1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 05

1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 05

“What will happen now?” Father Yulian asked.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out, and I’m not sure. A lot of Director-General Sheremetev’s power had to do with the fact that he had the czar in reserve. It’s likely that there were troubles in the duma when the news hit. I don’t know if the Director-General has kept control. For all I know, he could have proclaimed himself czar by now. Or he could be out of power and another faction may be in charge. Father is with the Moscow garrison and, from his letter, he doesn’t expect to be released anytime soon. There may be fighting in Moscow between the factions. . . .” She stopped, her face going white. “Oh, my God. With the radios, the Poles and the Swedes already know, or they will within days. Invasion!”

The location of their village, as it happened, wasn’t quite on the direct line between Smolensk, the Polish border fort, and Moscow. Not quite. But they were considerably too close to that direct line for comfort.

“We can’t afford to panic,” Stefan said, feeling more than a little panicked just at the moment himself. “We will need wagons. We should wait, just as we planned.”

“In a month this place could be garrisoning a Polish army,” Anatoly said. “And it will be more than a month before the rye is ready for harvest.”

“What would you have us do? Try and pack the whole village on our backs?”

“If we have to,” Anatoly said. “Better than still being here, putting the finishing touches on our preparations, when the Poles arrive. Or having the colonel show up with his whip.” Anatoly had been severely beaten by the colonel’s order on his last visit.

“What about a compromise? We spend the next week getting ready as fast as we can, building wagons and loading them with everything we can carry, especially food . . . what there is of it. Then we go,” Father Yulian said.

“I don’t think we can build even eight wagons in a week, Father Yulian, even using the drop hammer to make the iron parts.”

“We will make what we can.”

“What about the ones who don’t want to go?” Vera asked. “As soon as we get started, everyone in the village is going to know what we’re doing.”

“We tell them the Poles are coming. Or that Father thinks the Poles are coming. Or might be coming. And he wants us to get ready to evacuate if they get too close,” suggested Izabella.

“It’s worth a try,” Stefan said.

“I’ll write the instructions, and we will insert them into the package that the colonel sent,” said Father Yulian.

****

For the next five days, the villagers worked like demons. Stefan’s drop hammer turned out flanges and bolt blanks and bearing facings and axe heads. The ax heads were to chop the trees to make planks for the bottoms and sides of wagons.

The “new barn” was torn down to the modules, which would be used to make wagons. The six teams of ponies were set to work dragging lumber to make construction easier.

“We don’t have enough ponies to pull the wagons,” Vera said.

“I know. But I can’t forge a pony!”

“What about one of those steam engines?”

Stefan looked at Vera, then shook his head. “I don’t know enough. You know that some of them blew up on the river? And those were the ones designed by the big brains in the Dacha.” Then he looked at her again and said, “Some of them are simply going to have to pull their wagons themselves.”

“Them? We don’t own a pony! Stefan, you’re a blacksmith, not a farmer.”

“We own one now,” Stefan said. “I traded some parts of the wagons for it. We only have the one, though, not a team. It’s going to be slow going and we will have to share them out when we’re going up hills.”

***

Kiril Ivanovich watched the preparations with an increasingly troubled heart. He didn’t like the idea of leaving, and the fact that the modules from the new barn just happened to be exactly the right length to make the new wagons struck him as highly suspicious. He was slowly becoming convinced that the whole thing wasn’t the colonel’s instructions at all. That fornicating priest and Stefan — who was an arrogant bastard, well above himself — were behind the whole thing. He considered going to the colonel’s lady, but that had done little good in the past. She was wholly under the priest’s sway, and Kiril didn’t think that it was because she was especially pious.

No. If he were to put a stop to this, he would have to get a message to the colonel. He knew where the radiotelegraph station was, and five days after the meeting in the priest’s house, he left the village on foot, intending to warn the colonel of dangerous goings on.

***

It took Dominika a few hours to realize that Kiril wasn’t where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to be doing. Then she rushed to see Father Yulian. It took another hour to confirm that Kiril was nowhere in the village.

“Where do you think he’s gone?” Stefan asked.

“Wherever he can do us the most harm,” Yulian said. “Kiril is a man always ready with a knife for his neighbor’s back. Full of suppressed rages and desires that keep him from God.”

***

Time had run out. Father Yulian, Stefan, and Anatoly went to the big house to inform Elena that they were leaving to join Czar Mikhail at dawn, and she was coming with them. Although initially somewhat startled and unbelieving, thanks to her relationship with Father Yulian, she became very pleased and helpful. Her relations with her husband hadn’t been great for several years. She went into the house and brought out silver and a lot of the new paper money, which was apparently what the colonel had received for the work of his serfs at the factory in the neighboring village. Then she and Izabella started packing, as did the rest of the village. They took every wagon in the village, the new ones they had just built, and the older ones that they had used to manage the farming village and bring in the crops. They stripped the village of Ruzuka clean. Every animal that could pull a wagon, and they stripped the big house of every valuable.

They traveled well the next day, with Elena informing the headman of the neighboring village that her husband had told them to evacuate in advance of the approaching Poles. “Yes, he’s very close to Prince Sheremetev, my husband is,” Elena explained. They tried to buy extra horses, but after hearing about the evacuation, the beasts were not for sale. A bit of bad strategy that Izabella complained about the rest of the day and all that night.

For the next week and a half, they traveled without great difficulty. There was enough confusion that no one had much time to look for them and they had the letters and the colonel’s seal. They also had the colonel’s lady and daughter to act as cover for them by putting on their airs as a boyar’s retainer family. Airs that Elena never actually took off, but the villagers accepted that. She was being useful, and they were used to her acting that way, probably wouldn’t have known what to do with her if she had acted human.

Russia wasn’t like Europe. It was sparsely populated, even in the more civilized western portion around Moscow. After a few days, village headmen started sounding like they might be interested in holding them there. So, after considerable discussion, they started avoiding the villages. It made travel slower, but kept them out of conflicts. And, for that matter, it kept the colonel from knowing where they were.

 

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12 Responses to 1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 05

  1. Andy says:

    I want a pony!

  2. Gary D says:

    Just remember that means shoveling a lot of pardon the expression sh-t. Been there done that winter better not much smell.

  3. Cobbler says:

    A pony is too small to pull even a lightweight gypsy vardo. Let alone a freight wagon.

    • Andy says:

      Depends on the pony and the freight wagon.

      In any case, pulling a wagon is the most efficient way to move stuff by one horse power. Everything else, including pushing, carrying or dragging something without wheels is worse. So the wagons are probably small enough for the ponies.

      And these ponies are probably some pretty sturdy customers, not in any way related to childproof equestrianism.

      • Cobbler says:

        They may mean a steppe pony. Also known as the Mongol horse. They are small and tough and strong. One could pull a surrey or a milk wagon. A freight wagon? I have my doubts.

        Calling it a steppe pony a pony gets the detonation right. The connotation, on the other hand….. It does suggest a Shetland carrying a five-year old.

        I have read writers who were treated the English language better.

  4. Cobbler says:

    The contemporary way to make an axe used a strip of iron, bent in a U shape to accept the haft. The ends sandwiched a strip of steel for the cutting edge.

    Wedges weren’t used. Which is why we describe someone losing his temper as flying off the handle. That really used to happen to the danger of anyone nearby.

    The notion of making the upper part of the axes eye wider, and expanding the haft with wedges, was the invention of an American blacksmith. The Dasha must have spread word about that improvement.

  5. Lyttenburgh says:

    “Father is with the Moscow garrison”

    Which finally raises a question – what kind of colonel he is? Streltsi at the time were used for the garrison duty. It was not unheard for the member of “deti boyarskiye” to be appointed a colonel of streltsi (in fact – nearly all the original ones from 16 c. were them). Or is he a colonel of artillery? Or he somehow got himself a commission of the brand new infantry regiments (which still would be dependent on the professional – mercenary – cadres)?

    Also, I think using the rank “colonel” is a misnomer here. In 17 c. Russian army did not use it. Yes, there were “regiments” (i.e. the divisions of the army on the “left”, “right”, “central”, “sentinel” and “big” polk) but there was no fixed rank of “colonel/polkovnik”. Who’d be in charge of this or that division depended on the nobles available and their pedigree. Naturally, both streltsi and artillery had their own organization and ranking system.

    Even then – there were usually sever, 2 or even 3 “voyevoda” appointed in charge of any given military division.

    “The location of their village, as it happened, wasn’t quite on the direct line between Smolensk, the Polish border fort, and Moscow”

    Given that “Poltz” and “Ruzuka” are not even Russian toponyms, i.e. something totally made by the authors who have no idea about linguistics or geography, they should be safe!

    “The six teams of ponies”

    “Ponies”? Ponies?! The authors don’t even know about what type of the horse power had been used back then!

    “It took Dominika a few hours to realize that Kiril wasn’t where he was supposed to be”

    It took much less for me to realize that the authors had another mind-fart when it comes to Russian naming conventions, because “Domonika” is as likely as “Izabella”.

    “Time had run out. Father Yulian, Stefan, and Anatoly went to the big house to inform Elena that they were leaving to join Czar Mikhail at dawn, and she was coming with them. Although initially somewhat startled and unbelieving, thanks to her relationship with Father Yulian, she became very pleased and helpful. Her relations with her husband hadn’t been great for several years. She went into the house and brought out silver and a lot of the new paper money, which was apparently what the colonel had received for the work of his serfs at the factory in the neighboring village.”

    This is… totally stupid and uncharacteristic for a noble woman of her time.

    “Hey, your ladyship! Want to join a gang o escaped serfs on their road to nowhere?”

    “Oh, gee! On the one hand – my upbringing, education, mores of the time and status as the noblewoman… On the other hand – I’ve been having “not great” relations with my husband. That’s it – I’m going to let all my life sink into a crapper! ”

    “For the next week and a half, they traveled without great difficulty.”

    Yeah?! How did they manage that? Do the authors have any idea what kind of danger magnet their whole motley crew on the road is?

    “They also had the colonel’s lady and daughter to act as cover for them by putting on their airs as a boyar’s retainer family.”

    Travelling without their obligatory numerous retinue of servats. Does it look like kidnapping? Naaaaaah!

    For the record – a character that have never (not once) interacted with the main cast, with the people who actually wanted and planned the escape SUDDENLY does everything to help them.

    That’s one louse writing here.

    P.S. You know – I understand the authors game. They already decided what they want to write about – a “great journey Eastward”, which would hopefully allow them to regurgitate lots and lots of the tried and tested tropes with as little brainwork input as possible. Their chief mistake – as usual – they don’t have any idea how to plausibly arrive to that point of their narrative. Frankly, they give a damn about how they arrive there – and they count on their readership to be equally ignorant, not caring or stupid.

    But all of this is resting on the threadbare promise that once here the book will actually start be good. Which, given the past examples of the authors works, no one should count on.

  6. Bret Hooper says:

    I understand the authors game. They already decided what they want to write about – a “great journey Eastward”

    You may be exactly right, Lytt, but it seems to me more like the major part of the story will be what happens after they join forces with the Czar. Presumably they will meet up with him, albeit if they have any knowledge of exactly where to the east he is, I have missed the mention of it. In unfamiliar territory, they could easily pass by him five or ten miles to the north or south and end up hundreds of miles beyond him. But of course they won’t; doubtless they will gravitate unerringly to where he is, and then . . . . It may get more interesting. Let’s hope so.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “Presumably they will meet up with him, albeit if they have any knowledge of exactly where to the east he is, I have missed the mention of it.”

      IIRC (don’t have older books on this comp), the blimp took them (in the last chapters of the previous novel of this plot-line) as far as Tobolsk (the semi-official “capitol” of Siberia). That was mid-summer 1636. Now, for better clarity, google where is Tobolsk. Their fictionary village with implausible name is somewhere not far from Moscow. Now imagine how much time it would take them to get there.

      So, yeah – maybe they will get there, but only by the end of the book, and there ought to be a cliffhanger of sorts. It ought to be, to force the people to buy future installments.

      “In unfamiliar territory, they could easily pass by him five or ten miles to the north or south and end up hundreds of miles beyond him.”

      More realistically – most of them would die along the way. Or join the Cossacks.

      “It may get more interesting.”

      Oh, such optimism! :)

      • Bjorn Hasseler says:

        The designated rally point was Ufa (last two paragraphs, Ch 79, _1636: The Kremlin Games_).

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          That’s a bit closer, but Ufa at that time was smaller. How do they plan to feed and supply any large group of the people, especially the military?

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