1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 63
He stopped and glowered down at the Austrian envoy. “Is that I am expected to serve as the guarantor of all these agreements. If I agree to this, then I will be enjoined to come to the aid of whichever party has been wronged by the other’s failure to live up to its agreement.”
A bit daringly, Noelle interjected: “But only in your person as the emperor of the United States of Europe. No commitment is implied on the part of either Sweden or the Union of Kalmar.”
She settled back in her seat, bracing herself for an imperial explosion at her impertinence in saying anything at all. Noelle had no official status at this meeting. But the very fact that she’d been invited suggested that the intricacies of seventeenth century political affairs were at play. Much of what was done in the here and now was based on personal ties, not formal positions. She was betrothed to Janos Drugeth, one of Austria-Hungary’s most powerful noblemen, a close confidant of Ferdinand III, and his personal envoy to the USE. Plus — you could never rule out this factor, although its exact importance was always hard to calculate — she was an American. Plus — this was a bit easier to calculate — someone who had in the past served as one of Ed Piazza’s informal agents and Piazza was likely to be the next prime minister and thus someone the emperor was going to be dealing with constantly.
As it turned out, she’d parsed the matter accurately. Gustav Adolf transferred the glower onto her, but only for a moment. Then, he chuckled. “Europe will just have to hope that you and the Reichsgraf don’t produce too many children, lest the rest of us be overwhelmed with little Machiavellis.”
He resumed his pacing. “What both Austria and Bohemia want from the United States of Europe in return, in addition to our serving as the guarantor of the terms of their own treaties, is for us to support them — with military force, mind you — in their struggles with the Poles and the Ottomans.”
Again, he waved his hand. “The Polish issue is moot, since we are already at war with the swine Wladyslaw and his minions. But we are not — as of yet — at war with the Ottoman Empire. Agreeing to this treaty — set of treaties, rather — would commit me to undertake a war on two fronts, against what is quite possibly the most powerful realm in the world.
“But what do I get in return?” he demanded. He stopped his pacing and went back to hands-on-hips-stooping-over-and-glowering mode. “Very little, it would seem!”
Before anyone could interject he added: “Yes, yes, trade agreements, that sort of thing. The merchants and moneylenders will be happy. But that seems like precious little, nonetheless.”
Noelle was tempted to speak again but refrained. There were limits to how far she could put herself forward.
It proved to be unnecessary anyway, because Rebecca spoke up. “Your Majesty, you are pretending to reduce this to a matter of arithmetic when it is actually an algebraic calculation.”
Gustav Adolf puffed out his cheeks indignantly. “Pretending! Pretending!”
But Noelle noticed that his complexion hadn’t changed any. The emperor was, in this regard, very much a Swede — his skin was pale, except when he’d been campaigning in the field for days. Even then, she’d been told, he just got sunburned, not tanned.
Noelle had never seen Gustav Adolf in one of his famous furies, but she’d had them described to her. One of the invariable symptoms was that the emperor’s cheeks didn’t just swell out, his entire face became as white as a ghost’s.
But here, now… those puffed-out infuriated heavy jowls had their usual color. Pale, yes, but no more than they always were.
“Outrageous!” he went on.
Rebecca’s response was the serene smile for which she was quite well-known by now. “Please, Your Majesty. I am simply saying bluntly what everyone here — certainly yourself — understands to be true. Regardless of the details, the essence of this set of agreements — what I would call the algebraic equation — is not this or that specific item but the recognition that the United States of Europe has become the central — I do not say ‘dominant,’ simply central — power in the continent. Once these agreements are signed, we will have formed what amounts to a Triple Alliance at the very heart of Europe. And if we defeat the Turks, which I have every confidence we will, then our alliance becomes the rightful successor to the Holy Roman Empire.”
“She’s right, Your Majesty,” said Amelie Elisabeth, speaking for the first time since the meeting began. Next to her, Wilhelm Wettin nodded his head. Whatever differences might exist between the Fourth of July Party and what was left of the Crown Loyalists, on this point they were in full agreement — better the United States of Europe should be the pivot of European politics than any other realm. For centuries, the Germanies had been so many toys batted back and forth between Habsburgs — Spanish and Austrian both — and the Valois and Bourbon dynasties of France. That era was now at an end.
A bit worriedly, Noelle glanced at Janos. The Hungarian’s jaws were tight — he hadn’t enjoyed hearing that, not one bit — but he was obviously not going to argue the point, for the good and simple reason that he couldn’t. The price Austria-Hungary was going to have to pay to ensure its survival against the Ottoman onslaught was a tacit recognition that it was no longer the axis of power in central Europe.
Gustav Adolf glanced at Janos also. He understood perfectly well that Drugeth’s silence in response to Rebecca’s statement was in its own way the most emphatic acquiescence he could make.
The puffed-out cheeks resumed their normal form. He did not smile but he did nod his head.
“If we’re going to be a triple alliance of the sort you describe,” he said, “we should have a name. Even if it’s only an informal one.” He smiled slyly. “I would suggest ‘the Axis’ but the up-timers would probably never stop complaining.”
Piazza laughed. “That would… have awkward connotations. In another universe, granted, but our history books are everywhere now.”
He looked around. “Well, we could swipe from that other history a different way. Call it the Central European Treaty Organization.”
Noelle began rolling the acronym around, and did so out loud. In Amideutsch, since that’s what they’d all been speaking.
“Mitteleuropäischevertragsorganization. Mepo? No, I guess it would be ‘Mevo’.”
Everyone in the room mouthed the acronym.
“I like it!” said Gustav Adolf.
That pretty much settled the question, although Ed Piazza was heard to mutter, “I can hear it already. Beware the Mevonian menace. Beware of Mevonians bearing gifts. Beware…”