“He wants what?”, Zsaka exclaimed.
“He wants to marry you.”, Baron Lázár replied.
“That was what I was afraid you just said. Please tell me that you didn’t agree to this!”, Zsaka demanded through clenched teeth.
“Of course, not!”, Baron Lázár answered. “I simply told him that I would present you with the offer, Zsaka.”
“You should not have even told him that. Now he has hope that I’ll say yes!”, she replied.
Anna tried again to defuse the tension. “Zsaka, perhaps it’s time you considered marriage. Clearly the Count’s star is on the rise. It could be a good match.”
“A good match!”, she exclaimed. “Are you even listening to yourselves? This is an attempt to weaken our bloodline, can’t you two see that? What on earth did he offer you for my womb, Lázár?”
The Baron’s eyes narrowed. “You are out of line, Zsaka.”
“No, father. I’m not.”, came Zsaka’s curt reply. “I had a feeling that insinuating ourselves among the aristocracy would lead to something like this. You criticised me for advocating strength, but now we see where being passive and compromising has brought us. It made us too vulnerable and now we’re drawn into a dilemma where the only solution is to compromise the primary bloodline? I don’t care what the Count promised you. I won’t be party to this. My answer is no.”
“He promised me that he would put you on the Habsburg throne as a sovereign queen.”, Lázár said.
Zsaka’s eyes widened. “What?”
“That’s right.”, the Baron answered. “You would be Empress of the Holy Roman Empire.”
“Does he have the means?”, she asked.
“He convinced me that he does.”, Lázár replied as he broke into a slight smile. “But you would have to use your full name with a title.”
Zsaka sounded it out. “Empress Zsuzsanna of the Holy Roman Empire…” She let the sound of it hang in the air for a moment.
“It sounds good, doesn’t it, daughter?, the Baron grinned.
“Yes, it does.”, she replied. “”But it’s a bit too good. This is precisely the sort of trap I would expect Rome’s lackeys to devise and my progeny is not for sale. Not even for the most powerful throne in Europe.”
“He thought you might say something like that.” the Baron sighed. “He does have one more offer.”
Zsaka cast him a sidelong glance. “It won’t change my mind.”
“If you won’t accept the Habsburg Throne for yourself. What about the Papacy for your first-born son?”
“He would… he would do that?”, she stammered.
“That’s what he said.”, the Baron replied.
“If we controlled the Papacy we could finally end the persecution of our bloodline entirely.”, Baroness Anna said.
“We might even be able to set everything right again.”, the Baron added.
Zsaka waved them away with a gesture. “This is too much. It’s too much. I can’t think.”
“Now do you see why I came to you with this?”, the Baron pressed.
“Both of you leave me be!”, Zsaka shouted. “Compromise the bloodline to save it? It’s insane! I can’t believe this is happening.”
The Baron relented. “Very well, Zsaka. Anna… let’s you and I take in some of the local sights. It’s been a long time since we’ve had the luxury of playing the tourist.”
“Thank you, Lázár.”, Zsaka replied.
“I’ll post Laszlo outside the door should you need him.”, the Baron offered.
“No, please. I really want to be alone. I can do for myself. Take him with you.”
“As you wish.”