Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 27
A Plague upon Your Houses
Germersheim, Province of the Upper Rhine
General Brahe and Colonel Utt, on behalf of the USE and the SoTF respectively, had stayed busy chasing the Irish dragoons while everyone else in the region was thinking about Lorraine. After the raid against the Merckweiler-Pechelbronn oil fields, they kept up the pursuit across the Province of the Upper Rhine, managing to capture the four colonels’ baggage train before it crossed the Rhine at Germersheim.
That was the good news.
The bad news was the discovery of sick people in it. One of the down-time medics proclaimed loudly that the illness was plague.
Nürtingen, Duchy of Württemberg
Gustav Horn found it hard to believe that he was sitting in his tent, politely entertaining the envoy from Bernhard. This time the previous year, he had been busily maneuvering to keep the man out of as much of Swabia as possible, so Gustavus Adolphus could operate untrammeled in the north.
He had not liked Bernhard back when they were forced to work together under the king–the emperor. They had quarreled. He still did not like Bernhard. The man was reckless, prone to take unnecessary risks, overanxious to force things to a decision, and…
“There is plague to the southeast, coming up from Marseilles, moving toward this region. The grand duke is instituting all possible preventive measures. The three Paduan physicians . . .”
This upstart Colonel Raudegen’s voice went on, floating past Horn’s ears. “Strict quarantine at the borders…the up-time nurse…small capacity for manufacture of chloramphenicol will probably not prove to be sufficient…universities of Basel and Strassburg…would appreciate it if you would contact the faculty at Tübingen…all possible resources…certain that your own medical experts have warned you…”
Horn rested his forehead on his hands. “May God preserve us all.”
“It’s confirmed.” Måns Ulfsparre, recently a captain, now a colonel, and Nils Brahe’s liaison with Horn for the duration of the Württemberg combined action, shook his head. “When General Brahe stopped the baggage train of the four Irish colonels on the left bank of the Rhine, before it crossed to Bruchsal, there was sickness. One of our medics yelled ‘plague.’ We hoped he was an alarmist. He wasn’t. They had, indeed, picked up plague at some point on their journey from Euskirchen down the old Jakobswege and then through Lorraine.”
“I suppose this means that you suspect that there was also plague among the Irish dragoons.”
“If there was not, it would be a divine miracle. The people from the baggage train itself are not such a problem. General Brahe has instituted a strict quarantine at Germersheim. No one has been permitted to leave–not that some haven’t tried. Our men arrested two and shot one when he tried to run. We’re providing food, so no one in the camp starves. Fulda sent DDT and antibiotics. And, at least, we have a vague idea where they picked up the ‘infected’ rats. It has to be rats, we suppose. That’s where the up-timers say plague comes from.”
“How does it help to know where they got it?”
“At the insistence of the three Padua doctors sent by the regent of Tyrol and the up-time nurse, Frau Dunn, the grand duke has cooperated in setting up a strict quarantine of the border between northern and southern Alsace. Strassburg and Mülhausen have also instituted quarantines for travelers coming from the north. If those succeed, we hope that the Franche Comté can close its western border with France and thus buffer the Grand Duke’s Swabian territories–and, incidental to that, buffer you.
Niels Brahe and Derek Utt kept busy all the rest of April chasing the Irish dragoons through the Province of the Upper Rhine and Swabia.
Johann Friedrich, Count Palatine and heir to the duke of Pfalz-Veldenz, showed up at Brahe’s camp at Maulbronn, coming from Augsburg with a “must hire” letter, written by Margrave Georg Friedrich of Baden-Durlach and endorsed personally by the emperor.
Since the count had served as a Swedish officer for years and nobody had ever called him incompetent–not to mention that he was a son of the emperor’s first cousin, a grandson of Anna Maria Vasa–Brahe shrugged and slotted him into von Zitzewitz’s regiment, which had lost a couple of officers during the season’s campaigning.
“I’m surprised your father lets his heir go into combat,” von Zitzewitz said.
The count shrugged. “I’m thirty-one. I have a younger brother. He’s ten now, so he’s likely to survive and too young to fight for some years yet. I also have a male cousin. He’s turned twenty and still at the University of Tübingen. Although, I suppose, I really should marry soon. I suspect that’s one reason that I’m here. The emperor seems to have fixed on the older sister of Duke Eberhard of Württemberg as suitable. I am advised to take advantage of this opportunity to make his acquaintance.”
“You’re in luck.” Zitzewitz pointed. “He’s right down the hall there, talking with those three up-timers.”
Thrown into Confusion
“Ich bin durch die bis anhero villfeltige fürgeloffene occasiones in solche confusion geworffen worden…”
“Monsieur Gaston is most sincerely grateful for your permission to recruit in Sedan,” Clicquot said.
“I would be most sincerely grateful,” the duc de Bouillon answered, “if you would keep it quiet. I can certainly use the money that he’s paying me for the privilege, but if my brother Turenne gets wind of the matter, he will be furious.”
“Oh, we can always cover it up one way or the other. If there’s any consistency to the alliances at the French court at all, it is that some nobles are for some reason forming a cabal against Richelieu.”
“It’s so tiresome always to be on the outs with the court,” Gaston said. “I truly do not understand why Louis has this bee in his bonnet about consolidation of a centralized royal authority. Life would be so much simpler, so much easier, if he would only recognize the natural role of France’s great nobles and permit them to assume the positions that should be theirs by right of birth.”
He waved his hand. “Particularly me, as his heir.”
“Bouillon charged us through the nose for just the right to recruit. Once we’ve paid the recruiting bonuses, there won’t be enough left of the money the current cabal forwarded to us to pay the regiments we’re taking into Lorraine for more than a month.”
“Ah, don’t worry about it. Bonuses now, one muster with pay a month from now, and by then we’ll be into Lorraine. By another month, we can put them off by promising them that they can make a profit by plundering the countryside.”
“Are you certain that your wife Marguerite is content to see the people of Lorraine plundered?”
“Since my brother is occupying the duchy and has been collecting the taxes and revenues for the past couple of years, why should she care? Not that I’ve asked her, but it’s not as if they’ll be taking away anything from her current income. We’re living on expectations anyway.”
“Through Stenay, again?”
“That’s the only logical way to enter Lorraine from Sedan.”
Gaston thought about it a minute. “What about Étain?”
“Why Étain?” the dragoon colonel Cliquot had hired in Sedan asked.
“You’re used to the German way of fighting, aren’t you?”
“That’s where I’ve worked mostly, yes. Early training in the Netherlands under Maurice de Nassau; then the campaigns in Westphalia for the better part of ten years.”
“You might as well forget what you learned. Monsieur Gaston…just doesn’t operate that way.”
Unfortunately for the local population, Étain was where the French money ran out.