1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 68

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 68

Nichols nodded. The truth was, they’d said everything that was critical already. He’d tell Melissa when he got back to Magdeburg, as a man will say something to the woman who shares his life and his bed. Knowing full well that she’d pass it on to Rebecca immediately.

Torstensson had to know that as well. Which meant that the tacit agreement he had with his soldiers had just gotten extended to the Fourth of July Party and the Committees of Correspondence across the entire nation. You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.

Oxenstierna would have a fit, if he knew. But James had a feeling that the chancellor was slowly but steadily losing his grip on the situation — first and foremost, his grip on his own people.

The tea was quite good, as you’d expect.

***

Nichols spent the next two days inspecting the sanitary and medical arrangements and facilities that the army had set up in their siege lines around Poznań. As he’d expected, they were well-designed and in good order. Torstensson and his staff officers had genuinely internalized the critical role that sanitation and proper medical procedures played in fending off the diseases that typically swept through armies at war, especially armies engaged in a siege.

But what was probably even more important was that the rank and file soldiers were equally committed to those practices. So there’d be no dodging and shirking, which was often the Achilles’ heel of sanitation and medical regulations. Quite the opposite, actually. The punishment a soldier who slacked off would get from his mates was likely to be a lot worse than what he’d get if an officer caught him. Even from the standpoint of its commanders, there were advantages sometimes to having an army so influenced by CoC attitudes.

***

On the morning of the third day, a small delegation of Polish officers came across the lines under a flag of truce. They’d come to bring Grand Hetman Koniecpolski’s answer to the offer Nichols had made the day he arrived to give his advice on medical matters to the Polish army as well.

The leader of the delegation was an officer who seemed very young to be wielding as much authority as he obviously did. But his name was Opalinski — Lukasz Opalinski — which perhaps explained the matter. James had a vague recollection that the Opalinskis were one of the more prominent move-and-shaker families in the upper crust of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth’s aristocracy.

Opalinski fit James’ image of a hussar to a T. He was tall, well-built, and handsome in a big-nosed sort of way. His hair was short and blond as was his beard, but his mustache was swept out in very dramatic fashion. The tips of it looked as if they probably blew in the wind as he galloped his horse toward the foe.

He was a very polite young man, as well, although he was obviously struggling not to gape at Nichols. In all likelihood, James was the first black man he’d ever met in his life. Not that Germans had met very many black people either, of course. But James and his daughter Sharon were by now so famous in the Germanies that most people in the USE had at least seen a woodcut likeness of them somewhere. To Lukasz Opalinski, James Nichols was an utterly exotic figure, something out of the ancient tales by Herodotus about foreign lands and their peoples. If he weren’t being polite, James was pretty sure the hussar would lift up his shirt to see if he had another mouth or pair of eyes on his stomach.

“I’m afraid we must refuse,” Opalinski said, in heavily-accented but quite good German. “Please accept the Grand Hetman’s regrets and his sincere thanks for the offer. But — ah — he asked me to explain that if he accepted, there might be trouble about it in the Sejm.”

From the tinge of exasperation in the young hussar’s voice, James was pretty sure Opalinski thought there’d be trouble in the Sejm if Koniecpolski ate porridge for breakfast or put his boots on in the wrong order. But this was all a diplomatic dance, in any event. James had made the offer at Torstensson’s suggestion, but the Swedish general had told him he didn’t think there was much chance the Poles would accept.

With a polite bow, Opalinski took his leave. He managed not to turn around and stare at James more than twice as he and his party rode off.

***

“Well, you were right,” he said to Torstensson.

The commander of the USE army shrugged. “Thank heaven for the nature of Polish government. If it weren’t the way it is, I hate to think what Koniecpolski could accomplish.”

Knyphausen grunted. Duke George grinned.

One of the air force’s Gustavs landed that afternoon to take James back to Magdeburg. The pilot buzzed the Polish lines on his way out. The Poles fired a volley at the plane in response.

Apparently, that mutually useless display of martial prowess seemed reasonable to both sides. James made no objection, though. He could still remember a time, when he’d been a young man in one of the gangs in Chicago’s south side, when he’d have thought it was perfectly reasonable himself. Now at the age of sixty, he’d concluded that the main difference between gang fights and the wars of dynasties and nations was that the gangs were a lot less pretentious about their violence. Stripped of the long-winded folderol, from what James could see, most formal declarations of war came down to “the motherfuckers dissed us and we’re gonna get ’em for it.”

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15 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 68

  1. Robert H. Woodman says:

    So what happens if Koniecpolski gets fed up with King and Sejm and decides to take over and run things his way? Could he succeed? I think maybe so. Would he do it? I rather doubt it.

    This snippet and the previous two have me wondering if G2A is going to make a dramatic public appearance with his guards and Colonel Hand and order Oxenstierna’s arrest, or if he’s going to escape to Magdeburg, then declare Oxenstierna an outlaw. Of course, both guesses could be wrong.

  2. Peter says:

    We’re seeing anew something that’s been going on for several books. The key role that reasonably reliable air travel plays in movement of critical personnel. And the way that can knit together political decision-making. Very cool.

  3. Jeff Ehlers says:

    Wars would be handled so much easier if the leaders had to do the fighting themselves. It’s a lot easier to order other people off to fight for whatever reason than it is to go off and fight yourself.

  4. Jason says:

    @3 many leaders historically have led there troops in the fields Xerxes, Alexander, Ceaser, Napoleon, Richard I, and Gustavus Adolphus are but to name a few. also Historically the main difference between rulers who lead there men in battle as opposed is not there headless move to war for Dynastic reasons but that there soldiers tended to fight better.

  5. @3 Been done. Sort of like 1630s, except it was the N and S Vietnamese and American and Soviet leadership, under unpleasant circumstances with I forget the weapons, iirc inadequately clad, and the aliens who did this thought duels to the death were au tone and everyone should be required to watch.

    GA did do this, and croaked as a result.

  6. Jeff Ehlers says:

    I wasn’t trying to suggest that there would be no such thing as war if leaders had to do the fighting themselves. That’s silly.

    What I was trying to suggest is that countries themselves would be more peaceful if a leader couldn’t order the entire country into war due to a personal slight.

  7. Cobbler says:

    In Snippet 1 we read:

    Before he left Magdeburg for Berlin, Colonel Hand had spent several hours with the American Moorish doctor, James Nichols. By now, four and a half years after the Ring of Fire which had brought the Moor into this world along with the other Americans in Grantville, it was the generally accepted opinion throughout Europe that Nichols was the continent’s greatest living doctor. Probably even the world’s.

    One might ask, therefore, why Hand had had to interview Nichols in Magdeburg — instead of here in Berlin, at the bedside of Europe’s most powerful ruler and Nichols’ own sovereign. Or, perhaps even more to the point, why it was that Gustav Adolf had not been brought to Magdeburg with its superb medical facilities, instead of being kept in primitive Berlin.

    He’d posed those questions directly, in fact. The answers had been… interesting.

    “Ask your blessed chancellor,” replied Nichols. His tone was blunt, to the point of being almost hostile. “It was Axel Oxenstierna who insisted on keeping Gustav Adolf in Berlin. Just as it was he who insisted — oh, sure, politely, but he had about a dozen goons with him to enforce the matter — that I leave Berlin and come back here, once I eliminated the risk of peritonitis.”

    It’s hard to treat for peritonitis without seeing your patient. So Nichols must have seen G2A at that time. A time before Colonel Hand first saw the injured Gustav II.

    In Snippet 66 we read:

    After he set the cup down, he said: “In answer to your unspoken question, General Torstensson, I can’t tell you anything about the emperor’s condition. I was not permitted to see him.”
    Torstensson grunted. “Not permitted by Chancellor Oxenstierna?”

    “I was told the orders came from him, yes. But I didn’t speak to him myself. Then or at any time in the three days I was in Berlin.”

    “Told by whom?”

    “Colonel Hand.”

    This time Hand is in Berlin telling Nichols he cannot examine the emperor. I can see two possibilities:

    1. Eric Flint has forgotten the beginning of his own book.

    2. Dr. Nichols stopped in Berlin for unstated reasons, before coming to Poznań. He was giving the generals a genuine update, not talking about the first time he treated G2A.

    I vote for door 2.

  8. Beata says:

    @1 I think no. Military coup d’etat in some kind of anarchic democracy? PLC hadn’t any police, any instrument to enforce something on szlachta, even taxes was voluntary. If they don’t want pay it, they can close the gate of manor-houses, and say tax collectors “Good bye”.

    It was much easier brought szlachta citizens, sejm (and sejmiki) round to same kind of cooperation than ended Golden Liberty. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Freedom

  9. Vikingted says:

    @ cobbler, Perhaps our good Hand is not trying to raise awareness in Ox’s eyes of any change in G2A’s condition. If Our good Doctor would have tried to make a stink about seeing G2A, then Ox might take more interest in G2A’s slight improvements. Then it might be breathing thru a pillow time for G2A… Nobody wants that right?

  10. Jeff Ehlers says:

    @7: First off, why did you post this in this snippet, rather than in the last one where it was being talked about?

    Second, I’ll grant that it’s possible that Nichols did go back to Berlin for whatever reason. It’s also possible he didn’t go back at all and is misinforming Torstensson for some reason. It’s even possible that he did get to see G2A at some point during the trip, but in secret. There’s a lot more than two possibilities here.

    Whatever actually happened, I don’t think that Nichols is telling Torstensson the full truth here, leaving aside his obvious unstated omission.

  11. dave o says:

    #10 Jeff: It’s clearly stated in the previous snippet that Nichols is aware that G2A is having moments of recovery. It is theoretically possible that he could have learned this, without being in Berlin and talking to Hand. I don’t believe it for a moment.

  12. ET1swaw says:

    Well Melissa is still back in Magdeburg; probably helping Becky ride herd on FoJP/CoC hotheads.
    James has met Kristoff’s brother in Prague (‘Anaconda Project’), and he and his uncle (Koniecpolski) may know this. That also could help account for the extra looks.
    Tortensson has extended his hands off to FoJP/CoC/Ram back into the USE; now 3 of Sweden’s best generals (and in NTL G2A’s opinion the best) have abjured Axel’s cause. And OTL Axel nor von Turn were first raters and Baner won battles but couldn’t advance the cause in the war (Sweden’s low cash didn’t help). Looks like Saxony, as the title infers, will be the battleground for this civil war (1st and 2nd USE vs von Thurn and company aint happening).
    Maybe in an upcoming snippet we’ll find out what’s up with von Arnim and company in Liepzig! And I’ve stopped looking for info on other arenas of G2A vs PLC (Prussia, Livonia, etc.) or even what Christian’s (Union of Kalmar) army is doing (for that matter his air force and navy). (Guess that will be GG material)
    Too bad no inroads into Poznan were allowed, and hopefully what incubates in Poznan won’t leap the walls or that the firebreak of draconian USE health and sanitation measures works!!
    @1: Regrettably only loyalty to his men outranks Koniecpolski’s loyalty to Sejm and king. He is also almost the sub-king in the Ukraine and -is- delegated to bind PLC treaties and such under his signature alone (his defeat of and treaty with Ottoman’s last year was such). As for ‘deus ex G2A’, IMO EF wont go that route; it is too easy/simplistic.
    @7 – @11: IMO James passed through on his way to Poznan; was shortstopped by Hand; and proceeded on his way. He has not viewed his patient since being sent back to Magdeburg, but was able to get an update from Hand. Both Axel and Hand have reasons not to let James re-examine G2A (any such exam might result in pillow breathing (low probability but there)).

  13. Cobbler says:

    @ 9, Vikingted: “Then it might be breathing thru a pillow time for G2A.”

    I’m sure Dr. Nichols would not make a fuss, for that realpolitik reason. Besides, why bother? He knows Oxenstierna would forbid the examination.

    @ 10, Jeff Ehlers: “First off, why did you post this in this snippet, rather than in the last one where it was being talked about?”

    Because I’m such a slow thinker.

    I assumed this crew could remember one snippet back.

    Was Nichols lying? There is little to be done of that is true. As Bertie Russell said, stick one false statement in a syllogism and you can make it prove anything.

    @ 12, ET1swaw: “IMO James passed through on his way to Poznan; was shortstopped by Hand; and proceeded on his way.”

    If I had to bet, that’s where I’d place my money. But it’s not the only option. Nichols may have stopped in Berlin to carry out some medical and/or diplomatic errands. If that is so, from his viewpoint meeting Hand would have been serendipity. Unless meeting Hand was one of those errands.

    We currently lack information to guess better than that.

  14. Jeff Ehlers says:

    @13: My point was, why bring it up here, in this snippet? I could see it if you were supporting an additional argument you made in that post, but as near as I can tell you just brought it up to make a single specific point that could just as easily have been brought up in the previous snippet. So…what’s the point.

    Anyway, I think it’s a reasonably safe bet that Nichols did in fact visit Berlin for some reason and did in fact meet with Hand for some reason (Hand could just as easily have sought him out as a precaution). I doubt he went there to try to see G2A again, since unless Oxenstierna had gone somewhere else, he wouldn’t get through. So I suspect Hand gave him information regarding G2A, but that’s all. Of course, the way it’s being portrayed here, it looks like Hand is in cahoots with Oxenstierna (at least if you take what Nichols is saying at face value).

    I doubt Torstensson is going to care particularly much, but this is the same game everyone is playing – keep their cards close to their chests and avoid making any irrevocable decisions until it’s necessary.

  15. robert says:

    Go back and read the Prolog again:

    One might ask, therefore, why Hand had had to interview Nichols in Magdeburg—instead of here in Berlin, at the bedside of Europe’s most powerful ruler and Nichols’ own sovereign. Or, perhaps even more to the point, why it was that Gustav Adolf had not been brought to Magdeburg with its superb medical facilities, instead of being kept in primitive Berlin.

    He’d posed those questions directly, in fact. The answers had been…interesting.

    “Ask your blessed chancellor,” replied Nichols. His tone was blunt, to the point of being almost hostile. “It was Axel Oxenstierna who insisted on keeping Gustav Adolf in Berlin. Just as it was he who insisted—oh, sure, politely, but he had about a dozen goons with him to enforce the matter—that I leave Berlin and come back here, once I eliminated the risk of peritonitis.”

    “What reasons did he give for his decisions?”

    “Bullpucky and hogwash.” Hand didn’t know those particular Americanisms, but their general meaning was clear enough.

    “The bullpucky was that it was too risky to move the king to Magdeburg,” Nichols continued. “That’s nonsense because General Stearns had already transported Gustav Adolf by horse-litter to get him to Berlin in the first place. That took almost a week, in rough conditions—which the king still managed to survive, didn’t he? As opposed to spending another two days moving him to Magdeburg in a luxurious river barge.”

    The black doctor took a deep breath. An angry breath, you could even say.

    “As for the hogwash, it’s true that I told Oxenstierna that there wasn’t much that could be done for the king. But ‘much’ isn’t nothing, and however much or little can be done for Gustav Adolf in his present condition, you can be damn sure—to hell with false modesty—that I can do it better than that bunch of quacks he’s got up there in Berlin. For Christ’s sake, Colonel Hand, one of them is an outright astrologer! The jackass seriously thinks you can make diagnoses and prescriptions based on whether Mars is humping Venus or getting buggered by Jupiter while either Sagittarius or Pisces is making a porno movie about it.”

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