1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 57
Mackay’s shoulders hunched slightly, as if he were bracing himself against a gale. “‘I’m a cavalry officer,” he muttered.
“So what? You can’t engage in Christian charity without losing your spurs or something?”
She pushed into the doorway, forcing Alex to the side. Then, pointed a finger at those portions of Freising which were visible. Which wasn’t all that much, since the domicile the USE army had sequestered for Alex and Julie’s use wasn’t on either of the town’s little squares. All that could be seen was a narrow street — not much more than an alley, really — and some nondescript buildings much like the one they were in. Most of those, as was true of buildings everywhere in Freising, had been seized by the Third Division to provide housing for its officers and men. In the distance beyond, perhaps two hundred yards away, they could see a church spire rising above the roofs.
“There’s a whole family still there one street over — no, two streets, depending on what you call a ‘street’. A husband who’s got some sort of disability, I think from an accident, his wife who’s holding everything together, her mother, who’s so frail I think she’d blow away in a breeze, her mother’s second husband — not her dad, her stepdad — who’s even more frail than Grandma is, and five kids of whom two are orphans she took in. That’s what your” — here she did a fair imitation of Alex’s brogue — “‘desp’rate Bavarian blackguards’ actually look like.”
She lowered the finger. “The oldest kid’s a girl named Mettchen, somewhere around sixteen years old. I already talked to them and Mettchen will be coming over every day to help me out with whatever I need.” The finger of accusation became an open hand, palm up. “For which we are going to pay them, so cough up, buddy.”
“Yes, I insist.”
“Do I need to drag out the Wand of Womanly Persuasion?”
The town’s Rathaus had been one of the very first buildings in Freising seized by the Third Division. Sieges of a major city like Munich were protracted affairs, and the division’s commanding general had seen no reason his troops shouldn’t enjoy their stay in Bavaria as much as possible, within the necessary limits dictated by military discipline.
So, the tavern in the Rathaus’ basement was operating at full capacity, around the clock. There wasn’t much food left, and wouldn’t be until the supply barges coming down the Isar arrived. By now, units of the SoTF National Guard had taken control of the Danube all the way down to Passau, well past the confluence of the Danube with the Isar. That provided the Third Division with an excellent water route down which it could bring all its supplies.
But if the food was low, the beer wasn’t. Since the Hangman Regiment had been established in the first place as the Third Division’s disciplinary unit, it had been placed in charge of the Rathaus. From the point of view of the regiment’s commander, Lt. Colonel Jeff Higgins, that had the up side of providing him with the best quarters in the town. On the down side, it meant he was now in charge of a bunch of drunks.
Would-be drunks, anyway. He’d established a limit of three steins of beer per visit and only two visits a day — with records meticulously kept.
And bribes meticulously taken also, he didn’t doubt. But by now Jeff’s sergeants knew him quite well. The DM didn’t mind soldiers enjoying themselves, but if things got out of hand he’d crack down hard so it was best to make sure everything stayed within reasonable limits.
The sergeants’ task was made easier by the fact that almost all of Freising’s inhabitants had fled and taken refuge inside Munich’s walls. The worst disciplinary problems with soldiers occupying an enemy town or city usually came about when liquor was combined with the presence of young women. But Jeff had had his adjutants check and there was only one family with a teenage girl still in the city — and that family was under the protection of Julie Sims. Jeff saw to it that the word was passed around through the whole division.
Nobody in the USE army was going to annoy Julie Sims, certainly not a unit as heavily made of CoC recruits as the Third Division. Partly, because they knew what an asset she’d been to their cause. Partly also, of course, because they knew that Julie never went anywhere without her Wand of Womanly Persuasion, which no soldier in his right mind — or dead drunk, for that matter — wanted to have applied to him.
All in all, as Lt. Colonel Jeff Higgins relaxed in his quarters on the top floor of the Rathaus, with his feet propped up, a book in one hand and a stein of beer in the other, things were looking good. War still sucked, but some parts of it were a lot less sucky than others.
Magdeburg, capital of the United States of Europe
Gustav II Adolf, Emperor of the United States of Europe, King of Sweden, High King of the Union of Kalmar, contemplated his next title. Should he stick to the existing “emperor,” with a newly-enlarged empire? Rather greatly enlarged, too, since Bavaria was one of the bigger realms in the continent.
Or should he add “King of Bavaria” to the list? But he only spent a short time considering that option before setting it aside. It simply wouldn’t do for a Lutheran king to be ruling a Catholic kingdom. If he was going to exercise direct power over Bavaria, it would be better to have that power filtered through the USE’s provincial structure.
Except that… For a moment, he silently cursed the religious compromise he’d made with Mike Stearns. By the terms of that agreement, Bavaria would be able to create its own provincial established church if it chose to do so, and he had no doubt at all the stubborn papists would insist on hanging on to their superstitious creed.
Better than being “King of Bavaria,” certainly, but still not good.
That left… What was the term the English usurper had used? The Oliver Cromwell fellow?
The emperor rose from his armchair and went over to one of the bookcases in his library. This one was devoted entirely to down-time copies of up-time texts from Grantville.
He found the volume he was seeking — The Century of Revolution, by someone named Hill — and quickly found the entry he was looking for. As he had many times before, Gustav Adolf silently blessed the American concept of the “index.” Since he still had enormous power as the monarch of his own nation, he’d decreed two years earlier than all books printed in Sweden were required to have indexes. Yes, all of them! There’d be none of this up-time slackness about not requiring indexes in books of fiction.
He mused on the matter as he resumed his seat. Yes, he thought, that would do quite nicely. Lord Protector of Bavaria. The very uncertainty of the term — what exactly is a “lord protector”? — would allow him to sidestep the awkward issue of religion. Let the Bavarian heretics manage their own internal affairs, so long as he controlled the duchy’s foreign relations.
That matter settled in his mind, Gustav Adolf decided to re-read the report he’d received yesterday from General Stearns. He rose and went to look for it. That took a bit more time because he couldn’t remember which trash can he’d thrown it into after he balled up the report, cursed it mightily — nothing silent there — and threw it away.
After he found it, he unwadded the report, flattened it out as best as possible, and read through it again.
Which didn’t take long. Mike Stearns had faults — a great many of them, in the emperor’s current mood — but one thing he was not was pointlessly loquacious.
He read through it again.
“I am not fooled,” he growled. But he knew perfectly well that Stearns didn’t think he was fooled. The man was a sneaking duplicitous maneuvering scoundrel, but he wasn’t disrespectful. The purpose of the report was not to fool Gustav Adolf but to fool anyone else to whom the emperor might show the report as a way of demonstrating that his now-public clash with the so-called “Prince of Germany” — ridiculous title, not to mention a presumptuous one — was entirely justified.
“Perhaps it’s just as well,” he mused. Then, rising again, he went over to the small fireplace that was always active whenever he was in residence and tossed the report into the flames. That wasn’t the sort of thing he wanted to leave lying around.
Lord Protector. It did have a nice ring to it.