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1636: The Ottoman Onslaught: Chapter Six

       Last updated: Thursday, September 1, 2016 00:13 EDT



Vienna, capital of Austria-Hungary

    Minnie Hugelmair was not easy to impress. Her best friend Denise thought that was simply a function of her personality, but Minnie herself ascribed it to her glass eye.

    Well, not the glass eye so much as the absence of the real one. She’d lost that in the course of a riot in the streets of Jena which got started when some drunken Lutheran apprentices interpreted a song she was singing — a German rendition of The Romish Lady, whose verses were as stalwartly anti-Catholic as you could ask for — as advocacy for Popery and work righteousness.

    Prior to that time, Minnie had been a foundling with no particular political or theological convictions. She’d been taken in by the American Benny Pierce and taught to play the fiddle and sing, something she discovered she had a real talent for and enjoyed doing. Then she lost her eye to a thrown cobblestone — she’d gotten a concussion out of that, too — and when she regained consciousness she came to several conclusions to which she’d held firmly since.

    First, since Benny had adopted her in mid-riot to keep her from being arrested and hauled away to prison, she had a fierce attachment to him. And, by extension, to all his fellow Americans since she now considered herself one as well.

    Second, all theology was idiocy and all theologians were idiots.

    Third, theologians being invariably supported by the state, you had to keep a close watch on all public officials, who were also prone to being idiots.

    Finally, having only one eye was an advantage in some respects. In particular, a one-eyed young woman was not likely to be fooled by swindlers, charlatans — theologians being prominent in that category — or any other manner of scoundrel, especially official ones. That, because all such rascals depended upon the illusions created by stereoscopic vision. Seeing everything in two dimensions allowed a young woman to see them for what they really were.

    Still, there were times…

    “Wow,” she said, looking around the chamber she and Denise had been ushered into. “This is ours?”

    Denise seemed a bit abashed herself — and she was normally about as easy to abash as a hippopotamus. “That’s what Noelle said.”

    A few seconds of silence followed, as they continued to examine the room. Then Minnie said: “I don’t think there’s more than ten square inches of undecorated wall anywhere.”

    “Doesn’t look like, does it? I’ve never seen this many portraits outside of a photographer’s studio in Fairmont my mom dragged me into once. Except these are painted. I bet one or two of them are even by that guy Michael Angelo.

    “Who’s he?”

    “Some famous Italian artist. He painted the… Pristine Chapel, I think it was. Or maybe it was the Vatican. I can’t remember.”

    As they’d been talking, they’d been slowly circumnavigating the room — or it might be better to say, navigating it, since there weren’t all that many open square inches of floor space either.

    “It’s like a furniture store show room,” Denise said, maneuvering her way around an expensive looking armchair. It was ornately carved but, from an American viewpoint, scantily upholstered.

    Once they completed their investigation of the quarters they’d been assigned in the royal palace, they began examining the central item of furniture in the room.

    “That is a bed, right?”

    “I think so. I want this side,” said Minnie, pointing.

    “Yeah, sure.” Denise and Minnie had shared a bed plenty of times and Minnie always wanted the side that let her good eye see what was coming.

    There was a knock on the door.

    “Come –” But the door was already opening before Denise could finish the invitation. Noelle Stull came through, looking simultaneously pleased and preoccupied.

    Neither Denise nor Minnie had any trouble interpreting the peculiar combination. Noelle was pleased because for the past two days, since they’d arrived in Vienna, she’d been able to spend considerable time in the company of Janos Drugeth. She hadn’t seen the man in person since…

    Well, since she more-or-less tried to shoot him on the Danube but wound up shooting the river instead. She even had a tattoo placed on her butt to commemorate the occasion, depicting a death’s head topped by a debonair feathered cap over crossed pistols and the logo I Shot The Danube.

    That had been almost a year and a half ago. Since then they’d conducted their courtship by mail. Janos hadn’t seen the tattoo yet but it was becoming increasingly obvious that he would before much longer.

    Probably not before they got married, though. Both of them were devout Catholics and, allowing for some leeway in how one interpreted the phrase, pretty straight-laced.

    The preoccupied part of her expression was due to the reason for Noelle’s presence in Vienna. She hadn’t come here simply or even primarily to conclude a courtship. That had been an excuse which everyone found convenient because it allowed the USE and Austria-Hungary to begin comprehensive negotiations without anyone’s having to formally admit as much.

    Which they weren’t prepared to do yet because the diplomatic situation had any number of awkward aspects.

    For the Austrian emperor — Ferdinand was still using that title even though he’d disavowed any intention of reconstructing the Holy Roman Empire — the awkwardness began with the fact that he was a Habsburg and his Spanish cousins were still enemies of the United States of Europe. That enmity was no formality, either. Spain and the USE had clashed militarily in the recent past and both nations expected such clashes to continue.

    For the USE and Austria both, there was the still more awkward problem that the USE was allied to Bohemia and now wanted to make peace and if possible develop an alliance with Austria — which still officially characterized King Albrecht of Bohemia as the traitor Wallenstein whose head need to be removed as soon as possible. Not surprisingly, Wallenstein was adamant that any rapprochement between the USE and Austria had to include a settlement on the status of Bohemia that was acceptable to him.

    For the moment, no ambassadors were being exchanged. Instead, a lovestruck American lady who just happened by coincidence to have the confidence of the current president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia and the probable future prime minister of the USE just happened by coincidence to be in Vienna visiting her betrothed who just happened by coincidence to be one of the Austrian ruler’s closest friends and advisers.

    Hence the mixed expression on Noelle’s face. Pleased; preoccupied.

    “So when does Count Dracula get to see the tattoo?” asked Denise.

    Noelle gave her a look that would have been irritated if she hadn’t been in such a good mood. “That joke stopped being funny at least a year ago. And it’s particularly inappropriate since I just got back from spending a couple of hours at Janos’ church talking to the priest who’#8217;d be officiating at the wedding assuming it happens which seems pretty likely given that Janos was right there with me discussing the same issue.”

    Minnie nodded solemnly. “That settles it, then. Janos Drugeth is not a vampire. Can’t be if he was standing on consecrated ground and didn’t burn right up on the spot.”

    Now she looked at Denise. “And I have to say I’m with Noelle on this. That joke stopped being funny at least a year ago.”

    Denise grinned. “Fine. I’ll let it go. What’s up, Noelle? I don’t think you came here just to tell me that your squeeze turns out not to be undead after all.”

    Noelle pointed over her shoulder with a thumb. “They’re going to be holding some sort of fancy formal feast tonight, officially in honor of some official but really for our sake.”

    “Oh, yuck,” said Denise.

    “Double yuck,” agreed Minnie.

    “Yeah, I know, it’s not exactly your cup of tea. But you’ve got to show up, whether you like it or not.”

    “What the hell are we supposed to wear?” demanded Denise. “What I know about how to dress for a formal seventeenth fucking century formal dinner is — is — ” She looked like a fish gasping out of water as she tried to think of a suitable analogy.

    “If I took out my glass eye would they still make me come?” That was Minnie’s contribution.

    “Cut it out, both of you.” Again, Noelle pointed over her shoulder with the thumb. “I know you don’t know squat. That’s why I’m taking you to see Sarah and Judy Wendell and the other Barbies. They set up shop in the palace an hour ago, so they can all get ready for the occasion.”

    Denise frowned. “Why are they coming?”

    Minnie shook her head and gave Noelle a sad look. “Sometimes I worry about her, Noelle. Denise is usually pretty bright, but now and then…”

    She looked at her friend. “They’re stinking rich. What more does anybody need to get invited to a fancy whatever-they-call-this? Dinner, ball, soiree, whatever.”

    Noelle headed for the door. “Follow me. Now, Denise.”



    As it turned out, the Barbies — especially Judy Wendell — were a lot of help. Denise and Judy knew each other, of course. They were just about the same age and they’d gone to school together before the Ring of Fire. But they’d never been close — and that, for two reasons.

    First, they belonged to different crowds. Simplifying a great deal — which, of course, was exactly the way kids in middle and high school categorized everyone — Denise was a bad girl and Judy was a good girl. Denise’s father had been a biker who made his living as a welder; Judy’s father had been an insurance agent. Denise could often be found sneaking a cigarette behind the girls’ gym; Judy had never smoked in her life.

    Secondly, the one thing they had in common had tended to keep them apart as well. They had been, by the generally held opinion of most girls and all boys, the two best-looking girls in their class. Neither Denise nor Judy cared very much about their appearance themselves. But the boys who clustered around them did, and that automatically tended to keep them at a distance from each other.

    It was too bad, in a way, Denise was now realizing. Judy was a big help getting her and Minnie properly fitted out for the upcoming fancy event. Yet, much to their surprise, Judy was just about as irreverent and sarcastic about the whole business as they were. Looking back on it, Denise could now see where her impression of Judy as a stuck-up snot had probably been unfair. Up close, the girl had a pretty wicked sense of humor.



    Besides, both Denise and Minnie had heard the famous story before they’d even arrived in Vienna.

    “Pretty hard not to like a girl who knees a prince in the balls when he gets fresh with her,” was Minnie’s way of putting it.

    “Can’t argue with that,” said Denise.



    The event itself went reasonably smoothly. Noelle was relieved to see that the Barbies — especially Judy Wendell — kept a close eye on her two sometime-wayward charges and steered them out of trouble.

    Thankfully for her own peace of mind, she never overheard Judy’s running commentary on the various royal, noble, and patrician attendees at the gala affair, which ranged from derisive remarks on personal foibles to explications of episodes far too scandalous for three teenage girls to even be discussing, much less analyzing in detail.




    “How many are there?” General Timon von Lintelo lowered his spyglass and looked at the officer standing next to him on the wall. That was Lorenz Münch von Steinach, the colonel in command of the Bavarian cavalry units stationed in Ingolstadt. Two reconnaissance patrols had just returned after scouting the area north of the city.

    “The exact number of the enemy forces isn’t known, General.” Munch used his chin to point to the north. “That area is too heavily wooded for the scouts to be sure they saw everything. But whatever the precise figure might be, there’s no doubt at all that we’ll be heavily outnumbered.”

    Lintelo grunted. The sound had something of a sarcastic flavor, but the general didn’t give voice to it. Lintelo was partial to Munch. Had the cavalry colonel been another officer he might have received an open reprimand for not being able to provide an exact figure for the enemy’s force — and never mind that such figures in the middle of a war were always at least partly a mirage.

    That they were heavily outnumbered was the key point anyway. The exact ratio — three to one, four to one, possibly even five to one — was somewhat academic. When Duke Maximilian learned that General Stearns and the USE’s Third Division were concentrating their forces at Regensburg, he immediately drew the conclusion that their plan was to march directly on Munich, rather than trying to recapture Ingolstadt first.

    It would be a bold move, leaving an enemy fortress in his rear, but the American general had a reputation by now for being bold to the point of recklessness. So, the duke had ordered almost two-thirds of the soldiers who seized Ingolstadt in January to withdraw and rejoin the main Bavarian army just north of Munich.

    Von Lintelo wasn’t privy to Maximilian’s plans, but he was sure the duke intended to meet Stearns somewhere in the open field rather than waiting for him to invest the Bavarian capital. Maximilian was given to boldness himself, and he’d recently hired the Italian general Ottavio Piccolomini to command the Bavarian army. Given the circumstances of that hiring, Piccolomini would have his own reasons to act decisively.

    Piccolomini had distinguished himself during the recent Mantuan War — although more as a diplomat than a soldier — but his principal bona fides were peculiarly theoretical. Much like the French marshal Turenne, Piccolomini’s rapid promotion was due primarily to what was said about him in the American history books. Apparently in that other universe he’d been a major figure in military affairs.

    Hiring the commander of an entire army because of his other-worldly and future reputation bordered on folly, perhaps, but Maximilian didn’t have many other choices. The duke’s behavior since the treachery of the Austrian archduchess who was supposed to have married him had been savage and often not very sane. As a result, Bavaria had hemorrhaged experienced commanders. Just to name two of the most prominent, General Franz von Mercy and his immediate subordinate Colonel Johann von Werth had both abandoned Bavaria after Ingolstadt had been lost due to the treachery of its commander, Cratz von Scharffenstein. Von Werth had since gone to work for Grand Duke Bernhard in Burgundy and von Mercy had taken employment with the Austrians.

    Piccolomini would be anxious to prove himself, therefore. And he would probably share Maximilian’s assessment that Stearns was a lucky commander rather than a competent one. Von Lintelo shared that assessment himself. The American’s luck was bound to run out soon, and where better to have that happen than on the hills and plains of northern Bavaria?




    “This seems completely silly for such a risk,” complained Stefano Franchetti.

    “Look on the bright side,” said Bonnie Weaver, grunting as she heaved another sack of leaflets over the rim of the gondola. She was in something of a foul mood because the only reason she’d gotten drafted into doing this grunt work was because she’d done Heinz the favor of picking up the leaflets at the printer’s and then discovered that apparently she was expected to deliver it to the airfield herself.

    That meant dickering with a nearby teamster company to provide her with a wagon and driver and then deciding she had to accompany the wagon to make sure the delivery was done properly — and then deciding she had no choice but to provide Stefano and Mary Tanner Barancek some help in loading the sacks of leaflets into the gondola because Franchetti was being sullen and Barancek was being Size 4.

    “What’s the bright side?” groused Stefano.

    “These things only weigh about twenty-five pounds, which Mary ought to be able to handle well enough. Who knows? If the brass decides to list tonight’s adventure as a combat mission — which they probably will, just to avoid having to wrangle with your boss Estuban over the surcharge #8212; then Mary gets her qualifying run. One of three, anyway.”

    “Hey, she’s right!” said Mary, looking cheerful. She went instantly from Struggling Size 4 to Hefty Size 10.

    It took only a few minutes more, after that.

    “Why so many sacks?” Mary wondered.

    “From what Heinz told me, Major Simpson wants the streets of Ingolstadt paved with those leaflets. Have fun tossing them overboard.” And with that, Bonnie headed off. Happily — no fool she, and the teamster hadn’t asked for much and it was a government job anyway, not like she was paying for it — the wagon was waiting to take her back into town.

    Six hundred feet above Ingolstadt

    The rockets made a pretty sight, Tom thought. Between their innate inaccuracy and the fact they’d had to aim by moonlight obscured by clouds, none of the missiles got dangerously close except one — and all that one did when it exploded was pepper the bottom of the gondola with shrapnel that never penetrated. And he’d stayed far enough away from both of the rail gun pits that neither one of them ever opened fire at all.

    He had Stefano slow down once they got over the city because he wanted to make sure the leaflets didn’t fall outside of the city limits. There wasn’t much chance of that happening, with the very light wind that night, but Tom didn’t want to take any chances.

    This expedition was based on pure guesswork, as was true of almost any psychological warfare tactic. But Tom thought his guesswork was probably on the money, and if he was right he’d be saving himself and something like twenty thousand soldiers from USE army and the SoTF National Guard a fair amount of grief.

    “Okay, that’s the last one,” said Mary. She was breathing heavily and the moonlight shone off a sheen of sweat on her face. Between her slenderness and the pace at which they’d been working, she was close to exhaustion by now.

    “All right, Stefano,” said Tom. “You can go to full throttle.”

    Damn, those lawnmower engines made a racket.

    For some odd reason, two rockets were sent after them when they were at least half a mile beyond the city limits. Whoever fired them was probably motivated by sheer frustration, because there was no chance at all they could have done any damage.

    “Do you think it was worth taking the risk?” asked Stefano, when they were another five miles away and headed back toward Regensburg. The young pilot was sounding quite cheerful now, though. Combat bonus pay was nice, once you knew you’d gotten clear.

    “We’ll find out soon enough,” Tom replied.




    The battalion of Italian mercenaries had several men who could read German, and even two who could read English. But it hardly mattered since the contents of the leaflets were translated into Italian and Spanish also — as well as French, Polish and Dutch.



    The 1st Battalion had been the one whose treachery had allowed the Bavarians to retake Ingolstadt.

    “Well, fuck,” said one of them, after his buddy translated it for him. He didn’t read at all. At least half of the battalion was illiterate.

    But, by daybreak, every single one of them knew what the leaflets said.



    The first breakout took place just before noon. General von Lintelo didn’t move quickly enough and make sure all of the guards at the gates were from reliable units. About thirty Italian mercenaries from the 1st Battalion got out through the west gate before control was restored. An hour later, another twenty or so overpowered the guards at another gate and got out of the city as well. Several dozen more — no exact count was ever made — got out right after them.

    Thereafter, von Lintelo regained control of all the gates.

    Until nightfall. Two hours past sundown, after a quick negotiation, the Swiss mercenaries guarding the west gate pocketed their bribe and led the Italians out of the gate themselves.

    Maybe there’d be amnesty given to Swiss who weren’t in that battalion… and maybe there wouldn’t. Words were cheap. Every soldier in the garrison, no matter what his origin or what unit he belonged to or what language he spoke knew that by now, sixteen years after the White Mountain and five years after the sack of Magdeburg, there were no troops as hated in central Europe as those in the employ of Bavaria. They’d all heard of the enemy’s new battlecry: “Magdeburg quarter!

    And the Bavarian troops had behaved almost as badly when they took Ingolstadt as they had five years earlier in Magdeburg. If the USE army retook the city, there was most likely going to be another slaughter. Amnesty be damned. Magdeburg quarter.

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