1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS — snippet 33


1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 33:



            “—the king hears about this—”


            “His Majesty gave me clear instructions to foster the true Lutheran doctrine here,” Ernst interrupted Banér. He gestured toward Ingolstadt. “Since it will obviously take you months to reduce the will of yonder Catholics, I see no reason I shouldn’t see to their souls and their moral conduct in the meantime.”


            “—be royal hell to pay—Vasa hell, I remind you—”


            “Oh, nonsense. And what do you care if I fling some religious tracts and self-improvement pamphlets into Ingolstadt?” A bit uncharitably, Ernst added: “It’s not as if either you or your soldiers have been clamoring for the items.”


            “—beside the fucking point! Catapults are military equipment—”


            “I had them made myself, out of my purse, not yours.”


             “—in charge of all military affairs, not you—”


            “Spiritual uplift is a military concern?” Ernst finally had something of an expression on face, with his eyebrows climbing. “In that case, General Banér, I must regretfully inform you that you and your officers have been sadly remiss—”


            “—last time the Vasa temper cut loose, noble heads rolled!”


            The Duke shrugged. “Send a letter to the Emperor in Luebeck, then, if you will. I will await his response quite calmly, be assured.”


            All the more so, he thought but did not say aloud, since I have already sent Gustav Adolf several letters myself, warning him of your plans for an independent campaign against Ingolstadt.


            In one thing, if nothing else, all four of the Saxe-Weimar brothers had imbibed the same milk. They were all experienced practitioners in the art of political maneuver.


            “—could probably have paved the streets of Stockholm with the skulls, if the king’s grandfather had been a pagan.”


            “Which he certainly wasn’t,” concluded Ernst firmly. “Gustav Vasa was a good Lutheran. Hence—”


            He gestured a command. The catapult fired again.




            Two days later, in the chambers of a nearby tavern that Banér had sequestered as his headquarters for the duration of the siege, the Swedish general was in a much calmer mood. In fact, he was as close to “serene” as the man ever got.


            Which was not close at all, of course. Still, Duke Ernst knew the signs. Now that the energetic and very-difficult-to-repress if not exactly irrepressible Banér was finally back in action in the field, he was a lot more content than he had been as what amounted to a garrison commander in Amberg. Furthermore, despite appearances, the Swedish general was very far from a buffoon. There was actually quite a keen military mind in there somewhere, beneath the choler and the dramatics.


            Banér laid down the report he’d just summarized for Ernst and leaned back in his chair at the table. “So. Duke Bernhard did not send his regiments north to join de Valois at Luebeck. In my assessment”—he waved a contemptuous hand at the report—“unlike that of this over-intellectual spy, this only signifies that the man isn’t stupid.”


            Duke Ernst nodded. “Over time, people have called my youngest brother Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar a lot of things. Arrogant. Inconsiderate. Ambitious. Rude. ‘Stupid’ was never one of them.”


            Banér grunted. “Nobody ever called him ‘incompetent’ either.”


            Ernst leaned back in his chair also, and contemplated the situation. To the best intelligence that Sweden and the USE had been able to collect, Bernhard had responded to Richelieu’s repeated prodding by sending part of his troops sort of halfway toward the north. He had left most of his infantry in the Franche-Comté and taken himself, Friedrich von Kanoffski, and their picked companies north through the Breisgau, settling for the past couple of weeks into the monastery buildings at Schwarzach on the Rhine—not that he wouldn’t be heading back to Besançon pretty soon, most likely. He’d set up his administrative headquarters there. Bernhard had sent Caldenbach, Ohm, and Rosen, with the rest of his cavalry, toward Mainz, apparently to provide a screen against any moves that Gustav might be contemplating there. Or, possibly, to make the USE nervous about the possibility that he might launch raids in the direction of Thuringia.


            He spoke that last aloud. “It certainly isn’t impossible that Bernhard’s men could get as far as Fulda, or do a razzia against the towns in the Werra valley on the south face of the Thüringerwald.”


            Banér scowled. Not in displeasure; that was simply his usual expression when he was thinking. “I’ve worked with those captains of his, Duke. All three of Bernhard’s cavalry units facing Mainz have something in common. They can move very fast when they need to. Maybe Bernhard does intend to send at least a token force to support the French regiments outside Luebeck. But then again—maybe that isn’t what he intends. Fast is fast, no matter what direction it might be headed.”


            The general was tactful, for a wonder. He did not add the obvious coda. Since your brother has proven himself to be a traitor, who’s to say he’s not planning to betray Richelieu as well?


            Ernst was thankful for Banér’s courtesy in leaving all that unsaid. Not because he really cared about the issue of family honor, though. He and Wilhelm and Albrecht, by their own unswerving loyalty to Gustav Adolf since he landed his Swedish army in the Germanies in 1630, had done more than enough to still any suspicious that the Saxe-Weimars as a whole were untrustworthy.


            He simply didn’t want to get into another argument with Banér. The Swedish general didn’t really understand Ernst’s youngest brother. True, Bernhard was almost satanically ambitious. But he was not actually that quick to treason, nor was he the conscienceless and amoral man that most people took him to be. From Bernhard’s viewpoint, he had not betrayed Gustav Adolf in the first place. Rather, the Swedish king had betrayed him.


            Ernst did not agree with that viewpoint, but he had no trouble understanding its logic. There were times, now and then, in the darker places of his soul, when the same resentment surfaced. Between them, the Swedish king and the American up-timers had dealt roughly with the Saxe-Weimar dukes. With their status and prestige, at least, if not their personal selves.


            Yes, Bernhard could be ruthless. And, yes, he had the sort of arrogance that made it very easy for him to interpret events in a way that satisfied his personal code of honor and ethics. But that was not the same thing as the absence of honor and ethics altogether. Once satisfied that his course of action was acceptable—to himself, at any rate—Bernhard would proceed according to that same code. The youngest of the four Saxe-Weimar dukes was not only competent and capable, he was no more prone to pointless cruelty or gratuitous misconduct than any of his older brothers were. He was quite a devout Lutheran, actually, in his own way.


            All that said…


            Ernst looked out of the second-story window of the tavern onto the landscape below. Already, Banér’s engineers and soldiers had turned the once-fertile fields surrounding Ingolstadt into a nightmarish landscape of trenches and fieldworks.


            There was no report, anywhere, that Bernhard had ever sworn an oath of loyalty to the French. Not, at least, the sort of personal oath he had once sworn to Gustav Adolf. He had simply agreed to accept employment from them as the commanding general of a mercenary army.


            Ernst was reminded of an American witticism of sorts he’d once heard, from one of the UMWA men who still provided Mike Stearns with the backbone of his regime. One coal miner explaining to another the words he’d spoken to an employer who had angered him. Fuck you, buddy. I was looking for work when I walked in this door, so it’s not as if I’m any worse off on my way out.


            Yes. It was quite possible that his brother was planning to betray Richelieu. He wouldn’t think of it that way, of course.


            Hearing  movement, Ernst looked back into the room. Banér had sat back upright and was leafing through some of the other reports on the table.


            “But Bernhard’s not my problem,” he said. “He’s Horn’s problem, and the problem of Nils Abrahamsson Brahe in Mainz. So let’s get back to the siege here at Ingolstadt. I’ve got a report that just came in from one of my cavalry units. It seems that some of Maximilian’s troops are—”



About Eric Flint

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