1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 12

1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 12

She herself didn’t find Kresse’s dark thoughts more than mildly exasperating. The leader of the Vogtland rebels was a capable man, but he tended to be rigid and prone to suspicion. He reminded her a lot of Gunther Achterhof — except Gunther at least had a good sense of humor. If Kresse had one, she’d never seen any evidence of it.

“Are we all agreed then?” she asked, looking around the table. “I will accede to the emperor’s summons and go to Magdeburg tomorrow.”

Her expression got rather sour. “By airplane. May God have mercy on my soul.”

Which he might or might not, she thought. She hadn’t been inside a church in years. In her defense — assuming it would carry any weight with the Creator, which it might or might not — she felt she’d been betrayed by the Catholic Church she’d been raised in. The soldiers who broke into her father’s print shop, murdered him and then subjected her to more than two years of torment had claimed to be defending the Catholic cause, had they not?

Gretchen wasn’t an outright non-believer like her husband, but she’d never found another church that suited her. The Protestant denominations all seemed… drab. Reverential but joyless.

She gave everyone at the meeting plenty of time to register any further objections or raise any questions. Since there didn’t seem to be any, she declared the meeting adjourned.

****

“I need to talk to Jozef before I go,” she said to Tata after everyone had left the room. “Do you know where he might be found?”

Tata sniffed. “Wherever there’s liquor available and young women whose tits are bigger than their brains.”

Gretchen smiled. It was true that Jozef Wojtowicz was an incorrigible womanizer. The Pole was handsome, charming, quick-witted — rather tall and well-built, too — and never seemed to lack female companionship.

Well… “Incorrigible” was a little unfair. He wasn’t stupid about it. He’d never once tried to seduce Gretchen, for instance, although it was obvious he found her attractive. He’d never chased after Tata, either. Unlike most womanizers Gretchen had known, Jozef — to use an American quip — generally thought with his big head, not his little one.

“Find him, would you?” As Tata started to leave, Gretchen stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. “Not you, yourself. You and I have other things we need to discuss before I leave. Get someone else to do it.”

Tata sniffed again. “I have just the person.”

****

“Why you?” Tata gave Eric Krenz a squinty look. “Two reasons. First, because you’re handy. Second, because you know every tavern in Dresden, including the ones with the prettiest barmaids that Wojtowicz will be chasing after.”

She held up a hand, forestalling Eric’s protest. “I didn’t accuse you of chasing after them yourself, did I? But don’t tell me you don’t notice these things because you do. I’m tolerant — I used to be a barmaid myself; it’s a necessary skill in the job — but I’m not blind. Your hands may not roam but your eyes do.”

Eric’s open mouth… closed. “Um,” he said.

“Be off,” Tata commanded.

****

Wojtowicz arrived a little over an hour later. Krenz’s guesswork had been good — he’d found Jozef in the second tavern he’d searched.

Then, of course, half an hour had been needed to negotiate with the fellow. Like all Poles of Eric’s acquaintance, Jozef was inclined toward stubbornness. Happily, like all Poles of Eric’s acquaintance, he was also inclined to drink. So, a pleasant if too brief time had passed in which a Pole and a Saxon commiserated on the unreasonableness of women.

“What does Richter want with me now?” wondered Wojtowicz.

“Don’t know, but it’s probably nothing good.” Eric drained a fair portion of his beer stein. “As I recall, the last time she summoned you into her presence she talked you into leading a reckless sortie against besieging troops.”

Jozef looked a bit apprehensive — but only a bit. “It can’t be anything like that. We’re not at war at the moment. Well… not here, at any rate.” He waved his hand in a vaguely southwesterly direction. “Over there in Bavaria they are, but we’re not involved with that.”

Eric shrugged. “There’ll be some unpleasant task that needs doing. There always is. It’s because of Adam’s fall, I think. Although I’m not sure. I’m not a theologian.”

Jozef’s laugh was a hearty, cheery thing. A passing barmaid gave him a second look. For probably the fourth time that evening, Eric suspected.

“‘I’m not a theologian,'” Jozef mimicked. “Indeed, you are not. I, on the other hand, am an accomplished student of the holy texts so I know that it was all Eve’s fault. It’s always the woman’s fault, you heathen.”

****

After Gretchen explained her purpose, Jozef didn’t find the quip amusing any longer.

Damned woman!

“I really think you’re… what’s the up-time expression?”

“‘Spooking at shadows’?” Gretchen supplied. “You’re probably right — but I still want to find out what’s happening over there.”

“Why me?” Jozef asked, trying not to whine openly. It was a stupid question, because the answer was obvious.

“Don’t be stupid. You’re a Pole. I want you to go into Polish territory and spy for us.”

“And that’s another thing! I am Polish, just as you say.” He tried to put on his best aggrieved expression. “And now you’re asking me to be a traitor –”

“Oh, stop it! I’m not asking you to sneak into King Władysław’s palace in Warsaw and steal state secrets. I’m asking you to go just over the border — well, a bit farther — and see what that swine Holk is up to in Breslau, or wherever he is now. Holk’s Danish, I think, or maybe German — and most of his men are Germans. So stop whining — which is phony and you know it — about your Polish pride. You know perfectly well you’ll get most of your information from other Poles on account of Holk’s men will have been plundering and raping and murdering them in the name of protecting them.”

Jozef made a face. Heinrich Holk’s reputation as the worst sort of mercenary commander was something of a byword by now in central Europe. What in God’s name had King Wladyslaw been thinking, when he hired the bastard?

“All right, I’ll do it,” he said. A sudden thought came to him. Maybe…

“But I want a favor in return.”

“What is it?”

“I want some batteries.”

Gretchen frowned. “Batteries? You mean… the electricity things? That store the electrical power?”

“Yes. Those.”

“What for?”

He tried to look simultaneously secretive and mysterious. “I’m not saying. It’s my business.”

That was fairly lame, but it was better than the alternative: I want the batteries so I can start using my radio again and get back in touch with my uncle and employer Stanislaw Koniecpolski, the Grand Hetman of Poland and Lithuania and the commander of the army facing the forces of the USE at Poznań, so I can resume spying for him on you.

Not wise.

After a moment, Gretchen shrugged. “I suppose I can spare one or two batteries.”

****

Later that night, having finished her preparations for the trip to Magdeburg — that hadn’t taken long; just packing a small valise — she mentioned Jozef’s request to Tata.

“What in the world would he want batteries for? — that he’d be so close-mouthed about?”

Tata sniffed. “Wojtowicz? He probably got his hands on one of those up-time sex toys — what do they call them? Bilbos, or something like that — and figures if he can get it working again he can impress one of the town’s — what do they call them? Bimbos, I think. Or dumbos.”

 

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26 Responses to 1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 12

  1. Tweeky says:

    “Tata sniffed. “Wojtowicz? He probably got his hands on one of those up-time sex toys — what do they call them? Bilbos, or something like that — and figures if he can get it working again he can impress one of the town’s — what do they call them? Bimbos, I think. Or dumbos.””

    I had a good laugh reading this last paragraph;-), anyway I think Bilbo Baggins would be both mortified and offended at being mistaken for a sex-toy;-). As for the “Bimbos”, well, some of them no doubt would qualify as “Dumbos”:-).

    • Cobbler says:

      According to the OED a bilbo is a sword. I bet JRR knew it, to.

      Thesaurus »
      Categories »

      a. A sword noted for the temper and elasticity of its blade. Now hist.

      1602 Shakespeare Merry Wives of Windsor iii. v. 102 Crammed like a good bilbo, in the circomference Of a pack, Hilt to point.
      ?1606 M. Drayton Ode xii, in Poemes sig. C6v, Down theyr bowes they threw And foorth their bilbowes drewe.
      1625 G. Markham Souldiers Accidence 2 Sharpe and broad Swords (of which the Turkie or Bilboe are best).
      1826 Scott Woodstock I. iii. 62 My tough old knight and you were at drawn bilbo.
      1860 J. P. Kennedy Rob of Bowl xv. 174 We shall come to bilbo and buff before long.
      (Hide quotations)

      Thesaurus »
      Categories »

      b. Often used as the proper name of a sword personified; esp. that of a bully or swash-buckler.

      1676 T. Shadwell Libertine i, in Wks. (1720) II. 106 Stand, you dog!.. I’ll put Bilbo in your guts.
      1749 U. ap Rhys Tour Spain & Portugal (1760) 20 Bilbo is an humourous term for a Bully’s Sword.

  2. dave o says:

    5 chapters in and Flint is still introducing his cast of characters

    • sensei says:

      Jozef Wojtowicz was a significant character in “1636: The Saxon Uprising.” As much say that the author is still introducing new characters when Gretchen meets with Gustav II Adolph. 😉

    • Randomiser says:

      And when the army gets to Bavaria he will introduce new characters on the Bavarian side and then there will be new Ottoman characters and new Austrian characters …. what’s the problem with it??

    • Joe says:

      There will be a lot of characters. New ones have to be introduced and old ones need to have their histories brought up to date. It takes time and may well continue off and on through at least the first half of the book. Mr. Flint has earned a certain amount of indulgence in my opinion, so let him take as long as he needs.

  3. Terranovan says:

    Tara was in “Tangled Web”, and I’m fairly certain “Eastern Front” and “Saxon Uprising” as well. So were Krenz and Kresse.

  4. John Cowan says:

    Aragorn isn’t introduced until the middle of The Fellowship of the Ring, and Faramir not until 3/4 of the way through The Two Towers. So what?

  5. laclongquan says:

    They dont know but if they ever mention it around Jeff, which is Gretchen’s husband, which mean not an unlikely chance, he will definitely remember the Polish radios they found. The question: What kind of Pole will have need of batteries? Answer: A Pole with a working radio. Q: What kind of Pole there that have a working radio? A: A spy.

    Oops~

    • sensei says:

      The spy you know of can be a real asset for your side. Just feed them selected mis-information at crucial moments.

      • Drak Bibliophile says:

        Then there’s the spy you know of and you know that you & the spy have a common enemy. [Wink]

        • Andy says:

          I guess it’s the latter, because Wojtowicz has been made into a sympathetic character. Eric Flint wouldn’t place him in the position of double-spying without some chance of eventually reconciling his duties to both “masters”.

          So the plot will probably involve this as a personal conflict which is eventually resolved by some kind of alliance.

    • sensei says:

      Upon reflection, I think it’s more likely that Jozef and his radio become a conduit to Koniecpolski in an attempt to enlist Polish help for Austria (and probably the USE) against the Ottomans. This book is titled “The Ottoman Onslaught” for a reason.

      • dave o says:

        but then the Polish King and Szem (?) are determined to stay at war with Gustav. At least the last we heard.

        • Doug Lampert says:

          They, probably correctly, perceive Gustav as a continuing threat.

          OTOH, they almost certainly perceive the Ottomans as a common threat to all, and may well be willing to help Austria even if their enemy is also doing so. The Ottomans had an astonishing power to unite Christian Europe in opposition.

          • Pouncer says:

            ” The Ottomans had an astonishing power to unite Christian Europe in opposition.”

            Oh I pray that the past tense (“had”) is incorrect, and that a now-and-future united Christiandom opposes the would-be Caliphs of our own day. If we do not hang together we shall all see each other raped and/or beheaded, separately.

            Did Eric have this applicability in mind when the original _1632_ was drafted?

            • Jeff Ehlers says:

              Personally, I would find it much more compelling and interesting to read a narrative which focused less on a unified ‘Christendom’ (which leaves out anyone who doesn’t identify as Christian, among other things) and more on unifying reasonable people of all stripes (including those who reject or overcome the below-mentioned fanaticism) against insane/unsane religious fanatics. As an example, the overarching plot of Exodus/Extremis/Imperative by Steve White and Charles Gannon, not to mention Crusade by David Weber and Steve White. And, although it isn’t written in a book, the Third Interstellar War (Terrans/Orions/Ophiuchi vs Rigelians) which is referenced multiple times through that series.

            • Drak Bibliophile says:

              1) When Eric Flint wrote the original novel, he planned on it being a “stand-alone”.

              2) From things Eric has said, he doesn’t have a “grand plan” concerning this series. While he and the “editorial board” have some ideas of where the series is going, nothing I’ve heard indicates that there’s some sort of “grand plan”.

              3) However, Eric is on record as saying that he doesn’t like empires and that the USE will not grow to control all of Europe.

              Final note, while the “Ottoman Onslaught” accurately describes this book, I only have half of the book so I don’t know how it’s going to end. [Wink]

    • Terranovan says:

      Wojtowicz had better hope that the batteries they send him are the same size that his radio takes . . . It would be so funny if he needed AAs and got D-cells instead.

      • Doug Lampert says:

        He probably has a downtime made crystal set of some sort rather than one of the small handful of uptime transmitters, in which case presumably anything that runs 1.5V and fits his contacts will do for as long as it lasts.

        • SRZ says:

          In fact the radio Wojtowicz has has transmitting capibilities, so it can’t be a simple ‘crystal set’. However it may only be capable of morse code.

  6. Stewart says:

    How do I put this delicately ?
    A pair of Double-A’s might power a toy but not impress Jozef.
    A pair of D’s might be just what Jozef is looking for……..

    — Stewart

    • Tweeky says:

      Hasn’t Tata got a couple of “D”‘s ;-)?

      • Stewart says:

        But (1) Tata has more brains than a dozen barmaids combined, and easily more brains than Jozef.

        and (2) Tata would likely have Jozef for lunch if he tried anything (with Gretchen available to “hold her coat”)

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