1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 55

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 55


“I’m exhausted,” said Baldur Norddahl, as soon as he sat down at the table. “How soon are we leaving? Ten days? I may not last.”

Caroline Platzer spooned some pork dumplings into a bowl and handed it to him.

“Dumplings for breakfast?” he complained. “Again? It’s no wonder I’m exhausted.”

Caroline thought that was amusing, coming from a man who thought a proper breakfast centered around salted fish. She herself had found it hard to adjust to almost all aspects of Scandinavian cuisine, with the exception of pancakes covered in lingonberries. Those were delicious. The best that could be said of the rest of it was that mashed carrots were innocuous enough and meatballs were sometimes decent — if the spices were kept under control, which Swedes seemed to find it difficult to manage.

It was no wonder they’d gone a-viking back in the Dark Ages. Driven by indigestion, drawn by the promise of good English food.

Thankfully, it was almost over. Just another week and a half, and they’d be rid of the Mad Queen and her court full of dwarves.

Kristina looked up from her own bowl of dumplings. “Stop complaining! You think you’re exhausted? You get to hide most of the time. Try being me.”

The Swedish princess was in a cheerful mood, as she always was in the morning. Within two weeks of their arrival in Stockholm, they’d begun the practice of sharing breakfast in one of the smaller kitchens in the palace that Ulrik and Baldur had appropriated on the grounds that they needed their own Danish cuisine.

The Swedish officials who oversaw the running of the palace accepted that readily enough, even though so far as Caroline could tell the only difference between Swedish and Danish cooking was that the Danes used more cheese and sausages. Like Swedes, they doted on salted fish.

For breakfast. The Ring of Fire had a lot to answer for.

Perhaps the worst of it was that Caroline had had to learn to cook the damn stuff herself. These informal breakfasts also served them as impromptu gripe sessions, and it really wouldn’t do to have servants overhearing the conversation.

Naturally, that meant the woman in the group had to do the cooking. The seventeenth century wasn’t the bottomless pit of male chauvinism that Caroline would have supposed it to be, in those hard-to-remember days when she’d lived up-time. Assuming she’d ever thought about the seventeenth century at all, which so far as she could remember she’d had the good sense not to. Still, some attitudes were so ingrained that they just weren’t worth fighting over, if the issue wasn’t really that important.

So, she cooked and the men ate. She served them the food, too. On the plus side, they didn’t think anything amiss when she sat down at the table to join them. Even more on the plus side, her willingness to cook minimized Baldur’s periodic let-the-man-show-you-how-it’s-done seizures. On those nightmarish occasions, Norddahl would show off his Norwegian skills at high cuisine.
That meant fish, of course. Salted fish. Smoked fish. Salted smoked fish. Spicy salted smoked fish.

Caroline’s father had done the same thing — with hamburgers and steaks, though, not this godawful stuff — in outdoor summer barbecues. She could remember her mother saying on those occasions, “Men. They’re still in the caves, you know.”

She’d been wiser than she knew. Caroline felt a pang of loss.

“May I have some more dumplings, please?” asked Kristina.
“Just one.” Caroline spooned the dumpling into the princess’ outstretched bowl, then spooned two more into a bowl of her own and sat down. “Or you’ll get fat.”

“Ha!” jeered Kristina. With some reason. The eight-year-old girl seemed to have the metabolism of a furnace.

Leaving the food aside, and the unpleasantness of dealing with Kristina’s mother, Caroline thought this trip had had a couple of positive effects on the princess. For one thing, without her usual down-time ladies in waiting to keep disorienting the kid and reinforcing her bad habits, Kristina was starting to develop some social graces.

Courtesy, first and foremost. Neither Caroline nor Ulrik — nor Baldur, certainly — treated the girl like she was the sunrise and the morning dew. Once Kristina had started absorbing the initial lessons, she’d quickly figured out that if she was polite to the servants of the palace they would in turn do favors for her. Like helping her hide from her mother and her mother’s many obnoxious toadies.

More important, though, Caroline thought, was that the trip had produced a subtle but profound shift in Kristina’s relationship with Ulrik. She’d grown closer to the Danish prince and had begun to rely upon him.

Trust was not something that came easily or readily to the Swedish princess. That had become apparent to Caroline early on in her relationship with the girl. At the time, she’d ascribed it simply to Kristina’s innate character, but the experience of this trip had modified that assessment. Caroline could now easily understand how the girl’s upbringing would have shaped her in that direction.

If her father had been around more often, things might have been different. In the presence of Gustav Adolf, Kristina was a much happier and less difficult person than she was at most other times. But the king of Sweden, while he was obviously very fond of his daughter, was a man with many ambitions and preoccupations. He simply hadn’t been around that often as she grew up.

Ulrik didn’t have as much in the way of sheer raw intelligence as Kristina did. The girl was almost frighteningly precocious. But he was still a very smart man in his own right. What was more important, in Caroline’s opinion, was that the Danish prince was also a wise man. Amazingly so, in fact, for someone who was only twenty-four years old. Ulrik had an ability to deliberate that you’d expect in a man twice his age — assuming the man in question was a wise man himself. He was prudent without being unduly cautious; temperate without being indecisive; and his automatic first impulse in the face of any problem or challenge was to reason rather than emote.

Caroline Platzer thought very highly of Ulrik, just as she did of Kristina. And, as she ate her dumplings at the same table with them, never thought twice of her presumption in analyzing and guiding the future rulers of much of Europe.
Why should she? She was a social worker, just doing her job, in a time and place that really needed the job done.

A field outside Dresden

“This will do nicely,” announced Eddie Junker. Hands on hips, he surveyed the pasture again. “Very nicely.”

Noelle Stull turned to the farmer and handed him a pouch full of coins.

“Remember, you have to put up a good fence. There’s enough in there to cover the cost.”

Eddie nodded. “Very important. Or you might have a dead cow and — worse still — I might have a dead me.”

The farmer didn’t argue the point, once he finished counting the coins. “Not a problem. Keep my sons busy after they finish man-ma” — he stumbled over the English word a bit — “manicuring the pasture. Or they’ll waste too much time in the taverns.”

“Remember,” Eddie said sternly. “Not one stone left in the field bigger than my thumb.”

He held up the thumb in question. Standing next to him, Denise Beasley looked up at it and laughed.

“That thumb! A rhino could stumble over it.” She held up her own thumb. “No bigger than this one.”

The farmer squinted at the much smaller appendage, then shook his head. “Too much work.”

“Leave it be, Denise,” said Eddie. “My thumb’s not all that big and –”

“I’m the expert on your thumb, buddy, not you, on account of –”

“Hey!” squawked Noelle.

Denise gave her a cherubic smile. “On account of I’ve hitchhiked with him.”

“It’s true,” said Minnie. “Eddie’s thumb can stop a truck. Of course, it helps when Denise and I” — here she hoisted her skirt and stuck out a leg — “show off too.”

The leg was in stockings, but the stockings were very tight. The farmer looked a lot more intrigued at the sight than a man in his late forties with a still-living wife and three sons ought to look. But Noelle supposed it was hard to blame him. Minnie Hugelmair didn’t have her best friend Denise Beasley’s almost-outrageously good looks, but she was a still a healthy and shapely young woman. True, she had a glass eye and a little scar there, but people of the seventeenth century were more accustomed to such disfigurements than up-timers were. Smallpox left much worse scars on a face.

“I think we’re done here,” Noelle said. It was less of a statement than a plea.

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19 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 55

  1. yev says:

    Wait… isn’t being fat a sign of beauty, actractiveness and wealth in this period in Europe?

  2. Robert H. Woodman says:

    From the snippet:

    It was no wonder they’d gone a-viking back in the Dark Ages. Driven by indigestion, drawn by the promise of good English food.”

    If English food is considered better than Scandinavian food, the latter must be truly awful. Of course, I do bear in mind that this is a work of fiction. :-)

  3. Mark L says:

    The British concept of a delicacy is boiled mutton. The Swedish concept is lutefisk. Need more be said?

  4. Stephen says:

    That the smart vikings headed for France?

    Although for some reason the ones that had actually settled in northern France then turned right around and conquered England. Some people just don’t think with their stomachs….

  5. wyrm says:

    @3 (Mark L)

    If you think lutefisk is bad, try surstroemming (fermented herring). The foulest smelling food I have ever got near to. I got as far as making a small hole in the can (It’s sold in cans that are blown, as it continues fermenting in the can) and then wrapped the can in newspaper and took it out to the communal rubbish bins. I then opened every window in my apartment.

  6. TimC says:

    Stop being rude about the English. Porridge for breakfast (oh no that’s Scottish) and, uh beefsteak and uh, well the beer is Ok.

  7. robert says:

    What is Eddie and the ladies doing? Are they making a landing field?

  8. Vince says:

    @7 It’s clear to me that they are making a landing field. They are arranging for clearing of anything that might damage a plane’s undercarriage / landing gear while taking off / landing / taxiing. Uptime the term is FOD (foreign object damage) and is even more critical, because of the use of jet turbine engines. Just one small hard object sucked into a jet engine can produce an incredible amount of damage. Even less hard but larger objects can produce enough damage to shut down a jet engine. For an example see US Airways Flight 1549 (the miracle on the Hudson) after birds (Canadian geese) were ingested by the engines.

  9. ET1swaw says:

    @5 My vote is for Kim-she and Balut. (Fermented spiced cabbage from Korea and fermented fertilized duck eggs from the Phillipines)

  10. robert says:

    @9, @5 Gefilte fish. Just writing those words makes me gag.

  11. robert says:

    @8 Thanks. Any idea who is going to be flying in?

    I am getting really confused because the snippets jump around geographically and so does the story, and it is getting a little hard for me to follow the main action-assuming there is a main line here. The only thing I can figure out so far is that Eric is in the process killing off some side characters. But then new ones come along.

  12. dave o says:

    #11 From an earlier snippet, I figured that the queen was going to get killed off, but the prince, princess, Baldur and Caroline would survive. Now I think that another one will die, most likely Baldur. Interesting to speculate whether G2A will remarry if widowed. And what if he has new children?

  13. ET1swaw says:

    What puzzles me is there is no reference to G2A’s sister (mother of Kristina’s OTL replacement Charles X Gustav). From everything I’ve read she was basically a foster mother to Kristina and a refuge from the craziness (understated so far in NTL) of G2A’s queen until her death in 1638. OTL her husband was replaced by an Oxenstierna as Lord High Treasurer in 1634. Magnus Brahe, also replaced by an Oxenstierna as Lord High Justice, OTL died soon after recieving word of G2A’s death. She was removed from the chain of succession because she married a Calvinist, but her children were Lutheran and so were Kristina’s heirs.
    As for a new Queen, G2A’s first love and mistress Ebba Brahe is married with children to Jacob de La Gardie (OTL Lord High Constable (in charge of the Swedish Land Forces) and son of the illegitimate aunt of Poland’s current King (also illegitimate niece of G2A’s father)).

  14. Vince says:

    @11 Well obviously Eddie as the pilot, but who his passenger(s) might be is somewhat of an open question, although IIRC Eddie is serving as airplane pilot to Don Nasi.

  15. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @12. As I’ve been reading the snippets, I’ve wondered just how many different characters Eric is going to kill off here. It seems pretty obvious that he’s setting up one or more characters to die. If Kristina or Ulrich gets killed, how is G2A going to react? Especially if it comes out that Hugenot fanatics were involved? If Caroline Platzer is killed, how is Kristina going to react? And Thorsten Engler? I see the potential for “freedom of religion” being set back quite a bit if these Protestant-Hugenot nut jobs succeed in their plans at all. Especially if the assassins get away. That will launch a continent-wide hunt for the assassins, and all Hugenots will automatically be suspects. The possibility is that such a hunt could degenerate into a religious persecution on a massive scale.

    Also, if G2A is committed to battle in and with Poland, and if Kristina, Ulrich, or both die, what will that do to the war effort on the Eastern Front?

    Also, bear in mind that Ducos and his gang have been contemplating the assassination of the queen, Kristina, and Ulrich for quite awhile (re-read The Dreeson Incident, for example).

  16. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Well Robert, right now I’m a little annoyed at Eric. The last snippet that I had planned to post showed the beginning of the assassination attempt. I was going to give you a great cliffhanger to end the snippets. [Very Big Evil Grin]

    Unfortunately (or fortunately), Eric pointed out that I owed you folks two more snippets. So you’ll see who survives and who dies during the assassination attempt. [Very Very Big Grin]

  17. Robert H. Woodman says:

    My heart’s a-quiver with dread and anticipation!


  18. Loni Ice says:

    I don’t know why, but both English and Swedish food is miserable in my humble opinion. As is Irish and Scottish, too. Of course, I’m from Louisiana with a strong background in Mediterranean and Indian foods, so my reasons for these opinions ought to be fairly obvious. However, if the Swedes went a-viking for decent food, you’d think they could have done much, much better than England. At least Sweden has lingonberry pancakes and good flatbread to put cheeses and cold meats on. England has leg of lamb with mint sauce and Anglicanized Indian food to its credit.

    Loni from Hypotonia In Children

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