"Does anyone know what this is all about?" asks Walt Hasser as the team assemble to meet Lord Burghley. "He was being very secretive about it."
Ray grins as he sharpens his quill. "When is he not ultra-secretive? You know Lord Burghley. Keeps his cards close to his chest until the right time, he does."
Their attention is diverted by the opening of the door which reveals their boss. William Cecil, Lord Burghley.
The team stand up as one. Lord Burghley's a good man. One thing they can say for him, he tries his damnedest to be straight with them and doesn't treat them like fools.
"My Lord Burghley?" Brad is instantly alert at the look on his bosses face. Lord Burghley looks tired, as if he's been burning the midnight oil for some time. Something's up. Perhaps at last we have a case.
"Team, gather round. We need to talk-" he says.
"What's this all about, sir?"
Lord Burghley heaves a sigh. "As you know, we've been getting reports on the worsening situation in Flanders and the Netherlands. The Spanish are intent on squashing any religious dissention, and it seems they aren't too worried about how they gain their subject's obedience."
Ray makes a face. They all heard the rumours and read the woodcuts smuggled by the lucky who were able to escape the wrath of the Spanish commanders.
"This is bad. Torching churches with women and children inside. Putting all men to the sword. Forcing sons and daughters to kill their relatives in cold blood. What kind of monster does that?" says Walt, absolutely appalled by what he reads in the despatch. 'Sisyphus', their foreign agent had spared no words in describing the plight of the Dutch against their overlords.
"I need not say how serious her Majesty takes such a threat to our Reformist way of life. Excusing Lord Colbert, obviously-"
Brad merely shrugs. It's common knowledge about his Jewish faith within the department, but in a time like this where religion and men's souls are dangerous political fodder he chooses not to make it a point of it unless he has to.
"Does Lord Walsingham want a team there?" he asks.
"I imagine so. We're just waiting for Treasury approval from her Majesty."
There's a ill-muffled chorus of groans from the team. Elizabeth's procrastination and over-cautiousness at times is the stuff of legend within the department. She'll change her mind five times or more before a mission and any attempt to hurry her will have her digging in her heels, mule-like.
"I hope she makes up her mind soon. The people of Flanders can't afford to wait while she dithers on whether she's taking the right action."
"I've made my case to her; that's all I can do." Says Lord Burghley. "Pray God she realises the political implications of swift action. Spain is powerful enough without us allowing them to get away with murder."
"The Question is: Will she listen to Dudley or us on this one? You know how he likes to interfere in matters of state."
Brad knows only too well. If he had his way Dudley would be stuck in the country tending his cattle , not at court interfering in matters which are none of his business.
"It seems he never did get over the disappointment of his close brush with the monarchy. " Lord Burghley remarks.
Brad knows the fierce struggle for Elizabeth's soul between the two men. Dudley's ambition knew no bounds, and he would do anything to gain the throne, including embarking on an ill-advised relationship with Elizabeth. It was all in the past, after the suspicious death of his wife Amy he would never fulfill that ambition, but Elizabeth was curiously sentimental about Lord Dudley and still allowed him his seat on the council. But she never under any circumstances allowed herself to be alone with him.
"Should someone have a discreet word with him, just in case?" Brad suggests.
Lord Burghley frowns. "To be honest Brad, I'm not sure how much good that would do. If he gets the idea that he has influence on our doings, it could be a very dangerous slope...leave it for now and I'll keep a monitor on the situation."