Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 12

Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 12

Chapter 8

I Don’t Have Enough Time and There Is Way Too Much to Do

Schwarzach

“Die zeitt ist mir zu kurtz und die geschefte zu viel.”

Francisco de Melon offered Grand Duke Bernhard his report, straightening out, to the best of his ability, the mixed-up biography, supposedly of himself, that Matt Trelli had received from the Grantville researchers back during the siege of Kronach, with some trepidation. Sometimes it was not easy to predict how the grand duke would react. Luckily, he found it hilariously entertaining.

“I myself,” Bernhard said, “found the article about me in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica very gratifying. It was nice to know that I had gone down in history as ‘Bernhard the Great,’ rather than any of the things that my older brothers called me over the years.” He made a general gesture of Phhhhtt! in the direction of those absent older brothers. “Who wants to be remembered as ‘Bernhard the squirt.’ Not that I find the notion that in less than five years, I will be–would have been–dead particularly appealing. I still have far much too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. So I do pay attention to the up-time nurse I hired, whether she realizes that I do or not.”

Bernhard got up and started to stride around the room.

That constant, restless, movement was something that de Melon had noted before, and would report upon to the regent in Bolzen. The man did, quite literally, think on his feet.

“I was odd man out among the brothers in more than one way,” Bernhard was saying. “My older brothers, even Albrecht, all got names that were traditional in the Wettins. This caused a little confusion. We had Johann Ernst and Ernst. We had Wilhelm and Friedrich Wilhelm. We had Friedrich, Johann Friedrich, and Friedrich Wilhelm.”

He turned and tapped his finger on the table. “Actually, we also had Johann Wilhelm and one just plain Johann, but they both died before I was old enough to know them. That, plus we were all so close in age, made things so confusing that the people around Weimar didn’t even try to tell us apart. We were just ‘Die jungen Herrschaften auf dem Hornstein.’ The young lordships. Hornstein was where we lived. Frau Dunn, the nurse I was mentioning, calls this type of name ‘generic.’

“So by the time I came along, Mama had it up to the neck and insisted on naming me something that no Wettin in history had ever been named before. Then, since our father died when I was a year old and I therefore turned out to be the last boy of the crop, and energetic the way she was herself, she spoiled me, especially after my little sister died.”

Bernhard turned again, more abruptly, and leaned an elbow on the mantle of the fireplace.

De Melon emitted an encouraging mumble, designed to keep the discussion going.

For a couple of minutes, it seemed that it might not. The grand duke just looked into the fire.

“I was twelve when she died. She was out riding–we used to ride together, ever since I could sit on a pony. She was jumping the Ilm River when she came off her horse. She hit her head on a rock in the stream and drowned.”

Bernhard pulled himself away from the fireplace and started pacing again.

“If she were alive, she would be prostrate with fury to think that I’m marrying a Catholic. She left directions in her will that none of us should marry outside of the Lutheran faith. So much for filial piety, I suppose. I’ll just add that I’m going into this with open eyes. I recognize that this marriage may cause a catastrophe at some later time. I expect that the regent does as well.”

De Melon prudently remained silent.

“I stayed in Weimar with a tutor until I was fifteen, under the guardianship of Johann Ernst, who was all of twenty-three himself when Mama died. I told you we were all close in age. By 1619, all five of the ‘big boys’ were already in the field, involved with the Winter King and in serious political trouble with Ferdinand II and John George over in Albertine Saxony because of it. They assigned the local administration of Saxe-Weimar to Ernst, who was all of nineteen by then. The older brothers concluded that he would not have what it took to both run the duchy and supervise the two youngest of us, so they sent Friedrich Wilhelm and me off to Jena with a steward and two tutors to keep an eye on us. If nothing else, the family believed in education–especially on Mama’s side. It’s up in Anhalt where you’ll find the literary societies and the educational reformers spilling out the palace doors.”

De Melon did a mental count. The five “big boys” were now down to two–Wilhelm Wettin and Duke Albrecht. The other three were dead, two in battle and one a suicide while mentally disturbed. His brothers had placed him in confinement before that.

Bernhard suddenly, frighteningly, smiled. “Yes, I realize that you will report all this to the grand duchess.”

De Melon nodded.

“We were at the university for one five-month term. At the end of it, we were invited to go on a big hunt at Georgenthal. We caught smallpox. Friedrich Wilhelm died. I recovered and brought his body back to Weimar.

“One thing I’ll give Ernst credit for is that along with being the most incredibly idealistic person I’ve ever met, he’s also an utterly pragmatic realist. I get along with him a lot better than I do with Wilhelm. I refused to return to the university. He knew I meant it, so no matter what Johann Ernst wanted, he sent me to our Great-Uncle Johann Casimir at Coburg. I spent what were honestly the best two years of my life since Mama died in the Ritterakademie there. That’s what I wanted to be learning. Military skills, advanced riding. Practical stuff. Then I joined the army under Wilhelm, full-time, in 1622. I was eighteen and that’s where I’ve been ever since.”

Bernhard flung out a hand.

“All of that means that I don’t have a lot to offer to an Italian court lady in the way of companionship. I don’t have the education that my brothers got. I didn’t want it then and now I regret not having it, but there’s nothing to be done. Here’s what I was taught until I was fifteen: religion, Latin, French, geography, history, political theory, mathematics, and every imaginable form of physical education, including weapons training. Plus a really heavy dose of the legal system of Saxony as interpreted by Friedrich Hortleder, especially with a view to the rights of the Ernestine line vis-a-vis the Albertine line, and the rights within the Ernestine line of the Weimar line vis-a-vis the Altenburg line. Nobody could call old Hortleder impartial when it comes to defending the constitutional rights of Saxe-Weimar.

“Since then, I’ve learned war.

“If she wants to back out before we sign the pre-nup and make the betrothal official, give her the chance.”

****

“No, it damned well isn’t want I wanted to be doing right now. It’s the very last thing I wanted to be doing this spring.” The grand duke of the County of Burgundy was not a happy man. “I need to be here. I don’t have enough time for this, and I have way too much to do.”

While a Catholic monastery was not Bernhard’s normal habitat, he had gotten used to it over the past several months. Schwarzach had a convenient set of large buildings in the Rhine river bottoms and was not far from what had once become Fort Louis. What was now becoming Fort… Well, it didn’t have a name yet. He was, in his few frivolous moments, considering Fort Independence.

“Whether or not you wanted to be doing it or not isn’t the issue, Bernhard. More to the point, is it avoidable?” von Erlach asked.

“I don’t see how. Not if we hope to continue getting the French subsidy–which, for the time being, we still need rather badly, considering all the expenses associated with constructing the citadel. Not considering our…inaction…before Mainz last spring. Not if we hope to maintain even the thinnest fa├žade of acting in accordance with the agreement I signed with the cardinal.”

Rosen chewed on his moustache. “Do I have this straight. Richelieu wants you to move your cavalry into Lorraine. Reinforce the troops he has occupying the duchy.”

“Not precisely. That’s what the letter says. He sees, or states that he sees, Gaston’s movements as a potential threat to the French garrisons already in place. That’s what the letter says. What Richelieu wants is for me to use my cavalry to get Gaston out of Lorraine, while keeping Charles’ regiments in Lorraine. What he really wants me to do is separate Gaston from the command of the duke’s regiments. They haven’t been active these last couple of years, but they were really quite effective fighters. While I’m sure that Louis XIII doesn’t like seeing them in Lorraine, I’m sure that he’d like seeing Gaston bringing them into France proper as a personal army even less.”

Bernhard paused. “And reading between the lines, the French would like us, of course, get the Habsburgs, in the person of Fernando, out of Lorraine at the same time.”

Der Kloster sat around the table, chewing on that.

“You think we have to move into Lorraine?” Erlach said.

“No way to avoid it. Not with what Bernhard just said. But…” Kanoffski paused.

“But what?” Rosen asked.

“The king in the Low Countries is already there,” Sydenham Poyntz interrupted. “Already chasing after Gaston. I can’t see that it would be prudent to risk coming into conflict with the Low Countries over a region that isn’t crucial to our aims. Not even if it’s crucial to French aims.”

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