Legions Of Pestilence – Snippet 43
Hindered by My Discomforts
“Ich bin aber an meinem ohrt durch meine unpässlichkeit, deren ich nun mehr, Gott lob, gentzlichen endlediget, verhindert…”
The grand duke of the County of Burgundy opened his eyes.
They informed him that he was in the same bedroom in Châtel-sur-Moselle where he had been the last time he had a clear memory of anything other than pain and fever.
The pain, he ascertained, as much milder than it had been.
The fever, it appeared, was gone.
Perhaps he was dreaming.
There seemed to be, seated next to his bed, the redoubtable USE ambassadress to Basel, Frau Diane Jackson. He closed his eyes and kept them that way for some time.
When he opened them again, she was still there.
“How long has it been?” He asked.
“Since you were last both awake and rational?”
She looked at the up-time style disposable calendar with little blocks for each day that was hanging on the wall next to his bed.
“Three weeks. No, more. Twenty-three days.”
“Is everything lost?”
“Child. You are not the center of the universe. Other people have held it together for you, which is probably more than you deserve and why they should be so loyal is not something I will ever understand. But they did, so learn. It is time for you to get over the delusion that you are indispensable.”
She stood up. “Now, I will call Herr John. To him, you will say, ‘Thank you’ now. As you have the chance, you will say it to your lady wife, to Herr Rehlinger, to your officers. My husband’s mother always told the sons I have lost to the up-time, ‘It gets easier every time you say it.'”
The minute Kamala Dunn opened the door, the man napping next to Bernhard’s bedside jumped up.
“Good morning, Herr John. It’s just me, wandering past the tumult. She nodded toward the window. Outside, the grand duke’s regiments were heartily singing their way through Sunday morning services. “The Monster just got in. Raudegen and one of Diane Jackson’s door dragons gave me permission to come up.”
Bernhard’s secretary sat up, put his feet on the floor, and bowed sleepily.
“Comfortable?” Kamala gestured at his canvas cot. “It scarcely matches up to the rest of this impressive pile of a castle.”
“For the past three weeks, I’ve been sharing the watches with Moscherosch, his friend Jesaias Rompler, and the up-timers from Basel.” John reached for his boots and started to pull them on. “One of us is always here, no matter who else is around and no matter how much the grand duke grumbles about it when he’s awake. Which he is, now, at least part of the time. Feret is doing my work–most of it, at any rate. I check the desk when I get off here.”
“Rompler?” She wrinkled her forehead. “Do I know him?”
“Probably not. He’s a poet, a friend of Moscherosch’s. He joined the campaign in hopes of writing an epic poem about the expedition. Still, both of them are trustworthy and none of the Kloster proper could be spared from purely military duties. They’ve been skirmishing with Monsieur Gaston’s forces the whole time the grand duke has been sick.”
“You didn’t classify anyone else as trustworthy?”
“There are plenty of people who would be delighted to see the grand duke out of the picture. Of course, deciding to handle it this way meant that I haven’t been able to keep up with the correspondence, but Ohm contributed two great-nephews and a first cousin once removed who’s a good accountant to assist Feret.”
“Where did he find them on such short notice?”
“Somewhere over by Augsburg, probably. He’s related to the Rehlingers. Or in Frankfurt am Main–he was born at Bockenheim. Or up by Heidelberg, perhaps. Ohm’s grandfather and great-uncle were ennobled for zealous paper-pushing in the service of the bureaucracy of the Palatinate. Most of his family are still middle-class people, looking for a job. As a family name, ‘von Ohm’ or ‘von Oehm’ or ‘von Ehm’ started out as just plain Ehem. His wife’s Alsatian. He has relatives all over the map.”
“What about the grand duke’s staff doctors?”
“Schmid’s probably okay, but he’s in the field. I don’t trust Blandin, the Genevan, at all. Haven’t let him into the room. Anyway, he’s been sick himself.”
“So. How’s the patient.”
“No worse. A little better. Frau Jackson says to let him sleep.”
“Sick as a dog and refusing to admit it.”
“That pretty much sums up the situation.” John paused. “He’s been sick enough to get a real sense of his own mortality. Sick enough to frighten me, pretty bad. Sick enough that I’ve done everything I could to keep people, even der Kloster, from realizing just how sick he is.”
“That’s what the grand duchess was afraid of.”
He looked at her. “Can you…?”
“Let me take a look at him. I’ve brought every medication in the up-time arsenal.”
“By the time I arrived, he was starting to recover on his own. Maybe I can speed things up. With the tools available to me in an army camp, even one headquartered in a castle, I can’t reach a scientific diagnosis, Your Grace. I apologize for that. There have been many occasions since coming down-time that I wished I had been trained as a doctor rather than a nurse, but I wasn’t. I know it, you know it, and the grand duke knew it when he hired me. I have placed the grand duke on a course of antibiotics and will insist that he continue to take them for two solid weeks. I will do my utmost to keep him alive.”
Kamala looked at the report she was sending to Claudia de’ Medici and added a sentence.
“Please send Dr. Guarinonius, if he is willing to come. I would feel a lot easier in my mind if there was a physician on the case.”
“With all due respect to his physical complaints,” Kamala wrote in her accompanying report to Dr. Guarinonius, “it’s my opinion that the grand duke is just about as tough as they come. He survived smallpox as a teenager, and I greatly suspect that he’s just survived a bout with the plague. I’ve talked to his batman as well as his secretary. It definitely wasn’t anything a person could call ‘colic,’ even though that’s what he wanted the doctors to treat him for at first. He never developed buboes during these last few weeks, though he did at one point have a serious rash. The fever, vomiting and bloody diarrhea, the constant headaches, nausea and abdominal pain, don’t seem to be accounted for by anything else he’s likely to have caught. There’s no typhus going around right now. No wonder he reported that he constantly felt weak.”
She paused a minute, fiddling with her pen.
“No, to answer the question that the grand duchess asked, no, I don’t think it was poison. I’m just glad that I sent gallons and gallons of sugar/light saline energy drink with him in his baggage, for it probably staved off the dehydration that might have actually done him in. I can’t believe that he actually likes the stuff, but he does. He drank it all. Please have more prepared and shipped as soon as you can. Dr. Weinhart has the formula, since he has been using it for the children in the orphanage.”