1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 62

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 62

Chapter 31

For a moment, Mademann was paralyzed by the arresting sight of the procession coming out of the palace. Two of the palace guards had an upended table in their hands and were holding it above their heads. They came into Slottsbacken and started moving toward the Church of St. Nicholas.

Then he realized that the Swedish princess and the Danish prince were underneath the table, being sheltered from the rain. Ulrik was in front, with Kristina just behind him. Behind her came the prince’s burly Norwegian aide.

At last! They’d at least be able to take down two of their three targets.

He turned his head and hissed, getting the attention of the five men hiding farther back in the alley. Charles was the lookout at the corner and the only one of them who’d seen the royal party emerge from the palace.

“They’re coming,” he said. “Kristina and Ulrik, with the Norwegian. Two palace guards also.”

In his excitement, he forgot to mention the table.

The five Huguenots moved forward until they were all gathered near the alley’s entrance. Mademann was still the only one who could see the royal party, though. That was as it should be. Even in the pouring rain there was a chance they could be spotted lurking in the alley. One person there might be ignored. Half a dozen would cause alarm.

The soldiers were almost trotting, obviously eager to get out of the rain. The party would come abreast of the alley’s entrance within seconds.

Mademann gauged the situation. Tactically, given the downpour, there seemed to be only one sensible strategy. Just rush their targets and shoot them down.

“Get ready,” he hissed.

***

Mathurin Brillard was watching the scene from the other end of Slottsbacken. He was farther away but had a better view because he was looking through a window on the upper floor of a tailor shop. Half an hour earlier, when he’d come into the shop, he’d forced the elderly tailor to close the shop and come with him upstairs. Once in the bedroom above, he’d clubbed him senseless.

Judging from the evidence of the bedroom, there should be a wife somewhere. Wherever she was, though, she wasn’t in the shop or in the living quarters above. Perhaps she was running an errand or visiting relatives. It was also possible the tailor was a widower but hadn’t been able to bear getting rid of his dead wife’s belongings.

Whichever the case, all the woman had to do was stay away for a few more hours and it would all be over, one way or the other.

He saw the party coming out of the palace and stiffened. That was the princess and the prince. Not his targets, technically, since he was supposed to take care of the queen. But the queen would probably never make an appearance, anyway, so Mathurin raised his rifle. If his comrades’ attack on Ulrik and Kristina ran into difficulties, Brillard would come to their aid.

In good weather, he’d have positioned himself farther back in the room in order to avoid being spotted in the window by a passerby. In this downpour, though, he didn’t think that was a problem, and the direction of the wind was keeping the rain from coming into the room. He was standing close enough to the window that when he took aim, most of the rifle’s barrel would extend outside. It would get wet, but that wasn’t a problem with a breech-loading rifle like this one. Mathurin had fired the gun several times on the tavern’s island, to get accustomed to the thing. It was very accurate. A truly delightful weapon in every respect except that it was quite heavy. This was a full-sized rifle intended for infantrymen, not the carbine version of the Cardinal. Brillard didn’t envy any soldier who had to carry the gun on a long march.

That was not something an assassin had to deal with, thankfully.

Behind him, the tailor let out a soft moan. He was lying on the floor near the bed.

Mathurin must not have hit him as hard as he thought he had. Now that the rifle was loaded, he didn’t want to use the gun butt again. So he went over and stamped on the man’s head. Once, twice, thrice. That should do it.

Quickly, he returned to the window. The royal party was coming abreast of an alley where Brillard thought Mademann and the others were probably hiding. The fight should start any moment.

***

“Now!” shouted Mademann. He rushed out of the alley toward the prince and princess.

A shot rang out almost immediately. Then, another.

The shots had come from behind him. Which idiot –?

To his consternation, Charles saw that at least one of the two shots had struck the soldier holding up the front end of the table. The man was already collapsing. Much worse, so was the table.

And God damn all quick-thinking princes!

***

Ulrik caught the edge of the table and tipped it so the table would fall on its side and provide them with a barricade.

Tried to, rather. The soldier holding up the rear end was too confused to understand what the prince was trying to do. He was still trying to hold the table up.

Baldur kicked him out from under it. The soldier was flung onto his back, his head hitting the street hard enough to be knocked unconscious. Baldur caught his end of the table. He realized what Ulrik was trying to do and followed suit with his own end. A moment later the table was lying on its side with its heavy top facing their assailants. Ulrik and Baldur crouched down behind it. The princess did so herself, without needing to be told.

***

What a mess. Still, the situation favored them. Locquifier — another idiot! — fired a shot from his percussion cap pistol at the table top. The wood splintered, but it was thick enough that the bullet didn’t penetrate.

That left Locquifier effectively disarmed, of course, because his percussion cap pistol only had one barrel. No way to reload in this downpour.

The first idiot had been Ancelin. At least he’d had the sense to discard his pistol now that he’d fired both barrels. He drew a knife and ran toward the right end of the table.

That was now the only sensible tactic. Get around the ends of the table so they had access to their targets.

Mademann made to follow Ancelin. His foot slipped on one of the wet cobblestones and he fell, dropping his pistol. The weapon skittered off across the cobblestones, coming to rest ten feet away.

“Merde alors!”

***

By October of the year 1635, the Ring of Fire was four and half years in the past. Over that period of time, even though they numbered in the thousands, up-time firearms had come to be worth a prince’s ransom.

Fortunately, Ulrik of Denmark was a prince.

He owned three of the weapons, in fact: a bolt-action Browning .308 rifle, a Smith & Wesson .40 automatic pistol with a ten-round magazine, and a Colt Detective Special .38 caliber snub-nose revolver.

He was carrying the revolver today, as he normally did in everyday matters. The little gun was easy to conceal in regular clothing, which the automatic wasn’t. Ulrik had been quite sure the queen would have objected had she realized he was coming into her presence armed. The revolver had a six-round cylinder, but Ulrik only had five of the chambers loaded. He disliked carrying the weapon with a loaded chamber under the hammer, even if the man who’d sold him the gun insisted it was quite safe.

So. Five shots, and he had no way to reload since he wasn’t carrying any spare ammunition. He didn’t have that much anyway. The ammunition for up-time guns was also very expensive. By now, they were all handmade reloads.

He was pretty sure there were at least six assailants, from what he’d seen before the table came down.

The Americans called it Murphy’s Law.

***

Mademann scrambled after his pistol. On hands and knees because when he’d tried to stand up he’d just slipped again.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw that Ancelin was close to the table. André Tourneau was very close also, at the other end. He had his pistol at the ready.

Suddenly, a figure rose from behind the table. The prince, from the hat, although it was hard to be sure. Hats got rather shapeless in this sort of downpour.

Tourneau immediately fired a shot. He’d rushed it, Charles thought.

***

So he had. The shot struck the very edge of the table and caromed off somewhere in the distance. The only damage it did was to send a little spray of splinters flying.

One of the splinters struck Ulrik just below the eye. He’d already fired at the gun flash already. Now, startled, he pulled the trigger again.

Two shots gone! He had only three bullets left.

***

The prince’s first shot struck Tourneau in the arm, just above the wrist. Howling, he jerked around, dropping the gun — and moved right into the path of the second bullet. It was that one, despite being completely unaimed, that killed him instantly. The bullet entered his left temple and destroyed much of his brain before coming to a stop against the occipital bone.

***

It was already obvious things were going badly. Mathurin took aim at the figure standing up above the table rim. He, also, thought it was probably the prince, although this cursed rain degraded visibility in the most terrible manner. It would not be an easy shot under these conditions, but he thought he could make it. If he missed, he would have time for a second shot.

A sudden noise to the right drew his attention.

The queen was coming out of the palace! Brillard hadn’t expected that. She was trailed by half a dozen palace guards.

All of them had now stopped. They were just within the entrance, still out of the rain. The queen was staring at the bizarre tableau in Slottsbacken, her mouth wide open.

The guards wouldn’t be much use. They were armed with ceremonial halberds, not firearms. The weapons could still do a lot of damage even if those great blades probably weren’t keep very sharp. But it would take them a while to reach the prince and princess.

Mademann would have to manage without his help. Brillard’s assigned target was Maria Eleonora.

He brought the rifle around. The queen still hadn’t moved. She seemed completely paralyzed with shock.

This was much closer range. Even in the rain, he could hardly miss.

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Comments

27 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 62

  1. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I’m amazed these idiot Huguenots have managed to kill anyone.

  2. B. B. Wolf 359 says:

    Mathurin could hardly miss, is code for he will. There will no dough be a good reason for this. The tailor, His wife, a passing guard, or a hailstone. Can’t let the comic relief die just yet.

  3. B. B. Wolf 359 says:

    Another though, those not very sharp ceremonial halberds, would do an excellent job of deflecting a soft lead bullet, if one were to get in the way.

  4. Willem Meijer says:

    How long will the snippets last? I’ve seen the book last saturday in an Amsterdam bookshop.

  5. Jason says:

    This is probably the last one according to Borders and Barnes and Nobles they’re out tommorow here in the states.

  6. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I hope the book has fewer typos than the snippets have had. Note, e.g.,

    “The weapons could still do a lot of damage even if those great blades probably weren’t keep very sharp.”

    The snippets have been rife with these types of mistakes. I hope the copy editors have found them and corrected them for the dead tree and final electronic editions of the book.

  7. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Jason, the final snippet will be the Wednesday snippet.

  8. JohnF says:

    What’s next, Drak? I can’t recall ever seeing only one (or, God forbid, no) book being snippetted at a time.

  9. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Eric has said that Saxon Uprising might start snippeting sometime this month.

  10. robert says:

    Where is Mack Sennet when we need a video of this fiasco.

  11. Blackmoore says:

    @10 really. this would make good TV.

  12. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @11 — “Europe’s Stupidest Criminals.” Sounds ike a hit to me! :-)

  13. Summertime says:

    Any astute conspirators would wait for clear weather to carry out their plans, and not do it in a rainstorm. Or, could they not wait?

  14. Peter says:

    They couldn’t wait – the royals are leaving for Denmark tomorrow.

  15. Tweeky says:

    These clowns are like the mid-17th century version of the Keystone cops crossed with the three-stooges; they’re quite incompetent as assassins

    I saw on “Mythbusters” a couple of days ago where they tested the myth of imploding diving suit and yes, the differential pressure will squash a diver into his diving helmet (and crush the helmet) if the non-return valve fails. I wonder if it’s going to be “Death by Diving-suit” for any of these clowns?

  16. Jason says:

    You guys are right these boys are the Key stone cops but as to the Halberds I seem to remember the Pope’s guard did pretty good with Ceremonial Halberds even throwing one like a spear, but maybes its the Men handling them that makes the difference.

  17. jeff bybee says:

    how far ahead of publication are books finished?

    speaking of types I have hard cover edition of the seahunters by clive cussler that has some glairing typos

  18. Cobbler says:

    If Ulrik can get reloads for his up-time weapons, why can’t Jeff?

  19. Doug Lampert says:

    Jeff probably could, if he was willing to spend the money. Jeff is rich, but he has no reliable source of income adequate to pay for regular expenditures on very expensive stuff like modern ammo. Ulrik can buy and sell the merely rich, and he has reliable sources of income able to pay for very expensive stuff.

    Note: The CROWN PRINCE of Denmark, someone with a substantial fraction of the military budget of a significant power at his disposal thinks: “The ammunition for up-time guns was also very expensive”. That doesn’t neccessarily mean that the merly very very rich can afford it at all.

  20. Cobbler says:

    There’s a Jack Benny sketch in which Mr. Stingy is held up at gunpoint. The robber says, “Your money or your life!” There follows a long, long pause. The impatient thief finally demands, “Well?” Benny replies, “I’m thinking. I’m thinking.”

    Jeff is going to war. He’s good for a couple of million bucks. He owns an automatic, presumably a 45 acp, 9 mm, or some such. As an officer he’s not allowed to carry a rifle. He’s going to war…you know…high probability of your-life-is-on-the-line danger. On the other hand, he isn’t going to firing volleys. He needs to be able to save his ass in an occasional emergency. Like some winged hussar on an elephant aiming a sharp stick at him.

    So he doesn’t buy a box of rounds for his automatic because he might have cash flow problems? Oy vey! “I’m thinking. I’m thinking.”

  21. no_one says:

    There is a need for practicing pistol marksmanship, as well. If all they have available for reloads is soft-lead bullets, then the practice ammo will be identical to the regular-use ammo: i.e. very expensive. One reason for not depending on the pistol to save your life is that you haven’t been able to afford to practice with it.

  22. Cobbler says:

    Good point. I’m guessing the main cost would be in the brass case. Gunpowder and lead aren’t expensive. No one could afford all those wars if they were. If someone has the gear, hand loading isn’t that esoteric. Used cases would be valuable. Manufacturing new cases suffers from the economics of small scale. So Jeff couldn’t save much by practicing with 22LR either. A 22 round would be about as expensive as a 45.

    But if I had a couple million and I was going to war I would, if necessary, live on the local equivalent of macaroni and ramen and buy practice rounds.

  23. Jason says:

    Don’t forget until they saw the Cardinal carbine that they had given up on an all in one shell for at least the short term so Now the have to figure out how to use potassium nitrate for a percusion cap too.

  24. Sean Maxwell says:

    @20:

    My CO carried a bloop loaded with flechette during his entire tour in Nam, and ignored anybody who didn’t like it. His own boss carried a shotgun, so there weren’t actually any complaints.

    I wonder when Jeff’s shotgun was surgically removed; I got the impression from earlier books that his hand had grown completely around it.

  25. Cobbler says:

    If I have the timeline right, it’s been a year since the Americans discovered the Cardinal rifle. I had assumed that that was long enough to get the chemistry of potassium nitrate primer figured out and into production. Maybe not production to feed an army. But enough for hand loading the few uptime weapons.

    If down-time alchemists can do discern the chemistry and invent the process, if down-time artificers can make the Cardinal carbine and its ammo, priming cartridges for modern reloads shouldn’t be that hard.

  26. Tweeky says:

    @25 I thought it was Potassium Chlorate not Nitrate.

  27. Cobbler says:

    @ 26 Could be. I don’t even play a chemist on TV.

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