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The Emperor's Companion -- Subervie

The other day someone was asking me about characters from the Numinous World books that show up in Elza's story, so I thought I'd share Elza's first meeting with an old friend, Sigismund from Hand of Isis. This is from the second book, The Emperor's Companion.



I had never met Marshal Lannes before, and as I approached the camp of the Grand Army at Boulogne the weather became decidedly uncooperative. Thus it was with a sodden bonnet and dripping plumes that I was escorted into his headquarters.

Despite the dismal weather, or perhaps because of it, it was extremely crowded. Young men in the uniforms of every branch of the service hurried to and fro, while four desks strained with the paperwork upon them, uniformed clerks struggling to keep up. The nearest appeared to be dealing with provisioning, which was hardly a surprise as there must be more than fifty thousand men encamped along this coast. The logistics of supply were daunting.

Of course it took forever to get the attention of someone who would give me the time of day.

"A letter!" I shouted over the din. "A letter from Marshal Berthier. For Marshal Lannes. I am to give it to him myself."

"Give it to me, Madame," the aide assured me, so young he still gangled. "I'll pass it on."

"I will not," I said. "I am to give it to him myself."

He looked doubtful. "Your name?"

"Madame St. Elme." I could barely hear myself over the din. A pair of messengers had come in muddy and were flinging droplets of water in the air as they took their cloaks off.

"You will wait a long time, Madame," he said. "The Marshal does not meet with ladies."

I sighed. Not that kind of meeting. "I have been sent by Marshal Berthier…." I began again.

"So you've said." He turned his back quite rudely and went to attend to the messengers.

I found it mildly humiliating to be taken for a woman on the make, an aging courtesan desperate for a pretext to talk to a famous man. But I could hardly shout to the room at large that I was on the Emperor's business. So I sat down to wait.

It was after five o'clock before a more senior officer deigned to notice me. He was a large man with perfectly massive brown sideburns and mustache, gorgeously attired in hussar's uniform with acres of gold lace across his chest. "Madame St. Elme? I understand you are carrying a message from Marshal Berthier?" He came and sat down in the wooden chair beside mine, and while I could see he did not believe me, his hazel eyes were at least frank and open. "I am Colonel Subervie, aide de camp to the Marshal."

"I am," I said, and produced the packet, showing it to him but not putting it in his hands. "May I have your word, sir, that you will put this into his hands immediately? I will wait here, if you like, but it is not to be put in a stack somewhere and forgotten about, or opened by a clerk."

"I'm not in the habit of losing the Marshal's correspondence," he said without heat, looking down at the packet. "I suppose it's too small to have a snake in it or something."

"A snake?" I almost laughed. "I would try to kill Marshal Lannes by handing him a letter with a snake in it? Why not a scorpion? Or a pit viper? Or a cobra? I might have a cobra in my reticule!"

Subervie looked abashed. "Stranger things have happened, Madame." He took the packet and stood up. "If you will wait a few moments, I will attend to this."

Having little other choice, I nodded and sat back to wait, hoping that he would indeed do this with dispatch. I should like to find the necessary, and I hated to leave while I was supposed to be waiting. Still, he seemed like a reliable man. I had long since learned to trust an impression that strong.

It could not have been five minutes before he returned, and Subervie's demeanor had changed entirely. "Come this way, Madame," he said, taking my elbow and hustling me quickly down the hall to the Marshal's office. "Marshal Lannes will see you right away."

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
tielan
Dec. 8th, 2012 09:45 am (UTC)
Dare I hope that someone's going to get a sharp setdown for making the person about the Emperor's business wait - even if she does happen to be a woman?
jo_graham
Dec. 11th, 2012 06:55 pm (UTC)
He's definitely going to hear about it! :)
linneasr
Dec. 11th, 2012 07:55 pm (UTC)
Heh. Nice job.

Incidentally, I feel like it might be time to try my hand at a review of The General's Mistress. Is there anywhere in particular you'd like to see one? I like the book, and it will be flattering, I promise! :-) Most of my writing is academic, though, so it might come across as a bit dry.

Edited at 2012-12-11 07:56 pm (UTC)
jo_graham
Dec. 11th, 2012 08:22 pm (UTC)
Oh thank you! That would be lovely!

Anywhere you'd like would be great. Amazon is helpful. Barnes and Noble would be especially good if you didn't mind posting it two places since there isn't a single text review there yet. Goodreads is also super! Basically I would be very grateful for any or all! It really does make a huge difference in sales, and is helpful to selling the next book.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )