1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 57:



Chapter 29





Prüfening, Bavaria


            When Forst and Becker contacted Landgrave Wilhelm Georg of Leuchtenberg’s steward, Petrus Sartorius, in Prüfening, which was directly across from the mouth of the Naab as one could get and still avoid Swedish-occupied Regensburg. When they asked him for instructions, he told them that their lord was lying on his deathbed at the estate of Freiherr von Hörwarth at Planegg outside Munich and both his sons were both still away serving in the army. 


            “I know nothing at all about the landgrave’s having taken any interest in anyone named Veronica Dreeson,” Sartorius insisted.


            Not that he would, of course, he thought to himself; he had never been involved in any way with the landgrave’s collection of intelligence data or foreign activities, not even when the landgrave did such things. He no longer did such things. The landgrave’s health had been shaky for the past several years; extremely bad for the past year; serious for the past six months.  Sartorius’ presence in Prüfening was for the purpose of looking out for the landgrave’s surviving economic interests in his Swedish-occupied lands. Also, of course, to transmit money and occasional messages back and forth. And to keep an eye on Regensburg. Almost everyone in Prüfening was keeping an eye on Regensburg these days.


            But still, he did not believe that the landgrave had been interested in Frau Dreeson. He was very firm about that. By now, he had decided Forst and Becker were hare-brained idiots.




            Unfortunately for the best laid plans of Forst and Becker—which were not, it had to be admitted, very good—the landgrave’s mind was not well; he had become senile. All of his stewards knew that he had not taking an interest in anything or anyone for a long time. Sartorius made it plain that he wanted nothing to do with them.


            This, of course, presented a problem for the bargemen. They still had the barrels.


            Well, only two of the barrels. Sartorius had at least been happy to take charge of the ones filled with iron ore. He could find a use for it one of these days, he said.




            Sartorius was also a cautious man. Although it did not seem probable on the basis of his reports, it was possible that the landgrave might recover his health. Divine miracles were never to be discounted. Should he recover, it might also be possible that he had indeed instructed his agent in Amberg—what was the man’s name? Oh yes, Arndt. It might be possible that the landgrave had instructed Arndt to procure these women as hostages. If that did turn out to be the case—well, it couldn’t do any harm for him to offer facilities to the women that they might relieve themselves. And, ah, clean themselves.


            Sartorius assisted them to stand up; they were very cramped and stiff. He provided clean water; cold porridge left over from breakfast. The odd-looking one with her hair cut like a man’s had a bruise and small cut on her temple; he provided the other woman with cloths to clean it, and a salve.  He told a stableboy to clean the barrels.




            Veronica cleaned Mary’s wound from hitting her head on the piling. Then she took out her false teeth, washed them, and tucked them into the pouch gathered onto a heavy string that she wore around her neck, beneath her clothing. For the last two days, she had been afraid that one of the times when the guard pushed the rag back into her mouth to gag her, he would push them out of place and cause her to choke.


            “This really sucks,” Mary muttered. Then, half-giggled. “When I heard my son Tom use that expression as a teenager, I gave him quite the talking-to, believe you me! But I squirreled it away in my memory. It’s got a certain catchy flair, and you never know.”


            Gingerly, she probed her head. “Yes, indeed. This really sucks.”




            Sartorius assured himself that this much assistance was all that anyone could possibly expect of him. He gagged the women and tied their hands again before he led them back down to the warehouse, which opened on one side to the river and on the other side to the street. In spite of the gags, they managed to make it quite plain that they did not want to be put back in the barrels. He had to assist the other two by holding the smaller one while they tied the legs of the one with short hair. It took all three of them to retie the second woman’s legs; they used an extra length of rope on her.


            Forst and Becker insisted on the extra rope. By this time, both of them felt that they needed a lord’s protection badly. Sartorius’ obvious nervousness had only reinforced their own suspicions. They, in fact, had concluded during the journey down the Naab that they had two unusually powerful witches on their hands; or, at least, one powerful witch and her assistant. Why else would the landgrave have been concerned about a little old lady? They were not sure about the other, but they intended to take no chances.


            Particularly not since the steward had taken away the iron ore. Everybody knew that witchy powers did not work well in the presence of iron. Perhaps that was what had kept the witch under control on the trip down the Naab. Without that…


            On the other hand, there was no way that they could possibly have hauled a cart heavy with iron ore over land. It had been hard enough to persuade the steward to advance them money to buy a donkey cart.


            “Why do you want the donkey cart?” Sartorius asked.


            “Well,” Forst said, “if our lord is not available, then we need the protection of a lady.”


            “The landgrave’s sister was in Bavaria,” said Becker. “Somehow, we’ll take these women all the way to Munich, and consult Landgravine Mechthilde.


            Rather stiffly, Sartorius said: “Landgravine Mechthilde—who is known in Bavaria as Duchess Mechthilde, if you please, since she is the wife of Duke Albrecht—is not in Munich to begin with. As the sister-in-law of Duke Maximilian and, until his remarriage, the first lady of Bavaria, she is taking a very important part in the wedding procession for the duke and Archduchess Maria Anna, which this very day will welcome the archduchess in Passau. When the ceremonies there are completed, the procession will start on its way back from Passau to Munich. With, of course, the duchess continuing to play an important part.”


            Forst and Becker found this to be good news. This meant that their very own Landgravine Mechthilde would soon be much, much, closer than Munich. Which meant much, much, less hauling. If they could haul the barrels south to the Isar, they ought to be able to intercept the procession.


            Even simple bargemen knew one thing. All formal processions moved very slowly. Their purpose was to let the people take a good look at the ruler.