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1634: The Wars for the Rhine: Chapter Seven
Last updated: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 20:15 EDT
Bonn, The archbishop’s Palace
Another spasm of pain racked through Charlotte’s body, but she barely flinched. The baby could come or not, live or not, kill her or not, she didn’t really have the strength to care.
In Cologne she had felt vulnerable and uncertain, but at least she had been in contact with her family, had received reports from General Merode in Berg, sent orders to the caretakers in Jülich and Berg, and generally tried to pick up the reins of the mess her husband’s death had left behind. She might have longed for her family to come help her, but she had not been considering Archbishop Ferdinand a very serious problem, after all: while he wasn’t a relative, he had been her son’s godfather, and she knew her mother considered the archbishop a friend of the family. But then he had sent Felix Gruyard into her life, and an uncertain situation went straight into the hell of cold, unwavering eyes showing no sign of human emotions, only a total concentration on his task and his duty.
After arriving at Bonn in the middle of the night she had been kept isolated for almost two days, and when she had finally met the archbishop, the slightly indulgent old man she remembered from the baptism had seemed a totally different person. She had of course asked for an explanation for what happened at the Beguine, and why she had been dragged to Bonn in the middle of the night, but he had brushed her off with a few words about the political situation being tense, and that she would be safer in Bonn. She was now to concentrate on giving birth to a healthy child, while he would take care of everything else.
Charlotte had not liked that, and she had like it even less, when he started pressing her for a letter giving him full power to act in her name. She had not received a single letter during her weeks here in Bonn, and while she kept writing her own letters and giving them to Sister Ursula to send, she became more and more certain they never left the archbishop’s palace. She — with her baby-heir-to-be — was in fact the archbishop’s prisoner.
At the end of her first week in Bonn Charlotte made the mistake of telling Sister Ursula how much Gruyard upset her. The same evening, when she once again refused to write to the archbishop’s dictate, Archbishop Ferdinand claimed her mind was obviously unsettled, and she should enter seclusion with that Loyal Servant of the Lord, Felix Gruyard, as her only contact with the world.
As the weeks dragged by, Gruyard now started haunting her nights and days as well as her nightmares. He would enter her small white-washed cell whenever she had fallen into a fitful doze, wake her and say it was time to pray. Or worse: not wake her, just stand there looking at her when she woke in a cold sweat of fear. And, as the last week of her pregnancy went by, she could feel her hold on reality slip more and more with her lack of sleep, until — when the labor had started in the early hours of the morning — she barely seemed to notice. It was just another nightmare, and she couldn’t put two thoughts together and even consider what to do.
Sister Ursula had come that morning after the water had broken. Presumably Gruyard had brought her, though Charlotte couldn’t remember having seen him — or her — enter. The grim older woman was now sitting on a stool, murmuring soothing words and prayers, but not doing any of the things the midwife had done at the birth of baby Ferdinand. Presumably she was loyal to the archbishop, and that was all that mattered. Perhaps that was the way it should be. Perhaps she would soon go away too.
It was dark again now outside the small deep-set window, and Sister Ursula had been frowning for a while when she went to the door and said: “I think we need to send for the midwife, the contractions are getting weaker.” She stepped back and Gruyard entered the room, going to the narrow cot where Charlotte lay with open, unseeing eyes, barely breathing. He reached out and shook her shoulder. “Katharina Charlotte, it is time to wake.” At his words Charlotte screamed and tried to scramble away from his touch, but only managed to fall to the floor before fainting from the pain.
When she came to herself two strange women were moving around the small room with linen and hot water, and Sister Ursula was sitting by the cot holding a steaming mug. She lifted the mug towards Charlotte and said with an attempt to smile that looked almost painful: “Drink this. Frau Eigenhaus and her sister have come. They will make your baby come out.”
“Never mind that.” The largest and most determined looking of the two women took the mug and pushed Sister Ursula aside with a swing of her hips. “You just drink this and relax.” She lifted up Charlotte and helped her hold the mug with the warm, honeyed drink. “I am Frau Benedicte Eigenhaus, and this is my sister Irmgard, who is the best midwife in Bonn. We have both been bringing children into this world since long before you were born, so you just leave everything to us.”
“Y-you’ll keep him out?”
“What my dear?”
“Gruyard!” The two sisters looked at each other, then turned their heads to look at Sister Ursula, whose pale, hollow cheeks suddenly showed two bright red spots. “And pray tell, Sister Ursula, just what does the archbishop’s torturer have to do with this nice, young mother-to-be?”
Sister Ursula straightened her back and took a deep breath. “The archbishop has delegated the responsibility for this woman to Master Gruyard. She is not of sound mind.” The nun’s eyes started waving under the stern gaze of the midwife and her sister. “It is probably just temporary fancies, brought about by the pregnancy and the loss of her husband.”
“I see.” Irmgard exchanged a look with her sister. “A common occurrence, those not-sound-fancies in a pregnant woman, and usually very convenient to somebody.”
A muted scream from Charlotte interrupted. “Benedicte, you lift her up again and support her; that portion she just drank should ensure that the baby will be coming fast.”
Linz, Austria, The Scribe
“Melchior! You’re back.” Wolf von Wildenburg-Hatzfeldt jumped up from his chair and enfolded Melchior in an obviously heartfelt embrace. That his cousin was to be found in a tavern rather than in the garrison with his men, wasn’t really a surprise to Melchior — and neither was the fact that Wolf paid absolutely no attention to Melchior’s frown — but this was an unusually warm welcome. Unless of course Wolf was a lot more drunk than Melchior would expect for this time of day.
“Just passing through on my way to Vienna. But what kind of trouble are you in to make you that glad to see me?”
“None, my dear cousin.” Wolf returned to his chair and waved at the barmaid for more beer. “I’m just bored out of my scull with garrison duty, and hoped you had a new campaign for us. I could use a little action.”
“Hmpf! Well, I admit that you are quite singularly bad at garrison duty,” Melchior removed his hat and sword and sat down across from Wolf. “But in this case I must ask you not to go stir up any action on your own. I rather strongly expect that we’ll soon have all the action even you could want.”
“Where, when, and with whom?”
“All over the place, any time, and with everyone.” Melchior accepted the beer and waited for the barmaid to move away before continuing. “Archbishop Ferdinand of Cologne has hired Irish Butler and some of the other of Wallenstein’s discards, and is up to some kind of cabal that’s bound to bring the Protestant army down on him even if Hesse stays in Berg. And the Habsburgs — Vienna as well as Spain and The Netherlands — are not going to like seeing Cologne as part of the USE. Duke Maximilian of Bavaria, whom I hoped would be willing to call his brother to order, has no interest in anything beyond his own personal concerns, which seems to center on hunting down his missing fiancée — and just about everybody else. Báner is rattling his sabre north of the Danube, and your guess is as good as mine as to whether we’ll end up fighting him or Bavaria. Wallenstein in Bohemia and Bernard in Swabia don’t appear to be making any moves we’ll need to respond to at the moment, but I’m not prepared to wager any sizable sum on that continuing. Not to mention Gustavus Adolphus, who made peace with Denmark last month, and is probably getting just as bored as you by now.”
“I think Gustavus Adolphus is actually planning to do something about Saxony at the moment.”
“Good riddance to bad rubbish.”
“The Saxony court is amusing but expensive. I’ve always rather liked it.”
“Not to my taste. But Wolf, I need to make my report in Vienna as soon as possible. There’s not much chance of the Emperor — or rather Archduke Ferdinand — doing something directly to stop the archbishop, but they still need to know as soon as possible. Young Simon is picking out my court gear, and we’ll be leaving as soon as he meets me here with fresh horses. I don’t expect us to go directly into battle any time soon, but talk with Colonel Dehn about having all scouts as well as minor training maneuvers circulating in the direction of the Bavarian border.”
“Will do. Maid! Pack up some travel food!”
Magdeburg, House of Hessen
Amalie carefully leaned forward and look down to the street without touching the draped lace-curtains, not just because lace was still expensive despite the new machines making it, but she also didn’t want her guests to realize that she was looking them over before they entered the house. There was only uncle Albrecht, two young girls and a maid descending from the fine new carriage, so Albrecht had been clever enough to leave Ehrengard at home. Amalie smiled a little. While she had been looking forward to a few skirmishes with her aunt-in-law, this showed that Albrecht was prepared to make peace and cooperate — at a price of course and probably a stiff price, but it would be fun haggling with him. Besides, with five daughters and only one yet wed, it was quite likely that he would settle for bridegrooms instead of money or political favors.
The two girls would be his two youngest, Elisabeth, called Litsa, and Maria Juliana, who as far as Amalie knew usually answered to Ria. Due to her feuding with their father, Amalie had never spent much time with her younger cousins, but the girl dropping her gloves as she descended from the carriage was probably Litsa, who had seemed rather coltish and shy when Amalie had last been to their home in Schwarzenfels, while the one smiling up at her father and shaking her head to make her curls dance, was pretty little Ria. According to Abbess Dorothea Litsa was actually rather intelligent, but Amalie preferred to make up her own mind about that; intelligent had different meanings to different people, and someone merely bookish would be of no interest to Amalie.
As her guests entered the main door, Amalie went to sit down on the high-back chair in the middle of the room arranging her skirts to show off the embroidery. She’d better use her pregnancy as an excuse to remain sitting while receiving them. The waddle of a walk she was reduced to was not impressive.
“There’s another message for you, Sir.”
Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel looked up at the young Lieutenant von Rutgert serving as his secretary, and bit back a curse. This campaign was hexed! Not by witches, but by that damned American radio. Sure it was nice being able to get information from one end of the country to the other, much, much faster than any horse could run, but it also made everybody and his uncle think they could direct an ongoing military campaign from wherever they were sitting. Hesse did not approve of vulgar language, but right now he fully understood the American concept of Rear Echelon Motherfuckers. Hesse broke the seal and read quickly.
“Rutgert! Send for von Uslar. I want to talk to him as soon as possible.”
As the young man left the room Hesse went to look again at the large map covering the trestle table. Half his artillery and infantry had gone north to Hagen, before a direct order from Gustavus Adolphus had made it clear that no excuse about hunting French troops would get an attack on Essen overlooked. The other half was presently stalled in a three way death-lock in Remscheid with the troops from Essen occupying Düsseldorf, and what remained of the Jülich-Berg army holding Solingen and Remscheid. He wasn’t allowed to have any of those troops actually engage those they were facing, but he had stalled any movement, while hoping to get his hands on Duke Wolfgang’s widow and prospective heir. That would have given him a good claim on at least those areas of Mark and Berg he was now holding, and probably Düsseldorf as well. Unfortunately she was now reported to be for certain within the archbishop’s palace in Bonn, where none of his agents had been able to get to her.
Which brought him back to his original plan for taking Bonn and Cologne. Which he would probably already have done if it hadn’t been for those radio-messages sending him helter-skelter all over these damned mountains. Not to mention leaving him with his cannons more than fifty miles of bad mountain roads away from where he needed them. At least Amalie had managed to get a commitment to have some of the USE field cannons sent by boat down the rivers from Frankfurt, so he could afford to leave the artillery at Hagen where it was, but withdraw the infantry regiments south to Remscheid. Then negotiate with De Geer for access up the Rhine for both the men and artillery from Remscheid. Hesse sighed and went back to plotting.
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