I have to admit I feel very much in my element here, among the many actors and liars who call themselves diplomats. Almost nothing is said without some ulterior motive and people move in a complex web of favours and debts. I haven not played this game for a while now and it's been even longer since I've played it with people who were that skilled at it.
We have been invited to a number of events and parties and we accepted the invitation to the Jubilee of Queen Elaine and to the yearly summer festival of the Montaigne in honour of the King's birthday. And we will host our own garden party, preparations are already being made.
We were faced with the problem of making our introductions - Castille has two embassies here and it would be noticed where we went first. Ramon decided to visit the embassy of the loyalists first while Lucia and I made our introductions to the embassador of the occupied Castille. We also invited both factions to our party. We told our contacts that we did our very best to convince the others not to invite the other faction, but compromises must be made.
It took me some time, but I found out the names of the spymasters of Montaigne, Castille and Avalon here at the Labyrinth or rather of the spymasters and their subordinates and I am working my way upwards. The man who is my first contact for the occupied Castille, Raphael Nunez, is, to be frank, incompetent. Do you remember the Eisen envoy to Crescent, that unfortunate left-handed fool who we thought had learned his Crescent in some brothel? Let me just say that he would seem the model of discretion and intelligence next to Nunez. I do not know who had the idea of employing that man, but they are either very intelligent or very stupid. If you want something known in the whole of the Labyrinth, you tell it to Nunez. But for now, I am happy to have him think I'm his friend.
The man employed by the loyal Castille, known to me only as Javier, is a very different matter. I have only met him once, but I already have a lot more respect for him than for Nunez. He asked me to plant some information for him - facts, actually, but since I was to tell it all to Nunez, no-one would believe it. I happily agreed, but I did ask why Javier chose me of all people for this. He told me that not all my students have forgotten me. I had not expected to find this kind of support here, of all places. And believe me, I have a healthy amount of distrust for everything Javier says. But I cannot deny that I would love to accept it as the truth. We will see.
It seems I was not the only one who planned a visit to Castille. Ramon and Lucia positively cornered me the other day and offered their help. You know how badly I accept such offers and it did not help that they wanted to plan it all themselves, asking me to leave it in their hands. It is not that I do not trust them - I do, with my life - but I was not happy with trusting them with your life and that of Alba. They know too little of our situation and I was afraid that they would make a mistake out of that ignorance. At least I kept my temper and we agreed that we would work together on this. I'm glad my pride did not get the better of me this time, Ramon and Lucia are the best friends I could wish for and there is no shame in accepting their help. Lucia, by the way, earlier apologised to me for the things she said in the Judge's house. It took me completely by surprise, but I accepted it gladly.
Do you think you could arrange for you and Alba to go on a short journey, just for a few days to visit some relatives? Not right now, but after the summer festival, which will be around the middle of July? If you can, I think we can arrange a meeting. The thought of seeing Alba again makes me a bit nervous - she was a little girl when I left and I missed so much of her life. But nervous or not, I would give anything to see her again. And you, of course.
Castille is a country torn by war. Parts of it are under the control of Montaigne, something all three Castillian members of the party see an intolerable crime. But they are not here to fight for the freedom of their country, at least not right now, so Marcello and Lucia at least play along. It doesn't keep them from taking a chance of helping Castille in secret if they can, though.
Marcello is exceptionally bad at accepting help and we skirted a situation where he would have been insulted by Ramon's and Lucia's offer. He swallowed his pride, but he would not be left out of the planning altogether, that would have been too dangerous for his family. Not to mention humiliating in his eyes.