Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 07

Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 07

Chapter 4

All Sorts of Inconvenience Here

Brussels

March 1635

“…weil sie in hiesigen stättlein allerley ungelegenheit verursachet…”

“Don’t trust him, Marchéville,” Henri de Beringhen said. “You haven’t told me what he’s planning this time and I don’t want to know, but don’t trust him for a single instant. If there’s a single thing about Gaston that a person can rely on, it’s this–he will always be ready to conspire with you, but he will always be equally ready to betray you if he thinks it may be to his advantage.”

Henri de Gournay, born a minor noble and made Comte de Marchéville by grace of Duchess Nicole’s father, thirty years old and ambitious, shook his head. “That’s–harsh.”

“It’s nothing less than the truth. Take it from a man who survived the Day of Dupes by fleeing into Holland. Stay out of it. Remember how he treated Montmorency. Don’t ever say that I didn’t warn you. The man was simply born to cause trouble and unpleasantness, in every place he turns up.”

***

Charles IV of Lorraine refused to even lodge a diplomatic protest in regard to the Irish dragoons’ transit through Lorraine. He then left Brussels for a long ride in the countryside, the goal of which was the mansion to which his current lady-love’s mother had removed her in hopes of putting an end to their affair.

He felt that Beatrice’s maman simply did not understand the depths of their mutual passion. She was being seriously uncooperative. She was threatening to send her daughter back to their family home in the Franche Comté. Quel horreur. Right now, he had no time for tedious politics. Didn’t Nicolas understand the concept of ’emergency’?

The adviser who drew the unlucky lot of informing the king and queen in the Low Countries that in the duke’s opinion, after all, the Irishmen had barely crossed Lorraine territory at all–certainly not one step farther than had been necessary for them to–cleared his throat. “The duke feels that their transit cannot be considered a major or deliberate incursion into the duchy.”

The king in the Low Countries did not appear pleased. The queen’s expression was more noncommittal.

“We have tracked their progress, to some extent,” the adviser said. “At no time did they bear on a southwesterly course, as if to enter by way of Thionville and pose a possible threat to Metz. They bore strictly to the southeast, in accordance with what we know of their intentions to accept Maximilian of Bavaria as their new Kriegsherr.

The adviser was well aware that his duke’s refusal to intervene was not so much that a policy decision as that he was distracted by his enthusiastic pursuit of the charming and all-too-cooperative Beatrice. Charles of Lorraine was in love. Again. Still, all in all, it made a reasonable rationale.

****

Officially, Fernando, king in the Low Countries, chose to take Duke Charles’ inaction as an offense against his hospitality to the exiled Lorrainers. His grounds for this were–deliberately–more than a bit murky, but the decision led him to initiate an investigation. The investigation led not only to the pretty and accommodating Beatrice, but to the discovery that the duke’s two Lorraine regiments, which for the past two years had been uselessly battening on the Flanders countryside, had quietly disappeared.

The duke of Lorraine said, “Moi?”

When Nicolas of Lorraine said, “Oh no. Tell me they didn’t,” the investigation picked up its tempo.

Fernando’s first apprehension was that somehow the archbishop of Cologne had scraped up enough money to replace the Irish dragoons with Lorraine cavalry. However, that was not the case. Ferdinand of Bavaria was still broke, his lands on the left bank of the Rhine still Catholic, still threatened by the Hessians, possibly also threatened by the Republic of Essen, still tantalizingly undefended.

Henry Gage and Arthur Aston, Fernando’s English agents and translators, asked about possibilities that the duke had hired them out to Charles I of England, who was still recruiting mercenaries on the continent. No.

Scaglia asked around in regard to possibilities that the Lorraine regiments might also be making a circuitous way in the direction of Bavaria. Maximilian was known to be looking for more cavalry, which was why the Irish dragoons were in transit in the first place. No.

“Ah,” Claude of Lorraine said to her husband. “Ummn, Nicolas.”

“Yes, dear.”

“I haven’t seen Henriette for several days, nor Antoine de Puylaurens, either. Nor, for that matter, Monsieur Gaston. He does have a talent for causing problems everywhere he goes. I’d assumed they were just engaging in revelry, somewhere out of view of people who take Lent seriously, but…”

****

“Money,” Henriette said firmly. “It always comes down to money, Antoine, my dearest one.” To ameliorate the impact of this statement, she nuzzled the nape of his neck.

Puylaurens looked up.

“Truly, my darling. Before you can go dashing around the countryside, cutting a figure of gallantry and chivalry, you simply must be able to pay the soldiers. I am very much afraid that neither my brother nor your prince have given sufficient consideration to this aspect of the matter.”

His eyes turned blank.

“So, no, you are not going with Gaston. For several weeks, at least, he can do without you in this adventure. You are coming with me. I have a list. Merchants. Bankers. Would-be industrialists. People with potential investment interests, if only the administration of Lorraine were not French.”

Puylaurens made a sound that seriously resembled, “Ulp.”

“You do understand, I am sure. My holdings may be small, but they are not far from the German Saar region. Saarbrücken. Coal mines. Iron deposits. If I offer them a protected, environment for establishing administrative headquarters with favorable terms for incorporation, outside of the USE but right on the borders of the USE…”

“I neither understand nor want to understand,” Puylaurens protested.

She intervened by massaging his neck with her fingers, deeply.

He moaned.

“Yes, you do, my adorable cabbage. Truly, you do. Economics is not a “dismal science” no matter that some of the up-time books term it so. If you look at it properly, it is quite enthralling. We must raise money.”

“Aaaahh,” Antoine responded. “Aaaahh! Yes! There!”

Brussels

Fernando, stooped over the table he was using for planning, brushed one stack of paper out of the way and laid out a map. “It would certainly be nice,” he said, “if I could move out troops by way of Sedan. I suppose, though, that the La Tour d’Auvergne family would be offended by a violation of their territory.”

Maria Anna looked at him with utter exasperation. “Turenne, my darling husband. Turenne. The cavalry commander. That man. It’s a sovereign principality just as much as the Low Countries are. Sedan is where Turenne was born.”

“It is also where Turenne’s idiot brother Frédéric Maurice–the duc de Bouillon–is the sovereign.” Fernando snorted. “I have every suspicion that he let Monsieur through. There’s no other way that Gaston could have gotten Charles IV’s regiments into Lorraine so…’invisibly.’ I guess that’s the word I want. Or so quickly. Bouillon is a nut. In his idiotic dreams of providing a sanctuary and refuge for the French Huguenots, Frédéric-Maurice will support anyone who claims to oppose Richelieu–even if the person is nuttier than himself.”

“Yet even he has sufficient intelligence not to follow a course that, in the other world, saw his principality annexed by France within his lifetime.” She moved to a window to catch the warmth of the weak late winter sunlight shining through the glass. “Since, in this world, he has not made a Catholic marriage, we can only presume that he will continue on a pro-Huguenot course. In fact, we can practically be certain of it, since he married Maria Elisabeth von der Pfalz-Veldenz in November. Her grandmother was Gustavus Adolphus’ aunt.”

She leaned against the window sill and chewed her lower lip. “As a family head, rather than as emperor of the USE or high king of the Union of Kalmar, Gustavus has made some interesting moves in the last few months. I only have to wonder if he has fully apprised his political ministers and advisers of his personal initiatives. I cannot think that Stearns would…”

“Even be interested, if Gustavus did try to tell him.” At Copenhagen, Fernando’s observers had taken a certain measure of the up-timer. One thing they had brought home was a sharp sense of his pervasive distaste for traditional European family-based politics as opposed to ideological or socio-economic politics.

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