1635: THE CANNON LAW — snippet 107

 

1635: THE CANNON LAW – snippet 107:

 

 

            Ten minutes of fiddling and more pain later, Barberini had to admit he felt more comfortable with his arm in a sling. With a lot of groaning and effort, he was able to get to his feet. When the flashing in his eyes and the dizziness had faded, he answered Mazarini's look of concern. "What now? Have you made a plan?"

 

            "Your Eminence, I must counsel escape from the city."

 

            Barberini forced a smile. "Indeed. Shall we discuss a plan for doing so? I will advance, for learned disputation, the proposition that any member of casa Barberini is wanted dead at this time. Or captured, which will likely be worse." Oh, yes, much worse. Borja was scarcely the most moderate man to wear a cardinal's hat, and he was a Spanish inquisitor. There were things one expected of such a man. Barberini could only hope that his uncle would be protected in at least some measure by the office he held. However, it was not a day to inspire optimism.

 

            Mazarini looked nervously to where the alley they were in—a small passage, barely open to the sky, wide enough for two men to walk abreast if they were close friends—turned left toward somewhere rather better lit.

 

            "I saw many parties of soldiers about the city as we fled the battle in which Your Eminence was wounded. We were gifted by providence with the great good fortune of being pursued solely by foot-soldiers, and for much of our flight we retained the horse. Alas, Your Eminence, every attempt I made to strike north, east or south proved to be fruitless at first. I decided later to see cover in some such alley as this one, but I could not move in such with a horse. The invaders had not reached this quarter yet, so I turned the horse loose, hoping to rouse you and bind your wounds that we might make a better escape on foot."

 

            "Reasonable," Barberini said, and indeed it was. Military ignoramus that he was, even he knew that Rome's defenses were, more or less, non-existent. That, with only modest preparation or a little effort, there were dozens of places where the walls were no defense at all without extensive preparation. The gates were all still present, but functioned only as customs posts, and those during daylight hours only. Only cargoes too big and heavy to be brought to one of the unrepaired breaches got taxed. At night, a modest bribe to the gate guards brought any cargo through. So, it would have been trivial to send ahead parties of men tasked with taking important points—and people—and charging them to find their way in to the city however they could. Doubtless many of them would include local guides; it was too much to expect that the mercenaries who were originally from Rome would scruple overmuch about it. In truth, knowing first-hand the wealth in Rome, they would be more eager than most for a sack.

 

            Why? Barberini found he needed not think too long or hard about that. It would avail Borja nothing to take Rome if he could not hold it, in any and every sense save the purely military. In the military sense, he had rather better prospects of holding the city than the present defenders had had. It was the political holding of the city that would matter now. And that certainly meant one Antonio Barberini the Younger would do well not to be caught escaping. Or, indeed, that he would not be caught escaping, but would simply turn up dead, a regrettable victim of 'the chaos attendant on the civil disorder in Rome'.

 

            The best hope Rome had was that Osuna, or Gentili, or one of the other figures fomenting revolt in Naples took advantage of this draw-down of troops from their city. Naples, right now, was likely simply over-defended rather than home to overwhelming force. But any such hope would be weeks away, nothing that could be depended on right now.

 

            And if Borja had flooded the city with raiders as thoroughly as Mazarini was suggesting, it was not stopping at casa Barberini. There was time enough to be sure of that, though. "Let us move," Barberini said. "We gain nothing by remaining here. I can walk, if slowly, and if we remain on the back routes, we may well evade capture."

 

            "But, Your Eminence, how will we leave the city? The gates are surely guarded."

 

            "We will deal with that when we must," Barberini said, "Although I invite you to consider that defenses that fail to keep attackers from coming in will also serve to permit fugitives to go out."

 

            "Your Eminence is most perceptive," Mazarini said, offering his arm for Barberini to lean on.

About Eric Flint

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