1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 24

“I know, Metropolitan. Even so, a lot of the converts were happy enough to switch back as soon as the threat of exile was removed.”

“So I heard.”

“Another point is the fact of the Ring of Fire,” Father Kiril said. “I’ve known Bernie for years, since he first came to Russia. He is a good man, even if he isn’t of the Russian Orthodox Church. But the fact of the Ring of Fire seems to me to indicate that the particular way you pray may be less important to the Lord God than we had assumed.”

“Even to Muslims and pagans?”

“Bernie is not a Christian. He was an agnostic, if not an outright atheist, before the Ring of Fire. In the aftermath of the Ring of Fire, he was very angry with God for putting him here, where the medicines that kept his mother alive were no longer available. Over the years, he has mellowed, even acknowledged that he is of greater use here than he would have been up-time. But he isn’t a member of the church. And that doesn’t prevent him from being of great use to Russia and all her people.”

“Yes, the Ring of Fire. We all must deal with its blessings and confusions.”

They talked more about the specifics of the situation, and finally Kiril said, “You know, if you were patriarch of Russia, you could have much greater influence.”

“Czar Mikhail appointed Joseph Kurtsevich, the former archbishop of Suzdal as patriarch last year,” Metropolitan Matthew said, sounding disgusted.

“No. Actually, Sheremetev appointed Kurtsevich. Czar Mikhail wasn’t consulted on the matter.”

“And you’re offering to buy me with the patriarch’s crown?”

“No. But neither is he going to give that crown to someone who will abuse it.” As Sheremetev did hung in the air between them.

“I’ll consider it,” Metropolitan Matthew said.

That pretty much ended the meeting. Father Kiril said his goodbyes and walked back down to the river where he boarded the riverboat back to Kazan.

It took a few more days, but Metropolitan Matthew declared for Czar Mikhail and influenced the garrison at Sviyazhsk to accept Czar Mikhail as the true and legitimate czar. This was helped by the fact that there was a picture of Mikhail on the money. It was hard to declare him a false Mikhail, because there were pictures of him on each paper bill in Russia and they had been in circulation for years now. Sheremetev could declare him “under influence” but he couldn’t make the notion that Mikhail wasn’t the real czar stick.


August 1636

Prince Daniil Ivanovich Dolgorukov sat in the duma and listened to Sheremetev make plans. It had been a harrowing two months. Four members of the duma had been executed for treason, and eight forcibly tonsured since Mikhail had escaped. For a body that only had twenty-eight members, that was a massive amount. The executed and tonsured had fallen into two categories: those most personally loyal to Czar Mikhail, and those with the closest ties to the Gorchakov Dacha. Czar Mikhail’s uncle, Ivan Nikitich Romanov, had sided with Sheremetev.

Which, Daniil thought, made quite a bit of sense. Ivan Nikitich hadn’t received a single post since Mikhail had been elected. Now he was in charge of the embassy bureau, which had control of the Dacha and the Grantville desk. The army was finally assembled. It had taken a month of purges and another of reorganization, but a cavalry force of twenty thousand was assembled outside of Moscow, with a contingent of streltzi almost as strong, and twenty of the new breech-loading rifled cannon.

Prince Semen Vasilievich Prozorovskii raised a hand. “I’m concerned about the Poles. I know that they are busy with the Swedes, but the opportunity we offer them by taking so many of our soldiers east . . .”

Director-General Sheremetev waved for attention. “I have an arrangement with the magnates of Lithuania and the Sjem will not vote to go to war with us.”

“What did you have to give them to get that assurance?” Prince Ivan Ivanovich Odoevskii asked angrily. Which, Daniil thought, was quite brave and rather foolish. Director-General Sheremetev didn’t go out of his way to encourage free and open debate.

“Not much,” Sheremetev said coldly. “They are busy enough dealing with the Swede.” Then, apparently relenting a little, he added, “Mostly simply a promise not to invest Smolensk or attack Poland. That will free up their forces to face the Swede to the west and the Cossacks to the south.”

Daniil considered. It might work, or it might not. Mostly because the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth wasn’t one nation, or even two. It was a loose alliance between a dozen or so magnates who were each effectively independent monarchs of their territory. So the Director-General’s plan would probably work fine for the PLC as a whole. But any magnate he had failed to adequately bribe might decide to take the opportunity to bite off a chunk of Russia . . . and there weren’t that many chunks between Smolensk and Moscow. Daniil found himself wondering if perhaps he should have wrangled a post in the army, just to get away.

Army Camp, Outside Moscow

Ivan Vasilevich Birkin was wondering the same thing, from the other end. He had been at Rzhev. In fact, he had been part of the cavalry that got slaughtered by the damn Poles at Rzhev. He had been lucky enough to have his horse shot out from under him and had ended up in command of what was left of the cavalry after they got decimated. He had a healthy respect for the effects of technology on warfare and was much less confident in the belief that cavalry was king than he once had been. Yet, here he was. In command of an army that was better than fifty percent cavalry. They had riverboats, even steamboats, but just in support to ferry supplies. The army would be marching across Russia. Eight hundred miles from Moscow to Ufa. . . . He would be lucky if he got there before November, and if he didn’t he would have to stop and wait for the rivers to freeze. That would delay any attack till January. It would also mean that his army would be in the field in the worst time of the year. That worst time wasn’t winter. Russians knew how to deal with winter. The deadly times were the quagmire seasons, the rasputitsa in spring and autumn, when the world was made of mud.

“What do you think?” asked Iakov Petrovich Birkin, his cousin and second in command. “Shall we spank little Timmy for his effrontery?”

“Probably. I know that the boy was in trouble with General Izmailov after the battle at Rzhev, but I didn’t get the details. On the other hand, he was the general’s fair-haired boy up to then.”

“Who cares? He’s only . . . nineteen, isn’t it . . . and he has almost no real experience. He spent all his time playing games in the Kremlin.”

General Prince Ivan Vasilevich Birkin didn’t say anything. He had said similar things and believed them himself. He still believed them. The war games that the up-timers Bernie and Cass had introduced to the generals at the Kremlin were just that, games. They had nothing to do with facing sword and shot in a real battle. They were at best exercises, and at worst the sort of foolishness that made every idiot clerk think he was the equal of a soldier. But General Shein had doted on the things for some reason. And if Shein was under a cloud for his political position, he was still an excellent general. And General Izmailov had been frankly brilliant in his siege of Rzhev and in the final battle where they had taken the place. All in all, it was a lot easier to criticize the antics of people like that when you didn’t have an army to command. He tried to shake off the mood. “How are we set for chambers?”

“Well, cousin, the gun shop has been delivering more since Lowry died. It’s certain that he was diverting much of the output to his purse. I had a little talk with Andrei Korisov and made it clear that if we didn’t get what we needed, we would be testing our rifles on him.”

“What about the cannon?”

“Not so good. He insists that until he gets better steel, he will have to make the breech blocks heavy to compensate for the weakness.” Iakov Petrovich grimaced. “He’s probably right, anyway.”

The army had twelve rifled twelve-pounders. They were breech-loading but the breeches weighed too much for easy, or rapid, reloading. On the other hand, the carriages were excellent, so he didn’t expect the cannon to slow him that much. Not in comparison to the streltzi infantry that would be coming with the army. “All right, then. We have our orders from the Director-General. We march next week.”

Besides, Ivan Vasilevich told himself, Czar Mikhail and his boy general had had to leave their entire industrial base at the Dacha and Murom. He wouldn’t be facing breech-loading cannon. Half of Little Timmy’s army would be carrying bows and arrows, and the rest mostly muzzle-loading matchlocks.

“Yes, cousin. What about Andrei Fefilatevich Danilov’s riverboat scheme?”

“Let him try it. If he can knock Little Timmy out of Kazan before we get there, so much the better.”