Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 06

Chapter 3

Legions of Pestilence


March 1635

“…auch das sterben und kranckheit zimblich einreissen thut…”

The USE embassy in Basel was, these days, far less embattled than it had been during the crisis with Bavaria the previous summer. The uniformed guards at the entrances were, if not a pure formality, at least more likely to be called upon to check visitors for diplomatic credentials than for hidden weapons.

Inside, Diane Jackson called once more upon her French, upon young Tony Adducci’s German and Latin, and upon her last reserves of patience, which were running low. Very low. She glared at Johann Rudolf Wettstein, representing the city and canton of Basel. She glared at Colonel Raudegen, representing Burgundy.

For good measure, although the man had done nothing but sit quietly, she glared at the delegate representing Johann Heinrich von Osthein, the prince-bishop of Basel (Catholic), which was a quite separate entity from the city and canton of Basel (Protestant). The bishops of Basel had not resided in the city since 1528, owing to a bit of difficulty they encountered with the Reformation.

Or, perchance, the delegate–she couldn’t remember his name, he was such a meek presence–represented the former prince-bishop of Basel, since most of the land over which Osthein had previously been sovereign now found itself in the County of Burgundy. Ostein lived at Porrentruy in Canton Jura. The war had not been good to Porruntruy.

She took a surreptious peek at the notes that Tony had provided for her, hoping to spot the man’s name. No luck. But Tony wrote that Ostein’s family had connections in Mainz–therefore connections with the archbishop of Mainz, who was currently making nice to the USE. Perhaps that was why he had asked to send a delegate. In any case, the bishop had asked to send a representative, no matter what the reason might be, and here he was. Surely someone had introduced him.

Giving up her search for the name of the episcopal delegate, she glared hardest at Margrave Friedrich of Baden-Durlach. “You say that I should speak directly with your father. I cannot speak directly with your father, My Lord, since your father is in Augsburg, glaring across the Lech at the Bavarians in his capacity as administrator for the emperor in this imaginary Province of Swabia they have constructed. Offering imaginary Swabia’s imaginary forces for the protection of the independent city-state.”

“Imaginary?” One Georg Müller, a lawyer representing Axel Oxenstierna, drew himself as erect as he could in the comfortable chair, profoundly offended. “Horn is scarcely imaginary.”

“Yes. Swabia is imaginary. Made up. Invented in their minds, by these ‘great diplomats’ who attended the Congress of Copenhagen, just as a small child will make up an imaginary friend and talk to him or her quite seriously, just as if the invented friend were sitting in the same room, playing. Thus far, it does not exist, this “Province of Swabia.’ It shows very little sign of ever existing. Not now. Not someday soon.”

 She turned back to the margrave. “Yes, your father is in Augsburg, which is, at least, real. Ulm is garrisoned by the Swedes, true–or, more precisely, by more of these Scots who fight for the Swedes. They seem to be everywhere. But Ulm, also, is an independent city state. Therefore, it will be up to the city council and the emperor whether they have the emperor’s Scots or not, a year from now.”

Diane paused to collect her train of thought.

“You, however, are here. Therefore, you will do what is necessary and you will listen to this man, although he has been sent by Bernhard.”

“As heir to the margaviate of Baden-Durlach,” Friedrich started.

Tony Adducci scribbled a note and started to doodle a Tom Swifty word game in the margin. How did Margrave Friedrich speak? Persistently, pompously, pontifically (scratch that out–too many Catholic connotations), portentously, priggishly…

“…until such time as the status of Baden’s lands that the self-proclaimed Grand Duke of the County of Burgundy has illegally occupied…”

“Plague,” Diane screamed. “We are not playing games in this room. We are told that there will be an epidemic of plague. This coming summer and next year. First we have wars, now we have plagues. Plagues do not respect borders any more than marauding armies do. They do not respect legal land titles any more than plundering armies do. In this you will cooperate, My Lord. Yes, even with Bernhard. Yes, even if he shows every sign of keeping the parts of Baden he has already occupied. You will cooperate across the borders. As will your honored father on behalf of the imaginary Province of Swabia. As will General Horn on behalf of the king of Sweden, the emperor, you know who. Gustavus Adolphus. Captain GARS. That guy. The politics? Bah. We can sort the politics out later.”

The men around the table looked with awe as the tiny woman transformed into a dragon lady.

“Ummm, Diane…” Tony said.

She glared at Friedrich again. “There are things you need to learn. First, you will not have an independent Baden any more. It may be in Burgundy, or it may be in the USE’s Province of Swabia, but it will be in something, somewhere. Just because your father administers that imaginary province now, there is no reason for you to think that a margrave of Baden will always be its administrator. Gustavus Adolphus appointed your father. He can appoint someone else. Hear the word of God, which you should already know. ‘The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.’ He gave me three sons and he took them away, left up-time. The same is true for an emperor.”

Margrave Friedrich nodded. “Do not put your trust in princes; they are mortal men who cannot save.”

Diane barreled on. “Yes. That is what I said. This world’s princes give and take away. There is no law that Gustavus must appoint you or one of your brothers to succeed your father in Swabia. If Mike Stearns has his way about constitutions, by the time your father’s term expires, the make-believe province will elect its own make-believe head of state.”

Friedrich opened his mouth. Then he shut it again.

Tony doodled ‘prudently’ on the margin of his note pad.

“So. How do you think that it is worse for you to have lands in Burgundy than in the USE? Why is it so bad for you to have some of your lands in each country?”

Friedrich repeated his fish-like mouth maneuver.

“How do you think that moving them all into the USE Province of Swabia would improve matters? Bernhard is one of your own. A down-time duke. He is actually likely to leave your father and you more of your precious perks than Gustavus is. Not that anyone asked me. You sit here arguing about such things while death and disease are breaking out all over the place. Now. Are you all ready to listen to Colonel Raudegen discuss plague?”

Each man at the table averred that he was entirely prepared to enter into an orderly discussion of plague.

Bolzen, Tyrol

“We are, of course,” the regent of Tyrol said, “more grateful than ever that We had the foresight to send the three Padua-trained plague doctors to Burgundy last November. Since at that time We had not yet considered that there might be a prospect of a marriage alliance in that direction… Perhaps it was the working of divine providence. Burgundy will be far better prepared to deal with the coming plague now than it would have been otherwise.”

Marcie Abruzzo, who often suspected that she and her husband were mainly the regent’s “trophy up-timers” even though they were assigned plenty of real work, whispered to that same husband, Matt Trelli. “Cast your bread upon the waters and it will come back sponge cake.”

It was a little embarrassing when the chancellor, Dr. Bienner, caught the whisper and she was forced to repeat the sentence aloud, translating it into three languages, and explaining what sponge cake might be and how it resembled the type of sponge used for washing one’s body with soap and water.

“An irreverent play upon Ecclesiastes 11:1, I presume,” was Bienner’s deadpan comment.

It was considerably more embarrassing when she was tasked by the regent with the duty of writing her mother and requesting a sponge cake recipe. In Marcie’s view, one of the great advantage of having attached themselves to a great household was that even though she was now a married woman, somebody else did the cooking. Namely, a cook. Or cooks. Kitchen staff. Somebody whose job it was to do the cooking. Not her. Just like the cafeterias in high school and college and the cafeterias at USE Steel. She didn’t have the vaguest idea how to bake a sponge cake, nor did she want to learn.

But, ye gods, did the down-timers know their Bibles backwards and forwards.


March 1635

The four regiments of Irish dragoons under Butler, Devereux, Geraldin, and McDonnell, which had been in the pay of the now-flat-broke Ferdinand of Bavaria, Archbishop of Cologne, since the previous year, started out from Euskirchen, west of Bonn, in late February and followed the Jakobswege south, moved into Lorraine at the little Sarreguemines neck with the intent of crossing through the protrusion of Bitche, making an eastward side raid to Merkwiller-Pechelbronn, crossing the Rhine, making their way southeast across Swabia, and entering into the employ of Ferdinand’s brother Duke Maximilian.

The French, busy with their own concerns after the previous spring’s debacle, had only minimal forces in Lorraine. They were minimal, at least, compared to what Richelieu had sent in 1631 and 1632 when he drove the ducal family out. Lacking instructions, the troops on the ground basically huddled in the garrisoned towns of the main body of the duchy to the west and made no effort to impede the Irish colonels’ transit–neither of the dragoons themselves or of the large, unwieldy, baggage train that followed them.

Nobody paid any attention at all to a straggling group of peddlers, coming from the direction of Forbach, who attached themselves to the camp followers shortly after the entourage reached Sarreguemines, even though a couple of the peddlers were ill. People got sick all the time. The arrival of illness and death in one’s midst was simply a fact of life.