1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 70

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 70

She went back to studying him again. “Tell me the truth,” she said abruptly. “Don’t exaggerate anything — but don’t minimize anything, either. How much military training and experience do you have?”

He hesitated. Then, decided that lying to this woman was likely to be a risky proposition. “Training, quite a bit. Actual combat experience, none at all. Well, leaving aside two duels. Assuming the term ‘duel’ can be applied to affairs that were impromptu, unstructured, and…ah…”

“Drunken brawls where you could barely stand up and neither of you could see straight.”

“Well. Yes.”

“The training should be enough. Come here.” She motioned him toward her with a little wave of the hand. Her eyes were already back on the maps, though, not watching to see if he’d obey. She took that for granted, in the way people will who are accustomed to command.

When Jozef came around the table and stood next to her, he saw that she was studying a map of Dresden. More in the way of a diagram, actually, that concentrated entirely on the city’s fortifications.

She placed a finger on one of the bastions that anchored the defenses along the river. “Our officers tell me that once Banér is certain the ice covering the river is solid enough that he may attempt an assault across it. The fortifications here are not as strong as they are around the southern perimeter of the city.”

Jozef studied the diagram. The military training he’d gotten had been fairly extensive, as you’d expect for a member of the Koniecpolski family. But, as was usual for men of that class, it had not concentrated much on siege warfare. Still, he’d picked up quite a bit of knowledge by osmosis, as it were. Some of his instructors had been szlachta from modest families or commoners who did have experience fighting in the infantry and artillery.

“It makes sense to me. It’ll depend mostly on how much of a chance Banér is willing to take. An assault like that is likely to result in heavy casualties. It’s true that the defenses along the river are weaker, but there’s a reason for that. The assumption is that the river itself bolsters the defense. Which it does, even in winter when the ice makes it possible to cross.” He placed his finger on the river. “There is absolutely no cover at all there, and the soldiers have to cross well over a hundred yards of ice. Which may be solid but is hardly good footing. Personally, I think he’d be foolish to take the risk.”

“He may not have much choice,” said Richter. “We think Oxenstierna is getting anxious, from reports we’ve gotten.”

Jozef frowned. “Why?”

Richter’s thin, humorless smile came back. “Because he expected a lot more fighting across the nation than he’s getting. Which makes Dresden all the more central. This is really the only place except Mecklenburg — and that’s over by now, and not to Oxenstierna’s liking — where you can use the term ‘civil war’ without snickering.”

Jozef hadn’t known that. Second only to the misery of hauling rocks every hour of daylight had been the frustration of a spy who didn’t have access to any information.

Belatedly, it occurred to him that for the first time since he’d arrived in Dresden, he could actually do some real spying. Risky, of course, to spy on such as Richter and her cohorts.

“So…” Maybe he could draw her out.

“So time is not on the Swede’s side. People don’t like things unsettled. They start getting angry at the people they think are responsible for it, unless they can see that real progress is being made to implement whatever program is being advocated. You can’t ever forget that most people don’t really have very strong political convictions. They just want to get about their lives. They will be naturally drawn to leaders who project confidence and seem to be getting things accomplished, and they will be naturally repelled by leaders who seem to stir up trouble but can’t get anything done.”

Jozef hadn’t ever thought about political conflict in those terms, but it did make sense. It was certainly true that a great deal of the confidence people felt in a leader came from the leader’s own self-confidence. That was probably even more true of military leadership. Having a record of winning battles helped a great deal, of course. But the truth was that even great captains like Koniecpolski and Gustav Adolf had lost their share of battles and sieges. Yet they never lost the confidence of their followers, as much as anything because they went into each new battle as if they were certain to win.

Much the same way, he realized, that the woman standing next to him somehow exuded confidence that she would be triumphant in her struggles. As if victory were a given and all that remained to be determined was the specific manner in which it would be achieved.

“Leaders such as our blessed Swedish chancellor,” she went on. “Look at what’s happened. He summoned a convention of reactionaries in Berlin to launch a great counter-revolution. Well, Wettin did, officially, but everyone knew that was a formality even before Oxenstierna eliminated the pretense and threw him in prison. And, sure enough, they’d barely closed the lock on Wettin’s cell when they proclaimed their so-called Charter of Rights and Duties. And…”

She grinned, now, and there was some actual humor in it. “Ha! Nothing! Within two weeks all of the moderate provincial leaders had pulled away, like proper ladies drawing up their skirts to avoid getting them muddied. The only big clash was in Mecklenburg, where they got routed again. Elsewhere, people can look around and see that the supposedly seditious rebels are keeping peace and order — in many instances, by intimidating the reactionaries who would like to start fighting. Except for Dresden, the only real fighting going on anywhere is in the Oberpfalz. But that’s caused by a Bavarian invasion, which everyone knows — even an idiot can see this much — is entirely Oxenstierna’s responsibility. Duke Maximilian wouldn’t have dared to attack the Oberpfalz again if Oxenstierna hadn’t started all this trouble. All of which means that it’s more important than ever that the Swedes crush the Saxon rebellion. Their failure to take Dresden makes Oxenstierna look more hapless and incapable as every day goes by.”

“Bavaria invaded the Oberpfalz?” That was the first Jozef had heard of that development. For a supposed spy, he felt like he was doing a good imitation of a burrowing little animal. Sees nothing, hears nothing, knows nothing. Except the dirt in front of him.

Richter was frowning at him. “Where have you been?”

“Hauling rocks,” he said.

She shook her head. “Well, not anymore.” Again, her finger came down on the bastion by the river. “I want you to organize your Poles to support the unit of soldiers we already have there. You’ll be coordinating with Lt. Nagel, who’s in charge of that stretch of the fortifications. He’ll provide you with weapons, too.”

No more rocks. And he could spy again. While rubbing his hands to ward off the chill, there being nothing else to do.

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28 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 70

  1. Jeff Ehlers says:

    Because standing around in the cold is so much better than hauling rocks (which keeps you active and thus warm). I bet he’ll be complaining again before long.

  2. Bret Hooper says:

    When we were on standard time, the snippets appeared at 11:00 (12:00 EST), but the time stamp on the comments seemed to be Atlantic Standard Time (Puerto Rico, Labrador, Newfoundland, etc.
    Now the snippet still appears at 11:00 CST (12:00 CDT). What gives?

  3. dave o says:

    Wojtowicz’s primary loyalty is to Koniecpolski. I think it’s a question how loyal he is to Poland, or at least to Poland’s political structure. And he’s in sympathy with the COC. If he’s to support Dresden’s river defenses, he has the opportunity to either help Baner in, or help keep him out. An interesting moral dilemma. I don’t think he has any interest in supporting the Ox, and I think he would be uncomfortable helping to massacre the Dresdeners. So which way will he go? Has Gretchen made a serious mistake?

  4. Peter says:

    Letting Baner in is likely to be doubly fatal – because Baner has no incentive to honor any deal that makes him look less than mighty in this war. So he may rely on a traitor long enough to get inside – then he’ll turn on the traitor just as readily. I think Josef can see that. I bet he’ll bide his time and observe everything, and in the end return home with a detailed report for his uncle. The post-mortem to end all post-mortems!

  5. Willem Meijer says:

    @2 Who cares what time the snippets are published on, be glad we are fed them. Besides, the only standard time is UTC (or GMT for us dinosaurs). The rest is just local time.

  6. johan says:

    @4 Peter: Not that the Sejm is likely to listen to anything he has to say, or anything that Koniecpolski will relay to them. Even if they’ve seen what the history books have to say about Poland’s future I doubt they could pull their heads out of their own posteriors long enough to do something about it.

    Oh and over here the snippets appear at 6.00 am so one hour either way makes no difference for those of us in Central European Time. :)

  7. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Update on the Snippets schedule.

    Eric has told me that the final snippet of this book should be on the 30th so I’ve increased the snippet size so you’ll get the same amount of the book as you would for the earlier schedule

    Also, on the 30th I’ll start snippets of David Drake’s OUT OF THE WATERS (sequel to Legion of Fire).

  8. summertime says:

    My guess is that Ms, Richter knows full well who and what Jozef is, namely a spy for Poland. She is just using his knowledge of warfare as she would any other resource, planning to keep an eye on him so no advantage goes to Poland by his actions.

  9. WCG says:

    “For a supposed spy, he felt like he was doing a good imitation of a burrowing little animal. Sees nothing, hears nothing, knows nothing. Except the dirt in front of him.”

    Heh, heh. I love that.

    Re. comment #8, I don’t know why Richter would know that Jozef is a spy. She’s not omniscient. But she probably realizes that it’s a possibility,… and that a Polish spy wouldn’t be able to do much to help Banér, anyway (nothing more than he could already do as a rock-hauler, at least), even if he wanted to.

    And would it really be to Poland’s interests to see Banér massacre the people in Dresden? Maybe. But maybe not, too. That’s an event that could have unexpected consequences.

    Re. the snippets, what will Eric Flint be working on next (or now, I suppose)? Drake and Weber are OK sometimes, but I wouldn’t come here just for them (and when I do, I’m afraid I usually lose interest in their snippets).

  10. andya says:

    First time I’m posting, so if I step on toes, I’m sorry. It has been mentioned that Gretchen may suspect he’s a spy. Gretchen’s no dummy. She knows ice is slippery and slows you down and that crossing open ground slowly is a good way to get shot. Could she just have tested his “honesty” by providing him with the opportunity to lie or give bad information-information that she already knows the answer to?

  11. Ed T. says:

    Eric Flint is so-so, bring on Weber’s new Safehold novel! I see Amazon has it available for pre-order so I hope Weber snippets resume soon.

  12. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Andya, IMO Gretchen wasn’t “testing his honesty because he might be a spy”.

    She was conducting a “job interview”.

    She knows the problems of an attack over a frozen river but needs to put somebody in charge of stopping such an attack.

    She has the problem of a lack of trained officers.

    If she moves one of the officers she has to command the defense of this position, she may create a gap in her current defense structure.

    So what has happened IMO is that she put the word out for anybody who might have some sort of military experiance that isn’t already directly involved in defending the city.

    A Pole with Jozef’s social standing (which he wasn’t able to hide from his fellow Poles) could very well have the military experiance/training that she needs to defend this gap in the city’s defenses.

    As it turns out, the person with the training she needs is also a spy. [Grin]

  13. Bret Hooper says:

    I agree with @11: I’m hoping for snippets of Safehold5. Also for snippets of the sequel to 5 Cannon Law and snippets of 5 The Kalmar Union (or whatever EF&DW choose to call it), and the one by EF and David Carrico, and just maybe something by EF&SMS!

  14. Bret Hooper says:

    Actually, I don’t entirely agree with @11: EF isn’t just so-so. He is and has been my #1 favorite living author from the first time I read 1632.

  15. Ed T. says:

    If you want really good alternate world writing read deCamp’s “Lest Darkness Fall”.

  16. Gkorneev says:

    @11 Ed t. and 14 Bret hooper
    Eric flint is my favorite author as well since 1632. I stumbled upon David weber because of 1632 series. When I got into scifi books, there were many honor books out and though I considered reading them, I didn’t know where or how to start.

  17. Gkorneev says:

    Forgot to add: I enjoy both authors’ books immensely.

  18. Randy says:

    I wonder if there any CD or DVD versions of Les Miserables floating around Grantville. Better yet, Mary Simpson could put on a version of it in Magdeburg and then Dredsen. Gretchen and the COC would just love Do You Hear the People Sing?


  19. Bret Hooper says:

    @15 Ed: I did, and it is, indeed, an excellent novel, much to be recommended. But so are 1632, and 1633, and all that have followed. And 163x comprises a much greater quantity of excellent reading. Unfortunately, Lyon Sprague DeCamp will not be able to contribute to 163x, nor will Edgar Pangborn, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, or Alfred Elton Van Vogt, to name just a few. But one might hope for 163x stories from such as Jean Auel, Steve Stirling, Diana Gabaldon, Peter Hamilton, Judith Jance, William Bernhardt, or John Grisham. Yes, I know the last three have not yet written SF/AH stories, but I would love to see what they could write for 163x.

  20. robert says:

    @16 Bret. Yes! But Stirling is in the middle of two series of his own. The vampire thing and the ongoing continuing thing that began with Islands in the Sea of Time (current snippets at jiltanith and SS’s website). How ’bout Dana Stabenow, who has already done three SF books, while we are mentioning writers of that other fun genre. She really ought to collaborate Alaska-wise with Stoney Compton, rather than Eric, so Compton might learn to write…um, for adults.

  21. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @16 – Bret Hooper.

    I don’t know that I would be so keen on a Jean Auel contribution to the RoF series. On the other hand, the idea of John Grisham co-writing with EF a legal thriller set in the USE sounds very interesting. I don’t know that it will ever happen, but perhaps….

    @11, 15 – Ed T.

    We all have different tastes in writers. I very much admire SOME of David Drake’s work and dislike other things he has written. I greatly admire Weber’s Honor Harrington series and Safehold series, but his book Out of the Dark badly disappointed me. I like almost all of EF’s work that I have read, but I haven’t read everything that he has written, so I may have some disappointments in the future. I hope to see more books with K.D. Wentworth continuing the human-Jao adventures, which I thought were well done, though not as great as the RoF series. I would also like to read more of the Torch/Crown of Slaves spin-off from the Honor Harrington series.

  22. Vikingted says:

    Bring back H. Beam Piper… : 0 My current alive and kicking authors are James P. Hogan and E.F.

    I agree with Drak on the what Gretchen thinks she know about Jozef. It seems like this is a good opportunity for Jozef to stir the pot by selling out that approach to the city.

  23. robert says:

    @19 Vikingted, sorry to inform you…from Hogan’s website:
    “James P. Hogan died suddenly on July 12, 2010. He was alone at his home in Ireland at the time.”
    His last works are being published posthumously. Migration is one of those works.

  24. Vikingted says:

    WOW, I guess he is now in H. Beam Piper’s category, passed on but loved….

    The posthumously publishing happened to Piper, but I suspect Hogan’s publications will occur much much closer to Hogan’s passing.

    Thanks Robert!

  25. Mark L says:

    Piper fans will be pleased to learn that virtually his entire works are available through Project Gutenberg. Piper fans might also look up the works of Robert Buettner. His latest novel, “Overkill” had echoes of Piper’s “Federation” series.

  26. dave o says:

    Sorry for posting this so late on Thursday. Does Gretchen suspect or know that Baner is going to assault from the river? I think she knows, or maybe deduces his plan. Assaulting from the Elbe means he is going to try to take the city by escalade,the riskiest and most costly method. In order to do this No matter how hard the river freezes, he daren’t take artillery out on the ice, which means his troops won’t have a breach in the walls to attack. In order to mount an escalade, he has to make a lot of ladders to scale the walls. Gretchen has contacts outside the walls, and they have probably told her about the ladders.

  27. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @26 – dave o

    From the snippet:

    When Jozef came around the table and stood next to her, he saw that she was studying a map of Dresden. More in the way of a diagram, actually, that concentrated entirely on the city’s fortifications.

    She placed a finger on one of the bastions that anchored the defenses along the river. “Our officers tell me that once Banér is certain the ice covering the river is solid enough that he may attempt an assault across it. The fortifications here are not as strong as they are around the southern perimeter of the city.”

    Based on that, she suspects what Banér will do because her officers said so, and also because she believes that Oxenstierna is pressuring Banér for positive results SOON.

  28. johan says:

    @18 Randy: In the first concert Marla had for the society in Magdeburg one of the songs she sang was “Do you hear the people sing?”. This in front of a crowd of noblemen and patricians. Though I don’t think many of them understood English. :)

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