1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS — snippet 56

 

1634: THE BALTIC WAR – snippet 56:

 

 

Amberg, the Upper Palatinate

 

            By the time Hand wiped up the mess resulting from the skirmish by Freihung, he determined that these were a detachment of Holk’s men, who claimed to be making a diversionary move through the Upper Palatinate on their way to cause some trouble in Leuchtenberg.

 

            It only made sense for him to take his captives back to Amberg; it would have made no sense at all to take them to Grafenwöhr. He turned back, sending a messenger to tell Böcler that he would be delayed.  In the ensuing discussions over the next couple of days, he and Duke Ernst reached the not particularly surprising conclusion that the second set of villains in the kidnapping, the ones who disposed of Kilian Richter’s thugs, were probably employed by Holk in the service of John George of Saxony. It would only make sense, after all, that John George might be looking for hostages to hold against the USE.

 

            The captured soldiers denied entirely any connection with ore barges or kidnapped women, but that was only to be expected. So Hand and the regent devoted extensive analysis to a mistaken premise and sent quite a number of their Grenzjaeger and other scouts to the north and east rather than to the south.

 

            The whole episode left Duke Ernst, after he had interviewed a couple of the captured officers, feeling decidedly miffed with John George of Saxony. Which, in fact, John George deserved, even though he didn’t have anything at all to do with the kidnapping.

 

 

On the Naab River, Upper Palatinate

 

            Böcler thought that he had a good identification of the barge. He would have loved to have it stopped, but, unfortunately, it was well ahead of him and nobody else could catch up to it any faster than he could. He was gaining a little, but not much, and was beginning to wonder if the damned barge was ever going to stop. It passed through every lock it came to. Where could it possibly be going?

 

****

 

            On the barge in question, Forst and Becker were feeling increasingly out of their depth. They didn’t want the old ladies to die. They took the lids off the barrels every now and then, so they could get air. Once the women recovered consciousness, they dropped water into their mouths with a spoon. But when they came to locks and populated areas, they had to stuff up their mouths and put the lids back on or they’d scream. They’d tried that, several times.

 

            The Naab was coming to an end. They were going to have to make up their minds pretty soon. They hadn’t done anything, but nobody would believe that. The ladies had been out cold; they weren’t going to testify that the men on the barge had valiantly rescued them from an attack by bandits, even if it happened to be true. One thing was sure, though. They did know that Arndt had been collecting information about the one lady for their lord, Landgrave Wilhelm George of Leuchtenberg. If they didn’t want their heads cut off, they only had one choice. They would take the ladies to the landgrave, let him worry about it, and hope that he would provide them with Schutz und Schirm in return for their loyal service. Protection and defense; that was what a good lord owed his subjects.

 

            They passed through another lock. And another.

 

****

 

            The Cavrianis caught up with Böcler fairly quickly, since they hadn’t had to stop and ask questions of tollkeepers or gate attendants. The three of them continued south as fast as the condition of the Naab’s banks allowed them to. They couldn’t go any faster on the river. If they were on a barge themselves, they would have to wait for the locks to open and close. Past Pfreimd. Why in hell, if the men were Leuchtenberger, hadn’t they stopped in Pfreimd?

 

            Past Schwandorf.

 

            Past Burglengenfeld.

 

            All the way to the mouth of the Naab, where it ran into the Danube. Where they found out that two idiotic bargemen, just a few hours before, had, without stopping at customs, shot their barge out of the river and crossed the Danube, presumably beaching themselves on the right bank above Regensburg. The barge had not appeared in Regensburg’s waters.

 

            All three of the pursuers, being stronger on brain cells than on biceps, sensibly refrained from doing anything really stupid, like trying to swim the Danube after it.

 

****

 

            Böcler entirely agreed that his first duty was to Duke Ernst. He would take the information back to Amberg.

 

            When he arrived, his news caused great frustration among those intelligence analysts who had been assuming that John George of Saxony was the villain in the piece.

 

            They realized now that it must have been Duke Maximilian. They start to develop new scenarios. Scenarios that involved Ingolstadt. Did Maximilian actually think that holding Veronica Dreeson and Mary Simpson hostage would get Banér to call off the siege? If not that, then what?

 

            Hand called back the scouts he had sent to the north and east. Not that they hadn’t gathered quite a bit of useful information while they were out. Taking a calculated risk, he practically stripped the border facing Bohemia of Grenzjaeger, sending them north to face against Saxony. He wished that he had more soldiers. If the king sent a regular regiment, though, Banér would appropriate it. In General Banér’s world, internal security ran a very distant second to active campaigning.

 

            “So where did the Cavrianis go?” the Swedish colonel asked Böcler.

 

****

 

            Böcler’s mouth fell open. Somehow, Cavriani had kept him so busy discussing all the things that he needed to bring to the regent’s attention that he had forgotten to ask what the two of them planned to do next. He made a note to himself to be more thorough, next time.

 

****

 

            Duke Ernst shrugged. The Cavrianis were not his problem: not his officials, not his subjects, not, really, even official members of the Grantville trade delegation. They were representing whom? Oh yes, Count August von Sommersburg. He could not be held responsible for every foreign merchant who passed through the Upper Palatinate.

 

****

 

            Leopold and Marc followed the Danube upstream for some distance. Crossing right away, so close to Regensburg, Leopold explained, would most certainly have brought them to the attention of the Bavarian authorities, which would not have been a good idea at all. As it was, they would simply cross openly into the Pfalz-Neuburg enclave rather than into Bavaria proper, in their own names and as exactly what they were: merchants from Geneva, bringing their horses, and an appropriate amount of baggage.

 

            Cavriani Frères had a factor stationed in Neuburg, another in Pfaffenhofen. Veit Egli was originally from Constance and was a Catholic. Considering the location of this branch, it was far easier for a Swiss Catholic to go back and forth into Bavaria more or less freely than it would have been for a either a Genevan Calvinist or a local resident. Not that local residents did not make useful employees, Leopold pointed out. The factor in Paffenhofen, a man named Brunner, had relatives in Hohenwart and Reichertshofen; the cousin in Hohenwart had a brother-in-law in Schrobenhausen.

 

            In any case, since they got to Neuburg first, Egli got the job of notifying a livery stable owner in Grafenwöhr that he had just de facto sold two of his horses (fair payment enclosed, see independent appraisal obtained by my employer; please send receipt). Marc had time to write to Frau Durre in Nürnberg and ask her to send him the clothes he had left in his room there, because they were taking a different route home. He included an entertaining, if rather sharply edited, version of their stay in Amberg with the request.

 

            Using the firm’s various resources, Leopold set his mind to two immediate projects.  First, locating Mary and Veronica; second, getting them out of Bavaria. Those seemed rather obvious to him. For the time being, somebody else could worry about why they were there at all. Leopold Cavriani was a practical man.

 

About Eric Flint

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