1637 – The Polish Maelstrom – Snippet 16

She could hear the clatter of horses–quite few of them–arriving in the square below, but they were out of sight of the window she was standing at. Some large party had arrived in Breslau, apparently. She wondered who it might be, since she knew of no delegation scheduled to appear today.

Bur she’d find out soon enough, when they were ushered into this chamber. In times past, she would probably have gone downstairs to see for herself. Today?–as pregnant as she was? No, thank you. Let others do the stair-climbing.

She turned away from the window and went back to her study of the map. Krenz and Wojtowicz and Opalinski were still gathered around the table.

“So what do you think?” she asked. “Can we defend all of Lower Silesia with the forces we have?”

Krenz shook his head. “Not without help from Roth’s Bohemian troops. And those will come at a price.”

Eric was talking about a political price, not a monetary one. Morris Roth had assembled an army in Brno for Wallenstein–King Venceslas V Adalbertus of Bohemia as he was formally and officially called, but he preferred his close advisers and confidants to keep using the name he’d gone by most of his life. Wallenstein had put Roth in charge of conquering as much territory to the east as he could. Most of that territory would come from the Ruthenian lands controlled by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth–the area that in a future world would be known as Ukraine–but at least some of it would have to consist of portions of southern Poland. Between those portions and the northern part of Royal Hungary, which Wallenstein had already obtained through the recent treaty he’d made with Austria, he’d have a corridor connecting Bohemia and Moravia to Ruthenia.

In short, if Roth brought his army to assist Lower Silesia, he’d insist on getting something in return.

Gretchen now looked at Lukasz and Jozef. “How much of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s territory can we let him have without stirring up too much resentment among Poles? Commoners, I’m talking about, not szlachta and certainly not magnates. I don’t care what they think.” She waggled her hand. “The upper ranks of the szlachta, anyway.”

The szlachta was Poland’s nobility. It constituted about ten percent of Poland’s population, a much higher percentage than the aristocracy of most European realms. Despite their prestigious social status, the majority of the szlachta were not much, if any, richer than their peasant neighbors.

Lukasz planted a big forefinger on a part of the map. “As long as Roth stays south of the Vistula River and, if he gets that far, south and west of the Dniester, his quarrel will only be with the magnates. The population is mostly not Polish. But it’s very important that he make no attempt to seize Krakow.”

“Why?” asked Krenz. “From what I’ve heard, most of the people living in Krakow these days are either German or Jewish.”

Jozef shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. Lukasz is right. There’s no city in Poland that has more sentimental importance. It’s still the official capital of Poland, you know, even if the real capital has been in Warsaw for the past few decades. And Poland’s oldest and most famous university is there: Jagiellonian University, founded by Casimir the Great almost three centuries ago. If Roth tries to take Krakow he’ll stir up a hornets’ nest.”

“Don’t worry about it,” piped up Denise Beasley. She didn’t bother looking up from her book. “I know Morris Roth. He’s as shrewd as they come. He won’t do anything stupid.”

“I know the man also,” said Gretchen. “From my time in Grantville, before he and his wife Judith moved to Prague. As Denise says, he’s a sensible man.”

Her attention was distracted again, this time by the sounds of voices coming from below. Several voices; but they were simply engaged in discussion, not shouting. She couldn’t make out the words, but it was obvious that the guards weren’t challenging their credentials. The party she’d heard arriving at the town hall would be on their way up soon.

“We’re about to be interrupted,” she said. “For the moment, I have one last question. Assuming Roth and his Bohemian forces are here with us, can we then hold all of Lower Silesia?”

“That depends on who attacks us,” said Lukasz. “That there will be an attack is certain. The Polish and Lithuanian powers-that-be can’t just let Silesia go without a struggle. But it’ll make a big difference who comes. If it’s the Polish army, led by Koniecpolski…” He grimaced. “There’ll be no chance we could do more than hold Breslau and maybe Lignitz. But I don’t–”

“There’s no chance at all the king and the Sejm would send Koniecpolski,” said Jozef. He sounded very confident. “The real threat to Poland comes from Torstensson’s two divisions besieging PoznaÅ„. They need the Grand Hetman up there.”

“He’s almost certainly right, Gretchen,” said Lukasz. “It will be an alliance of several magnates.”

“How big an army can they put together?” asked Gretchen?

“Hard to say.” Lukasz looked at Jozef. “I’d guess ten thousand men, all told. You?”

“I think they can put together more than that,” said Jozef. “How many more? That would depend on which magnates are involved and–most importantly–which one of them is in command.” The smile that came to his face was thin and derisive. “Polish and Lithuanian magnates are not exactly famous for their co-operative spirit and self-effacement for the greater good.”

Lukasz barked a laugh. “To put it mildly!”

The sound of boots clattering up the stairs was getting louder.

“Someone’s coming,” announced Eric Krenz. “Who is it?”

“I have no idea,” said Gretchen. She was already rolling up the map as a security precaution. Given the swiftness with which the guards below had let the party pass through, they couldn’t be unfriendly. Still, there was no point letting people see what she and her aides had been studying.

She’d just finished when the door swung open. One of the guards came through first. He was holding a musket but clearly wasn’t expecting to use it.

“Lady Protector,” he announced, “a delegation has arrived from the”–he stumbled over the next words a little–“Galician Democratic Assembly. May I present–”

But he got no further. The first person in the delegation had already passed through the door and needed no introduction.

“Red!” exclaimed Gretchen. “Red Sybolt!”

The up-timer who was, with the possible exception of Melissa Mailey, Grantville’s most notorious political agitator, was grinning widely. “Hey, Gretchen. Long time no see.”

Another man came into the room, followed by two more. These were all clearly down-timers, but Gretchen didn’t know any of them. The fellow in the lead was as big as Lukasz, and like him had blond hair–in fact…

She looked back and forth between Lukasz and the newcomer. “Are you by any chance related?”

Lukasz ignored her. His expression was oddly stiff. “Hello, Krzysztof,” he said.

The newcomer nodded. “Brother. You’re looking well.” But his attention was riveted on Wojtowicz, not Lukasz. “What is he doing here? And why isn’t he manacled?”

Startled, Gretchen looked at Jozef. His expression was even stiffer than Lukasz’s.

“What do you mean?” she asked. Krzysztof glanced quickly from Jozef to her to Lukasz and then back to her.

“My pigheaded younger brother didn’t tell you who Wojtowicz is, did he?” Krzysztof shook his head, in a gesture that somehow managed to combine disapproval with grudging respect. “He’s always been loyal to a fault.”

“They’re friends,” said Eric Krenz. He had a frown on his face and had his hand placed on the pistol at his waist. “Aren’t they?”

“Oh, yes. Best friends since they were little boys. Whenever we visited Koniecpolski on one of his estates, they were inseparable.” He planted his big hands on his hips. “But apparently my brother didn’t tell you what else is true about Josef Wojtowicz. He is Grand Hetman Koniecpolski’s nephew as well as his chief of espionage in the United States of Europe. Very good at it, too, by all accounts. In short, one of your mortal enemies.”

Eric’s pistol came out of the holster. The guard at the door now had his musket at the ready.

Stand down!” Gretchen barked.

Everyone in the room froze, at that commanding voice. Except for Denise Beasley. She was on her feet and racing for the door.

“I knew you were no good!” she yelped. “Wait till I tell Mom! You’re in for it, buddy!”