1637 – The Polish Maelstrom – Snippet 07

And if Wallenstein was also involved, even if only at the level of providing funds through the back door…

Yes. Roth could afford to employ an experienced general and a regiment of cavalry, even on the munificent terms he was offering.

“Done,” he said. “Where do you want me to take my troops? And by what date, and by what route?”

“As to where, Brno. Wallenstein–Roth is in charge of it–has launched an armaments industry there, so it seems a good place to station your regiment. Especially since Brno is in Moravia, not Bohemia, which should reassure Emperor Ferdinand that you are not a threat to Austria.”

“It’s not far from the Moravian Gate, either,” observed von Mercy.

“No, it isn’t,” said Uriel, smiling. The Moravian Gate was the great pass between the Carpathian and Sudetes mountains that allowed easy access into Poland and the lands beyond,

“As to when…” Uriel shrugged. “There is really no great hurry. Two months from now would be ideal, but three months would be acceptable if you need that much time.”

He made a little grimace. “The tricky question is by what route, of course. Given the unfortunate state of hostilities between Austria and Bohemia.”

He glanced at Piccolomini.

“I’m afraid not,” said the Florentine officer. “To allow Franz and his troops to pass directly from Austria into Bohemia would be just that little too blatant and obvious. So I’m afraid he’ll have to take the longer route.”

“That’s time-consuming but not difficult,” said von Mercy. “Provided I’m given free passage through the USE. I’ll need to pass through the whole of the Oberpfalz and enter Bohemia at Cheb.”

Uriel’s good cheer was back in full force. “Not a problem.”

Piccolomini and von Mercy both gave him skeptical looks.

“Johan Banér’s in command of the USE army in the Oberpfalz,” pointed out Piccolomini.

“And he is, by all accounts,” added Franz, “choleric to the point of lunacy.”

“Banér.” Abrabanel spoke the word much the way he might have named an insect. “Merely a general. Meaning no offense. Did I mention that my niece dotes upon me? And she, in turn, is doted upon by her husband?”

After a bit, his grin was met with two smiles.

“Well, then,” said Piccolomini. “All seems to be well.”

November, 1634

Prague, capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia

“You look tired, Melissa,” said Judith Roth. She gestured to a luxurious divan in the great salon of the Roth mansion. “Please, have a seat.”

Melissa Mailey went over to the divan, hobbling a little from the effects of the ten-day journey from Grantville, and plopped herself down. Her companion James Nichols remained standing, after giving the couch no more than a quick glance. Instead, his hands on his hips, he swiveled slowly and considered the entire room.

Then, whistled admiringly. “You’ve certainly come up in the world, folks.”

Judith smiled. Her husband Morris looked somewhat embarrassed. “Hey, look,” he said, “it wasn’t really my idea.”

“That’s it,” scoffed his wife. “Blame the woman.”

The defensive expression on Morris’ face deepened. “I didn’t mean it that way. It’s just…”

The gesture that accompanied the last two words was about as feeble as the words themselves.

“The situation,” he concluded lamely.

Nichols grinned at him. “Morris, relax. I understand the realities, what with your being not only one of the king of Bohemia’s closest advisers but also what amounts to the informal secular prince of Prague’s Jewry. Of at least half the Jews in eastern Europe, actually, from what Balthazar Abrabanel told us.”

Looking a bit less exhausted, Melissa finally took the time to appraise the room. And some more time, appraising Morris’ very fancy-looking seventeenth-century apparel.

Then, she whistled herself.

Et tu, Brutus?” Morris grumbled.

“Quit complaining,” Melissa said. “You asked us to come here, remember? With ‘Urgent!’ and ‘Desp’rate Need!’ oozing from every line of your letter.”

“Asked you,” qualified Nichols. “Me, he just wanted to come here to give some advice to his fledgling medical faculty at his fancy new university. I’m just a country doctor.”

“From Chicago,” Melissa jeered. “South side, to boot–which has about as much open land as Manhattan.”

James grinned again. “You’d be surprised how much open land there is in Chicago’s south side. Vacant lots, I’ll grant you. Nary a crop to be seen anywhere except the stuff handed out by drug dealers, none of which was actually grown there. My point remains. I’m here in Prague as a modest medical adviser. I’m not the one who just landed a prestigious position at Jena University as their new–and only–‘professor of political science.’ I’m not the one Morris asked to come here to explain to him how to haul Eastern Europe kicking and screaming into the modern world.”

Melissa made a face. “My knowledge of eastern European history is pretty general. But… I’d say your best bet to hook up with whatever revolutionaries you can find. There’s got to be some. Poland produced almost as many radicals and revolutionaries over the centuries as it did grain and layabout noblemen. For that matter, the nobility itself produced a fair number of them. Remember Count Casimir Pulaski, in the American revolution?”

James looked startled. “Is that who Pulaski Boulevard in Chicago is named after?”

“Doctors,” scoffed Melissa. “Talk about a self-absorbed class of people. Yes, dear, that is who one of your home town’s main streets is named after. But don’t get a swelled head about it. There must be a thousand Pulaski streets or avenues or boulevards in the United States, in just about as many towns.”

“How the hell am I supposed to find Polish revolutionaries?” demanded Morris. “I’m a jeweler. Fine, my family came from Krakow. That’s ancient history.”

“We’re in ancient history,” said Melissa. “Start with Red Sybolt. He’s an old friend of yours and he’s been a labor agitator for years. By now, if he hasn’t run across some wild-eyed Polish rebels, I’ll be surprised. Plant Red in a desert island in the middle of the Pacific, and he’d somehow manage to rouse a rabble.”

Morris chuckled. “Well, that’s true. Of course, first I’d have to track him down. He hasn’t been in Prague for months.”

“That’s a manageable problem. Somebody will know where he is. Moving right along, you need to get Uriel Abrabanel–remember him? He works for you already–to start investigating the chances of cutting a deal with the Austrians. Now that that bigoted bastard Ferdinand II died, we’re dealing with a new emperor in Vienna. He’s a lot more capable than his father, by all accounts.”

“Yes, we’ve heard that,” said Judith. “He’s not narrow-minded, the way his father was–and his sister Maria Anna just turned half of Europe upside down thinking for herself.”

Morris scratched his jaw. “‘More capable’ could be bad as well as good, y’know. Still, it’s worth looking into. In fact, if I know Uriel, he’s already started.” He eyed Melissa skeptically. “And how many more rabbits do you want me to pull out of a hat?”

“Well, here’s one,” said Melissa. “See if you can make an accommodation with the Cossacks. You’d have to find a suitable emissary, of course.”

Morris’ eyes widened. “Cossacks? For God’s sake, Melissa! They’re the same murderous bastards who led the Chmielnicki Pogrom–which is named after their leader–in the first place! Not to mention such minor accomplishments as the pogroms at Kiev and Kishinev.” His face grew hard. “Or the massacres carried out in the Ukraine during the Russian civil war by the counter-revolutionary armies, half of which were made up of Cossacks or their hangers-on. The stinking swine murdered something like fifty thousand Jews before the Red Army put a stop to it. Fuck the Cossacks. Every one of them can rot in hell, as far as I’m concerned.”

“I’m with Morris,” said Nichols stoutly.

“Stick to doctoring,” sniffed Melissa. “See if you can come up with a cure for excess testosterone, while you’re at it.” To Morris she said: “You’re being childish, to be blunt. How is dealing with Cossacks in the here and now any different from what Mike Stearns has been doing with Germans? Compared to what they did to Jews in the Holocaust, the Cossacks are nothing.”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“But what? Since when did you start believing in racial destiny, Morris? Nazi Germany was the product of centuries of history. Change the history, like Mike is doing, and you eliminate them before they even appear. So why can’t you do the same with the Cossacks?”