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1636: The Saxon Uprising: Chapter Twenty One

       Last updated: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 07:33 EST



Bamberg, capital of the State of Thuringia-Franconia

    At the last moment, worried about the Bavarian threat to the Oberpfalz, Ed Piazza had decided not to attend the conference Becky had called in Magdeburg. When word came the day before the conference of the so-called “Charter of Rights and Duties” passed by the convention of reactionaries taking place in Berlin and — this came as a complete surprise — the arrest of Wilhelm Wettin, he’d regretted that decision.

    Today, he was deeply thankful he’d stayed in Bamberg. The president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia was facing the worst crisis of his political career.

    The Bavarians attacked Ingolstadt the evening after the news arrived from Berlin. Possibly just a coincidence, of course. The attack was certainly not unexpected.

    What was unexpected — no, profoundly shocking — was that they’d taken the highly fortified city within a few hours. By dawn, it was all over. When the Bavarians had controlled Ingolstadt, they’d withstood a siege by Banér’s army for months. So how and why had the USE’s defense collapsed literally overnight?

    There was only one possible answer: treason. And not the usual sort of treason that often afflicted cities under siege — such as the treason which had turned over Ingolstadt from the Bavarians, in fact. In such cases, after long months of siege, a small party within the city would jury-rig a scheme to open the defenses to the enemy. Typically, the besiegers would come in through a gate opened by the traitors and, over many hours, force in enough men to overwhelm the city’s defenders.

    From the few and limited accounts they’d gotten so far, though, what had happened in Ingolstadt this time looked far different to Piazza. The Bavarians had apparently penetrated the city simultaneously in several places, after guard detachments had been overwhelmed from within. That suggested a massive conspiracy and one that had been planned over a period of time.

    An utterly ruthless conspiracy, to boot. That much was obvious from the one radio message Major Tom Simpson had managed to send before he vanished. It had been transmitted in Morse code, for reasons that were unclear. Perhaps reception hadn’t been good enough for voice messages. More likely, Ed thought, they’d lost their best radios.

    Bavarians over-running Ingolstadt. Colonel Engels murdered. City cannot be held. Withdrawing what remains of regiment into countryside.

    That message had come early this morning. Since then, nothing.

    His secretary Anton Roeder stuck his head in the door. “General Schmidt is here, sir.”

    “Send him –” But Heinrich was already coming through the door. He was not standing on ceremony today.

    “How soon –”

    “Now,” Heinrich answered. “In fact, the first of the regiments is already marching out of the camp. I expect to have the entire division on the road by evening.”

    “How long –”

    “No way to know, Mr. President, until we see what the road conditions are like.” The young general shrugged his thick, muscular shoulders. “The roads are good, but with the snowfall two days ago… Still, it shouldn’t take us more than three days to reach Nürnberg. From there, we can figure another three day march to either Ingolstadt or Regensburg, whichever you’ve decided is more important. That assumes the authorities in Nürnberg are co-operative. If they close the border, it will take us at least another day to march around the city.”

    Nürnberg was a political anomaly. For centuries it had been one of the major imperial cities in the Germanies; in most respects, a completely independent city-state. It had jealously held onto that status through the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, the formation of the Confederated Principalities of Europe, the collapse of the CPE and its replacement by the United States of Europe. Today, it was for all practical purposes an independent miniature nation, but one that was completely surrounded by the USE. The only up-time equivalent Ed could think of was Lesotho.

    The Nürnbergers were generally on good terms with their much larger neighbor (or hyper-neighbor, it might be better to say) but they could sometimes get prickly. And there was no way to know yet how they’d be reacting to the turmoil inside the USE. The city’s own authorities were on the conservative side, and would thus be politically inclined toward the Crown Loyalists. On the other hand, it was the intervention of the Americans on the side of Gustav Adolf which had so quickly and decisively defeated Wallenstein’s army as it moved to besiege the city. In more immediate and cruder geopolitical terms, two-thirds of the city-state’s border adjoined the SoTF. Ed had always made it a point to stay on good terms with the Nürnbergers and they’d been just as punctilious returning the favor.

    So, he didn’t expect any problems. But these were uncertain times.

    On a positive note, he finally managed to get in a complete sentence. Heinrich tended to be abrupt under pressure.

    “I’m inclined to think we should accept the loss of Ingolstadt — for the moment — and concentrate on defending Regensburg.”

    “I agree,” said General Schmidt.

    “Let’s settle on that, then. Take the division to Regensburg.”

    “What are the latest radio reports coming from the city?”

    “Nothing, oddly enough. A few clashes with Bavarian skirmishers south of the Danube, but nothing worse. And there’s still no sign of any attempts to cross the river. Not even probes.”

    “Not so odd as all that, Mr. President. Duke Maximilian still hasn’t built his army back up to strength. He’s gambling right now — obviously, because he thought traitors had given him a particularly strong hand.” Darkly: “Which, indeed, they did. But he still would have concentrated all his forces at Ingolstadt. He would not have taken the risk of launching two simultaneous attacks so widely separated. It’s more than thirty miles from Ingolstadt to Regensburg — on those roads at this time of year, at least a two-day march. Separated units could not reinforce each other in case of setbacks.”

    “In that case, how soon –”



    “At least a week, would be my estimate. He’ll want to assemble a large fleet of barges before he comes down the river toward Regensburg.” Heinrich smiled, in that thin and humorless way he had. “No easy task, squeezing barges out of Danube rivermen. They’ll hide them in places you’d never think of — burn them, sometimes, rather than give them up.”

    “That should give you –”

    “I’ll have the division in Regensburg long before then. We’ll hold the city, Mr. President, never fear. How long it will take to recover Ingolstadt, on the other hand…” He shrugged again. “I would say that mainly depends on how the political situation here in the USE resolves itself.”

    “Yes, you’re right. If all goes well –”

    “The emperor recovers, Oxenstierna hangs, Wettin hangs — ask me if I care the swine got himself arrested — every other stinking traitor in Berlin hangs, we catch the traitors who sold out Ingolstadt — disembowel those bastards, hanging’s too good for them — proper order is restored, the Prince of Germany is back in power where he belongs, and Maximilian is food for stray mongrels in the streets of Munich.”

    Ed stared at him. Heinrich could be…harsh.

    “That seems perhaps a bit –”

    “Yes, you’re right. Munich’s street curs are innocent parties to the business. Unfair to poison them with such foul meat. We’ll feed the duke to his pigs instead.”



    After the general left, Ed dilly-dallied for a few minutes before finally accepting the need to take care of the business he most desperately did not want to take care of.

    He’d have to write messages to be radioed to John Chandler Simpson in Luebeck and Mike Stearns in Bohemia. Telling the admiral that his son had vanished into the chaos of war and telling the general that his sister had done the same. Rita Simpson, née Stearns, had been living in Ingolstadt with her husband Tom. God only knew what had happened to her when the Bavarians came pouring in.

    Worst of all, he’d have to tell Mary Simpson, Tom’s mother. And this would be no brief, antiseptic radio message. As luck would have it, she was in Bamberg at the moment, raising money for one of her many charities or cultural projects.

    The Dame of Magdeburg, they called her. But before the day’s end, she’d just be one of many anguished mothers.

    There was something to be said for Heinrich Schmidt’s simple remedies, all things considered. A Swedish chancellor throttled, a Bavarian duke munched on by hogs.

    Ed could live with that. It’d still be nice to complete more than every fourth sentence, though.




    Princess Kristina was reading the newspaper in Ulrik’s hands by leaning over his shoulder. Most likely, because she found it comforting to rest her hands on his shoulders. It certainly wasn’t because they could only afford one copy of the Hamburg Morgenpost. The money sent by King Christian had arrived the day before. Here as elsewhere, Ulrik’s father had been profligate. If he wanted to — and he was tempted sometimes — the prince could now afford to launch his own newspaper.

    The temptation wasn’t as great at the moment, though, as it would have been at most times. Luebeck’s own newspaper was wretched, but the city got quite regular delivery of Hamburg’s largest newspaper. Allowing for its Fourth of July Party bias, the Morgenpost was quite good; one of the three or four best in central Europe, in Ulrik’s opinion. It came out regularly and reliably twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and in time of rapid developments of great public interest — such as right now — they strove to come out daily.

    “Should we go right now, Ulrik?” the princess asked anxiously. “They’ve even arrested the prime minister!”

    Yes, and what madness possessed Oxenstierna to do that? Ulrik had pondered that question from every angle, and from none of them did the deed look any more intelligent. He’d finally concluded that Baldur’s initial assessment had been correct.

    “Wettin found out something — something really damaging — and Oxenstierna had to shut him up.”

    At the time, Ulrik had dismissed the notion as being too…Baldurian. Norddahlish? The Norwegian adventurer was fond of imagining dark and fiendish conspiracies in every corner.

    In Ulrik’s experience, that gave far too much credit to human ingenuity. Conspiracies existed, to be sure; many of them, and many were dark indeed. But fiendish? Fiendishness required brains. Nine times out of ten, conspirators behaved like buffoons and wound up exposing themselves out of sheer, bumbling incompetence.

    He shook his head. “Not yet, Kristina. The more important thing isn’t the news coming out of Berlin, it’s the news coming out of Magdeburg.”

    She frowned. “But there isn’t much news coming out of Magdeburg.”

    “Yes, precisely. That means someone is keeping things quiet and orderly in that city — much against my expectations, I can tell you that. By now, I’d expected accounts of rioting mobs. Well, mobs, anyway.”

    Baldur was sitting at a table in the corner of the salon. “At least a hanging or two!” he exclaimed, looking quite aggrieved. “Surely some nobleman was too stupid or too drunk to get out of the city before Oxenstierna blew everything up. But…nothing. The place seems as boring as a chur — ah…ah…”

    Ulrik tried not to laugh, as the Norwegian groped for something — anything — that he found as boring as a church. And could come up with nothing. From the little smile on her face, Kristina was equally amused. Baldur Norddahl was to pastors what oil was to water, except that oil was not sarcastic.

    Kristina’s expression became very intent. “Oh! I see what you mean. It’s like the detective says in one of those stories you lent me. The clever up-time English ones.”

    Ulrik made the connection almost immediately. “Yes, you’re right. The curious incident of the dog in the night who did nothing — and that was what was curious.”

    He set down the paper. “No, I think our initial plan is still the right one. Wait for a while, and let things develop further.” Another up-time expression came to him. “Give Oxenstierna some more rope with which to hang himself.”




Kassel, capital of the province of Hesse-Kassel

    “Poor Wilhelm,” Amalie Elisabeth murmured to herself, as she gazed through the window on the snow-covered ground. That ground would turn into a very cheery and pleasant garden, come the spring. But for now, it just looked cold and bleak.

    Her own mood had been cold and bleak, ever since her husband was killed in that stupid, pointless war in Poland. Mike Stearns had been right about that war, as he was right about so many things. The fact just made the landgravine’s mood bleaker, of course. Her differences with Stearns and his party still remained; extraordinarily wide in most places, if nowhere quite as deep as a chasm. Why could her own side in this great political dispute not produce a man to match him?

    She’d hoped that Wilhelm Wettin would be that man, once. But for all his undoubted intelligence he’d proven too prone to short-sightedness. And now that short-sightedness had led him into a prison cell. It might yet lead him to the executioner’s block.

    In an odd sort of way, though, the news of Wilhelm’s arrest had improved her spirits. Not cheered her up, certainly. But there was a greater ease about her now, a certain lightening of dark airs. Whatever else, Wilhelm had been a good friend for many years. It had pained her greatly — her husband, too — to watch him sink deeper and deeper into the mire.

    He was out of it now. Whatever happened, no more blame or fault could be placed upon him. She was glad for that, if nothing else.

    But there was something else to be glad about, as it happened. In fact, two things.

    First, that foul Swedish chancellor had finally exposed himself as a tyrant as well as an unprincipled schemer. Imprisoning the former duke of Saxe-Weimar on such vague and patently absurd charges had infuriated her — and she knew full well it would infuriate many others in her class. In the Niederadel, as well.

    There was an irony there, and she was not blind to it. For all that Stearns had so often bruised — badly bruised — the sentiments and sensibilities of the German aristocracy, not once had he broken his own laws when he’d been in power. Not once had he thrown a nobleman into prison on vague and obviously trumped-up charges. The fact was, whether they liked the man or not, that German noblemen could move about the USE in greater safety and security during the time of the Stearns’ regime than they could now. Amalie Elizabeth herself would be nervous, if she left Hesse-Kassel.

    Well…unless it was to visit Brunswick. Duke George was another old friend.

    A pity he was off in Poland, commanding one of the army’s divisions. But the man he’d left behind to run Brunswick’s affairs, Loring Schultz, was both competent and pleasant to deal with. Later today, she’d write him a letter, urging that Brunswick should join Hesse-Kassel in declaring strict neutrality in the current political conflict.

    But there was another letter she needed to reply to before then. And there lay the second thing to be glad about.

    She left the window, moved back to her writing desk, and picked up the letter she’d received the evening before from Rebecca Abrabanel.

    Shrewd, shrewd, shrewd. Who would have thought to find such subtlety — such delicacy, even — in a young Sephardic Jewess most of whose life had been cloistered and tightly circumscribed? The sheer naked intelligence involved was almost frightening.

    In no other respect were the ways of God quite so mysterious as the way He sometimes divided his favors. To think that He’d provided such a wife for such a man. It seemed grossly unfair, but no doubt He had His reasons.


    “I wasn’t expecting you, sir, to put it mildly.” Jeff Higgins motioned to one of the chairs in his headquarters. “Have a seat, please.”

    “As long as it’s not an airplane seat.” Mike Stearns eased himself into the offered chair. “The truth is, Jeff — I’ll admit it like a man — flying makes me nervous. Always did, even the fancy airliners we had back home, much less these ramshackle gadgets Jesse has at his disposal and I never said that, you understand. Air force guys have thin skins and tender egos, it’s some kind of law of nature.”

    Jeff sat down in another chair and nodded solemnly. “Not a word, sir, I promise. He’ll be at the field for another two hours anyway, fussing over the ramshackle gadget.”

    Mike smiled. “For today, let’s keep it to ‘Jeff’ and ‘Mike.’ ”

    Jeff pursed his lips. “Why does that make me nervous?”

    “Most times, it probably should. But not today. The reason I twisted Jesse’s arm into flying me up here — and twisted it a lot harder to get him to agree to fly me back tomorrow — is because I figured I’d better come talk to you in person.” He paused for a moment, as if he were studying Jeff. “Before you got too twitchy.”

    “Twitchy about what, sir? Ah, Mike.”

    “Twitchy about the fact that there’s a whole army at your wife’s throat and I’m just keeping you here twiddling your thumbs and keeping myself even further away. Twiddling my thumbs.”

    “Oh. That.” Jeff got up and went over to a small stove in a corner. “I’ve got some coffee, if you’d like some. Tea, also.”

    “You’ve got coffee? Is it…?”

    “The real stuff? Sure is.”

    Jeff stirred up the fire, looking over his shoulder with a little grin on his face. “Fact is, Mike, the becky’s become the strongest currency in the whole area. The exchange rate’s terrific. So, yeah, I can afford real coffee. Not often, of course. But I figure this counts as a special occasion.”

    He placed a kettle on the stove and went back to his chair. “As for what you’re worried about, relax. I wasn’t actually getting twitchy. Well…a little, I guess, but I’ve applied it to a useful task.”

    “Which is?”

    The young colonel’s tone got noticeably harder. “Which is the moment you tell me to take the fortress at Königstein, it’s toast.”

    “Ah. Good.” Mike cocked his head a little. “But I’m a little curious. Why aren’t you twitchy?”

    “Hey, I can read.” Jeff motioned toward a table against one of the walls. The table wasn’t exactly piled high with newspapers, but there were a fair number of them. “Between what’s happening in Berlin and what’s not happening in Magdeburg and what I’m damn sure is happening in Dresden — not much news coming out of there, of course — I figure I know what we’re up to.”

    “Keep going. I’m fascinated, watching a great detective at work.”

    Jeff smiled. “This ain’t hardly Sherlock Holmes territory, Mike. What we’re up to is that we’re just biding our time, on account of we’re frugal. Or maybe just lazy. You’ve got the smartest wife in the world and I’ve got the toughest one, so we’re letting them soften up the opposition for a while.”

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