1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 21

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 21:

About fifty yards to the rear, and as many to the south — they were following different roads — Captain Jeff Higgins and his own staff were observing their commanding general.

Jeff’s staff was much smaller, of course. It consisted of his adjutant, Lieutenant Eric Krenz, who like Jeff himself was too young and inexperienced for the job. General Schuster had promised Jeff that he’d have experienced and capable company commanders — and so he did. Everyone of the battalion’s captains was up-to-snuff. So, naturally, following the surrealistic logic that Jeff had decided was inherent to the military mind, they’d put two neophytes in charge.

At least Krenz had been in a battle before. A real one, too, not the sort of firefights and commando raids that constituted the entirely of Jeff’s experience. Eric had been part of the flying artillery unit that broke the French cavalry charge at the great battle of Ahrensbök.

“Why don’t you ride a horse as well as Stearns does?” Krenz asked him, a sly smile on his face.

Jeff grunted. “Mike’s a fricking athlete. Used to — voluntarily, mind you — slug it out with professional prizefighters. Won every fight, even. Me? I’m a fricking geek. Until the Ring of Fire planted me in this madhouse, my idea of physical exercise was rolling the dice in a Dungeons and Dragons game.”

He didn’t have to explain the reference. Eric Krenz was a natural-born geek himself, and had quickly acclimatized himself to the quirks of American custom. He and two other officers in the regiment, in fact, we’re planning to launch their own gaming company as soon as their terms of service expired. They intended to plunder Dungeons and Dragons lock, stock, and barrel. Why not? One of the legal principles that had been established by the parliament of the USE was that no copyrights, patents or trademarks for anything brought through the Ring of Fire were still valid except for ones held at the time by residents of Grantville who’d made the passage.

There were a few of those. Seven people were published authors; nothing fancy, just various articles in magazines or journals. Two people held patents for small inventions, Jere Haygood and Diana O’Connor. None of those did them any good, though. O’Connor’s patent was for an esoteric aspect of business software which was irrelevant to anything in the here and now. Haygood’s two patents were for minor gadgets that no one would probably have any use for until the patents expired. On the other hand, Haygood held several patents for devices he’d invented since the Ring of Fire — and the same law had established copyrights and patents for the here and now.

Those might be challenged. Haygood’s new patents fell into the legal gray area that would afflict any up-time inventor. On the one hand, he had created the devices himself since the Ring of Fire. Nobody questioned that. On the other hand, since there had been nothing close to a complete record in Grantville of all patents, trademarks and copyrights granted by the United States of America, who could say? Maybe Haygood had just copied something that he remembered.

Jeff was pretty sure that the courts would rule in Jere’s favor, though, if anyone did challenge him. German jurisprudence was every bit as inclined as the American to see possession as nine-tenths of the law. Unless someone could prove that Haygood had swiped his inventions from something already in existence up-time, his patents would stand.

Jeff was sure enough of that to have been severely tempted when Eric Krenz and his partners had offered to bring him into the business. But, after thinking it over, he’d declined.

The problem was twofold. The first, and lesser problem, was that there might be a conflict of interest involved if the commanding officer of a battalion went into business with some of his subordinates, even if the business wasn’t launched until they’d all left the army.

Jeff wasn’t sure of that. What he was sure of, however, was how Gretchen would react. His wife wasn’t normally given to stuffiness. But he was pretty sure that the recognized central leader of the Committees of Correspondence would cast a cold eye on her husband hustling fantasy games.

Besides, they didn’t really need the money any longer.

Speaking of cold eyes being cast…

Jeff scrutinized Krenz’s none-too-relaxed posture. “And you got a lot of nerve making fun of your battalion’s commander’s horsemanship, lieutenant. Your own equestrian skills would fit right into a Three Stooges movie.”

“What are the three stooges?”

“Ah! An aspect of American high culture you’ve missed, I see. Well, let me be the first to enlighten you. The Three Stooges were a legend, up-time. Three renowned sages, philosophers one and all, whose wisdom –”

“You’re lying to me again, Captain Higgins, aren’t you?”


More than a mile further back in the march, and on yet a different road, Thorsten Engler turned to the man riding next to him and said: “How do you think Eric is getting along in his new post?”

Jason Linn grinned. He was the mechanical repairman who’d replaced Krenz in the flying artillery unit. “He’d have been all right if he’d stayed a grunt. But he went ahead and accepted the commission they offered him. He’s an officer now. Officers ride horses. It’s a given.”

Linn wasn’t all that much of a horseman himself, but the redheaded young Scotsman didn’t have Krenz’s fear of the beasts. And he didn’t need any horsemanship beyond the basic skills. He’d be riding the lead near horse of a battery wagon, just as he was doing at the moment.

Thorsten, on the other hand, was riding a cavalry horse. That was expected of the commander of a volley gun company. Fortunately, he was quite a good horseman.

He’d damn well have to be, riding this horse. He’d been given the stallion as a gift just three days before the march began, by Princess Kristina. He didn’t want to think how much the animal had cost. He was still getting used to the creature. This steed was about as far removed from the plow horses he’d grown up with as a placid steer is from a Spanish fighting bull.

Jason was a good repairman. He was a blacksmith’s son and had gotten some further training in one of Grantville’s machine shops after he arrived in the up-time town. He’d been all of twenty years old at the time and eager for adventure.

“Scotland’s the most boring country on earth,” he insisted. As vigorously as you could ask for, despite having experienced exactly one and half countries — Scotland and parts of the Germanies — not counting three days each spent in London and Hamburg.

Still, Thorsten missed Eric Krenz. And he certainly envied his friend’s position in the march, way up in front with one of the leading infantry units. Where Engler’s flying artillery company was positioned, they were almost choking. An army of twenty-five thousand men, many of them mounted, throws up a lot of dust. As it was, they were lucky they were ahead of the supply train.

“Think it’ll rain?” asked Jason, his tone half-hoping and half-dreading.

Thorsten felt pretty much the same way about the prospect. On the one hand, rain would eliminate the dust. On the other hand, everything would become a soggy mess and if the rain went on long enough they’d be marching through mud.

“War sucks,” he pronounced, using one of the American expressions beloved by every soldier in the army.


It wasn’t until an hour later that it occurred to him that he was denouncing war because of the prospect of moderate discomfort. Not death; not mutilation; not madness brought on by horror. Just the possibility of being wet and muddy. As a farm boy, he’d taken getting wet and muddy as a matter of course — but would have been aghast at the carnage of a battlefield.

Thorsten wondered what had happened to that farm boy. Was he still there, beneath the Count of Narnia riding a warhorse given to him by a future empress and betrothed to a woman from a land of fable?

He hoped so.

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19 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 21

  1. dave o says:

    Jason Linn: Scotland dull? He’s obviously not a highlander, and I don’t think he’s a borderer. If I remember my history, Scotland in the 1630’s was a pretty exciting country all over. By the way, can we expect Montrose to appear?

    Eric Krenz: If I remember right he was a clown and a griper in The Baltic War. What qualifies him for a promotion to lieutenant? Help!

  2. Jason says:

    Wow Jeff Higgins and Eric Krenz beiing the Gary Gygax and Steve Jackson of the 17th century :)

  3. Mike says:

    Okay, so that explains why _Jeff_ won’t start up the role-playing game industry. What is preventing Eddie Cantrell and Jimmy Andersen from deciding they want to do so?

    If Jeff really wanted, he could take part – and have his shares be on behalf of Larry Wild, the fourth musketeer. Have it all go to charity. Besides, seeing as Larry and Jeff were the ones who lived in Grantville, that likely means Larry’s collection of roleplaying items that wasn’t turned over for research is likely sitting somewhere. Why not use that to start things?

  4. Robert Krawitz says:

    Do you mean Lt. (my guess soon to be Lt. Cmdr.) Edward Cantrell, USN? Whose admiral is the one real uptime senior officer (maybe not flag rank, but in one of the earlier books he mentioned that he had made Captain’s List) and will surely insist on absolute loyalty from his subordinate?

  5. Dave says:

    Of course, the Four Musketeers went through the Ring of Fire a few months before 3rd Edition came out, so one hopes they’ve got more than D&D to work with…

  6. Terranovan says:

    @3: And surely Lt. Cantrell will care more about Adm. Simpson’s good opinion than having fun. And Adm. Simpson will have a severe problem with starting up roleplaying games – enough to tell him to stop it.

  7. Mike says:

    @3, @5 – Yes, that Eddie Cantrell; the same Eddie under the same Admiral Simpson who both was a reader of science fiction (mentioned in Ring of Fire 1) and also writes science fiction stories under a pseudonym for a Magdeburg based magazine. (mentioned in one of the gazettes, can’t remember which). If Eddie also wrote under a pseudonym, how is this different?

  8. Robert Krawitz says:

    @6, that’s true, and I could well believe that the same Admiral Simpson has a weakness for that kind of strategic and tactical gaming himself.

  9. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Well Admiral Simpson’s ideas about strategic and tactical gaming may be more realistic than D&D. [Grin]

  10. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Dave O, what Eric Krenz says before and after actual combat is not a likely factor in offering him a promotion.

    What would be a factor is his actions on the field of battle.

    IIRC nothing was said about his conduct on the field of battle.

  11. robert says:

    Lt. Cantrell must be a very busy man these days. His new princess bride and their baby AND Admiral Simpson must be putting quite some demands on his time. Especially since he is now tied to a desk what with a prosthetic leg and so right where Simpson can easily find him. Or even worse, is the new Cantrell family staying in Copenhagen where his father-in-law can easily find him? Dust and all, Jeff & Co. have it better.

  12. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Ah Robert, where did you read that Eddie is going to be a father (or is one)?

    I’ll admit to not reading the Gazette.

    Also, I’d like text evidence on his prosthetic leg keeping Eddie “tied to a desk”.

    In this time frame, wooden legs don’t stop people from serving on ships.

    Now Simpson might be keeping Eddie “tied to a desk” but not because of Eddie’s leg.

  13. robert says:

    @12 Drak you don’t really think that after all those days of diddling in the hide-out and all these weeks of being married (no shotgun needed) that the “king’s daughter,” Anne Katherine, remains sans child. Do you? Also I do not think that the “fleet” that we saw in The Baltic War is the fleet that Simpson wants to have as a final fleet for very long. I am sure he is building a real seagoing fleet and that Eddie is NOT anywhere else but at the navy yard working on that project. He really was having trouble getting around so I think he needs some rehab and physical therapy. Meanwhile he is being busy.

  14. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, it is likely that they could have a child soon.

    The way you said it implied that it had occurred in print. [Wink]

    As for Eddie and his leg, please remember what he was ‘up to’ in _1634: The Bavarian Crisis_.

    He getting around just fine. [Grin]

  15. Sean Maxwell says:

    Eddie Cantrell is not a desk jockey. I quote from _1634-THE_BAVARIAN_CRISIS_:

    >Part Nine
    >October 1634
    >Somewhere in Swabia…. Tom ignored him, as did Lieutenant Commander Eddie Cantrell….
    >”You mean to tell me we’ve dragged these fucking cannons halfway across Europe for nothing?” “It was your idea in the first place,” pointed out the colonel….
    >Eddie winced. Then he leaned over and rubbed his leg just above the peg that supported it. “Oh, my aching foot-and-pegleg. Don’t tell me.” ….
    >”Ingolstadt’s not so bad,” mused Eddie….
    >No matter how you sliced it, getting from Swabia to northern Bavaria was a lot better proposition than returning the guns to the Baltic.

  16. robert says:

    It is going to be very hard for John Simpson to let him go. But no doubt he will have a ship of his own soon enough. Maybe even in this book, as there will be some significant events in the Baltic (I am guessing).

  17. laclongquan says:

    WHAAAAT? Where is snippet 22?

  18. robert says:

    I guess Drak went on vacation early…

  19. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Eric hasn’t given me Snippet 22. [Frown]

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