White vapor was blowing out of Hudson's nostrils that frosty mid-morning in late December. Chip Jenkins rode his horse around the small snow-covered copse of trees and saw the von Ruppersdorf manor that Katerina had finally finished building this year. He'd been looking forward to this day for almost two months, ever since he'd last seen her following a visit to Leipzig. He'd been there on Committees of Correspondence business as usual and had only been able to spend one night in Ruppersdorf before returning to Jena and his classes.

The University of Jena was on school break and Chip was looking forward to spending extended quality time with Katerina over the Christmas holidays. He'd traveled far more this year than he wanted on CoC business now that Gretchen was bottled up in Amsterdam. His studies had suffered, not to mention time spent with Katerina. The CoC work was rewarding but he always looked forward to returning to Magdeburg and bringing Joachim von Thierbach and Mathilde Wiegert, old friends from the Jena CoC, up to date.

Chip spent the previous night with Joachim's parents in Thierbach. Dieter von Thierbach still hadn't officially reconciled himself to Joachim's decision to marry Mathilde but both parents welcomed Chip into their home. Dieter was also one of Dad's fellow investors in a few ventures which were headquartered in Grantville. The older man complained mildly that those businesses were only marginally profitable. Chip also knew it was because he wouldn't declare profitability until he recovered his original investment, no matter what Dad's accountant told him. One of their investments made a product that Chip had ordered. It should have arrived in Ruppersdorf by now. He had another, much smaller gift for Katerina in his saddlebags, one rarer than diamonds these days, but he wanted the ordered one ready on Christmas morning. If nothing else, it would make her the envy of every noblewoman who came to visit this winter.

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff