1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 28

Vaxholm Island, in the Stockholm Archipelago

When he entered the tavern and saw the men already sitting at the large table in the center, Charles Mademann’s eyes widened.

Mathurin Brillard.
Robert Ouvrard.
Gui Ancelin.
Guillaume Locquifier
Abraham Levasseur.
André Tourneau.

He hissed in a breath. He’d last seen Levasseur and Tourneau in Scotland, just before he left for Sweden. They’d been there with the leaders of their movement, Michel Ducos and Antoine Delerue. The other four men had all been involved in the affair in Grantville back in March. Ancelin was always ready for anything. Locquifier had an unfortunate tendency to obey orders to an excessive degree of fussiness, but he wouldn’t be here at all if Michel Ducos and Antoine Delerue hadn’t approved the project. Ouvrard, despite his gloomy outlook, was one of the best men in their organization for planning and carrying out decisive actions. So was Brillard, who was a superb marksman to boot. He’d have been the shooter who killed the town’s mayor, Henry Dreeson.

They’d known where to find him, because he’d sent the information to Scotland soon after he arrived. He had no idea where Levasseur and Tourneau had found the other four, who’d have been on the run after the Dreeson incident. Probably somewhere in Holland.

However they’d managed it, they could be here in Sweden for only one reason.

“Oh, splendid,” he said, smiling widely.

Levasseur returned the smile, and gestured to an empty seat at the table. Brillard, on the other hand, was frowning.

“Is this safe, Charles?” he asked quietly, almost whispering. His eyes went to the door at the rear which led to the tavern-keeper’s personal dwellings.

Mademann sat down. “Relax, Mathurin. To begin, the owner is a Dutch Gomarist and thus a sympathizer.”

That was… some ways short of the truth. Geerd Bleecker was indeed a Counter-Remonstrant, as the followers of the theologian Franciscus Gomarus were often called. A stout enough fellow. But his ardor fell quite a bit short of what Mademann and his fellow Huguenots considered necessary for their cause. Bleecker had no idea what Mademann was really planning to do here in Sweden. He thought the Huguenot was just a wealthy exile seeking to recoup his fortunes. Sweden had many industries which were booming due to the influx of American technical knowledge combined with the large and already existing population in Stockholm of Dutch financiers and merchants.

“Perhaps more to the point,” Mademann continued, “Geerd is in somewhat desperate financial straits — or was, until I arrived and provided him with a solid and steady source of income.” Mademann waved his hand about, indicating the interior of the tavern. The wooden building was well enough made, but it was showing clear signs of disrepair. Nothing that threatened the integrity of the edifice yet. Just the sort of mostly minor problems that ensued when the owner of a building was short of funds.

Mademann smiled ruefully; not at his own situation but that of the tavern-keeper. “When Geerd first settled here he was convinced that many of the Calvinist merchants operating in Stockholm would be more comfortable with a tavern located on another island in the archipelago. Away from the eyes of the Swedish king’s Lutheran pastors.”

Tourneau cocked an inquisitive eye. “And…?”

Mademann shook his head. “The thing is, Gustav Adolf keeps his pastors on a tight leash. He wants the Dutch here, so he’s not about to tolerate harassment. No open worship is allowed, but he makes no effort to suppress Calvinists so long as they remain discreet. And this tavern is on the island of Vaxholm, which is just that little bit too far from the capital.”

Ancelin grunted. “Didn’t seem that far, from what I could tell when we came in.”

Gui was not the most imaginative of men. He’d been born and raised in a port city, but he’d never worked the sea himself. So, incurious by nature, he understood none of the realities involved.

“It’s just a few miles,” said Mademann. “But it’s one thing to walk a few miles, it’s another to row a boat across. Especially in a Swedish winter.”

“Ah. Hadn’t thought of that.”

Mademann shrugged. “The distance was enough of an inconvenience that few Dutch merchants have ever even visited here. What little business Geerd has gotten over the years has been from Finnish fisherman and petty traders. Smugglers, most of them, for whom the distance is convenient.”

“We can speak freely, then?” asked Ouvrard.

“Not in front of Bleecker or his wife. They don’t…” He wiggled his fingers. “I saw no reason to burden them with unnecessary information.”

Ancelin grunted again. “Be tough on them after we’re done.”

He was a crude man, too. Gui was saying nothing that they didn’t already understand, so why make a point of the issue? The fate that was sure to befall the tavern-keeper and his wife was unfortunate, of course. But many misfortunes came in the wake of God’s purpose.

So Mademann ignored the remark. “But he usually remains in the back. As long as we’re not shouting, we can speak freely.”

Levasseur leaned forward, placing his weight on his forearms. “You realize why we’re here.”

“Of course. I was hoping someone would come, once I learned of the princess’ visit. On my own, I haven’t even been able to find a way to get to the queen.”

“Prince, too,” said Brillard. “The queen and the heiress would be enough, but we can catch the Danish boy at the same time. That means Christian IV will be as furious as Gustav Adolf.”

All seven of the plotters leaned back in their chairs simultaneously, so great was their mutual satisfaction.