1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 08
“Actually, it’s a fairly reasonable position,” Maximillian said after looking over the letter. “Both for us and for the lenders. Should the emperor win and the lands be restored to us, the debt is good. Should Wallenstein win, Karl can be sued to make good the loan. It gets the emperor the money he wants from us — at least part of it. And keeps Karl in the good graces of Wallenstein because he isn’t giving the money to the emperor, just authorizing us to borrow money on his lands to support the family. It’s not his fault what we do with it.”
“And the faith, brother? What of the faith?”
“Gundaker, Karl is living in a miracle,” Maximillian said.
“Possibly a miracle,” Gundaker corrected. “It could well be something less benign.”
“Agreed. I don’t know what it means and apparently Holy Mother Church hasn’t decided yet. Though, considering that the pope has made the up-timer priest a cardinal, it is leaning toward approval. In any case, as to God’s will, Karl is, quite possibly, sitting right next to it. We must trust him, for now at least.”
In the years after the Ring of Fire, the nobility of the Holy Roman Empire had a great deal to adjust to. First, of course, was the Ring of Fire and the up-timers and their support of Gustav II Adolf. Then there was King Albrecht Wallenstein — who was assassinated in the original timeline. In the new timeline, he avoided assassination and carved a great big chunk out of the Holy Roman Empire to make his own kingdom. Specifically, he took Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. Before King Albrecht, the Bohemian crown was held by Ferdinand II, who still claimed that crown. This put a whole lot of nobles in a somewhat touchy political position. A position made even touchier by the fact that a number of those nobles were residing in Vienna under the eyes of one claimant, while their lands were under the guns of the other claimant.
Royal Chambers, Prague, Bohemia
“It seems a perfectly reasonable proposal to me,” Morris Roth looking up from the letter. He handed the letter back to the clerk.
“It seems an excellent way to move massive numbers of Austrian troops and their supplies into Silesia to attack us from the east,” said Pappenheim.
King Albrecht, propped up with pillows, wasn’t so sure. He knew that the railroads had been used in future wars to move men and materials at incredible speeds, but he also realized that they were a weak point in any transport system. Something about Sherman’s Bowties. “What were ‘Sherman’s Bowties’?” he asked.
Morris Roth looked blank for a minute. “Oh, yes. It was the American Civil War. Sherman, a Union general, would heat rails on a bonfire till they were red hot, then wrap them around a tree like a bow tie.” He paused for a moment. “I don’t want to get sidetracked into a discussion of up-time fashions, especially since I think the bow tie is perhaps the silliest piece of male attire ever invented.”
“Worse than the cod piece?” King Albrecht felt a smile crease his face as he recalled some of the French codpieces he had seen.
“Well, maybe the cod piece has them beat, but then again, maybe not. But, never mind that. Heating and bending the rails around a tree made them useless.”
“But these proposed rails are to be wooden?” Pappenheim asked.
“So you use them in the bonfire,” Morris said. “They can’t run a train on ash any more than on Sherman’s Bowties.”
“If you realize what’s happening in time,” Pappenheim said. “I don’t doubt that railroads can be disabled, but at the same time I can readily see them making the initial blow in a war decisive.”
King Albrecht looked over to Morris, who shrugged. “I am not a military expert, Your Majesty. But, financially, such a rail system would be of great benefit to Bohemia.”
“All of Bohemia or just Silesia?”
“There would be some benefit to the rest of the kingdom, but mostly to Silesia,” Morris acknowledged. “But if the railroads follow a consistent gauge, then a rail line from Prague to Opole would let us trade with the Danube and the Baltic with much of the expense being borne by Liechtenstein.”
“And us paying Liechtenstein fares on every pound,” Pappenheim said. “That family is famous for the advantage they take.”
King Albrecht considered. He had been both friends and enemies with the Liechtenstein family over the years. And what Pappenheim said was as true of him as it was of them, even more so. He had, after all, gained a kingdom. But perhaps it was time to be friends with them again, or at least with young Karl.
For now. But not for free.
“I think I’ll insist that young Karl come to talk over the project personally,” King Albrecht said. “And while he is here, he can swear fealty to me. I think we have let the boy sit on the fence long enough.”
The Hofburg Palace
Prince Ferdinand was even less sure than King Albrecht. Having a couple of up-timers to take care of his car and consult on matters of up-time techniques was one thing. Having one wandering around the kingdom making maps was something else. But he figured there were enough down-time spies running around that one or two up-time ones wouldn’t matter. More importantly, he was unsure how the railroad would pan out in terms of generating wealth. Would it make Austria richer or Wallenstein richer? Both, he was advised, was the most likely answer, but he didn’t find that overly helpful.
He managed to keep Karl’s letter from coming to the attention of his dying father. He had no desire to explain to his emperor that he was recruiting up-timers. And he really didn’t want to discuss with his father how the Sanderlins and Fortneys had been recruited by his agents in the first place, with Karl Liechtenstein grafting his job onto the group. The emperor, his father, didn’t need his thoughts troubled and Prince Ferdinand didn’t need the argument.
But it took a few weeks for all the mail to make its way across Europe. And in the meantime, Judy the Younger Wendell had moved into the Higgins Hotel and her parents and sister were getting ready to move to Magdeburg.