1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 59:





            And now this insult!


            Johann Philipp Cratz von Scharffenstein barely managed to keep from snarling openly at the insufferable man standing before his desk in the commandant’s office, smiling down upon him.


            The smile was perhaps the most insufferable thing about Colonel Wolmar von Farensbach, too, outside of the so-obviously-false “von” he was now adding to his name. The smile exuded a certain sort of smug condescension, barely this side of derision.


            Still not confident of his ability to speak in a normal tone of voice, the commandant of the Ingolstadt garrison spent a few more seconds in a pointless study of the document Farensbach had handed to him upon being ushered into the office.


            Document. Document. Cratz von Scharffenstein forced himself to use the simple and neutral term, in his own mind. Far better that, than to use any one of several other phrases which might have been equally well applied to the damned thing. Such as “veiled reprimand” or “insinuation of incompetence—possibly even disloyalty.”


            “I see.” He finally managed that much. Then, waited a new more seconds before adding, “Well, then.”  A few more seconds, before adding: “Welcome to Ingolstadt, Colonel von Farensbach. I’m sure our officers will be glad to assist you in your… ah. Project.”


            The insufferable smile thinned, just slightly. Farensbach leaned over the desk and retrieved the document from Cratz’s loose grip. “I don’t object to ‘project,’ commander—so long as it is clearly understood that my authorization comes from Duke Maximilian himself. Make sure your subordinates understand that they will co-operate with my investigations.”


            With every stressed word, the bastard’s smile flickered just that little bit more insufferably. Farensbach straightened up and looked down his nose at the garrison commander. “The duke was most emphatic in his orders. Which he gave to me personally, you understand, not simply in written form. Ingolstadt must not fall into the hands of the heretics—and I was the one he charged with the responsibility to see to it that all necessary security precautions have been taken.”


            He bowed, if such a miniscule movement of the head and shoulders could be graced with the term. “And now I’ll be off. I must see to my duties immediately, you understand.”


            After he left, Cratz von Scharffenstein spent several minutes muttering curses, as many of them heaped upon Maximilian of Bavaria as his Farensbach creature. The duke’s discourtesy to his loyal subordinates was positively outrageous!




            Once he left the commandant’s office, the smile vanished from Farensbach’s face. True, the interview just passed had gone quite well. And, true also—his new commission from the duke himself as the chief of Ingolstadt’s security was certain proof of it—Farensbach’s embezzlements from certain of the Bavarian military accounts had gone undetected.


            Well… embezzlements was an absurd way to put it, really. Farensbach had simply lent himself money, unofficially, from accounts under his immediate control. With the full intention of paying them back, soon enough. Unfortunately, “soon enough” had not allowed for the possibility that the duke might send him out of Munich on this fool’s errand to Ingolstadt.


            Undetected—so far. But that wouldn’t last, not with Farensbach no longer on the scene to oversee the keeping of the books. If he could return within a month, perhaps even two, things would work out well enough. But given the tense situation at Ingolstadt, with that maniac Swedish general Banér so obviously determined to press the siege, Farensbach might be stuck here for months and months. Eventually, the discrepancies were bound to turn up.


            He’d have to think of something. If he didn’t, the day would come when new soldiers would arrive at Ingolstadt bearing new orders—and that fat swine Cratz von Scharffenstein would be smiling evilly at him instead of the other way around. When he was led back to Munich in chains.


            As he paced down the hall of the military headquarters, Farensbach’s scowl was enough to keep anyone from approaching him while he chewed on the problem. Word had gotten out, obviously, concerning the nature of his assignment—and no garrison soldier in his right mind wanted to draw attention to himself.


            All the better, all the better. No one, and certainly not the lazy garrison commandant, would be paying much attention to Farensbach’s movements. More precisely, they’d be paying attention—but only from a distance. That would probably give Farensbach the leeway he needed, no matter what he decided to do.


            And by the time he exited the headquarters and passed into the outer fortress, the decision had already been made. It wasn’t as if Farensbach really had any other workable option.


            So. Hopefully, the Swedish general’s mania extended to his purse, as well. Safe and financially well-off was a far better prospect than simply being safe, after all.



Brussels, Spanish Netherlands


            “No problems with the cease fire, then?” asked Don Fernando. “Not even from CoC irregular units?”


            The Spanish prince’s chief political adviser, Pieter Paul Rubens, smiled in response to that. His chief military adviser, Miguel de Manrique, chuckled aloud.


            “No, Your Highness,” he said. “Not any. From all accounts, the Richter woman maintains a ferocious discipline over her people. I’m quite envious, actually. I wish my troops were that obedient.”


            Don Fernando was not actually that pleased by the news. True, the absence of any incidents with Dutch CoC hotheads was an immediate blessing. But he could foresee a time in the not-so-distant future when he would find that same Richterian discipline a monstrous nuisance. Even now that he’d met the woman personally, it was sometimes hard not to think of her as a she-devil. She’d almost certainly maintain the same rigorous control over the CoCs when they entered the political arena.


            But, that was a problem for a later day. For now…


            One of Miguel’s many pleasing qualities was his ability to sense when the prince needed a private moment. He bowed and excused himself, with some vague comments about business he needed to attend to.


            After he was gone, Don Fernando slouched back in his chair. “Any word yet from the pope?”


            “No, Your Highness,” said Rubens. “But I really didn’t expect to hear anything yet. You need to keep in mind—always—that once such a missive arrives in Rome, it’s impossible to keep its contents really secret. By now, any number of Urban’s advisers will be aware that you have presented the pope with a petition requesting his permission to relinquish your position as a cardinal of the church. No priest stays for long in such a position in Rome if he lacks brains. They will understand immediately that there can only be one logical reason for your petition—and at least one of those priests is certain to be in the pay of the Spanish crown.”


            He cleared his throat. “And at least one other will be in the pay of the Holy Roman Emperor. Who is not actually stupid, once you look past his stubborn bigotry.”


            The prince nodded. “Yes, yes, I understand.  Soon enough, my brother will be seething with fury—and Ferdinand II is likely to be congratulating himself for having already married off his oldest daughter. That only leaves the younger, Cecelia Renata, as a cause for him to be caught in a Habsburg crossfire.”


            “You’re most likely right, Your Highness. And what’s to the immediate point is that Pope Urban is bound to hesitate himself, for a time. In the end, I’m confident he’ll grant the petition—at which point he will be caught in the crossfire.”


            The prince grunted. “Why are you so confident he will? It would seem to me that if he refused, he’d get the best bargain of all. On the one hand, he avoids bringing down enmity on his own head—but he also must know that I’ll go ahead and resign the cardinalship without or without his agreement to the petition. So he gains that benefit, as well.”


            Don Fernando sat erect. “I don’t actually need his permission, after all. I never took major vows. I am not a priest, nor even a deacon.”


            Rubens shook his head. “You’re thinking like a prince of a realm, Your Highness, not a prince of the church. In the end, the pope’s power rests on his moral authority far more than it does on the dubious merits of that small army he maintains in the papal territories. That’s been true for sixteen centuries. It would be worth far more to Urban to have it known that the newest branch of the Habsburgs asked—and received—his permission to found a dynasty than whatever temporary gains he might make from evading the issue.”


            He shrugged. “Besides, the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs are already angry with him for having appointed Mazzare the cardinal-protector of the USE. This way, at least he gains the friendship of a new third branch of Europe’s most powerful family.”


            The young prince pondered the matter, for a moment, and then sighed. “Yes, of course you’re right. I suppose I’m just impatient.”


            He sighed again. “I don’t know why, really. It’s not as if I’m impatient to marry! Not given the choices left. It’s too bad that…”


            Almost hastily, he rose from the chair. “But that’s pointless. What news from Scaglia, in Copenhagen?”