1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 06

1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 06




The year 1632


Chapter 6


January, 1632


          “Home,” Boris sighed, then waved at the red brick walls of the Kremlin which stood sixty feet tall and dominated the mostly wooden city of Moscow.


          Bernie Zeppi, after the long trip, didn’t care if it was home or not and certainly didn’t care about the view. He just wanted in out of the cold. The Russian winter had stopped both Napoleon and Hitler in Bernie’s old timeline. In the new one, in the middle of the Little Ice Age, it had almost killed Bernie. He looked out from not-quite-frozen eyeballs under completely-frozen eyebrows, at a snow-covered town. A big town, granted, but it was made of log cabins, not the concrete buildings Bernie remembered from pictures of twentieth-century Russia. What surprised Bernie was that the log cabin Moscow that was before him looked even dirtier and less inviting than the concrete monstrosities of the Soviet Union looked in the pictures he’d seen. “Where do we go first?”


          Boris pointed toward a street. “My townhouse first, then I must make a report and get instructions.”




          Boris burst into the house roaring something in Russian. Bernie thought it might be “I’m home” or “we’re here” or something like that. But Bernie’s Russian was still very poor. A short plump woman responded with “Da something,” in a tone that said she was less than impressed. Boris deflated and gave the woman a kiss on the cheek.


          Bernie, not understanding what was going on, looked around. It was a moderate-sized room with a few very small windows One corner had several of the religious paintings that were called icons, and the other had about the biggest stove he’d ever seen.


          Then Bernie was introduced to Mrs. Boris whose name turned out to be Mariya. There was more Russian, including the words “Natalia Gorchakovna,” which Bernie knew was Vladimir’s sister. So Boris was probably telling her about the plans. Bernie was to stay with Boris and his family for the next day or so while introductions were to be made.


          Mariya spoke a little English with the weird Russian-Shakespeare combination accent that Boris and Vladimir had, but even stronger on the Russian part. Even that little was more than Bernie was expecting. There were, it turned out, English merchants living in Moscow and in other places in Russia. Also English mercenaries hired to modernize the Russian army. At least, that was the impression Bernie got from Mariya’s accented comments. Honestly, most of it flowed by him without delivering much in the way of meaning.


          They got him seated, then switched to Russian while Bernie sat and thawed a bit.




          Boris looked at Mariya, feasting his eyes. “Vasilii said I was to report directly to the patriarch. Otherwise I would have taken the outlander to the Gorchakov townhouse. Vladimir, I wrote you about him, has arranged for his sister to house him rather than putting him up with the other outlanders.”


          “Is that wise?” Mariya asked as a servant busied himself at the stove. “The bureaus are in an uproar.” At Boris’ curious look, she explained. “They didn’t want to believe that the miracle was real. They especially didn’t want to believe that God would leave us on our own in the Time of Troubles, then give the Germanies a miracle in their need. The monasteries especially disliked that part.” Then she snorted a laugh. “I wasn’t pleased by the implications myself. Even with the letters and books you sent. It seemed, still seems, as though God cares more for Germany than Russia. So there are factions that were arguing that it was a fraud right up until Vasilii arrived to say you were on your way. Some still are.”


          Boris shook his head. “I didn’t want to believe it either, but after the reports we’ve sent, I would have thought –” At his wife’s look, he hesitated. “I guess it is an unbelievable story. But you can’t not believe after you’ve seen the glass-smooth cliffs of the ring wall.”


          “Is it really that special?” Mariya sounded a bit wistful. Unlike Boris, she had never been out of Russia. “I got your letters but . . .”


          “Yes and no.” Boris tilted his hand back and forth. “In some ways it is the most miraculous thing you could imagine and in others quite everyday.” He shook his head. “Enough of that for now. I will tell you all about it later. Now I need to know what is going on in the bureaus.” So they discussed the different factions that were shifting around the miracle in Germany. The fraud faction, the work of the devil faction, the God’s will faction. Which bureau chiefs were leaning which way. How the great families were lining up. The most common reaction was “wait and see,” then “how can my family benefit or be harmed,” followed closely by “how will it affect my bureau?” All of which was flavored with the question: What’s wrong with us that God would leave us to cold harsh winter and give the Ring of Fire to the Germanies?”


          “From what I hear . . .” Mariya lifted the pot of water. “. . . the czar wants to see the outlander as soon as he can but the bureaus want a chance to talk to your Bernie first so they can formulate policy. They have managed to fill the czar’s schedule for the next week or so to give them a chance to do so.”


          “And the patriarch?” Boris asked.


          “The czar’s father has made no public statements and he’s even been quite reticent in private, at least according to rumor. I imagine that’s part of the reason you’re to report to him.”


Chapter 7


          Half an hour into the conversation with the patriarch, Boris felt wrung out. Patriarch Filaret apparently remembered every fact he’d read about Grantville, not to mention every bit of the history he’d read. They’d already been through the butterfly effect and every bit of Boris’ knowledge of the spies in Grantville. Now, Filaret changed the subject.


          “So, this Bernie, he has come to work for us?”


          “Ah . . . not quite.” Boris twitched in his seat. “In fact, he has come to work for Prince Vladimir. Who has paid — and is paying — his salary, so far. And there is a personal contract.” Boris produced the contract for the patriarch’s perusal. Filaret took it and read through it rapidly. Several times during the reading he gave Boris sharp looks.


          His brow creased. “A rather large salary. Do you feel it will be worth it?”


          Boris was surprised at the choice of first question. By custom, outlanders were always hired to work for the czar, not members of the court or the bureaus. “I can’t say for certain. The up-time knowledge is worth a thousand times that salary. Patriarch . . .” He paused. “They could fly up-time. I have seen the movies, heard the stories — they could fly. And I have no doubt they will again, if they survive another five or ten years.”


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10 Responses to 1636 The Kremlin Games – Snippet 06

  1. robert says:

    I sure hope that Eric does an infodump on the structure and organization of the Russian government, including the informal and behind the scenes parts. I can’t figure out who makes the decisions and where they “sit.”

  2. Tweeky says:

    @1 I agree but also I think he should have an artist do a sketch of the various characters so that they’re easier to visualise.

  3. ecsamurai says:

    I agree with @1 and @2

  4. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Was Russia in the 1630’s really as superstitious as portrayed in this snippet? Backwards, yes, I understand how backwards it was at that time. But was it also that superstitious?

  5. Cobbler says:

    @ 4, Robert,

    Superstitious by whose standards? We’re in a pre-Newtonian world here. Scientific reductionism hasn’t been invented yet. Belief in material causation was not incompatible with belief in spirits. It was cutting edge stuff when Kepler (Died 1630) dumped the angel-powered celestial spheres. In our time line, Mr. Paradigm of Physics Isaac Newton was also an alchemist.

    That’s the state of things in Western Europe, with science is in its cradle. Do you expect paranoid “The Mongols are coming!” Russia to be a hotbed of Augustan Enlightenment?

  6. ET1swaw says:

    @5 Cobbler: About scientific enlightenment I agree. About ‘The Mongols are coming’: give them a break; the Mongols and Tartars and other various barbarian hordes leveled their civilization more than once; and the rump remains in the Crimea and past the Urals (NTM in what the Ottomans and Safavids supposedly controlled ATT) continued border warfare with both Muscovy and the PLC. Plus G2A just took a major chunk of territory from them and blocked them from the Baltic less than 20 years ago (a Swedish force actually took both Novgorod and Moscow(with attendent bad behaviour; one of few foriegn powers to ever do so) during their ‘Time of Troubles’); his younger brother was a major alternative prospective to the Romanovs!

    @1 robert: It would have to be a massive infodump. AFAIK the Russian bureaucracy was near on par with Mandarin China and the root of the word byzantine for complexity. Filaret was both the Patriarch (head of Russian Orthodox church) and the czar’s dominating father. The Boyars and nobility, the Church, the career military, the bureaucratic climbers, and others IMO spent more time in espionage (and occasional sabotage) against one another than anything else and the more complicated they could make it to oversee them the better.

  7. Cobbler says:

    6 @ ET1swaw,

    Exactly. That sort of history can shape a people. That sort of history did. It’s no surprise that Russian culture is marked by a xenophobic siege mentality. I don’t quite blame them for that. Though I believe in personal and/or cultural responsibility. If you create and maintain an unpleasant culture, you are stuck with it.

    I may not blame them. I’m still glad I don’t have to endure it.

  8. Mark L says:

    All the world was superstitious in 1630. In C. V. Wedgewood’s history of the 30 Years War, one of the things she mentioned in the opening chapters was the level of superstition in Germany, France and England — three of the more enlightened regions in the 1630s. And the examples she gave were no worse than what the Russians are shown as exhibiting.

  9. dave o says:

    Forget superstition. Russia was characterized by extreme xenophobia. The siege mentality: last of the orthodox was pervasive. That’s one reason they hated the turks slightly more than they hated everyone else.

  10. robert says:

    @6 and @7 Yeah. When I was in the USSR during the semi-final days of the communist government I found the people in Moscow (not so much Leningrad) to be just plain rude. I was told that since Stalin had killed off the intelligentsia all that was left (sorry) were the oafs. I thought that was a small exaggeration, but yes, a most unpleasant culture, Cobbler.

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