a stable yard not much bigger than the one at Burlesdon Hall to Freddie’s eye.

‘There’s a sermon here, Freddie,’ said Bastian as they disembarked.

‘What, Man proposes and God disposes?’

‘That sort of thing. We’d better go find His Royal Highness.’

‘He’ll be in the library if the late Duke John Casimir II got round to including one in his designs.’

And there indeed they found Prince Henry of Ruritania, sitting at a desk piled high with paper. ‘Ah-hah! Freddie and Sebastian!’ he hailed them. ‘Find seats. I’ll ring for coffee. Have you eaten?’

Freddie observed the half-filled shelves of the library presses. ‘Like much else in my late cousin’s wonderland,’ the prince replied, ‘appearance all too readily took precedence over reality. What a wasted life. Enough of him. I have a lot of paperwork for you to file, Freddie, and am going to dictate letters at you for the next several hours. So I am sorry, my dear Sebastian, but you must go off and amuse yourself. If I’m to return to Strelsau before November I will need Freddie’s devoted services for the next week.’

Bastian smiled and shrugged. ‘I expected no less, sir. I see by the banner flying over the palace that Her Royal Highness the Princess Regent is in residence. His Majesty your father entrusted me with a packet to deliver to her and to her grandchild, the little duke. I believe it may be toys. And if it is lead soldiers and cannon as I suspect, I may well allow His Diminutive Highness to talk me into a campaign across the nursery carpet. He values my professional advice.’

Prince Henry laughed. ‘Very good. Captain Wollherz, go do your duty. I’ll arrange for accommodation in the palace and table privileges for you as well as Freddie. You may join us for dinner.’


Bastian knocked on Freddie’s door as he was preparing for bed. They had sat at different ends of the table during the dinner, so had not had a chance to catch up. Still in his guard uniform, Bastian took a seat next to the coal fire, while Freddie sat up on the bed.

‘It was chilly during dinner,’ he complained, rubbing his fingers together nearer the fireplace.

‘Heating is another one of the things that the late duke didn’t get round to planning properly,’ Freddie agreed. ‘Only one hearth in that long, high room, with all those big windows. I could see my breath steaming. There’s a frost outside tonight. It’s warmer if you come sit up with me here, by the way.’

‘No doubt, Freddie mine. But there’s not time for that tonight. Besides, the spurs on my boots will rip up your coverlet.’

‘So tell me then, how did things go with you?’

‘Oh, Princess Osra has always had a soft spot for me. So I was received warmly and given tea and cake. We had a long chat during which the little duke turned up. He has tutors already you know and spends his afternoon at his lessons. He’s not going to be allowed to escape a thorough education. His grandmother had him recite his Latin cases. The boy was faultless.’

‘Very nice. I’m pleased. But did you get him alone?’

‘I pulled out the packet of soldiers, and the duke quickly had the contents on the floor. The king had gone to town. He had a workshop create figurines painted up in the uniforms of all the regiments of the army of Glottenburg. I had to identify each for him and explain what sort of soldier it was. There were even a couple of artillery pieces. We deployed them all in line of battle, and while we did his grandmother lost interest and left the room for more pressing business. So it was just me and him and a nursery maid waiting to take him off for his meal.

‘So we chatted a little on matters military. He decided his figure of a general needed a name. “What’s your favourite name?” I asked. “Bessie!” he cried with some enthusiasm. My sister seems to have made a conquest there too. “Oh!” said I, “Wasn’t your best friend called Jonas?” He got a bit shifty at that. “Well … no … not really,” he said, and rolled his eyes. “I made him up. He wasn’t real”.’

Freddie nodded. ‘Someone’s been at the boy, was it Bessie?’

‘No, I doubt it. Though he may have fixed on her, she has little time for children. She barely notices them. Besides, had she done her witchery on him, he wouldn’t have looked shifty, like he was covering up something. No, I rather think the boy had been warned by someone else.’

Freddie brightened. ‘Jonas Niemand himself? So he is up to something with little Staszek.’

‘It may be so, and that heartens me a little. But we can’t pursue it any further with the boy.’

‘I suppose not, but how otherwise do we find out what these supernatural forces are up to?’

Bastian shrugged. ‘We’ll just have to put our trust in Frank Potts in Munich and keep our eyes and ears open.’


Frank Potts contemplated his second Christmas at the British embassy in Munich. It would also be his twenty-sixth birthday, for he had entered the world on the same day as Jesus Christ, a source of endless jokes in his family.

There were several questions pressing on him. The first was whether to take leave and go home to Lancashire for the holiday. A letter from his father had hinted that the question of his marriage was being debated back home. His grandfather and the family patriarch, Sir Francis Potts, 5th baronet of Longridge near Preston, had decreed that though young Frank might not be in the present direct line of succession to the baronetcy – that was his uncle, Francis junior, and his cousin Patrick – still, he was close enough to it for his marital prospects to be a concern at Longridge Hall. Catholic families, being deprived of much in the way of public life in England, compensated in part by an intense clannish focus on wider family networks. So a marriage, even of the son of a younger son, was high sport.

Frank had in the meantime made for himself a very happy if irregular relationship with a young widow in St Jakobs Platz, who was happy to stay unmarried but still liked to have a pleasant man around the house, and there was a certain status in the pleasant man being an ‘English milord’. He tended to sleep there at least three days a week, in the guise of a paying lodger so as to put off the electoral police.

Frank permitted himself a feeling of irritation at the meddling of the Potts patriarch in his emotional life. It was not as if he would ever get much in the way of an inheritance from the Longridge estate. His father might get the revenues of one farm when the time came for Sir Francis to leave this world. All he had otherwise was a modest income from his profession as a land agent and veterinarian. Frank had always understood that he had to make his own way in the world, which he was doing.

Frank dragged his mind back to one chore he had to do before Christmas. He had been invited to Ingolstadt for what was advertised as ‘A Grand Festival of Illumination and Reason’. It was in some ways reassuring. Sebastienne Wollherz had put him on her list of useful characters to further her schemes, so his mission was progressing. On the other hand it left him very worried as to what he was getting himself into.

‘Ingolstadt? Why do you need to go there?’ Lord Burlesdon asked when he brought up the subject.

‘It came from the university, my lord. A sort of academic festival. I believe it’s going to be quite a big affair. I made Professor Weishaupt’s acquaintance at her ladyship’s salon.’

The ambassador mused for a few moments. ‘You may be right about it being a big affair. Now you mention it, I believe General von Arco said he was going to be there, and the bishop of Passau too. Very well, I want a full report and you can claim your expenses. It certainly comes within our sphere of interest.’ He laughed. ‘I’m almost offended I didn’t get an invitation.’

So on the afternoon of the Monday following the third Sunday of Advent, the 12th of December 1774, Frank stepped down from the post coach on to the Theresenstrasse of Ingolstadt, the bells of the looming Liebfrauenkirche at the western end of the street ringing the hour. It was a cold winter afternoon, the sky above clear and already growing pale as the evening approached. He caught the bag which the coachman threw down to him, and looked around. He knew to take one of the lanes south from the high street and so found the great Hohe Schule, the university’s central teaching hall.

Frank was by now well enough known in the upper end of Bavarian society to catch the eye of several acquaintances loitering at the porch. He was hailed by a junior secretary from the Prussian mission whom he had got to know quite well, and who had become something of an unofficial liaison for representing the views of the king-elector to the British embassy. It was a sign of Lord Burlesdon’s success that the Munich embassy was becoming recognised in the Empire as the most effective conduit and clearing-house for communication to and from London.

Klaus Joachim von Kleist was from a prominent and numerous Pomeranian Junker family. He was a typical younger son of his class: highly conscious of his aristocratic status drawn from ancestral lands, but forced to be dependent on state office to survive. After questioning he had decided Frank was a sympathetic fellow spirit, and determined that the Englishman could be ranked as equivalent to a Freiherr, being the grandson of a hereditary Ritter. He was willing to overlook Frank’s inconvenient Catholicism. Frank was dubious about Klaus’s reasoning on several counts, but found him a friendly soul once he was reassured on the matter of Frank’s social standing.

Frank went over to join Klaus, and was introduced to his companion, who proved to be his cousin and an academic from the University of Griefswald, far to the north on the Baltic coast. He was delighted to meet Frank, and addressed him in excellent English, which it appeared was in fact the subject he taught.

‘Really! I had no idea English was a language studied and taught in any European university!’ Frank admitted.

‘I’m not surprised at that, Mr Potts,’ said Dr von Kleist, who promptly switched to German for his cousin’s benefit. ‘Teaching English and English literature at a university is a very new thing in the Empire, and perhaps the fact that my university is within the realms of the king of Sweden and not the king of Prussia has something to do with it. Prussians are so hidebound, isn’t that so, Klaus?’

‘Forgive my cousin, Frank,’ said Klaus. ‘But don’t get the idea that Griefswald is all that progressive a university. The doctor is here with a begging bowl. He has heard of the legendary wealth and philanthropy of your ambassador, the good Lord Burlesdon. He hopes to interest his lordship in supporting his teaching. His post is renewed annually at the moment.’

The possibilities of the idea charmed Frank, and he promptly offered the doctor an introduction to his employer if he could come to Munich before he returned to the north. All three followed the drift of the crowd into the Hohe Schule to find the great hall filling with the delegates. Up on the stage was a collection of academic worthies. Amongst them was the small figure of Sebastienne Wollherz, sweeping the assembly with her eyes. Frank’s heart sank a little as her keen gaze seemed to catch his.

After a welcome from the university’s sub-Rector, who read a letter from the provincial governor giving his blessing for the assembly to meet, Professor Weishaupt took the podium. The man was obviously very pleased to have achieved quite so large and influential an audience, and rose to the occasion. Most of those present very soon appeared rapt in attention to his words. Freddie however found himself unmoved. He had heard it all before and the professor’s oratory was beginning to sound as glib to him as a market trader’s patter.

Yet maybe there was something more to his resistance. Jonas Niemand’s intervention had definitely done something to his mind. Freddie Winslow had called it Jonas’s ‘waterproofing’. Once again Frank sensed a force in the room, and there was little doubt where it was coming from: the small figure to the professor’s right in the line of chairs behind him where the principal dignitaries had been placed. Bessie Wollherz was at work, and the pitch of her power grew as the professor’s lecture continued, till it was almost an audible hum in the air. Frank snatched a covert look at Klaus next to him. The Prussian’s eyes were unfocussed, as if he were in a trance.

The professor spoke for a full hour by the clock on the wall to Frank’s right. He was not entirely unaffected by the words and the power flowing down from the stage, but to him it seemed not much more than a tide of noise that washed past him. The occasional grunt from Klaus indicated that the oratory was having a different effect on his companion. And when the professor’s voice ceased, Klaus stood with many others to join in a storm of applause.

When the approval died down, a gentleman in clerical black stood and announced that before dinner the festival would convene in a number of groups, which he called ‘classes’. A list of each ‘class’ was posted in the porch and delegates would find a room number in which to meet. The list would also nominate a class convenor who would instruct them as to what would happen next.

The hall emptied as instructed, and Frank accompanied the two von Kleists out to the porch. The doctor looked stunned, while Klaus was beginning to brim over with admiration for the professor. Frank wondered if the different reactions reflected the relative strength of mind of the cousins.

‘What did you make of that, sir?’ he asked the doctor.

The man shook himself. ‘Truly remarkable,’ he said slowly. ‘To think that it is possible to take such ideas out of the lecture theatre and into society. I shall be most keen to join the great effort.’

Frank raised an eyebrow. Dr von Kleist had not heard what he had, which was the usual moralistic spiel from Professor Weishaupt which he had heard half a dozen times already. Frank had registered nothing about moral activism in what he could recall of the lecture. What had Sebastienne Wollherz been feeding into his companions’ brains while Professor Weishaupt had been talking?

Frank looked at the lists posted in the porch. He was in a group of five, which he was glad to see included Klaus von Kleist. He was glad not just for friendship’s sake, but because it looked like Klaus wasn’t able to filter out whatever influence was being exerted on his mind. Frank wondered if he might be able to monitor what was going on through Klaus’s reactions.

When they assembled in the designated room Frank found that as well as Klaus his group included a uniformed gentleman who introduced himself as a chamberlain of the electoral household. The other two proved to be a secretary in the Ruritanian foreign ministry and a historian from the university of Göttingen. They found a table laid out with wine and glasses, so they helped themselves.

They found they had been asked to discuss ‘Moral Implications of the Current Crisis’ without much further guidance. So being urbane and informed gentlemen, they chatted non-comitally about the state of the Empire, keeping tacitly to the uncontentious area of the Empire’s constitutional weaknesses and the problems with Imperial law. So when the door opened and they were joined by Professor Weishaupt and Sebastienne Wollherz they had come to the cosy and safe conclusion that the Empire was generally a force for good and would bumble on from age to age as it always had.

Frank carefully observed Sebastienne as the historian from Göttingen took it on himself to explain this, without falling into the trap of condescending to his audience, which academics all too readily did, in Frank’s experience. Her face was impenetrable. The professor however was very animated, and the group was given the distinct message that he was disappointed in them. ‘You see, gentlemen,’ he declaimed. ‘Morality must be exerted in the world to have any point. Is that not what the statesman does? And if he must be a martyr to his own virtue, as was Cicero, so then he must be!’

The Ruritanian civil servant, who had revealed himself as a man of some accomplishments, gave a rueful smile. ‘Ah sir!’ he protested, holding up his hands, ‘would you have a world where these would be hacked off and nailed up in the forum for the libels some oaf had decided they had committed to writing?’

But it was Sebastienne Wollherz who replied, with a stony face. ‘Yes sir, I would, if those “libels” advanced the common good. I think that is what the professor is saying. Let me explain more clearly. You gentlemen are not here just for an amiable chat, you are to be the soldiers in a new cause. You are the dawn that is breaking over the world, and with it you will bring Illumination. Let me tell you how you will do this.’

With that a blackness descended on Frank’s mind and he remembered nothing of the time that followed.