1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 41

She hadn’t said so, but Ernst was quite sure that it had been Richter herself who saw to it that the rural folk had plenty of representation on the new Committee. She’d understood that Dresden had to have the support of the surrounding countryside — all of Saxony, not just the city itself — if it was to withstand a siege by an army the strength of Banér’s. And that same support would be a constant drain on the besiegers.

Regardless of who sat on the Committee, the driving will was Richter’s. She made even the notoriously harsh Georg Kresse seem soft, once she’d decided on a course of action. The woman had always been polite and pleasant in her dealings with him, but Ernst had not fooled himself. Beneath that attractive surface lay a granite mind; as unyielding as the Alps and as ruthless as an avalanche.

They had no idea what they were unleashing, those idiots in Berlin. They dreamed of another bloodbath like the one that had drowned the rebellion during the Peasant War, that would once again restore their power and privileges. But even that slaughter had only stemmed the tide for a century.

What was a century? Nothing, if a man was capable of stepping back and measuring human affairs by a yardstick longer than his own life — and what was a life? Also nothing, if a man was capable of stepping back and measuring his soul against eternity.

But… they listened to those parsons they chose to listen to. The ones who assured them that the Almighty who created the sun and the moon and the heavens favored the wealthy and powerful — never mind what the Christ said — and would approve of their butchery. The God who filled oceans would gaze with favor upon the men who filled abattoirs.

Idiots, now; greater idiots still, when they faced judgment.

For butchery it would have to be. Richter would not yield, and neither would her followers — who now included hundreds of soldiers from the regular army’s Third Division. Whose commander had somehow forgotten them.

That would be Mike Stearns. The same man whom Ernst’s brother had once described, half-angrily and half-admiringly, with the up-time expression “he’s got a mind like a steel trap.”

That would be his brother Wilhelm, now one of the idiots in Berlin. What had happened to him? How and when had he lost his judgment and his good sense?

What did Wilhelm think would happen when those soldiers in Dresden came under fire from a Swedish army? Did he — did that still greater idiot Oxenstierna — think Stearns would remain obediently in Bohemia?

For a time, maybe. Probably, in fact. In his own way, Stearns was every bit as ruthless as Richter. He was quite capable of biding his time while the defenders of Dresden bled Banér’s army — and von Arnim’s too, if he ventured out of Leipzig.

But sooner or later, he would be back. Leading the same soldiers who defeated the Poles at Zwenkau and Zielona Góra, and now had their comrades threatened by Banér. Did they think those soldiers would refuse to follow Stearns?

Were they mad?

And what did they think Torstensson would do with the rest of the USE army? At best, he would hold them in Poland, out of the fray — because if they joined that fray, they would certainly not join it on behalf of Oxenstierna.

The whole nation would dissolve into civil war. There was no way of knowing in advance who would win, but if Ernst had been a gambling man — which he most certainly was not — he would not have placed his wager on Berlin.

There was a blindness that came with power, if the man who wielded it was not careful. One got accustomed to obedience, to having one’s will enforced. The idea that it could be thwarted — certainly by a wretch who’d been no more than a printer’s daughter and a near-prostitute — faded into the shadows. Became unthinkable, even. The practical realities of power transmuted as if by a philosopher’s stone into a self-evident law of nature.

I am mighty because I am, and therefore always will be.

He sighed, shook his head, and returned to his desk. Sitting down, he pulled some sheets of paper from a drawer and took out his pen.

No miserable quill pen, this. He only used those for public display. This was an up-time fountain pen, which he’d purchased in Grantville. The type that could be continually refilled, not the much cheaper kind that had to be thrown away after a while. He’d had it for two years now, and adored the thing. It was worth every dollar — the very many dollars — he’d spent on it.

Later, he’d write to his brother Wilhelm. That letter would be useless anyway, since Wilhelm had made it quite clear he was no longer listening. Ernst would write it purely out of a sense of family obligation.

The letter he would write first would be equally useless, of course, if you looked at it solely in terms of its immediate effect. But Ernst was not one of those idiots who confused days with months and years with centuries.

He would give no legitimacy to this madness. Come what may, to him as well as the city. He also did not confuse a life with eternity.

He did not bother with the customary salutations. Under the circumstances, flowery prose was just silly.

General Johan Banér —

I remind you that I am the administrator of Saxony. The appointment was given to me directly by Gustav II Adolf, Emperor of the United States of Europe, and has not been rescinded by him.

Dresden is in good order. There is neither cause nor justification for your army to enter the city. I therefore order you to keep a distance of fifteen miles, lest your presence provoke disturbances.

Ernst Wettin, Administrator of Saxony, Duke of Saxe-Weimar