1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 61
Magdeburg, capital of the United States of Europe
When Noelle entered the small audience chamber in the royal palace with Janos Drugeth, she was surprised to see the other people already there: Rebecca Abrabanel, Ed Piazza, Wilhelm Wettin and the Landgravine of Hesse-Kassel, Amalie Elisabeth. The four of them were seated in a semi-circle facing Gustav Adolf. The two still-empty chairs in the center of that semi-circle made it clear where she and Janos were supposed to sit.
Glancing around, she saw that there were no servants in the room except the one who had ushered them into it — and he was already leaving, closing the door behind him. Clearly, as had Wallenstein, the emperor of the USE had taken to heart the up-time cautions on the subject of letting servants be within earshot whenever critical matters of state were being discussed. So far, Janos had had only partial success in persuading his own emperor to follow suit. Old habits die hard with anyone; harder still, with aristocracy; hardest of all, with royalty.
Gustav Adolf gestured toward the two empty chairs. “Please, sit down. Wilhelm and Amelie, I do not believe you have met Janos Drugeth before now. He is here as an Austrian Reichsgraf and Ferdinand III’s envoy.”
Reichsgraf, was it? Janos had enough titles he could attach to his name that you’d need a team of horses to drag them around. “Reichsgraf” — the term could be translated as “imperial count” — was a rank that went back into the Middle Ages, and originally denoted someone who held a county in fief directly from the Holy Roman Emperor himself, rather than from one of the emperor’s vassals. As time passed, the real content of the title shifted and became detached from land-holding. Some Reichsgrafen held land as such, others didn’t. Janos was one of the ones who didn’t, although he retained a great deal of land in Hungary deriving from his other positions and ranks in the empire.
The significance of the title as used in this context by Gustav Adolf was subtle but unmistakable. As Reichsgraf Drugeth, Janos was here as Emperor Ferdinand III’s direct emissary and was presumed to be empowered not only to speak on his behalf but to make treaties. That also explained the presence of the four central leaders of the two major parties — at least, those parties which were well-enough organized to seriously contest the current election. There were a lot of reactionaries in the USE, some of them with real power and influence. But they’d been so demoralized by the outcome of the Dresden Crisis that they spent most of their time and energy these days bickering among themselves. For the moment, they were a minor factor in the political equation.
With emperor of the USE and the four central political leaders present, Janos could not only make proposals but could expect them to be agreed to and signed.
Or not. But at least the possibility existed.
Prague, capital of Bohemia
To Denise’s surprise, when Eddie landed the plane at Prague’s airstrip, her mother, Christin George, was there to greet her. So far as Denise had been aware, her mother was still living in Grantville.
“Hi, Mom!” she said, rushing up to give her a hug. “When did you get to Prague? And what’s the reason for the visit? I hope you didn’t come all the way here just to see me. ‘Cause once I talk to Don Francisco so he can set Minnie and this doofus straight” — the thumb of accusation pointed over her shoulder at Eddie Junker, who was now getting out of the plane — “I’m heading straight back to Vienna. Where everything’s happening.”
Christin George took her time with returning the hug. Her daughter had reacted to her father’s murder during the Dreeson Incident the way Denise usually reacted to things — vigorously. She’d thrown herself into working for Francisco Nasi with the same energy that she’d thrown into becoming Eddie Junker’s girlfriend.
Christin approved of the boyfriend. Eddie was a solid guy and she thought he was a good influence on Denise. She wasn’t sure about the new boss, which was one of the reasons she’d come to Prague.
The main reason, though, was as simple as it got — she and Denise were the only close family each of them had left and Christin wanted them together again. As much as possible, at least. Having Denise for a daughter was a lot like herding a very big and hyperactive cat.
“I have talked to Don Francisco, Denise. That’s one of the reasons he told you to come back here. I asked him to.”
By that evening, Denise had settled down a lot. First, because the meeting she’d had with her employer — she’d demanded it, of course, right off, and a bit to her surprise had gotten it — had not gone the way she wanted.
“No. You should spend time with your mother. Minnie is quite capable of taking care of herself — better than you are, being honest about it. I don’t need two of you in Vienna and I’ve got another assignment in mind for you.”
“Which is what? Uh, boss.”
“Spending time with your mother. So off you go. Now, Denise.”
But there were other reasons, too, for her more settled state of mind. First and foremost, just being back in her mother’s company after a separation of several months. Denise’s father Buster Beasley had generally encouraged her free spirits. Her mother hadn’t dampened them, exactly — women who marry bikers in the face of fierce family disapproval are not given to caution themselves — but she had provided Denise with a certain maternal circumference. Denise had always known that she was free to roam a lot, but there were limits, mostly set by her mother.
For a kid, that knowledge could be a comfort as well as, occasionally, a source of frustration. Right now, she was finding that maternal presence a great comfort.
Despite her own disapproval of her mother’s wayward recklessness.
“You sold the business? Sold it outright? Not leased it to somebody else to run it for you? What were you thinking, Mom? Yeah, sure, you can live on that for a while but what are you going to do when it runs out? In — what — maybe three or four months. How much did you get, anyway?”
Christin answered the last question first. Denise reacted pretty much the same way her mother had reacted in times past to Denise’s explanations of cause-and-effect issues such as why she hadn’t come home until three o’clock in the morning.
“Oh, bullshit! Nobody’s going to pay that much — that’s a fucking fortune — for a weld shop and a storage rental facility.”
Eddie came back into the hotel room carrying two glasses of wine just in time to hear Denise’s outburst. He handed one of the glasses to Christin and offered the other to Denise.