1637 – The Polish Maelstrom – Snippet 01

1637 – The Polish Maelstrom – Snippet 01

1637: THE POLISH MAELSTROM

By Eric Flint

PROLOGUE: The Anaconda Project

November, 1633

Prague, capital of Bohemia

“This is absurd,” said Morris Roth, as forcefully as he could. He had a bad feeling that wasn’t very forceful at all, given that he was wearing an absurd costume–he thought it was absurd, anyway, although it was just standard seventeenth-century courtier’s clothing. The entire situation was absurd.

A bit desperately, he repeated the statement. “This is absurd.” After a couple of seconds, he remembered to add: “Your Majesty.”

Fortunately, Wallenstein seemed to be in one of his whimsical moods, where the same possible slight that might have angered him at another time merely seemed to be a source of amusement. General Pappenheim–damn his black soul to whatever hideous afterlife there might be even if Morris didn’t actually believe in hell–was grinning outright.

“Ah, Morris. So modest!” Pappenheim’s scarred face was distorted still further as the grin widened. “How can you claim such a complete absence of heroic qualities? You! The Don at the Bridge!”

Morris glared at him. “It was just a job that needed doing, that’s all. So I did it. But what sort of lunat–ah…”

Calling the king of Bohemia a “lunatic” to his face was probably not wise. Morris was nimble-witted enough even under the circumstances to veer in midstream.

“–misadvised person would confuse me with a blasted general? Your Majesty, General Pappenheim, I am a jeweler.

“What sort of person?” asked Wallenstein, chuckling softly. “A lunatic, perhaps. The same sort of lunatic who recently proclaimed himself King of Bohemia despite–yes, I will say it myself–a claim to the throne that is so threadbare it would shame a pauper. But who cares? Since I am also the same lunatic who won the second battle of the White Mountain.”

They were in the small salon in the palace that Wallenstein favored for intimate meetings. He planted his hands on the armrest of his rather modest chair and levered himself erect.

“Levered” was the correct term, too. Wallenstein’s health, always delicate, had been getting worse of late. Morris knew from private remarks by Wallenstein’s up-time nurse Edith Wild that she was increasingly worried about it. Some of the new king of Bohemia’s frailty was due to the rigors of his past military life. But most of it wasn’t. Wallenstein, unfortunately, was superstitious and still placed great faith in the advice of his new astrologers–including their advice on his diet. Morris had once heard Edith mutter that she was this close–a thumb and fingertip indicated perhaps an eighth of an inch–to getting her revolver and gunning down the astrologers.

It was not an inconceivable thought. Edith was quite ferocious, as she’d proved when she shot dead the assassination team sent to murder Wallenstein a few months earlier. The reason Wallenstein had new astrologers was because they’d replaced some of the old ones who’d been implicated in the plot.

“A jeweler,” Morris repeated. Even to his ears, the words sounded like a whine.

Pappenheim waved his hand airily. “And what of it? Every great general began his life as something else. Even a baker, perhaps.”

Morris glared at him again. “‘Began his life.’ I am in my fifties, for the love of God.”

“Don Morris, enough,” said Wallenstein firmly. “Your reluctance to assume the post of general in my army simply reinforces my conviction that I have made the right decision.”

“Why, Your Majesty?” demanded Morris, just as firmly. One of Wallenstein’s saving graces was that the man didn’t object to subordinates challenging him, up to a point, provided they were polite about it. “My military experience is limited to that of an enlisted soldier in the American army of another universe. What we called a ‘grunt’–with exactly the connotations you’d expect from the term. I wasn’t even in a combat unit. I was essentially a quartermaster’s clerk, that’s all, keeping military supply records.”

Smiling, Wallenstein looked at Pappenheim.  For his part, Bohemia’s top general still had the same wolf-like grin on his face.

“Limited to that? Oh, surely not, Don Morris,” said Pappenheim cheerily. “You forget the Battle of the Bridge. Which you led–not even you will deny that much–and which has since entered the legends of the Jews all across Eastern Europe.”

Morris grit his teeth. “I said. It was just a job that needed to be done, and–”

“Enough, Morris,” repeated Wallenstein.

Morris fell silent. The fact that the king of Bohemia had dropped the honorific “Don”–which was an informal term, but significant nonetheless–made it clear that he considered the argument at an end. Whether Morris liked it or not, his new post as a general in the Bohemian army was a done deal.

“Follow me,” said Wallenstein, heading toward one of the doors in the small chamber. Even though Wallenstein was only fifty years old, he moved like a man twenty years older. It was rather painful to watch.

After following Wallenstein and Pappenheim through the door, Morris found himself in a chamber in the palace he’d never been in before. The chamber, also a small one, was completely dominated by a large table in the center of the room. The table itself was dominated by huge maps that covered its entire surface.

Once Morris was close enough to see the map on the very top of the pile, he had to restrain himself from hissing.

So. Here it was. He’d heard rumors of the thing, but never seen it.

The map had no legend, but the title of it was plain enough even if invisible. The Future Empire of Wallenstein the Great, would do quite nicely.

Wallenstein and Pappenheim said nothing, for a while, giving Morris time to study the map.

His first impression never changed. The map could also have been titled How Little Bohemia Became an Anaconda.

Indeed, the “Bohemia” that the top map projected into the future did look like a constrictor, albeit a fat one. On the west, serving for the serpent’s head, lay Bohemia, Moravia and Upper Silesia. Then, came a neck to the east, in the form of a new province that Wallenstein had labeled “Slovakia.” Presumably, he’d picked the name from one of the future history books he’d acquired. Which was all fine and dandy, except that in the here and now there was no country called “Slovakia.” What there was in its place was the northern part of the region of the Austrian empire known as Royal Hungary, the rump of Hungary that had been left to it by the Ottoman Turks after their victory over the kingdom of Hungary at the Battle of Mohács in 1526.

So. War with Austria. Check.

Of course, that was pretty much a given, with Wallenstein not only a rebel from Austria but allied to the USE. Hostilities between the USE and Austria had died down lately, since Gustav Adolf was pre-occupied with his war against the League of Ostend. But nobody much doubted that they would flare up again, unless he lost the war against the alliance of France, Spain, England and Denmark. Assuming he won, everyone with any political knowledge and sense at all knew that Gustav Adolf would turn his attention to Saxony and Brandenburg, and the Austrians were likely to weigh in on the opposite side.

Still, rebelling against Austria and establishing an independent Bohemia was one thing. Continuing on to seize territory which had never been part of Bohemia from the Austrians was something else again.

It got worse. Or better, Morris supposed, depending on how you looked at it. He had to remind himself that, after all, this was the ultimate reason he’d come to Prague and decided to throw in with Wallenstein. The worst massacre that would ever fall upon Europe’s Jewish population prior to the Holocaust was “due to happen” in fifteen years, in the Chmielnicki Pogrom of 1648, unless something was done to upset the applecart.

Morris had finally decided that the best chance for upsetting that applecart–a very intractable applecart, given the social and economic factors involved–was to ally with Wallenstein and rely on him to be the battering ram.

He still thought that was the best alternative. What he hadn’t figured on was that Wallenstein would return him the favor and propose to make Morris the battering ram.

But he’d leave that aside, for the moment. He went back to studying the map.

 

This entry was posted in 1632Snippet, Snippets. Bookmark the permalink.
Skip to top

Comments

8 Responses to 1637 – The Polish Maelstrom – Snippet 01

  1. Stanley Leghorn says:

    Finally! But, maybe he can be convinced to take Polish territory in place of Hungary?

    • Joe says:

      He gets Royal Hungary from Austria as part of the peace settlement he makes with Ferdinand III in ‘The Ottoman Onslaught’. No fighting involved. The lands Janos Drugeth held in the area were transferred to Noelle Murphy at the same time so they would remain in Drugeth’s family after their marriage without him having to swear fealty to Wallenstein.

  2. Lyt8 says:

    “Pappenheim waved his hand airily. “And what of it? Every great general began his life as something else. Even a baker, perhaps.””

    This is absolutely out of character for any 17th c. nobleman to say. Because this is 17th c. and great generals here are literally bred. A baker becoming a successful military commander – that’s mostly unprecedented, and even if it did happened in the past (e.g. several mercenary commanders) they were looked down by everyone else as some kind of aberration.

    “The worst massacre that would ever fall upon Europe’s Jewish population prior to the Holocaust was “due to happen” in fifteen years, in the Chmielnicki Pogrom of 1648, unless something was done to upset the applecart.”

    And what realistically they can do about it?

    A) Ethnically cleanse all Ukrainians?
    B) Make the Powers that Be in the PLC see the light and prevent the potential uprising via diplomacy.

    […]

    Neither is realistic.

    The whole snipped is sooooooo far fetched. What is worse – it’s not new. It’s been like this since… mid 2000s? Eric Flint wrote it back then and, what, saw it was as good as possible, no need to improve?

    P.S. I’m awaiting new, really new snippets about Poland. I expected nothing but pure, reality sucking Abyss – no less!

    • Terranovan says:

      If someone’s making you read the series at gunpoint, then any suffering of yours related to its alleged low quality is on the gun-holder, not the author. Otherwise, why don’t you just stop reading the series?

      1633 specifically concludes with Mike Stearns stating his intentions to teach the nobility of Europe to “eat pie with a fork”, and the new education is one of the central themes of the 1632 series.
      Wallenstein himself was born into a relatively poor family. More to the point, Pappenheim is trying to persuade Roth into command. And one of the key people persuading Roth into his current role was – so far as Wallenstein and Pappenheim would care – a coal miner.

      As to what Wallenstein and his vassals are going to do about it – arming the Jews of Bohemia and Ukraine was suggested in Ring of Fire II – “Here Comes Santa Claus”. The “Ethnically cleanse” you’re worried about is something that’s occurred to Morris, as well. But Wallenstein stated, without any doubt or uncertainty, that he can and will stop it. This “Anaconda Kingdom” of his is the means to do so. So, basically, yes, option B with a Teddy Roosevelt “big stick” right on PLC’s southern border. And if that’s unrealistic – you go tell Wallenstein that. With at least a regiment of infantry at your back.

      • John says:

        Just ignore him. If you search his other handles he’s banned from a bunch of websites for trolling. Presumably he’s blocked here too which is why he keeps changing his name.

      • 7ytenburg says:

        “If someone’s making you read the series at gunpoint, then any suffering of yours related to its alleged low quality is on the gun-holder, not the author. Otherwise, why don’t you just stop reading the series?”

        When live gives you cannons – make a cannonade :) I’m trying to make the most out of the current level of quality of the series. Plus – I think the greatest service I can offer to every low and sundry is to offer some (historical) context and serve as a source of general enLYTTENment.

        “1633 specifically concludes with Mike Stearns stating his intentions to teach the nobility of Europe to “eat pie with a fork”, and the new education is one of the central themes of the 1632 series.”

        Early RoF novels are especially big on sloganeering and flag-waving. Less on realistic portrayal of “how?!” to accomplish anything. “New education” as a way to transfer technical knowledge? Sure, that’s possible. Changing worldviews? Less likely.

        “Wallenstein himself was born into a relatively poor family”

        “Relatively poor”. That’s actually funny way to read Wikipedia (that’s where you got your knowledge, right?), which btw states: “Wallenstein… family who owned Heřmanice castle and seven surrounding villages.” “Poor noble” is still head and shoulders above any commoner, even the rich one – this is still 17th c.

        “More to the point, Pappenheim is trying to persuade Roth into command. And one of the key people persuading Roth into his current role was – so far as Wallenstein and Pappenheim would care – a coal miner.”

        “Prince of Germany” – that’s how they are calling him. No one is considering Mike to be “just a coal miner”. Morris objections are absolutely correct – but he (thanks to the author) does not go far enough. Simply put – the officers won’t treat him seriously. Even common soldiers won’t treat him seriously. One battle won’t change that attitude. A title of the general and some rear echelon position – sure, why not? Field command of the actual army – no, no way.

        “As to what Wallenstein and his vassals are going to do about it – arming the Jews of Bohemia and Ukraine was suggested in Ring of Fire II”

        […]
        […]

        Pfffft, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-oh-my-sides-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-oh-please-ha-ha-ha-ha-you-can’t-be-serious-ha-ha-ha-that’s-your-plan?!

        […]

        Oh… whew! See? I derive pleasure from this fiction – and the novel just began!

        Let’s start with one overlooked fact – Jews in the PLC (or Rzeczpospolita, as I like this term more) often were armed. Especially, if they were living in the frontier towns and shtetls near Turkish and Tatar lands. More so – they often were required to procure weapons (at their own expense, of course), maintain and train with them. It was not just owning a saber or a musket – the synagogue in Sataniv (google it if you don’t believe me) that survives to this day was built as a fortress. On its second floor there was a cannon and enough gunpowder and shot to fight a battle. Still, in 17th c. it would be sacked and burned down 4 times.

        Are you seriously going to peddle the “oh, if only the Jews were armed!” line?

        Second – does anyone really think that by picking Khmelinitsky out of the picture would prevent the Cossack Uprising and the subsequent Pogrom? Because for the rebel Cossacks it was not an aim in itself – just a sideshow.

        “But Wallenstein stated, without any doubt or uncertainty, that he can and will stop it.”

        How?

        “And if that’s unrealistic – you go tell Wallenstein that. With at least a regiment of infantry at your back.”

        No need – time and the main plot are on my side to make Wallenstein’s fantasies go poof.

  3. Robert Krawitz says:

    I’ve been really looking forward to the continuation of this storyline. I remember it from years ago as bits and pieces from various Gazettes, but then it got stalled out for a while.

    Looks like Pappenheim now collects his payment for the horse :-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.