1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 15
Sherrilyn had come to Marseilles with an introduction arranged by Estuban Miro to a Jewish doctor, Bonnel de Lattès. She’d gotten some nasty looks from some of the men in the Jewish Quarter — imagine, a single woman without escort! — but Bonnel had received her very kindly, and sent her and a bundle of medicines to Pont de Garde. There the priory had welcomed her, quizzed her on up-time — everyone seemed to still do that, even four years after the Ring of Fire — and gave her personal space. Apparently the Jewish doctor was well-regarded among the religious, having practiced some real medicine there over time.
Bonnel had visited her twice there while she rehabbed in the only way she knew how: fresh air and exercise and patience. It had dulled the memories of the Wrecking Crew’s last campaign, and she might have stayed a while longer had Bonnel not introduced her to Cosme de Valbelle, who told her he might have a job for her.
De la Mothe’s offer was interesting. She was a little concerned about whether she was the right person for the job: not that she didn’t know her stuff — she did, that was for sure. And the offer paid well — his messenger later that afternoon had told her exactly how much Turenne was willing to spend to hire an up-timer gym teacher to work for him.
Truly, it came down to the idea of working for Turenne — and, by extension, Cardinal Richelieu. Since Grantville had been dropped into Thuringia more than four years ago, the enemy had consistently been France and the villain had always been Richelieu.
She’d been raised on adventure movies about the Three Musketeers. Richelieu was the fork-bearded red-cloaked devil who controlled the puppet king and manipulated everything and everybody to the advantage of church and country. The reality was different from that, of course. Not only was the cardinal a more complicated figure — Harry had told her that — but there really was a D’Artagnan, and he was supposed to be way different from the books and movies.
Richelieu had done a damn good job of trying to tear apart the USE from the get-go, so his villain status wasn’t exactly fiction either. Wietze . . . that was just part of it. There had been battles on sea and land and in the air, leading to the big fight at Ahrensbök a year and a half ago.
It was all above her pay grade. Treaties and the Union of Kalmar and all of the business of the little princess’ marriage . . . Sherrilyn knew that the world had changed from what it had been even in ’31 and ’32. But Harry would say what she was thinking: that she was a grunt, a regular soldier, not anyone significant. Decisions were made by bigger people on a bigger stage. People like Ed Piazza and Mike Stearns made decisions . . . a high school principal and a coal miner before the Ring of Fire gave them field promotions.
A little destiny, or luck, or freakin’ magic pixie dust, and it could be her instead of Ed or Mike.
All of this introspection led her back to the question: could she really think about working for Turenne and Richelieu?
If they really considered Spain as an enemy — which Sherrilyn certainly did, especially after the Crew’s rescue of Frank and Giovanna on Mallorca — then the answer actually could be yes. And since she really was likely to have to deal with this bum knee for life, and since Philippe de la Mothe wanted to give her a chance to teach — something she understood — and since the pay was damn good — then the answer was probably hell yes.
But she was really going to need a whistle.
She took the job. It wasn’t a difficult choice: the pay was good and the opportunity to do something — anything — was compelling. She knew that she could have stayed as long as she liked, but time was marching on.
On the day she prepared to go it was cold and brisk. Her cell, only a few extra blankets more luxurious than the ones the sisters occupied, was filled with sunlight. She packed her gear, which didn’t amount to much. Before leaving the room she turned to look at it one last time. There was really no evidence that she’d been there at all.
She turned to find a sister standing in the doorway: Sister Giovanna, a tiny, middle-aged woman who had been exceptionally kind to her — she had arranged the extra blankets. Sherrilyn put down her pack and embraced the nun.
“I’m so glad you came by,” Sherrilyn said. “I didn’t see you in the refectory, and I would have been sad to leave without saying goodbye.”
Giovanna smiled — her secret smile, Sherrilyn thought. “Oh, never fear, daughter. You’d not pass through the gate without my blessing.”
“I appreciate it.”
“And how is your knee?”
“It aches rhythmically, but Doctor Bonnel’s plaster seems to help. I’ll manage.”
“Good, good.” She folded her hands. “I’ve actually come to let you know that you have a visitor.”
“A visitor? Who — did the doctor come up?”
“No. It is a . . . member of his community, I think. He does not wear the hat, but I think . . . well. He is in the courtyard.”
“Did he say what he wanted?”
“Only to speak with you. If you would prefer not to meet him, I can give your regrets — I can tell him that you have already departed. If you hurry, you can save me prayers at confession by making it true.”
“It doesn’t sound threatening. I’d be happy to meet him.”
“I will accompany you, of course.”
“Of course. But I can take care of myself.”
“I am certain. But I will accompany you. I am curious — so I will face extra prayers at confession after all.”
Now it was Sherrilyn’s turn to smile. She picked up her pack.