1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 08

Chapter 4

Regensburg, Bavaria

“I’m telling you, Tom, we’ve created a monster.” Rita Simpson set down her cup and made a face. “What I wouldn’t do for a cup of real coffee.”

Across the table in their small kitchen, her husband leaned back in his chair and regarded his wife with a calm, level gaze. “I’m trying to figure out how ‘we’ comes into this. I’m not the one who took Ursula Gerisch under his wing — and I’m certainly not the one who sent her up to Grantville to discuss religion with Veleda Riddle.”

He took a sip from his own cup. “I agree the coffee sucks. Which is not surprising since it’s not exactly coffee to begin with.”

Rita glared at him from beneath lowered brows. “It’s your fucking church, that’s why it’s ‘we.'”

Tom nodded. “Indeed, I am a member of the Episcopal Church — but I remind you that its official name is the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. United States of America, please note. Not Europe. As churches in the here and now go, it’s something of a waif. There were never very many Episcopalians in Grantville to begin with and my father and I only added two more to the number.”

He took another sip from the cup. “Technically, my mother’s a Unitarian, not an Episcopalian, although back up-time she probably spent more time at Dad’s church than her own — and now that’s she’s down-time she won’t go near anything that might even vaguely resemble a Unitarian congregation on account of. Well. You know. Best case scenario, she’d wind up associated with Polish Socinians — to whom she’s actually rather partial but given the current war with Poland and the fact that she’s an admiral’s wife it’s a tricky political situation. Worst case scenario she gets burned at the stake somewhere, which happened pretty often to the founders of Unitarianism in this the not-altogether-enlightened Early Modern Era.”

Rita frowned. “Really? Unitarians got burned at the stake? For Chrissake, they’re about as milk toast as any religion gets.”

“True — by the standards of the late twentieth century. But not today’s.” He shook his head. “History was never your strong suit, love.”

“That’s ’cause it’s boring.”

“How unfortunate for you, then, that you wound up living in a history book.” That came accompanied by a big grin.

Her returning smile was sour, sour. “Very funny. What’s your point?”

“Theologically speaking, Unitarianism can be traced all the way back to the apostolic age right after Jesus’ death. Arius was one of the founders — depending on how you look at it — and Arianism was probably the first of the great heresies. There’ve been oodles of people burned at the stake ever since if they get associated with it. The burning parties are pretty ecumenical, too. So far as I know, Luther never set a torch to a pile of kindling himself with a Unitarian perched on it, but he denounced Unitarian ideas as being responsible for the rise of Islam — ”


“Oh, yeah. There’s a reason — bunch of ’em, actually — that I’m not a Lutheran. But moving right along, Calvin — that would be the Calvin, the one they named Calvinism after — had Michael Servetus burned at the stake in Geneva back in the middle of the last century. Not to be outdone, the Catholics had him burned in effigy a short time afterward.”

He drained the cup, made a face, and set it down on the table. “Stuff really is crappy. Anyway, to get back to where we started, the long and the short of it is that being an American Episcopalian these days means having to deal with the Anglican Church — and given the awkward relations the USE has with England, that means in practice dickering with Archbishop Laud since he’s now in exile and is at least willing to talk to us.”

“Like I said!” Rita’s tone was triumphant. “It’s your church.”

“Formally speaking, yes. But I’m what you might call my father’s brand of Episcopalian. Sophisticated, progressive — at least on social issues; you don’t want to get my dad started on economics — and, most of all, relaxed on the subject of religion in general. Veleda Riddle, on the other hand — that would be the woman that you told Ursula she ought to talk to — is what my mother calls a Samurai Episcopalian.”

Rita frowned. “Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?”

“I think so — but Veleda Riddle does not. And therein lies the source of your current unease. Because Ursula — who is your protégé, I remind you, not mine — has returned from Grantville filled with the fanatical zeal of the convert.”

“Who ever heard of a fanatic Episcopalian? And what would you call that, anyway? High church holy rolling?”

They heard the door to their apartment opening. They kept it unlocked because, first, the door had no lock; second, because Tom kept procrastinating about getting a workman to install one; and, finally, because the story of what had happened to the Bavarian soldiers who got slaughtered while breaking into Tom and Rita’s apartment in Ingolstadt was by now very widespread. The odds that anyone would try to steal anything from them were so low that they didn’t really need a lock anyway.

Julie Sims came into the kitchen, with her daughter Alexi in tow. “You wouldn’t believe what Ursula’s up to now,” she said. Her expression was a peculiar mix of amusement and something very close to horror.

“Don’t tell me,” said Rita.

“Of course I’m going to tell you. It’s your fault in the first place.”

“Told ya,” said Tom.


Elsewhere in Regensburg, the same Ursula Gerisch that Tom, Rita and Julie had been discussing was creating a different sort of ruckus. This one, of what might be called a technical-military nature, not a theological one.

“Stefano doesn’t like the new bomb pots. He says they’re too heavy.”

Bonnie Weaver squinted at Ursula, her expression one of unalloyed suspicion. “You can’t be that naïve, Ursula.” A spiteful part of Bonnie’s soul was tempted to add given your own history but that would just be cruel. Unfair, too. Whether the stories that Ursula had been not much better than a prostitute when Rita rescued her were true or not, it was indubitably true that since that rescue Ursula had led a life that was completely untainted by carnal excess. Religious excess, yes; whoring, no.

Ursula frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Oh, come on! What Stefano really cares about is that he wants Mary Tanner Barancek to stay on as his so-called ‘co-pilot’ –”

“She is capable of piloting their airship. Pretty well. I’ve seen her myself.”

“Fine.” Bonnie waved a rather plump hand. “Doesn’t matter how good she is as a co-pilot. The Powers-That-Be have decreed that any member of an airship crew has to be able to double in every capacity. That means bomb-handlers have to be able to fly the ship, in a pinch — and pilots and co-pilots have to be able to heave bombs overboard. However much those bombs weigh.”

Ursula looked a bit sulky. “Those new bombs are heavy.”