1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 01

Note: This snippet is what should have been the Monday snippet and the Wednesday snippet will follow at the regular time.

1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 01

1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz

By Kerryn Offord and Rick Boatright


To my friend Marina, who allowed me to bounce ideas off her, even though she often had no idea what I was talking about – Kerryn Offord

1636 Calling Dr. Phil

Part One

The beginning


Chapter 1

The World’s Greatest Apprentice Alchemist

1606, Augsburg, Bavaria

Twelve year old Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz held tightly to his mother’s hand as she stopped in front of the Augsburg assay office of the of the Fugger banking family.

“This is the place,” Maria Elisabeth Bombast said as she turned and crouched down so her eyes were at the same level as Phillip’s. “Papa Johann didn’t leave us much when he died.” Maria’s scowled. “Your step-brothers will not help. A place here is the best I can afford.”

Phillip nodded. His stepfather had been reasonably successful apothecary in Bad Überkingen, but a condition of his marriage to Mama had been that most of his estate would go to his children by his first wife. Phillip suspected that Mama had not understood the details of the marriage contract. “I understand, Mama.”

“The nice man at the assay office will see that you get the training you’ve always wanted.” She stared into his eyes. “Never forget who your great grandfather was, Theophrastus, and do his memory proud.”

Phillip wished his mother wouldn’t use his middle name. It was such a silly name, and people made fun of him when they heard it. He stared at the building that was going to be his home for the next eight or so years while he served his apprenticeship. “I won’t forget, Mama.”

Maria laid a hand on Phillip’s shoulder and pushed him towards the door. “On you go, Theophrastus. Mama has to go now. I’ll write to let you know where I’m living when I’m settled.”

Phillip glanced up at his mother. Even at thirty-four her painted beauty still attracted the attention of men. He knew it wouldn’t be long before she married again. “Goodbye, Mama.”

“Be good for mother, dearest.”

Phillip glanced back one last time just before he entered the building. His mother was still there, watching. He waved one last time before stepping across the threshold.


Senior journeyman Jakob Reihing led Phillip firstly to the housekeeper, where he was supplied with more bedding than he’d ever had before, then past his laboratory before being taken to the dormitory where he would be living for the next six to eight years while he served his apprenticeship. “This is where you’ll be sleeping,” Jakob said.

“This” was a standard wood framed bed with a canvas mattress cover. Phillip nodded his acceptance and laid his bedding and bags down on the trunk at the foot of the bed.

Jakob gave Phillip a padlock and key. “That’s for the bed trunk. Don’t lose the key. I have a spare, but you’ll have to pay for any replacement.”

The ability to secure his private possessions was something new for Phillip. The only way he’d been able to protect his possessions from his step-siblings had been to hide them. With a lockable trunk, he would no longer have to hope people wouldn’t find his hiding places. Phillip held the padlock and key tightly to his chest. “Thank you, Herr Reihing.”

“Right. Report back to me when you’re made your bed and put your things away.”

After Jakob left the room Phillip got to work. Firstly he found a bundle of herbs from his bag, and then he opened the canvas cover of the mattress. The straw smelt fresh, but Phillip had learned that that didn’t always mean it were free of vermin. He sprinkled some of his herbs over the straw before closing the canvas and making his bed. Then he put his clothes away in the bed trunk. The final thing he put in his trunk were the journals he’d been keeping. They recorded all that he’d so far learned about alchemy and the apothecary’s art. He used the padlock he’d been given to secure the truck and hurried to Herr Reihing’s laboratory.

That evening

“Hey, what’s the smell?” Christoph Baer asked as he followed Phillip into their room.

Phillip was still ruminating over the very good dinner he’d just eaten and didn’t immediately hear his roommate’s comment.

“Hey, Gribbleflotz, Baer asked you a question!” Heinrich Weidemann said as he thumped Phillip.

That caught Phillip’s attention. “What?” he asked, rubbing his arm where Heinrich had hit him.

“What’s the smell?” Heinrich asked.

Phillip sniffed. He didn’t smell anything unusual, and he said so.

“There’s something different about the smell of the room, and you’re the only change, so what is it?” Frederik Bechler, the third apprentice sharing the room with Phillip asked.

Phillip became immediately defensive. He sniffed the air again. “Do you mean the herbs I spread over the straw in my mattress?” he asked.

Christoph approached Phillip’s bed and sniffed. “That’s it. Why did you spread herbs over the straw?” he asked.

“They keep away vermin.” Phillip was afraid the older apprentices would hurt him, so he resorted to a technique he’d used in his stepfather’s household. “I’ve got some more if you’d like to spread it over your own mattresses, and I’ve got another mixture that promotes good sleep,” he offered as he opened his trunk and produced a couple of bags of herbs.

“How would you know about herbs and vermin?” Heinrich asked. “And what are you doing with bags of them?”

“My stepfather was an apothecary. These are his herbal mixtures for bedding.” Phillip said. “They’re very effective.”

Christoph and Frederik immediately accepted the offer. Heinrich looked from the cloth bags in Phillip’s hand to his bed. His face went through all sorts of contortions before he finally added his acceptance.

The next morning

Phillip woke suddenly. There had been a strange sound. Then he remembered where he was, and relaxed.

“Hey, sleepyhead, it’s time to get up,” Christoph said as he shook Phillip.

“I’m awake,” Phillip said as he pulled the covers aside so he could get out of bed. “What do I do now?”

“Just follow us,” Christoph said. “Do you know where you’ll be working today?”

“With Herr Reihing,” Phillip said.

Heinrich snorted. “A green boy like you won’t be working with Herr Reihing.”

“Give over, Heinrich,” Frederik said. “Phillip means he’ll be working in Herr Reihing’s laboratory.” He turned to Phillip. “That’s right, isn’t it?”

Phillip nodded.

“Most of the apprentices in his laboratory are okay, but you’ll want to watch out for Bernhard Bimmel though,” Christoph said. “He can be nasty.”

“He’s not that bad,” Heinrich muttered.

“Just because he’s your friend doesn’t mean he’s not a bully,” Christoph said. He turned to Phillip. “That was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in ages. What’s in those little bags you gave us to put under out pillows?”

“It’s just a mixture my stepfather used to make. He was an apothecary. I have the recipe.”

“Well, I’m with Christoph,” Frederik said. “Thanks to your herbal mixture, I had a really good night’s sleep. See you later,” he said as he headed off to breakfast.

Heinrich was the last of Phillip’s roommates to leave. He paused beside Phillip long enough to mutter his thanks for the sleep promoting herbs before he too disappeared. Phillip watched him walk off, surprised at the reaction of his roommates to such a simple thing. He was brought back to the real world when his stomach rumbled, reminding him that he was missing valuable eating time, and he hurried off after his roommates.

Herr Reihing’s laboratory, the Assay Office

Except for its size the laboratory where Phillip was to work wasn’t too different from his late stepfather’s work room. He was able to recognize many of the apparatus from his years helping his stepfather as Jakob Reihing led him around the laboratory, explaining what things were and what they were used for.

Jakob stopped by a couple of beer barrels sitting on a bench with taps installed. “Working in the laboratory, you’re going to get thirsty. Don’t try drinking from these barrels. They contain stale beer that we are distilling to make aqua vitae. If you want a drink, there are barrels of small beer over there.”

Phillip followed the direction Jakob was pointing and located the barrels tucked away in a corner by the door to the outhouse. “I understand, Herr Reihing.”


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6 Responses to 1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 01

  1. Vikingted says:

    Another 163x tale begins…

  2. Tweeky says:

    Every time I see Gribleflotz’s name I snigger does anyone else here have that reaction? Anyway his Mum’s family-name, Bombast, is equally amusing too:).

    • Vikingted says:

      I do not know much German. German began to corrupt my native tongue so I quit learning it early in my life. It was strange talking to an overseas operator in German while she was speaking my tongue. She shifted to English when she heard German from me. Ten years later I could have used German, since I was traveling thru there.

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      Well, according to a comment on Mutters Of Demons on Baen’s Bar, Gribbleflotz is not an actual German name but nobody spotted the problem when the character was created so its too late to change it.

      On the hand, Bombast is/was a valid German Name (comes from a term meaning “tree branch”).

      On the gripping hand, “bombastic” comes from the attitude of the historical Paracelsus who had the family name of “Bombast von Hohenheim”. [Smile]

  3. marcel says:

    Bombast is not tree branch but tree bark. According to my German dictionary (Duden), Bombast comes from Bombax (filler or lining), which is etymologically related to the Greek word for cotton. (think shredded tree bark)

  4. dieter says:

    Hi, I am native German. Gribbleflotz goes for a very old fashioned German last name.
    It sounds as if coming from an old fairy tale and would come with a sorcerer or weird medic – actually in German it would read Gribbelflotz rather than Gribbleflotz.

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