Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 19

Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 19

****

“It’s your problem, Kanoffski.” The grand duke of Burgundy looked exasperated. “Though it’s a real nuisance that now you won’t be available for the Lorraine campaign. Barring the unexpected, the Sundgau and Breisgau are entirely your problem. Consult with Erlach on general policy, of course. However, make sure that everyone–the Landesadel, the city officials from Freiburg down to the most rural of country towns, the village councils–everyone who is anyone–is fully aware that they are now part of Burgundy. Defections will not be tolerated.”

“So, basically, I am to inform the local worthies, ‘It’s best if you don’t even think about allying with Egon von Fürstenberg. Let me assure you, though. If you should think about it, do not act on your thoughts.’ With an addition that if they do act on their thoughts, ‘steps will be taken.’ I should be accompanied on this tour by enough force to make the point clear to even the least perceptive and attentive.”

“Precisely.” Bernhard smiled. “That’s what I like about you, Fritz. You have such a quick grasp of the essence of a situation.”

“Just remember that a lot of them are likely to interpret these purely political measures as religious ones–that the Protestants, being in power, are taking an opportunity to stomp on the rights of the Catholics.”

“Get Moscherosch to write up a batch of propaganda for you. You know what we need. Something along the lines of, ‘It’s all really for your own good. Honestly.’ He has a real talent for manufacturing that sort of thing.”

****

“Dr. Bienner, this is–coming right at this juncture–immensely annoying.”

The chancellor nodded.

“We do not need distractions in Swabia just as We have reached a critical juncture in Our negotiations with both the USE and Burgundy.”

Bienner nodded again.

“Let Our administrators in every Tyrolese possession in Swabia be made aware that We will take a very, very, very dim view of anyone in the Tyrolese possessions in Swabia who conspires with Egon von Fürstenberg.”

“It shall be done.”

“Add a postscript. Something on the order of, ‘And if you’re in the Breisgau or the Sundgau, or any other historically Tyrolese possession currently administered by the Grand Duchy of Burgundy, including Alsace, just in case you aren’t taking what Grand Duke Bernhard tells you seriously, just try it and you’ll have to deal with Us.'”

Bienner’s secretary added another point to the careful notes he was taking.

“And…” The regent tapped a finger on the table. “Contact the imperial administrator of the proposed Province of Swabia. Let him know that We will move two of Our regiments into the Vorarlberg and Vorderösterreich as a precautionary measure against the development of dissent there–and that We are prepared to use them in cooperation with any measures he may feel required to take in regard to dear Egon.”

She smiled. “That should add a certain…ecumenical…dimension to the persuasive efforts that Georg Friedrich and Bernhard will no doubt feel impelled to make.”

The Imperial City of Leutkirch, Swabia

“I know what it is,” the mayor of Ravensburg said. “The up-timers even have a word for what they are doing. It is ‘big government authoritarianism.’ Some call it ‘totalitarianism.’ I do not believe we must necessarily subject ourselves to it.”

The other heads in the banquet hall swiveled toward him. “Do you have any suggestions?” someone asked. “Any options?”

“A century ago, during the Reformation, some former Swabian imperial cities ‘turned Swiss.'”

That lay on the table for a while.

“Be practical. We all realize, if we have given thought to it, that our cities, individually, no longer have the size, wealth, and influence to be recognized as ‘city states’ on the model of Augsburg or Ulm by the USE and given seats in the House of Lords.”

“It’s worse than that. The USE hasn’t even offered us the option of a collective ‘bench’ representative such as the prelates and imperial knights had in the Reichstag. They are determined to reduce us to the status of mediatized small towns within their ‘Province of Swabia,’ no longer self-governing, with all our history lost.”

That lay on the table, too.

“We may not be what we once were under the Hohenstaufen,” the mayor of Lindau said, “but by all that is holy, we are still more than a batch of overgrown villages.”

“Will the Swede allow us to secede, or will our citizens suffer?”

“We wouldn’t actually be ‘seceding from’ the USE, never having been formally accepted into it. The Province of Swabia remains in the ‘planning stage.’ Legally, we will just be declining a proffered invitation”

“An invitation at gunpoint.” That came loudly, if anonymously, from one of the mayors seated well down the table.

“We can even say, ‘Thank you, very much’ as we decline it,” another mayor snorted.

“How would the cantons respond?” That question, from the influential mayor of Constance, was a signal that the suggestion floated by Ravensberg was not being discussed here as merely a straw in the wind. Some of the cities had been thinking about the possibility before this day’s meeting.

Throughout Swabia, various city councils started to murmur; whisper; think about it; and, a surprisingly short time later, take action.

****

“What do you think, Egon?”

“Let’s write off the lowlands. Write off any territory inside the County of Burgundy. Warn all of our friends whose lands are easily accessible to regiments on foot or on horse that they need to be extremely circumspect. Focus our attention on the mountains–landholdings around Heiligenberg and on the Swiss border, which it would be very expensive, in men and materiel, for the USE to move against. That’s where we should build our new confederacy now. There may come some other day when it will be practical to expand it further to the north, but for now, keep it in the mountains.”

Bolzen, Tyrol

“So. These documents complete the agreements pertaining to entry of Tyrol into the USE as a state.” Philipp Sattler nodded. “With the modifications you have accepted, the new regency council for your sons should prove to be very satisfactory. May I say, Your Grace, that Tyrol has done rather well out of this, largely at the expense of the proposed Province of Swabia.”

Claudia de Medici looked at him calmly. “Tyrol deserved some recompense. Some territories which properly should belong to this county are no longer within the USE at all.”

De Melon put his fingers over his mouth to hide a smile at her veiled reference to the Breisgau and Sundgau. The regent and Bernhard had managed to hide not only the finer points of their pre-nuptial agreement, but their matrimonial intentions altogether, from Sattler–and, presumably, from the remainder of the USE bureaucracy, all the way up to the emperor.

With Francisco Nasi, one could never be sure. If the spy had guessed, or even knew, he had apparently chosen not to bring the matter to the attention of his superiors.

Lorraine

After the latest depredations by Arpajon’s men, Haraucourt and Thysac took matters into their own hands.

It seemed inappropriate to mention to Clicquot or Marchéville, much less to Monsieur Gaston, that Arpajon was under arrest.

They just might not understand.

It seemed even less appropriate to bring up the topic that they had secretly sent messengers to Grand Duke Bernhard offering to open the gates of Commercy on condition that their own and the other of Duke Charles’ regiments, with the exception of Arpajon’s, be allowed to march out with honors.

They assured the grand duke that Arpajon’s men could easily be segregated from the remainder.

Bernhard raised a bushy eyebrow at the rest of der Kloster.

“It could be a mask for treachery,” Bodendorf warned.

Rosen chewed on the right side of his moustache. “They’re the two who chased Fernando’s men back into Luxemburg.”

“Can we ask them for some kind of security?”

Haraucourt offered precise directions to the manor where his wife and daughters lived.

“Good enough for me,” Rosen said.

Bernhard nodded.

That much went well.

Unfortunately, Monsieur Gaston and his senior advisers hid themselves among the stable hands and slipped out of the trap.

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