1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 33
“So it will be me putting my land grant in with their land grants and what? Getting a larger share of the corporation?”
“Probably something like that. But it will be between you and them to work out.”
Stefan had kept looking at the map. He figured that once they got set up, they could see about cutting a road from the village back to the Ufa River, get some boats and have good transport to Ufa city. The Belaya and Ufa rivers surrounded a spit of land that ranged from a couple of miles across to seven miles across at its widest point, and nine or ten miles long before it widened out again. That was why Ivan the Terrible had chosen to put a fort here. Mikhail was not giving out village-sized plots in that spit. The city that was planned would eventually fill it. That, of course, was many years away.
For the next week, as the Ruzuka villagers made their preparations, sold grain and bought equipment in Ufa, their village doubled yet again. Part of that was due to the fact that many small groups of runaways had tended to be young men. On the other hand, those who had joined the Ruzuka wagon train had been women by a ratio of at least two to one. The women had wanted to go east just as much as the young men, but had been less willing to go alone through a Russia filled with wild animals and wilder men.
Now that they were here and there was the opportunity to start a new life, the young men wanted to go to the future village that had young women in it.
Also Izabella’s land grant came in as almost ten times a standard peasant’s land, and she put her land in with the villagers to increase the size of their farm even more.
Meanwhile, Alexander had been drafted. That additional clause for the service nobility had come into play. He, like Izabella, got a larger land but he also had service obligations.
“The duma and I are jockeying for position, both politically and militarily,” Czar Mikhail said as Alexander was still recovering from his bow. The czar waved him to a chair and Alexander sat. “We buy support and punish collaboration with the enemy. When one of the great houses comes over to me, Sheremetev has the duma seize their property in territory he controls and grants it to one of his favorites. In my way, I do the same. So the great houses are splitting up, sending some of their connections to me — or at least allowing some to come — so that if should I win, someone in the family will get to keep the family lands. And they’re keeping some with Sheremetev and the duma, so that if he wins they will have someone to speak for them. The courtiers and service nobility are doing the same.”
Alexander nodded. Russia in the seventeenth century was a mix of east and west, but whatever the terms, it was all about alliances and backing the right horse. When he had been assigned to watch for peasants in Balakhna, it had looked to the family like Sheremetev was sure to win. Even when Alexander had been “kidnapped,” it had still seemed like Sheremetev and the boyars would eventually bring the errant czar back under control. Now that he was here in Ufa, Alexander wasn’t so sure.
“In spite of the fact that your family were early adopters of the tech from the Ring of Fire and the Dacha, politically you’re more conservative. And, almost all of your families lands are in Sheremetev-controlled territory. One of the things I am trying to do is make sure that I’m not just passing out goodies to my favorites. As it happens, you’re the ranking Cherakasky connection to come over to my side. Do you know why that is?”
“Honestly, Your Majesty, I think it’s because they are playing the odds. None of them have seen what’s happening in Ufa, and they don’t see any way you can hold out. That goes both for my direct family and, I think, for the Cherakasky clan. I know that the political notions coming out of the Dacha made my family nervous and I know that they wanted to avoid a war with Poland, which might be why they sided with Sheremetev when you — ” Alexander paused and then continued. “– when you went into seclusion.
“Did Sheremetev actually have your father murdered?”
“I think so. Or, to be more precise, Ivan Borisovich Petrov heard from his father that Sheremetev arranged my father’s murder. Some of the things said by the oprichniki who were guarding me in my –” Mikhail stopped and gave Alexander a half smile. “– seclusion, indicated that he probably did. We may never know for certain. But we have wandered a bit far afield. You’re the ranking Cherakasky connection and because I don’t want to just take the Cherakasky lands and give them to one of my favorites, I am minded to give them to you.”
Alexander felt a mixture of terror and elation. Rather heavy on the terror and light on the elation, as he considered the way his family was going to react to the news of his elevation. Father would not be pleased. Neither would his older brothers. And the Cherakaskys weren’t going to be happy at all. “I’m not sure. . . .”
“No. But I am. Not that it will mean much if we don’t win.” Czar Mikhail stopped. “No. It will mean one thing, at least for now. You will be able to draw on the projected income of those lands at the Land Bank here in Ufa to buy what you need or even make investments. You should check with them and establish your credit limits before you go to Kazan to report to General Lebedev.”
“Report to where?”
“I’m sending you to Kazan and assigning you to General Lebedev,” Czar Mikhail told him. “I don’t have nearly enough officers and even fewer that have any actual training.”
“Don’t discount experience, Your Majesty,” Alexander said. “I know that General Lebedev has done well, and I certainly lost enough money to him and the baker’s son. But war is not chess. However skilled they are at the games, it’s not the same as real war.”
“You may be surprised to hear that General Lebedev has told me the same thing. But in our case, a war is at least a bit like chess. Capture the king and the other side loses. If I die, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Sheremetev will ultimately win . . . but it certainly means that we — all of us — lose.”
“Is that true in the other direction, Your Majesty?”
“Not as true, perhaps. But, yes, the loss of Fedor Ivanovich Sheremetev would probably eliminate the Sheremetev faction in the duma. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the duma would send emissaries inviting me home and swearing undying loyalty, but it would help our cause a great deal.”
Alexander wasn’t sure he wanted to leave Ufa. In fact he was almost sure he didn’t. He was confused and the image of a blonde girl returned to his mind.