1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 33

There weren’t many people who enjoyed that privilege, of course. His wife, Isabella Katharina von Harrach. The commander of his army, General Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim. And a handful of close advisers, which included Morris Roth.

(Not Judith, though. As she’d said to Noelle, smiling wryly: “You can’t expect miracles from a man born in the last century — by which I mean the sixteenth century. You can’t even call Wallenstein a male chauvinist because he’d be mystified by the term. What does a man have to be ‘chauvinistic’ about? He’d ask. Nature’s way is what it is, that’s all.”)

Without waiting for an answer to his rhetorical question, Wallenstein moved right to the subject on his mind. The man was courteous, yes; but he was not given to casual conversation. His mind was always on his affairs.

“What have we reached agreement on, and what still remains to be settled?” he asked.

The question was posed to Janos. Wallenstein didn’t ignore Noelle in these discussions. He listened to what she had to say — even carefully, so far as she could tell. But whenever the discussion became focused, began to come to a conclusion of some sort, Noelle could tell that Wallenstein was excluding her from his thoughts. It was as if she no longer existed in the room. His attention was entirely on Janos.

She found that annoying, to say the least. But… push came to shove, it was just a fact that it was Janos Drugeth and not she who could speak authoritatively for Austria-Hungary. Wallenstein could have been as polite and attentive toward her as possible and it would remain the case that in the end he’d still have to get the answer — or even the question — from Janos.

Before answering, Janos took the time to draw up a chair from the ones against the back wall and sit down close to Wallenstein’s side. Noelle drew up one of the other chairs but she didn’t bother to move it very far from the wall. Wallenstein wouldn’t notice where she sat one way or the other, and this way she could enjoy the breeze coming in through the open window. It was a beautiful spring day.

Edith insisted on keeping that window open all year round except for winter and whenever it rained. That was in direct defiance of the established wisdom of the doctors of the time, of course, but by now Edith had the full and complete confidence of Katherina Isabella. Wallenstein’s wife was a rather quiet and retiring sort of person — except where the health and well-being of her husband and children were concerned. At such times she could turn into a fair imitation of a dragon and send the doctors scurrying off lest their learned beards get burned away.

“What we have reached clear agreement on is the following,” Janos said. “First, Austria will recognize the independence of Bohemia and yourself as its rightful king. Second, no claims for damages will be made by either party, nor will either party sanction or in any way assist any such claims from third parties. That includes –”

Noelle ignored the next stretch of the discussion and just enjoyed the breeze and the sight of the Hradcany rising above the city. Prague Castle, as it was also known, was a sprawling edifice on top of a hill — collection of edifices enclosed by a more-or-less continuous wall, it might be better to say — that dated back to the founding of the city in the ninth century. It had been built up over time, century after century, as one architectural style succeeded another. Noelle’s personal favorite of the many structures in the Hradcany was the Gothic cathedral of St. Vitus, whose spires she could see from where she was now sitting. She’d spent many hours in that cathedral since they arrived; some of them praying; some of them in the confession booth; but, mostly, just enjoying the peace and serenity of the great cathedral’s quiet interior.

Her contemplations were broken when a phrase from Janos made clear that they’d finally moved beyond the — necessary, necessary, yes, certainly, but still incredibly boring — establishment of the limits of post-settlement legal proceedings.

” — regard to military affairs, Bohemia agrees to come to the aid of Austria if” — he might as well have said when, in light of the news report coming from Vienna but Janos was a diplomat, after all — “it comes under attack from the Ottoman Empire. For its part, Austria-Hungary agrees to come to the aid of Bohemia should Bohemia be attacked by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. For these purposes, ‘attack’ shall include any movement of Polish forces into Upper Silesia but not Lower Silesia.”

They’d spent a full day arguing over that distinction. Having Morris Roth as a close confidant to both sides brought advantages either way. One of the benefits Janos and Noelle had gotten was that they knew from Morris that while Wallenstein laid claim to all of Silesia it was really only Upper Silesia that he cared about. There was the additional problem for him that depending on how the war between the USE and the PLC unfolded, the USE might very well claim Lower Silesia and he had no desire at all to come into conflict with Gustav Adolf.

No, Wallenstein’s ambitions lay to the east, not the north. If he could take Upper Silesia from the Poles — including the city of Katowice — then he could encroach still further on the PLC’s southern lands. He could take — or try, at least — parts of Lesser Poland and Galicia, and if he could hold those then he could move still further into Ruthenia. Starting from his Bohemian and Moravian base, Wallenstein planned to create a new empire in Eastern Europe, most of it in the area her universe had known as Ukraine.

Morris Roth called it “the Anaconda project.” He supported it because it was his hope that in the course of that expansion eastward Wallenstein could undermine the conditions that, in the universe the Americans came from, produced the Cossack rebellion of 1648 led by Bogdan Chmielnicki.

The rebellion had several names in the history books. In those devoted to the history of Judaism it was sometimes called the Chmielnicki Pogroms, and it was probably the worst mass slaughter of Jews between the Roman-Jewish War of the first century and the Nazi Holocaust of the twentieth.

Could Wallenstein do it? Noelle had no idea. But it was not something she or Janos had to deal with right now.

Janos now arrived at today’s bone of contention. “That brings us to the issue of Royal Hungary and Bohemia’s claims to it.”

“To part of it,” Wallenstein countered. “Only those portions of Royal Hungary which would eventually — “:

“In a universe that will now never exist,” interrupted Janos.

“– become part of Slovakia, which properly belongs to Bohemia and Moravia, as is implied in the very name ‘Czechoslovakia’ — ”

“Another country that would exist only in that other universe and even in that universe” — Janos’ voice had a lilt of triumph in it — “would soon cease to exist anyway.”

Wallenstein glared at him. But then, looked away. And then, cleared his throat.

“I would be prepared to pay compensation — some reasonable amount — to whatever Austrian or Hungarian notables might lose some estates as a result.”

Janos grinned at him. “‘Nice try,’ as the Americans would say. Yes, my family’s lands are mostly in and around the town of Homonna which is indeed inconveniently located in that portion of Royal Hungary that you wish to claim as your own.”

His grin went away. “You can’t bribe me, Your Majesty. It may be that Austria-Hungary will eventually cede parts of Royal Hungary to Bohemia — in exchange for other considerations, be sure of it. But one of those considerations will not be paying me and my family what would amount to a bribe.”

Wallenstein might have look a bit abashed, for a moment. A very little bit and a moment that lasted less than a second, to be sure.

He cleared his throat again. “I do not propose to dispossess you or your family, Janos. You would always be welcome to remain as landowners within Bohemia.”

“Yes, I understand. But that would create the sort of problems for me that Prince Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein has to dance upon, like hot coals. On Monday he’s a taxpayer owing allegiance to you and on Tuesday he owes it to Ferdinand of Austria. Then back to you on Wednesday and Thursday, and back again to Austria for the weekend. Awkward, that is — ten times as much for me, who is one of Ferdinand’s closest advisers and military commanders.”

He glanced out the window to gauge the time of day. Noelle had given him a good watch; not an up-time device but still one that could keep the time accurately within ten minutes each day. But Janos still didn’t really trust the thing.

“We’ve accomplished enough for today, I think.” He rose and looked down at Wallenstein. Then, in a considerably softer voice, he added: “You look tired. Get some sleep. We will continue this on the morrow.”

Wearily, Wallenstein nodded his head — a movement that only covered perhaps an inch or so.

“Tomorrow,” he agreed. His eyes were already closed.