1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 31

Linz, Austria

Janos Drugeth finished re-reading the letter from Noelle Stull.

He was not a happy man. Rather, his feelings were mixed. The very evident warmth of the letter pleased him greatly, of course. But what had possessed the woman to go to Dresden?

True, this was the same woman who had once emptied her pistol by firing into the Danube, in a moment of pique. But even for Noelle, this was incredibly rash.

Janos was not privy to most of the details, of course. But one of his duties was to monitor Austria’s espionage network and he received regular reports from his spymasters. So he knew that the Swedish general Johan Báner was marching into Saxony and would soon be at the gates of Dresden — and that Gretchen Richter had taken up residence in the city.

Given Richter’s nature — still more, given Báner’s — the result was a foregone conclusion. Dresden was about to become a city under siege, and if Báner broke into the city there would most likely be a bloodbath. The Swedish general wasn’t as purely brutish as Heinrich Holk, but he came fairly close. And, unlike Holk, Báner was a very competent commander.

Janos was no stranger to sieges, from either side of the walls. He didn’t think there was much chance that amateur hotheads like Richter could hold Dresden against the likes of Báner and his mercenaries.

True, the woman had managed the defenses of Amsterdam quite well, by all accounts. But Janos was sure that a large factor involved had been the Cardinal-Infante’s unwillingness to risk destroying Amsterdam and thereby losing its resources and skilled workers. Báner would have no such compunctions at Dresden.

What was Noelle thinking?

He sighed, and put aside the letter. There was another letter in the batch that had just arrived, and this one came from his monarch. By rights, he should have read it first. But he’d been in the privacy of his own chambers in the army’s headquarters at Linz, so his personal concerns had momentarily overridden his duty.

When he unsealed the letter, he discovered nothing but a short message:

Come to Vienna at once. The Turks have taken Baghdad.


Drugeth rose and strode to the door, moving so quickly that a servant barely opened the door in time. “My horse!” he bellowed.

Noelle would have to wait. For the first time in his life, Janos Drugeth found himself in the preposterous position of hoping that a notorious malcontent like Richter was indeed a capable military commander. Such was the strange world produced by the Ring of Fire.

Bamberg, capital of the State of Thuringia-Franconia

Ed Piazza still hadn’t gotten used to down-time desks. The blasted things were tiny — what he thought of as a lady’s writing desk, not the reasonably-sized pieces of furniture that a man could use to get some work done. For about the hundredth time since he’d moved to Bamberg — no, make that the thousandth time — he found himself wishing he still had the desk from his study in Grantville.

Unfortunately, when he and Annabelle sold their house they’d sold all the furniture with it. And when Ed had inquired as to whether the down-timer who’d bought the house might be willing to let him have the desk back, the answer had been an unequivocal “no.” The new owner was a young nobleman with a nice income and a firm conviction that literary greatness would soon be his — especially with the help of such a magnificently expansive desk to work on.

True enough, Ed and Annabelle had gotten a small fortune for their house. Real estate prices in Grantville were now astronomical. With a small portion of that money he could easily afford to have the sort of desk he wanted custom-made for him — and, indeed, he’d commissioned the work quite a while ago. Alas, down-time furniture makers in Bamberg were artisans. Medieval artisans, from what Ed could tell, for whom timely delivery of a commissioned work came a very long way second to craftsmanship. They seemed to measure time in feast days, nones and matins, not workdays, hours and minutes.

So, he suffered at his miniature desk. At least it was the modern style, by seventeenth century values of “modern.” That meant he could sit at it, instead of standing at the more traditional lectern type of desk.

A good thing, too, given how long today’s meeting had gone on. The only people Ed had ever encountered who rivaled theologians disputing fine points of doctrine were soldiers wrangling over fine points of logistics.

“The gist of it,” he said, trying not to sound impatient, “is that you’re confident you can supply our soldiers in the event we have to send them down to the Oberpfalz.”

He almost burst into laughter, seeing the expressions on the faces of the three officers in the room. Horror combined with outrage, muted by the need to keep a civilian superior from realizing his military commanders thought he was a nincompoop. Much the sort of look he saw on the faces of his son and daughter whenever he made so bold as to advise them on matters of teenage protocol.

Naturally, as with his children, the reaction was due to the precise formulation of his statement rather than the content of the statement itself.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to use the term ‘confident,’ sir,” demurred Major Tom Simpson.

“Indeed not,” concurred his immediate superior, Colonel Friedrich Engels.

The third officer present was General Heinrich Schmidt. “We do not lack confidence, certainly, but I think it would be more accurate to say that we are reasonably assured of the matter,” was his judicious contribution.

Theologians, soldiers and teenagers — who would have guessed they shared such a close kinship? But Ed Piazza kept the observation to himself. Taken each on his own, all three of the officers in the room had good senses of humor. But they were quite young for their ranks and in the case of two of them, Schmidt and Engels, newly promoted to boot. Like Ed’s son and daughter, they would be hyper-sensitive to anything that sounded like criticism coming from him, especially if it sounded derisive or sarcastic.

Besides, it didn’t matter. Stripped of their fussiness over terminology, it was clear that the three officers were… call it “relaxed,” that they could keep their troops provisioned in case war with Bavaria broke out again in the Upper Palatinate.

That was really all that Ed cared about. Like many able-bodied West Virginia males of his generation, he was a Vietnam veteran. He’d seen a fair amount of combat too, since he’d been in the 25th Infantry Division and had taken part in the Cambodia incursion in 1970. But he’d been an enlisted man swept up by the draft, with no more interest in military affairs than he needed to stay alive and get back home. Now in his mid-fifties with the adult life experience of someone who’d worked in education, he made no pretense of being able to second-guess his commanding officers, much less be a backseat driver.

If they said they were “reasonably assured” of their preparedness, that was good enough for him.