July 1726

The room was solid stone.  However, every inch of stone on the walls and ceiling were covered with massive tapestries.  The king preferred to be surrounded by color rather than the drab grays.  There were no windows, also something the king wanted.  This was his private chamber, seen only by a select few and vacant for months at a time while he was in Great Britain.

On this night, King George sat in his private chamber.  As usual, he occupied his throne, which was atop a stone riser near the center of the back wall of the room.  His trips to Hanover had grown less frequent and the king found that he spent most of his time in his homeland at his castle, Leineschloss.

He was reading through a pile of various documents as he awaited the arrival of one of his close advisors.  He had received word that he would need to return to Britain soon and nothing angered him more than being forced to leave Hanover to go to London.  The distaste the British royals had shown towards him over the years had not gone unnoticed and he made sure they knew the feeling was mutual.  It was for this reason plus the love of his homeland that he had visited Hanover at least four times per year during his twelve years as the King of Great Britain.  From time to time he needed to escape London and would make the journey for one reason or another.  This particular trip, however, had a special purpose.

The king had written and sealed a letter by his own hand nearly a month earlier.  A secret courier had carried it to Hanover, more specifically the letter made its way to the king’s top aide.  A man who had served him for many years when the king was simply know as George Lewis, Elector of Hanover.  This man, Gregor, had been loyal to the king even when many had turned their back on him for accepting the British crown.  The fact that some of his former friends felt he had betrayed the people of Hanover had saddened the king slightly, but he knew that his image in the eyes of the Hanoverian historians would be restored to greatness if his new plan came to fruition.  The letter had reached Gregor only a few days before the king arrived, but he knew that pleasing the king was surely the most important thing and made sure that the king’s requests were fulfilled.

“My lord,” Gregor said as he entered the chamber.  “I must apologize for my lateness.”

“Tell me you bring good word, my friend, and all is forgiven.”

“Indeed sire,” he continued.  “I have chosen the four men whom I believe are deserving of your greatest trust.  They have all agreed to meet with you in secret.”

“Good work, Gregor.  Now that you have completed the task of gathering the men for my new assembly, your next task is to become the head of this organization.  The key to this position, however, is that you must never mention it to me and no more than one of the members of the order should be seen in my presence at any one time.”

“As you wish, my lord.  How will I know your plans?”

“We will still meet, but it will be here in my private chambers.  Discussing the matters of this order in public would not be prudent to keeping the purpose of his order in tact.  Once I return to England it is possible I may not return for some time, so I will depend on you to fulfill the duties I set forth for you.”

“I understand and willfully accept any charge that you have for me.”

“You are a good and loyal servant.  My son, the heir to the throne of Britain and Hanover, has fallen into favor with many of the royals whom I have warred with over the last decade.  He does not appreciate his heritage which stems from the great land of Hanover.”

“That is an outrage sire!”

“One day, perhaps many years from now, Hanover will become its own kingdom again as it is written that no woman shall rule this land.  So, when a queen next ascends the throne of England, the Electorate of Hanover will no longer be under the control of the British Empire.  By following my mother’s wishes to sit on the throne of England I fear that I have done a great disservice to my native land.  This great land will once again prosper after it is out of the shadow of the British Empire.”

“Very good, my king.  What is to be my charge?”

“You will be placed in charge of a treasury, which is to be given to the first Elector of Hanover one year after its split from Britain.  This treasury is a very large sum of gold along with some jewels which were once handed down to me by my family, the Electors of Hanover, along with some magnificent items that once belonged to the Duke of Calenberg.”

“I am honored sire.”

“My son will likely attempt to locate any goods of value that belonged to me after my time on this Earth passes.  If he should learn of this treasury, it will be your duty unto death to prevent him from obtaining it.  Only these select few men should know anything about its location.  They will each know a specific detail as to the location, but none should be fully capable of finding the treasure.  From this point forward, this group shall be known only as the Order of George Lewis.”

“A well thought out plan.  When and where would you like to meet with the four?”

“I will meet with you and your chosen deputy here tomorrow morning.  Then I will meet with the other three men in the evening, also here in my chambers.  Two days from now I must make my return to London to protect the throne from my own son.  I have only been gone two weeks and it is likely that he is already putting a plan into place to usurp the throne.  Now, go and alert the others.”

“Very good, my king,” said Gregor as he rose and made his way to the door.  His brain was flooded with thoughts regarding his new responsibility.  He was immensely proud that he held such high favor with the king and immediately made his way toward the end of the great hallway.

Just at the end the wing that housed the king’s chambers, he stopped at a simple looking wooden door.  He checked for anyone who might have been watching and gave two quick wraps.  The door cracked slightly then opened to allow him to enter.  The door closed with a slight thud and a lock snapped into place.

“It is time, Brousch,” Gregor said with authority to the large man standing near the door.  Gregor had barely broken stride as he made his way to the far wall of the room.  He stopped very near the wall as he looked at a painting that had to be eight feet wide hanging there before him.  Just then the other man stepped up along side him.

Gregor reached to his left and placed his hand on one of the decorative stones that served as a frame for the painting.  Brousch reached to his right and selected a stone.  The made a simultaneous push and a distant grinding could be heard.

The pair stepped away from the painting and walked to a small door on the wall to their right.  Brousch opened the door as Gregor stepped right in.  The big man grabbed a torch from the wall as he stepped through the small doorway.  The door closed quietly behind them and their eyes adjusted to the soft glow of the torch amidst the darkness.  The distant grinding continued for another few moments until finally a thud was heard.  Gregor placed his hand on the back wall of this very small room and gave a gentle push.  It swung away from him like a door, revealing a dark staircase that led down to some unseen passage.

The plan had been laid out carefully by these two men over the last few days, so words were unnecessary at this moment.  They wasted no time as they walked briskly through the subterranean passage, the smell of stale water filled the air.  Several minutes later, they reached another set of stairs and began to climb.  Eventually, they reached a blank wall at the top of the stairs.  Brousch lifted one of his massive arms over his head and tugged on a thick rope.  There was a pop and the wall opened gently.

Gregor led them on through the doorway and into a simple looking room with shelves.  The shelves held several food items, ranging from potatoes to flour.  Gregor paused at the other side of the room as Brousch snapped the door back into place.  He gave it a solid push just to make sure it was locked.  Once he was convinced, he marveled for a moment at the fact that this passage was so well hidden.

“Let’s go,” said Gregor as he stepped out of the room.

The pair walked through the kitchen of a small house and out the rear door into a garden.  An extremely private little area, as the space was surrounded by a grove of linden trees.  Brousch smiled to himself.

“Such a wonderful little place.  I never get tired of it.”

“Indeed it is.  Your father did a great service to the Elector by creating this safe escape by way of his own home.  From here you cannot even see the castle, although it is just across the street.”

“May these linden trees protect the Order the way they have protected the Elector.”

“Agreed, my friend.  Now, we must attend to the business at hand.”

They walked casually around the side of the house to the spot where two horses were waiting for them.

“You had better take the brown horse,” commented Gregor with a chuckle.  “I am not sure this filly could hold you!”

“I’m sure the horse would agree!” Brousch laughed back at him.

“Our first stop will be at the home of Leon Sussen.  He is a shopkeeper on the west end of the city.”

Brousch simply nodded as they rode out onto the roadway.  They kept a gentle pace, so as not to draw attention from anyone.  Very few people would know either man, so the odds of jeopardizing the mission were slim.

The streets in the western part of Hanover were still quite busy in the early evening.  As they approached the Sussen home, they could see the shopkeeper sitting in a wooden rocking chair just outside the door.  The clean cut man was puffing on a hand carved pipe as the pair approached.  As soon as he recognized his visitors, he slowly stood and gave them a general welcome.  There were several other people in the vicinity, so he showed caution in addressing them.

“Good evening, Gregor.”

“Good evening, Leon.”

“Who is this with you tonight?”

“This is Brousch.  Shall we go inside?”

“Ah, yes, please, come inside my shop.”

The three men entered the shop where Leon had prepared some bread with wine.  He motioned to the table away from the window and each one chose a seat.

“Thank you,” said Gregor as he sat at the table.  Brousch sat so that he could watch the front of the store quite easily while the two men talked.

“Tell me, Leon,” said the Gregor.  “Are you still willing to give up everything to serve your king?”

“It would be an honor to undertake such a noble task.  But, why would the king choose me?”

“Ah, yes.  Leon, you are known for being one of the best salesmen in town.  You read people well and have a way of gathering information from them without giving them the idea that they are divulging anything at all.  Better yet is that the general consensus is that you leave them feeling like it was their idea to tell you in the beginning!  Quite impressive and perfect for the task I have for you.  You shall be the eyes of the Order.”

“Thank you and I am ready to serve the king.”

Gregor nodded and looked briefly at Brousch, who was quite attentive but focused on the front door.  He then gave Leon the details of the situation the king was facing in London, the conflict between the king and the prince, and the new Order of George Lewis.  Leon soaked up the information with great fervor and seemed to hang on Gregor’s every word.

“Tomorrow,” Gregor continued, “you will report to the linden house near the castle at dusk.  There you will be given your final instructions regarding the Order.”

Leon reclined in his chair and stared at the table for a moment.  Slowly he picked up his pipe and stared at it, his mind was obviously deep in thought.

“This is a very exciting turn of events for me,” he commented.

“I’m glad you are pleased to join us.  I have been named the head of the Order, and Brousch will serve as my lieutenant.  Now, having heard this information, you are bound to the Order.  Should you change your mind or go back on your word, you will be killed.”

“I understand,” Leon said, speaking in a very solemn voice.

“Good,” Gregor replied.  “Now, we must be on our way.  Remember, to be at the linden house at dusk tomorrow.”

“I will be there.”

Brousch led the way out of the store without saying a word.  Gregor was close behind and in just a few moments they were gone.  Leon never left his seat as the gravity of the situation before him held him tightly.

The streets were a little quieter now, allowing Brousch and Gregor to move a little more quickly through the city.  Neither man paid any attention to the rows of darkened buildings with red roofs that stretched along either side of the street.  After a few minutes, Gregor signaled they should take the next turn.

The appearance of their surrounding didn’t change much, until they reached the river.  Here, the buildings came to an abrupt halt, giving way to a park that filled both banks of the Leine River.  Brousch thought of how much he loved visiting this river, which was the lifeblood of Hanover.  For many years he had feared that it would serve as a path for something he hoped to never see.  He had pictured a large boat entering the city and then immense pain would follow.  He never saw how the city was attacked; he just felt a heavy sadness.

“There it is,” Gregor said, breaking Brousch’s train of thought.

“Which one?”

“Third on the left.

Brousch nodded as he studied the small white house that seemed somewhat out of place in this area.  They slowed as they approached, keeping an eye on the few remaining people on the street.  Once they were sure no one was paying any attention to them, they quickly tied their horses to a post near the front door of the white house.

His wood frame house stood silently along with dozens of other houses which appeared to be quite similar, although none of the others were white.  A single lamp could be seen through the window.  A quick wrap on the door by Brousch was all that was needed.

A small panel opened on the door as a man peered out into the street.

“Jonas Bach?”

He quickly recognized his visitors and threw the door open.

“Come in, come in!”

The pair entered the house and Jonas closed the door behind him.  Once again they found seats at a small table.  Jonas joined them, eagerly staring at the two men.

“Jonas, you know why we are here.  Now, you will truly know our purpose for being here,” stated Gregor as he began explaining the entire situation.  He gave the exact same speech he had give to Leon Sussen.  The king, the prince, and Order were all part of the story.  Just as with their first stop, it left Jonas’ head spinning.  His response was very similar to Leon’s.

“But why me?” he asked.

Gregor smiled and then answered, “You are a printer.”

“Yes, but how does my simple art qualify me for such a historic task?”

“You will be responsible for printing and posting information for the others.  You will be required to create announcements that can be viewed by the public, but not give away the information that is intended for the Order.”

“I understand.  This will be an interesting challenge indeed.”

“We will lean heavily on you as the voice of the Order.”

“That is a task that I willing accept.”

“As of tonight, you are forever bound to the Order of George Lewis.  Should you change your mind, you will be killed.”

“So be it.”

Gregor just smiled as he stood, offering his hand to Jonas.  The printer stood to join him as they shared a firm handshake.  Brousch simply headed for the door, so that he could bed sure no one was watching them.

“Jonas, you must report to the linden house near Leineschloss tomorrow at dusk.”

“Only death can keep me away, Gregor.”

“Indeed.”

With that, Brousch and Gregor left the small white house.  Each man quickly untied their respective horse and headed off across the city once again.  By now, the lights on the street were glowing, but the buildings were mostly dark.

They crossed back over the river and then increased their speed as they rode on through the cobbled streets.  There was no one to notice or ever care about the men flying through the streets at a maddening pace.  Finally, they arrived in front of a weathered brick building, a single lamp glowed in an upstairs window.

“The entrance is at the side of the building,” said Brousch.

Gregor nodded and climbed from his horse.  He walked briskly into the shadow and found a heavy wooden door.  His knocked on the door three times and waited.  The door creaked a little as it was opened ever so slightly.

“Jan Astor, I presume?”

“Welcome,” said the man inside as he threw open the door.  The skinny little man then climbed the stairs ahead of Gregor on his way to the loft.  “It is quite an honor to have you in my home.”

“The king asks much from you,” Gregor stated as he took a seat at a table.  “You will be one of five who will secure the future of our kingdom.”

Greagor began telling him of the reason for the creation of the Order, just as he had done for the other two.  He explained the difficulties the king had encountered in London, along with his doubts over his sons loyalty to Hanover.  He also told him of the treasury that would be the burden of the Order from this day forward.

“So, now you are bound to the Order, under penalty of death.”

“I accept this charge.”

“Very good then.  Are you curious to why you have been selected?”

“I can only assume that my extensive contacts in the underground must play a role.  Perhaps the king has a need for someone to serve as the information gatherer for his new Order.”

“You are quite astute, Mr. Astor.  We will consider you to be the ears of the Order.  Can I assume that you already know of the king’s struggles in London?”

“Hardly a secret.”

“Indeed.  And the fighting with his son?”

“Also no challenge in obtaining that information.”

“Then I will simply save my breath,” Gregor replied with a smile.  “Now, you must report to the linden house at dusk tomorrow.”

“I will be there.”

“Good,” stated Gregor as he got to his feet.  “I look forward to working with you Jan.”

“The feeling is mutual.”

Gregor walked briskly to the stairs and then down to the exit.  The door locked behind him as he made his way back to the street, where Brousch was waiting.  This was one of the most dangerous parts of the city, so the big man had stayed behind to make sure they had horses to get home on.

Neither man said a word as they rode on into the darkness.  Their task complete for the evening.  They wasted no time finding their way back to the linden house and then on into the castle.

“The king wants to see us just after sunrise.  Get your beauty rest old friend, you sure need it.”

“I suppose you would know!” laughed Brousch as he closed the door to his chambers, leaving a chuckling Gregor in the hallway.  He did not stay there too long, as he did not want to draw attention to himself.  He walked briskly back to his own quarters for the evening.  Sunrise would be coming soon enough.

Not one of the five men slept much at all that night.  Just before dawn a royal guard knocked at Brousch’s door.

“What is it?” called Brousch from inside the room.

“The king is ready for you,” answered the man, who was caught off guard when the door suddenly flew open.

“Excellent,” Brousch said as he smiled to himself.  He was already dressed and ready for this momentous day.  “Go and retrieve Gregor.  Hurry!”

“Right away, sir.”

The young guard nearly ran down the hallway towards Gregor’s quarters.  Brousch couldn’t help but chuckle at the fear he had just put into that poor boy.

Barely five minutes later, Gregor strolled down the corridor.  He had already spotted Brousch, who was shaking his head.

“Keeping the king waiting?” asked Brousch.

“I blame your guards.”

“You would,” he replied with a grin as they turned to walk on towards the king’s chamber.  It was only about fifty paces to the heavy wooden door that guarded the chamber and Brousch pushed it open.  “Age before beauty,” he said in a voice just above a whisper, gesturing for Gregor to go first.  Gregor just laughed a little as they stepped into the room.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” the king said without looking up.  “I trust that starting the meeting a little early was not too much of an inconvenience for you?”

“Not at all, sire,” answered Gregor.

“Good, now, we haven’t much time.  Please take a seat.”

The pair made their way to a pair a oversized wooden chairs to the right of the king.  A long wooden table was here for meetings of the Hanoverian Council.  However, the council had not met here in some time.  Since the king was rarely in Hanover to serve as Elector, a substitute leader of the council had been appointed.  Also, since the king preferred to keep his own space private, he had instructed the council to meet in one of the other great chambers at Leineschloss.

On that day, there were only two chairs at the long table.  Gregor took the chair immediately to the right of the king.  Brousch took the other chair, assuming the lesser position of authority.  In front of each of them was a key.  They were beautiful keys, plated in gold with jewels in the handle.  The design was that of a lion, similar to the king’s own coat of arms.

Two keys seemed to be guarding the lion, almost like crossed swords.  Coins were at the feet of the lion, with likenesses of Leineschloss and the king’s armory on either side of the lion.  Both men were quite sure these large keys would not be something they could keep on their person at all times.

“The keys are similar, yet different,” stated the king.  “Gregor’s key will unlock the inner room that holds the treasury of the Order of George Lewis.  Brousch, your key will unlock the chamber that protects the inner room.  Neither of you will be able to access the treasury alone.”

“Where is the treasury?” Gregor asked and the king smiled.

“You cannot know.”

“But how…?”

“The other three members of the Order will be given scrolls that, when combined, reveal the location of the chamber.  Should the treasury be needed, the Order must unite and work as a unit.  Without even one of these pieces of the puzzle, the treasury is lost.  The keys must be hidden somewhere that you can keep a close eye on without giving up the secrets of the Order.”

“How shall we know when it is time to disperse the treasury to the Elector?”

“The first Elector of Hanover, who is NOT also the King of England, shall receive the funds.  At some point, a queen will assume the throne in London.  Soon after this, an new Elector will be named in Hanover.  However, to make sure that this new Elector will use the funds for the purpose I intend, you must wait one year after his appointment to deliver the treasury.  If the Order feels that the Elector is unworthy of the treasury, then they shall be charged with waiting until such an individual holds that office.”

“So, this could be many years before anything happens?” asked Brousch.

“Assuming I am blessed with a long life,” the king said with a grin.  “You must surely realize that my son, Prince George, will likely do everything in his power to locate this treasury should he become king.  It could be very dangerous to anyone standing in his way.”

“We understand,” Gregor said with a glance at Brousch, “and freely accept the risks associated with this task.”  Brousch nodded.

“Very good,” commented the king.  “I will be leaving for London late tonight.  It could be many months before I am able to return.  This pains me greatly, but I will feel a little more at ease knowing that my home will be taken care of by the Order.”

“Sire, if the Order is needed beyond our lifetime, how will we hand down this knowledge?”

“A good question, Gregor,” the king responded.  “You shall each select an heir of sorts.  I would greatly prefer that each member select a family member to follow them in the Order.  I will trust that each member will be able to choose wisely and only someone worthy of the Order would be selected.  Gregor, as the leader of the Order, do you have any other questions?”

“No, my king.”

“Brousch, as lieutenant and strong arm of the Order, do you have any questions?”

“I believe we are ready for this challenge, my lord.”

“I truly believe that there could not be a better pair of guardians to be in charge of the Order.  Go now, return at dusk with the other three members.”

Gregor and Brousch stood, walking quietly around the table.  The king stepped down from his throne.

“You do me a great service, my friends,” commented the king.  He shook each of their hands firmly and then motioned for them to be on their way.

The two exited the room, closing the great door behind them once again.  They said nothing as the chamber guards stood in the passage just outside the great room.  Brousch led them back to his own chamber, where they had decided to discuss whatever they learned from the king.

“This could be very exciting,” commented Brousch as the door clicked shut.

“Exciting, dangerous, however you choose to look at it.”

“You seem nervous!” Brousch said with a laugh.

“Indeed.”

“We can hope for the king to live a long life and that his son will not!”

“That would only make our job too easy, I’m afraid.  Plus, I’m afraid that any son of Prince George, will likely be more like the Prince than an Elector of Hanover.  The prince has already chosen to forget his homeland, and the valley between the throne and Hanover will only widen with time.”

“This is troubling, but perhaps it will allow the Order to exist peacefully as we lie in wait.”

“That, too, would be a wonderful option.  Hopefully the vindictiveness of the Crown Prince has been overstated.”

They both stood and stared at the stone walls, deep in thought.  Finally, Gregor pulled his key from his pocket and stared at it.

“I hope I do not have to see that key again for many years, my friend,” said Brousch.

“That I will agree with!  Now, I must go attend to some matters of the state.  I will see you at the linden house just before dusk.”

Brousch simply nodded as Gregor left.  They each attempted to go about the daily duties, with the oncoming meeting overwhelming their minds all day.  Brousch found himself spending more time than usual on the west balcony.  He appeared to be reading some documents, but really he was anxiously looking toward the linden house.  He was pleased that no part of the house was visible through the trees.  Gregor allowed menial meetings to consume his day, planning nothing that would require him to be overly attentive.

Finally, the day came to a close and Brousch made his way to the linden house by way of the secret passage.  Gregor had helped him unlock the castle side of the passage, before going back into the main part of the castle.  They had decided that they should not be seen going to the linden house together.  So, Gregor had chosen to take to the street rather than the passage.

Both men sat quietly in the linden house, awaiting the arrival of the remainder of the Order.  This would be the first gathering of the Order of George Lewis, but hardly the last.  Dusk arrived.  Leon, Jonas, and Jan all arrived at nearly the same time.

“Welcome gentlemen,” Gregor said with a smile.

“Good evening,” they all replied.

“Shall we be on our way?” Gregor asked rhetorically as he headed for the passage.  The rest of the men followed quietly behind him as they did not know what to expect.  Jonas, Jan, and Leon trailed Gregor into the passage as Brousch secured the door after they had all gone through.

Only echoing footsteps could be heard as the group of five, the Order of George Lewis, made their way to the castle.  A sense of power grew in them as they realized this endeavor was truly happening.  Up the steps again they went and into Brousch’s chamber.

“Welcome to my humble home,” Brousch commented wryly.

Each of the other men smiled slightly as he once again secured the passage.

“This way gentlemen,” instructed Gregor as he opened the door to the corridor.

They all made their way down the hallway and to the large wooden door bearing the king’s coat of arms.  The guards did not look at them, as this was strictly prohibited.  Gregor simply gave the proper knock and opened the door.

The table was now directly in front of the throne.  Two chairs were on the king’s right, and three on the left.  Gregor and Brousch went to the king’s right, while the others went to the left.  They all bowed to the king.

“Thank you my good and loyal servants, but we haven’t time for such formalities.  Please take your seats.  Leon Sussen, please take the first seat, Jonas Bach, second, and Jan Astor, third.  Please assume nothing by your seating arrangement as they are based only on the order of the scrolls which I have placed before you.”

The men looked eagerly at the scrolls, as Gregor and Brousch simply listened.  The captain and lieutenant of the Order already knew of the scrolls.

“Please do not open your scrolls in the presence of the other members of the Order unless instructed to do so by Gregor or the duly selected leader of the Order, should that change someday.  I will obviously not live to see the resolution of the Order, but hopefully the history books will one day appreciate what I am doing tonight.”

The king explained all the details of his struggles in London.  He also gave them information regarding what he intended Hanover to become with the treasury that would be guarded by this team.  He felt that education was, in fact, the key to growth.  However, he also recognized that a certain amount of protection would be needed to secure the sovereignty of an independent Hanover.

“Now, my friends, go forth.  The Order is established and I must return to London.  I hope to return in a few months, but it is becoming harder all the time to protect my throne from my son.  Until we meet again, Godspeed to you all.”

“And to you, sire,” they replied in unison.  The king stood and the Order followed his lead.  The scrollbearers collected their respective scroll and followed Gregor out into the corridor.

“Be safe, my liege,” Brousch said to the king as he closed the door.

“Long live Hanover,” the king replied.

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