Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 44

She thought another moment.

“Then there’s his chronic gastritis. I don’t have an up-time lab culture, of course, but I’m pretty sure that the grand duke has peptic ulcers. Maybe duodenal ulcers, but I think peptic is more likely. You can look up the difference in the reference book I left in the hospital library. You know, Dr. Guarinonius, up-time medicine wasn’t perfect, either. For decades and decades, doctors thought that people got ulcers because they had bad tempers or were under a lot of stress. Their opinions weren’t that different from the down-time ideas about the humors. Basically, they thought that people with choleric temperaments developed stomach ulcers.”

She thought a minute more. The Lord only knew that the Grand Duke of the County of Burgundy could be choleric enough when the people around him weren’t producing the results he wanted, so she inserted a CYA.

“Maybe being choleric can be a complicating factor, but less than twenty years before the Ring of Fire, some doctors in Australia figured out that ulcers were the result of infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria, not just temperament. House flies can pick it up from fecal matter and transmit it by landing on food. DDT helps there, too, by cutting down on the number of flies, and in general, we get back to the recommendations for cleanliness. People should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water, eat food that has been prepared in a sanitary kitchen, and get their drinking water from a safe, clean source.”

She got up, walked to the window of her room, looked down at as much of Bernhard’s camp as she could see across the walls and the distance imposed by the surrounding sixty-three-yard wide dry ditches, and swallowed. At least they had dug reasonably good latrines and both the officers and men had been issued soap. Erlach was making the men boil their drinking water. “Sanitary kitchen” was off somewhere in a different frame of reference, though the noncoms were supposed to enforce the washing of cooking pots before re-use. She wandered back to the pen and paper on the table.

“Anyway, up-time doctors were starting to treat ulcers more aggressively, with antibiotics than just with a bland diet and antacids”

She thought again.

“The stinky thing is that chloramphenicol won’t fix ulcers any more than it’s effective against diphtheria. If you look on my desk there in Besançon, in the pile on the right side labeled ‘To Do,’ you’ll find a letter I got from Leahy Medical Center in Grantville a couple of weeks before I left. It lists what they found on treating H. pylori. To cure the grand duke would take four or six different antibiotics, none of which we can make yet, so you’d better prepare the grand duchess and the whole medical staff in Besançon for a decades-long course of soothing his stomach.

“And whatever you do, don’t let him take any more aspirin. It’s wonderful for a lot of things, but not for people with ulcers. No more little blue pills.

“Please write to the Leahy Medical Center and ask whether or not ‘Pepto Bismol’ or some equivalent is within our manufacturing capabilities yet. Even better, get the grand duchess to write Lothlorien Pharmaceuticals or Dr. Gribbleflotz’ operation in Jena, or both of them, and say that she’ll pay to get it manufactured.”

“And, please come, if you possibly can.”

Besançon, Franche Comté

Claudia de Medici was astonished at the relief she felt when she received reports from Dr. Guarinonius and the up-time nurse that the grand duke was clearly on the mend.

Part of the relief was political. For the last several weeks, she had been trying to persuade herself that she would be able to hold Burgundy together if Bernhard died.

It would have been hard. Much harder than her regency in Tyrol. There, the county was an established entity, with a history. She had been married to Leopold for several years before he died, long enough to get to know the people and establish ties to the influential ones. She had the backing of his brother and nephew in Vienna, who were not all that far away.

Here? The County of Burgundy was barely more than Bernhard’s dream, held together by men whose loyalty belonged to him–to him personally–rather than to the emerging principality he had cobbled together by sheer brilliance, arrogance, and stubborn refusal to be stopped. Would they have transferred that loyalty to her? To her personally, or to her as regent for the child she was now certain that she carried?

She straightened up.

She could have done it. She would have done it, but it would have been hard. So hard.

It was better that she would not have to do it.

Not yet, at least. It might still come. It was unlikely that Bernhard would abandon generalship for a life of sedentary administrative tasks any time soon now.

Not for years, if God was gracious enough to grant those years to him.

It was really–astonishing, yes, that was the correct word–how much relief she felt. She was astonished.

Especially because not all of her relief was political. She would, she realized, have missed him. Greatly.

Yes, she was astonished at the relief she felt.

She felt calmer, more defined, once she had put a word to what she was feeling.

She reviewed the report from Kamala Dunn. She owed favors. She rapped on the table.

Volpert Motzel, the competent young jurist whom Dr. Bienner had managed to entice into the employment of the former regent of Tyrol by offering unparalleled opportunities for advancement and new experiences not likely to be matched in the fastnesses of Salzburg no matter how much Paris de Lodron was willing to pay him, appeared from the outer office.

“Call Knorr to take dictation for Us. We owe the following persons public recognition, honors, and suitable rewards for their outstanding services during the grand duke’s recent illness…”

Claudia was back at work.


“Now that I’ve spent so much time here, for one reason or another,” Bernhard announced, “I think that I’ll just hang onto Châtel-sur-Moselle. It’s a nice fortress and, after all, it was originally Burgundian and not exchanged with Lorraine until 1544. I’ll be willing to make a reasonable recompense to whoever turns out to be the ruler of the duchy.”


Aieeeeeee,” Diane Jackson shrieked. “Will you look at this, young Tony. Just what does it take to make him understand?”

Tony Adducci, who some time during the course of the spring and summer, as crises came and went, had decided that his next stop after Basel would be Larry Mazzare’s town house in Magdeburg, where he would request permission to study for the priesthood, just sighed.