1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 58

1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 58

Chapter 28

Dresden, capital of Saxony

Gretchen Richter looked from Jozef Wojtowicz to the two small children at his side — the girl was holding on to his leg with both hands — from there to the large fellow named Lukasz Kijek who had accompanied him back to Dresden, back to Jozef, to the children again and back to Jozef.

“I am provisionally willing to accept the idea that you rescued these children from their destroyed village even though I have never previously gotten any sense that you cared for children at all.” She lifted her shoulders in a minimalist sort of shrug. “But I long ago learned that most people have unseen depths so it is possible. I am also willing to accept — very provisionally — that you just happened to run into your old friend Lukasz Kijek wandering around in Breslau even though your explanation as to the reason for his being there is ridiculous.”

She now shifted her scrutiny to the Kijek fellow. “If he is a grain merchant then I am the queen of Sheba. Within three seconds of entering this room he had positioned everyone in his mind, especially the three men with weapons. So had you, but you told me you’d been trained as a hussar. He is some sort of soldier, and one with a lot more experience than you’d expect of such a young man.”

She now looked back at Jozef. “I don’t mind that you’re lying to me since it has been clear for some time that there are things you’re being secretive about. Up to a point, I don’t mind people hiding things from me. Whether or not we have now reached that point is what needs to be determined.”

The boy standing next to Jozef, who’d been fidgeting all the while she’d been talking, erupted in protest.

“You shouldn’t call Uncle Jozef a liar! It’s not right! And it’s true what he said! He found us after the soldiers killed everyone in our village! And then when four of them tried to attack us he killed them all!”

Jozef rubbed his hand over his face.

“Killed four of them, did he? All by himself. Why am I not surprised?” She shifted her eyes back to Lukasz. “And you, grain merchant. How many men have you killed in the course of plying your peaceful trade? And please spare me tales of fighting off bandits. Bandits do not rob grain boats.”

By now, Eric Krenz and both guards standing at the door were on full alert. Gretchen made a little waving motion, indicating they should stand down. “Everyone relax. I am not making any accusations, I just dislike being taken for a fool. What I really want to discuss with you, Jozef, is the report you brought back. If we subtract all the business involving the tall blond cold-eyed fellow with the big shoulders and the still posture, how much of what you told me is true?”

To her surprise, the big “grain merchant” answered the question. It was the first time he’d spoken since he’d come into her presence.

“All of it’s true,” he said. He spoke Low German, not Amideutsch, and his accent was something of a cross between Prussian and Polish. “Except for the part about me, which you’re right about. I’m not a grain merchant and never have been. I’m a hussar.”

“Why did you lie, then?”

“I wasn’t sure of my reception here if you knew who I really was.”

“There is only one way to find out, isn’t there?” She now scowled at Krenz and the two guards, who’d started to edge closer again. “I said, relax. They’re not going to attack me — and even if they did, so what?”

She slapped the table that she’d been sitting behind when the two Poles came into the room. It was big, heavy — and interposed between her and them. “By the time they could get around this or move it aside, I’ll have shot them both dead.”

The Lukasz fellow gave her an intent, quite interested look. “With what?”

“This.” She brushed her vest aside, exposing the 9 mm pistol in its shoulder holster.

“That’s a very impressive-looking gun. An up-time model, if I am not mistaken.” He actually did sound very impressed. “But your tactics are flawed. I wouldn’t try to move around the table or push it aside, I’d just ram it straight into you. Pin you against the wall with it. Crush you, probably. I’m very strong; even stronger than Jozef.”

“I don’t doubt it, but you underestimate my powers of concentration. I’d still empty this whole clip into you and Jozef even if you broke my ribcage. I wouldn’t miss many shots, either. Maybe not any. I’ve become very good with this pistol.”

The evenness of her tone seemed to impress him even more.

“Be afraid,” she heard Wojtowicz mutter. “Be very afraid.”

His friend Lukasz’s lips twitched. “I’m beginning to understand why you said that.”

“Enough of this,” said Gretchen. “Tell me who you really are and we’ll just have to see what happens.”

“I’m Lukasz Opalinski — yes, that’s the Opalinski family — and a hussar in the service of Grand Hetman Stanislaw Koniecpolski.”

Wojtowicz rolled his eyes. “We’re fucked.”

“That makes you the sworn enemy of the emperor of the United States of Europe, Gustav II Adolf,” said Gretchen. “I would have you arrested even though I strongly disagree with the emperor’s policy toward Poland except that you’re also the brother of Krzysztof Opalinski, who is an associate of the highly respected Red Sybolt –”

Eric Krenz spluttered a little laugh. “Highly respected by whom?”

Gretchen gave him a cold eye. “By me, for one — and every right-thinking member of the Committees of Correspondence.” She brought the same cold eye to bear on Opalinski. “Both of whom are known to be agitating for democracy in Poland, which means they are more likely to be enemies of King Wladyslaw than the USE, which in turn means that your position here is complicated and hasty action would therefore be a mistake. So.”

She pointed to some chairs lined up against the wall facing the room’s windows. “Pull up some chairs. We need to talk.”

As they did so, she looked at the two guards by the door. “I think it would be awkward to have Administrator Wettin present at this discussion. And it would only distress him. So one of you step out in the corridor and let me know if you see Ernst coming this way.”

Brussels, capital of the Netherlands

Amsterdam was a bust, for all the reasons they’d made Rita come on this stupid trip which was still stupid even if they’d been proven right.

“It’s fucking ridiculous,” she grumbled, as they got off the train. “They’re building the airship in Holland, right? At Hoorn, north of Amsterdam. All the artisans, all the equipment — the money guys, you name it” — she waved her free hand toward the north while she wrestled her valise off the rail car, stubbornly ignoring Heinz Böcler’s offer to help — “they’re all up there.”

She lowered the valise to the ground. It might be better to say, got it down with a more-or-less controlled drop. The thing was down-time made, which meant it was very sturdy but not what you’d call lightweight.


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29 Responses to 1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 58

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    ““It’s fucking ridiculous,” she grumbled, as they got off the train. “

    Since when did they have a railroad in the Netherlands/Low Countries?

    • Mark L says:

      It’s 1636. They have had five years (okay, more like three) to lay tracks. Railroads are not rocket science. They had railroads back then, albeit small ones (typically in mines to haul ore), which were animal powered. You don’t think the King in the Netherlands would not jump on an opportunity to move stuff at three to four times the speed of a horse? Twenty miles per hour may not impress 21st century folks, but literally one century earlier than today a governor of the state of Texas could not understand why anyone would want an automobile which could go faster than 10 mph.

      • Greg Noel says:

        What has changed? Today, he believes … * * * Must. * * * Resist. * * *Low-hanging. * * * Fruit. * * *

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “They have had five years (okay, more like three) to lay tracks. “

        More like two years – at best.

        There were nothing about it in any of GGs. In fact, shprt stories taking place in the Netherlands post Fernando’s ascension to the throne mention no attampts to build raillroads.

        Why not to make the most obvious conclusion, then? That the author either forgot about it, or didn’t care about the accuracy.

        • Bjorn Hasseler says:

          Because that’s the absence of evidence is evidence of absence fallacy?

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            Oh, don’t you say that you are not surprised by this “revelation” in the slightests! What, should your read in any future RoF book that Iceland now has a fleet of ironclads you’d just nod and accept it as absolutely legit?

            • Jeff Ehlers says:

              The fact that you actually think a fleet of ironclads is at all a reasonable comparison to a rail line between two cities about makes it pretty clear that your argument isn’t nearly as sound as you think it is.

  2. Randomiser says:

    That’s the thing about ‘real life’ it goes on whether someone writes about it or not. ;-)

  3. Jeff Ehlers says:

    It’s not like railroads are especially difficult to make, after all. The difficult part would be extending the rails, not the locomotive or cars, especially with just using a steam engine.

    • John Blackmoore says:

      and like the Grantvile line it’s likely wood rail, so it’s not like the need steel to do it.

    • Kris Overstreet says:

      The difficult part in the 1630s is just getting hold of enough metal for rails- and then ensuring said rails don’t walk off. Metal in the pre-Industrial age was EXPENSIVE, or so I understand, which is why wrought-iron works were a symbol of wealth.

  4. dave o says:

    railroad: Survey right of way. Obtain ROW from property owners, lay roadbed, make rails,(build rolling mill, if steel), make ties, lay ties and rails, (having first made spikes),make steam engine, make driver wheels,etc,etc.

    They have the technology to build railroad. It still takes time.

    • Jeff Ehlers says:

      Not all that much time. We’re probably talking about a rail line just from Brussels to Amsterdam. Even considering that they wouldn’t have started until the Baltic War ended, that’s plenty of time to do all those things for a track that’s not going to be much more than a hundred miles all told.

      • dave o says:

        Don’t you think crossing the Rhine delta might be a problem?

        • Jeff Ehlers says:

          Nope, because you just have to go at a bit of an angle and you bypass the worst of the delta. Ideally east rather than west, because the rivers are smaller, but it’s far from a problem.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        Here’s the map of Amsterdam-Brussels trainline:


        See this thin blue thing? It’s a River. Name’s Rijn. And that funny looking geometrical figure? That’s it’s delta.

        The distance between the two cities is 110 miles. The distance between Magdeburg and Grantville is c. 90 miles. Yet, it took about 2 years (correct me if I’m wrong) to construct a direct trainline between them – and despite the USE having the benefit of direct access to all the manpower and inventions.

        • Jeff Ehlers says:

          Yes, there’s a river between them (in point of fact, it’s the Rhine). There’s also this thing known as a “bridge” which people have been using to cross rivers for thousands of years before the Ring of Fire. Julius Caesar built one out of wood over the Rhine in Germany around 50 BCE to allow his army to cross. Add in the fact that they would have likely followed an existing road which went around the delta in question, and that objection just became totally moot.

          Also, the comparison of the length of time needed to connect Grantville and Magdeburg, versus Brussels and Amsterdam, is flawed. Grantville had a rather noticeable chunk of West Virginia geography brought along with it, which would need to be accounted for in order to make a rail connection between it and some other city. Whereas Brussels and Amsterdam already had preexisting roads connecting them meaning it wouldn’t have been too difficult to adapt or expand one of those roads for a rail line. In other words, it wouldn’t have taken as long to make a rail line between Brussels and Amsterdam as it would have between Grantville and Magdeburg.

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            ” Grantville had a rather noticeable chunk of West Virginia geography brought along with it”

            That’s a new way to write “actually, very small chunk of land”? ;) Also – Grantville had all relevant know-hows, manpower and (since late 1632) peaceful neighborhood and it still took an awful lot of time.

            Eric needed a teleporting device to get the plot rolling – I get it.

    • Johnny says:

      Why obtain a ROW and not just build the rail along a pre-existing high road?

      • Stewart says:

        (1) Most roads will avoid major obstacles, but might also wind and rise and fall with the land.
        A rail line cannot have a lot of sharp turns and is MUCH better if it is the same or near same elevation.

        (2) I am sure the King in the Netherlands can find appropriate compensation for the needed lands.

        — Stewart

      • vikingted says:

        This King showed he was serious about transportation when he bought an airline.

  5. Miles says:

    I just found the relevant textev in chapter 18 of The Eastern Front.
    Wouldn’t Eric Krenz have already recognized the Hussar whose lance gave him the wound that sent him to Dresden?

  6. Daniel I. Radakovich says:

    Sigh. As with most forms of direct land transportation, the chief delay in construction lies in right of way acquisition. This was recognized in 1686 or so in the original charter of Pennsylvania by William Penn who made easement requirements of about 5 % of any land grants for such access to be provided for regular roads. In holland/Spanish netherlands of asround 1632ish land was principally owned by great landowners who had no concerns for the interests of the people, otherwise it was owned by the monarchy, the many feudal era rights obtained from the Burgundian dukes overrun by the period of Spanish-dutch warfare. River and ocean transit could always be handled byt he time-honored mode still in use today of ferries [This why in novels set inthe Uk until about 1939 often mention taking “the boat train” to Dover or Paris]. A third key aspect lay in financing. The premise of the 1632 series is in the evading of the worst epoch of the Thirty Years’ War in its economic devstation of central europe. Grantville’s appearance had two major effects, one being the access to new technology and the other it being relatively ‘proven’ to work, eliminating the speculative nature which delays access to funds. Economic well being would result in sufficient population to support both the work requirements and trade assets to recoup expenditures. The Netherlands and USE being allied there is a strong reason for governmental interest in making the connection. Jills and mountains may be gotten over by slowing switchbacksm there is no real problem there. The chief engineering problem is keeping the ties at a sufficient distance top permit the flanges to hit them, which is much eased by much wider flanges. it could be done in two years from Magdeburg to Amsterdam.

    • Daniel I. Radakovich says:

      BTW both Magdeburg and Amsterdam are on the sides of the Elbe and Rhine respectively to not even need a ferry.

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