1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 12:
Janos got up from his chair and went over to the side table to refill his cup with wine. When he and Ferdinand met privately in this small salon the emperor used for such purposes, there were no servants present. That was a practice which Ferdinand had instituted at Drugeth’s insistence.
“Beyond that, Ferdinand, I am concerned about the Turks.” He lifted the bottle, offering to pour for the emperor.
Ferdinand shook his head, and gave him another of those suspicious looks from under lowered brows. “You’re just trying to frighten me, damn you. What your leman called ‘pointing with alarm’ in one of those letters you showed me.”
Alas. Janos had forgotten that he’d shown that letter of Nicole’s to the emperor. Ferdinand served him as an adviser in his courtship of the American woman.
“Still.” He resumed his seat and shook his head, trying to seem as firm and certain as he could. “I am worried, Ferdinand. The one thing we know for sure is that the Ottomans have purchased a prodigious number of copies of various texts from Grantville. Among them have been histories as well as technical and scientific manuals.”
The emperor made a derisive sound. “Yes, they have. Despite that idiotic proclamation of the Turkish sultan that the Ring of Fire never happened, the Americans are witches, and anyone caught saying otherwise will be strangled.”
Drugeth shrugged. “Nobody ever accused Murad of being a sensible man. But I suspect the proclamation’s purpose is primarily to maintain secrecy. One other thing we know for sure is that the Turks have launched some sort of technical project near [NOTE: PUT IN DETAILS LATER] The purpose is almost certainly to develop new engines of war, using American methods.”
Ferdinand frowned. “Do you think they have American advisers and technicians, as we do?”
Janos shook his head. “Possible, but unlikely.”
He decided to leave unspoken his growing fears about the band of Americans whom he had himself suborned and escorted into Austria after they defected. It was true that they were providing Austria with a lot of valuable advice and knowledge. But Drugeth didn’t trust them. They had betrayed their own people for no more exalted motives than greed and a desire to escape prosecution for criminal activity. Why would people like that hesitate, if the Ottomans offered them still greater rewards? Which, the sultan of the Turks was certainly in a position to do, should he so choose. No realm in the world was as wealthy as the Ottoman Empire, save possibly the empire of the Mughals or that of the Ming dynasty in China. But according to the up-time texts, the Mings were on the eve of collapse at the hands of Manchu invaders. In that other universe, on the other hand, the Ottomans lasted as long as the Habsburgs themselves — and, in 1684, came very close to seizing Vienna after marching an army of 150,000 men into Austria. Like the Mughals in India, the Turks were still at the height of their wealth and power.
But Janos had no proof or even solid evidence that any of the Americans now in Austrian service were planning to defect to the Ottomans. If he raised his concerns now, Ferdinand would just accuse him of being an alarmist. Again.
He kept silent, allowing the emperor to mull on the matter. There was nothing at all wrong with Ferdinand’s mind, whenever he could shuffle off unthinking royal notions and attitudes. It was better to allow him to come to his own conclusions and decisions. Trying to chivvy him would be counter-productive.
After a minute or so, Ferdinand mused: “It’s too late for the Turk to launch an invasion this year.”
Drugeth nodded. Like most Hungarian noblemen he was an experienced soldier. The Ottomans would have to mobilize a huge army to attack Vienna — and get that army and its equally enormous supply train through the Balkans. It was impossible to do so in winter, of course. But it was also essential that such an army not be left stranded in the middle of winter. There would be no way to keep it supplied with enough food, if it failed to seize Vienna.
The end result of these harsh logistical realities was that any attack launched by the Turks against Austria had to follow a rather fixed and rigid timetable. The invasion couldn’t possibly be launched until the fresh spring grass arrived, or there wouldn’t be enough grazing for the horses and oxen. There was no possibility of hauling enough fodder. Not with the immense number of livestock involved in such a campaign.
Traditionally, the Turks began their campaigning season at or near the time of the festival in honor of Hizir Hyas, the Moslem saint who protected travelers and other people in peril. That came in early May, by the Christian calendar.
Of course, the Turks wouldn’t wait that long before they began moving their troops. They’d march them north to Belgrade in March and April, and launch the attack from there once the weather and grazing conditions permitted. Belgrade was roughly half the distance from Istanbul to Vienna, but the terrain over that final stretch was much more difficult for an army. Much of the terrain south of the Danube consisted of marshes and swamps.
The Turkish army was extremely well organized, true. Being honest, better organized than the Austrian — or, indeed, most Christian armies. But it still couldn’t move faster than ten or twelve miles a day. The earliest the Ottomans could reach Vienna would be late June or, more likely, sometime in July.
They couldn’t afford to arrive much later than that, because once they did arrive they’d only have a few months to succeed in taking the city. If they hadn’t done so by late autumn, they’d have no choice but to retreat back to Belgrade. Trying to keep an army of that size in fieldworks through winter would be almost certain disaster. Disease, exposure and hunger would slaughter far more of the sultan’s soldiers than his enemy could. Such a disaster had overtaken the Ottoman army in 1529, when Suleiman the Magnificent delayed for too long before ordering a retreat, in hopes that a final assault would take Vienna.
So, Ferdinand was right. It was already June, and thus too late this year for a Turkish invasion
“All right,” said the emperor, a bit grumpily. “I’ll agree to hold off any decision until the winter.” He raised a rigid forefinger. “But! The price is that you have to undertake an inspection of the frontier fortifications. To see if the Turks really are planning any mischief for next year.”
“Again? I inspected those forts less than –”
“Yes, again!” Ferdinand grimaced. There was some sympathy in the expression — not much — along with surly satisfaction at making Janos pay for impeding the royal will. “You can send your letters to the American woman just as well from horseback as from the comfort of your estates in Hungary.”
Estates which, in point of fact, Janos hadn’t seen in quite a while. That was because he’d been here in Vienna, serving the emperor in the capacity that the up-timers called “right-hand man.”
But there was no point arguing the matter. Truth be told, Drugeth wouldn’t mind doing such an inspection tour again. It was possible that the Ottomans had decided to attack Austria.
Mad or cruel he might be, but Murad was neither stupid nor weak-minded. He could study the up-time texts as well as anyone. Grantville’s records with respect to Turkey were assumed to be even scantier than those relating to Austria. But Janos had his own spies in Grantville and he knew that was only true of the public records. There was one large private library in the town which, as it turned out, had a copy of a book by a man named Lord Kinross. The Ottoman Centuries, was its title. Janos had a copy of it himself, in his chambers in this very palace.
Assuming that Murad had gotten his hands on a copy also — and it would be foolish to assume otherwise — he was quite capable of drawing some lessons from the history recounted therein. The section dealing with Murad’s own reign was quite extensive. Presumably, if nothing else, the young sultan would have enough sense to moderate the heavy drinking that contributed to his premature death at the age of twenty-eight in the universe from which the book came.
But perhaps not. Intemperate habits were hard for anyone to overcome, much less a man as mighty and exalted and feared as the ruler of the Ottoman Empire. But even if he persisted in his personal habits, he might still conclude that the war he launched against the Persians was a mistake. True, in that other world he’d succeeded in retaking Baghdad from the Safavids. But to what purpose, when all was said and done? Nothing really worthwhile.
If Drugeth were the sultan, there was one simple lesson he’d most likely draw from the Kinross book. In the end, the great Turkish power would be brought down not by Persians, but by the armies of Christian nations.
Baghdad was a thousand miles from Istanbul. Why start a savage and exhausting war with Persia, when Vienna was closer? — and, in another universe, was almost taken by the Turks twice. First, Suleiman’s attempt in 1529, and then again in 1683. Who was to say that an attempt in the year 1636 might not succeed?
Especially, as the new sultan would see it, with Murad himself in command. He probably enjoyed seeing the sobriquets “the Mad” and “the Cruel” in future accounts of himself. But he would undoubtedly prefer to add “the Great” or “the Sublime” to the list. And the one sure way to do that would be to succeed where Suleiman the Magnificent had failed.
So, Janos made no further demurral. He finished his cup of wine, rose, and gave his friend and emperor a little bow. “As you command, Your Majesty.”
The ruler of the Austrian empire and head of the elder branch of the great Habsburg dynasty looked up at Drugeth. Once again, from under lowered brows.
“Stop gloating,” he said.