Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 18
Too Much Going On to Write Regularly
Hüfingen in Fürstenberg, Swabia
“Das ich bishero etwas unfleisig in schreiben gewesen, bitte ich nicht in ungutem zu vernehmen, und hatten mich abgehalten die stets werenden occasionen und travailli.”
Count Egon von Fürstenberg, the eighth of his line to bear that name, was born a younger son. Fully realizing that the income he drew from his family’s mountainous hereditary lands could never support the family he hoped some day to have, he entered the service of Austria as a boy.
Faithfully, for a quarter of a century, he carried out the tasks that Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor and advocate of the Counter Reformation, assigned to him. He fought for the Empire, for the Catholic League, and for the Empire again.
Now, having survived both of his older brothers and his younger brother, with only one nephew to claim a share, his income was larger than he had originally expected it ever would be.
So were the calls upon it. He had his family. In the course of their fifteen years of marriage, his wife had borne him eleven children. Ten of them were alive, healthy, flourishing, and likely to grow up. They would need educations, dowries… A fatherly mind boggled at the very thought of the expense involved.
So here he was, in his mid-forties, looking at a world in which the emperor he had served was dead, his heir had replaced the Holy Roman Empire with an Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Austria had abandoned his hereditary lands around Heiligenberg, as far as he could tell, to the un-tender mercies of a Swedish Lutheran, an up-time Calvinist heretic, and a United States of Europe that conducted popular elections.
The fact that Wilhelm Wettin had won the election was no consolation. Wettin was as Lutheran as the Swede, not to mention that he had renounced his title.
He could lie down on the floor.
If you were willing to be a doormat, you would always find someone willing to walk on you.
Or he could do something, before it was too late.
Upper Swabia had one advantage over many parts of the Germanies. It was a long way away from Magdeburg. It was not yet firmly under the Swedish heel.
Count Egon did what a man’s gotta do. He called a meeting.
“While I realize that my status as a former commander in the imperial forces may make my motives suspect in the eyes of some of you, I am in no way ashamed of my allegiance to a Holy Roman Empire that had endured for over eight hundred years until the imprudence of Ferdinand II’s heir…” Count Egon von Fürstenberg paused in his oration. He had managed to gather together a considerable delegation from the Catholic Reichsritterschaften and small principalities of southern Swabia. He had no expectation that they would all join him, but…while other people–Gustav Horn, mainly, but others as well– were distracted by Irish dragoons in Württemberg, he could focus on what, in his opinion, amounted to saving whatever could be saved from the debacle of the USE and its up-timers.
He wasn’t going to suggest to any of them that they submerge themselves into his own County of Fürstenberg, Heiligenberg sub-line. Aside from its being Catholic, no one here was like to see much advantage in that offer over being submerged in Gustavus Adolphus’ proposed Province of Swabia. No…
“At which time the advantages of forming a wholly voluntary Fürstenberg Union or, if you will a Fürstenberg Confederation on the model of the Swiss cantons in Swabia, occurred to me…
Count Egon glanced around, taking in the temperature of the room. A vigorous man, he had fought under Tilly; fought under Maximilian of Bavaria. Right now, he was fighting for a way of life he had no wish at all to abandon.
“No matter what the Swedish emperor of the United States of Europe may promise us, no matter what provisions in regard to freedom of religion have been placed in their constitution, it remains the case that in June of last year, at the Congress of Copenhagen, he appointed Margrave Georg Friedrich of Lutheran Baden-Durlach as his administrator of their proposed Province of Swabia.”
There were isolated hisses at the name.
“Don’t hiss. Cheer. Remember what happened to him at Wimpfen in 1622.”
A few people did cheer.
“Gustavus Adolphus has kept his Lutheran general, Gustav Horn, at the head of regiments that have been moving through and battening upon our Swabian lands and people for the past three years.”
True enough. No reason to mention that most of Horn’s activities had gone into Fabian tactics designed to keep Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, equally Lutheran, out of those same lands.
“No province governed by such men will be an easy place for Catholics to live.”
He gestured toward his guest of honor, Heinrich von Knöringen, the prince-bishop of Augsburg. Or, more precisely, the bishop of Augsburg who had been a prince-bishop until quite recently when Georg Friedrich of Baden-Durlach had informed him, not too gently, that in the USE, ecclesiastical princes no longer exercised secular jurisdiction.
Not much reaction. People read the newspapers. The margrave’s tame publicists had been careful to ensure that a lot of words about freedom of conscience and untrammeled right to worship had appeared in print, wafting and swirling around the hard fact of the vanishing of Bishop Heinrich’s court system into the developing Province of Swabia’s bureaucracy. Time to lighten the presentation.
“Gentlemen, like so many others, I have sent researchers to the up-time town of Grantville, the source of so much of the technology used in the Swede’s recent successes. I found…”
He paused for dramatic effect.
“I found that in another three-hundred-fifty years, the names of our lands had been expunged from the history books. Heiligenberg was a winter spa, to which people came to ski on the mountains and sit on balconies as they admired Lake Constance. The only significant amount of material on a Count Egon von Fürstenberg who existed in the twentieth century that my agents could locate pertained to…”
He paused again, to allow the others to realize just how seriously he was willing to embarrass himself for a worthy cause.
“…a designer and manufacturer of women’s clothing. Admittedly, the man appears to have been a wealthy, socially prominent, and successful, if somewhat eccentric, designer of women’s clothing–but still, in essence, he was a common tailor. The thought of my descendants having degenerated to that…”
He paused again.
“It simply turns my stomach.”
The room erupted in a buzz of whispers.
“On the table in the antechamber…”
A servant swept open a curtain that had divided the two rooms.
“On the table in the antechamber, each of you will find what little–and I do emphasize the word ‘little’–my agents were able to locate in their encyclopedias that pertains to your lands as they were known in that world. May I now suggest a pause for refreshments as you take this opportunity to look at these materials that show so clearly what is in store for us if this appalling ‘modernization’ process cannot be halted, or at least slowed.”
Diane Jackson frowned. “You couldn’t persuade your father not to do this?”
Friedrich of Baden-Durlach shook his head. “I know that you think that he should focus primarily on your apprehensions in regard to Bavaria, especially considering that Augsburg is right on the border and very likely to be a first target if Maximilian decides to take advantage of the emperor’s focus on Saxony and Brandenburg this spring. However, the task he has been assigned is the creation of a USE Province of Swabia. With Horn absorbed in the cooperative mission with Brahe and Utt and…” He paused. An expression of profound distaste crossed his face. “…and Bernhard, he felt obliged to use part of the garrison stationed in Augsburg to, ah, emphasize to several of the smaller territorial rulers along the Swiss border just how unfortunate it would be if they took the temptation being offered by Egon von Fürstenberg seriously.”
“Did it occur to him that such pointed emphasis will only serve to reinforce Count Egon’s fears, and their fears, about how southern Swabian Catholics would be treated in a USE Province of Swabia?”
Friedrich of Baden-Durlach looked surprised. He was. Honestly surprised.