The tangled web virginia DeMarce



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Barracktown bei Fulda

On the theory that he did not customarily bring every new recruit to Wes Jenkins's attention, Derek Utt determined that the transfers were a strictly regimental matter. He buried the names of his four new recruits—well, nine new recruits, counting Corporal Hertling and the four goons, er, bodyguards, er, experienced soldiers—in a list of quite a number of other new recruits, which he sent off attached to a non-urgent report to Scott Blackwell in Würzburg, from which destination it might eventually make its way to someone in Grantville. The only special note he made for Blackwell next to their names was "CoC."

Mainz, July 1634

"Papa won't give me permission to marry, and I can't get married in Mainz without it." Margarethe pouted while she pitted cherries.

"Not to mention that Friedrich is in Fulda. That really makes it more difficult for you to get married." Tata picked up another onion and started to dice it for the noonday stew.

"So you understand." Margarethe's tears might have been real. Equally well, they might have been the result of standing next to the onion board.

"Papa and Mama don't understand how much I miss Eberhard either," Tata sniffed. "It was very unsympathetic and unfeeling of Major Utt to refuse to take us along. Especially Margarethe, since she's going to get married. We hope. Doesn't he have any sympathy for romance?"

Since the question was rhetorical, no one answered it, but Kunigunde Treidelin and Ursula Widder made sympathetic noises. Both of them had succumbed to a spurt of unusual sentimentalism after Eberhard's dramatic announcement of the forthcoming marriage in the Horn of Plenty taproom.

"So it's obvious that we need to go to Fulda. Isn't it, Tante Kuni?"

"Maybe I could help." Kunigunde looked at Ursula. "I have a little money hidden away."

"In case of a rainy day," Ursula said.

"Don't be silly. There are a lot of rainy days, even in summer." Kunigunde had a literal mind. "In case the armies come again and we have to flee."

"Do you have a wedding dress?" Ursula asked.

Margarethe shook her head. "I don't have any money of my own, ever. Papa used to give Theo money and he would share it with me, but since Papa's been so annoyed with Theo recently, he won't give him anything. He even refused to pay for his tuition at the university for another term. He was going to send him to some awful Calvinist Hochshule. That's really the main reason he volunteered for the army. He was broke."

"Somehow I didn't think it was patriotism," Ursula said.

"Who would?" Tata picked up another onion. "Simrock volunteered because his uncle at the newspaper, who's also his guardian, told him it would be better for him to get out of Mainz, since somebody investigating the riot at Sybilla's funeral has figured out that he planted the article."

"I was going to be married once," Ursula said. "We lived in the Palatinate, then. We had waited so long, because my fiancé had to support his mother. Then the elector agreed to become king of Bohemia and my fiancé went to Prague as a wagoner in their glorious procession. He didn't come back and didn't come back. He died there, at the first Battle of White Mountain. I was going to be married in a red dress."

Tata dropped her onion and hugged Ursula. It might have been the onion juice on her hands that made the older woman's eyes water. Ursula hugged her back and turned to Margarethe. "I'll buy you a brand new dress to be married in. It will be cherry red and you will look quite lovely."

 

The dress cost more than they expected, which is the way of gorgeous dresses, even though Kunigunde got a good bargain on the fabric and Ursula knew a seamstress who didn't overcharge and so far had avoided the notice of the tailors' guild.



"We don't have enough money left," Kunigunde complained. "Not enough for a safe trip. We need to be able to trust the driver you ride with and make sure that there are some respectable families traveling in the same group. Trustworthy carters don't come cheap."

They dug into the monthly kitchen budget for the inn. The patrons of the Horn of Plenty were going to get rather meager fare for the rest of July.

The girls looked more than pleased with themselves when a freight wagon deposited them and their possessions in front of the Fulda Barracks a week later.

Barracktown bei Fulda, July, 1634

"Ah." Dagmar Nilsdotter was in tears as she held her husband's hand. "What a beautiful wedding, Helmuth. What a lovely bride. My heart is strangely moved. Strangely warmed."

Sergeant Hartke was not quite so volubly impressed, but he did admit that both Lieutenant Friedrich Württemberger and Margarethe Pistora appeared to be rather delighted with both themselves and the situation. They had just taken advantage of the SoTF's liberal citizenship policy, unusually low age of majority, and practice of "universal sectarianism" by getting married in the Barracktown sutlery in a ceremony presided over by the mayor of Barracktown, otherwise known as Sergeant Helmuth Hartke, who for this purpose was a duly licensed civilian celebrant.

"Not bad, as ceremonies go," Simrock said. "And Venus herself ministers resolution and hardiness unto tender youth as yet subject to the discipline of the rod, and teaches the ruthless soldier the soft and tenderly effeminate heart of women . . ."

"Montaigne again, I presume?" Jeffie Garand leaned back against the wall, looking toward the entrance. On one side of the door, Merckel and Kolb, on the other side Heisel and Bauer, were watching the room attentively while trying their best to look like casual wedding guests.

Simrock nodded.

"You're quoting out of context," Theo warned. "He ended that sentence with 'in their mothers laps.' He wasn't talking about weddings."

Dagmar turned to Duke Eberhard. "Your brother looks so handsome in his uniform, Captain Your Grace."

He smiled. "I was just thinking that Friedrich actually looks rather like a large salmon fillet in that orange-ish uniform, not to mention that he clashes badly with Margarethe's cherry red dress, but I'm not in any position to complain, since I'm was wearing an orange-ish uniform myself. But he does look handsome, even if he is still on crutches."

"Is the foot very bad?" someone behind them asked.

"Once General Brahe's people caught up to us at Weselberg, the medic prevented gangrene." Hertling snagged a piece of thin, folded and rolled dough filled with some sweet fruit off a passing tray. "The foot itself—he will always have to wear a very tight, heavy boot to protect it. The bones are not right. General Brahe's regiment had a medic, not an up-time miracle-making surgeon. When he is an old man, he will be predicting the weather on the basis of how much his foot aches."

"This food is great." Jeffie looked around. "Who cooked it? Who arranged all this?"

Simrock patted a nearby reddish head. "Tata arranged it. She's been helping with wedding receptions since she was a toddler, whenever her family wasn't on the run and had an inn to settle down in. She just snapped her fingers and it happened."

"It was a bit more complicated than that. You're right though. Riffa's mother is a terrific cook."

"Once upon a time," Jeffie said. "Once upon a time, long ago, for my high school graduation, to be precise, Mom took me and Justin to Las Vegas."

"Where is Las Vegas? What is Las Vegas?"

"It is, was, will be a city in Nevada. I'm just thinking. I do that sometimes." Jeffie turned around and called, "Frau Hartke."

"My name is Dagmar Nilsdotter. Hartke is my husband."

"Well, then, Ms. Nilsdotter. Sorry, but that just doesn't sound very respectful to say to Gertrud's mom. How many of these do they have in Fulda, now? These civil weddings, I mean?"

"Oh, many. Two or three a week, perhaps, because people come from many miles away to have Helmuth marry them, because many villages do not have civil celebrants licensed yet. Any mayor may become one, but they have to apply and be approved. Most priests and pastors will not marry young people without the consent of their parents, even if it is legal."

"Thanks a lot." He followed Simrock's example in patting the top of Tata's head. "I really ought to talk to you and Riffa's mom sometime this week. You could make a mint if you set up a Vegas-style wedding chapel here."

Gertrud kicked his ankle.

Eberhard put his arm around Tata's waist. "Hands off, guys." He sighed. "I wish that Ulrich could have been here."

The four goons were moving to block the entrance.

Theo turned around, peering out the window. "We have more company."

 

"I should never accepted Donner's offer." Marcus Pistor's voice shrilled into a register that an Italian castrato would have envied.



"What offer? It's not Donner who just married your daughter." Jeffie was enjoying himself.

"His offer to use the Horn of Plenty to hold services for the Calvinist civilians in Mainz." The shrill was now accompanied by tiny globules of spit. "If I had performed only my duties as a military chaplain, my son would never have been seduced by the doctrines of the Committee of Correspondence and my daughter would never have met this outrageous Swabian . . ."

He paused, at loss for a suitable epithet. "Who are you?"

"Sergeant Jeffrey Garand, at your service, Your Reverence. Or however a reverend is properly addressed. I'm a bit vague on churchly etiquette. You can call me Jeffie."

Pistor did not respond to this friendly overture.

Jeffie chatted on. "At home, 'Mr. Whoever-it-is' usually doesn't offend a preacher, no matter what church he's from. It wouldn't even have offended Father Mazzare, but I did know to use 'Father' when he came around."

"Mazzare," exploded from the man with Pistor.

"How may we introduce you, My Lord?" Sergeant Hartke, standing behind Jeffie, had read enough from the man's demeanor and clothing that he decided to ante the forms of address up a step, hoping that would be sufficient.

"Georg Wulf von Wildenstein, in the service of the landgrave of Hesse-Kassel."

Hartke bowed. "Presumably, you wish to meet with . . ." He raised his eyebrows.

"I demand to meet with Major Utt," Pistor shrieked.

"No, Jenkins," von Wildenstein contradicted him. "Jenkins is the administrator. We must meet with Jenkins."

"Either or both of them should know better than to permit the marriage of a minor daughter without the permission of her father to a suitor not of her faith who is an . . ." Pistor still couldn't produce the suitable epithet.

"Ex-duke," Jeffie said. "If Lieutenant Württemberger hadn't given up his title, he would outrank you both. His brother still does outrank you both. Maybe he even outranks a landgrave. I'm not sure of that, but I think so. Eberhard was best man, so someone's in charge here. Anyway, Margarethe was eighteen last month, so she's of age under SoTF law."

Stift Fulda, August 1634

"That went pretty smoothly," Geraldin said. "One abbot, all neatly trussed up and loaded on a small hay cart. It's pretty fair hay, too. The horses should appreciate it."

"What about the other one?" MacDonald asked.

"Leave him down there. Get back to where you were supposed to meet the others. I'm on my way to Bonn."

MacDonald shrugged and headed back to meet Butler and Deveroux. They'd need to fetch Gruyard away from von Schlitz's and head back to Bonn right now. Not only was every country road and cow path in Fulda suddenly crawling with people searching for them, but once Geraldin delivered Schweinsberg into the custody of Ferdinand of Bavaria, the archbishop would be wanting the services of his torturer. Right now. Not the day after tomorrow, much less next week.

Mainz, August 1634

"Theobald will not be twenty years old until December. The army of the State of Thuringia-Franconia should not have accepted his enlistment without my authorization."

"They shouldn't have, but they did." Von Wildenstein was getting tired of this.

"How can they permit a child to do something as significant as change his citizenship? Children are young. Children stand in need of parental guidance. Children . . ."

". . . become adults at the age of eighteen in the SoTF. Unless you can persuade the USE parliament to pass a law overriding that, or persuade the Reichsgericht in Wetzlar to rule that people cannot change their citizenship from one state in the USE to another . . ."

Von Wildenstein's voice trailed off. His face brightened. "But these decisions about citizenship and the age of majority were placed by the up-timers in their constitution before the establishment of the USE—before November 1633. Since then, they are no longer an independent principality within a federation, but merely one of the provinces of the USE, even if they choose to call themselves a 'state' instead. I have been informed that in the up-time, some of the 'states' of the United States of America actually chose to call themselves 'commonwealths.' I don't know why, but essentially it made no difference. Their relation to the national government was the same. Thus, can the SoTF even offer its own citizenship any more?"

"Brilliant, absolutely brilliant." Pistor jumped up. "Most of the time, I am simply exhausted by trying to keep up with how quickly everything is changing in our world. This time, though, perhaps the changes will prove to be beneficial. I shall consult a lawyer right away and file a petition in Wetzlar. If you can persuade the landgrave of Hesse to take an interest, perhaps the imperial supreme court will expedite the consideration of my case."

"Perhaps it will." Von Wildenstein stood up. "In practice, however, that will mean that the justices will issue a decision twenty-five years from now rather than fifty years from now. For the time being, I am afraid, I cannot perceive any immediate way to reverse your children's . . . unfortunate actions." He turned around. "Let me make a purely practical comment. It is absolutely certain that you will not be able to retrieve your daughter Margarethe's virginity by means of a legal remedy."

 

"No one among the Catholic theologians, Lutheran theologians, Calvinist theologians, or sectarians, much less the small number of secularists who are becoming more vocal with every passing day, seems to be very enthusiastic about Wamboldt von Umstadt's initiatives. Few of them appear to be favorably impressed by Calixtus's ideas, either, not even when Wamboldt von Umstadt endorses them."



Nils Brahe yawned. "Botvidsson, there are moments when you display a positive genius for understatement." He rubbed his eyes. "Perhaps I should see about getting spectacles. Francisco Nasi told me that his have proved very helpful. Do you have the list I asked for?"

"The one delineating possible complications if we permit the archbishop of Mainz to return?"

"No, Johan, the one about the levels of likelihood that the cow may someday jump over the moon. Yes, please, that one."

Botvidsson shuffled some papers. "One item that I have not included here is that the new Residentz he began constructing in 1628 is a messy site full of holes and mud. It is an attractive nuisance to children, who endanger themselves by playing in it. It is an attractive nuisance to apprentices, who go there after dark and engage in entertainments of which their masters disapprove. It . . ."

". . . needs to be either flattened and turned into a public park, or completed. In the event that it is completed, the archbishop will no longer have any need of such a large combination of living quarters for himself and his staff and administrative offices, since the Province of the Main has assumed many of those duties—defense, the court system, real estate record administration for all property other than that directly owned by the archdiocese. Do you suppose Wamboldt von Umstadt would be open to considering an arrangement by which we take over the derelict site and construct our own badly-needed government center there, while assigning him . . ." Brahe frowned. ". . . something else. Think about what 'something else' might possibly be, would you, Johan. That's a nice central location."

Botvidsson made a note. "Now, as to the list. First, there's the problem concerning the Jewish community in Worms. I can provide you with details of that."

"Please do. In a separate memo. Can you make it short?"

"Unfortunately, no. It's complicated."

"Life is complicated. Next point."

"All of the imperial cities that haven't been acknowledged as independent city-states by the USE, not just Nürnberg, are worried about their status after what happened at the Congress of Copenhagen. It's entirely possible that a coalition of the smaller imperial cities may make common cause with dispossessed ecclesiastical princes to lobby for some arrangement similar to the one that the imperial knights and independent monasteries had in the defunct Reichstag, by which they did not hold individual seats, but elected one of their number to represent them and cast a vote on their behalf. Nürnberg is large enough, of course, that if it joined the USE, it would almost certainly be acknowledged as a city-province like Augsburg and Ulm, but . . ."

"Noted," Brahe said. "Prepare me a separate memo on that, will you. Let's get to the rest of the points. I've been at this desk for . . ." He peered outside into the gathering twilight. "The days are getting shorter, but it's safe to say that I've put in a fourteen-hour day so far."

Botvidsson moved on to the next sheet of paper. "To return to the topic we were discussing earlier. To borrow a colorful phrase from Major Utt, it appears that Cardinal-Protector Mazzare has 'told him to get on the stick and do something ecumenical real soon now.' It appears, in fact, that Mazzare has talked to Prime Minister Stearns. If the archbishop wants an imperial salva guardia for his return to Mainz, he first has to agree to work, not only with Calixtus, but to send a representative—possibly several representatives—as 'observers,' at the next Lutheran theological colloquy."

"Next Lutheran theological colloquy? They were at it from January through May. Count Ludwig Guenther of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt reported the results at the Congress of Copenhagen."

Botvidsson looked at his superior with some pity. "But, sir. Everybody pretty much believes that the king—the emperor—will move against Saxony and Brandenburg in the spring. Then it will all have to be done over again, factoring in the practical problem that the electoral family of Brandenburg is Calvinist and the heir is the nephew of Gustav's queen. The next Lutheran colloquy must face reality. Under the USE constitution, although it grants Lutheranism 'state church' status, it does so in such a way that the emperor must either formally abolish the 1555 Peace of Augsburg or somehow integrate the Calvinists and sects into it."

Brahe nodded. "Either way, Lutheranism will lose the privileged position it has held under it, ending up with—as our friend Major Utt might say, 'all of the flash and none of the cash.' "

"Correct," Botvidsson admitted. He smiled. "But, then, so will the Catholics, which is one reason, I'm sure, that Mazzare wants archiepiscopal representatives there to watch the Lutherans while it happens."

Barracktown bei Fulda, September 1634

By September, the Barracktown CoC meetings had moved from the Hartke cabin to the main room of the sutlery. This was partly because they had quite a few more members than they had two months earlier. This was partly because Gertrud did, after all, have several younger half-siblings. Dagmar thought they had a right to do their lessons and play their games in peace. It was partly because the meetings sometimes became rather raucous. Mostly, however, it was because Riffa's mother was such a good cook.

"What I think," Tata began.

"What she thinks," Jeffie echoed.

"What they think," Joel Matowski said, pointing at Friedrich, Tata, and Margarethe.

"Is pretty much what the Committees of Correspondence think, at least as far as the Fulda Barracks Regiment is concerned." Eberhard laughed.

"Well, it is," Tata said. "We're the organizers here, just like my father is in Mainz. We keep our ears to the ground, our eyes on the prize, our fingers busy corresponding with the leaders of the Ram Rebellion in Franconia, our posters of Brillo and Ewegenia posted, and any other description you can think of to indicate that we are true sons and daughters of Gretchen Richter."

"Have you ever seen Henry Dreeson's house?" Joel shook his head. "No, don't answer that literally. I know that you haven't. It was a rhetorical question, Tata. You have an unfortunately literal mind. Gretchen doesn't need any more sons and daughters. She has a quiver full already, to borrow biblical language."

"Ideological sons and daughters," Tata answered with dignity. "Disciples. Followers."

"Pains in the . . ."

Margarethe slapped Jeffie's ear. "Watch your language. You are in the presence of a respectable married lady."

"I am? Where is she? Ow! Gertrud, she'd already swatted me. You didn't have to slap me, too."

"What I started to say was—"

"What she started to say was . . ."

"Jeffrey Garand, if you don't stop that, I swear that I will hang you."

"I apologize, teacher. I swear. Only pardon me this time and I promise to be good forevermore."

"It's not really a good idea to make promises that you can't keep," Eberhard commented.

"I might be good forevermore. Who knows?"

"Try, 'until Tuesday at noon.' It has a higher level of probability."

The door swung open.

"Hey," Jeffie said, "it's the mailman."

"With news, I'm sorry to say."

"Why?"

"It's just in from Mainz, by way of Frankfurt. Hoheneck, the Probst at the St. Petersburg estate of Fulda Abbey, arrived in Mainz. He says that Archbishop Ferdinand of Cologne had Schweinsberg tortured to death by a man named Gruyard. We took a casualty. There won't be another rescue. No legends like in your 'westerns.' The cavalry won't be riding out to bring him home."

For several minutes, the meeting lost whatever semblance of order it had ever possessed.

"Tata," Friedrich said. "What were you going to say before David came in?"

"We need a publicity campaign. We need to make everyone aware of the contribution of the common man—and woman, of course—and ordinary citizens of Buchenland to the rescue of the kidnapped administrators." She threw a kiss to Joel.

"We need newspaper articles." She pointed to Theo. "We need cartoons." She pointed at Simrock. "Actually, we need better cartoons than you draw, but beggars can't be choosers and you do have a knack for making the faces easy to recognize."

"But everyone knows that the Fulda Barracks Regiment marched out bravely, singing its anthem, and rescued Wes and Clara. That's already been in all the papers."

"Anthem, schmanthem," Riffa zur Sichel said. "They spend a lot more time singing naughty lyrics set to the theme song from the 'Bridge over the River Kwai' in every language any man in the barracks has ever heard of than they do to singing their anthem."

"It's all very well to give credit to the regiment, and they did go marching out, but so did a lot of civilians. We need a campaign to give credit to the housewives, to the farm boys, to the . . ."

Eberhard laughed. "Although it may be covetousness that settles in the mind of a shop apprentice, brought up in idleness and ease, and gives him so much assurance that he does not hesitate to leave his home-bred life, forego his place of education," he paused and waved to Theo and Simrock, "and enter into a small boat, yielding himself to the mercy of the blustering waves, merciless winds, and wrathful Neptune, yet it is also true that ambition teaches discretion and wisdom."

"Montaigne again, I assume?" Jeffie said.

"Yes."

David Kronberg, Riffa's husband, otherwise known as the mailman although he was actually a post office clerk, shook his head. "What Eberhard was hinting, Tata, is that even though we're willing to admit that a lot of the searchers volunteered just because they wanted to help, still—there was a reward out. Your publicity campaign is going to have to work around that."

She glared at them both. "We'll manage."

Frankfurt am Main, October 1634

Derek Utt sat on his horse, watching, as Veronica—Gretchen's grandma, Henry Dreeson's wife, and terror of the known universe—disembarked onto the pier and greeted Henry, who was halfway through his goodwill tour of Buchenland County, SoTF, in preparation for the upcoming elections. While the crowd watched Veronica and Henry, he switched his eyes to the man dressed all in black in the back of the boat.

A couple of other passengers got off. Veronica, bless her miserly soul, had bought the cheapest possible ticket on a regular passenger barge—not, of course, that the barge captain didn't know who she was. He had made every effort to provide her with a comfortable trip up the Main.

According to one report, Duke Bernhard's man, Raudegen, who had accompanied the old terror on the Rhine portion of her journey back from Bavaria, had threatened, in the hearing of everyone on the Mainz pier, to break the fingers of all the barge's crewmen if they did one single thing that would cause him to receive one more complaint from Veronica Schusterin verw. Richter and verh. Dreeson.

The man in black slid out of the group, heading directly toward Utt, holding out a sheaf of paper. Credentials and more credentials, including a salva guardia from Nils Brahe in Mainz and another one from Wamboldt von Umstadt.

His credentials were much more impressive than his appearance. Personally signed safe conducts from Brahe and the archbishop of Mainz equaled "another VIP on hand."

Utt, who had to stay with Dreeson for the entire time he was scheduled to be in Frankfurt and then return to Fulda with Grantville's mayor safely in his charge, passed Johann Adolf von Hoheneck on to a junior officer with orders to take him up to Fulda with an escort. For the time being, Wes Jenkins could worry about him.

Barracktown bei Fulda, October 1634

"Every cartoonist in the country must be about to fall dead with exhaustion this month." David Kronberg threw a stack of newspapers on the sutlery sales counter. "Look at this. Dreeson and Veronica leading the march against the taverns in Frankfurt where the anti-Semitic agitators were congregating. Here's another one showing the treaty between Gustavus and the king in the Netherlands."

Simrock grabbed it. "Hey, this is a van de Passe. Here are Fernando and Maria Anna, Mike and Rebecca, Frederik Hendrik."

Margarethe giggled. "And here, on the next page, are all the prominent fat nobles, wealthy fat merchants, and their wealthy fat wives in the Spanish Netherlands, fighting over invitations to Maria Anna's wedding."

Jeffie took a look. "He's lightening up on all those dark lines he used to have in the background. Opening up his spaces." He handed the folded newspaper across to Pierre Biehr, the Barracktown schoolteacher, who shared it with Theo Pistor.

"There was an article in the Jena university paper a while back," Theo said, "The student paper that publishes technical stuff. Someone in Grantville took a camera and photographed a bunch of 'plates' she found in art books and encyclopedias. Some were English, by a man named Hogarth. Some were French. The article mentioned a man named Daumier. She—the photographer in Grantville was a woman—sent a package of them to van de Passe in Utrecht."

Simrock nodded. "Even though he's about seventy, now, he's not afraid of changing his style some. The lines here are different from what he was doing last spring. Let me run back to the barracks and get my cartoon folder." He dashed out.

"Tonight's CoC meeting is hereby cancelled," Tata announced. "I can tell already that everyone's going to be reading the papers instead of paying attention."

Fulda, October 1634

Johann Adolf von Hoheneck talked. Then he talked some more.

Wes Jenkins kept taking his glasses off and polishing them. Andrea Hill kept pushing her pencil into her hair, pulling it back out, and sticking it in somewhere else. Harlan Stull looked at the table as if his life depended on finding some kind of a bad spot in the beeswax polish. Roy Copenhaver looked at the ceiling. Fred Pence chewed thoughtfully on his thumbnail.

About an hour into Hoheneck's presentation, Derek Utt got up, walked over to the window, and leaned against the sill.

"So," Hoheneck concluded, "I told the priest who had been in the torture chamber, the one observing Gruyard at his work, to mark Schweinsberg's grave. I left for Mainz the same evening." He bowed.

Wes thanked him solemnly.

He withdrew.

"Whew," Andrea said. "I think that falls into the general category of 'getting all the gory details.' "

"The monks here at the abbey—the ones who stayed when the Swedes came in—aren't happy that the ones who ran away to Bonn have elected Hoheneck as the new abbot. Some of them are planning to appeal to . . ." Wes stopped. "Who do Benedictines appeal to? Do they have anything like the Jesuits' 'Father-General' who's been in the news lately?"

Harlan shrugged. "We can ask. I can't say the question had occurred to me. We've just been dealing with this one bunch of Benedictines here. None of them ever mentioned a higher-up to me."

"They've got something like regions—I think. But they don't have one guy at the top who can tell the individual abbeys what to do until you get up to the pope."

Henry Dreeson, on his way back to Grantville, was sitting in on the meeting. "That's their business. Might be interesting for us to know the answer, but it's their problem—internal. This guy is our problem—external. The point is, how do you plan handle Hoheneck?"

Harlan frowned. "I can't say that I like it that he stuck with the brother of Evil Duke Max for so long. Which side is he really on? In my opinion, he's being very cagy about where he was and what he was doing while the archbishop was arranging to have Schweinsberg and the others kidnapped."

Dreeson shifted in his chair. "How does he know so much about how Schweinsberg died? If he wasn't right there, involved in it himself, then he must have managed to have a really long talk with that priest before he 'immediately' left for Mainz."

"No telling." Wes Jenkins took off his glasses and polished them. "He has offered to continue his 'insider' ties with some of the archbishop of Cologne's men, for the time being. Essentially, he's offered to act as a double agent."

"I should put him in touch with Francisco Nasi," Utt said. "Nasi's not likely to be overly trusting, and he has more contacts than we do, in a lot of different places. Louis de Geer in Essen has been feeding quite a bit of information to Nils Brahe in Mainz, but that's one other thing that I suspect Nasi knows more about than we do.

Dreeson nodded.

"Actually," Derek continued, "Hoheneck has gone farther than just the offer to continue his 'insider' ties. He's volunteered to General Brahe that he's willing to return to Archbishop Ferdinand's headquarters and gather further damning evidence against Gruyard and cohorts, since he thinks he'd better make a trip to Bonn and Cologne anyway, to talk the rest of the monks from the abbey into coming back to Fulda."

Harlan Stull tipped his chair back. "I have to say that I'm surprised."

"He made that offer to Brahe in Mainz, before he came up here to Fulda. It's not that he thinks up-timers are wonderful. I think we—right here in this room—are the first contact he's had with anyone who came back in the Ring of Fire. But he feels a most un-Christian need to obtain retribution for Schweinsberg's death, and it looks right now like Swedes and the USE and SoTF authorities are his only options."

"I radioed Magdeburg last night," Wes said. "I'd like to see the kidnappers get theirs. I'm grateful that Hoheneck has pinned names on the marauding Irishmen and told us something about this Gruyard fellow. In the long run, though, I agree with Brahe that the material that Hoheneck brought from Archbishop Anselm Casimir is more important for a peaceful long-run settlement among all the parties that have interests along the Rhine than doing something about Schweinsberg right now is. Since Fulda borders on the Province of the Main and that's on the Rhine, peace in the region is not something we can ignore. I'm going to send the man back to Mainz, no matter how many suspicions I may have at the back of my mind."

Roy Copenhaver said, "The newspaper editorials aren't happy that we haven't managed to catch the Irishmen. The radio commentators aren't either. Jen sent me transcripts of some of the VOA broadcasts."

Wes shook his head. "The general theme coming down from the central office, as far as Schweinsberg is concerned, is, 'we can't get them now, but just give us time and we'll get them eventually.' " He stood up. "I'm adjourning this meeting. There's a party tonight for Henry and Veronica. Clara and I will be heading off with them tomorrow morning for Grantville. We'll all benefit from a little nap this afternoon."

* * *

"Couldn't you have put this meeting off until tomorrow?" Andrea Hill yawned. "Last night was about the best party we've ever thrown."

"No. I have a proposal. As I see it, we have a window of opportunity." Derek Utt stretched his lanky frame up to its full not quite six feet and leaned his head against the window frame. The thin morning sun lit the top of his head, making it look almost as if it were on fire. When he moved away, into the shade of the room, his curly rust-colored hair reappeared. "No matter what Wes said, I can't just half-ignore the fact that they abducted the abbot of Fulda right out from under our nose and tortured him to death. And kidnapped a bunch of our own staff and held them prisoner."

Harlan Stull crossed his arms over his barrel chest. "Wes would never have approved this crazy idea."

"That's why I didn't bring it up until after Wes and Clara left. When he first arrived, I sure never thought that I'd be saying this, but in a way I agree with what Wes said in that farewell meeting. I sort of miss Schweinsberg."

"Why can't it wait until after Mel Springer gets here?" Harlan asked. "You know I have to go back myself, to brief him. He's been the man on the 'Fulda desk' in Grantville ever since Stearns reached his agreement with Gustavus Adolphus. That's not the same thing as having been here, living through it, but he's been assigned to replace Wes. Wes has to plunge right into his new job in the consular service, so he won't have time to give us any advice. Besides . . ."

"Besides, you're UMWA like Mike Stearns. Wes wasn't UMWA and Mel isn't UMWA, which really means that you're in charge of making sure that the civilian administrator in Fulda doesn't get all too bureaucratic and cautious and CYA."

Harlan jumped.

Derek lounged against the window frame again, grinning. "That's no skin off my nose. If we get it started before Mel arrives, it will be too late for him to reverse gears. We couldn't do it by ourselves, but with Brahe's help, and his men . . ."

"Why can't we do it by ourselves? Why involve him?"

"We're just too damned conspicuous, Harlan. Look around. Most up-timers stand out like sore thumbs in a crowd of down-timers, even when they're wearing down-time clothes and shoes, have their hair cut by a down-timer barber, and speak German. I'm not sure what it is. Body build, to some extent. Posture. Attitude. But we're just not inconspicuous. We glow like light bulbs. It's the same for the Swedes. Think what it would be like if Brahe showed up in Naples, for a comparison, or if young Wrangel had gone into Bavaria instead of Cavriani's son. Talk about easily identifiable. The only way we could chase them down is in a regular military operation. Gustavus isn't going to give us enough manpower for that. He has different priorities. If someone is going to go sneaking after the guys who took Schweinsburg and hope to succeed, then it isn't going to be us. For just one thing, we don't have the intelligence contacts inside Ferdinand of Bavaria's people."

"Does anyone?"

"Hoheneck does, if he's telling us the truth about being willing to cooperate, which I think he is. Not out of idealism, but because he thinks having abbots of Fulda, 'of which he now are one,' so to speak, tortured to death is a really bad idea. Especially when it's guys who are supposed to be on their own side who did the torturing. It seems to have made him rethink his position rather drastically."

"So you're really suggesting that we should just hand it over to Hoheneck and Brahe?"

"Nope. It will give the Fulda Barracks Regiment—at least the ones I select out and detail to be part of the project—something constructive to do this winter, looking for where the Irishmen have gotten to by now. The others will think of the search party—I guess we can go ahead and call it a posse comitatus—as representing the rest of them. They're still a bit upset because we didn't let them squelch the elements of the Ram Rebellion that made their way into Fulda's jurisdiction, so letting them in on something sneaky that has a prospect of glory at the other end will be all to the good. And there's quite a bit of public opinion back home in Grantville, I think, that we should have done more than we have so far, on the general grounds that Schweinsberg, however improbably, was one of us, now. I'm sure my commanding officer would agree."

Harlan Stull frowned. "Does Frank Jackson know about this?"

Derek Utt shook his head. "I doubt it. Nobody's told me to bring him in on it. He's not in my chain of command, any more. Not in anyone's chain of command, other than his own guys in Magdeburg. He's a staff officer for Torstensson now."

"Who is your commanding officer, then? Who am I supposed to talk to once I get to Grantville?"

"Beyond—above—Scott Blackwell in Würzburg? Scott's my boss. Mine and Cliff Priest's boss, as far as military things are concerned. Just as Steve Salatto is the boss for civilian stuff, as far as Wes is—was—and Vince Marcantonio is concerned. Actually, I'm pretty sure that Scott answers directly to Ed Piazza now."

"Ed's the president of the SoTF. He's not in the military at all, just sort of the same relationship as the governor of any state had to its National Guard up-time." Harlan frowned.

"Lane Grooms, the MP colonel, is sort of 'acting' head of the military as far as Grantville—well, the whole Ring of Fire, West Virginia County now—is concerned, because his training cadre is there and he was the highest-ranked guy left after Frank moved to Magdeburg with his people. But I've found out, and this is crucial, Grooms's authority doesn't extend to the whole SoTF. It's just for West Virginia County defense—the Ring of Fire and the annexations since then. So if something involves domestic policy, Scott takes it to Steve Salatto and then through Steve to George Chehab. It stops with Chehab if it's purely internal SoTF, unless it's really important. Then it goes up to Ed Piazza. Chehab also takes it to Ed if it's got international implications. Scott doesn't actually run into a lot of purely military decisions. They almost all have civilian ramifications or, really, are civilian matters that need some military input."

"Well, do you expect me to tell Lane Grooms about this while I'm in Grantville? Wait a minute. Who am I supposed to tell, anyway? Damn it, Derek. With all the ad-hoccing that's been going on . . ."

"Technically, I'm in the SoTF forces, but we don't exactly have our own army and foreign policy any more. We're a state, not a country. Scott knows what I'm planning. For the USE, the closest general is Brahe in Mainz. We get along. He's just turned thirty; a couple of years younger than I am. Pretty flexible. Gustav thinks that after Torstensson, he's the best general he has. Which, I'm inclined to say, the way he conducted that swoop all the way over to the Rhine last spring after Bernhard pulled back, makes me think that the emperor is right."

Harlan nodded. "Like this harebrained project you're asking me to approve."

"More like, 'look the other way.' We'll do it—get it started, at least—while you're gone briefing Springer." Derek grinned. "I don't suppose I could talk you into not telling anybody?"

First Harlan said, "No." Then—"We?"

"I'm only going as far as Mainz, with Hoheneck. I'll take Sergeant Hartke and the men he's picked out, plus a couple of our own guys, and leave them there for a few weeks. I want someone to be in the city to take charge of the culprits when the posse brings them back, if it manages to catch them, which I hope it does. I'd rather not see them assassinated in some back alley. That's revenge, not justice. I want a trial, Harlan. I want to see them sitting there in the dock, with a lot of newspaper coverage."

"What will Mary Kat say? Will the daughter of our honorable chief justice be thrilled to have her husband out scampering through the hills and valleys looking for kidnappers?"

"I'm not planning on doing any scampering myself—not unless something really unexpected comes up. I'll talk to Brahe in Mainz and then come back to Fulda and spend Christmas in Grantville. Anyway, unless you tell her, she won't find out until after it's all over. 'Need to know' and all that."

There were times when Harlan sort of wondered about the relationship between Derek and Mary Kat. The truth of the matter was that if he were going to go out and get in peril, he'd warn Eden, whether he was supposed to or not.

"If you have to tell anybody in Grantville, tell Ed Piazza. But not unless he asks."

 

"Can he do that?" Andrea Hill asked. "Can he just decide to do that?"



"I really don't know. It's way above my pay grade," Jeffie Garand pointed out. "It's more to the point that he's going to do it anyway, it looks like."

"Who is Derek's boss, anyway?" Roy Copenhaver asked. "Aside from Wes, who's gone, and Mel Springer, who hasn't arrived, that is. They're his civilian superiors in any case. Who's his military commander?"

Joel Matowski rubbed his forehead. "Well, when we came out here, we were NUS military with Frank Jackson in overall military command, Mike Stearns as president, and some loose obligation to GA as Captain Gars."

"I'm with you."

"Then in the fall of 1633, it changed. There's a SoTF now instead of a NUS, and it's a state in the USE. Since last spring, Frank's gone off to be a colonel on Torstensson's staff. He's a kind of aide-de-camp and isn't really commanding anybody, any more. The Grantville guys who are with him up in Magdeburg are sure part of the USE military, but nobody has told us that we're under Torstensson. Not directly."

"My closest guess," Jeffie Garand said, "is that the Fulda Barracks Regiment didn't get transferred into the USE army. I think we're what they're calling SoTF forces, sort of a state militia."

"But it's not that simple." Joel frowned.

Harlan Stull waved a hand. "Nothing's ever simple. There are still the Swedes in Mainz, and the Swedes around Grantville. Most people don't seem to notice that the way Kagg set up the barracks, he popped his Swedes down right between the Ring of Fire and the Saxon border. At best, these guys are sort of hybrids between being the Swedish army and the USE army—they're not straight USE, even if most of the men in the regiments are Germans. Gustavus has three or four of his best Swedish commanders protecting us, really. They're protecting his interests, sure, but they're protecting us, too. That's above and beyond Torstensson and the regiments up north, not to mention Banér in the Upper Palatinate dealing with Duke Maximilian. He has Horn down in Swabia, running all round Baden and Württemberg, keeping Duke Bernhard pinned down and also dealing with Duke Maximilian."

"I hadn't really thought of it that way," Joel admitted. "So Gustavus, all this time, has had Kagg and the Yellow Regiment right outside Grantville, really making sure that while he was tied up in the north himself, John George of Saxony didn't get any silly ideas about invading Thuringia, while he took a batch of way less experienced CoC regiments to deal with the League of Ostend. I guess nobody can say that he hasn't carried out what he promised when he agreed to the 'Captain General' bit."

Jeffie looked at Andrea. "What Harlan says is right. But the real question you're asking, I think, is, what about us—the NUS Army guys who were already in Franconia and Fulda when they made the switchover? Mike's off being prime minister. I know that the military administrators have discussed it with each other—Scott Blackwell in Würzburg and Cliff Priest in Bamberg and Derek. As best they can figure, we're not subordinate to Kagg. At least, Kagg doesn't think so, and the way Anse Hatfield handled the mess in Suhl made that pretty clear."

Joel interrupted him. "Like I said, nobody's had time to formalize anything, but we think we're probably equivalent to a SoTF National Guard now—thinking in up-time terms—and we answer to Ed Piazza, who's the president. He'd be the governor if we were a state up-time, so . . . He's appointed Lane Grooms to command the SoTF forces formally, but Grooms is a nearly hundred percent administrative type and none of us ever knew him very well. He's sitting in Grantville, shuffling paper. Derek figures that he and Cliff Priest answer to Scott Blackwell. Scott can worry about Grooms. Who's above Grooms? Right now, just Ed Piazza, I guess. But like Harlan said, nothing's ever simple."

"Short form, though," Jeffie said. "If Scott doesn't veto it and Brahe goes along—yeah, I think Derek can just decide to do it. Somebody may yell at him afterwards if it doesn't work, but that would happen even if they approved everything first."


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