1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 43

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 43


“That was a truly miserable experience,” said Baldur Norddahl, once they were far enough away from the queen of Sweden’s audience chamber not to be overheard.

Prince Ulrik made a sour little noise. “Exhausting, too.”

“At least now we know why the princess is sometimes given to moods.”

Ulrik made another sour noise, this one not so little. “‘Is sometimes given to moods.’ Is that Norwegian berserk-speak for ‘is sometimes a miniature harridan and others a very short lunatic’?”

“Your words, not mine,” Baldur replied serenely. “And that’s a terrible way to refer to your future bride. ‘Harridan’! ‘Lunatic’!”

They reached one of the great doors that led to Slottsbacken, the street that provided the main entrance to the palace. It was more in the way of a plaza than a street, really. Stockholm’s great church sat on its western edge.

As soon as they stepped through into the sunlight, Ulrik squared his shoulders. The gesture was half a shrug, half an expression of relief at getting outside. Under the cheeriest of monarchs, the Swedish royal palace would have been on the somber side. Under the influence of Queen Maria Eleanore, it was downright gloomy.

“Kristina is a very intelligent harridan and lunatic,” Ulrik said philosophically. “I could do worse. As long as she takes after her father instead of her mother, the marriage should at least be tolerable.”

“I certainly hope she doesn’t inherit her mother’s taste in entertainment.”

Ulrik grimaced. The Swedish queen doted on dwarfs and buffoons. The wretched creatures had half-filled the audience chamber.

“Dear God. Yes, let’s hope so.”

They headed for one of the other wings of the palace, where Ulrik and his entourage had their quarters.

“Look on the bright side, Prince. For at least six more years — no, probably seven or eight or possibly even nine or ten — you won’t have to be sharing a bed with the little lunatic harridan. And by the time you do, she won’t be so little. Which means –”

“And to think it was you, Baldur, who showed Danish royalty how to execute a man by crushing him in a diving suit.”

Baldur smiled; but did not pursue the train of thought further.


Mademann, Locquifier and Brillard watched the prince and his companion from a distance of slightly more than a hundred yards. They were partially hidden in the shade cast by a nearby elm tree.

“Can you do it?” asked Mademann. “I can probably get you one of the new French rifles. I can certainly get you an SRG.”

Brillard made a little dismissive gesture. “At this range, Charles, I could do it with any sort of rifled musket. But I think that would be a mistake.”

“Why?” asked Locquifier. He and Mademann shared, a bit awkwardly, the joint leadership of the project.

“Because the problem is not the prince. Nor the princess, for that matter. Ulrik is quite active and so is she, every chance she gets.”

“Whenever her half-crazed mother lets her roam loose, you mean.”

“Yes. But that happens often enough — and when it does, she invariably seeks out the company of the Dane. Not so?”

His companions both nodded. Brillard went on. “And whenever the two of them are together –”

“Three of them,” Mademann interrupted. “That Norwegian never leaves Ulrik’s side.”

“Two, three, it doesn’t matter. The point I was making is that they do not restrict themselves to the interior of palace. To the contrary. They always leave it to go elsewhere. More often than not, to the Storkyrkan.”

He nodded toward Stockholm’s cathedral. “She probably needs the respite, after being for too long with her mother.”

Mademann looked back and forth from the palace to the church. “Here, you’re saying? Right here in the open?”

“Why not? All of you except me. You can trap them here, and at close range. Between all of you, it should be easy enough.”

He shrugged. “Escape may be difficult. But we always understood that.”

“And you’d deal with the queen? Alone?”

“It’s the only way it can be done anyway. She almost never leaves the palace, and when she does it’s under heavy guard.”

“And then she goes to the cathedral also. So why not –?” Locquifier broke off as he came to the answer himself.

“The princess never goes at the same time she does,” said Mademann. “She waits until the queen has left and is almost back to the palace. Then…”

He whistled softly. “I see your plan now, Mathurin. You position yourself to strike down the queen just as she’s passing through the entrance. It’ll have to be a sunny day, though, when she’s using an open carriage.”

“Has to be a sunny day in any event,” said Brillard. “You can’t risk misfires in the rain.”

Locquifier seemed a bit dubious. “A difficult shot.”

“Not so difficult as all that — especially if Charles can get me a Cardinal breech-loader. An SRG will be a little more accurate, but it won’t give me the chance for a second shot.”

Mademann had been stroking his beard thoughtfully. “So your shot would be the signal. As soon as we hear it, the rest of us come out into the street. We should be able to hide well enough in the alleys. If all goes well, we’ll catch the Dane and the girl before they’ve reached the cathedral. Then we make our separate escapes.”

He, too, now looked a bit dubious. “Tricky timing, though.”

But Locquifier’s doubts had vanished. “It’s the only way,” he said firmly. “The instructions from Michel and Antoine were very precise. We must succeed in the full task. This is the only way to do it.”

Once Guillaume Locquifier came to the conclusion that a given plan was ordained by Michel Ducos, he would be unyielding in his determination to stick to it. Under other circumstances, Mathurin Brillard had often found that annoying. But under these, he didn’t mind at all.

He began giving some thought, for the first time, to methods of escape. It was unlikely he could do so, of course, given the ambitious scope of the project. But perhaps not impossible. Especially since the others would draw most of the attention, as numerous as they were and coming out in the open to fire pistols. He hadn’t come up with the plan for that reason, to be sure. Mathurin was cold-blooded, but not that cold-blooded. Nonetheless, the plan having been agreed to, there was no reason he shouldn’t take advantage of its unfortunate but inevitable results.

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27 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 43

  1. Jason says:

    Hmmmm…. me thinks it looks lie some of out Protestants are starting to have some second thoughts.

  2. Fritz says:

    “And to think it was you, Baldur, who showed Danish royalty how to execute a man by crushing him in a diving suit.”
    Unfortunately, I remember that incident – it is complete nonsense. Since it was a flexible diving suit supplied by a hose, not a rigid diving suit supplied by a pipe, there was always the same pressure inside and outside of the helmet.
    If the air hose snaps. the diver drowns, he is not pressed into his helmet.

  3. Todd Bloss says:

    @2 I and the Mythbusters disagree. The “Squeeze” is a real occurance.

  4. Doug Lampert says:

    @2 There’s the same pressure inside and outside the suit TILL THE HOSE BREAKS.

    Let’s say the hose snaps near the surface and the diver is 33′ down. The hose, the inside of the suit and the outside the suit are all at 2 atmospheres of pressure. The outside of the break is at 1 atmosphere.

    No water flows into the suit, the diver does NOT drown. Instead air rushes out of the hose trying to equalize the 2 atmospheres inside the hose with the 1 outside the break. If there’s a good regulator valve it closes, and the man in the suit is still at two atmospheres and is now in danger of suffocation (not drowning, there’s still no water in the suit). If there’s not a good regulator valve then the pressure inside the suit drops to match that in the hose which drops to match that outside the break. And the man inside the suit is quickly and messily killed by one atmosphere or so of overpressure.

  5. Tweeky says:

    @4 You’re assuming that the regulator valve is in place. If these Hugoniot(sic) assassins are caught, if they’re very lucky, they’ll be shot, if there’re lucky they’ll get the headman’s axe. And if they’re unlucky, GAII will hand them over to Christian IV and it’s death by “Diving Suit”.

  6. KimS says:

    But think this through further. Those diving with scuba equipment can go much much deeper than the Baltic. The record is over 200 meters. Why aren’t they dead from the ‘squeeze’?

  7. Drak Bibliophile says:

    KimS, designers of scuba equipment are aware of problem and there are “regulators” that prevent the problem.

    What happened in Baltic War was that nobody was aware of the problem.

  8. Blackmoore says:

    @7 I think KimS is wondering why divers only in wetsuits dont appear to be squeezed when they dive to those types of depths. I can’t answer that question, but I really wonder how they would survive if not for the pressure, but the Nitrogen Narcosis.

  9. Fritz says:

    @3 In the video, the Mythbusters use a rigid, incompressible pipe for their stunt. This pipe provides the pressure difference between the surface and the helmet deep below. A hose that loses internal pressure would be squeezed shut; at the point where the hose leaves the helmet would be the same pressure as inside the helmet, hence no difference.

  10. dave o says:

    Lets see now. In the dreeson incident, we learned that the only one of the huguenots who was a plausible assassin was Locquifer. If I remember correctly, a couple of the others are incompetents who would bungle anything more complicated than tying their shoes. They’ll attempt to kill Ulric and Kristine with pistols. What kind? Wheel locks? Flint locks? Single shot cap locks? Cap and ball revolvers? People who have no experience with pistols tend to think that they’re a lot more accurate than they really are. The best way of killing someone is to press the barrel against the target’s body. Not too likely if the hope to escape. Shooting from a distance means that at best, one or the other will be wounded. Locquifer doesn’t seem to think they have a chance to escape anyway. Neither do I.

  11. Jason says:

    I read an article on Deep Sea diving a century ago http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/1994/4/1994_4_58.shtml Now in the incident talked about how Bill Dywer had a regulator so he wasn’t instantly sucked up into his helmet, but because the regulators were not perfect as the air slowly leaked out of the helmet he have would slowly been sucked up into the helmet because of the weight of the water pushing his body into the relative vacuum of the helmet. Also from reading the story you the idea that these were just rubber hoses like in Baltic war and not armored hoses.

  12. Todd Bloss says:

    @9 Picture a balloon. Blow it full of air and let go of the end. What happens?

  13. Todd Bloss says:

    @10 -if they have no hope for escape, why not just load themselves full of black powder?
    The religious fanatic suicide bomber appears 400 years early…

  14. Mark L says:

    @6: Scuba divers do not have this problem. Neither do pearl divers who are not using breathing equipment. The problem is caused by pressure differential — not absolute pressure.

    A scuba diver is at 200 feet is at roughly 4 atmospheres. There is about 90 psi on the diver, but it is uniformly distributed. Since the human body is flexible, the pressure equalizes inside and out. Ditto for the pearl diver with no connection to the surface. The problem comes with a diver getting air from the surface. At 200 feet, the air coming down the hose had better be at 90 psi. Otherwise there is a lower pressure in the hose than on the diver. And then that whole “nature abhors a vacuum” thing kicks in. (Actually what nature really abhors is a pressure differential. . .) There is this 2″ pipe that is at a lower pressure than the surrounding environment. So the surrounding environment attempts to equalize the pressure. With the poor diver (who is really a big bag of liquid) — since the diving suit keeps the water out. So Mr. Diver gets squeezed up the air hose. Yuk.

    Bends is a different problem. At greater than 2 atmosphere, nitrogen — which is part of “air” goes into solution in water. And people are mostly water. No problem as long as it stays in solution. But as the pressure drops, water cannot hold as much nitrogen. So some of the nitrogen becomes gas. Again not a problem if this happens slowly. But it it happens quickly, the nitrogen forms bubbles inside the body, which get trapped and create pressure on different parts of the diver’s interior. Since the bones are rigid, it has the most effect at joints and such. Which can cut off blood flow. Which causes tissue death. It also hurts.

  15. Stewart says:

    @13 & al. For a further – albeit graphic — description see Clancy’s “Without Remorse” as John Kelly (Clark) deals with a pimp & drug dealer …dP can have consequences

  16. dave o says:

    I count 11 of 14 comments about a throwaway line. What about the rest of the snippet?

  17. Jason says:

    well I’m getting a feeling from the rest of the snippet that Mademann is going to try and use the assassination attempt to make sure that Guillaume Locquifier gets caught or killed.

  18. Why do I get the impression that the gang that can’t assassinate straight is about to solve Gustavus Adolphus’s marital difficulties, not to mention creating great unemployment challenges among the Queen’s, ummh, choice of collecting habits*?

    *There appears to be no tactful way to describe this.

    On the other hand, I suspect we may count on the Danish Dynamic Duo to save the Princess from a fate equal to death.

    Mind you, if the Princess did not get her piloting lessons, she is entirely old enough to have talked her way into lessons and possession of the needed artifact to be carrying heat herself, something not too heavy like one of the old Derringer four-round revolving hammer pistols that is perfectly effective at a range of, say, zero feet.

    “For at least six more years…” it took a bit to recall that period marriage ages among the wealthy were a bit less than in contemporary times, as witness Romeo and Juliet and Juliet becoming an old maid, so to speak. The rest of the series does not appear to have painted her as either a harridan or a lunatic, or perhaps I missed the obvious.

  19. summertime says:

    Other mentions of the princess in past books of the series have given the impression of an excitable, curious, but basically decent person. Strong willed and ready to try new experiences, certainly, but not impossible to live with.

  20. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Well summertime, at least once she’s been shown to be a “harridan and lunatic”.

    On the other hand, being around her mother brings the worse out of her.

    Personally, I think she’ll turn out better in this time line than she did in the OTL.

  21. robert says:

    OTL Christina didn’t have a “Platzer Compass” to steer by. She is merely spoiled and overly exuberant, but very smart and highly capable.

  22. Fritz says:

    @14: I mostly agree with your explanation, but it depends on a pipe connected to the helmet, it does not work with “canvas and wire contraption” hose as described in the book. The rigid pipe can keep a lower pressure on its inside, to be filled with the diver. The canvas hose is squeezed the same way as the diving suit, having the same pressure inside and outside.

  23. Todd Bloss says:

    @22 -Your logic would only hold true if the entire diving suite were equal in volume to the breathing tube (in which case, you’d have a caisson, and not a diving suite).

    Compared to the breathing tube, the diving suite encompasses hundreds more square inches of outside surface area and corresponding internal volume; with the pressure on every square inch being cumulative, there’s much more pressure on the suit than on the tube; certainly enough to force the canvas tube to stay open as all air, gases, liquids and body parts are forced through it.

    Squeeze a tube of toothpaste hard enough, and it doesn’t matter if the cap is on it or not.

  24. Todd Bloss says:

    Picture it this way,
    if you put one end of soft surgical tubing in a glass of water and the other end in your mouth and suck on it like a soda straw, the pressure differential you’ve created allows water to flow from the standard air pressure in the glass to the lower air pressure you’ve created in your mouth; the tube does not collapse, even though it’s experiencing the same pressure differential as the water in the glass, because there’s more water in the glass (for the air pressure to act upon) than there is inside the tube.

    Now, take the tube out of the water, but plug the end so it stays filled with water. Suck on the end and you’ll find that the water does not flow, nor does the rubber tube collapse -there’s your equilibrium.

    Lastly, put the tube back in the glass of water and drink it all down until there’s just the dregs left at the bottom of the glass and you start hearing that “slurp-slurp-slurp” sound. At this time, you will notice the tube intermittently collapsing and restricting the water flow. The reason the tube is now able to do this, is because, as you suck up the last bits of water at the bottom of the glass, you are also taking in air that becomes bubbles or voids within the tube (that’s what causes that “slurp-slurp-slurping” sound) and when those alternating areas of water and voids become unequal, the differential can now act upon the tube, causing it to contract and restrict the minute flow of water within.

  25. CJ says:

    Unfortunately for the guy in the suite, that slurp slurp slurp sound, is him.

  26. Tweeky says:

    I wonder if the Ottomans would adopt “Death by Diving-Suit” for certain capital crimes? They did seem to have a penchant for “Creative” methods of capital-punishment.

  27. Jason says:

    I don;t think Murad would like it @26 because he wouldn’t be able to sit there and watch the the poor sap get sucked up into the helmet.

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