The tangled web virginia DeMarce

A tent outside Schorndorf

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A tent outside Schorndorf

"It's odd," Eberhard rasped. "Even after von Sickingen's men killed Ulrich, even after the Irishmen killed Friedrich, I didn't really expect to die. Not yet. Not now. Not so soon."

Tata nodded.

"Do you have my Montaigne? Where were we in the reading?"

"In the middle of the essay about cannibals."

He nodded.

Tata smiled. "Ah, yes. 'Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of the courage and the soul; it does not lie in the quality of our horse or our weapons, but in our own. He that falls obstinate in his courage—' " Her voice trailed away. She looked down toward the far end of the cot. " 'Si succiderit, de genu pugnat.'—I learned that much Seneca from you in this last year. Sometimes, I think you love Seneca even more than you do Montaigne. Maybe even more than the Bible, though you shouldn't."

" 'If his legs fail him, he fights on his knees.' That presumes, of course, that he has knees left. I feel weirdly calm about this whole thing, not that I ever expected to be a philosopher. Maybe I'm not entirely in this universe the theologians think the Ring of Fire created. Maybe some essential part of me was left behind, with that other Eberhard, in the universe where we were born. Maybe we're only echoes of what we would have been."

He tried to push himself up against the pillows, wincing when Tata put her hands under his armpits to help him.

"No, don't give me any more of the opium. I need to have my mind clear enough that nobody can deny that I know what I'm doing. What are those next lines?

". . . he who, for any danger of imminent death, abates nothing of his assurance; who, dying, yet darts at his enemy a fierce and disdainful look, is overcome not by us, but by fortune; he is killed, not conquered; the most valiant are sometimes the most unfortunate. There are defeats more triumphant than victories."

"It wasn't a defeat, though," Tata said. "Not even a triumphant defeat like that of Leonidas and the Spartans. We won."

"At the expense of the destruction of one of my towns and most of its people. What's left of the people? Less than a hundred men, I'd guess. More women and children, but it's still in the hundreds rather than the thousands. How are they going to live? What kind of a Landesvater have I been to my children to bring this fate down on them?"

"Victory is victory. At least, since the Irishmen had quartered themselves here, they didn't destroy everything in the fields. The people who still live will eat next winter."

Eberhard shook his head.

Tata stood up and shook her fist at him. "It would have been a lot worse to let four cavalry regiments owing their allegiance to Maximilian have free range to raid through Swabia with the USE people chasing after them. That would have been right back to the bad old days, before the Ring of Fire came. That's what kind of a father you have been to your country. That's what Papa used to say to me when I was a naughty child and he whipped me—that it would be worse for me in the long run if he didn't use the rod when I needed it."

"All right. It's a victory. I won't be enjoying it, though. Has that damned clerk finished writing up the clean copies?"


"I wish I'd been able to see Friedrich and Margarethe's baby."

"Your sister will take care of them. She has gone from Strassburg to Mainz since Friedrich was killed. Papa radioed to us. She took your little sisters with her. From what I've heard of Antonia, anybody who tries to keep her from taking care of them will be very, very sorry."

"General Horn will make the emperor understand, won't he? Everything that was personally Friedrich's is to go to Margarethe and the baby, no matter what our uncles try to grab?"

"He was here when you dictated the will. He'll be back to witness when you sign it. Colonel Utt is here, and Duke Bernhard's man, the colonel they call Raudegen."


"Given under Our hand and seal at Schorndorf in Our duchy of Württemberg this twenty-eighth day of May in the year of our Lord 1635." Widerhold finished his reading.

Horn looked at Utt.

"You are certain that this is your will and testament?" Horn asked.

"Yes." Eberhard grinned. "All five copies."

"You are fully aware of the complications that may ensue—no, that certainly will ensue?"

"As our friend Colonel Utt here would be likely to say," Duke Eberhard grinned again. Every time, it looked more like a skull smiling. ". . . quoting his lawyerly wife, 'to the best of my knowledge and belief,' I am aware. Am I the omniscient deity to say that I am fully aware? Just let me sign."

"Your personal properties to be divided in four shares, one each to your sisters and one to Agathe Donner, here present, as life incomes. Absolutely to any heirs of their bodies, should they have such; in default of heirs of their bodies, to your brother Friedrich's child; in case such child should die without heirs of his or her body . . ."

"Yes, yes, yes. The quill, please."

"The duchy itself . . ."

Since Horn's clerk was still delaying, Tata dipped the quill and passed it to him. She turned to the quartermaster and other witnesses. "You heard him. All of you heard him."

Eberhard signed.

Widerhold's voice went on:

"The duchy of Württemberg itself, independent and separate from any arbitrary provisions that were made at the Congress of Copenhagen in June of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and thirty-four, in regard to the establishment of a Province of Swabia as one of the component political divisions of the United States of Europe under the governance of Gustavus II Adolphus, king of Sweden and emperor of said United States of Europe, said provisions having been made without regard to or consultation with the will of the people of said duchy—"

Eberhard interrupted him. "I leave the duchy with all its parts and dependencies, rights and responsibilities to its people. My people. I leave to the people of the duchy, now its citizens rather than its subjects, the right to govern themselves and not be disposed of, willy-nilly, by emperors or prime ministers or diplomatic congresses. With a lot of legal language to ensure that I've done everything I can to make it happen. And copies not just to the official representatives of Gustavus Adolphus, but also . . ."

Tata handed one of the signed copies to Derek Utt and another to Widerhold. "All hail Johannes Althusius and the sovereignty of the people."

In the silence of the room, Utt laughed.

Tata joined in the laughter.

At last, so did Eberhard. "The king of Sweden can make what he wants of it. I wish him joy. I wish the prime minister of the United States of Europe joy. I wish my greedy uncles joy. I wish Margrave Georg Friedrich of Baden, supposed imperial administrator of a united Province of Swabia joy, and advise him to worry about Augsburg and the Bavarians, Tyrol and the Breisgau, with particular attention to Egon von Fürstenberg, instead of Württemberg." His voice weakened, grating. "Hell, Tata, I even wish your father joy. Hail to Reichard Donner, to the Horn of Plenty, and the hapless, hopeless, helpless Mainz Committee of Correspondence. Ave atque vale."

The others went back to the things they had to do. Agathe stayed.

"Lift me, Tata. I'm sliding down."

She put her hands under his armpits again and pushed up.

"There's no window in here."

"I can open the tent flap."

"Do. Go stand in the sunshine."

She stood there a few minutes, looking out at the movement and listening to the noise of an army in camp.

"Joy, Tata. I wish you joy."

She waited a few minutes more before she called the chaplain.


Afterword by Eric Flint

I've been asked repeatedly, over the past few years, to provide fans of the 1632 series with a recommended order in which to read the various books in the series. And . . .

I've always tried to evade the issue. Partly, out of a stubborn (and perhaps infantile) resistance to cursed rules and regulations and such. Mostly, though, simply out of laziness. Damnation, it's hard to figure out a neat and precise sequence for this series. In fact, it's downright impossible.

That is so by design, not by accident. One of the things I'm trying to do with the 1632 series, to a degree never even attempted by any other alternate history series (including my own, such as the Belisarius series and the Sam Houston series), is to portray as far as possible the chaos and complexity of real history.

Fictional narrative has its own imperatives, and two of them produce a view of history which is radically false.

The first is that, willy-nilly, a fictional narrative will tend to give support to the so-called Great Man Theory of history. If you're not familiar with this particular piece of intellectual drivel, it's the thesis that most historical development is caused by the ideas and/or actions of a small number of "great men." Personally, I think it's a toss-up whether the notion is more inane than it is offensive—indeed, ultimately immoral—or the reverse. But regardless of what I think in the abstract, when I sit down as an author to write an historically-based novel, it's very difficult not to slide in that direction. That's simply because, by its very nature, fictional narrative focuses on one or at most a handful of major characters. Because their actions are at the center of the story, the reader is inevitably given the impression that their actions are at the center of . . .

Well, if it's a novel like the ones I usually write, full of political and military fire and thunder . . .

Damn near everything. All the more so when I'm working with characters like Mike Stearns (or Belisarius or Sam Houston, in other series) who are legitimately central to historical developments.

The second problem is that a fictional narrative will inevitably make everything seem very neat and logical and orderly. Again, that's willy-nilly—because in the nature of things a story requires a plot, a plot is defined by a story arch, and arches are very orderly things.

But the real architecture of history is completely different. It's wildly complex, intricate to the point of being baroque in the details, and often downright contradictory.

What I've tried to do with the 1632 series, insofar as possible, is to at least undermine those tendencies. And I've done so in a couple of ways.

First, I encourage—indeed, organize—other authors to participate in creating the 1632 universe. I do, of course, retain overall control of the material, but I exercise that control as lightly as possible. Occasionally, I will squelch a proposal by another author to write a story that establishes X, Y or Z, because for one reason or another that would create major problems for me in material I'm planning to work on later. But I'm far more likely to approve a proposal and publish such a story, even if it requires me to do some fancy footwork down the road.

Why? Because the continual and constant introduction of such unexpected developments keeps the series loose, so to speak. To put it another way, I try to use the imaginations of other authors as a substitute for the inevitable surprises that historical developments spring on all members of the human race.

The second method I use is to consciously and deliberately—some might even say, with malice aforethought—plan an over-arching framework for the series that does not follow any clear and definite sequence, in terms of the order in which the volumes should be read.

Whenever someone asks me "what's the right order?" for reading the 1632 series, I'm always tempted to respond: "I have no idea. What's the right order for studying the Thirty Years War? If you find it, apply that same method to the 1632 series."

However, that would be a bit churlish—and when it comes down to it, authors depend upon the goodwill of their readers. So, as best I can, here goes.


The first book in the series, obviously, is 1632. That is the foundation novel for the entire series and the only one whose place in the sequence is definitely fixed.

Thereafter, you should read either the anthology titled Ring of Fire or the novel 1633, which I co-authored with David Weber. It really doesn't matter that much which of these two volumes you read first, so long as you read them both before proceeding onward. That said, if I'm pinned against the wall and threatened with bodily harm, I'd recommend that you read Ring of Fire before you read 1633.

That's because 1633 has a sequel which is so closely tied to it that the two volumes almost constitute one single huge novel. So, I suppose you'd do well to read them back to back.

That sequel is 1634: The Baltic War, which I also co-authored with David Weber. Together with 1632 and 1633, 1634: The Baltic War constitutes what can be considered the "main line" or even the spinal cord of the entire series. Why? First, because it's in these three novels that I depict the major political and military developments which have a tremendous impact on the entire complex of stories. Secondly, because these "main line" volumes focus on certain key characters in the series—Mike Stearns and Rebecca Abrabanel, first and foremost, as well as Gretchen Richter and Jeff Higgins.

The next book which will appear in this main line sequence will be my solo novel, 1635: The Eastern Front. No definite date has been set as yet for the publication of that volume, but it will almost certainly appear sometime in the last months of 2010.

Once you've read 1632, Ring of Fire, 1633 and 1634: The Baltic War, you will have a firm grasp of the basic framework of the series. From there, you can go in one of two directions: either read 1634: The Ram Rebellion or 1634: The Galileo Affair.

There are advantages and disadvantages either way. 1634: The Ram Rebellion is an oddball volume, which has some of the characteristics of an anthology and some of the characteristics of a novel. It's perhaps a more challenging book to read than the Galileo volume, but it also has the virtue of being more closely tied to the main line books. Ram Rebellion is the first of several volumes which basically run parallel with the main line volumes but on what you might call a lower level of narrative. A more positive way of putting that is that these volumes depict the changes produced by the major developments in the main line novels, as those changes are seen by people who are much closer to the ground than the statesmen and generals who figure so prominently in books like 1632, 1633, and 1634: The Baltic War.

Of course, the distinction is only approximate. There are plenty of characters in the main line novels—Thorsten Engler springs immediately to mind—who are every bit as "close to the ground" as any of the characters in 1634: The Ram Rebellion.

Whichever book you read first, I do recommend that you read both of them before you move on to 1634: The Bavarian Crisis. In a way, that's too bad, because Bavarian Crisis is something of a direct sequel to 1634: The Baltic War. The problem with going immediately from Baltic War to Bavarian Crisis, however, is that there is a major political development portrayed at length and in great detail in 1634: The Galileo Affair which antedates the events portrayed in the Bavarian story.

Still, you could read any one of those three volumes—to remind you, these are 1634: The Ram Rebellion, 1634: The Galileo Affair and 1634: The Bavarian Crisis—in any order you choose. Just keep in mind that if you read the Bavarian book before the other two you will be getting at least one major development out of chronological sequence.

After those three books are read . . .

Again, it's something of a toss-up between three more volumes: the second Ring of Fire anthology and the two novels, 1635: The Cannon Law and 1635: The Dreeson Incident. On balance, though, I'd recommend reading them in this order because you'll get more in the way of a chronological sequence:

Ring of Fire II

1635: The Cannon Law
1635: The Dreeson Incident

The time frame involved here is by no means rigidly sequential, and there are plenty of complexities involved. To name just one, my story in the second Ring of Fire anthology, the short novel The Austro-Hungarian Connection, is simultaneously a sequel to Virginia's story in the same anthology, several stories in various issues of the Gazette—as well as my short novel in the first Ring of Fire anthology, The Wallenstein Gambit.

What can I say? It's a messy world—as is the real one. Still and all, I think the reading order recommended above is certainly as good as any and probably the best.

We come now to the current volume, which you hold in your hand: Virginia DeMarce's 1635: The Tangled Web. This collection of inter-related stories runs parallel to many of the episodes in 1635: The Dreeson Incident and lays some of the basis for the stories which will be appearing in the next anthology, 1635: The Wars on the Rhine.

That leaves the various issues of the Gazette, which are really hard to fit into any precise sequence. The truth is, you can read them pretty much any time you choose.

It would be well-nigh impossible for me to provide any usable framework for the twenty-six electronic issues of the magazine, so I will restrict myself simply to the five volumes of the Gazette which have appeared in paper editions. With the caveat that there is plenty of latitude, I'd suggest reading them as follows:


Read Gazette I after you've read 1632 and alongside Ring of Fire. Read Gazettes II and III alongside 1633 and 1634: The Baltic War, whenever you're in the mood for short fiction. Do the same for Gazette IV, alongside the next three books in the sequence, 1634: The Ram Rebellion, 1634: The Galileo Affair and 1634: The Bavarian Crisis. Then read Gazette V after you've read Ring of Fire II, since my story in Gazette V is something of a direct sequel to my story in the Ring of Fire volume. You can read Gazette V alongside 1635: The Cannon Law and 1635: The Dreeson Incident whenever you're in the mood for short fiction.

And . . . that's it, as of now. There are a lot more volumes coming. In addition to the next two volumes, which will be 1635: The Eastern Front and 1635: The Wars on the Rhine, the following are also due to appear at some point:

In terms of solo novels, I will be writing two direct sequels to Eastern Front along with a novel sub-titled The Anaconda Project. That novel is something of a sequel to my short novel The Wallenstein Gambit in the first Ring of Fire anthology and will run parallel with and intersect with The Eastern Front and its sequels.

Andrew Dennis and I will be writing at least two and probably three volumes which serve as direct sequels to 1635: The Cannon Law and continue the Italian-French-Spanish line of the series which we began in 1634: The Galileo Affair. Before we get to those, however, we will be writing a sequel to the escape from the Tower of London episode in The Baltic War. That book will center on the British Isles and has as its main characters Julie and Alex Mackay. (With a number of other important ones, such as Darryl McCarthy, Victoria Short, Oliver Cromwell and Gayle Mason.)

What Dave Weber and I will do is develop a specifically naval side to the series, which will focus at least initially on Admiral Simpson and Eddie Cantrell. The first of those books is tentatively titled 1636: Admiral Simpson in the West Indies. A later one will deal with the Ottoman Empire.

A number of other volumes are also planned:

With Mercedes Lackey, a comic novel (sub-titled Stoned Souls) that continues the adventures of Tom Stone and others.

With Virginia DeMarce, a novel which centers on the Rhineland and serves as a sequel both to this volume and The Wars on the Rhine anthology. The current working sub-title for that volume is The Grand Duke of Burgundy, but that will probably change by the time the book comes out in print.

With David Carrico, a mystery novel sub-titled Symphony for the Devil.

With Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett, a romantic comedy sub-titled The Viennese Waltz which will run parallel to one of my sequels to The Baltic War and serves also as a sequel to a number of the stories they've written about the Barbie Consortium in various issues of the Gazette.

(If you're wondering why I'm only providing sub-titles, it's because I still don't know exactly which year they'll fall under. Either 1635 or 1636, depending on this and that and the other.)

Finally, with Mike Spehar, a volume set in Bohemia that will intersect with various novels of my own.

And there it stands. For the moment.


For those of you who dote on lists, here it is. But do keep in mind, when you examine this neatly ordered sequence, that the map is not the territory.

Ring of Fire
1634: The Baltic War

(Somewhere along the way, after you've finished 1632, read the stories and articles in the first three paper edition volumes of the Gazette.)

1634: The Ram Rebellion

1634: The Galileo Affair
1634: The Bavarian Crisis

(Somewhere along the way, read the stories and articles in the fourth paper edition volume of the Gazette.)

Ring of Fire II

1635: The Cannon Law
1635: The Dreeson Incident
1635: The Tangled Web

(Somewhere along the way, read the stories in Gazette V.)


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