1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 14

“Ah,” De la Mothe said. “That is a name I know.” He looked at Valbelle, and then stepped over to the bench and sat near the up-timer. Lefferts was a well-known trouble maker, who had made the acquaintance of the cardinal and had been tied to all kinds of mischief since the Ring of Fire. From what he heard, there were even young bravos in the Italian cities who styled themselves after him — lefferti, they called themselves.

“Everyone knows Harry and his Wrecking Crew,” Sherrilyn said. “Well, that’s pretty much over. The band has broken up, and there’s no plan to get it back together. To be honest, Comte — Philippe — I’m a bit at loose ends right now.”

De la Mothe was struggling with the idiom and looked up at Valbelle — but the older man had walked away along the gallery, leaving him in the company of the up-timer. “I’m . . . not sure what you mean. But if you are presently without a position, I expect that I could find something for someone of your talents to do.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“You mentioned the Thuringian Rifles. And the, eh, ‘Wrecking Crew’. I am certain that your weapons expertise would be invaluable to us.”

“And by ‘us’, you mean . . .”

“Myself and my commander. Henri Tour d’Auvergne. General Turenne.”

Turenne?” She frowned. “The guy who carried out the raid against our oil fields at Wietze? The guy whose troops killed Quentin Underwood?”

De la Mothe took a deep breath. “. . . Yes. He did command the raid on Wietze two years ago.”

“I’m not sure I’m fond of the idea of working for him. Of course, you’re not the enemy anymore, are you? Now we’re friends with the French. And Quentin Underwood was a dick who got caught up in our German vacation. Still, I’d have to consider the merits of the idea.”

“My lord of Turenne has no designs on your USE, Sherrilyn, nor on the armies of your allies. We know who the enemy is.”

“And who might that be?”


“Huh. And where is Turenne now?”

“His army is encamped outside of Lyon. The — king — has ordered him south to keep watch on the Spanish. We believe that the Count-Duke de Olivares, the Spanish King’s minister, is preparing an invasion of France in cooperation with . . . certain elements.”

“But not the USE.”

“No. Certainly not. Olivares’ chief ally is — may be — the king’s brother. Monsieur Gaston. We do not know his whereabouts. He was most recently in Lorraine and the Franche-Comté, but he has relocated — possibly to Madrid, or even Rome. He has a peculiar skill at making trouble.”

“Sounds like Harry Lefferts.”

“I can see the comparison,” De la Mothe said. “But as versatile as your friend Lefferts might be, Monsieur Gaston is infinitely more devious. And he plays at intrigues with the crown of a kingdom at stake. Our task is to help stop that.”

“How do you expect me to help?”

“Over the past two and a half years, my lord of Turenne has been slowly re-training a body of troops to use the newer weapons that up-time technology has made possible. It has not been an easy task: skills and habits borne of a lifetime cannot be easily discarded.”

“You did well enough at Wietze,” she snapped. “Your General Turenne seemed to know exactly what the hell he was doing there, and he got what he wanted.”

“Yes, that is true, Mademoiselle. Sherrilyn. But a raid is not a military campaign, and a small, fast-moving force is not the same as an army. The Spanish are still exceptionally well-armed and numerous and muskets can kill a soldier just as dead as a Cardinal rifle. We learned a great deal from the Wietze raid, but many of those under arms were not a part of that action.

“We could use someone with your skill and expertise to help train them, to cure their bad habits and teach them good ones. And also to pick out . . . the best of them for particular duties.”

Sherrilyn laughed. “You want me to train down-timer soldiers. That’s rich. You expect a bunch of professional soldiers to listen to me tell them what to do?”

“Monsieur de Valbelle told me that before the Ring of Fire you had been a teacher. Surely there are some aspects of that experience that would be helpful.”

“I taught girls’ P.E. at Grantville High,” Sherrilyn said. “I blew a whistle and got a bunch of girls in line so they could do exercises and play basketball. I hardly think it’s the same.”


“Because . . . because they were teenage girls, Philippe, and they were afraid of me. These men aren’t likely to see me in the same way.”

“You might be surprised.”

Sherrilyn leaned her elbows on her thighs and shook her head so that her hair, tied back in its queue, swung back and forth. “Philippe, I was born in 1965. For the last four years I’ve been in the seventeenth century, and unless the same crazy thing that put me here comes along and puts me back, I’m going to spend the rest of my life here. I get surprised pretty much every day, usually in a bad way, but sometimes . . .”

She gave him an appraising look, from wig to boots. He wasn’t a bad looking man; he was a little younger than she was, and had obviously made an effort to look good for the day — maybe even for this meeting. He smelled less like the average seventeenth-century nobleman than she expected, and other than the Durante nose and a few pox pockmarks — universal, other than for those who had gotten vaccinated in the last few years — he was easy to look at.

“Sometimes,” she said, “the surprise is a good one.”

“So you will accept.”

“I didn’t say that. But I’ll think about it. How much time do I have to decide?”

“I leave Marseilles the day after tomorrow. We can have a spare horse . . . or two, if you require a lady’s maid to travel with you.”

“A lady’s maid? Are you serious?”

He looked serious. In fact, he looked embarrassed at her reaction. “It is a few days’ ride back to Lyon, Mademoiselle Sherrilyn, and you would be in the company of . . . the entourage would be all men, other than you.”


“It is only that there is some . . . possible appearance of impropriety.”

“After the Wrecking Crew I don’t think there’s anything more improper that can happen to my appearance. I don’t have a ‘lady’s maid’, Philippe, and don’t know what I’d do with one. And if you’re worried about someone of your troop making, what, an inappropriate advance . . . if they survive the experience, they’ll survive with two broken arms. Or legs. Whichever is more painful, especially on horseback. Maybe one of each.”

De la Mothe couldn’t help but smile. “I think you mean it.”

“Damn straight.”

“Very well.” He stood and sketched a bow. Valbelle, the perfect courtier, seemed to already realize that the interview was over, and was walking slowly back to meet him. “I shall await your reply.”