1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 48
“The Bavarians might not like that idea.”
Mike’s face had a very hard expression, now. “Ask me if I give a fuck. By the time we finish with them, the Bavarians will damn well do what we tell them to do. We’ll build a graveyard here and they will maintain it thereafter. They’ll pay for the upkeep too, the bastards.”
He went to his horse and got back in the saddle. “Get your men ready, Colonel Higgins. I want to start our march on Munich at first dawn.”
After he’d seen to it that his regiment was fed, and had whatever shelter could be scrounged up — luckily, it didn’t look like it was going to rain that night — Jeff indulged himself one last time. In clear violation of military rules and regulations, he had the regiment’s radio operator send a message to the Residenzschloss in Dresden.
He didn’t bother sending it in code. The Bavarians already knew they’d killed USE soldiers that day, so what difference did it make if they knew the name of one of them?
Jimmy Andersen was killed yesterday.
He didn’t add anything along the lines of “may God have mercy on his soul.” Gretchen was religiously inclined and he wasn’t. They’d known that about each other almost since the day they first met.
It had been what movie producers would have called “meet cute,” assuming they were producing a horror movie. Jeff had helped Gretchen haul her sister and some other girls out of an outhouse where she’d hidden them from rampaging soldiers.
Wannabe rampaging soldiers, rather. Jeff had held them off long enough for Mike Stearns and the APCs to get there. He hadn’t been alone, though. Larry Wild had stood next to him, and so had Jimmy Andersen and Eddie Cantrell.
He and Eddie were the only ones left. He wondered where Eddie was, now. Somewhere in the western hemisphere, the last he’d heard. Eddie had lost a foot in the years since then. On the other hand, like Jeff himself he’d gained a wife so he was still ahead of the game
“Is there any further message, Colonel?”
Jeff thought about it, for a moment. Then, shook his head. “No, that will be all.”
Anything he’d add to that — I miss you; I love you — Gretchen already knew. And while Jeff was willing to violate the rules and regulations when one of his oldest and best friends had gotten killed, he didn’t see any point in trampling the rules and regs and dancing on their grave.
Besides, Duke Maximilian might not know that the commander of one of the regiments that was about to lay siege to his capital was married to the most feared and feted — in some circles, not his — revolutionary in Europe. Maybe that secret would be his undoing, in some manner as yet unforeseen and unforeseeable.
“They don’t call me the DM for nothing,” he muttered.
Gretchen didn’t receive the message until the following morning. When she did, she immediately left the Residenzschloss and went looking for Ursula Gerisch.
It took her a while to find the woman. When she did, Ursula was just coming out of a grocery. The store, like most such in seventeenth century European cities, was on the ground floor of a narrow building pressed up against buildings on either side. The owner and his family would live upstairs.
Ursula was looking very pleased with herself. That meant she’d made another convert — or made significant progress in that direction, at least. Gerisch had made herself quite unpopular with the city’s Lutheran pastors since she arrived. Whether it was in spite of her disreputable past or because of it — Gretchen preferred the latter explanation, herself — Ursula was an extraordinarily good missionary.
Ernst Wettin had privately told Gretchen that several of the pastors had come to him to register their complaints, but he’d shrugged off the matter. First, he’d pointed out to them, the emperor himself had agreed to place unusual restrictions on Lutheran privileges in Saxony. And secondly, the pestiferous Gerisch creature was proselytizing on behalf of a creed which was subscribed to not only by Admiral Simpson — that would be the same admiral whose ironclads had leveled the walls of Hamburg along with a portion of Copenhagen — but by Gretchen Richter as well.
Yes, that Gretchen Richter. You hadn’t heard?
As soon as Ursula came up to her, Gretchen got right to the point. “We need our own church.”
“Yes, I know. But I don’t know of any vacant ones.” Gerisch looked dubious, adding: “I suppose we could take up a collection and see if we could buy one of the existing churchesâ€¦”
Gretchen shook her head. “None of these Lutheran pastors would sell to us. The problem’s not the money, anyway. I could afford to pay for it myself, if need be.”
That was something of an exaggeration. She and Jeff were quite wealthy now, measured in the way David Bartley and others like him gauged such things. But most of their wealth was tied up in the stock market or the apartment building they’d bought in Magdeburg. They didn’t have much in the way of liquid assets.
It didn’t matter. Gretchen had figured out a solution. All the Lutheran pastors in Dresden would shriek their outrage and Ernst Wettin was bound to wag his finger and express solemn disapproval — for the public record, at least. She didn’t think he’d really care that much, personally.
But the reason none of that mattered was because the only person who could have seriously objected was the Elector of Saxony, John George, who was no longer of this sinful earth.
“There’s a chapel in the Residenzschloss,” she explained. “It’s ours now.”
Gerisch stared at her. “Said who?”
“Says me. Round up as many church members as you can find and let’sâ€¦ well, I suppose we can’t say ‘consecrate’ it because we don’t have a priest yet. But we’ll do our layman best.”
She had no idea if what she was doing was part of accepted custom, tradition or ecclesiastical law according to the Episcopal Church. But she didn’t care very much because the church she now belonged to was not the Church of England but the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. And since the United States of America did not exist in this universe, Gretchen figured her church would soon enough transmute into the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of Europe — and could say what customs and traditions and ecclesiastical laws that church would eventually adopt?
Dresden customs and traditions, if Gretchen had anything to say about it.
Which, she probably would. She hadn’t leveled any fortified walls or brought down any royal towers, true. But she could lay a reasonable claim to having leveled an entire province. She’d turned a stinking dukedom into a republic, hadn’t she?
There was no service, when they all gathered in the chapel that afternoon, because they had no priest. Gretchen just proposed that all of them there — which was herself, Ursula, and eleven other people, all but three being women — say their own quiet prayers.
She did so herself.
Dear Lord, please care for the soul of Jimmy Andersen.
Gretchen hadn’t been that close to Jimmy herself. He’d been a quiet man, very introspective. But she knew how much he’d meant to Jeff.
And please care for my beloved husband, who is still in harm’s way.
And would be, possibly for a long time to come. But Gretchen felt greatly relieved. She hadn’t prayed inâ€¦
How many years had it been? Five years since she’d met and married Jeff. Two years before that, since her father had been murdered in front of her and she herself turned into her rapist’s concubine.
Seven years it had taken her, before she was finally able to forgive God. Long years for her; but, of course, not even a moment for Him who moved in such mysterious ways.
Eventually, she’d find a priest who could explain it all to her and put everything in proper theological context. She was quite sure that it was inappropriate for a mortal to forgive God. But those were what her husband would call optional technicalities.
They didn’t call him the DM for nothing.