1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 41
Studying the mob packed into the open area south of Dresden’s Residenzschloss, the seat of the Saxon Electors, Noelle Stull thought John George was smart to have gotten out of the city as quickly as he did. According to the reports she and Eddie Junker had gotten, the Elector had left the night before just about the same time Noelle and her party had arrived in Dresden. He’d left with all of his family members still in the city. Apparently, that only consisted of his wife Magdalene Sibylle and their youngest son Moritz. All three of the older boys — Johann Georg, August and Christian — had been with von Arnim’s army which had been defeated in the recent battle of Zwenkau. No one in Dresden seemed to know whether or not they had survived the debacle.
If they had, Noelle thought they’d be wise to stay out of the city as well. Dresdeners didn’t seem to be as furious with the Elector as the residents of Saxony’s rural districts, from what she could tell. But they were obviously angry enough to form an impromptu lynch mob should the occasion arise.
That left the Elector’s three surviving daughters: Sophia Eleanora, Maria Elizabeth, and the mother’s namesake, the eighteen-year-old Magdalene Sibylle. None of them were anywhere near Saxony, however. The two older girls had married noblemen living in the western parts of the Germanies and now resided there. The youngest had just married the Danish crown prince Christian.
She whistled softly. Eddie cocked an eye at her. “What?”
“I was just thinking what a royal mess of a succession crisis we’re likely to have, assuming Gustav Adolf unseats John George entirely.”
Eddie frowned. “Why? He’d disqualify all the sons from the succession too.”
“Sure. But that still leaves the three daughters — each and every one of whom, I remind you, is married to a loyal subject of the emperor. Assuming we can refer to Prince Christian as a ‘loyal subject,’ which may be questionable but simply raises other problems.”
Eddie thought about it. “Bigger problems, actually. Gustav Adolf can shrug off Hesse-Darmstadt and Holstein-Gottorp’s claims easily enough. But if there’s no one else in line to inherit Saxony, you can bet that King Christian of Denmark will insist the children of his daughter-in-law should. And Gustav Adolf can’t ignore him so readily.”
Denise Beasley piped up. “Piece of cake. Throw out all the royal bums and set up a republic.”
From the self-satisfied look on her face, the girl would have popped bubble gum by way of emphasis. Had she possessed any bubble gum.
She didn’t, of course. Bubble gum had long since gone the way of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Bic cigarette lighters. But her friend Minnie Hugelmair made up for it by spitting onto the cobblestones. She did that with a skill and assurance that properly belonged to a wizened old farmer.
“I agree,” she said firmly. “Just get rid of the shitheads.”
The teenage down-timer had lost an eye two years earlier in a brawl started by religious students. Grantville’s then-mayor Henry Dreeson had given her his uncle Jim’s glass eye to make up the loss as best as possible. He’d then been murdered himself, just a short time ago. The crime was presumed to have been committed by other religious fanatics.
The long and the short of all that history was that insofar as such a thoroughly non-theoretical person as Minnie Hugelmair could be said to have an ideology, it was awfully simple and clear cut. Get rid of all kings and nobles. Squash all religious zealots. Support the common folk. Support good music. (The last being the influence of her mentor, the old up-time folk singer Benny Pierce.)
She and Denise Beasley saw eye to eye on just about everything, except when they faced each other from Minnie’s bad side. Then they saw eye to glass eye on just about everything.
Noelle was fond of both girls. Which was a good thing, given that she sometimes felt like drowning them.
“It’s not that simple,” she said, in perhaps the thousandth futile effort to instill an appreciation for nuance in the minds of two teenage girls whose view of the world was about as nuanced as that of wolverines.
Eddie just grinned. As well he might, Noelle thought sourly, given that Denise was his girlfriend and had an approach to romance that also had about as much nuance as a wolverine. On any other member of the weasel family, especially minks.
“You’re sure of that?” Tata asked sharply. For a pretty young woman on the short and plump side, she had a surprisingly ferocious manner when she was in the mood. The young farm boy she was interrogating flinched a little, even though he really had nothing to fear.
Anna Piesel assumed that was the result of her CoC training. In point of fact, it was the product of Tata’s upbringing as a tavern-keeper’s daughter. She’d been pretty since she was thirteen, short all her life, and had the sort of plumpness that went with very well-filled bodices. By the time she was fifteen, she’d learned how to intimidate just about any male. Certainly young ones.
“Yes, I’m sure,” he insisted. He turned and pointed to the southwest. “We saw him. You can’t miss that great big carriage he fancies.”
Tata and Anna turned to follow the finger. Of course, they couldn’t really see anything because of the crowded houses. But Anna had no difficulty picturing the landscape beyond Dresden.
“He must be headed for Bavaria,” she said.
Tata frowned. “Poland’s a lot closer. The terrain’s easier too, I think.”
“Yes, it is. A lot easier. To get into Bavaria he’s got to pass through the Vogtland, the Erzgebirge and the Bohemian Forest.” Now Anna frowned. “Stupid to try to do that in a carriage, though.”
“He could always swap the carriage for horses when need be. But why would he go that way at all? Why not head for Poland? King Wladyslaw would certainly give him sanctuary. Duke Maximilian probably would too, but who knows what that crazy Bavarian might do?”
They both turned to stare at the farm boy. Who, for his part, looked about as unhappy as a sixteen year old boy possibly could when he was the subject of close scrutiny by two good-looking young women.
“I don’t know,” he said, almost whining. “How am I supposed to know what an Elector thinks?”
Tata and Anna now looked at each other. The boy’s point was reasonable enough, after all.
“Maybe something’s stopping him,” ventured Anna. “I don’t know. Whatever. Maybe they sent out cavalry patrols.”
Tata decided she was probably right. She turned back to the farm boy.
“You’re sure that’s the way he went?” Seeing the hapless expression on his face, she waved her hand. “Never mind. We’ll take your word for it.”
She looked around. Spotting the towers of the Elector’s palace not too far distant, she pointed to them. “Up there.”
Anna looked doubtful. “How…?”
Tata started striding in that direction. “There’ll be a way,” she said, with the self-confidence of a tavern-keeper’s daughter assuring a patron that if he didn’t concentrate on his drinking instead of her rump he would soon be in an ocean of misery.
So it proved. The guards from the city militia who had appointed themselves to maintain order and prevent looting were no match for Tata’s will. She got through them in less than a minute — in fact, she even got three of them to serve her and Anna for guides.
“I need the highest place in the palace.” She dug into her pack and brought forth a short wave radio transmitter. “We sent one of these to Georg Kresse a while ago. He should have it by now. But I don’t know how good the reception will be, in those mountains.”
The militiamen were suitably impressed by the up-time device. Without argument, they led the two women to the tallest tower in the Residenzschloss.
Tata had to consult her notebook to get the Morse code right. She was too much of a novice to have more than a few letters memorized. But the message wasn’t all that long anyway.
ELECTOR COMING. STOP. LEFT DRESDEN LAST NIGHT. STOP. MUST BE HEADED FOR BAVARIA. STOP. IN CARRIAGE WHEN HE LEFT. STOP.
The reception in the Vogtland was quite good, as in happened. But it still took Wilhelm Kuefer a lot longer to translate the message than it had taken Tata to send it. His knowledge of Morse was completely theoretical, to begin with. And secondly, he didn’t have Tata’s general familiarity with up-timers and their peculiar gadgetry.
But, eventually, he got it translated. No sooner had he finished than he said: “He’ll have to swap out the carriage for horses. No way he can get to Bavaria unless he does.”
Kresse’s smile was as cold as a Vogtland winter. “We’ll spot any party that size as soon as it enters our territory. After that, it won’t matter what transportation he’s gotten his hands on. Anything will get you into hell.”