1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 04

Schultze nodded. “Your judgment, Otto, is much the same as Fürst Ludwig’s. And his situation as administrator of the property formerly owned by the Archbishopric of Magdeburg is a bit complicated. On the one hand,” Schultze held out his left hand, “his authority comes from Gustav Adolph; he gave an oath to the king of Sweden before he became emperor, and therefore he might be considered to be under the chancellor’s authority as he acts as regent for Princess Kristina during her father’s incapacitation. On the other hand,” he held out his right hand, “he detests Oxenstierna, so he would dearly love to tell him to, ah, ‘take a flying leap’, as one of the Grantvillers described it. Even for a Swede, the chancellor is overbearingly arrogant. On yet another hand . . .” Otto smiled as he saw his stepfather struggle for a moment over which hand to hold up again, only to drop them both back into his lap, “Wilhelm Wettin, the prime minister, is his nephew. And although he loves his nephew and would ordinarily support him just on that cause, he is very much concerned that Wettin has made some ill-advised decisions in recent months. So he has a great desire to be very cautious as to what he does.”

          “I can see that,” murmured Otto, who nonetheless wished that the Fürst would be more direct. And his earlier feeling was proven correct — this was going to be a headache day. He propped his head on his hands, massaging his temples.

“So, he is delaying responding to demands from the chancellor and his nephew, while he sent me hurrying from Halle to meet with you here. I had planned to ask Otto to bring you here, Jacob,” Schultze focused his gaze on Alemann, “so the coincidence of finding you here at the moment simply speeds my errand. Jacob, I need you to reconvene the Schöffenstuhl.”

Otto burst out laughing as his father-in-law’s jaw dropped. A moment later a long finger was pointed in Otto’s direction.

“You put him up to this, didn’t you? Confess it!”

Still laughing, Otto raised both hands to the level of his shoulders. He finally choked back the hilarity enough to speak.

“Before the throne of heaven and all its angels, Jacob, I did no such thing. I had no idea that Papa Christoff would even be here today.”

He turned to his confused step-father.

“You see, I just told Jacob I need him to bring the Schöffenstuhl back into being in the service of the city of Magdeburg.”

Both of them started chuckling as Alemann directed a dark look first at one of them, then the other.

“Oh, leave off, Jacob,” Schultze finally said, waving his empty hand in the air. “There is no collusion here.”

“Well enough,” Alemann said, shifting his foot on its stool. “And if that be so, then what brings you here seeking the Schöffenstuhl?”

“What the Fürst would ask of the Schöffenstuhl is an opinion, a judgment, as to whether under USE law, custom, and practice, the chancellor of Sweden can serve as regent for Gustav’s heir for the USE in the absence of a specific appointment by Gustav.”

For the second time in less than an hour, Otto saw his father-in-law taken aback. He could see the objection in Alemann’s eyes, and spoke up before the older man could.

“Authority,” Otto said. The eyes of both the other men shifted to him. “As we discussed, Jacob; you already possess the moral authority, and I will give you the legal standing and authority.”

He could see the words really sink in this time. Alemann responded with a slow nod.

“Such a judgment could have great effect, you know,” Schultze observed in a quiet tone.

“And what if we were to rule in favor of the chancellor?” Alemann asked, no, demanded.

Schultze shrugged. “Ludwig is willing to take that chance. And in truth, if you ruled that way, it would allow him to support family, which for a man of his lineage is always an important consideration.” He paused for a moment. “But I do not think that is the ruling he truly wants. As much as he finds many of the recent changes distasteful, Ludwig is fearful of what will result from Oxenstierna’s machinations.”

“And why do you not send this request to the Reichskammergericht, or rather, the USE Supreme Court as it is called now?”

“Time, Jacob,” Schultze responded. “We need an opinion soon, and if we send our request to Wetzlar, who knows how long it will take those ‘learned men’ to respond?” It was evident from the sarcasm in his voice that he did not have a high opinion of the Supreme Court.

Otto thought about the matter for a moment, then looked to his father-in-law. “Jacob, do it. You know you want to.”

Alemann snorted, then turned to Schultze. “Have it your way, Christoff. Let Fürst Ludwig have the petition and brief drawn up and sent to us. I will convene my fellows, and we will deliberate; perhaps even consult with someone like Master Thomas Price Riddle from Grantville, or Doctor Grotius at Jena. I will even endeavor to conduct the deliberations at a pace somewhat faster than deliberate.” He smiled at the joke.

“And you, Otto,” Alemann looked back to his son-in-law, “if you would have us do this, then find us space. The rebuilt Rathaus in Old Magdeburg will not contain us. And it is most likely that those members serving on this year’s council will not allow us to use it anyway, once they hear of what we are doing, Brandenburg sympathizers that they mostly are.”

There was a tinge of distaste in the way he said “Old Magdeburg.” The term was commonly used to refer to the half-a-square-mile within the fortifications that was the original city. Despite its near-total destruction in the course of the sack of Magdeburg by Tilly’s army, the still-official status of Old Magdeburg enabled its authorities to maintain a legal façade for their behavior. Obstreperous behavior, so far as both Alemann and Otto were concerned.

Schultze pulled a folded document from an inside pocket of his coat. Otto began chuckling as the document was unfolded and seals dangled from the bottom of it. “Here,” Schultze said, “one petition and attached brief, duly executed and sealed by the petitioner.”

“The Fürst anticipated me, I see,” Alemann said with a wry grin.

All three men sobered quickly. “Yes, he did,” Schultze replied. “And his last words to me were ‘Tell them to hurry. The time when I will need this is fast approaching.’ Ludwig is not one to jump at shadows, you know. If he feels fear, then should we all.”

With that thought Otto had to agree.