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1636: The Saxon Uprising: Chapter Eleven

       Last updated: Friday, December 17, 2010 21:49 EST




    The applause of the crowd gathered in the assembly hall could be heard all the way across the palace. Colonel Erik Haakansson Hand paused at the entrance to the emperor’s rooms in order to listen for a moment.

    He couldn’t quite make out the slogans being chanted by the mob, but he didn’t need to. He’d heard enough — more than enough — from the noblemen and urban patricians who’d been pouring into Berlin for the past month to know their complaints, grievances and proposed remedies. Stripped of the curlicues, they were simple enough:

    Restore the upper classes to their rightful places in the Germanies.

    Abase the pretensions to citizenship of the low orders.

    Discipline the common citizenry.

    Restore religious stability. (The exact prescriptions involved varied between Lutherans and Calvinists and Catholics, but they all wanted an end to chaos.)

    Above all, crush the Committees of Correspondence.

    Notably absent from the list were any anti-Semitic proposals. The hammer blows delivered on organized anti-Semitism by the CoCs during Operation Kristallnacht had effectively destroyed that variety of reaction. Sooner or later it would come back, of course; if for no other reason, because of the prominence of Mike Stearns’ Jewish wife in the political affairs of the United States of Europe. But for the moment, the Jew-baiters were silent.

    Taking each proposition on its own merits, Hand was sympathetic to some of them. As a member of Sweden’s Vasa dynasty — a bastard member, but a member nonetheless; even one in good standing — he was hardly an ally of Gretchen Richter and her cohorts. But taking the program as a whole, as Oxenstierna was driving it forward, the colonel thought it bordered on lunacy.

    Whether it did or not, however, he was sure of one thing: if Gustav Adolf still had his wits about him, none of this would be happening. The king of Sweden had his differences with Mike Stearns, and even larger differences with the Committees of Correspondence. But Erik had spoken with Gustav Adolf at length in times past and knew that his cousin viewed the compromises he’d made to become emperor of the USE as necessary parts of the bargain — a bargain that had made him the most powerful ruler in Europe.

    What could Oxenstierna possibly hope to gain that would be worth the cost? Even if he triumphed in the civil war he was instigating, the USE that emerged would be far weaker than the one that currently existed. If for no other reason, because his triumph would necessitate abasing the Americans as well as the CoCs — and what did the damn fool chancellor think would happen then? Any American with any skills at all could get himself — herself, even — employed almost anywhere in Europe. The technical wizardry and mechanical ingenuity that had heretofore bolstered the position of the Vasa dynasty would soon become buttresses for the Habsburgs, the Bourbons, and most of the continent’s lesser houses as well.

    The colonel opened the door, entered the emperor’s suite and passed through the outer rooms until he reached the bedroom. But Oxenstierna simply didn’t care, Hand had concluded. The man was so obsessed with restoring aristocratic dominance that he ignored the inevitable consequences if he succeeded.

    The same was not true, however, of Hand himself — much less the man lying on the bed before him.

    Gustav Adolf raised his head and looked up when he entered. The king’s blue eyes seemed perhaps a bit clearer today.

    “Where is Kristina?” he asked.

    Startled, Hand glanced at Erling Ljungberg. The big bodyguard shrugged. “Don’t know if it means anything,” he said. “But starting yesterday he began saying stuff that makes sense, now and then. Doesn’t last more than a sentence or two, though.”

    Erik looked back down at his cousin. Gustav Adolf was still watching him.

    “Why is my daughter rowing violets?” The king’s brows were furrowed.

    Puzzled? Angry? It was impossible to tell.

    “Under a kitchen some antlers jumped,” he continued. Clearly, the moment of coherence — if that’s what it had been at all — was over.

    “Your tailor went thatch and flung,” said Gustav Adolf. Then he closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep.

    Erik placed a hand on the king’s shoulder. The thick muscle was still there, at least. Physically, his cousin had largely recovered from his injuries at the battle of Lake Bledno. If only his mind…

    He gave his head a little shake. No point in dwelling on that.

    A particularly loud roar from the distant assembly hall penetrated the room. Ljungberg glanced in that direction and scowled slightly.

    “Assholes,” he muttered.

    That was the first indication Hand had ever gotten that the king’s new bodyguard wasn’t entirely pleased with the new dispensation. Ljungberg was normally as taciturn as a doorpost.

    He decided to risk pursuing the matter. “Your loyalty is entirely to the king, I take it?”

    The bodyguard gave him a look from under lowered brows. “The Vasas always sided with the common folk,” Ljungberg said. He nodded toward Gustav Adolf. “Him too, even if he did give the chancellor and his people most of what they wanted.”

    Gustav Adolf’s father had died when he was only seventeen — too young, legally, to inherit the throne without a regent. Axel Oxenstierna, the leader of Sweden’s noblemen, had supported Gustav Adolf’s ascension to the throne in exchange for concessions that restored much of the nobility’s power taken away by the new king’s grandfather, who had founded the Vasa dynasty.

    “So they did,” said Hand. “And will again, if my cousin recovers.”

    For a moment, the two men stared at each other. Then Ljungberg looked away. “I’m the king’s man. No other.”

    “And I as well,” said Erik.

    A good day’s work, he thought. Best to leave things as they were, though, rather than rushing matters. Nothing could be done anyway unless Gustav Adolf regained his senses.




Linz, Austria

    Janos Drugeth finished re-reading the letter from Noelle Stull.

    He was not a happy man. Rather, his feelings were mixed. The very evident warmth of the letter pleased him greatly, of course. But what had possessed the woman to go to Dresden?

    True, this was the same woman who had once emptied her pistol by firing into the Danube, in a moment of pique. But even for Noelle, this was incredibly rash.

    Janos was not privy to most of the details, of course. But one of his duties was to monitor Austria’s espionage network and he received regular reports from his spymasters. So he knew that the Swedish general Johan Báner was marching into Saxony and would soon be at the gates of Dresden — and that Gretchen Richter had taken up residence in the city.

    Given Richter’s nature — still more, given Báner’s — the result was a foregone conclusion. Dresden was about to become a city under siege, and if Báner broke into the city there would most likely be a bloodbath. The Swedish general wasn’t as purely brutish as Heinrich Holk, but he came fairly close. And, unlike Holk, Báner was a very competent commander.

    Janos was no stranger to sieges, from either side of the walls. He didn’t think there was much chance that amateur hotheads like Richter could hold Dresden against the likes of Báner and his mercenaries.

    True, the woman had managed the defenses of Amsterdam quite well, by all accounts. But Janos was sure that a large factor involved had been the Cardinal-Infante’s unwillingness to risk destroying Amsterdam and thereby losing its resources and skilled workers. Báner would have no such compunctions at Dresden.

    What was Noelle thinking?

    He sighed, and put aside the letter. There was another letter in the batch that had just arrived, and this one came from his monarch. By rights, he should have read it first. But he’d been in the privacy of his own chambers in the army’s headquarters at Linz, so his personal concerns had momentarily overridden his duty.

    When he unsealed the letter, he discovered nothing but a short message:

    Come to Vienna at once. The Turks have taken Baghdad.


    Drugeth rose and strode to the door, moving so quickly that a servant barely opened the door in time. “My horse!” he bellowed.

    Noelle would have to wait. For the first time in his life, Janos Drugeth found himself in the preposterous position of hoping that a notorious malcontent like Richter was indeed a capable military commander. Such was the strange world produced by the Ring of Fire.



Bamberg, capital of the State of Thuringia-Franconia

    Ed Piazza still hadn’t gotten used to down-time desks. The blasted things were tiny — what he thought of as a lady’s writing desk, not the reasonably-sized pieces of furniture that a man could use to get some work done. For about the hundredth time since he’d moved to Bamberg — no, make that the thousandth time — he found himself wishing he still had the desk from his study in Grantville.

    Unfortunately, when he and Annabelle sold their house they’d sold all the furniture with it. And when Ed had inquired as to whether the down-timer who’d bought the house might be willing to let him have the desk back, the answer had been an unequivocal “no.” The new owner was a young nobleman with a nice income and a firm conviction that literary greatness would soon be his — especially with the help of such a magnificently expansive desk to work on.

    True enough, Ed and Annabelle had gotten a small fortune for their house. Real estate prices in Grantville were now astronomical. With a small portion of that money he could easily afford to have the sort of desk he wanted custom-made for him — and, indeed, he’d commissioned the work quite a while ago. Alas, down-time furniture makers in Bamberg were artisans. Medieval artisans, from what Ed could tell, for whom timely delivery of a commissioned work came a very long way second to craftsmanship. They seemed to measure time in feast days, nones and matins, not workdays, hours and minutes.

    So, he suffered at his miniature desk. At least it was the modern style, by seventeenth century values of “modern.” That meant he could sit at it, instead of standing at the more traditional lectern type of desk.

    A good thing, too, given how long today’s meeting had gone on. The only people Ed had ever encountered who rivaled theologians disputing fine points of doctrine were soldiers wrangling over fine points of logistics.

    “The gist of it,” he said, trying not to sound impatient, “is that you’re confident you can supply our soldiers in the event we have to send them down to the Oberpfalz.”

    He almost burst into laughter, seeing the expressions on the faces of the three officers in the room. Horror combined with outrage, muted by the need to keep a civilian superior from realizing his military commanders thought he was a nincompoop. Much the sort of look he saw on the faces of his son and daughter whenever he made so bold as to advise them on matters of teenage protocol.

    Naturally, as with his children, the reaction was due to the precise formulation of his statement rather than the content of the statement itself.

    “I wouldn’t go so far as to use the term ‘confident,’ sir,” demurred Major Tom Simpson.

    “Indeed not,” concurred his immediate superior, Colonel Friedrich Engels.

    The third officer present was General Heinrich Schmidt. “We do not lack confidence, certainly, but I think it would be more accurate to say that we are reasonably assured of the matter,” was his judicious contribution.

    Theologians, soldiers and teenagers — who would have guessed they shared such a close kinship? But Ed Piazza kept the observation to himself. Taken each on his own, all three of the officers in the room had good senses of humor. But they were quite young for their ranks and in the case of two of them, Schmidt and Engels, newly promoted to boot. Like Ed’s son and daughter, they would be hyper-sensitive to anything that sounded like criticism coming from him, especially if it sounded derisive or sarcastic.

    Besides, it didn’t matter. Stripped of their fussiness over terminology, it was clear that the three officers were… call it “relaxed,” that they could keep their troops provisioned in case war with Bavaria broke out again in the Upper Palatinate.

    That was really all that Ed cared about. Like many able-bodied West Virginia males of his generation, he was a Vietnam veteran. He’d seen a fair amount of combat too, since he’d been in the 25th Infantry Division and had taken part in the Cambodia incursion in 1970. But he’d been an enlisted man swept up by the draft, with no more interest in military affairs than he needed to stay alive and get back home. Now in his mid-fifties with the adult life experience of someone who’d worked in education, he made no pretense of being able to second-guess his commanding officers, much less be a backseat driver.

    If they said they were “reasonably assured” of their preparedness, that was good enough for him.



    “We may never come to it anyway,” said Tom.

    Engels, who was his immediate superior, shook his head. “That Bavarian shithead will jump on us with both boots if he sees a chance. Duke Maximilian’s the worst of a bad lot — and that’s saying something, when you’re talking about hochadel.”

    Hochadel was the German term for the upper nobility, the small elite crust — no more than a few dozen families — who lorded it over the much more numerous lower nobility, the Niederadel. Engels came from the fringes of that Niederadel class, but he’d adopted the radical attitudes of the CoCs, most of whose members were commoners.

    How much of Engels’ political viewpoint stemmed from serious consideration of the issues themselves was unclear. Tom Simpson had once told Ed that he thought his commanding officer was just tickled pink — tickled red, rather — when he discovered he had exactly the same name as the very famous close friend and associate of Karl Marx in another universe.

    “That ‘more revolutionary than thou’ act on Fred’s part is mostly for show,” Tom had said. “The truth is that he’s a professional soldier and doesn’t really think that much about politics. He sure as hell doesn’t read any political tracts. Although” — the huge American major had grinned — “he was mightily pleased when I gave him a copy of his namesake’s Socialism: Utopian and Scientific for his birthday.”

    “Where in God’s name did you get that book? I didn’t know any of our libraries had a copy.”

    “They wouldn’t have sold it to me even if they had,” pointed out Tom. He was still grinning. “From Melissa, who else? The book’s more in the way of a pamphlet, actually, and she had a stack of them in her basement. Well, did have a stack. She says she gave most of them to Red Sybolt before he left for Poland.”

    Ed rolled his eyes. The thought of Red Sybolt — before the Ring of Fire, Marion County’s most notorious labor organizer — loose in Poland with a pile of flaming socialist pamphlets was…

    Well, rather charming, actually. By all accounts, Poland’s aristocracy could stand to have its feet held to the fire.



    “Don’t fool yourself, Tom” said Heinrich Schmidt, after they left the SoTF president’s office. “Leaving aside the great Murphy’s principles, Colonel Engels has the right of it. Maximilian has not forgiven us for taking Ingolstadt from him. If a civil war breaks out in the USE, he will surely try to take it back.”

    Sardonic as always, Schmidt gave the two USE officers a half-jeer. “At which point, the two of you will have to hold the bastard off with your one little regiment while I” — his chest came out, in a parody of self-importance — “marshal the mighty forces of the SoTF to come to your rescue.”

    Unlike Simpson and Engels, in their field-gray USE uniforms, Heinrich Schmidt was wearing the blue uniform of the State of Thuringia-Franconia’s National Guard. He’d transferred from the USE army a year earlier when Ed Piazza had waved a brigadier’s star under his nose as an enticement.

    Schmidt wasn’t the National Guard’s commander. That was Cliff Priest, who’d been the military administrator for Bamberg before the SoTF’s capital was moved there from Grantville. There’d been a vague, lingering sentiment, given the peculiar history of the province, that the formal commander of the National Guard — it had even been named after its up-time counterparts — should continue be an American. So Priest, whom everyone agreed was a good administrator, got the title. But it was privately understood and agreed that operational control of the soldiers and combat leadership would be provided by the top down-time officers. Those were Heinrich Schmidt and Hartman Menninger, each of whom commanded a brigade.

    In the event hostilities broke out with Bavaria in the Oberpfalz again, Schmidt would march there immediately with his entire brigade. He’d be joined by one of the regiments from Menninger’s 1st Brigade, the 3rd Regiment, stationed in Eichstätt. (The SoTF National Guard didn’t have the USE army’s custom of naming regiments.) Brigadier Menninger would stay behind in order to protect the SoTF and maintain order with his two remaining regiments.

    Like all such plans, neither Heinrich nor Tom expected it to last long once contact with the enemy was made. Neither did Engels, if Tom was correctly interpreting his occasional mutterings on the dialectic.



Munich, capital of Bavaria

    “We are agreed, then.” The count of Nassau-Hadamar rose from his chair and extended his hand to the duke of Bavaria. Maximilian rose quite a bit more slowly and his handshake was perfunctory. He was being just short of rude.

    He couldn’t help it. Duke Maximilian despised Johann Ludwig. He was quite sure the count of Nassau-Hadamar had converted to Catholicism in 1629 simply to prevent Ferdinand II from seizing his family’s possessions. Prior to that time, Johann Ludwig had been a partisan for Protestant causes. As a youth, he’d been friends with Friedrick V of the Palatinate — the same man who later, as the notorious “Winter King,” had triggered off the great religious war when he accepted the throne of Bohemia offered to him by heretic rebels. The count had also fought on the side of the Protestant Dutch rebels against their Spanish Catholic monarch.

    A man, in short, to whom treason came as naturally as waddling to a duck — and here he was, once again engaged in treason.

    To be sure, it could be argued — rightfully argued, in Maximilian’s opinion — that the so-called United States of Europe was a bastard state to begin with. Stabbing it in the back could hardly be called treason; it was more akin to summarily executing a criminal. Still, the motives of the man who committed such an act had an odious stench to them.

    The count was still standing there, as if waiting for something. What…?

    Ah, of course. By the nature of their own nature, traitors needed constant reassurance.

    “I will invade the Oberpfalz as soon as the opportunity arises, be sure of it.” He cocked his head and gave Johann Ludwig a look so stern it bordered on accusation. “And in return, tell that damn chancellor of yours I will expect him to keep the USE’s army from coming into things.”

    The count smiled and held a finger alongside his nose. “Please! No names. I am acting solely on my own recognizance.”

    Where in the name of all that was holy did the scoundrel come up with that absurd phrase? It was blindingly obvious he was acting as Sweden’s envoy. Probably not on Wettin’s behalf, from subtle shadings of Johann Ludwig’s remarks; but certainly on behalf of Oxenstierna.

    Maximilian reminded himself that expecting logic from heretics was foolish. Indeed, might border on heresy itself. And none of it mattered, anyway.

    The count was still standing there, as if expecting something. What…?

    The duke’s jaws tightened as he restrained his anger.

    No. Absolutely not. Under no condition would he personally escort the swine out of the palace. He snapped his fingers, summoning a servant.

    Not even an armed retainer. A house servant. Let the man comprehend his true place in the scheme of things.

    “Show the count his way out,” said Bavaria’s ruler. He turned away to examine one of the portraits on the wall of the audience chamber. Hearing a slight gasp of outrage behind him, he bestowed a smile upon the image of his ancestor.

    The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III, as it happened.

    Take Ingolstadt from him, would they? The duke of Bavaria would have it back, and the rest of the Oberpfalz with it.

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