Best of the Gazette Winner – 2018

Magdeburg
Late March, 1636

Friedrich von Logau, poet, epigrammist, op-ed writer, caustic critic, and oft-considered gadfly of the body literary of Magdeburg, was smiling. That would have surprised some of the targets of his wit, undoubtedly. It probably would have frightened others. He didn’t care. Marla Linder was singing with her friends tonight in The Green Horse Tavern, and he was in a good mood.

Marla was leading into the ending of what looked to be the final song of the night. Logau was lightly thumping his fist on his tabletop, as were most of the patrons in the tavern. It was a familiar song, one Marla and her friends frequently performed, an up-time song entitled Those Were the Days. Over half the patrons had joined in the final chorus, and the noise level was impressive but not deafening. Logau himself simply hummed along. He didn’t consider his singing voice to be pleasant, so he saw no reason to inflict it on those around him. But humming he could get away with.

The group was in full swing following Marla as she sang, tossing her hair as she looked around the room and bestowed smiles on everyone. Even Logau felt a bit of warmth as she glanced his way.

Ah, Marla was holding her hand up, her signal for the last time through the chorus. The men and women at the tables responded with even louder voices. Logau’s fist thumping got a bit more forceful.

“Those were the days!” Marla sang, holding the final note out, and out, and out, until she brought her hand down in a hard fist-pump, bringing the song to an end. The crowd in the tavern broke out in wild applause, producing a volume that had Logau looking around to see if someone had snuck an extra crowd into the room behind him. No, no more than had been there when Marla started her last set. But his ears were starting to ring from the noise.

Marla took her customary bows with her customary wide grin and waved her hand toward the musicians behind her, which included her husband Franz Sylwester. They all looked a bit worn. Logau could understand that. Marla in full performance mode emitted a level of energy that seemed to draw everyone in its wake. This tended to leave everyone else a bit frazzled when a late evening set was done, but they were all smiling as well, so that was good.

At length Marla motioned downward with her hands, and the clapping began to dwindle. The guys on the little platform turned to start putting instruments in cases and bags. People in the crowd upended their mugs and began leaving. It was only a matter of moments before Logau found himself alone at his table. Alone, that is, until Marla headed toward him.

Logau straightened. He could see some of the remaining patrons staring in his direction, obviously wondering how he rated having the diva of Magdeburg join him. He stood and gestured to a chair. Marla settled into it with grace and a slightly weary smile of her own—which, when he thought of it, seemed to be at odds with her usual post-performance behaviors.

“It’s good to see you, Friedrich,” she said. “I don’t think you’ve been here the last couple of times we’ve sung.”

Logau shrugged. “You know how it is. When you’re courting a patron, his schedule becomes your schedule.”

“Or her schedule,” Marla replied. “I know how that works. Are you looking for work, then?”

He spread his hands. “You know how it is with an artist . . . there is never enough work. There is only too little or . . .”

“Too much,” Marla joined in with a laugh. “Too true, too true. So what are you looking for?”

“Well, truth to tell,” Logau said as he ran a finger around the rim of his beer mug, “after the success of Arthur Rex, I think there may be a sudden demand for operas in a similar manner. So I’ve been sounding out some of the more prominent of Magdeburg’s Adel residents to, ah . . .”

“Float a trial balloon,” Marla interjected.

Logau had to parse that statement out. “Ah, yes. I haven’t heard that one before. Anyway, what I found is there is some interest, but only if the right composer is in the project. So . . .”

Marla raised her eyebrows. “Let me guess. You’d like introductions to Masters Carissimi and Schütz.”

Logau managed to not look sheepish. He was proud of himself for that. “Yes, if you could manage it.”

“Oh, I think I can manage it,” Marla said with a smile. She turned to smile at her husband, Franz, as he sat beside her. The two men exchanged nods. “I still owe you,” Marla continued as she looked back to Logau, “for the translation of Do You Hear the People Sing.”

“You paid me,” Logau protested.

“I paid you for the words,” Marla said, drawing her eyebrows down. “I still owe you for the artistry. Do you want letters of introduction or personal introductions?”

“Yes.”

Marla backhanded his shoulder with a muttered, “Smart aleck.”

“Seriously,” he said, “whatever is convenient for you and you’re comfortable with.”

“I’ll look at calendars and see what I can put together.” She nodded firmly.

The server came by and set a mug of beer in front of Franz. Marla wrinkled her nose. “Beer. Yuck.”

Franz wiggled his eyebrows at her over the rim of the mug as he took a pull at it. She laughed.

“What else are you doing these days?” Marla asked as she turned back to Friedrich.

“Reviews and op-ed pieces, I think they call them, for the paper,” he replied.

“Done any new epigrams lately?”

“Umm . . .” he pulled a notebook out of a jacket pocket and flipped through a few pages. “How about, ‘You say your work was flawed because you didn’t have enough time to do it well? From whence will come the time to make it whole?'”

Franz snorted in his beer, and Marla laughed. “That’s just cold, Friedrich.”

He had to stop—again—and think about that for a moment, and about whether ‘cold’ meant the same thing as ‘cool.’

“My favorite is that one you did about politics. How did it go? ‘What brings a man . . .’ ”

“. . . into public office?” Friedrich picked up. “Presumably his ability? Very seldom, so what else? Almost always, greed and connections.”

“Yeah, that one,” Marla said with a bounce. “That was so up-time.”

“I liked it.” Friedrich’s mouth quirked, and he shook his head. “I would have hoped that mankind would have improved a little bit in four hundred years, though.”

“Nope. Not in politics, anyway.” Marla echoed his head shake. Suddenly her expression shifted. Friedrich was taken aback by how dark her expression became and how she hunched her shoulders.

Marla sat that way for a long moment. Friedrich was afraid to say anything. Then she relaxed a little and sighed. Her expression lightened somewhat, but still was not her normal self.

A moment later, she sighed again. That was followed by a moment of silence, before she fixed an obviously artificial smile on her face and said, “We need to work together again soon, Friedrich. Do something for me, okay?”

Logau was dumbfounded. Something wasn’t right here, something beyond the incredible fact that the premiere musician in Magdeburg, in northern Europe, was asking him to do something for her. ‘Wow’ seemed to be the most appropriate reaction to the request; although it didn’t pass his lips, it certainly bounced around in his mind for an echoing moment. “Um, okay,” he finally said, still watching Marla with care.

Marla turned to Franz who was in the middle of accepting another mug of beer from one of the servers. “I’m tireder than I thought, so I’m going to go on home. No,” she said as Franz started to stand up, “you stay for a while with the guys. Y’all need to talk and stuff, I know. I’ll see you when you get home.”

They shared a quick kiss, and then she rose with a wave to Logau and headed toward the door. Logau watched her walk away until she passed through the door, then looked back to find Franz looking at him with a small smile on his face. His face stiffened in embarrassment, and he thought he might have flushed a little.

“It’s okay,” Franz said. “She’s not the most beautiful woman in Magdeburg, but she’s still worth watching.” He took a pull at his mug while Friedrich took a deep breath and grasped his composure in both hands.

“Is she all right?” Friedrich looked toward the door again. “Her mood . . . her face . . . Should she be alone?”

“One of the CoC guys will follow her home,” Franz said. “They still keep an eye on her.” Friedrich raised an eyebrow. “Keeping an old promise,” Franz continued.

“But is she all right? Did I say something that upset her? She seemed, I don’t know . . .”

Franz’s mouth quirked at one corner. “Yes, she’s all right—mostly. She still has down days because we lost Alison last October. She’s still pretty fragile about that.” For a moment, Franz’s own face was very drawn with that remembrance. He took another pull at his mug, then continued. “Then we lost our new musician friend Karl Tralles in the big storm earlier this month. And we’re getting closer to the anniversary of the Ring of Fire. That always hits her hard.”

“Why?” Friedrich was perplexed and curious about that last.

Franz surrounded his mug with both hands where it sat on the tabletop. “She and her older sister came back. Her parents and her younger brother were left behind. He was really sick with something, and they had taken him to another town for doctors to treat him, and the Ring of Fire fell while they were gone. That almost destroyed her.” Franz’s expression was very somber. “It was bad enough to lose her world, and the opportunities that lay before her, but to lose her parents suddenly when she was eighteen, to never see them again, and to lose her brother and never learn what happened to him . . . that shook her foundations. Jonni, her sister, says she was ‘a basket case’ for some time afterward.”

“Wow.” This time Friedrich did use the up-time word that was sneaking into daily conversation even beyond the developing Amideutsch pidgin. “I never thought of that.”

Ja,” Franz said. “Ring of Fire Day is hard for her—will probably always be hard.” He finished his beer and stood. “I should get home.”

“Go,” Friedrich said with a hand wave. “Tend to her. She deserves it.”

Franz clapped Friedrich on the shoulder as he walked by, paused for a minute or so to talk to the other musicians, then headed out the door.

Friedrich finished his beer and ordered another before the barkeeper called time. He drank it slowly, various thoughts chasing through his brain, chief among them Marla’s request for them to work together again following the thought about the pain that Franz had said she had suffered. And as the level of beer in his mug lowered, those two thoughts achieved prominence.

At length, the last swallow of beer went down Friedrich’s throat. He set the mug down on the table and stood with a bit of care, propping himself on his walking stick—his evening walking stick, of course—to make sure he was stable. He’d had a fair amount of beer that evening, and he wasn’t sure he qualified as strictly sober at the moment. He waved at the barkeeper and the serving staff as he left.

Outside, away from the lamp post near the front of the tavern, it was dark, with only a few lights visible here and there. Friedrich stopped, drew himself up straight and took a deep breath of the rather cool night air. “I,” he announced, “have work to do. Time to be about it.” And with that, he grasped his walking stick firmly in one hand, and strode toward his rooming house. Tomorrow would be a busy day, he suspected. He’d need his rest.

Grantville

Friedrich looked at the young man in a Jesuit’s cassock and the nondescript man in a monk’s robe who had stepped into the cubicle where he was examining an encyclopedia volume. He raised his eyebrows.

“I am Father Nicholas. Most folks in Grantville call me Father Nick,” the Jesuit said. “And this is Brother Johann. We understand you are looking for someone to aid you in research. We may be able to help you. What are you looking for?”

“You’re researchers?” Friedrich had a bit of trouble keeping the skepticism out of his voice. From the way the Jesuit’s mouth quirked, he apparently hadn’t entirely succeeded.

“You might say that,” Father Nick replied. “We can at least help you get organized. Whether we do more than that will depend on what you want and how much you are willing to pay.”

That Friedrich could understand. “I need some subjects I can develop into operas. Stories that are not part of the down-time, that are a bit on the fantastic side.”

The two researchers lifted their eyebrows at the same moment. “Fiction, or things that really happened in the future?” Brother Johann asked.

“Probably fiction, but I’m open to either if the story is right.”

“That might take a while,” Father Nick said, eyes staring off as if toward something at a distance. Friedrich restrained the urge to turn and see if there was something on the wall behind him. The priest’s gaze came back to focus on Friedrich. “But it’s doable. Give us, oh, four days, and we’ll have a selection for you to judge.”

“I’ll be here,” Friedrich said, mentally rubbing his hands together in anticipation.

“One of us will meet you here every morning around eight o’clock beginning tomorrow to update you on what progress we’re making,” the Jesuit said. “Is that acceptable?”

Friedrich pursed his mouth. “Depends on what you’re going to charge to be my guides.”

Both the others smiled. “It won’t be bad. We’ll give you a rate tomorrow.”

Friedrich shrugged. “I’ll see you then.”


Friedrich ended up with a personal tour guide in his search for knowledge. The next day, Father Nick and Brother Johann had presented him with an outline of what would be needed, and offered a day rate for his project. They dickered back and forth a bit, before coming to an agreement.

It only took a day for Friedrich to see that he had made a wise decision in taking the two of them on. For all that Brother Johann was his usual attendant, it was obvious that the Jesuit was the one guiding the process, and guide it he did. Book by book, story by story, article by article, they took him on a fantastic journey of tales such as he had never imagined. At the end of the fourth day, the three of them congregated to review the results.

Friedrich shuffled his notes. “Let’s see now: A Tale of Two Cities, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Crisis of Winston Churchill, The Hobbit, Eleanor Roosevelt, The Tragedy of Louis the XVIth, The Lord of the Rings, The Tragedy of Abraham Lincoln, and Starship Troopers. Surely out of all of those, I can find something a patron will like.” He looked up with a smile. “Thank you, both of you. I appreciate all your work and note taking for me. I also appreciate the copies of the books you were able to find and purchase for me. And I was serious about if you can’t find a copy of Starship Troopers, have someone copy it out or commission a print run. I can support producing several copies of a work that small, and I’m going to need my own copy for reference if one of the patrons selects it. I mean, my notes are good, but for that one, I’m going to need the whole work to capture the atmosphere about it.”

“We will do that,” Father Nick assured him. “There is a new printer in town who is beginning to specialize in reprinting old and rare up-time books, kind of like Zopff and Sons in Magdeburg is specializing in reprinting up-time music. I suspect he would be willing to take this on, as it’s a popular book and he could probably sell a number of copies just here in Grantville.”

“Good, good.” Friedrich stood and held his hand out. “Thank you again,” he said as he shook hands with both of the researchers. They exited the library together and waved as they turned in their different directions.

Friedrich took his time about returning to the Higgins Hotel. He had a lot to think about, what with all the topics he had worked up. He bounced back and forth among them, tasting them, trying them on, seeing if any of them would work for his first opera libretto. They were all strong, they all had possibilities. But which one to do first?

His steps took him toward Cora’s restaurant. It was shading toward evening, and his lunch had been light, so he turned in. Finding a table open, he sat and ordered a sandwich and coffee. Up-time style sandwiches were ubiquitous now in Magdeburg and the surrounding territories, so he didn’t even think about it.

He took his time eating the sandwich when it was delivered, thick roast beef with some sort of cheese on it, but later he couldn’t have said what it tasted like.

By the time he was finishing the sandwich, Friedrich had settled on The Hound of the Baskervilles as the first project he would work up. Just as he popped the last bite into his mouth with a feeling of satisfaction, the main door to Cora’s opened and a man entered; older, clean-shaven, thinning hair that was a dark blonde shading to light brown in color. He was dressed in up-timer style clothing, including a short-waisted heavy jacket, and something about the way he carried himself said ‘up-timer’ to Friedrich. Age-wise, he wasn’t so sure he could pin the man down. There were some lines on his face, but given that the up-timers as a group seemed to age better than the down-timers, he could have been anywhere from thirty-five to seventy, as far as Friedrich could tell.

“Hi, Cora,” the man said with a bit of a slur to his speech. Friedrich judged that he’d taken on some beer or wine, especially after he stumbled for a step in the middle of the floor where there wasn’t even a mark, much less a seam, join, lip, or edge to catch a shoe on.

“Be careful, Charlie,” Cora called out as she stepped around the counter toward him.

“‘m fine, Cora,” Charlie replied as he stopped and straightened, regaining his balance before he moved toward the counter. “You got it ready?”

“One apple pie to go, just like you ordered,” Cora said, moving back to pick up a square box and turning to place it on the counter between them. She started writing on an order pad. “That’ll be $12 for the pie, and a $5 deposit on the pie plate.”

“Oh, come on, Cora, you know I’ll bring the pie plate back.” Charlie sounded a little bit on edge to Friedrich.

“Yeah, but the last time you brought one back it was broken, so you can pay a deposit just like everyone else in town.”

“All right, all right,” Charlie grumbled. He pulled an up-time billfold out of his pocket, counted out bills to equal the charge, and pushed them across the counter to Cora. She picked them up, put them in her cash drawer, and gently slid the box with the pie in it across the counter. “Here you are, Charlie.”

Friedrich blinked. That last phrase was spoken in a much softer tone. He finished chewing the last bite of his sandwich and picked up his coffee cup to wash it down.

Charlie placed his hands to hold the box between his palms. He looked down at it, then looked up at Cora. “It’s for Stephanie. Today’s her birthday, and she always liked pie better than cake.”

“I know, Charlie. I know.”

“I’ll never see her again, Cora.” Charlie’s voice had gone raspy. “I’ll never see her again, left up-time with her husband and the baby on the way. I’ll never see my grandson. But I’ll never forget her.” Silence fell in the restaurant. Everyone had stopped talking. “Did I tell you today was her birthday?”

“You did, Charlie. You did. And Happy Birthday to Stephanie.”

Charlie picked up the box, curling his fingers under the edges. As he turned away from the counter, his gaze crossed the table where Friedrich was sitting, drinking his coffee and looking at him.

“What are you looking at? Huh? Mister Big Shot Down-Timer, with your silver buttons, and silver buckles on your shoes, and your fancy cane and hat . . . what are you looking at? You think you’re so big. You ain’t nuthin’ compared to us. We were Americans—the greatest nation the world has ever known! We were great! We were the best . . .”

Charlie’s voice trailed away, and his eyes stared over Friedrich’s head. “And now we’re here. Why? In the name of God, why?” His gaze dropped down; his eyes locked onto Friedrich’s. “You got an answer for that, Mister Big Shot Down-Timer? We were taken away from everything we knew, away from our families and all, and dropped here in the middle of nowhere. For what? You tell me that, Mister Big Shot Down-Timer. What are we here for? Huh?” He leaned over the table, glaring hot eyes boring into Friedrich’s. “What are we here for?”

Friedrich sat perfectly still, coffee cup in one hand, the other resting on his walking stick. After a moment, Charlie straightened up. “Ah, you don’t know nuthin’. You won’t never know nuthin’. I oughta . . .”

Cora stepped up and placed a hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “Charlie, it’s time to go. You need to get that pie home for Stephanie’s birthday.”

“Hmm? Oh . . .” Charlie stared up at Cora for a moment, “yeah, need to get home. See ya, Cora.”

“See you later, Charlie.”

Friedrich watched Charlie exit the restaurant, then watched as Cora seemed to slump a bit before she turned away. “If I said or did anything to cause that . . .” he began.

Cora waved a hand. “No, you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, mister. Charlie Lefferts, he’s a good man, but his wife and kids were left up-time, and his daughter was expecting their first grandchild, so he took it pretty hard. When’s he’s had more than one beer, it tends to come out. And today being his daughter’s birthday, yeah, it’s a really hard day for him.”

“I’m sorry,” Friedrich said. “I think I understand how he feels.”

Cora’s eyes narrowed. “No offense, mister, but you don’t know squat. You ain’t walked our road, so you got no way of knowing how we feel, or why. You don’t know nuthin’.” She was obviously quoting Charlie.

Friedrich shrugged. “You’re right, I haven’t walked your road, so I don’t know what your pain feels like. I don’t know how you hurt. But I work with Marla Linder.” He let a long pause pass before he said, “So I may not know your pain, but I know the pain is there.”

He stood, picked up his walking stick in his left hand and shoved his right hand into his coat pocket. He brought it out. “Take this, please.” Cora held out her hand and Friedrich dropped three silver groschen into her palm, then folded her fingers over the coins. “Charlie’s next three pies are paid for, and whatever is over the cost, use it for anyone who needs a pie or a cake like Charlie did.”

Friedrich turned away from the silent Cora. His gaze swept the room. The down-timer customers were all staring at the plates and cups before them. The up-timers were all directing hard-eyed gazes at him. He touched a finger to the brim of his hat, and left.


The next morning, Friedrich was at the library early, waiting outside impatiently. He blew a sigh of mingled frustration and relief when Father Nick and Brother Johann finally showed up. There was surprise on their faces when they saw him, as they had obviously thought their mutual work was done.

Friedrich bypassed a greeting and began with, “I need your help again.” Then he stopped, for a moment stymied for words.

“Go on,” the Jesuit prompted.

“I want to understand the up-timers.”

The eyes of the other two men widened. “But . . .” Brother Johann began.

Friedrich raised his hand. “I don’t mean I want to understand the up-time. I’m not particularly interested in learning all their history that will never happen, I’m not interested in their technology, and I’m only peripherally interested in their politics and wars. But I want to understand why they are the way they are, how the Ring of Fire affected them individually, and I truly want to try and understand them as they are.”

“Whoo,” Father Nick said in an expulsion of breath. “You don’t want much, do you?” He looked at his companion, who nodded his head. “All right, we think we can help you. We need to do some thinking and outlining to prepare for that as well. We’ll need today to think about it and begin preparation. I have to warn you, something this ambitious will probably cost more than what we did for you earlier.”

“I don’t care. Just do it.”


The following days were packed. As with the first project, Father Nick guided and Brother Johann mediated. Day by day, topic by topic, the search for and revelation of the necessary information carried on. Notes were made; some by Friedrich, some by the guides. March transitioned to April, and still it continued.

They inevitably ended up having to review some of the history and technology that Friedrich had disdained, if for no other reason than to help establish a context matrix to slot everything else into. Friedrich went to bed most evenings with his head feeling full to the point of bursting. It was taking more wine than he cared to think about to slow his thoughts enough every night to finally be able to lay his head down on his pillow in his room at the Higgins Hotel and go to sleep.

It was somewhere over two weeks later that Friedrich met his guides outside the library one morning. For a change, neither of them was carrying a folder of papers. Friedrich raised his eyebrows and gestured at the doors.

“No,” Father Nick replied to the unspoken question. “We want you to come with us to meet someone else who has a perspective on your questions and research. I think you’ll want to hear what he has to say.”

“Up-timer or down-timer?” Friedrich asked.

“Down-timer,” the Jesuit replied, “but one who has a role in Grantville, and one who perhaps understands the soul of the town better than they do themselves.”

Friedrich pursed his lips for a moment, then nodded. “Lead the way.”

They walked back down the sidewalk, but when they got to the curb, instead of turning one direction or the other, Brother Johann stuck two fingers in his mouth and blew the most piercing whistle Friedrich had ever heard. A moment later, a horse and carriage came trotting toward them and pulled up. Father Nick waved at the carriage. “It’s farther than you would want to walk, Herr Logau. Let’s let the horse do the walking.”

“Suits me,” Friedrich said with a grin. He hefted his walking stick, and clambered up into the carriage, followed by the others.

“Where to, gents?” the driver called back over his shoulder.

“St. Mary’s Church on Locust Street, please,” Father Nick directed.

“Sure thing. Be there shortly.” The driver shook his reins and clucked twice, and the horse started off at a trot.

After going down a street a ways and then around several corners in quick succession, the driver pulled the horse to a stop in front of a stone building with twin towers. It might have been mistaken for a down-time construction but for the patterns of the stonework and the many large glass-paned windows flanking the front doors and running down the sides of the structure.

“And here we are,” Father Nick said, jumping down from the carriage. Brother Johann followed with alacrity, leaving Friedrich to bring up the rear while the Jesuit paid the driver.

He stepped down with care, and settled his walking stick—the morning walking stick, of course—and reached up to tap his hat a little firmer on his head. “Lead on,” was all he said.

They crossed the broad sidewalk together, stepping up the several steps to the small porch of the rock-built building. Brother Johann opened one of the double doors and held it for the others, following them and closing it behind them. The doors were full-length framed glass, and despite himself, and despite what he had already seen and learned in Grantville, Friedrich was impressed by that.

Father Nick had already crossed the small foyer and was holding open another door and waving Friedrich on. Friedrich stepped through and looked around. They were standing at the back of the nave of the church, looking toward the platform of the chancel where an organ console and a piano flanked the choir loft. There were no electric lights on, but the room was well-lit nonetheless by the many sizable windows that were installed in the side walls of the nave, and by the large stained glass window that stood behind the choir.

It wasn’t a large church, inside, but it was nicely shaped and proportioned. Friedrich had certainly seen larger down-time churches, but he had also seen smaller. But there was no doubt that this was an up-timer church—there was just something subtle about the proportions of it that said up-timer.

For all that Friedrich was Lutheran, he had associated enough with the Magdeburg culture which aggressively followed the USE policy of religious tolerance, and with the many up-timers in it, that he was no hidebound reactionary. He would be polite to those Catholics who were polite to him, and for those who weren’t—well, he had a well-earned reputation as a sharp tongue.

Just as that thought rolled across his mind, a door beside the choir on the chancel platform opened, and a man stepped through, closing it with care behind him. He was wearing a cassock of his own, and appeared to be another Jesuit. Stepping briskly along, he crossed the platform, descended the steps, and proceeded down the center aisle toward them. “Father Nicholas,” he called out. “It’s good to see you again. And you as well, Brother Johann. And you must be the redoubtable Friedrich von Logau, master of the sharpened pen.” That was delivered with a broad smile and an offered hand.

Friedrich took the hand, and found a firm grasp clasping his own. “Only to those who deserve it,” he retorted. “I can be polite and civil if the occasion or the person warrants it.” He gave his most wolfish grin. “That just doesn’t happen very often.”

The priest laughed. “Introduce us, Nicholas.”

“Father Athanasius Kircher,” Father Nick interjected, “allow me to present Friedrich von Logau, epigrammist, poet, translator, and all-around man of letters.” He turned his head toward Friedrich. “Herr Logau, allow me to present to you Father Athanasius Kircher.”

Friedrich sobered and gave a slight bow to the older Jesuit. “Father Athanasius. It is indeed an honor and a pleasure to meet you. I have heard your name mentioned often by Master Carissimi and others.”

“One hopes in a good way,” Father Athanasius said with a chuckle.

“Indeed it was. Even Frau Marla Linder spoke well of you.”

“Ah, Frau Marla, with the voice of an angel.” Athanasius shook his head. “How one so young can sing so beautifully, it is hard to fathom. But, enough. I understand we need to talk, and since it’s not to be a confession, let’s go to the residence so we can be comfortable.”

With that, the older priest led the way out the doors they had just come in, until they were all standing outside on the porch again. “This way,” he said as he moved down the south steps and around the corner. They crossed the parking lot toward a white framed house. There was a granite plinth set in an oval of paving bricks right at the east edge of the parking lot. Friedrich’s steps veered that direction, and the others stopped to wait on him.

The stone had been polished and carved on both sides. On the one side, after a moment Friedrich was able to read in English letters the Ten Commandments. He nodded after a moment of consideration, then moved around to the other side, where he found more English, this time displaying the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. That received a nod of respect as well.

Friedrich looked up to see the three men watching him. “Sorry,” he said. “I was a bit distracted by the monument. Nicely done.”

“I like it,” Father Athanasius said. “It was here before me. It’s good to know that even four hundred years in the future people remembered from both Old Testament and New just what the man who loves God will be like. Come, not much farther.”

Friedrich followed the older Jesuit toward the house, going up the steps to the front porch and through the door, down a short hall, into a room furnished with comfortable furniture upholstered in the up-time style.

“Please, sit.” Father Athanasius gestured toward a chair and a sofa. “Helga,” he called out as the two younger clerics moved toward the sofa, leaving Friedrich with the chair. He shrugged, took his hat off to hang it on a nearby coat tree, and sat just as a middle-aged woman stepped into the doorway.

“Yes, Father?”

“Helga, if you would please bring some cider, I’m sure my guests would appreciate it.”

She smiled, dipped her head, and disappeared out of the doorway. Father Athanasius settled into the remaining chair, and smoothed his cassock out. Just as he opened his mouth to say something, Helga appeared in the doorway with a small round tray, and proceeded to distribute glasses filled with tawny clear cider. Friedrich took his with a murmured, “Thank you.” The cider was cool and crisp, almost like biting into one of the apples of fall.

Helga withdrew again, leaving the four men to their conversation.

“So,” Father Athanasius began, “Father Nick tells me that you want to understand the up-timers. Can you explain what you want in any more depth?”

Friedrich took another drink of the cider, then lowered the glass to hold it in both hands. “I’ll try.” After a few moments to gather his thoughts, he continued, “It was about a month or so ago that I had a conversation with Frau Marla Linder and her husband, Franz Sylwester. It had never dawned on me before to wonder about the price that the Grantvillers paid to take the passage through the Ring of Fire. I had always thought of them as a miracle—perhaps divine, perhaps not—one which caused both great disruption and great change, but will ultimately lead to greater good than we would otherwise have experienced, if their histories are correct. But I had never considered about what it had cost them. I seem to have assumed that God created them ex nihilo and ab initio, as if they had never existed before they stepped through the Ring. But some things that Marla and Franz said that night made me realize that that was not the case, that there was indeed a price levied against them. And then there was Charlie Lefferts.” He described his encounter with the up-timer. “The more I thought about all of that, the more I wanted to understand what they were really like, and how the Ring of Fire had affected and changed them. So, here I am.”

“Ah,” Father Athanasius murmured. “And what are your thoughts now, after having spent the last days following these two rascals around?” He gestured at Father Nick and Brother Johann with a smile.

“The more I read, the more I see, the more I hear,” Friedrich said in a sober tone, “the more I realize the price they have indeed paid. The only thing in history I can think of equivalent to it is the eviction of the Jews from Jerusalem, and even that is only an approximation. I am amazed that they treat us as equitably as they do. I am astounded that they don’t blame us for their losses. I am confounded that they work for our good. And if it was our need that caused God to send them back to us, I am ashamed that we created that necessity.”

Father Athanasius held up a hand. Friedrich closed his mouth, biting off the next words in his passion.

“So, and so,” the older man said. “You do see it. So many don’t. So very few do.”

The priest dropped his hand, and there was a moment of silence. “Yes,” he finally continued, “the Grantvillers paid a price for the Ring of Fire. They came back with the Ring of Fire, they few, never to see their homeland again, never to see their families and friends from nearby again, never to have the comforts and benefits of their advanced culture and advanced technologies and medical care again. All of their future plans and prospects were cut off. Everything they knew was truncated—sacrificed—immolated in the Ring of Fire for us. Everything but for the bare remnants that made the trip back with them; a tithe—less than a tithe—of what they had possessed and known.

“The children have adapted well, many or most of them not really having that strong a bond to their future. But the adults, especially the older ones—” The priest shook his head. “—they know, they remember.”

“But why don’t they show it more?” Friedrich asked.

“What would you have them do?” Father Athanasius said. “Wear mourning garb as a uniform? Flagellate themselves in constant grief? What choice do they have, but to press on in exploring this new world, as foreign to them as anything their Star Trek or Star Wars stories might have ever shown them?

“Most of even the adults have had enough time to adapt by now, to come to grips with what has happened to them. But if you watch closely, especially around the major holidays like their Thanksgiving and Christmas, you will observe that even the most phlegmatic of them will have their times where they just stop and stare into the distance. Even the most placid of them will show a saddened expression, gazing at nothing. Even the most outgoing of them will, from time to time, remember what came before.

“Every up-timer bears wounds from the Ring of Fire, friend Friedrich, some more than others. There are a handful of older up-timers here in Grantville that even now must be watched with some care to make sure they don’t do themselves a harm. And there are some, like Frau Marla, who are somewhat more sensitive to the pain.”

The priest fell silent for a lengthy moment. Friedrich waited, knowing he wasn’t done.

“This is perhaps not a good analogy,” Father Athanasius resumed at last, “but if you consider an amputee—a soldier, for example, who has lost a hand in battle but survived the wound and healed—such a man is capable of learning how to live without his hand. He is capable of adjusting to life with only one hand—of even having a good life that allows him pleasure and joy and laughter—but he is permanently scarred by the experience. He knows he will never have that hand again, and oh, how he misses it.

“So, too, the up-timers—or at least the adults.”

Friedrich looked down at the glass in his hands, then raised it and drained the remaining contents in a single gulp. “Needs to be something stronger,” he muttered.

The others followed suit. “Indeed,” Father Athanasius said. “No tears of the angels, nor the finest burnt wines, nor the rarest whiskeys from the isles, can serve to allay that feeling.”


After he left Father Athanasius’ residence, Friedrich spent most of the day wandering around Grantville, deep in thought. There was a vendor of sausages wrapped in bread on one of the main streets near the center of town. He wandered by there a bit after the sun hit its zenith, and bought a couple of his products and munched on them as he continued walking, oblivious to the taste.

When full dark fell, Friedrich at last returned to the Higgins Hotel, where he retrieved his traveling desk from his room and went to the bar. He settled on a stool under one of the hanging lamps.

“What’ll it be, mister?” the barkeeper said in a down-time accent as he came over to stand before Friedrich.

“I’m tired of wine,” Friedrich replied, “and beer as well. Do you have anything stronger?”

The barkeeper shrugged. “Some middle of the road but overpriced brandy. Some genever.” He snapped his fingers and looked at the counter behind him. “Ja, almost forgot, have some vodka. Or at least, that’s what they say it is. I wouldn’t know. Strong stuff, though.”

“Vodka, huh?” Friedrich’s mouth quirked up on one side.

“Want to try a shot?”

“Serve it up.”

The barkeeper set a small clear glass with some kind of printing on it before Friedrich, then turned and pulled a bottle from the counter behind him. He pulled a stopper from the bottle, then poured a transparent brown liquid into the shot glass.

“Now that’s not a sipping drink, friend,” the barkeeper said as he put the stopper back in the bottle and Friedrich reached for the glass. “I wouldn’t let that sit in my mouth for long, if I was you.”

Friedrich snorted. “I’ve had bad rakia, my friend. I know the drill.”

Picking up the glass, Friedrich tossed most of it into his mouth, then swallowed immediately. He blinked, then blew his breath out between rounded lips. “Whoooo . . .” He held the glass up and stared at the remaining liquid in it. “Wants respect, it does.” He knocked back the rest of it, set the glass down as he swallowed, and said, “Fill it again, and leave the bottle.”

While the barkeeper busied himself with that, Friedrich opened his desk and took out paper and his favorite pen and a bottle of ink.

He dipped the pen in the ink, paused for a moment, and began writing.

A flash of light . . .

Magdeburg
Early May, 1636

Friedrich took a deep breath and knocked on the door. He wasn’t sure he would call his state nervous . . . his hands were steady, and his breathing was normal. On the other hand, his head was pounding, and he felt as if he had an ice-cold ball of granite the size of his fist in his stomach. For all that he had a very good idea of what was going to happen tonight, and for all that he wanted to do it, he didn’t expect it to be enjoyable.

The door swung open, and Franz Sylwester stood framed in the opening.

“Friedrich! Come in.”

Franz stepped aside and Friedrich proceeded into the home of the two great musicians. It wasn’t the first time he’d ever been there, of course. The two of them frequently hosted small gatherings of their friends and fellow artists.

“Let me take your hat,” Franz said, suiting action to words. “Go, sit down.” Friedrich handed off his hat and headed for his customary chair. By the time he was there that ball of icy granite seemed to be the size of two fists side by side. It was all he could do not to wince.

Marla handed Friedrich a glass of wine. He raised it to the two of them as Franz took his place at her side.

“Sit, sit.” Marla waved the back of her hand at him as she and Franz settled on the sofa behind them. Friedrich sat, but didn’t relax.

“So, you called this meeting,” Marla said with a grin. “What’s up?”

“First of all, I want to show you my first opera libretto.” He pulled a folder from his traveling folder and passed it across. Marla opened it, read the first page, and immediately started laughing. Franz and Friedrich both looked at her with raised eyebrows. It took a few moments for her laughter to run down, but she finally wiped her eyes and looked at them with a large grin.

“Sherlock Holmes? You want to do an opera about Sherlock Holmes? Really?”

The humor in her voice was infectious, and Friedrich found himself smiling back at her. “Really. It’s a large story, dramatic, with a major sweep to it, and an impressive hero.”

“And no one’s ever done an opera on Sherlock Holmes, up-time or down.” The smile was still on Marla’s face.

Friedrich shrugged. “It would be something very new that still blends the new and the old.”

“Oh, I see the advantages,” Marla replied, her grin slipping away. “And I think it could work.”

She turned her eyes to the manuscript, and for the next near-to-an-hour she and Franz read through the pages, commenting as they went, “Oh, that will sound good . . . that’s a good characterization . . .that’s funny, definitely keep that . . . you’ve got to figure out a way for the villain to be a little more evident a bit earlier . . .”

Friedrich tucked each comment away in his mind. He knew he would revisit the work before he took it to a composer or a patron, and Marla’s comments would be invaluable to him.

When they turned the last page and Marla closed the file, she nodded. “I think you’ve got a winner here, Friedrich. It will need some tweaking, I’m sure.”

“Who should I approach with it?” He spread his hands. “Master Carissimi, Master Schütz, your friend Thomas Schwarzberg?”

“Not Thomas . . . not yet,” Franz said. “Of the others . . .” He looked at Marla. “Master Schütz?”

She nodded with a sober expression. “Master Giacomo and Master Heinrich are both very good and have both done operas recently. But this story, the arc of it and the pace of it and the energy of it—I think Master Heinrich would be the better choice. I’ll get you a meeting with him.”

“Thank you.” Friedrich gave a seated bow and received the manuscript folder back. He set it to one side, starting to feel some uncertainty rising.

“Something else, Friedrich?” Marla asked.

“Hmm?” She had caught him a bit off guard.

“You called this ‘First’ earlier,” she said, pointing to the manuscript where it sat in its folder. “That usually implies at least a ‘Second’, maybe more.” She raised one eyebrow.

Friedrich hesitated, then took the plunge. “You remember telling me that we needed to do something together again?” His voice was solemn, and it sounded to him like it was under control, which almost made him laugh as he considered what he was really feeling like.

“Uh-huh.” A bit of a crease appeared in Marla’s forehead. “This have anything to do with why you were gone for so long?”

Friedrich shrugged. “You could say that.” He took a deep breath and set his glass on a nearby table in order to open the folder he had brought with him. From it he extracted a single piece of paper and half-raised to be able to hand it to her. “Would this serve?” His hand didn’t shake. He took some pride in that.

Closing the folder, Friedrich reached to cradle his wine, unable to drink it. He watched intently, motionless, eyes fixed on Marla as she read his work; watched as her expression moved from curious, to stricken, to broken . . . watched as her eyes filled with tears . . . watched as the tears spilled and flowed down her cheeks . . . watched as she pressed a fist against her mouth . . . watched as her white teeth fastened on a knuckle . . . watched as her shoulders began to shake in sobs . . . watched as she reached the bottom of the page, paused, and forced herself to start again at the top. With each stage the load in his gut grew, until it felt as if he was bearing up a man-sized block of stone. Traces of cold sweat beaded his forehead and ran down his spine.  He didn’t blink.

Friedrich wasn’t sure how many times Marla read the poem—at least thrice, from the movement of her eyes. Finally, the sobs quieted. She set the paper in her lap and used both hands to wipe her face and eyes. Picking the page up again, she said, “Oh, my God,” in a very husky, almost raw, tone. She raised her eyes to Friedrich, and at the sight of their inflamed almost bruised state, he flinched. “How . . . how could you know? How could you know to write that?”

“Does it matter?” Friedrich’s own voice was rough. He didn’t try to explain it. He didn’t think he could explain it.

“No, I guess it doesn’t. Just . . . oh, my God. This says it all. This,” she raised the page and rattled it between them, “says it all.” Her voice broke.

Franz captured his wife’s hand and took the page from her. He read the poem himself, slowly, thoroughly. Handing it back to her, he looked to Friedrich. “It’s very powerful. I’m sure you know that. But I don’t thank you for springing it on her without warning.” His expression was grim, and Friedrich was rather glad at the moment that Franz was known as a man of peace.

“Hush, dear,” Marla said, composure at least partially regained. She laid a hand on his arm and looked directly at Friedrich. “Yes, Friedrich, this will serve. And thank you. I am in your debt, now, big time. This is high art.”

The great weight melted. The coldness in Friedrich’s gut began to warm. He set the wine down, spread his hands, and bowed again. As Marla wiped her face again and Franz leaned into her, Friedrich finally took a sip of the wine, so light-headed he almost fell out of the chair. The feel of the wine trickling down his throat almost served as a benediction.


Marla lifted her hands from the piano keys and wiped her eyes. Then she picked up a pencil, and made a couple of marks on the pages on the music rest before her. “I think this line and this line both need to move up before they move down at the end.” She tapped her lips with the pencil. “And it’s pitched too high. Take it down a third. Pitch it in A minor.”

“Are you sure?” Franz asked.

“Oh, yes. This song needs the darker timbre of the lower key, and you know I’ve got the range to sing it. So take it down to A minor. It will work.”

“Okay. A minor it is, rework the melody line in those two places. Anything else?”

“No, love. It is perfect otherwise.” She reached up and back to caress his cheek where he hovered, watching over her shoulder. “Except . . . ”

“Yes?”

“Here. In this interlude before the final verse.” She moved to point to a line. “However you voice the instruments, I think we need an electric guitar.”

“Hmm. I assume leading melody?” Franz picked up the page in question as Marla nodded. He looked at it closely. “That would work, depending on what timbre it was voiced to.” He gathered the rest of the pages from the piano. “But who would you get to play it? Do we have anyone here in Magdeburg who has both the instrument and the skill?”

“I doubt it. Atwood Cochran is my first choice. We’ll send him a telegram.”


— A T & L TELEGRAPH —

BEGIN:  MBRG TO GVL

TO: ATWOOD COCHRAN

ADDRESS: LOOK IT UP

FROM: MARLA LINDER

DATE: 8 MAY 1636

MESSAGE:

NEED UPTIME BLUES OR BALLAD STYLE ELECTRIC GUITAR

FOR ONE NIGHT GIG IN MBURG STOP

NEW SONG BUT NOT HARD STOP

YOU AVAILABLE STOP

WILL PAY EXPENSES PLUS, BUT NOT SURE YET HOW MUCH STOP

END


— A T & L TELEGRAPH —

BEGIN:  GVL TO MBRG

TO: FRAU MARLA LINDER

ADDRESS: SYLWESTERHAUS MAGDEBURG

FROM: ATWOOD COCHRAN

DATE: 9 MAY 1636

MESSAGE:

DEAL ME IN STOP

DO I NEED BIG MESA BOOGIE AMP OR SMALLER PEAVEY RIG STOP

YOU COVER EXPENSES WE CAN DISCUSS OTHER PAYMENTS LATER STOP

DO YOU WANT RECORDING STOP

END


— A T & L TELEGRAPH —

BEGIN:  MBRG TO GVL

TO: ATWOOD COCHRAN

ADDRESS: LOOK IT UP

FROM: MARLA LINDER

DATE: 9 MAY 1636

MESSAGE:

PEAVEY RIG WILL BE FINE STOP

NOT SURE ABOUT RECORDING STOP

HAVEN’T TALKED TO TROMMLER RECORDS STOP

HEATHER MAY NOT WANT IT STOP

DIFFERENT STOP

PERFORMANCE DATE PROBABLY 25 MAY STOP

END


— A T & L TELEGRAPH —

BEGIN:  GVL TO MBRG

TO: FRAU MARLA LINDER

ADDRESS: SYLWESTERHAUS MAGDEBURG

FROM: ATWOOD COCHRAN

DATE: 10 MAY 1636

MESSAGE:

RING OF FIRE DAY HUH STOP

CALLED HEATHER STOP

HELL YES SHE WANTS IT STOP

DOESN’T MATTER HOW DIFFERENT STOP

WILL COME IN ON 23 MAY STOP

PUT CLEAN SHEETS ON SOFA STOP

REHEARSE 24 MAY SET UP PERFORM RECORD 25 MAY STOP

CANT WAIT STOP

ND


Logau sat on a stool in the corner of the practice room in the Royal Academy of Music, the same room where he had first heard Marla do the translated version he had prepared of Do You Hear the People Sing. Barely four months in the past, that event seemed to have happened ages ago. So much had happened since then.

He was resigned to whatever was going to happen. It had passed out of his hands. All he could do was witness it. But nonetheless, there was some bit of excitement inside, waiting to see what Marla would produce from his work.

Marla finished passing out the parts to the other musicians as they completed tuning. In addition to the regular crew of performers who usually backed up her common performances, she had apparently drafted some others to enhance the music. The three Amsel brothers were in the room: Matthäus and Marcus on violin and Johann on viola. Paul Georg Seiler was standing with his viola da gamba to round out the group, which made the room start to feel more than a bit full.

“Right, guys,” Marla said after she stepped up to the front of the room. “This is new music that Franz just wrote. I will be singing the melody through most of it, but there are some interludes that will happen without voice. It’s not especially difficult, but I want a crisp precise performance, with none of the slack and slide of some of the folk music. I’m not going to sing the words while we rehearse . . . ”

That got some widened eyes and sidelong glances, Logau saw.

” . . . partly because I want the message of the song kept confidential until the first performance, and partly because I need the first time impact to hit me the first time I sing it in public, not here in the practice room. So I’ll be singing it as a vocalise when we rehearse. Franz and I know the words, and so does Herr Logau over there in the corner.”

Everyone looked at Friedrich. He tilted his head and smiled a bit.

Marla looked at Franz. “Let’s go.”

Magdeburg

24 May 1636

Friedrich watched Atwood Cochran look around the practice room. “More guys than last time,” he remarked. “Good thing I brought all my microphones and the small mixer.” He plugged the extension cord into the electrical outlet that had been added to the room recently, and started flipping switches and turning knobs on the front of the amplifier. Then he turned to the table and opened the flat case he had laid atop it, from which he pulled a gleaming black electric guitar.

“Atwood, don’t tell me you brought the Les Paul!” Marla exclaimed.

“Okay, I won’t,” he said with a grin as he slung the guitar strap over his shoulder and fastened it to the base of the guitar.

“How could you do that? How could you run the risk of something happening to it?” she demanded. “That is an irreplaceable instrument, and I know how much it means to you.”

“Guitars are meant to be played, and to match you, I’ve got to play my best.” Atwood shrugged and dug a guitar pick out of his jeans pocket.

“But . . . ”

Atwood turned his head and looked directly at her. “My call, Marla. My call. How many more times will I get to do something like this, huh? How many more times will I be able to play a gig like this?” He caressed the top of the guitar with a gentle stroke, and Friedrich was struck with a sudden insight that Marla wasn’t the only person in the room who had lost much when the Ring fell.

Marla grimaced, but didn’t say anything more.

Atwood strummed a chord, which sounded loud in the room. He turned a knob on the amplifier, then reached up and barely turned a tuning key at the head of the guitar. He strummed the chord again. Friedrich could hear no appreciable difference in the sound, but both Marla and the guitarist nodded.

“So,” Atwood looked up, “what kind of sound do you want?”

“I’m thinking kind of Hotel California solo licks.”

Atwood adjusted controls on the amplifier and on the guitar, then applied his pick to the strings, playing two or three measures before damping the strings with a hand. He looked to Marla and raised his eyebrows.

Marla quirked her mouth, then nodded. “That’s close. Can you give me something a little colder, harder-edged, with a little less fuzz?”

Atwood made some very small adjustments, and repeated the measures he had played. Friedrich could tell they were different, but he couldn’t have said why. Marla, on the other hand, smiled and said, “That will work, I think.” She looked to Franz. “Ready.”

Magdeburg
25 May 1636

Several of the up-timers in Magdeburg had gone together and pooled their resources to produce what they were calling a “barbeque and picnic” for this Ring of Fire Day. It wasn’t an official holiday, but with each passing year, more and more of the up-timers were starting to make the Ring of Fire anniversary a day of remembrance. In the few short years since it had happened, the practice looked to overtake and perhaps overwhelm the up-time holiday of Memorial Day.

They had found a piece of ground in western Magdeburg that wasn’t saturated with ground water but also hadn’t been built on yet, and managed to wangle a very limited-term lease of the ground for the few days it would take. Friedrich could smell the roasting pig from where he stood, and from the size of both the roasting pit and the carcass roasting over it, that had probably been started the day before.

There were a couple of barrels of beer, and everyone in the crowd had brought some kind of “fixings,” as Marla put it. Everywhere Friedrich looked, he could see people with plates and platters and wooden shingles covered with food, smiling and eating and talking at the top of their voices. He was a little surprised at how many people were there, but after considering the government and the industries and the local naval facility, maybe there were that many up-timers in Magdeburg.

Friedrich wasn’t the only down-timer there, of course. There were down-timer spouses who had married up-timers, and dates for single men and women, and more than a few children. And there were some invited guests, of course. Mayor Gericke was to be seen, and Friedrich had observed Lieutenant Chieske of the Magdeburg Polizei walking around with his wife Jonni on one side and his partner Inspector Hoch on the other. But Friedrich definitely felt in the minority, even standing with the musicians. They, of course, were participating in the food and drink with gusto. Most of them, anyway. Marla was simply nibbling on a piece of bread and drinking a cup of coffee. He looked at her and raised his eyebrows as he walked toward her.

“Not a good idea to try and sing on a full stomach,” she quipped with a smile. “This is just to soak up the coffee. I’ll get something more substantial to eat later.” Friedrich hoped that was true, but he had to wonder, having some idea what was coming.

The afternoon trended toward evening, and as the sun neared the western horizon, Franz gathered the musicians and headed for a canopy that had been erected at the far end of the tract away from the smoke of the barbeque pit. Atwood checked microphone placement, turned on equipment, and joined them. They tuned up, and started playing a couple of instrumental songs. They sounded vaguely Gaelic or Scottish to Friedrich, but regardless of where they came from, the crowd seemed to like them, and they started drifting toward the canopy.

Marla stepped to the front of the group and took her place behind a microphone. “We’re going to sing some of our music tonight. Sing along if you know them.”

They sang several songs as the sun continued to lower in the sky. Some of them Friedrich recognized as things he had heard on performance nights at the Green Horse tavern. Some of them sounded almost like music he would expect to hear at church. All of it seemed to be reaching the up-timers, touching them. He saw smiles, some sad, some not. He saw a few people wiping at suspiciously bright eyes, although he saw no open tears.

Through it all, Marla smiled, Marla sang, Marla’s golden voice soared above everything.


The sun was almost totally down when Marla brought Amazing Grace to its close. Just a bare rim of red showed above the horizon.

“We’re going to do a new song for you now,” she said, “written just for tonight. It speaks to me—I hope it will speak to you.”

Marla reached over and took a candle from Franz, then pulled her grandfather’s old lighter out of her pocket and lit the candle. She took a deep breath as the flame steadied and brightened in the still air, then she saw Atwood start his recorder and nod at Franz. A moment later, the music started.

The introduction was a bare four measures of low strings playing over simple chords on the piano, culminating in a slightly held chord which was closed with the next downbeat. Marla took a deep breath, steeled herself, and began to sing.

Softly, so softly she sang over the simple piano chords. No other sound, no other notes, not even a flap of the canvas of the canopy.

A flash of light . . .

The earth moved.

A sound of thunder

That was not thunder.

The song began to build within her. Marla let her voice swell, cresting on the last line.

Everything changed . . .

Ripped from our world,

Ripped from our time,

Stolen from our home . . .

Her voice dropped in tone, softer, darker, plaintive.

Alone.

Where are we?

When are we?

Why?

The words tore at her. She steeled herself during the interlude between the verses, hardened her soul, refused to let them penetrate . . . yet. Her voice firmed again, retaining the darkness but swelling again and gaining a hard edge to it. The strings rejoined her as she began the second verse.

Oh, God, who could believe this?

Marooned in time,

Losing everything.

Losing everyone . . .

Now she let loose a full tone, not yet a forte but very strong nonetheless, all the while resisting the words, refusing to give them a purchase. Not yet. Not yet.

Father, mother,

Sister, brother . . .

All lost. All gone.

In the gloom, she saw hands wiping faces, heard sobs, and she could not let herself recognize them. She couldn’t. Not yet.

She let her tone soften, let the sound drop a little, but still left a bit of urgency in her voice, allowing a crescendo in the last lines of the verse.

Are they still alive,

Walking around?

Are they still there?

Are they still there,

Looking for us?

All lost. All gone.

After the interlude, Marla released her voice. Now she released her power. Now she released the fire that she had dammed up inside her since she first read these words. Now her voice rang out like a tocsin. Now, for the first time, she let the words touch her. The remaining instruments joined, bringing the fullest sound with them. She closed her eyes and stretched out her right hand.

Who could believe this?

Where we are . . .

When we are . . .

Atwood joined her, playing an obbligato line that ran a third above what she was singing. The resonance of the two interacting fed her energy, fed her intensity, and she continued, building building building until the final crest.

Never going back.

Never seeing them again,

Never seeing home,

Again.

All we know, gone . . .

Lost.

Atwood’s guitar took the lead in the brief interlude, climbing above the strings and winds and almost screaming. In turn, fully open to the words, Marla entered the final verse in an almost scream of her own, pushing her voice in its low range to pour out and inundate those who heard it.

Here we are,

Here we stand.

Home . . . not home.

We will thrive . . .

Marla hammered the last line, emphasizing that despite it all, they would survive.


God, how could Marla do that? Friedrich was exhausted just from listening to her sing. How could she pour out such pain, such pathos, such grief, and still sing? If anything, tonight had been even more impactful than that first time when she sang Do You Hear the People Sing. But he doubted he would write a review of this one.

Friedrich shook his head, and looked around, noticing for the first time that there were little flickers of light all around him. He looked closer. Hand after hand was holding a lighter, showing a spark of flame in the night. Some of the flames wavered, as people sobbed; some of them held firm; but they were there. And as he watched, more joined them, as others picked up twigs or sticks and lit them from their neighbors’ flames.


Tears were running down her own cheeks as Marla drew to the close, drew to the finality of it, almost whispering the last words.

Not home.

Father, mother,

Sister, brother . . .

Goodbye . . .

Farewell.

Goodbye . . .

Farewell.

The instruments faded away under her sustained last syllable, until only her voice was heard holding that final sound, that bell-like pure tone. Finally even that faded away, gently, softly, until only a wisp of sound was heard, and then it was gone.

There was a moment of breathless silence, extended, time enough to take a deep breath and release it slowly, then a slow clapping began from the back of the crowd, measured, almost precise. In moments, everyone in the crowd was clapping or stamping their feet to that rhythm. The sound was pervasive without being oppressive.

Marla stepped forward from the canopy, moving out. The people moved aside to allow her to pass. Many reached out to touch her, then closed in behind her. When she stopped, she was surrounded by her friends and fellow up-timers, most holding some form of flame or light.

Taking her time, Marla looked around, trying to make as much eye contact as she could. Then she opened her mouth and sang again.

My country, ’tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From every mountainside let freedom ring!

By the end of the first line, she had them—all of them. Every up-timer voice was joined with hers in singing the stately old song. Every voice was raised, and the power of the song was heard and felt by all there, up-timers and down-timers alike..

The last line was sung slowly, and the last three words had the force of a landslide.

When the voices stopped, there was a moment of echo. When it stopped, Marla raised her candle.

“Never forget,” she called out. “Never surrender.”

The roar that responded was deafening.


Coda

From The Fall of Fire: The Coming of Grantville and the Music of Europe by Charles William Battenberg, B.A., M.A., Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, Schwarzberg Chair of Musicology, Oxford University
1979, Oxford University Press

Chapter Twenty-One – Requiem and In Memoriam

And so we come to the end of our study, hopefully confirming in the mind of you, the reader, the premise that we set out in the beginning—that not only was the advent of Grantville transformational in the areas of politics and statesmanship, religion and philosophy, mathematics, science, and technology, but also in the arts. One cannot consider the music of today, the orchestral tone poems of Charteris, of Tsiang, of Weber Steen; the polymorphous harmonies of Bechtel, of The Stahlgeister, of Savuko; of the dance of the Georgian Company in London and the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg; the rhythms of every modern music of today and the last three hundred years; and not realize the immense debt that is owed to the up-timers who passed through the Ring of Fire. The up-timers, and the price they paid.

That is perhaps the part that is hardest to recognize for us, and yet is most deserving of recognition. Grantville was ripped from its time, and sent to 369 years in its past. The up-timers lost all touch with friends, family, resources, and contacts. We literally cannot comprehend the magnitude of disaster this poured out on them. While we might sympathize, we cannot empathize. There is no way to know what they felt; they spoke of it seldom. There was the occasional letter or public record that notated a hint or two, but little to give real voice to what they felt that first day, that first year, the rest of their lives.

Oddly enough, it was a down-timer that best gave it voice. Friedrich von Logau, the well-known man of letters of the time, produced a poem for Marla Linder, which her husband, Franz Sylwester, another down-timer, set to music. And that poem—that song—is the well-known Requiem for the Future. Even today, three centuries plus after the Ring of Fire, there is a time every year when everyone who claims to be descended from up-timers, when everyone who believes the Ring of Fire represented a miracle rather than a random event, will hear this song. On May 25th, every year, there are gatherings and programs and broadcasts of memorials for the Ring of Fire, and in almost every case, Requiem for the Future is performed, by anywhere from a single a capella voice to a massive choral rendition. And always, always it affects those who listen to it. No one can ignore the effect.

And that is fitting. We are, today, what we are, in large part because of those three thousand or so involuntary ambassadors from a future that will never happen. We are who we are because of their pain and their horrific sacrifices. And we should never, ever, forget that.

So on that day, let us lift our candles at those ceremonies, and afterward lift our glasses and say our Aves and Hails and other toasts and salute them. For our world is a far better place than it would have been without them.

Charles William Battenberg

April 27, 1979


Requiem for the Future

(The Poem)

By David Carrico

A flash of light . . .
The earth moved.
A sound of thunder
That was not thunder.
Everything changed . . .
Ripped from our world,
Ripped from our time,
Stolen from our home . . .
Alone.
Where are we?
When are we?
Why?
Oh, God, who could believe this?
Marooned in time,
Losing everything.
Losing everyone . . .
Father, mother,
Sister, brother . . .
All lost. All gone.
Are they still alive?
Are they still alive,
Walking around?
Are they still there,
Looking for us?
All lost. All gone.
Who could believe this?
Where we are . . .
When we are . . .
Never going back.
Never seeing them again,
Never seeing home,
Again.
All we know, gone . . .
Lost.
Here we are,
Here we stand.
Home . . . not home.
We will thrive . . .
Not home.
Father, mother,
Sister, brother . . .
Goodbye . . .
Farewell.
Goodbye . . .
Farewell.