1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 07

1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 07

She set the last sheet aside, making a neat stack, and lay the quill next to it. The window was still there, and she could throw it all away and start again. Or not.

After some dithering she sealed the letter, with no further corrections, and passed it to a courier. Dad would have it in a few weeks, and maybe it would make him feel better. In any case writing back to Grantville had lightened her mood.


Even before the radio team arrived, the Castello del Valentino had been regularly under construction since 1630. It had been the private home of the duchess of Savoy — Christina Maria, the sister of King Louis of France — and she kept carpenters, stonemasons and other craftsmen continually occupied with renovations. The Castello was an impressive building: square and roughly horseshoe-shaped, with four towers along the central edge and two each on each of the legs; an interior courtyard ended in a rounded arch with a gate-tower in the center, taller than all the rest. Tree-lined avenues framed gardens beyond, leading off into the countryside, while the long side of the building faced the Po River. A river-gate in the middle of a palisaded wall led down a few steps to a dock.

Despite the noise, Her Grace seemed very comfortable there. Whenever she was with child — which, as far as Terrye Jo could tell, was just about always — she had left Turin and come out into the country. A Grantville-trained doctor — really a down-timer with a few months’ education in up-time nursing techniques — had been hired out by the duke to attend her, and he had a permanent apartment in the north wing. His expertise was the first up-time knowledge that Duke Victor Amadeus had imported into his lands, and it was better than a chirurgeon who knew nothing other than bleeding and purging.

Late in 1634, the duke had decided that Savoy needed a radio transmission facility, and had paid handsomely to have it built. Along with the spiderwork of antenna wires that now draped it, stretching between the many parapets and towers of the Castello. Naturally, that meant more renovation and construction. It also meant that the duke himself spent more time in residence.

The duchess might have resented it, except that she considered Terrye Jo herself a project. Her Grace had one daughter, Luisa Cristina, six years old but already court-wise and self-assured, but hardly someone who could be dressed and groomed quite yet. Terrye Jo was twenty-one, and gave no indication of interest in marrying or child-rearing. It was a challenge for both noblewoman and country girl, but it was a nice interruption from the workshop.

This morning, with her letter sent off, Terrye Jo made her way from her apartment in an upper floor of the south wing to the workshop, located in one of the towers that overlooked the Po. It was a big, airy place, originally designed for something else — a ballroom, maybe — but had been cleared out for work. The framework of the radio tower had been built above, and the hardware installed in the room. Long tables of planed timber had been placed there to hold equipment and parts and tools.

“Ah, Donna Teresa.” Artemisio Logiani, a local Torino who had graduated from castle handyman to junior radio tech, looked up from his work and offered her a bow she didn’t deserve. “You brighten up the morning.”

It would have been all too serious but for the wink and the grin.

“I doubt it.”

“Forgive me, Donna,” he answered. “I cannot help myself.” He smiled, showing not enough teeth. “I can scarcely focus my eyes in your presence.”

She ignored the compliment. It was a little dance she did with the down-timer every morning. She knew what he had in mind — there was really no question — but of the crew of radio operators she’d trained, he was the best. He could send almost as fast as she could. “How are you doing with the long-range antenna adjustment?”

“It goes slowly,” he said. “The materials are poor, especially now that there is war.” He gestured to a stretch of wire on the table behind him, painstakingly hand-twisted and mounted on an antenna strut. “I try to follow the book, but it is difficult.” He tapped the open book, a manuscript copy of a radio operator’s manual from the 1930s that the team had brought with them.

“I’m sure we’ll get it. We can reach Lyon now, but the duke said that he needed to get a further reach — someplace like . . .”


They both looked across at the voice. Terrye Jo sighed. Artemisio made a face, but not so the newcomer could see it. The young assistant was no fan of Dottore Umberto Baldaccio — and to be honest neither was she.

“Might be,” Terrye Jo said. She put her hands on her hips. “Do you know something we don’t, Umberto?”

He scowled: he preferred his title to his Christian name, which was why Terrye Jo didn’t use it.

“I know nothing that you do not,” he said, walking across to his part of the workshop. He occupied roughly a quarter of the usable area with books and crates and jars full of who know what, and glassware and powders and strips of metal and all kinds of unidentifiable crap.

When they’d installed and tested the equipment for the radio facility, most of the team had declined Duke Victor Amadeus’ offer to remain in Turin on retainer. There wasn’t anything wrong with Turin — it just wasn’t Rome or Paris or London or Magdeburg. Only Terrye Jo had stayed behind, as much an expert radio operator as down-time Turin had ever seen. The duke had assigned her this workshop but Baldaccio had already moved in, taking up from a third to a half of the available space. She’d gone to the duke herself and complained. He was a fraud, he was an alchemist, for Christ’s sake — but it turned out he was a well-established and well-connected fraud with the full confidence of the duke, who brushed off her protests. She’d gone away dissatisfied.

Then she’d gone to the duchess.

Christina Maria had been in Savoy for twenty years as the wife of the prince of Piedmont, who had come into his inheritance as Duke of Savoy in 1630. She was still thought of a foreigner even so. After her first son had died stillborn and her second had died young, during her third pregnancy (when she was lying-in here at Castello del Valentino) the duke had sent Umberto Baldaccio to her. He was a loyal retainer who had saved the duke’s life in some fashion that was never discussed, and he used all of the standard practices available to a seventeenth-century physician: purging and bleeding and hocus pocus and astrology. The baby turned out to be a girl (apparently Baldaccio’s prediction that it was a boy was conveniently forgotten) and the experience was enough for her to want to keep him as far away as possible. Thus, she warmed to the task of helping the young up-timer against the old charlatan.

One morning, Baldaccio ambled into the workshop to find that Terrye Jo and a group of retainers had gotten there far earlier and had moved his equipment and tools and dusty books full of Latin gibberish into neat stacks in the draftiest corner of the big room, close enough to a window that he could point his telescope but far enough to keep from being underfoot. He had been furious — but when Terrye Jo had smiled sweetly and invoked the name of the duchess, he had gone quiet and set to work disorganizing his work area to his own satisfaction. A large metal crate part way down on the two closest work benches served as an effective barrier, preventing him from taking over any more territory.


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25 Responses to 1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 07

  1. cka2nd says:

    Hmm, the Duchess is the sister of Louis XIII and Monsieur Gaston, so pressuring her to choose sides in the coming civil war in France makes sense. A quick check of the Internet also reveals that Savoy was not particularly happy being dominated by France during this period (thanks to their precarious position next to the Spanish Habsburg-occupied Duchy of Milan next door), which might give Gaston an opening to promise to return the strategic asset of Pinerolo to Savoy for their support. In other words, this seemingly out of the blue sub-plot is now starting to make some sense.

    BTW, I wonder how deeply the Duke of Savoy has considered his and his House’s future given that (a) he was scheduled to die in 1637, (b) a junior branch of the House of Savoy provided unified Italy with its kings in the up-time 19th and 20th centuries, and (c) his fourth son, Charles Emmanuel, who was scheduled to be born on June 20, 1634, was perhaps the most able ruler in the history of the family. Beneath the radios and up-timer medical practices, is he considering a deeper game that might significantly improve Savoy’s prospects sooner rather than later?

    • Bibliotheca Servare says:

      That would be really intriguing. Awesome comment, IMO. It made me want to look up the history of the House of Savoy. ;-)

  2. Bibliotheca Servare says:

    I wonder if our dear, in no way arrogant, Terrye Jo is aware that many of the greatest scientists in history were “frauds” in the sense that they were also alchemists? The most obvious, and hilarious -from the point of view that calling this man a fraud is hilarious- example would be Sir Issac Newton. I mean obviously there’s nothing arrogant about calling the guy behind “Newtonian Physics” a fraud and a charlatan, right? Evidently not, seeing as he *was* nothing but an ignorant, swindling alchemist…right? Oh…wait.
    Terrye Jo has a lot to learn…or unlearn as the case may be. I’d hate to see the consequences for history if some uptimer invaded Isaac Newton’s lab space. But I suppose since the uptimers obviously must *know* absolutely everything that Newton ever discovered or learned, they have no need of such a great mind as his. That sounded stupid even as I typed it. Oof.
    Pardon my pet peeve. Chronological Snobbery gives me the vapours. Also makes me testy. Ahem. I’m really not normally such a pompous gasbag, I promise. :)

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      Isaac Newton was born in 1642 so no up-timer is going to visit him in the “near” future. [Wink]

      For that matter, it is very unlikely that he will be born in this new time line due to the changes in European and English history caused by the arrival of Grantville.

      Of course, if he was, the knowledge brought by Grantville would give him a greater starting point in terms of science. [Smile]

    • Randomiser says:

      Well, very probably not! Does she strike you as the bookish type who is well up on history of science and the lives of famous scientists? Uptime ‘Everybody knows’ that alchemy is a lot of nonsense, ergo those who push it are quacks. Terrye is just being a redneck. [Ducks ;-)]

  3. Vikingted says:

    I find it odd that there is a persistent theme of “they won’t be born due to Grantville” in the books and again in our comments. To me, I find it amazing that a town dropped into the 163X world would keep people from meeting and coupling to create their offspring. Its like Grantville had a motto “Gotta keep em separated” (a lyric). I would believe that that person would be born but not exactly go the same path due to things now already known. Who knows, maybe Newton would use his alchemist skills to promote the study of germs or plants or whatever, but to say he would not be born due to Grantville suddenly showing up in 1631? That is too much to believe.

    • Johnny says:

      Well it appears that the English Civil War will be aborted or moved up, the 30 years war changed drastically, the Netherlands is fighting from a position it never had, the Ottomans are invading much earlier…

      The little town didn’t do so much, but the reactions to the little town did.

    • Drak Bibliophile says:


      The history where Sir Isaac Newton was born lacked a Twentieth Century town landing in Germany.

      In this new time line, Isaac’s parents might never met or die before Isaac was conceived because of events started by Grantville’s arrival.

      “Right now” in England, King Charles had been going after people involved in his overthrow and death. Charles’ actions are due to knowledge brought back by Grantville.

      The events that lead up to Isaac’s birth in 1642 will not occur thanks to Charles’ actions.

      History has been changed and Isaac’s birth may be something that will not occur.

      • Randomiser says:

        Of course Sir Isaac may not be born in this timeline. The question is about the ‘it is very unlikely’ comment in your original post. His father was a prosperous country farmer in Lincolnshire. Why would the arrival of Grantville have meant, with high probability, that Isaac’s parents would not have met, married and conceived him? There is a good deal of handwavium about the ‘Butterfly effect’ in the books and especially about the rate at which changes would have been likely to propagate out at lower levels of society. What is rather more likely is that young Isaac would have been a different character due to the political, economic and academic changes as he grew up.

        • Drak Bibliophile says:

          We can argue on “how likely it is that he’d be born”, but I took Vikingted’s post as saying “of course he’ll be born”.

          Oh yes, there has been some “handwavium” about the “Butterfly effect” in the books.

          IMO some of it may have been started in order that the writers aren’t “bound” by what happened in the Real World *after* the time of Grantville appeared in the New History.

          On the other hand, this “side thread” got started because a poster was thinking about a Man Who Hasn’t Been Born Yet being considered a fraud by the up-timers. [Very Big Grin]

        • Lyttenstadt says:

          He *might* be born… in a sense. I.e., that his father and mother might have a male child and call it Isaac. But:

          a) He could be born earlier/later than in the OTL
          b) As the result of many factors he could be born *this time* not prematurely, which won’t influence his health, childhood and entire life.
          c) Given the all these facts, can we really call this person “our” Isaac Newton?

          Besides, what are the chances of “creation” of a person via “DNA combination” with someone’s precise genetic pattern? Factor in the chance of potential parents surviving to that particular moment, meeting, and actually bothering to procreate.

          • Escape Zeppelin says:

            Agreed. X person’s parents might still meet and could even have a child born on the same day but that new child will absolutely not be person X. Genetically siblings but not the same person. It would be like you and your older brother finding out you were twins, a statistical impossibility.

            The odds of a person from Grantville’s history being born after 1632 are so remote you might as well hope Caesar is reborn (and the odds get worse as time increases).

            • Lyttenstadt says:

              Plus a couple of afterthoughts:

              1) Ring of Fire functions in it’s capacity as “butterfly-effect generator” as an earthquake (“reality-quake”?). The effect is stronger in the epicentre and much, much weaker the farther you go. So, it’s perfectly feasible that it won’t interfere with the “natural order/timeline” in remote areas. I.e. a peasant “destined” to be born in rural China somewhere in 1635 would be born “exactly” the same way and on the same date as in OTL.

              In Europe the effect is huge – especially among the so-called “ruling elites”, who are actively trying to prevent/ensure favoruble futures for them. But, still, it is entirely possible for some people “ought” to be born the OTL-way to slip between the cracks and do that.

              2) I don’t want to sound “rude” or very “anatomical”, but think about this for a moment: only one spermatozoid out of millions other “won” by arriving first. Now, with RoF it is entirely possible that this time given a lot of “for a want of the nail” type effects it *might* be another.

              • YABOFH says:

                There’s vanishingly small chance of having the same paternal contribution (note that meyosis resulting in spermatozoa keeps going, so you get random crossovers, etc. – it’s not even “we need to pick the same winner out of huge set”, the set itself won’t be the same), but that’s not all – maternal contribution is also pretty random. Unlike spermatozoa, ova will be picked from the same set (they are not continuously produced), but there’s no clear order of activation *and* the cycle is unlikely to match even if the order had been fixed.

                Yes, the same people might marry and have a son, but it won’t be closer to the “original” than a brother would’ve been. And there are even odds of getting a daughter, while we are at it…

                As for 1635 in rural China… Keep in mind that it shouldn’t take a lot of weather change to affect the paternal contribution – rain lasting a few more minutes is almost certainly enough. Exactly the same child four years down the road from the original disturbance? Not a chance, rural China or not…

              • Doug Lampert says:

                Yeah, chaos theory is largely an outgrowth of people noticing that the equations used to model the weather are inherently unstable.

                Small differences in initial conditions grow exponentially till you’ve got what are effectively totally separate random draws.

                A change too small to measure really will rewrite the details of weather throughout the entire world within a matter of weeks.

                And Grantville’s presence creates a small urban heat island, changes the topography of the ground, and changes where and when large amounts of smoke entered the atmosphere. This is NOT an unmeasurably small change!

                It’s no butterfly, that’s HUGE. All the dice are rolled again for anything dependent on weather, which includes anything dependent on human action or interaction.

              • Terranovan says:

                Just wanting to chime in, even though my chiming is just an echo…

                The words “butterfly effect” come from the discovery (I forget who made it, and where, when, and how) that a butterfly flapping its wings a different way can change the direction of a storm.
                A couple of stories have openly referenced this – “Les Ailes du Papillon” in RoF III and, I believe, one of the “Essen Steel” serials.

          • Vikingted says:

            @Lyttenstadt… you got my point…

        • Vikingted says:

          Looks like I stirred up a hornet’s nest here….

          @random.. My point was that Issac would have gone a different direction in his life. This assumes that his parents are not caught up in King James’s purge.

  4. daveo says:

    Assuming that Newton’s parents have a child, and name it Issac, there is no way of telling whether or not the child is genetically identical to the historic person. So most of the argument above is speculative. What is unlikely is that the child will have the same public career as the historic one. He will not develop calculus, since the world will have already have it. He may or may not become Master of the Mint, He will not discover gravitational attraction, He may or may not be a founder of the Royal Society and on and on.

    • Randomiser says:

      Indeed. Also some of the comments assume things are happening for the second time. They are not. They are happening for the first time, but the outcomes have been observed. So anything which is not directly affected by Granville’s appearance will turn out as it is known to have done. The argument is how far the influence of the ‘Ring of Fire’ has spread and how much it will have affected the event in question. ‘The weather will have affected the male parental contribution’ ???

      • YABOFH says:

        er… positions of individual spermatozoa in mother’s uterus and tubes are not going to be repeated unless (at least) you manage to reproduce the entire temperature history.
        And no, those are _not_ clonal – very much so. “Affected by weather” is an understatement – it’s more like “you’d need to reproduce a ridiculous amount of events on microscopic level”.
        IOW, not a chance – it’s really completely random.

  5. kao Vang says:

    I am inclined to go with the view of a famous Doctor that some events are fixed points in space time and can’t be changed. So the question now is…are there fixed points in space time that will occur for our new world in 1632? It seems there are, because we still have the Turks coming. We still have some crazy atrocities still to come in that silly eastern European town. So who’s to say that the birth of one of the greatest scientific minds is also NOT a fixed point in space time?

    Why the author of course. Yes I am cheeky. But in all silliness, if somethings are gonna happen, then other things can still yet happen or will happen…or may have happened already? I hate time travel, it’s so wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

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