1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 28


Chapter 15

Magdeburg Times-Journal

December 14, 1635

The office of Mayor Otto Gericke made the following announcement yesterday:

“At the request of Fürst Ludwig von Anhalt-Cöthen, the Schöffenstuhl of Magdeburg, capitol city of the USE, has reviewed the actions of Axel Oxenstierna, Chancellor of Sweden, in secluding the emperor, attempting to convene Parliament in Berlin, arresting Prime Minister Wettin, and attempting to assert authority over the government and citizens of the United States of Europe. The Schöffenstuhl has rendered their opinion, and it is being prepared for publication in full. In summary, the Schöffenstuhl today declared Chancellor Oxenstierna’s actions to be illegal and unconstitutional, and further set forward that no citizen or resident of the USE owes the chancellor any obedience or recognition beyond that of common courtesy.

It is our expectation that the USE Supreme Court in Wetzlar will issue a similar ruling when they conclude their deliberations on the issues.

The Times-Journal will bring you the full text of the judicial opinion as soon as it is made public.

Ed Piazza, President of the State of Thuringia-Franconia, lowered the paper and whistled. “Well, now, that’s certainly set the weasel among the chickens.”

Those assembled in Rebecca Stearns’ parlor all laughed. Gunther Achterhof’s laugh morphed into an almost snarl. One of the chief leaders of the Magdeburg Committee of Correspondence, his views on political maneuvering tended to be very direct. “More like set the wolf among the sheep. Nothing plainer can be said to place the truth out in plain view.”

“That is all to the good, isn’t it?” asked Helene Gundelfinger. She was the vice-president of said state of Thuringia-Franconia.

Gunther shook his head. “Sheep are dumb. Stoo-piid,” he drew the syllables of the English word out.

Constantin Ableidinger, leader of the Ram movement in Franconia, grinned and responded, “Not all sheep, Gunther. Not all sheep.”

“Maybe not,” Gunther acknowledged sourly, “but too many. Just watch, this will make no difference to what is going to happen.”

“Maybe not,” Gunther’s words were echoed by Rebecca Stearns, “but it will possibly make a huge difference to Michael’s plans.” Her husband Michael Stearns was now serving as the commanding general of the Third Division of the USE army. No one knew quite for sure yet what his plans to deal with this crisis entailed, but they all had faith that he had them.

“And afterward,” Ableidinger rumbled. “As Michael has mentioned before, history is written by the winners. Being able to point to a judicial condemnation made before the fur — or rather, the lead — started flying can only strengthen us afterwards.”

“Mmm.” Gunther’s expression was still sour. “Maybe.”

Gunther Achterhof was not exactly a “glass is half full” kind of fellow.


          Across town, behind the walls of the old city, three men met in the council room of the Rathaus, home of the Regierender Rat, the official city council and governing body of Old Magdeburg. One of them had just finished reading the same article from the newspaper. Three glum faces stared at each other.

Ach,” Georg Kühlewein huffed, “the chancellor will not believe we did not have a hand in this.”

“Alemann is behind this. You know he is,” said Johann Westvol, Kühlewein’s frequent and accustomed partner. “The others on the Schöffenstuhl would not have stirred if he had not rousted them out of their holes. I told you we should have brought him into this deal with us. If he stood to make the kind of money we are starting to gather, he would have kept his peace, but ‘No’, you said, ‘We need all the money we can get for ourselves,’ you said. Now see where we are.”

“Well, if you had not cheated him on that saffron deal, he would not have been so ready to seize an opportunity to heave a beam into our spokes.” Kühlewein was getting red in the face and his voice was getting louder.

“Both of you just shut up.” Spoken in a cold tone by the third man in the room, that phrase froze both Kühlewein and Westvol in place. Their mouths clacked shut, but the glares they focused on the speaker should by rights have set his clothing to smoldering.

“Better,” Andreas Schardius said. “We do not have time for bickering and recriminations. Now, Georg, you’re the mayor this year, correct?”

Kühlewein nodded.

“Then keep everything quiet and everyone in line. Do not give Alemann or Gericke or the Schöffenstuhl any more reason to look in our direction.”

There was a mutinous look on Kühlewein’s face. He was not used to taking orders from anyone, much less someone who was not a member of the Rat. “But . . .”

Do it.” The ice returned to Schardius’ voice. “Or I pull out of your little group, and take my money with me. And without me, you do not have a prayer of finishing the hospital wing on time, and you certainly will not skim off the money you expect to make on this deal.”

Now there was a look of panic in both the other men’s eyes. Westvol immediately acquiesced, nodding vigorously. Kühlewein was a bit slower in signaling affirmation, but he was no less firm when he did so.

“Good. And send a note to the chancellor and explain that you had nothing to do with the Schöffenstuhl’s verdict. You are correct; he will probably not believe you. But if you do not send the message, he will begin to wonder even more about you. And we do not want that, now do we?” He gave a thin smile as the two men nodded in unison.