This book will be published by Ring Of Fire Press and will be available via or directly from Ring Of Fire Press.  No release date known at this time.

Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 01

The Legions Of Pestilence

Virginia DeMarce

Section One


Chapter 1

By God’s Grace, Bernhard, etc.

Besançon, Franche Comté

February 1635

Gary Lambert stood on the citadel hill of the town of Besançon in the Franche Comté. He didn’t wonder what he, a nice Lutheran boy from twentieth-century Indiana, was doing there. He knew. By the grace of God and the Ring of Fire, he had escorted his aging future father-in-law, Friedrich Hortleder, to watch Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar officially become Bernhard, Grand Duke of the County of Burgundy.

Hortleder, now chancellor of Saxe-Weimar County in the State of Thuringia-Franconia in the United States of Europe, still very much in the confidence of Bernhard’s brother Wilhelm Wettin, was one of Bernhard’s former tutors–possibly the only one to whom the independent Bernhard had ever paid much attention–and an honored guest at the ceremony.

Wettin wasn’t here. As head of the Crown Loyalists, the party that had just won the USE election, he was slated to become the next prime minister of the USE and considered it not fitting to attend a ceremony at which his youngest brother, who had quarreled bitterly with Gustavus Adolphus, emperor of the USE, was setting the seal on his betrayal by officially becoming an independent ruler. Duke Ernst had planned to come–Bernhard had invited him–but some last minute emergency in the Upper Palatinate, where he served as the USE regent, had kept him away.

Duke Albrecht was present. Albrecht ran the remaining Saxe-Weimar estates on behalf of his absentee brothers and was, by nature, a peacemaker. Hortleder, Gary, and a half-dozen other people from Weimar and the Eichfeld had traveled with him. Of the eleven sons of Johann of Saxe-Weimar (twelve if you counted Wilhelm’s stillborn twin), only these four were still alive. The others had succumbed to the vagaries of childhood mortality, smallpox while attending the University of Jena, war, and, in the case of the unfortunate Johann Friedrich, death in confinement, where his brothers had placed him on account of his growing insanity.

A brisk but not freezing breeze stirred the air. Even though he was wearing a warm, fur-lined, cape, Gary felt grateful for the bright sunshine. Hortleder said something. Gary turned around, expecting a question, but the older man’s attention was on someone else.

“Nihus? I scarcely expected to see you here, now that you have become such a distinguished scholar that your name is latinized on various title pages. Not to mention for a few other reasons.”

Bartholdus Nihusius smiled. “My theological feud with Georg Calixtus seems to be winding down, though the Helmstedt professors have scarcely forgiven a former tutor of the dukes of Saxe-Weimar for converting to Catholicism. Still, now that Calixtus is making ecumenical overtures, it looks like I’ll be going to Mainz. Part of the policy of Cardinal-Protector Mazzare, you know. I’ve been invited by Wamboldt von Umstadt himself to join the archepiscopal staff.”

“Very distinguished for one of our little band of ‘former tutors of the young dukes of Saxe-Weimar.'” Hortleder looked around. “Wolfgang Radtke is here, too, somewhere in the crowd. I saw him earlier. He came as part of the delegation of the president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia. I don’t see him, right now.”

Nihusius nodded. “Not surprising in this crowd.”

The assembly of people who were crowded onto the citadel hill above Besançon, awaiting the ceremony in which their former pupil would be assuming his grandiose new title, was large, and the numbers kept growing. Anyone who could make the climb from the city below, or if not in sufficiently good physical shape for that, could afford to hire a cart with a donkey and driver, a sedan chair with bearers, or a wheelbarrow with someone to push it, seemed to have come.

Nihusius was looking a little rueful. “So Wolfgang, too, is now a distinguished ‘Ratichius’ and after all his decades of striving in vain to introduce educational reform, has become the ‘Secretary of Education’ of the State of Thuringia-Franconia.”

“Supervisor of numerous up-timers.” Hortleder laughed. “Largely by grace of Count Ludwig Guenther’s widowed sister-in-law Anna Sofie at Kranichfeld. She never lost faith in his ideas. Now, by virtue of Schwartzburg-Rudolstadt’s friendship with the up-timers, she had the influence to persuade Herr Piazza to make the appointment–over the objections of some of the ‘Grantville educational establishment’ who are convinced that only they can bring technological enlightenment to the poor ignorant down-timers, I assure you.”

“That only leaves Thomas Grote? Where is he, these days?”

“I’m afraid we’ve lost touch.”

“Trumpets. Here comes the procession.” Nihusius turned.

“Have you seen Bernhard to talk to?” Hortleder asked.

“At the reception yesterday evening.”

“How did he seem?

Nihusius rubbed his fingers on his chin. “He’s not the hot-tempered teenager we knew, any more. Not even the hot-tempered young general of Breitenfeld. He looks older. Colder. He has bags under his eyes and not, knowing Bernhard, from dissipation.”

“I saw him last night, too. That was pretty much my impression. Even though there’s not yet any gray in that wavy dark hair–which I’m sure he’s happy to have kept in such abundance, given how many men of thirty are starting to go bald–he’s learned control to go along with his ambition. He’s achieved a position where he can surround himself with men of his own choosing, rather the ‘must-hires’ foisted on him by someone else’s politics. I doubt he’ll ever learn to be patient with incompetence, but he seems to have finally resigned himself to the existence of incompetent people in the world. As long as they aren’t anywhere near him. Whether he will ever be at peace with himself–who can say?”

Nihusius rubbed his chin again. “He’s a man with no illusions.”

Gary looked at them. “That’s what happens when you live in a tough neighborhood. Sheila, my wife up-time, used to work pro bono in an inner-city medical clinic. The weak–their eyes just got vacant. The winners, by the time they were thirty, had the same look in their eyes as this guy. If you ask me, fighting this war counts as a tough neighborhood, all by itself.”


“Von Gottes gnaden, Bernhard, etc.”

By God’s grace, Bernhard, etc. The newly installed grand duke of the County of Burgundy contemplated the start of his letter to the regent of the County of Tyrol. Claudia de’ Medici, widow of an Italian duke, then widow of a Habsburg archduke, and by birth a grand duchess of Tuscany. Claudia de Medici, whom he had met earlier in the month.

At least he wouldn’t have to learn a new opening for his letters as the result of his new status. Except for the most formal legal documents, where all the miscellaneous titles of the Wettins were required, he had for years taken care of them with “etc.” so he could get to the meaningful content without delay.

The recipients of his letters always knew who he was. What was the point in emphasizing it?

The signature, though…

He looked down.

He had always signed Bernhard H.z.S. Bernhard, Herzog zu Sachsen. Duke in Saxony. Saxony, not Saxe-Weimar. They were the Ernestine line. The senior line. By rights, the electoral title belonged to them–not to John George of the Albertine line. So the split went back two-hundred-fifty years? So what? If you have a right to something, you have a right to it.

Now, for the first time, he signed Bernhard G.H.z.B. Bernhard, Gross-Herzog zu Burgund.

Grand Duke in Burgundy. He liked the look of that. No reason to be picky about the French insistence on Grand Duke of the County of Burgundy.

The uptime-encyclopedias told him that in another world, he had gained a duchy in Franconia and then lost it again to the vicissitudes of war. In this world, they had passed the date of the Battle of Nördlingen. He was not desperately trying to reconstitute an army for Axel Oxenstierna in a world in which Gustavus Adolphus had been killed more than two years earlier in yet another battle never fought, at Lützen.

In this world, whatever it took, he would not lose the County of Burgundy he had gained–and significantly expanded with bits of Alsace and Baden that he had managed to nibble off, bit by bit, here and there, in a most satisfying campaign.  As campaigns came and went, this one had come cheap. As for the old Habsburg appanage of Burgundy itself, given what getting it had cost him, not to mention having to endure the diplomatic squabbles with the French whose lawyers and bureaucrats nearly had apoplexy at the thought the name might result in a creeping claim to Bourgogne,… Given the effort he had expended thus far, and would expend in the future, he had a right to it.  He’d earned it.