Moving porro… Le fait d'Avancer… Moving weiter fort….
It didn't seem to matter what language he thought in, moving on was complicated. He’d always enjoyed new foods and new places – and new hunting grounds. That made him smile.
But traveling was a trial. Especially long distance travel. Especially with children. He’d been based in Gaul so long, he hadn’t had to pack up a household in several lifetimes. The last real move was getting out of Pompeii, quickly. He’d certainly traveled light that trip. He wasn’t traveling with that child again, ever.
After 1200 years in Gaul, it was becoming tiresome. While it had offered him a sense of family, it was so much harder to move around than it used to be. Memories were becoming longer, more communal and it would only keep getting harder to start over. That little Contretemps, perhaps it would be forgotten if he gave it a few decades. It was time to show Nicholas and Janette what the Mediterranean had to offer. The sun would be an inconvenience to Nicholas, to all of us, but he would learn to cope.
It was time. Louis IX had just come home from Egypt after all but breaking France’s bank, with his ransom. Fully a third of the country’s annual revenue? This would not bode well for either luxury or pleasantries. The nobility would not be spared and Paris would lose any gaiety it had left. It was time to introduce Nicholas and Janette to the land of his birth. Perhaps Naples, just south of Rome, would be a lovely retreat for a few years.
“Janette? Nicholas? Will you be so kind?” He sat back, knowing they would come. It might not always be that way, but for now, in these early years, he knew they’d do anything he asked. How he asked would influence how long their compliance would last before becoming troublesome.
Nicholas had been at the clavichord, Janette sipping the local vintage while she listened. They rose to LaCroix’s call.
“LaCroix?” ventured Nicholas.
“Maître?” Janette’s softer voice echoed.
LaCroix smiled. He knew he had a cool, almost reptilian smile, he’d been told so often. It usually served him well. He gestured to the couch that sat near his chair, “Ah, jeunes, come, sit. We have much to discuss.”
Nicholas sat, stiffly. Janette sat next to him, looking at LaCroix from under shuttered eyelashes. She did that when she was uncomfortable.
“France is changing, mes petits, and we must either change with her or consider other accommodations, do you not agree?” The key, at least for Nicholas, was to offer him the illusion of control of his own destiny. For Janette, it was more about direction, a strong hand. That made this a rather fine line to walk. His specialty.
Janette nodded, she was breathless at the news. She hadn’t seen much of the world yet, even at over a hundred, and he had promised her. Her eyes fairly glistened with excitement; they were also a bit wide, as if the fear that underscored so much of her mortal life were slipping through. “How far shall we go, LaCroix?”
“With the King’s coffers depleted over his ransom, moving on makes sense,” responded Nicholas. “He will start taxing the nobility to make up for that loss. I can’t see that being enjoyable. Did you have somewhere specific in mind, LaCroix?”
“Ah, Nicholas, you know me so well, even with so few years of acquaintance” The thicker he laid it on, the more Nicholas ate it up. So easy to control yet. “Yes, I do have a place in mind. Have you heard of Naples in your travels?”
“It was a bit south of our path to the Holy Land as we traveled through Roma and Bari, but yes, I’ve heard of it. Just south of Roma itself as I recall?”
“Yes, Nicholas, about a week’s travel by horse, about twice the distance from Genoa to Naples overland. It’s the most civilised city south of Roma and a bit off the most traveled roads. A lovely place to spend a few decades, no?”
“Won’t it take two or three months to make the trip?” Janette looked a bit discomfited. Perhaps she was thinking about how uncomfortable the ride would be. Or perhaps she was already imagining the packing it would take.
“Only if we do so in a civilised manner, ma petit,” LaCroix’s smile was calculating. The details were going to wear on him, he could already tell. “We shall travel by carriage from Paris into Italie, where we shall spend some time enjoying the local colour in Genoa. Then south, through the Papal States to Naples. Does that sound agreeable?”
Janette looked more than a bit excited, “To summer on the Mediterranean? How wonderful!”
Nicholas looked a bit more subdued, “We shall leave all we know to spend the next few decades looking across the waters on the Berbers? And the Papal States are hardly friendly to our kind, LaCroix.”
LaCroix sighed, Nicholas was being unexpectedly provincial about l’Afrique. Hardly what one would expect from a man who had seen as much of the world as a Templar on Crusade. “Nicholas, it will be a lovely change of scenery. You can learn the language as we travel south and spend a good deal of time in Naples while France goes through its financial recovery. Doesn’t that sound less dreary then staying? As for the Papal States, we can push the horses and be through in 7 days. We can leave early on the last day to be in Naples well before anyone is curious about why we’re not attending services.”
Nicholas sat back and sipped from his glass, clearly thinking this thing out. “You wish us to reside in the Kingdom of Naples? Well, at least you waited till my mortal family passed. I shall not object. Naples should be no worse than Paris, if somewhat sunnier.”
LaCroix knew Nicholas’ opinion would improve as the trip went on, but for now, this was likely to be as happy as his poor, sad, Nicholas was going to get. Janette on the other hand would be a bit easier to manipulate. “Janette, we should have new clothing made for you. It will be far warmer in Naples and if we are not to return to Paris till the turn of the new century, you should have lovely things to wear.”
Janette smiled and spun about the room, “Think of the lovely new things to wear.” She stopped and smiled, “Oh, a whole new city to hunt in! What an absolutely wonderful day this is coming to be!” LaCroix thought he saw her look change to sly as she added, “Thank you, LaCroix! I shall begin my preparations!”
“You’re welcome, children. We should leave in a week or so. You should start packing and decide which servants you wish to take with you. Plan on one each, it will be a long trip. We will take a few men at arms and travel in at least two carriages.” He would pack a case and the coachman would act as his “servant” for the trip. He needed no additional frippery or attendants. Leave that to the newly turned.
LaCroix thought about this trip. It would be good to be out of France during this upheaval. A king’s ransom never meant good things for the country. The travel would draw them closer together, as there would be little else for them to be distracted by. They could return to France when there was no one left to remember them. A little diversion was a good thing. He smiled as he sipped his sherry, he would have to get used to his blood mixed with Italian wines again. Ah, Well, he could manage. For the sake of the children.