1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 29

“Don’t tell me,” Mike chuckled.

“Yep,” said Morris. “Before you could say ‘hogwash,’ Gribbleflotz had half the nobility in the Germanies and Bohemia hooked on the notion, seems like. He charges a small fortune to show someone his so-called ‘aura,’ and then… well…”

He drifted into an uncomfortable silence. His wife gave him a glance and smiled. “What Morris isn’t telling you is that we’re making quite a bit of money from the side-effects.”

“How so?”

Morris made a face. “Somehow or other — I didn’t do it, I swear I didn’t, and neither did Tom Stone — people got the idea that once someone knew their Kirlian aura they needed to complement it with the proper costume and jewelry. So all of a sudden there’s a booming demand for exotic dyes and exotic gem-cuts. Tom’s dye works supplies most of the former and my jewelry makers provide most of the latter.”

Mike didn’t say anything. He didn’t doubt for a moment that neither Morris nor Tom Stone had tried to take advantage of the new superstition. Tom’s middle son Ron, though…

Ron Stone had become the de facto manager of the Stone chemical and pharmaceutical industries, and had turned out to have an unexpected gift for making money. That talent hadn’t been hurt in the least by his recent marriage to Missy Jenkins, whose father had been one of Grantville’s most successful businessmen before the Ring of Fire. Missy’s own interest was in libraries, but the young woman had a practical streak about as wide as the Mississippi river. Between the two of them, they might very well have come up with the idea of piggy-backing a new line of exotic dyes on the Kirlian craze, and quietly hired someone to do the necessary promotion.

If they had, Mike didn’t object. Down-time noblemen could find the silliest ways imaginable to waste their money, and this one seemed reasonably harmless.

True, it wasn’t doing Wallenstein any good. But that was a lost cause, anyway. The king of Bohemia had been proving for years that no matter how shrewd he was in most respects, he was a sucker for superstitious twaddle. That was especially true when it came to anything bearing on his health. Whatever nostrums he was getting from his new obsession with Kirlian auras, Mike figured it couldn’t be any worse than the medical advice he got from his astrologers.

He said as much, and the Roths both nodded.

“Edith actually prefers the Kirlian crap,” said Morris. “It mostly just leads to the king loading himself down with jewelry — which he can certainly afford — and overheating himself in bed because of the heavy robes he wears. But at least he’s not bleeding himself under the light of a full moon when Sagittarius is rising in Venus.”

“I think it’s the other way around,” said Judith.

Morris sniffed. “Who cares?”

If Wallenstein really was that ill…

“What happens if he dies?” Mike asked.

Morris and Judith looked at each other. “Well…” said Judith. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad.”

“A year ago, things would have probably gotten pretty hairy,” her husband added. “But Wallenstein’s wife finally bore him a son this past February. Karl Albrecht Eusebius is his name. The kid’s pretty healthy and thankfully his mother ignores Wallenstein and listens to Edith when it comes to his medical care.”

Mike had known of the boy’s birth, but he hadn’t really considered all the political ramifications. In light of what he now knew about Wallenstein’s health, he started to do so and almost immediately came to the critical issue.

“How does Pappenheim feel about the kid?”

The expressions on the faces of his host were identical: relief. Vast relief, you might almost say.

“Gottfried is devoted to Wallenstein,” Morris said, “and the man really seems to have no political ambitions of his own.”

“So far as we can tell, anyway,” Judith cautioned.

Morris shrugged. “You never really know until the time comes, of course. But I really do think Pappenheim will be satisfied with remaining the commander of Bohemia’s army — so long as he thinks there’s no danger to Wallenstein’s legitimate heir.”

Mike nodded. “So the task becomes making sure a stable regency gets set up right away. How will Isabella Katharina handle that? I’ve met the queen, but I can’t say I know her at all.”

“Isabella’s not interested in politics herself,” said Judith. “All she’ll really care about is that her son is safe and his inheritance is secure. She’ll be happy as the figurehead of a regency council, as long as we’re getting along with Gottfried and the rest of the council is solid.”

“I take it she’s not an anti-Semite, then?”

Morris shook his head. “She tends to be suspicious of most people, but she’s what you might call an equal-opportunity skeptic. Jews aren’t worth much, in her book, but then neither are goyim.”

“She and I have become a bit close, actually,” said Judith. “And Isabella practically worships the ground under Edith’s feet — and we’re about the only friends Edith has in the whole world.”

Edith Wild had been friendless most of her life. The big woman was taciturn and had a harsh personality. She was one of the people in Grantville for whom the Ring of Fire had proved to be a blessing. She’d gone from being a factory worker scraping by to living in a palace as a king’s nurse and one of the closest confidants of his queen.

Mike had taken off his officer’s hat when he entered the Roth’s mansion, and had it perched on his lap. Now he rose and placed it back on his head.

“I need to get back to the division,” he said. “But I can come back again the day after tomorrow, if you’d like me to.”

Morris rose to usher him out. “Yes, I would. And I know Gottfried would like to have a private word with you also. Can I tell him you’ll come by his headquarters?”

“Yes, please do.” Mike had his own reasons for wanting to stay on good terms with Bohemia’s leading general. But those reasons were almost petty compared to the importance of keeping Bohemia stable and friendly to the USE.

There were enough wars already, he figured.