1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 20

Still, the abundance of writing material gave Charlotte the opportunity to write new letters to her family, and in the few quiet moments when the two of them were alone, Frau Benedicte talked to Charlotte about the previous visitors and conversations, asking what she had understood and clarifying this and that. Eventually — as Charlotte slowly recovered and started showing an interest in what was going on around her — the older woman also began asking Charlotte for information and opinions. Charlotte might feel woefully ignorant about business matters on more than a household scale, but as a member of the nobility she knew her peers — and their politics and follies — inside out. And as the weeks passed, and the archbishop kept chasing rumors of Charlotte up and down the Rhine, a genuine friendship evolved between the two very different women. Charlotte started making tentative plans for taking control of her son’s heritage once her brother finally managed to disentangle himself from the upsets caused by the crisis in Bavaria.

Linz, Austria, The Scribe

August, 1634

“I am quite certain I told you not to stir up trouble, so what were you doing getting into a duel with a Bavarian nobleman?” Melchior tossed his hat on the table and sat down on the chair by Wolf’s bed.

“Well, you also told me to keep an eye on Bavaria. So it’s really all your own fault.” Wolf leaned back against the pillows stacked high behind him. Despite all the trouble his cousin cost him whenever they were in garrison Melchior was actually pleased to notice that Wolf look fit and healthy — aside from a slight pallor and a bandaged shoulder.

“But what were you doing in Regensburg? Aside from the obvious, that is,” Melchior added when Wolf started to smirk. “I did hear about you and the nobleman’s wife.”

“The day after you left for Vienna, I had a letter from the lady in question. The dear Duke Maximilian appears to be throwing his weight around pretty badly. I just went to see for myself how bad things were.”

“And visit the lady.”

“Of course.” Wolf opened his eyes wide and tried to look innocent — something he wasn’t very good at. “After all she was the one who had made contact with me.”

“But you are healing now with no sign of a fever?” Melchior decided to drop the topic, Wolf had been in and out of trouble since they were children, and he wasn’t really likely to change now.

“Yes.” Wolf also stopped playacting. “And how did your errand go?”

“I’m going back to Cologne. But you’re staying here,” Melchior quickly added when Wolf sat up fast and then grabbed at his bandaged shoulder.

“If you think you’ll leave me behind just because that fat ninny managed to prick my shoulder, you can just think again.” Wolf had narrowed his eyes and looked ready to jump Melchior for a wrestling match.

“Calm down, Cos. I cannot take the regiments with me. It’s not that Archduke Ferdinand refuses permission,” Melchior held up a hand to forestall Wolf’s protests, “it’s the situation with Bavaria being too tense. There is no way the Duke would not consider it an attack on top of the insult given by his runaway fiancée. I’ll be taking just Simon and Sergeant Mittlefeldt, plus this bunch of papers.” Melchior tapped to his breast bulging slightly from the document purse he was carrying.

“Money?” Wolf looked interested.

“That too. But mainly writs giving me not only ambassadorial status but also plenipotentiary powers in negotiating on behalf of the HRE in all matters concerning the middle Rhine area. Now, I want you to take over as commander while I’m away. I know I usually put old Dehn in that position when we’re in garrison, but the entire situation is so uncertain, and while Dehn’s a good solid commander, his mind just isn’t very flexible.”

“I hope you don’t intend to give that as a reason,” Wolf remarked dryly.

“Of course not, I’ll tell him it was high time you grew up. I’m sure he’ll agree to that.” Melchior grinned a little; Dehn dignity had been the target for Wolf’s pranks more than once, and while the old man had born them with good humor, he had definitely disapproved of Wolf’s behavior. “But on a totally different matter: is your shoulder good enough for you to write? I’ll be around for a day or two, and your family would expect letters from you when they see me.”

“Better send Allenberg to me. I can write, and I’d like you to take a letter at least to my sister in Bonn, but Anna complains about my handwriting even at my best.”

Ludenscheid, Hessian headquarter

“Please come in, von Uslar.” The stairs to the tower room Duke Wilhelm of Hesse had chosen for this meeting had obviously been hard on his cavalry leader’s wounded leg, so Hesse waved him towards a chair, while going himself to check that no one was lurking on the stairs.

“I apologize for making you climb all those stairs with your bad leg, but I intend to ask you to attack a fortified town without artillery support,” Hesse closed the door and returned to his desk, “so I’m sure you’ll agree that secrecy is of the uttermost importance.”

“As long as it isn’t Kronach,” Von Uslar replied in his usual laconic voice.

“No, it’s Bonn. Your brother is coming westward with fresh troops, and I want you to head east and meet him at Berleburg, as if it was an ordinary exchange of troops. Together you’ll then go up the Eder valley, cross to Sieg at the headwater, and then down that valley to Siegen. From there you must reach Beuel as fast as possible, take the town and the ferry, and cross the Rhine to gain at least a foothold on the other side. Duchess Amalie has arranged for new cannons to come down the rivers from Frankfurt, but by the time they arrive, I want the countryside and as much as Bonn as possible to be under our control.”

“The archbishop’s palace in Bonn is said to contain quite a lot of gold and jewels.” Von Uslar now looked vaguely interested.

“Yes, and I’ll need that to cover the cost of the new guns, and other expenses.”

“And the infantry?”

Hesse sighed. “Eventually I’ll reach an agreement with De Geer for access to the Rhine, and we’ll meet you at Cologne. Cologne is of course our real goal, but I cannot sail the new artillery past the cannons on the river wall at Bonn.”

“Not to mention the gold from the palace.”

“Yes, that too.”