Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 13

Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 13

Bernhard assumed an impassive expression. “There is no necessary reason for us to come into conflict with him.”

“How not?” Rosen released one side of his moustache and gathered in the other.

“In this case, we can interpret Richelieu’s reticence–his reluctance to put a casus belli with the Habsburgs into writing on a piece of paper which might fall into the hands of foreign powers–to our advantage. So. Why not suggest cooperation to Fernando, instead? We do have a common interest in removing an irritant–in de-flea-ing the dog, so to speak.”

“Who talks to whom?” Kanoffski had a tendency to get straight to the point.

“Since you asked, you do. You and…,” Bernhard looked around the table. “…Poyntz. Sydenham, Henry Gage, your fellow countryman, has been poking around this whole matter for Fernando. Go find him. Talk to him. See if he can get you in to talk directly to Fernando’s closest advisers–with Fernando himself, if possible. Explain that we will be moving, that we have no option but to move, and that we have good reason to wish to act in coordination with him rather than in conflict with him.”

“We do? Have good reason to wish any such thing, I mean?” Rosen managed to chew on both sides of his moustache at once.

Kanoffski laughed. “I expect that Poyntz may, if he considers it prudent, drip out information in regard to Tyrol. And its regent. I would certainly include that in the discussion.”

“Drop by little tiny drop, presumably,” Erlach said.

“Well, of course. But Friedrich is right. By putting it into the context of house politics…the desirability of amicable relations with my fiancée’s in-laws and all that.” Bernhard winked.

Lorraine

“It’s not that easy to move east-west in Lorraine,” Johann Bernard von Ohm said. “The French found that out when they invaded in 1632. The rivers all, basically, run north-south. The Meuse, the Moselle, the Meurthe. To get Lunéville, basically, we would have to send a separate force up the Meurthe valley.”

“We don’t need to get there,” Moritz Pensen von Caldenbach pointed out. “Not unless Gaston comes a lot farther south than he has so far. He’s supposedly somewhere around Verdun right now, so we can pretty much ignore the southeastern quarter of the duchy.”

Bodendorf scratched one ear. “The simplest, of course, would be to follow the Moselle through Épinal to Toul; then swing around to Nancy. That would take us half way, or almost. Leave the northern half for Fernando to worry about.”

“The half where Gaston actually is?” Caldenbach laughed.

“I’ll occupy Toul for Fernando,” Bernhard said, “if I can talk the commander into surrendering, given that I didn’t bring the siege guns along, but I don’t want Toul. Not at all. Lorraine is pretty solidly Catholic–not a mixed bag like Alsace and the Breisgau. I have enough Catholic dioceses on my hands already. There has to be some other way to sort this out once we’ve disposed of Gaston. Find some local people for me to talk to about Toul. And, as always, ‘May God be with us.'”

****

“So this Lutheran who usually has his military headquarters in a Catholic monastery on the other side of the Rhine had me hauled out of my bed to tell him about the inner workings of the imperial diocese of Toul before he moved his regiments farther north,” Remiot said.

“This calls for another bottle of wine.”

“So I told him. ‘The prince-bishop of Toul? Ah, well, that was the duke’s brother who dispensed himself from being a cardinal and eloped with his cousin. He’s up in the Spanish Netherlands now with your friend Fernando keeping him under arrest.'”

Apremont pulled the cork. “Did you tell him that the chapter hasn’t gotten around to electing a new one, yet, though Gournay has been suffragan all along, has kept doing the work, and probably will be elected once things calm down. Well, maybe. The king of France insists that he has the right to nominate, the cathedral chapter claims that it still has the right to elect, and the pope insists that it’s an appointment reserved to him, so it could take a while.”

Remiot nodded. “It will depend on the Habsburgs in the Low Countries, now. Gournay has the favor of Duchess Nicole, though–and of Vincent de Paul, for what that may be worth. I’d be more likely to place my bets on the duchess.”

“The ex-cardinal was just ten years old when he was appointed to the succession and fifteen when he succeeded. He never took holy orders. The pope gave a dispensation because he hadn’t reached the canonical age, of course. The church tends to do that sort of thing for brothers of dukes. If he wants to talk to someone, he’d better talk to Gournay.” Apremont laughed until he cried, but, then, he was rather drunk by now.

****

“I damned well hope that God is with us. I don’t mind saying that I’m uneasy,” Ohm swigged deeply from his beer stein. “We aren’t ready for this adventure in Lorraine. Overall, our troop strength is down to about sixteen thousand and, at least in my opinion, too much of that is infantry. Untrained infantry, a lot of it, or at least untested infantry, recruited out of Burgundy itself. We should have at least six thousand horse.”

“Ah, Papa. Such gloom.” Caldenbach laughed. “For you, there will always be too much infantry and not enough cavalry. Infantry is good enough for garrisons.” Caldenbach had once, before the Ring of Fire, been Ohm’s son-in-law. Although the young Maria Justina had died in childbirth after only a year of marriage, the two of them remained as close as father and son could be.

“He could be right.” That was Bodendorf. “Rotenhan is worried, too. Lieutenant Colonel Rehlinger has a lot of concerns.”

“Conrad Rehlinger’s father is the grand duke’s banker, for God’s sake. Conrad always has a lot of concerns. If Bernhard doesn’t pull the County of Burgundy scheme off, that firm is going to take a really deep bath.”

“Is Schaffelitzky going to bring his men?” Caldenbach asked. “I know that Rohan thinks highly of his performance when he was in the service of Venice and he’s done well under Gustavus, too.”

“The grand duke is negotiating,” Ohm said gloomily. “It’s a matter of money, I expect. If he does, it will be a help–bring us up close to strength. The last time I heard, he had over two thousand effectives under contract.”

“He’s an exiled Bohemian, isn’t he? Like Kanoffski.” That was Bodendorf again.

Ohm shook his head. “Not recently exiled. His father, already worked for the dukes of Württemberg and got estates in the duchy. I’m pretty sure that’s where he grew up–somewhere near Besigheim. ‘Von Muckodell’ tacked onto their name from somewhere in the east is just a historical memory.”

“Schaffelitzky actually is coming. Definitely.” Bodendorf was firm about that. “I heard that much from Erlach. He’s somewhere in the Sundgau, with nearly two thousand horse.”

“Last time I heard, it was ‘over two thousand,'” Ohm protested.

“He’s been on the move and you always lose some in transit.” Bodendorf was a practical man.

“I have to say that relieves my mind. Some.” Ohm took a huge swig of beer. “But the grand duke is still leaving Schon by himself in Besançon and sending Hattstein to Dôle. That splits the cavalry badly. Damn, but I wish that Taupadel hadn’t decided to stick with the Swedes. I expected it of Nassau and the Rhinegrave, since they had lands that might fall into Gustavus’ power, and Birkenfeld never was able to bring himself to be subordinate to Bernhard. No man whose house had a seat in the old Reichstag was likely to risk not having one in the CPE Chamber of Princes, but losing Taupadel hurt.”

Caldenbach laughed sharply. “They got their just desserts–every single one of them has lost those precious seats in the new USE House of Lords, the way Gustavus set up the provinces at the Congress of Copenhagen.”

“There’s no way to avoid splitting the cavalry.” Bodendorf’s interest in the wider political implications was minimal. “Bernhard has to protect both his own new capital and the Franche Comté’s old capital. He can’t afford to lose the court system. Nor, certainly, the tax records. Also, Dôle is where the parlement meets. That’s what they call their Estates. They’ll have to keep meeting there for a while, at least. Besançon doesn’t have a big enough assembly hall yet.”

“And Rotenhan is at Belfort,” Ohm grumbled.

“Bernhard could scarcely leave the main pass between the Vosges and the Jura undefended.”

“That’s what I said to start with, Bodendorf. The grand duke is spreading himself too thin.” Ohm got up, a little unsteady on his feet.

“At least he plans to bring de Guébriant’s command up into Lorraine with us.” Caldenbach stood also, pulling Ohm’s arm over his shoulders.

“Oh, sure. A Frenchman to fight another Frenchman in Lorraine. None us have been in the field with him before.”

“I think–hope–the man is loyal. He has a good reputation.”

“He doesn’t know it was Bernhard who ransomed him out after Ahrensbök.”

“He isn’t supposed to.”

****

“It’s an eagle on his standard. See.” Private Joachim Karpff, with the dignity and prestige that went with having served under the grand duke since the days when he was just a colonel fighting under the Danish crown, gestured toward the waving banner under which Bernhard was marching. “White. That shiny fabric is called damask. The embroidery is real gold thread. The eagle is his.”

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