1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 39

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 39

Chapter 14

“We are ready, then?” Gretchen looked at Tata.

Tata looked at Eric Krenz. “Our people are ready. He’ll have to answer for the soldiers.”

Eric had taken off his hat when he entered the conference room and hung it on a hook by the door. Now, he wished he were still wearing it. He could pull down the brim in order to avoid Gretchen’s gaze without having to look away from her entirely.

“He hates giving a straight answer to anything, Gretchen,” said Tata. “You know that.”

“Yes, and normally I accommodate him. But I can’t this time. We need to know. Now.” She turned her head to look at a man sitting at the far end of the long conference table. That was Wilhelm Kuefer, one of the Vogtlanders. Their leader Georg Kresse had appointed him to serve as liaison to Dresden’s Committee of Correspondence.

“Tell him, Wilhelm,” she said.

“Banér’s cavalrymen burned three more villages yesterday. The populations of two of them ran off in time, but the people in the third one got caught sleeping. There weren’t any survivors except for — we’re not sure about this, but we couldn’t find any such bodies — perhaps the young women.”

Gretchen turned back to face Eric, who was sitting across the table from her. “That makes nine villages so far — and these three were right out in the Saxon plain, not in the mountains. There is no way this is happening without Banér’s approval. Tacit approval, maybe, but he’s still responsible.”

She stopped and waited.

And waited.

Eric felt like screaming: I’m just a fucking lieutenant! How am I supposed to know if we can hold the bastards off?

But he knew what Tata’s response would be. She’d point to herself with a thumb — I’m just a tavern-keeper’s daughter — and then at Gretchen with a forefinger. And her father ran a print shop. So stop whining.

Gretchen was quite obviously prepared to wait all day for his answer. By mid-afternoon, though, Tata’s sarcasm would become unbearable.

“Yes,” he said, sighing. “I think. As best I can tell.”

“Not good enough, Lieutenant Krenz.” Gretchen’s voice was soft but her tone was iron. “I do not ask for guarantees. That would be silly. But I need a more firm response than that. If I order the gates closed and openly forbid Banér from coming into the city, that moment I make myself and every person in Dresden an outlaw. If the Swedes break in, they’ll massacre half the population.”

“As it is, even if we let them in without a fight, they’ll kill some people,” said Tata. “Me and Gretchen, for sure, if they catch us. Any CoC member — and there’ll be plenty who’ll serve as informers to ferret them out. There are always toadies, anywhere you go.”

Eric rose, strode to the door, plucked his hat off the hook, jammed it on, and came back to the table.

“I feel better now. Don’t ask me why the hat makes a difference. It just does. Here’s your answer, Gretchen. It may not be what you want but it’s the only answer I can give you. I don’t honestly know if we can hold off Banér. There are too many unknown variables in the equation. To name what’s probably the biggest, what will von Arnim do? If he adds his ten thousand men to Banér’s fifteen, we’ll be very badly outnumbered.”

He took a deep breath, to steel his will. “Here’s what I will promise. If you can hold the city’s populace firm, we’ll bleed the bastards till they’re white as sheets. If they do take the city, there won’t be more than half of them left standing.”

She nodded. “That’s good enough, I think. Those are mercenaries out there. If you bleed them enough, I think they’ll start deserting in droves. And we’re into winter, now. Disease will start ravaging them.”

“Ravage the city also,” said Friedrich Nagel. His tone was dark — but then, it usually was. Eric’s fellow lieutenant was possibly the most pessimistic man he’d ever met. Odd, really, that they’d become such good friends.

Gretchen made a face. It wasn’t a grimace; just an expression that conveyed the stoic outlook that was such an inseparable part of the woman. Nagel called it “the Richter Lack of Rue.”

“Not as badly as they’ll suffer,” she said. “Our patrols maintain sanitation a lot better than Banér will.”

“Well, that’s true,” said Friedrich. One thing you could always count on with Nagel was that he was a dispassionate pessimist. It wasn’t that he thought his lot in life was particularly hard. Everyone’s was, including his enemies. Eric would have assumed the attitude was that of a stark Calvinist, except that he knew Friedrich was an outright freethinker. What the up-timers called a deist. He didn’t think God had any personal animus against him. He’d simply set the universe in motion and went on His way, indifferent to the details that followed. Does a miller care if an unlucky gnat gets crushed between the stones, so long as the flour gets made?

Gretchen now looked back at Kuefer. “Have you gotten an answer from Kresse?”

She didn’t specify the question involved, because she didn’t need to. Everyone at the table knew that she’d proposed that the Vogtlanders unite formally with Dresden instead of simply maintaining a liaison.

Wilhelm nodded. “Yes. Georg says he’ll agree to it — on one condition. We’re not joining the CoCs. Meaning no offense, but we don’t necessarily agree with you on all issues and we reserve the right to express such disputes openly and publicly.”

“Understood,” said Gretchen. “We have the same arrangement with the Ram people in Franconia. So does the Fourth of July Party.”

She looked around the table. The majority of people sitting there were members of the city’s Committee of Correspondence. “Anybody disagree?”

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32 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 39

  1. robert says:

    So, now go shut the damn gates!

  2. Peter says:

    And start cranking on that rotary osscillator so as to be ready for the flying fecal matter.

  3. Doug Lampert says:

    Yep, officially closing the gates is the first open act of rebellion or civil war. But multiple destroyed villages on the approach makes it obviously defensive and not just an act of rebellion to protect a handful of agitators, so it’s unlikely that the “open rebellion” will add any support for the counter-revolution from still neutral nobles.

    With winter underway and the harvest in the city should be in fine shape for a siege, desease and nutrition inside the walls shouldn’t be much worse than any other year. And as long as no-one betrays them and lets Baner in the city should hold while bleeding Baner the same way the Poles are likely to drain the rest of the USE army (worse actually, at least the USE army had some time to gather supplies and some time to arrange shelter before winter fully hit).

    I doubt things will stay stable for any length of time, siege till spring is BORING fiction so something will go wrong, but the good-guys are in pretty decent shape.

  4. Rubbarb1954 says:

    Does the act of closing the gates mean the the CoC’s have taken the first step and given Ox the legal high ground?

  5. jeff bybee says:

    Feel a little like either things are being skiped over in the story or I am missing something. iif I understand things right, Baner is camped outside the city? thus why has he not marched into the city if the gates are open? or are the gates just open to civilians? if so why are the villagers outside the city still in their villages? seems like the two who got away in time must have been suspisious of having a large army in the neighborhood. are the people in the towns not able to come into the city for protection?

    ps it was commented by Mr flint that this book ( eastern front and saxon uprising) was split into two because it had turned out to long and since they had Mr Drake they did not need another writer of long books at baen. The question I’m wondering is Mr drakes style of writting to tell more detail and add more information while Mr Flint covers more ground with less words? it seems I am liking the books they write together but I thought maybe it was just they were more Naval in subject??? thankyou you for your thoughts

  6. jeff bybee says:

    Oops I should have said Mr David Weber writes the neval joint books…. or am I just getting foot deeper in mouth but fairly sure I recall Mr Flint saying Mr Drake wrote the long books

  7. dave o says:

    #3 I don’t think closing the gates represents an act of rebellion, unless Ernst Wettin says it is. At least Gretchen and her people will have enough cover to cloud the issue. The nobles who don’t already support Ox want to remain neutral if they possibly can, and won’t chose a side until it’s clear who’s going to win. Maybe not then.

    On the siege, my guess is that Baner will try an escalade as soon as he invests the city, figuring that no band of rabble can defend it. After he loses, his lack of a siege train means that he can’t do much but blockade. Maybe von Arnim could drag some guns from Leipzig, if he decides to join Baner, which is still uncertain.

    In the meanwhile, the Austrians, Bavarians, Poles, and Gustav’s other generals remain to be heard from. And the FOJ parties everywhere.

  8. Stephen says:

    This snippet is far below Flint’s usual writing quality, I think. I’m particularly annoyed because
    1) Eric (the character, but it applies to the writer as well!) shouldn’t need to tell us that the hat makes him feel better. We know he was worrying about it earlier. We know he’s stalling on answering their question. We see the action of him going to get it. Then he’s willing to give them an answer. This is showing us that either (a) the hat really is a useful psychological crutch for him, or (b) the physical action of getting the hat helped him break the tension keeping him from speaking. Either way, I don’t need to be told as well as shown.

    Eric rose, strode to the door, plucked his hat off the hook, jammed it on, and came back to the table.

    “I feel better now. Don’t ask me why the hat makes a difference. It just does. Here’s your answer, Gretchen. It may not be what you want but it’s the only answer I can give you. I don’t honestly know if we can hold off Banér. There are too many unknown variables in the equation. To name what’s probably the biggest, what will von Arnim do? If he adds his ten thousand men to Banér’s fifteen, we’ll be very badly outnumbered.”

    2) The symbolism/psychological role of the hat is not well-suited to the moment. The statement he’s making is him finally coming out into the open and making a firm declaration. So he braces himself by getting a prop to let him not have to look people in the eyes while he’s doing it. This works only if he’s actually still trying to avoid actually taking a stand, or doesn’t really believe what he’s saying, which would frankly make more sense anyway, but which isn’t implied by anything else in the scene.
    Eric had taken off his hat when he entered the conference room and hung it on a hook by the door. Now, he wished he were still wearing it. He could pull down the brim in order to avoid Gretchen’s gaze without having to look away from her entirely.

    3) What the heck does Gretchen want from him, anyway? He’s told her that they’ll do their best. She says it’s not good enough, and makes him commit to bleeding them badly. She may say that she isn’t demanding a guarantee, but that seems to be what she’s demanding.

    I see three ways to read this scene:

    1) Completely straightforward. The CoC leaders are trying to decide whether to commit themselves. They make sure that the tactical situation is acceptable, and then they decide to go ahead after getting this information. If this is the correct reading, then everyone is being quite foolish. The CoC leaders have very few alternatives at this point, and certainly they don’t specify any other courses of action. And if they do actually want a good assessment of their military situation, they should be asking for a prepared briefing, based on consultations with multiple officers in as calm and objective a manner as possible, instead of brow-beating the guy into telling them what they need to hear–and then accepting an incredibly undetailed, off-the-cuff answer, for such an important question. And Krenz is making too strong a promise, given how much uncertainty there is about the size of the enemy force. (Unless his promise was, “Yes, I feel confident we can beat them unless von Arnim throws in with them, in which case I feel confident only that we can bleed them badly.”)

    All in all, if this is the correct reading, then I’m very unhappy with this book!

    2) Last-minute jitters and an intimidated Krenz. The CoC leaders are committed, but they’re very nervous about taking the last step into open defiance, so they press Krenz into reassuring them. Krenz lets himself get browbeat into making a stronger statement than he wanted to, but it doesn’t really matter, because they were all going to go ahead anyway. (And if Krenz had had severe military reservations, he would have raised them well before this point.) In this reading, he gets the hat to calm himself down before acquiescing to their demands.

    3) Last-minute jitters and a sophisticated Krenz. As before, the CoC leaders are just looking for some last-second reassurance. Krenz is smart enough to recognize this, so he decides he’s going to have to give them a stronger reassurance than he’d really wanted to, and gives a confident answer to calm them down a bit. In this reading, Krenz’s getting the hat makes a lot of sense, because he doesn’t want them to be able to see his eyes clearly while he’s busy making strong promises.

    I very much doubt that the rest of the book will add any more light to what’s going on in this scene. I would find reading (2) the most psychologically acceptable. I’d find reading (3) an interesting sign of growing sophistication on Krenz’s part. Unfortunately, given the absence of other cues in the scene, I rather suspect that reading (1) is the correct reading. And under that reading, this is a terrible scene.

  9. Jan B says:

    #5 He is in Saxony not yet at teh gates of Dresden, if he where he would have (at least some) troops in teh City and Gretchen (at the very least) would be dead.

  10. Phillip Chesson says:

    What is the status of Baner’s supply train? Burning villages should make it harder to obtain supplies from other villages, short of destroying them too. Soon their won’t be any occupied villages from which to steal. What does Baner do then? He would actually be the one under siege. Particularly is Col. Higgins brings his Regimental Combat Team into the field, which seems inevitable.

  11. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @10 — Phillip Chesson

    Burning villages seems to be an accepted tactic for mercenary troops in the early 17th century trying to secure/”pacify” a potentially hostile area. It has a terror factor (intimidate the villagers) and a security factor (keep the village from being infiltrated by people who could attack you). It doesn’t seem to be a very useful tactic from a supply/logistics perspective, though, especially if your rear is not secure.

  12. lethargo says:

    @8 (Stephen) Regarding Eric’s explicit mention of the hat, “I feel better now. Don’t ask me why the hat makes a difference. It just does.”

    To me, Eric’s verbal explanation (of sorts) makes the scene a bit more realistic. The reader knows why Eric might be getting the hat, but the other characters in the room don’t know. For myself at least, if I was in a meeting, and I did something as inexplicable (to others) as getting up to go grab my hat, I would want to give to other confused attendees SOME explanation (even if it was just to acknowledge, that, yes, its odd, don’t pay any attention.)

    I don’t have a response to the remainder of your critique, but I will say I appreciate that you gave details of why the scene disappointed you, instead of just saying you didn’t like it.


  13. Bill S. says:

    Grethen should persuade Ernest Wettin to order the gates closed as a Public Safety action considering Baner’s troops destruction of the villages. Wettin was appointed by GA, as the Administrator, and his order would trump Baner’s “directions” from Ox. Ernest Wettin is in charge (nominally) in the city, and whatever excuses he may have to make, preventing the sack of the City by Baner’s troops would fall under his authority.

    Now that Saxony has been acquired by GA, it is Wettin’s duty to preserve the new province and integrate it into the USE, not oversee its being laid to waste. That is entirely within his authority.

  14. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Bill, Ernest does his part.

  15. Sean Maxwell says:

    I once said that the novel _1632_ was a great novel _because_it_was_supremely_well-edited_, and parties that shall remain nameless said they felt _the_scarcity_of_blood_ made _1632_ an inferior book. To me, content is less important than the quality of the writing.

    “Now, he wished he were still wearing it. He could pull down the brim in order to avoid Gretchen’s gaze without having to look away from her entirely.”

    “Eric rose, strode to the door, plucked his hat off the hook, jammed it on, and came back to the table…. ‘I feel better now. Don’t ask me why the hat makes a difference. It just does.”

    I’m sure that in a book like _1632_ Mr. Flint would have completely omitted the earlier paragraph, and possibly added the _action_ of pulling the brim down to the later paragraph. Mr. Flint is an master at putting a lot of feeling into a minimum number of words.

    1635:TEF and 1636:TSU lack Mr. Flint’s usual, tight, clear writing style. Both books are bloated in general, and this scene is as well. Either Mr. Flint hasn’t recovered from his illness yet, and/or his editor(s) are no longer on duty. Hopefully, this condition is only temporary.

  16. Todd Bloss says:

    …and now we know why so few writers supply pre-publish excerps of works in progress.

  17. robert says:

    @15 Todd (@16) is correct. Eric stated, in a preface to us in the first snippet, that this was an unedited, barely proofed, not-even-ready-for-eARC version. He only supplied it as a favor to us readers because there were no other snippets around, not from him, Weber, nor Drake. Any comments about editing, misspelled words, etc. are OK, I suppose, if they are constructive and polite and if he wants to pay attention to anything we write. Otherwise it is just keyboard finger exercises for you. He is probably busy with the final galleys or busy with the next book. Publication is in a little over 3 months…

  18. kwinn says:

    @ 8 and 15, picky, picky, picky. I prefer to enjoy the snippets and look forward to reading the entire novel before making any judgement rather than nit pick at every spelling error and weak sentence. In many ways having characters speak with perfect clarity and diction would make the book less realistic.

  19. Nimitz13 says:

    So when does the eARC come out? I’m dying to see how this turns out, although I really enjoy the comments here. The speculative and constructive ones that is… We don’t tune in to hear destructive criticism of what is clearly an unedited early version of the book.

    Baner (or his troops) have already struck the first blow. Dresden is perfectly within its rights to close its gates against troops who are committing atrocities against the civilian population. The ultimate decision is political, so it makes sense for Ernest Wettin order them shut, giving the COC, Kresse’s troops, and the 3rd army soldiers a fig leaf to justify their armed opposition to the city being ravaged.

    One village pillaged might be troops out of control, nine is deliberate genocide ordered by Baner. Allowing his troops into the city is suicide.

    So get Wettin’s blessing and lock the gates!

  20. Blackmoore says:

    I see shades of MacArthur in Eric Krenz, he operates as a “persona” the hat is the reminder that he has a role to play and without it he’s just Eric.

    I enjoy the touch; but i’ll bet that if Mr. Flint was writing this as he had 1632 the whole chapter here wouldn’t be in the final book.

    I’m enjoying the more verbose novel.

  21. Jeff Ehlers says:

    Methinks people should stop worrying about nitpickity grammatical issues and just enjoy getting the snippets.

  22. robert says:

    @19 So Erik is wearing a corncob hat?

  23. Todd Bloss says:

    Perhaps the hat serves a dual purpose.
    First, as Eric states, it allows him to avoid eye contact -as many people who abhor public speaking can appreciate and second, wearing the full uniform of a soldier allows for a certain amount of professional distance between his military evaluation and the very real likelyhood that the lives of everyone he cares about is resting on that evaluation.

  24. Butch Clor says:

    IMHO, If Wettin closes the gates and makes the statement he is under orders of GA, which have not been overturned,to administer the city and intigrate it and the province into the USE. He can order Baner to stay out due to the bad behavior of his men. If Baner then attacks, the CoC are merly assisting GA’s chosen administrator in carry out his duties..

  25. TimC says:

    @8 Hey- less of the nitpicking- just thank goodness that Baner doesn’t call on his friends the Vampires to open the gates and there isn’t an enchanted chain holding them closed. (Mind you I thought Eric F’s dinosaurs outside the prison were pretty good!)

  26. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Butch, minor snerk. Wettin does write Baner a letter ordering him to keep his troops away. Based on his authority given by GA. Wettin doesn’t think it will do any short-term good but he makes his stand.

  27. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Nimitz13, I’m not sure that there will be an EARC.

    It’s getting too close in time for the release of the first half of the book (for those who purchased the full month).

    EARCs don’t become available after the partial releases.

    Mind you, there was one EARC that came out a couple of days before the first half became available.

  28. Todd Bloss says:

    Question- I usually buy the electronic edition of the books when they come out and just take up reading where the Snippets end. Am I missing any parts of the story by doing this? (other than editorial changes)

    in other words, do the Snippets contain the entirety of the novel, up to the point where Eric stops posting them?

    TIA for any info.

  29. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Todd, the answer is “it depends”.

    What we’re seeing is the “complete book” as it was at the time the snippets begin.

    In some cases, the author may decide to add scenes/delete scenes/modify scenes so the final version of the book may have major differences from the snippeted version.

    In other cases, the final version may have just minor difference (typos removed) from the snippeted version.

    I’m sorry that I can’t give you a definite answer.

  30. Todd Bloss says:

    Thanks Drak, I just wanted to be sure the Snippets weren’t the “Readers Digest” version of the book.

  31. Stephen says:

    18, 21, 25:

    I think there’s a very large difference between nitpicking (especially of the pointing out typos and grammar errors sort) and critiquing the actual content of the passages. Pointing out that the author is abandoning the honored principle of “show, don’t tell” and is having his characters act in very unconvincing ways is NOT nitpicking.

    In particular, 18, please notice that neither 15 nor I said anything about grammar or about wanting the characters to speak in perfect diction. I agree with you that comments on the spelling and grammar aren’t worth anyone’s time here, but we were commenting about the characters’ motivations and how effectively Flint communicates them, manages the reader’s attention, and other high-order writing concerns.

    Eric’s posting these snippets could be solely a gift to the fans, and I certainly do appreciate them on that level. But it’s also a chance to get feedback on a work in progress, if they happen to be choosing to look at the comments. And even if they aren’t reading them, it’s still interesting to have substantive interactions with other fans who engage the substance of a comment (such as 12 and 15). I mean, this is a comment board, after all!

  32. G Bayrit says:

    As a published author myself, I find a lot of the comments on this snippet quite hilarious.

    A. these snippets have been stated to be ‘roughs’ — in other words a general idea and not a verbatim portion of the coming book.

    B. as a rough, the characters are being fleshed out and if I were Eric F, I’d be using this group as a sounding board to check on both style and content. (I’ve done this with serials which I’ve written and have sometimes scrapped or rewritten whole chapters.)

    C. if you buy the actual book, for gosh sakes, read the whole thing — editors DO make a difference. In fact a good editor is worth his/her weight in gold (even at today’s inflated prices.)

    (By the way, G Bayrit isn’t the name I write under, so don’t bother Googling it – lol.)


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