1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 51
A rugged people
The first thing Eric Krenz sensed of the dawn was Tata’s snoring. It wasn’t a loud sound, just a soft and quite feminine snuffling. He found it rather attractive, actually. Granted, his viewpoint was heavily biased by his second sensation, which was the feel of her nude body plastered to his own under the heavy blankets.
Oh, what a splendid night had just passed! He opened his eyes and gave the ceiling no more than a glance. The window, likewise. The sun was starting to rise. He’d seen a lot of sunrises. Nothing of any great interest there. Not whenâ€¦
He muzzled the back of Tata’s neck. His hands began exploring. More precisely, returned to places already explored. Quite thoroughly, in fact.
Tata began stirring in response. Oh, what a splendid morning had just begun!
The sound of cannon fire erupted in the distance.
Tata sat up, as abruptly as a jack-in-the-box popping out. “It’s started!”
She turned and gave Eric a shove. “Up! Up! You have to get out there!”
“Now!” Alas, Tata was in full dominatrix mode. The Tavern Keeper’s Daughter Rampant.
Or the Barmaid On Steroids, as Friedrich Nagel liked to call her. He’d had to explain the up-time reference to Krenz. As it turned out, the lieutenant was planning to become a pharmacist after the war. He’d had to explain that term to Eric, as well. There was no such thing as a “pharmacist” in the year 1635, outside of a handful of Americans. A lot of apothecaries, to be sure, but apothecaries were usually hostile to the new methods and concepts emanating from Grantville.
“Get up, Eric! This is no time for dawdling! The Swedes are attacking!”
“They’re just starting a barrage,” he grumbled. His hands clutched the bedding in a last-ditch effort to stay in paradise. “This’ll go on for weeks. Weeks, Tata.”
“Up! Up! Up!” She swiveled in the bed, planted her feet on Eric’s back and buttocks, and thrust mightily. Tata was short, but quite strong. Eric flew out of the bed onto the floor.
He was in a cheerier mood a few minutes later, though. As she bustled him out the door, Tata said: “You may as well move your things in here as soon as you get a chance. That’ll give Friedrich some privacy.”
She made those statements with the same assertiveness that Tata made most statements. The woman was bossy, there was no doubt about it. On the other hand, Eric didn’t really mind being bossed around by Tata; not, at least, when he considered the side benefits. She was just as assertive in bed and very affectionate.
So. If all went well and the damn Swedes didn’t get overly rambunctious, tonight would be paradise regained.
Tata lived in one of the many small apartments in the Residenzschloss that had formerly been used by servants. At the end of the corridor leading from her apartment, Eric turned right as he usually did to get to the tower that gave the best view of the city. But before he could take more than two steps, Tata had him by the scruff of the neck and was dragging him the other way.
“No, you don’t! No sightseeing today! You have to get out on the battlements!”
“Why?” he demanded. “I can see what’s happening better from the tower.”
“The troops need to see you on the battlements. It’s important, Eric. You’re one of the commanding officers.”
He shrugged off her clutching hand but didn’t try to alter their course. “Don’t call them ‘battlements,'” he said. “The term’s silly. This isn’t a medieval castle with arrow slits.”
“Fine, fine. Fortified things. Whatever makes you happy. As long as you move faster.”
She picked up the pace, forcing him to do likewise.
“The only thing the walls of a star fort have in common with ancient battlements is that they’re both freezing in January,” he grumbled. “Whereas the tower — which gives a commanding officer a far better view of the field — has a fireplace inside.”
“Stop whining. The men have to be cold, don’t they? You have to share their trials.”
“Not my fault they’re unambitious slackers.”
“Ha!” She gave him a glance that was half-irritated and half-affectionate. Eric got a lot of those looks from her. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a man with less ambition than you have. You just stumble into things.”
That was true enough, Eric admitted to himself. He’d certainly never planned to become an officer!
He retraced the steps of his life, as they moved through the huge palace toward the entrance. He’d started as a gunsmith’s apprentice after he finished his schooling, simply because that was the family trade. He’d found the work quite fascinating, though; not so much because he had any particular interest in guns but because he enjoyed the intricate craftsmanship involved.
He liked mechanical things. He’d found the same interest in the equipment he’d maintained once he joined the army. At first, anyway, when he’d been an enlisted man in the artillery. He’d had many fewer opportunities to do mechanical work once he became an officer.
And why had he done that? He tried to remember.
They reached the entrance and went outside. Immediately, the cold clamped down.
“January!” Eric hissed. “The ugliest word in the language.”
They started slogging through the snow toward the fortifications. Well, “slogging” was mostly Eric’s disgruntled mood at work. In truth, there was less than two inches of snow on the ground, hardly enough to impede their progress to any noticeable degree.
Oh, yes. As an officer, Eric had found it possible to enroll in the new college the army had set up. That had been the factor that tipped his decision to accept a commission. With his own resources, Krenz couldn’t have afford to attend a college or university.
Eventually, he’d heard from one of the college’s instructors, Torstensson planned to turn it into a full-fledged military academy — the first such created in the world. Their world, at least. It would be patterned after institutions in the world the Americans came from. Places with names like West Point, Sandhurst and Saint-Cyr.
In the meantime, though, it had been a fairly modest sort of school. For one thing, it only gave two years of instruction. Jeff Higgins had told him it was the equivalent of what up-timers called a “junior” or “community” college. But it was better than any other educational option available at the time.