Four Days On The Danube – Snippet 13

Chapter 7

          Hearing the door open, General von Lintelo turned to see who was entering the chamber in Ingolstadt’s Rathaus that he’d seized for his headquarters. To his surprise, the officer coming in was Colonel Caspar von Schnetter. He hadn’t expected him back so soon.

          “Simpson seems to have escaped, sir,” said von Schnetter. “His wife also. The cavalry unit I sent to investigate found all three of the men assigned to that task dead. All of them in or near the door, which had been smashed in. Somehow, the Americans must have gotten a warning.”

          “By their radio?” asked one of the other cavalry officers in the room. That was Major Johann Adam Weyhel von Eckersdörfer, usually known simply as Weyhel.

          Von Lintelo had to put a stop to that immediately. Even the Americans’ enemies — perhaps especially their enemies — had a bad habit of ascribing near-magical powers to the up-timers’ technology.

          “Nonsense,” he said firmly. “The assassins simply bungled, that’s all. What happened to them afterward, Colonel? The American couple, I mean.”

          Von Lintelo already knew the answer to that question. In light of the latest developments, it was quite obvious. But he was a firm believer in the tried and tested method of reminding subordinates of their flaws and shortcomings.

          Von Schnetter hesitated. “Ah… I don’t really know, General. Perhaps…”

          “Again, nonsense!” von Lintelo boomed. “It’s obvious that Simpson manage to rejoin his artillery unit — which would account, of course, for their success in driving off your attack on the barracks.”

          The “your” was a collective pronoun, in this case. Von Schnetter hadn’t been personally in charge of that mission. In point of fact, none of the officers in the room had been assigned to the mission. But they were part of von Lintelo’s staff, the staff had clearly bungled, and since these were the officers present at the moment they would be the ones to receive his chastisement.

          The general, a devout Catholic, did not share the Protestant superstitions about Biblical texts. But there was no denying the wisdom in the Proverbs, one of which was: He that spares his rod hates his son. That applied just as much to subordinate officers as it did to children.

          Von Schnetter flushed a little. But, of course, made no protest. Timon von Lintelo was one of Bavaria’s most prestigious figures, and not just in the military. He was a member of Duke Maximilian’s privy council as well as holding the rank of major general. It was a measure of the duke’s trust that he had placed von Lintelo in charge of retaking Ingolstadt.

          A charge which von Lintelo had not failed, even if his success had a few ragged edges.

          Speaking of which…

          “And where is the artillery unit now, Colonel?”

          “Ah… They seem to have left the city, General.”

          “Escaped you, in other words.”

          Von Schnetter said nothing. After a moment, von Lintelo decided to relent a little. The colonel had not been directly in charge, after all.

          “Never mind, Caspar. What’s done is done.”

          “I could lead a pursuit, sir,” said Johann von Troiberz, one of the cavalry officers present.

          The man’s tone was obsequious. Von Lintelo had no objection to that, but in von Troiberz’s case the fawning habits were tied to a man in whom the general had no great confidence. If he decided to launch a pursuit after the American officer and his artillery company, von Lintelo would give the assignment to Lorenz Münch von Steinach. Colonel Münch was as much of a sycophant as von Troiberz, but he was also a lot more competent.

          But it was a bad idea, to begin with. “They made their escape through the eastern gate, I assume?” he said. The artillery barracks were located very near to it.

          Von Schnetter nodded. “Yes, sir.”

          “In that case” — he looked at von Troiberz — “I have better use for the cavalry. We need to send every cavalry unit available to the north, to Amberg. At first light.”

          Seeing the expressions on the faces of several of his subordinates, von Lintelo sighed loudly with exasperation. “I don’t propose to seize the city, gentlemen. Not now, before we’ve taken Regensburg. But the heirs to the duchy are being held there. They need to be rescued.”

          He nodded toward yet another cavalry officer in the room, Captain Heinrich Benno von Elsenhaim. “Von Elsenhaim has been preparing the mission. All of you cavalry commanders should discuss the details with him. Now, please, there’s no time to lose. Colonel Münch, I’m placing you in charge of the expedition.”

          The cavalrymen began collecting around von Elsenhaim in a corner. The general turned back to von Schnetter. “Are there any other problems I need to be made aware of?”

          “Ah…” Whenever he thought he might have bad news to report, von Schnetter seemed incapable of speaking without that annoying preliminary noise.

          “What is it now, Colonel?” The general made no effort to disguise his irritation. He rarely did, when dealing with subordinates.

          “Nothing specific, sir. But… We don’t have as much control of the troops as I’d like.”

          Von Lintelo stared at him. Von Schnetter had been an officer long enough — more than long enough — to know the realities.

          “Of course we don’t,” he snapped. “They’re in the middle of sacking a city — which, I remind you, I gave them express permission to do if they succeeded in taking Ingolstadt. The legitimate spoils of war.”

          “Yes, I know. But…”

          Another officer came into the chamber. Also an unexpected one — Captain Johann Heinrich von Haslang, whom von Lintelo had sent to find out what had happened with regard to the airship. That hadn’t been more than five minutes ago! He couldn’t possibly have any news this soon.

          “I think you’d better see this for yourself, General,” said von Haslang. He pointed to one of the windows on the northern side of the room. “It’s quite visible from there.”

          Von Lintelo went over to the window and looked down at the city. The chamber was on the third floor of the Rathaus, so he had a good view of the square below.

          There was nothing to see, beyond some soldiers plundering a shop.

          “Up in the sky, sir. You can see it clearly in the moonlight.” Captain von Haslang came next to him and pointed up and to the left.

          The general saw the object immediately. Even at what was clearly a considerable distance, the airship seemed enormous. The moonlight glistened off one of its flanks, as if it were a leviathan that had just leapt from the sea.

          Von Lintelo had seen diagrams of the things, but had never actually seen one in person. It was… impressive.

          Also infuriating.

          “What happened?” he demanded. “My orders were clear. I wanted that airship seized at once.”

          “Yes, sir.”

          “Who was in charge?”

          “Von der Felt, sir. As you instructed.”

          Von Lintelo glared at him, and then glared at the airship. He had, in fact, specifically placed Captain Andreas von der Felt in charge. The former Catholic League officer was a reliable man. But he didn’t appreciate the near-insolence involved in being reminded of it by von Haslang.