1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 14

1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 14

Moses blinked. Cardinal Larry Mazzare had been approved by the pope, but it was hardly a Jew’s place to be telling that to a staunch Counter-Reformationist like Gundaker von Liechtenstein. Besides which, Gundaker was a very smart man whose intelligence was only outdistanced by his stubbornness. Instead, Moses looked down at his folder. “No. They are Baptist.”

“What’s that?”

“Apparently it evolved from the Anabaptist, or is related to the Anabaptist. Honestly, Prince Gundaker, I am no expert on the Christian faith.”

“The Anabaptists aren’t Christians. They are heretics!” Gundaker looked at Moses and then, after a moment, waved it off. Moses knew Gundaker’s views, and knew that Gundaker dealt with him as a sort of necessary evil, but was firmly convinced that absent conversion to the true faith of the Catholic Church, Moses was going to hell. He also knew that in Gundaker’s world view, Moses, by virtue of being a Jew, deserved to go to hell. Gundaker tolerated Jews because of their usefulness, not out of any love for them or respect for their views. But the prince was still speaking. “I will have to write my nephew and warn him away from the up-timer.”

On the road to Regensburg

“I don’t friggin’ believe this,” Ron Sanderlin said. “This is not a road. It’s not even a path. This is a friggin’ game trail. Deer would find this a hard route.”

The problem was a section of what, in a fit of aggrandizement, was locally called a “road.” It was about four feet wide and consisted of mud impregnated with rocks. And from the size of the rocks, it looked like it was ready to give birth. That wasn’t the worst part, though. The worst part were the two trees that were growing closer together than two trees that size ought to be capable of.

“Did you happen to bring a chainsaw?” Sonny Fortney asked.

“No. You know how much they’re worth now and most of them haven’t been converted to use alternate fuels. So I sold it.”

“Yep. Me too,” Sonny agreed. “I guess it’s time for axes.”

“What about the stumps?”

“We’ll have to burn the stumps after we take down the trees. But, unless we want to burn the whole grove, we need to take the trees down first.”

“Who owns the trees?” Hayley Fortney asked.

Sonny hooked his thumb at the village they had passed through about five minutes back. “Probably them.”

Even when the road was “good,” they made only about three miles an hour, because of the wagons. And now that they were in the Upper Palatinate, the roads were rarely all that good for all that long. It was a case of “go a little, stop, fix the road, and then go a little more.” For the last eleven miles, they had been doing fairly well and they had passed a village without stopping about two miles back.

Istvan was sitting his horse. “I’ll ride back and ask them.” He turned to one of the mercenaries that were acting as guards. “Conrad, you ride ahead and check at the next village on the road. One of them at least ought to know. Meanwhile, we rest the horses and have an early lunch.”

****

The two trees, in fact the whole grove, were part of the village that they had passed. The villagers had the right to gather firewood from the grove, but not the right to chop down whole trees. On the other hand, the villagers were supposed to keep the road in good repair. And that would justify cutting down at least one of the trees, possibly both. The village council was not in any great hurry to settle things — because they were up-timers and, to the locals, something between a circus and a zoo. In spite of the fact that they were getting into harvest time, the village was happy to have them stay as long as it took to make the best profit — er, deal — possible.

By the middle of the afternoon, as Herr Bauer was — for the fourth time — discussing the great, very great, risk that letting the wagon train cut down the trees would be, Sonny could see that Istvan was just about ready to pull his sword and demonstrate the risk they ran by more delays.

“What about Captain Jack?” Brandon Fortney, Hayley’s little brother, piped up.

“What about him?” Sonny asked.

“They have chickens!” Brandon insisted. “But they’re down-time chickens. Captain Jack can improve their stock. That ought to be worth cutting down a couple trees.”

Herr Bauer looked doubtful when approached about the possible solution, then Brandon showed him Captain Jack in the wire mesh cage.

Hayley could see the light of avarice enter the farmer’s eyes. And he immediately started trying to negotiate for the permanent sale of the rooster in exchange for the permission to cut down the trees.

“Forget it, Brandon. They aren’t going to be reasonable,” Hayley said in German. “We’ll have to send a rider to Augsburg and file an official complaint against the village for failure to maintain the road. That’s breach of their rental agreement, and I would imagine that the leaseholder is looking for an excuse to get rid of some of his farmers to replace them with fewer farmers and better plows.”

“Now, now,” Herr Bauer said. “There is no reason to take that attitude. I’m sure we can work something out.”

****

They got to cut down the trees and Captain Jack got to party hearty with the local hens for the two days it took. Then the wagon train made fairly good time . . . till the next impediment.

 

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