1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 09

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 09:

The young man standing next to Jozef, Lukasz Opalinski, came from the same class of the high nobility. And if the Opalinski family was not as wealthy as the Koniecpolskis and many of the other great magnates, they made up for it by their vigorous involvement in the Commonwealth’s political affairs.

They were not stupid men, either of them. Not in the least. Just men so ingrained with generations of unthinking attitudes that Jozef knew how hard it would be for them to even see the problem, much less the solution. He suspected the only reason he’d been able to shed his own szlachta blinders was because he wasn’t exactly szlachta to begin with.

“You’re smiling, Jozef,” said Opalinski. “I don’t think I care for that smile.”

Jozef chuckled. “I was contemplating the advantages of bastardy.”

“What’s to contemplate? You get all the advantages of good blood with the added benefit of an excuse whenever you cross someone.”

Jozef shook his head. “It seems like an elaborate way to go about the business. Samuel Laszcz manages to cross almost everyone without the benefit of bastardy. Granted, it helps that he has the hetman’s favor and protection.”

A scowl came to Opalinski. “Laszcz! That shithead.” He used the German term, not the Polish equivalent. Like Jozef himself, Lukasz was fluent in several languages. He was particularly fond of German profanity.

So was Wojtowicz, for that matter — although, in recent months, he’d also grown very fond of American vulgarity. He didn’t think any other language had a term quite so charming in its own way as motherfucker.

“Finally! He’s finished,” said Opalinski.

And, indeed, the mounted archer had sheathed his bow and was trotting toward them.

When he drew close, he smiled down at the two young men. “I see from his scowl that Lukasz had not budged from his certainty that I am indulging myself. And what’s your opinion, nephew?”

Jozef squinted up at his uncle. And, as he’d known it would, felt his resolve to break with the man if he couldn’t bring him to understand the truth crumbling away. Stanislaw Koniecpolski had that effect on people close to him. Say what you would about the narrow views and limitations of the Grand Hetman of the Commonwealth, but Jozef didn’t know a single person who wouldn’t agree that he was a fair-minded and honorable man.

The simple fact that he referred openly to Jozef himself as his nephew was but one of many illustrations of Koniecpolski’s character. Jozef was a bastard, born of a dalliance by Stanislaw Koniecpolski’s younger brother Przedbor. After Przedbor died at the siege of Smolensk during the Dymitriad wars with Muscovy, the hetman had taken in the boy and his mother and raised him in his own household at the great family estate in Koniecpol.

“I wouldn’t presume to judge, uncle.”

Koniecpolski laughed. “Always the diplomat! Well, nephew, I will explain to you the truth, in the hopes that you might see it where stubborn young Opalinski here sees only a pointless melancholy for things past.”

He stumbled over the word “melancholy” a bit. The hetman suffered from a speech impediment, and had since he was a boy. He usually avoided long words, in fact, since he tended to stutter on them. That habit of speaking in plain and simple words led some people to assume Koniecpolski was dull-witted, an assumption which was very far from the truth.

Using his bare hands, the hetman mimicked an archer drawing his bow. He twisted sideways in the saddle as he did so, as if aiming at a target off to his left. “Notice, youngster, how the innate demands of using a bow properly while in a saddle almost force the archer to fire to his side, or even” — here he twisted still further in the saddle, imitating a man aiming behind him — “to his rear. In the nature of the thing, it is very difficult to fire a bow straight ahead while sitting in a saddle — and impossible to do it well, even for an excellent archer.”

Jozef nodded. “Yes, I can see that.”

The hetman beamed. “Well, then! You now understand — should, at least — what somehow still remains a puzzle to young Lukasz. The reason to practice mounted archery is to ingrain intelligent tactics in a soldier. The pike, the musket, the sword — pfah!” His pronounced mustachios wiggled with the sneer. “These teach a man to be stupid. Straight ahead, straight ahead, straight ahead.”

Opalinski sniffed. “That may well be. But that will still be the way the Swede comes at us — and not even you think he can be defeated with bows and arrows.”

“Well, of course not. But I also know that I have no chance of defeating the Swede — not so mighty as he has become — if I simply try to match him head to head, like two bulls in a field.” Koniecpolski gazed down at the young nobleman, very serenely. “This is why I am the Grand Hetman of Poland and Lithuania, and you are not.”

Opalinski chuckled. “Point taken.” He shivered a little, and drew his cloak around him more closely. “And, now, it’s cold. Your poor horse looks half-frozen himself. I propose we retire indoors.”

In point of fact, the horse — like the hetman — had been exercising far too vigorously to be chilled. And it wasn’t really even that cold, for the time of year. Still, the idea of retiring to a comfortable salon and warming one’s innards with a stout beverage appealed to Jozef. So, he too drew his cloak around him more tightly, and faked a shiver.

“Weaklings,” jeered Koniecpolski. “And at your age! Just another reason to practice mounted archery.”


After Koniecpolski left for the stables, Jozef and Lukasz began walking toward the manor, some distance away. Fortunately, they were on one of the Koniecpolski family’s smallish estates, this one located near Poznan. Had they been at the great family estate in Koniecpol, their walk would have been much longer. Fortunately, also, it had been a sunny day, so the ground was dry. Had there been a thunderstorm recently, their boots would have been caked with mud by the time they reached their destination.

Still, it was not a short distance, even if the walk was easy. That suited Jozef well enough, though. He needed the time to compose his thoughts.

“So solemn,” Opalinski murmured, after a while. “Is it really that bad, Jozef?”

Wojtowicz gave his friend a sideways glance. “Well. Yes, actually. I’m afraid the hetman’s not going to like what I have to say. Or you, for that matter.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m going to tell him that it’s sheer folly to weigh in on the side of the Saxons and Brandenburgers against the USE. Those are German lands, not Polish. We should just stay out of the whole business. All that an intervention on our part will accomplish is to given the damn Swede an excuse to invade Poland.”

“Not that he’s ever needed much of one,” grunted Lukasz.
“True, true. Still and all, if we stay out — but!” He lifted his hand. “I may as well save it for the hetman. No point giving the same speech twice. It’ll probably be wasted on you anyway, dull-witted soldier that you are.”

Lukasz called him a very unfavorable term in Lithuanian.

Jozef grinned. “I have the most marvelous American expression.”

After he spoke it a few times, Lukasz began practicing the pronunciation. “Modderfooker… mudder — yes, it is nice.”

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13 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 09

  1. Virgil says:

    a repeat from Anadaconda Project

  2. robert says:

    As Eric said in the introductory snippet, there are some sections from the Anaconda Project that he was writing for the GGs. I expect several more.

  3. Tim says:

    Personally, I would say the Germans have the best cursewords, and the Italians are the best at cursing.

  4. robert says:

    English is a Germanic language, as is demonstrated by words like ficken, scheisse, etc. And when we add kupf to the word, we get scheissekupf, etc. So we have all the German cuss words plus our own variations, as in this snippet (mutterficker is the German translation, by the way).

    The Italians just have better gestures and a bit more finesse, but not better words. Actually, for finesse I prefer the High Middle German of Yiddish which combines the German words and the linguistically delicious variety of “sch” words, not to mention putz, in its more vulgar meaning.

    And that is the beauty of English in that we will take any word from any language and use it if it fits the ear.

  5. Summertime says:

    Where was a story about the Anaconda Project printed?

  6. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Summertime, the Anaconda Project only appeared in the Electronic version of the Grantville Gazette but has not been finished.

    From what I’ve heard, Eric Flint is currently planning to complete it in novel form.

  7. Daryl says:

    @4 It seems that each culture has expressive swear words, with Americans’ mo**** f***er being their pinnacle, a Dutch friend said theirs is kippenocher (kippen is chicken), where we irreverent Australians tend to mix blasphemy and the normal four letter words in ways that do offend others from countries that take their religion seriously.

  8. Summertime says:

    Hmm. OK, Drak B., can you give me a little info on Anaconda? I assume it concerns Eastern Europe and political/military moves there. Thanks.

  9. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Summertime, the Anaconda Project involves the plans of King Wallenstein of Bohemia to expand his territory.

    Part of his plans do involve taking advantage of internal problems in downtime Poland which is why these Polish characters were introduced in the Anaconda Project.

  10. Summertime says:

    Drak B.: Another subject. In the story collection WARRIORS there is a Weber tale, about vampires who thwart an alien invasion. In the intro to this tale there is mention of a number of Weber works, including the “four volume Dahak series”. I am assuming this refers to the EMPIRE FROM THE ASHES series, featuring the moon-sized space ship named Dahak. I know of only three volumes in this series. Do you know of a fourth or is this intro in error?

  11. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Summertime, I think the “four volumes” refers to the three volumes as originially published and the omni-book that contains all three of the Dahak novels.

    While David Weber has ideas for further Dahak novels, those ideas are still very much on the back-burner.

  12. robert says:

    @8 Summertime, the story actually starts near the end of the first book, 1632, when Julie (now) McKay shoots then General Wallenstein from a far distance and his being shot causes the enemy to retreat. It takes up from there with a story called The Wallenstein Gambit in the first Ring of Fire book. Then all the Anaconda Project stories (actually a serial) in the Grantville Gazettes, beginning with Volume 12, continue the tale. I think it is one of two best series in the GGs.

  13. John Cowan says:

    Nothing beats Hungarian for swears, specifically the famous L√≥fasz a seggedbe! (“Horse cock up your ass!”)

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