“If only the palace walls had ears…” the Bishop grumbled.
“And what exactly…would your Excellency hope to hear?” Gilles asked. The energy of the room was an agitated storm as the Bishop paced back and forth. Like a marble statue, Gilles was on his knee before the bishop’s table that was littered with maps and missives as he tried to keep account for what was occurring across the political landscape.
“For one, I should have known about this plot before it occurred!” the Bishop growled. “How could de Luynes pull off this little escapade? And the assassination of Concini?” He crossed the room again. “With Marie de Medici out of the way, Anne de Austria has a chance to gain influence now. I should be the voice in her ear. For these past few years, I heard all her confessions, her innermost thoughts and feelings. Not to mention the apprehensions of that forced marriage. Without Medici, the king will need guidance and de Luynes is now playing puppeteer, while I am here in Avignon.”
“I will go to Paris and keep my ears open,” Gilles stated and the Bishop scoffed in response.
“I have seen you at court. All of the expertise and finesse you have with the blade is lost on your social graces!” The Bishop stopped pacing for the moment and stared down at the count. “Not all intelligence can be gleaned from hiding in dark corners.” The Count’s face remained emotionless. He did not rise to the insults of others, especially when they held the purse strings.
“I have other ears, your Excellency, fairer, gentler ones,” Gilles replied. He took the opportunity to look up and meet the Bishop’s gaze.
“Oh you do, do you? Go on. I am listening,” the Bishop glided back to his table.
“Years ago…whilst sitting in a dark corner…I had the privilege to hear certain sensitive information. A secret of the de Lannoys regarding an abandoned mistress and unwanted child. The mistress had the child in the protection of a convent and expired. The child was raised by nuns, that is until our paths crossed.
“Aimée Marche, or should I say de Lannoy is now seventeen and has been tutored for a life at court. A most young, and perfect confidant for the Queen since de Luynes has dispensed with her trusted Spanish ladies. She is a pure example of Catholicism, your Excellency. Her character and loyalty are true.”
“And why is this girl any better than another one?” The Bishop turned his attention to the desktop papers.
“She has skills beyond those of a simple gentile lady, your Excellency, that may become useful in collecting information.” Gilles admitted.
“More useful skills?”
“Deception, forgery, lock picking, your Excellency,” Gilles rose to his feet, “and a few deadlier ones.” He placed his hand meaningfully on the hilt of his sword.
“I see,” the Bishop’s eyes sat on the sword hilt, “Still though, how do you expect to get what is still a bastard child accepted at court?”
“I propose a family reunion. The Countess de Lannoy may grant us access to the inner court. Perhaps a letter of introduction from your Excellency would grant Aimée a warm welcome.”
“From me? A letter of introduction?” the Bishop asked. The count nodded.
“Yes, The Countess always spoke flavorful of you. She still does in certain circles,” Gilles said. A flash of a smile crossed the Bishop’s face. He took a few thoughtful steps towards the window.
“And you believe this girl will swear her loyalty to me?” The count nodded again.
“She will do as I ask without question,” he said. The sun was beginning to set through the glass and cast the room in a pink glow. The Bishop turned his back to it and rubbed his chin satisfied.
“Then send the young lady to Paris with a mind to become a lady-in-waiting. You will find the letter of introduction sent,” the Bishop stated. “In the meantime, perhaps a helping hand will spirit Marie de Medici back to stir up trouble in court. Nothing must connect back to me. Do you understand?”
The count nodded and took his leave. The Bishop grinned to himself as he watched the sun fade.