1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 17

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 17

Chapter 9

After Jeff left, Gretchen didn’t spend more than half an hour moping around and feeling sorry for herself. She’d inherited her grandmother’s stoic disposition and hard-headed attitude toward life’s travails.

Besides, there were the children to be settled down. There weren’t as many as Gretchen had handled when she was a camp follower. Baldy and Martha had stayed behind in Grantville, which left only four of her foster children in addition to her own two sons Willi and Joseph. But all four of them were now entering their teen years and were almost the same age — Karl Blume, the oldest, was fourteen; Christian Georg, the youngest, was twelve. The other two, both born in 1622, were thirteen.

So, they were rambunctious. On the other hand, Gretchen was Gretchen. It didn’t take her more than half an hour to set them all about various household chores, obediently if not exactly happily.

The problems would come later, once the little devils figured out that the apartment building was as much in the way of a CoC headquarters — national headquarters, at that, with Gretchen in residence — as it was a private dwelling. They’d handle that knowledge each according to his or her own temperament. Otto and Maria Susanna, charmers both, would sweet-talk the various residents into taking on at least some of their tasks; Karl, the oldest and most independent, would be ingenious in evading his responsibilities; the very youngest, Christian Georg, would sulk long and mightily.

Gretchen would have none of it, though, sweet-talk and scheme and sulk though they might. She’d never heard the old saw “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” That was an English saying that probably originated from Chaucer. Many Americans knew it, of course, especially the more religious ones. But none of them happened to have used the expression in front of her.

Had she heard it, though, she would have agreed immediately and vigorously.

Which brought her to the next problem at hand. The children now dispatched for the moment, Gretchen turned and gazed upon that problem.

Who, for her part, gazed back at Gretchen from her seat on one of the benches scattered about the side walls of the vestibule. The young woman was modestly dressed — enough, even, to minimize a bosom almost as impressive as Gretchen’s own — and had her hands clasped demurely in her lap. She was the very picture of an unassuming person. From the style of shoes she was wearing, a town-dweller rather than someone from rural parts. But clearly a commoner, nonetheless.

The last part was true. The girl, who went by the nickname of Tata, was indeed a town-dweller. Her father owned a tavern in Mainz.

Everything else was illusory. Or would be soon enough. Gretchen would see to it herself, if need be.

But she didn’t think she’d need to do anything. Tata’s story was already spreading through the ranks of the CoCs, all across the Germanies, even though the critical events involved had happened less than two months earlier.

Such is the power of a splendid legend. The CoCs had found their Esther.

A legend it was, too, if Tata herself was to be believed.

“Eberhard came up with the idea all by himself,” she insisted. “Not that I didn’t think it was a clever move for something so spur-of-the moment, when he told me. But there wasn’t time for a lot of deep discussion. He was going to die. Not in minutes, but certainly within hours.”

The “he” in question had been Duke Eberhard, the young ruler of W├╝rttemberg, who’d been killed in Schorndorf while driving out the Bavarian mercenaries who’d occupied the city.

That was the bare bones of the tale. It got quite a bit less heroic when you added the meat to the bones. The mercenaries had not been driven out in the course of a valiantly fought siege, but by pure luck. An accident in a cook shop had started a fire during high winds which soon spread the flames through the whole town. The duke had been mortally injured in the course of helping a stubborn pastor trying to save valuables from his burning church.

But none of those pedestrian details mattered, because of what had come next. Duke Eberhard’s two brothers had already died in the war, so he’d been the sole heir — and, on his deathbed, he’d bequeathed the duchy to its entire population.

Noblemen had relinquished their titles before, to be sure. The new prime minister of the USE, Wilhelm Wettin, was one of them. He’d given up his title as one of the dukes of Saxe-Weimar in order to make himself eligible to serve as prime minister. But Eberhard had been the first and so far the only nobleman who’d relinquished his entire realm — and given it to the people who’d previously been his subjects, to boot.

It hadn’t taken the story more than two weeks to spread all across the USE. So was born the legend of the Good Duke — or, often, the Three Good Dukes, giving credit to Eberhard’s younger brothers who had also died in the struggle. So too was born the legend of the young tavern-keeper’s daughter whom the duke had loved, that selfsame love presumed to be the motive for his righteous deed.

The fact that the girl’s father happened to be the head of the Mainz CoC didn’t hurt, of course.

And never mind that the legend was mostly nonsense. So much was obvious to Gretchen just from listening to Tata’s version. The relationship the girl had had with the duke had fallen quite a ways short of the legend. There was nothing tawdry about it, if you had reasonable standards concerning such things. It was hardly the first time a charming young nobleman and an attractive town girl had had an affair, after all. Tata had been genuinely fond of Eberhard; and he, of her. But most likely they’d have drifted apart, had he lived.

As for the duke’s motives, Tata insisted that they had nothing to do with her.

“He was just pissed off, the way the Swedes kept jerking him back and forth. You know how they get with their German subordinates, if they’re noblemen. So he got even by dumping a mess in their laps.”

A mess it was, too. The prime minister’s bureaucrats and emperor’s lawyers were already trying to get the duke’s will invalidated. The lawyers working for the July Fourth Party were pushing back just as hard. And no matter which way the legal tussles went, the CoCs in W├╝rttemberg were having a field day. For once, they could claim to be the party of legitimacy. Their popular support in the western province was growing rapidly.

Here, though, Gretchen thought Tata was actually being too modest. She didn’t doubt that the driving force behind Duke Eberhard’s decision had been his irritation with the often high-handed methods of Gustav Adolf and his officials. Many German noblemen allied to the Swedish king chafed under his rule.

But, without Tata and the CoC to which she belonged, would his deathbed revenge have taken the form that it did?

Gretchen thought not. For all her hostility toward the aristocracy in general, she thought that the dying Eberhard had been moved, at the end, by a genuinely noble impulse. One that Tata could at least claim to have watered, if not seeded.

If even Gretchen was that well-disposed toward the memory of the young duke, she knew full well how the masses of the Germanies would react. Tata could say whatever she wanted. The CoC legend would roll right over it.

Maybe Esther had acne, too. Who cared?

So. Gretchen had a legend on her hands. The question was, what to do with her?

The answer was obvious. The best way to solve a problem is to apply it to another problem.

She waggled her hand in a rising motion. “Come, Tata. I want to introduce you to someone.”

Obediently, the girl rose.

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21 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 17

  1. Mike says:

    For any that haven’t read it, Tata and Duke Eberhard is told in greater depth in 1635 Tangled Web.

  2. Michael says:

    Sigh… 1632-34 (TBW) were nice, linear reads. Being a huge fan of those 3 but not so much of trying to keep up with the Gazette or the myriad other side-novels, this is going to get hard to keep up with.

  3. Damon says:

    I was hoping the Tangled Web would be in the Gazette or the Ring of Fire, but I see that it is a stand alone book by Virginia DeMarce that is available on Baen.

    I find her stories difficult to read; for me, they have too many characters and too much emphasis on interpersonal relationships at the expense of action. I found the Dreesen Incident pretty much a reading endurance test, except for the end that read a whole like Eric Flint.

    I hope Eric gives enough back story to make this plot line fit in. Maybe he already has!

  4. Mark L says:

    The Tangled Web struck me as a tedious overelaboration of a “Farmer’s daughter” joke.

  5. robert says:

    Agreed. After The Dreeson Incident and all those Gazette stories about family relationships, I decided that if DeMarce’s name is on it, I will skip it. As Damon says too many names and too complicated. I’ve also given up on the Gazette’s after Vol. XXV because there are just too many threads to keep straight and the writing is too uneven. If that is what is being published, the very thought of what is in the slush pile makes me shudder. From now on in the Ring of Fire arc, if Eric, or Eric & Weber, or Eric & Dennis aren’t the authors then I’m not the reader.

  6. TimC says:

    DeMarce= sentimental and childish. Yes I know I can’t write better, but fortunately with Eric and David Weber I can READ better!

  7. Damon says:

    I really have to give Eric a massive amount of respect for integrating so many of the story lines out there into this book. I imagine a huge room in his basement, looking like one of those WW II war rooms, with circles, arrows, graphs, names, dates, etc, where he keeps track of who did what to who when. Of course, I suppose he could just use a computer, but it’s just not the same visual.
    Making all of that information come together without contradiction is going to be a test, especially with as many people out there who have read most of it, some of whom (like me) who will happily, but reluctantly, point any inconsistencies.
    I wonder if Eric calls this thing “the Hydra” when he thinks about it?

  8. laclongquan says:

    It’s all a matter of taste.

    Sure sure, V like to use full range of characters avaible to any and all scenes. Sure, sometimes you got overwelmed by it. Sure, her style of writing is not comparable to Eric. Sure, for me it’s even a bit too dry at times. And maybe I dont even want to read her outside of her collaboration with Eric.

    But all is no problem for me. I can read her. I cant say the same for some other authors.

    Kratman is the most terrible sample. His sole Aldenata work with Ringo cant even make me reread it. His solos are frankly unreadable. Doc Travis Taylor is better. HIs collaborative works are good since others’ writing soften his, but his standalones are readable once, maybe twice.

    All is personal perception, of course. Still, I can help but think there’s some authors who is incomplete but can write good works with others if others can compensate for that aspect.

  9. Alejo says:

    If you have not read Tangled Web, you are not missing much. In fact, the few sentences Eric dedicates to telling us who this girl is will be more than enough for you to know as much as you need to about her. Incidentally, I don’t understand how someone can slog through De Marce and then turn around and say the couldn’t read Kratman. I personally don’t care for his radical almost fascist philosophy nor his unflattering portrayal of any Latin American characters unless they’re Panamanian, but, give the man his due, he can write an entertaining story. I think he’s quite mad and rather full of himself but, he can entertain. Tangled Web and dreson Incident did not entertain. They bored me immensely and very nearly drove me away from reading anything else in this series.

  10. robert says:

    I cannot read DeMarce. It may be my fault but I can’t keep track of what is going on in her stories.

    I can barely read Kratman. He is a dreadful writer. He does not write gracefully or with any humor-compare him to Lee & Miller or Bujold and his work becomes that of a 10 year old. His stories are predictable, and as Alejo wrote, his nutty political philosophy not only comes out load and clear in his writing, but is thrust upon the reader to exclusion of all else. He must be going nuts since a majority of the Latin American nations turned away from the fascist right and embraced their own home-grown lefty politicians (the Patagonian countries excepted now and likely forever).

    Give me Mike Stearns & Rebecca, Honor and Nimitz, Val Con and Miri, and the manic Miles once a year and I will be happy.

  11. jeff bybee says:

    I enjoy demark somewhat less than eric but I think her writing is rather fine. one of my favorite stories in ring of fire two is the story of noelle getting axcepted by her fathers family. and loved the many charectors and the humor, especally that of her youngest uncle dating his future wife from 16 to 18 when they got engaged. I thank all the authors for the entertainment and joy they bring into my life. I only wish mr flint could also be doing the rivers of war series at the same time. oh why can’t the authors write as fast as I can read. once a year is just not enough ( grin)

  12. laclongquan says:

    You know, V got one thing going for her. When I am out of materials to read, like now, I can open hers and try to figure out what it meant. Reread 1635 Ram Rebellion a few times due to just that. Still fun.

    And another thing going for V is that her politics doesnt intrude into her writing. Kratman’s politic do exactly that. And his writings are simply not good enough to force me into tolerance.

    conservative or liberal doesnt matter. If you want me to read about your political leanings, you damn well better write good.

  13. Brian Stewart says:

    I might wish differently, but I find Virginia’s writing style, and over-emphasis on the explanations of personal relationships, to be very tedious.
    A little bit of explanation here, and a gentle reminder a while later, is both
    appreciated and necessary for a story and its relationships to be effective and memorable. Unfortunately, (sigh!), my take on the issue is similar to dousing a good steak with so much salt that the next day all you remember is tasting the salt, not the steak.
    For the first time in the entire series, I did not devour the book the first few days after I bought it in December last year. I read up to page 19, then put it aside until I re-started the book last week. I’m halfway through it right now, and will take about another week to complete it. There ARE good aspects to Virginia’s writing, but Eric is the biggest reason for the series’ success.

  14. Summertime says:

    I read one book by Kratman and skimmed another. Way too harsh and violent. John Ringo gets that way sometimes, but he is a way better writer than Kratman. Taylor is kind of rough, and DeMarce is kind of involved and meandering. Talking about hard to read; I am reading ARENA by Ryk Spoor, and he is not a good writer. I enjoyed BOUNDARY, which Spoor co-wrote with Eric Flint, and it was pretty good, likely due to Eric’s influence. Anyone read it’s sequel, THRESHOLD? Is it any good? With reference to 1635: Eastern Front, I agree that it is bringing in a lot of the people we have read about in previous novels of the series, and that is good. So far, looks like a pretty good read.

  15. robert says:

    @13 Threshold was snippetted here (or was it on the fifthimperium–I know Arena was snippetted there) so you can take a look. It is a little bit jumpy, going from scene to scene in a manner that I would say is more Spoor and less Eric stylistically. Not to give anything away, but Buckley does get blown up in Threshold. I kept waiting for it in Boundary. It is on my pile to read when I finish Mission of Honor, which came yesterday.

  16. Summercat says:

    “I read one book by Kratman and skimmed another. Way too harsh and violent. John Ringo gets that way sometimes, but he is a way better writer than Kratman.”

    The same, really. I read ‘A State of Disobedience’, and once I did some mental handwaving and divorced any connection between the events of the book and real-world politics, it was enjoyable. Well, until the end.

    Ringo… Has gotten worse and worse over the years. His early works, while see-through and predictable, were enjoyable flashbacks to my childhood reading old scifi novels. I’ve read Live Free or Die, and it was relatively well done – until the end, when his politics started intruding needlessly into an otherwise wonderful near-future scifi story.

    DeMarce could use some further cohesion in her writing, but I like that she does what Flint wants to do but can’t: Don’t focus on one or two heroes, but help populate the world with people (IE, non-heroes).

  17. laclongquan says:

    Ringo didnt do any worse than The Last Centurion but I still can read it. Skim about the first quarter, but all the rest readable. live Free or Die is just wonderful, no complaint from me.

    Anyway, I like Ryk Spoor. Arena and Threshold are good, solid read. I especially look forward to Arena’s sequel. Threshold is a bit short in my mind, dont know why.

    Back to V, her style is not for speed reading. Simply not. You read the 1st time, wait a bit, then reread to make sense of the people, the relationship, the settings. V remind me of the author of Romance of Three Kingdoms, who used a cast of thousands and a setting of one whole continent.

  18. Damon says:

    I have read a lot of Ringo and thoroughly enjoyed almost all of it, especially the Kildar series. However, I tried reading the Last Centurion and just couldn’t get past the foaming at the mouth right wing diatribe that launched the book. I have really enjoyed Live Free or Die and can’t wait for the sequels.

  19. ET1swaw says:

    @15 Reread ‘Boundary’. 2 crash-landings and a major industrial accident vs one explosion (cause snerked) in ‘Threshold’.
    Personally I greatly enjoy all of the authors discussed above and understand some of where they’re coming from. AFAIK: Virginia Demarce is a geneaologist, at least by avocation. John Ringo ex-SF. Tom Kratman ex-/current Army JAG. Ryk E. Spoor a research scientist. And Travis Taylor, another of Eric Flint’s co-writers, is a physicist. And my political opinions are probably more in line with those stated by above authors. (not all with one or one with all, but somewhat parallel)

  20. Edward says:

    I can see how their life experience and previous vocation influences their writing tremendeously, but the above mentioned authors (Kratman, Taylor, Ringo and deMarce) go way overboard. I think is a matter of not receiving enough feedback before sending the manuscript to print. Giving the script to random acquitances and asking for their anonymous oppinions will help a lot (if someone tells me my presentations or trainings–i’m no writer– are too complicated and tedious or biased, I tend to go over them again and simplify them. Plus yes, personal political views in SF and fantasy are to be expected, but such extreme fanaticism and intolerance like in Ringo’s and Kratman’s work is not acceptable.

  21. I have never been a JAG; I have a law degree. For the Army’s purposes, I was an infantry officer, Ranger, that sort of thing, except for a couple of years in recruiting and a couple of years where I was de facto in house counsel to the PKSOI, but even there I was not a JAG.

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