1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 34

For a moment, she also wished that Ed Piazza were here. But…

Most likely, he wouldn’t be able to help much. The problem was that the most hardcore CoC leaders like Gunther and many of the people around the table — Gretchen Richter too, although she wasn’t present — were suspicious of Americans.

Well… “suspicious” wasn’t really the right term. The CoC hardliners didn’t doubt that most Americans had good intentions. But they viewed the up-timers as squeamish, hesitant, and prone to vacillation.

In a private conversation, Constantin Ableidinger had once said to her: “They led a sheltered life, Rebecca. Study their history. Once they gained their independence, they were only invaded once — and that was two centuries before the Ring of Fire, and it was really just a raid on their coast. In that same stretch of time, at least half a dozen wars and several revolutions were fought on German soil. And that’s not counting everything that came earlier — the Peasant War and all the rest of it.

“They’re good and decent people, by and large, I’ll be the first to say it. And there’s no question that their arrival in the Ring of Fire is what broke everything open. But you just can’t trust them not to flinch and turn aside when the time comes to settle accounts. They’re like a farm boy who gets upset by the sight of blood trying to butcher a hog. They’ll make a bloody, bungled mess of it.”

There was enough truth to his viewpoint to make it hard to argue with. All the more so, because in the four and a half years since the Ring of Fire the Americans had mostly been able to sidestep the problem.

In the first year and a half, to be sure, they’d had to fight off enemies who came right at them — at the Battle of the Crapper, at Jena, at Eisenach and the Wartburg, and the Croat raid on Grantville itself. But those had been simple and straight-forward military clashes, with no political subtleties and complexities involved.

Thereafter, Mike Stearns had always been able to reach a compromise with the king of Sweden that kept the situation reasonably stable. But that was no longer true, and the new situation was completely unlike anything they’d faced before. Either here in the seventeenth century, or in their own world before the Ring of Fire.

How would they react, without Mike Stearns to lead them?

No one really knew.

Rebecca was surprised, therefore, when Constantin Ableidinger spoke up. Unusually for him, he’d been silent thus far in the meeting.

“I’m with Rebecca on this, Gunther.” He matched Achterhof’s hard look with one of his own.

“And stop glaring at me. It’s not my fault you insist on being stupid today. It’s not Rebecca’s fault, either.”

He spent a moment giving everyone at the table that same hard look.

“What is wrong with you people? This is not complicated. If we are seen to be responsible for the coming civil war, then we’ve probably lost it before it even starts.” He jabbed a finger at Matthias Strigel. “You! You need to get out of Magdeburg sometime and travel around the country. You live in a hothouse here. Most of you do.”

Now he jabbed the finger at the Mecklenburger, Charlotte Kienitz. “You too! Spend all your time when you’re not here jabbering with your fellow revolutionaries in the taverns in Schwerin.”

Charlotte didn’t like alcohol, as it happened. But it was true enough that she habituated the capital of Mecklenburg’s radical gathering places whenever she went back home.

Ableidinger now swiveled his finger around the table, as if he were a gunner bringing a cannon to bear.

“That’s the whole trouble!” he boomed. “You spend too much time talking to people who already agree with you and not enough time — no time at all, in the case of some of you! — listening to people out there” — now the finger jabbed at the windows — “who don’t see things the way you do.”

Looked at from one angle, there was something preposterous about Constantin Ableidinger lecturing other people on talking too much and not listening enough. But Rebecca was not about to chide him for it, under the circumstances.

The Franconian leader stood up and went to one of the windows that faced to the west. “This is what will happen if you act too soon.” He stared through the glass for a moment. “First, you give Wettin a lever to force the Hessians to support him — where, if we let him launch the attack, the landgravine will have the excuse she so clearly wants to keep Hesse-Kassel neutral.”

He half-turned, to bestow something very close to a sneer on Achterhof. “You do understand, I hope, why we want Hesse-Kassel to remain neutral, Gunther? We have no chance at all of overthrowing the landgravine — if you don’t believe me, ask her.”

He pointed to Liesel Hahn, a member of Parliament from Hesse-Kassel. Hahn had been looking distinctly unhappy so far in the meeting. Now she nodded her head several times.

“The truth is, she’s pretty popular,” she said. “Even more than her husband Wilhelm was.”

Achterhof looked like he was about to say something, but Constantin drive over him. The Franconian could out-boom just about anybody.

“The last thing we need is to have one of the most powerful provincial armies in the nation fighting on the side of Oxenstierna and Wettin. But it’s not just Hesse-Kassel that’s at stake! Some of the other western provinces are unsteady, and could go either way.”

He stepped away from the window and held up his thumb. “Start with Brunswick, which borders on Magdeburg province. Lucky for us, Brunswick’s ruler is off in Poland with Torstensson, besieging Poznán. Let’s make sure he stays there, shall we? If he does what Torstensson is most likely to do — call down a plague on both houses — then Brunswick also remains neutral. That’s good for us, because we have no more chance of taking power in Brunswick than we do in Hesse-Kassel.”

“What are you talking about?” demanded Albert Bugenhagen. The mayor of Hamburg rose to his own feet and pointed accusingly in the direction of Berlin. “At least half the stinking noblemen — and just about all the hochadel — from Brunswick and Westphalia are in Berlin right now, plotting with Oxenstierna.”

“And there are just as many from my province and the Upper Rhine,” said Anselm Keller. He was a member of Parliament from the Province of the Main.

Now, Constantin sneered openly. “Who cares? The danger doesn’t come from that pack of jackals.”

“Most of them can raise their own armies!” said Bugenhagen.

Ableidinger’s sneer grew more expansive. “‘Armies’ is a bit grandiose, don’t you think? Even the hochadel among them can’t raise more than a few hundred men — and you don’t want to look too closely at them, either. A fair number of those ‘armed retainers’ are sixty years old and missing an arm or an eye. Admit it, Albert — against such as those, our stout CoC contingents will send them packing. Just as we did in Operation Kristallnacht.”

That was a bit of an exaggeration, but it was close enough to the mark that Bugenhagen sat down without pursuing the argument. And while Keller’s jaws were tight, he didn’t contest the matter.