1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 23


Chapter 11

          Otto looked up from the document he was reading at the sound of the tap on the door frame. When he saw his father-in-law standing in the opening, he stood and moved around the desk.

          “Come in, Father Jacob, come in.” He ushered the older man to a chair. “How goes your gout today?”

“Not badly, Otto. Not badly at all.” Jacob waved a hand at the desk. “Sit, sit, my boy. What are you poring over so intently?”

“Oh, Father Christoff forwarded some documents from Fürst Ludwig that will be useful to me. He has granted me, or rather, the mayor of Greater Magdeburg, police authority over the properties of the Stift within the confines of the city.”

Jacob’s eyebrows rose. “The new city?”

“Not just the new city, but Old Magdeburg as well.”

The older man’s face adopted a grin that could only be described as evil. “That means you will have unquestionable authority over nearly half of the old city, which also removes it from the sphere of influence of the City Council. Hah! Can I tell them?”

Otto made a note to himself that one of these days he needed to find out just who on the council had offended his father-in-law, and just what they had done. Jacob was normally not a vindictive man, but this was not the first time he had indicated displeasure with the council.

“No, because the Fürst sent a copy of the documents to them as well.”

Disappointment showed on Jacob’s face, but he shrugged it off.

“Oh, well. That is still good news. But enough of that. I won’t be long, must be someplace else soon, but I needed to leave this with you.”

Otto picked up the leather folder that was pushed across the desk to him. He opened and scanned the document it contained. “Ah, you finished the opinion already.”

“Yes. It turns out that we each of us had a surprising amount of case material in our homes. Not enough to reconstruct the archives, of course, but enough to provide some useful precedents. And the review by Master Thomas Price Riddle from Grantville was useful, as well. The man has the clearest of minds and a most incisive wit. I wish his health was stronger. We of the Schöffenstuhl would be delighted if he could come to Magdeburg and spend some days with us in discussions.”

“Discussions. Hah. I know you and your cronies,” Otto smiled. “You would pick the poor man’s mind cleaner than a wishbone at a feast-day meal. You would leave him without two thoughts to keep each other company.”

Jacob smiled in turn. “Perhaps.”

Otto turned back to the document. “So your considered opinion is that the chancellor has no legal standing?”

“For all of his prominent place in the Swedish regime, and for all that the emperor may have unofficially delegated imperial tasks and responsibilities to him from time to time, Chancellor Oxenstierna has no official position, standing, or authority in the USE, neither given by Parliament nor officially assigned by Emperor Gustav. Consequently, he has no basis to act as the viceroy for the emperor or as the regent for Princess Kristina in the USE.” Jacob shrugged again. “It is very clear; he has standing in the kingdom of Sweden, but none in the USE. There is no rule or precedent that authorizes or condones his actions here.”

“So he is outside the law,” Otto stated.



          Franz took the broadsheet being passed out by the young woman from the Committees of Correspondence. She marched on down the street, pressing copies of the broadsheet into every hand that would take one, and a few that tried not to. Marla took the other side of it, and they looked at it together.

Marla had been surprised to find after they moved to Magdeburg that political cartoons were not a twentieth century original art form; that, in fact, political cartoons were ubiquitous in the seventeenth century. The one at the top of the broadsheet was a typical sample of the current state of the cartooning art: sketchy, somewhat awkward art combined with savage satirical writing.

“Hmmph!” Marla snorted. “I need to have Aunt Susan send this guy some of my brother’s comic books. Let him learn how to draw real cartoons.”

“I don’t know,” said Franz. “I think he did well with the horns on the chancellor.”

Chancellor Oxenstierna had been drawn as a minotaur figure with sweeping horns; an obvious reference to the inevitable puns on his name that seemed to universally come to mind to both up-timers and down-timers alike. The Ox or Der Ochse, either way it referred to a bovine, and this particular figure was dressed in a fancy doublet.

All the figures in the cartoon were labeled. Franz wasn’t sure if it was the artist or the editor that wanted to make sure that nothing was misunderstood, but it still brought a smile to his face.

“Hmm, that’s the emperor lying on the bed,” Marla puzzled out. “But who are all these people kneeling? Holy cow, this guy’s lettering is atrocious.”

“This one is ‘Free Electorate’,” Franz said, pointing to the label. “That one is ‘Freedom of Religion’, and the other one is ‘Freedom of Speech’.”

“Who’s the girl in the corner by the bed?”

Franz tilted the page, trying to get a better angle on the somewhat muddled drawing. “I think that is supposed to be Princess Kristina.”

“So what is that he’s got in his hands that he’s aiming at the freedoms?”

“Well, judging from the caption, I think it is a giant scalpel.” The caption read “Perhaps A Little Blood-letting Will Help The Emperor Regain His Senses.”

Marla looked at him. “Scalpel?”

“You know they used to bleed patients?”

“Ick!” Marla thrust the broadsheet into his hands and started down the street. “I don’t get it.”

They spent the next few minutes arguing about whether the drawing made any sense or not, walking along dodging other pedestrians, crossing streets, side-stepping wagons, carts, and the inevitable animal by-products. Wagon drivers were supposed to clean up after their horses, mules or oxen. Whether they did or not often depended on how visible a Committee of Correspondence member was.