Chapter 2: DecisionsJagdschloss of the Duke of Sachsen-Eisenach, Marksuhl, ThuringiaMarch 1634

Maximiliane von Pasqualini lay in her king-size bed staring at the dark ceiling.

The duchess was right. Max had left home with what at that time seemed like a life's plan. But it had not been able to stand the test of time.

Staying a man in Grantville had been a serious error. In hindsight it was outright foolish. Each and every day somebody could have emerged in Grantville who knew her family. And if this hypothetical person had accused her of conspiring against the United States, based on the fact that she pretended to be someone else? Max had no idea what would have happened.

No. "The times are changing and we have to change with them or we are left behind." She could not remember where she had heard that, but it seemed never more relevant than in this moment.

She decided to try a little big change in the morning . . . and to defer the big big decisions a little longer.

****

When somebody knocked in the morning, the sun was just rising in the east. Max still lay in bed, so she could easily say, "Come in".

Hans entered the room. "Good morning, Herr von Pasqualini. The duchess asks you to attend breakfast at seven o'clock."

"Good morning, Hans. I've got news for you. It's Frau, not Herr. But please call me Max. I never was fond of that petty title."

After a second of hesitation, Hans answered: "So be it. Max, the duchess told me that you can find some gifts in the rightmost wardrobe."

After he had left the room, Max got up and hurried to the indicated wardrobe. When she opened it, she was stunned. Dresses! White, red, green, blue, a rainbow dream. And underwear. Pink, white, and—oh! And—ah! And these thingies the up-timer girls wore to increase their measurement.

She was still musing what to wear, when it knocked again. She heard "Max, it's me, Christine," before she could panic.

"Come in, please."

When a smiling Christine entered the room, Max tried a "Good morning, Hoheit," but got a "Shhh. You are among friends," in return.

Christine spread her arms. "First of all: Let me hug you."

Max nearly jumped into the duchess' arms, half-laughing half-weeping. "Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. For your words yesterday and for these dresses and . . . "

Christine's smile widened. "That's what friends are for. And since we both have decided to be friends, calling me Hoheit is very inappropriate." She stroked the younger woman's hair and continued. "I'm Christine and you are Max. Basta!"

Sometime later they separated.

"Max, I assume that you are not very familiar with the current fashion. Before you spend too much time trying out all these clothes, be informed that the duke decided to do an on-site inspection at the Wartburg with you today.

"Since you are to leave directly after breakfast, I suggest donning something convenient for riding. You are familiar with riding astride, so you should try one of these skorts. Don't waste that fine silk underwear today; better wear your male shorts. I'll see you downstairs at seven."

With a kiss on Max's forehead she left.

Max started into the toilet room, but a motion outside the window caught her attention. She could look down to the large garden below where a man was moving. He wore thick clothing, a scarf around his neck, and a woolen cap. He used that peculiar running style she had seen in Grantville before. The Americans called it "jogging."

The man seemed to have noticed her. He looked up, smiled and waved his hand without changing his pace. Now Max could see that it was the duke himself. Hastily she waved back and then hurried to complete her morning toilet. Yes, the duke in fact had developed more manners of a "health nut" than only his diet.

****

She took breakfast with Christine. They were served by a middle-aged woman, who was called Cornelia. Christine told her that she was Hans' wife.

"So how many servants do you have here?" asked Max.

"Our people here like to be called domestic staff member," Christine answered smiling. "Hans and Cornelia are the owners of a company called Eisenacher Hausmeisterdienst, and this facility management company has a legal contract with the duke. They guarantee to provide enough competent staff for the daily services and occasional events, so we don't have to have a large entourage any longer.

"Hans and Cornelia prefer to work wherever the duke and I are, so they are living here in the Jagdschloss at the moment. Some of their employees do the other services. They are mostly from Marksuhl. They have contracts with gardeners and several craftsmen to come and do the necessary work from time to time.

"So every member of the staff can have his time off. They are, of course, all committed to confidentiality about everything they learn in the house. In the beginning, Hans had to weed out some black sheep, but for the moment this works perfectly.

"So, Cornelia, how many of your employees will be here today?"

The woman did some mental computations and then answered. "There is a maid, Hoheit, only one kitchen helper today, and two stable boys. And Hans has called for an escort of ten Jäger for the duke's trip to the Wartburg. Oh yes, and the carpenter will show up at ten to check the sauna."

This was a word Max had not heard before, but before she could ask, the duchess spoke.

"Thank you for the information, Cornelia." Then she frowned. "And thank you for spoiling my surprise for the evening."

Cornelia put a hand on her mouth. "Oh sorry, Hoheit."

So Max had the opportunity to ask. "What is this 'sauna'?"

Christine and Cornelia heaved a sigh in unison. "Gottseidank," the duchess said, now smiling again. "You will learn soon enough."

****

When Max left the building, the troop had already gathered.

She bowed before the duke. "Good morning, Hoheit."

He smiled a little sourly. "Good morning, Max. It's a wonderful day, isn't it?"

"Oh yes," she answered, looking to the sky where the sun had pushed away the morning mist.

"Max, come over to your horse." A large person stood there, holding the reins of Max's horse. "Max, this is Ingrid Wasasdottir. She is responsible for your security as from today."

Now Max could see that the person was in fact a woman. Large, broad, a blond woven pigtail wound around her head, a sword and a round shield on her back. She wore a real chain mail and looked as if she had just jumped off a Viking dragon boat.

"Good morning, Frau von Pasqualini," she greeted Max in perfect German.

"Good morning, Frau Wasasdottir." Max turned to the duke. "But, Hoheit—"

"No," the duke interrupted her firmly. "Max, as long as you work for me, you are in the same danger of being attacked from any thug as I am. So you will accept this bodyguard. She'll be with you and protect you wherever you go, until you leave my service.

"I'd like to add that she is one of the best—"

The big woman stiffened and frowned.

"Ah . . . she is the best female bodyguard I know. She speaks German, English, Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic. So she can even negotiate you out of the hands of Vikings."

Frown.

"Ah, not that this would be necessary, because in her protection, you will never fall into the hands of Vikings."

Now Ingrid smiled like a sunrise.

Max shrugged and mounted her steed. She could see that the papers she had left on the duke's desk the day before had been gathered into her bag and fixed to her saddle.

They started in two columns. Four Jäger ahead, then the duke and Max, then Hans and Ingrid, two Jäger with a packhorse each, then the rest. Max was a little astonished to see Hans dressed like a mercenary with a carbine in his saddle holster and a large revolver and a sabre at his hip. So he was not just the simple "facility manager." He was obviously the duke's bodyguard, as well.

After leaving the courtyard they turned east on a dirt road. The black ruin of the Wartburg could be seen in the distance. It looked like a very bad tooth.

"Max," the duke said. "I will show you the works that already have begun in the surroundings. So you can decide later if this will be enough to start the construction work."

The duke's voice was warm, and Max had the feeling there was some uncertainty in it. Christine had told her during breakfast that she had "commanded" the duke not to mention the offspring issue.

Elte Valley, near Wilhelmsthal, Thuringia

After half an hour, partly on narrow paths through the forest, they reached a construction area. Some men were erecting a scaffold in a narrow creek valley. They interrupted their work and bowed when they identified the duke. The duke nodded back and smiled.

He ordered a stop and pointed to the south. "This creek is the Elte. We will build a dam here to create an artificial lake. Three miles south is Kupfersuhl with its copper mines and smelting works. At the moment they suffer from shortage of wood for their ovens, but I intend to install some hydroelectric generators there, and change them to electric refinement. So we will soon have more copper to draw the wire for more generators and motors and the connection between the power plants and the Wartburg. Perhaps we can also have a telegraph line between Marksuhl, the Wartburg and Eisenach.

"We will also build a water pipe from here to the castle." He pointed to the north. "So we don't need to transport the water to the Wartburg on mules any longer. The castle is about two hundred feet higher than this point, so we will build a pump station at the lowest point.

"This road comes from Suhl and goes to Eisenach. The Americans improved it in early 1632, and we have maintained its quality until now, but I plan to have its width doubled in the near future. The stone quarry in Förtha gives us enough gravel for this."

Max had no problem noticing the elation in the duke's voice.

The duke signaled the leading soldiers to turn north. They now headed directly to the Wartburg.

Mariental, near Eisenach, Thuringia

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