Article Category Archives: 1632 Content

Material from Eric Flint’s 1632 Universe

Barbie and the Musicians of Bremen


April 1635


“Marieke! Come here now, girl!”

Marieke cringed in her bedroom, looking out the blue curtain-framed window at what had begun as a sunny spring day. Her father’s bellow told her the day was probably getting worse rather than better.

Marieke’s stepmother quickly confirmed Marieke’s suspicions when she peered around the bedroom door with a worried look on her slender face. “Marieke, dear, your father would like a word with you in the library. Please come with me.”

At that moment, her father released another elephantine bellow from the floor below. Marieke thought she saw the painting of the flowers on the wall over her lace-covered bed quiver but surely, she told herself, she imagined it. Didn’t she?

The picture could stay calmly perched on her wall but she must follow her stepmother to confront the man calling for her. At eighteen, Marieke was very much an adult but her father still ruled the house and held sway over his unmarried daughter.

Marieke loved her sometimes bombastic father but ever since he had retired from Prince Frederick’s service a few months back, her father had been a man with no purpose. Instead of spending hours every day managing affairs for the prince, her father wandered around the house, and sometimes all of Bremen, like a rooster with no hens. That meant that he was all too free to attend to the affairs of his small family, most especially including Marieke.

Stepmother and daughter went down the wooden staircase to the richly appointed library where the red-faced bürger paced in front of a huge stone fireplace. His green silk doublet had wrinkled where his ample belly had stretched the material as he sat at his leather-topped desk. But now he was apparently too agitated for any sitting.

“Marieke, my dear, I have something I must ask you.” His whole demeanor told both daughter and wife that the man was having to make a major effort to contain himself and control his temper. He spat out his question like it tasted bad on his tongue. “I have been told that there are rumors of you still being involved with the ludicrous, demon-spawned Committee of Correspondence in town. Is this true?” Herr Knaub’s grey eyes bored into her, his ferocious beetling eyebrows framing their anger.

Herr Knaub stood in front of the unused fireplace as if he could not move until his daughter answered. Frau Knaub gasped and held her breath, waiting for Marieke’s reply. The color drained from her face and neck as Marieke pushed back her white blonde bangs, dropped her cornflower blue eyes to the wool rug under her feet and gripped the light blue skirt under her brown bodice. She had known she would have to tell her parents some time but had hoped it would be later. After all, the confrontation about the now-traveling Hans had been but four weeks back. Hardly enough time for the hurt feelings to heal. Even though she knew Hans had planned to leave and go study engineering, Marieke still blamed her father for running the young man off sooner than she wished.

All this flashed through her mind as she stood in front of her father and her stepmother wrung her own hands.

“Well? Answer me, child? Is my daughter still consorting with revolutionaries and atheists? Is this a lie by those who wish us ill?”

There was no help for it. She could not outright lie to Papa. He would find out and then, then he would not trust her. No, she must, as the up-timers said, make a clean breast of it.

“Yes, Papa, I have been spending time at the Freedom Arches in town. They are good people and have been helping the flood victims. You have always told me it is our Christian duty to help others.” Marieke could see the storm clouds suffusing her father’s face as the rest of her pitch poured from her lips. “They do so much good and they help so many people. Besides, Aunt Betlinda volunteers there, too.”

At the mention of his sister’s name, Herr Knaub became, if possible, even more enraged. His chest puffed out even further, endangering the silver buttons. “Do not use your aunt as an excuse or example of anything. That apostate holds queer ideas about life and has always been an embarrassment to this family!”

He paused to calm himself, running a pudgy paw through his thinning grey hair, pushing the once-neat shoulder-length hair back from his sweating face.

“What am I to do with you? First, you take up with a young man from a family of night soil workers. Now I find you are spending time with up-time revolutionaries. Do you not see how your actions besmirch us all? I am a man of some importance in our town! Your mother is known as a beacon of righteousness! Your brother is . . .”

Marieke could stand her father’s self-righteous tirade no longer. “My brother is a pompous, primping, two-faced lout who only cares for himself! The stories I could tell . . .”

She was ready to declare a litany of her brother’s sins and missteps when her father stopped her with a raised hand as he turned his back. “Stop now, girl, before you overstep yourself. This discussion is about you, not Ebbe! He has not been called in fault!”

Now Marieke’s face was as flushed as her father’s. “It is time to discuss him. He had no right to attack Hans and no right to say anything about how I live my life!”

“Yes, he does on both accounts. You are unmarried and still the responsibility of this household. It falls to us, your mother, brother, and I, to ensure you are able to make a good marriage when the time comes. Running with the reprobates of the CoC could dirty your reputation, making it impossible for you to find a good match short of frozen Russia or God-forsaken Ireland! No! There will be no more discussion! You will not go back to the CoC, and you will stay away from Betlinda.”

Marieke heard her stepmother sob behind her, knowing she could not reason with her enraged father. Afraid of losing her own temper beyond reason, Marieke turned and fled the room, running up the stairs to her bedroom. She slammed the door behind her and threw herself on the bed.

Whether from anger or frustration, tears filled Marieke’s eyes, dampening the down pillow she cried into. She did not want to give her father the satisfaction of hearing her cry so she pushed her face into the pillow.

What was she to do? Marieke had always wanted a true job, a true purpose. Working with the CoC gave her that purpose. She could well and truly help people who needed aid. She had been raised to be a pretty, yet vacuous housewife, a trophy for some well-heeled businessman or noble. She was trained to serve tea and social niceties. But always, even before the up-timers arrived and showed her world that women could do more, be more, she had wanted better. No, she couldn’t captain a ship to explore the world but through the CoC she could change things for the better! Couldn’t her father see this?

Maybe she could convince her stepmother . . . She and her stepmother were not close, but they also were not open enemies. Their relationship was more like two boats docked at the same port.

Aunt Betlinda would help her if she could. She understood. She herself worked with the Committees of Correspondence and had avoided the chains of marriage so she could stay free. Maybe if Marieke declared her intention of doing the same her parents would leave her alone and give up on making a marriage match for her. It was worth a try . . .

Marieke lay on her bed as the sun rays shifted and the day passed. Intent on planning her escape from matrimony, she did not hear the first few rappings on her door.

“Marieke! Marieke!” A quiet female voice called from the other side of the wooden barrier.

Her sister, Katrin, slowly opened the door and stepped halfway into the room. “Are you going to throw something at me?” Katrin’s lips curled into an impish grin. “Your row with Papa was quite impressive. I don’t want to come in if you are going to use me for pitching practice like the up-timer baseball players. Are you, or is it safe?”

“You are quite safe, Dumpling. Come in and sit with me.” Marieke was the only family member that Katrin let call her by her baby name, Dumpling. When she was young, Katrin with her round face and body did bear a passing resemblance to a potato dumpling. As she grew older, Katrin had lost most of her baby fat and with it, the baby name.

“I only caught part of what was said but it seems Papa does not agree with the way you spend your time?” Katrin had seated herself on the bed, pushing off her silk indoor shoes and putting her bare feet on the bed. Her hair was a darker blonde than Marieke’s but she had the same clear blue eyes. It being a housework day, Katrin had on some of Marieke’s hand-me-downs. At fourteen, Katrin was almost as tall as her older sister.

Marieke reached out to affectionately tug on one of Katrin’s fuzzy braids. “I think you heard enough. Papa is concerned for the household reputation and demands that I avoid the CoC.”

A sly smile spread across Katrin’s sweet face. “Yessss, I am sure he said that. I am also sure you will not do that. Am I wrong?” The smile grew to a toothy grin.

Marieke met her sister with a smile of her own as she reached for a small, clean cloth on the night stand next to the bed. She blew her nose and gave a short laugh.” You know me too well, Dumpling. I have been making other plans.”

Katrin giggled and hugged her sister. “Good for you! It is a new time and a new world. It is time that women make their own destinies and not be forced into marriages as their life’s work.”

“That is what I have been learning from Aunt Betlinda.” Marieke nodded and dabbed at her still-dripping nose.

“I am so glad to hear that! There is something I have just been dying to tell you, and it seems that now is the time.” The younger girl glowed with anticipation.

“Tell me, silly goose! What could be that important?”

Katrin drew herself up on the bed, sitting as tall as she could, patted her yellow skirt and straightened it across her knees. “Two things, actually. First, I have decided what I want to do with my life. You know I love up-timer rock and roll. I have always been able to sing.”

“Yes, and?”

“I have joined a rock and roll band as a singer.”

Marieke clapped her hands and hugged her sister. “How lovely! Have you told Mama or Papa?”

“Not yet. The band has only started rehearsing together. We have a drummer. It’s not really an up-time drum set. It is an empty ale barrel. Then we have a lutist. We hope to add a few more players in time.”

“Does your band have a name?”

“Not yet, but we are trying out several that sound like up-time bands. I can’t tell you now because it might jinx it. But I can tell you something else.”

“And what would that be? I can’t wait!”

“Well, I cannot tell you one name but I can tell you another.”

“Stop being so mysterious and tell me!” Marieke gave her sister’s arm a small shake.

“I have given myself a new name. Katrin is sooo down-timer. My name is now Barbie, like the dolls. I can’t think of another name that sounds more up-time.”

“Well, Barbie, this will definitely help my cause.” Marieke giggled and shook her head.


“After you tell Papa your new name he’ll be so apoplectic with anger he will forget all about me. Either that or he will feel relieved that all I want to do is talk with up-timers, not become one. So, thank you, Barbie.”

The two girls looked at each other and broke into gales of laughter.



In a barn outside Bremen

A few days later


The newly-renamed Barbie stood amongst a group of young male and female musicians in a large wooden barn. The only animals in attendance were a few chickens pecking the ground in search of a late lunch and four grey goats wandering among the humans cadging for treats from bags and pockets. Midafternoon sunlight slipped through the open slats here and there.

The young music makers spread themselves on the bound hay bales stacked in the center of the barn.

“Let’s get this going, shall we?” Barbie stood in the center with a tall, gangly young man a few years older than the young Knaub. His large hands emerged several inches beyond his slightly dirty cotton sleeves. His dark brown hair brushed the top of the expensive, lace-touched white collar. His up-timer jeans tucked into well-worn leather boots, and a blue patterned doublet completed his attire.

The young people scattered around him and Barbie ranged in age from thirteen to nineteen and carried a wide selection of instruments, even one or two that their instructors might not recognize as musical instruments like an ale barrel or two.

All the young eyes were fixed firmly on Barbie.

“So you want to be in an up-timer rock and roll band?” The young man scanned the musicians arrayed around him.

All the heads nodded in unison. A few shuffled their feet.

“How many of you are already in an orchestra or another group?”

Several of the young men raised their hands. The young women sat with widened eyes. One spoke up, a girl with auburn plaits wrapped around her head like a crown. “If we have not been playing with another group does that disqualify us?”

Barbie and the young man next to her, Carl, conferred quietly then turned back to the teenager. He spoke in a surprisingly deep voice. “Of course not, Brigitte. Rock and roll is about new things, breaking new ground, celebrating the music in all of us. We do ask everybody to try out so we can see how you fit n with the band. What do you play?”

She scrunched up her courage. “Recorder.”

Carl turned to the girl next to her. “And you, Gisela, was it?”

The young woman with short light brown hair smiled shyly and mumbled. “Sackbut.”

Carl continued around the loose circle, receiving a variety of answers. “Trumpet.” “Flute.” “Guitar.” “Lute.” And others.

“It sounds like we have the making of a kickin’ band!” Barbie clapped her hands in delight.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with the group talking about what up-time music they liked and getting to know each other.



The Knaub household

A little over a month later


Marieke heard light steps coming toward her bedroom door. She thought it might be the young maid bringing in the laundry or some other morning chore. Marieke turned back to her book. She had been reading a book copied from the Grantville library. She knew her father would not approve of the title so she hid it in her skirts when she heard steps.

The steps stopped outside her door. She slid the thin book into her skirt pocket and picked up the needlework she kept nearby.

She barely recognized the apparition that slid into the room through a half-opened door. Marieke gasped, drawing her hand across her open mouth.


Was this really her sister? Was this a joke? Marieke had never seen anyone dressed like this. It could be Katrin, or maybe not. Should she laugh or not? Frankly, she had no idea how to act.

A familiar voice called her name. “Marieke, it’s me. How do you like the new look?”

“Katrin, Barbie, whoever. What have you done? What are you wearing? Where is the rest of your hair?” Mielke did not know where to look first or what to ask. All she could do was gape.

The last time she had seen her younger sister the girl looked like many girls in Bremen. Long, braided hair with a nicely embroidered brown bodice laced over several sets of cotton skirts accented with lace on her starched blouse. Light shoes on her small feet finished the picture.

But that was this morning. Obviously, something had changed. Katrin had made a full transformation into a rock and roll diva.

Every strip of clothing Marieke could see on Barbie/Katrin was black. She wore a black stretchy turtleneck under a black leather bodice over a series of black cotton skirts. At the bottom, Marieke could see black hosen and heavy black leather boots peeking out. Her sister had cut her beautiful blonde hair! Her hair, when loose, had reached past her bottom but no longer. Now, the shiny blonde hair barely covered the girl’s ears with a straight bob. Perhaps the most shocking details danced across the black bodice –white and silver skulls grinned their way across in a macabre yet delicate chain!


“No! Please, it’s Barbie now.”

“All right, Barbie . . .” Marieke held her tongue and ran through all the things she might say.

“Marieke, will you come to our first gig? That’s what up-timers call a recital, a gig. It will be so much fun! We are going to play real up-timer rock and roll songs! It is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me! Please, say you will be there! Please!”

“I don’t know, Ka . . . Barbie. No, I will be there. Girls have to stick together, right?” Marieke stood up and walked over to her dark-clad sister and hugged her.



Bremen, Rathaus

Morning, September, 1635


Betlinda Knaub paused, took a deep breath, and sailed into the office of the Bürgermeister und Präsident des Senats, as the mayor of Bremen had been known for centuries. The occupant wasn’t the man known from the histories—he’d fled with the prince-bishop. The new officeholder was a widowed functionary named by Prince Friedrich, a man named Emil Jauch who was from a famous family in Hamburg. He was stout, and in the warm weather of early September, he was florid and sweating through his expensive red silk doublet.

“And what may I do for you, Frau Knaub?” Herr Jauch unfurled one of his broader smiles to welcome Betlinda into his office.

“I have an important treat to offer the citizens of Bremen. You will recall the story of the ‘Musicians of Bremen’?”

“Yes, and I just was overseeing the placement of the statue that is based on the up-time photo of the statue they say stood in the Rathausplatz in their time. It is near the holy statue of the paladin Roland.”

Betlinda smiled back. “We have a group of young people, what the up-timers call ‘teenagers,’ who have formed a musical group, a band, and they call themselves the Musicians of Bremen. They would like to perform for the city.”

“Well, I hope their musicianship is better than the cat, the dog, the rooster, and the donkey!” Jausch thought his witticism the height of humor and let loose a friendly guffaw.

“They would like to perform in the Rathausplatz next month. May we have your permission?”

“What kind of music do they play?”

“Music to dance a brawl by.”

Jausch leered at Betlinda, who was a very good-looking older woman. “Do you dance a brawl, Frau Knaub?”

“Oh, call me Betlinda, and may I call you Emil? Yes I love a good brawl. If you approve the concert, I will surely save a dance for you!”

Jausch grinned, and stood. Beneath his doublet he was wearing up-timer blue jeans, stuffed into high brown boots. He held his hand out and she shook it. “You have your concert, Betlinda. I hope they are good.”

“I’m sure you will see . . . they play up-timer rock and roll!”



Bremen town square

An early October evening in 1635


Between the statue of Roland and the new statue of the Musicians of Bremen, the assembled townspeople shuffled their feet as they sat on every available space. Those still standing pressed forward to see the stage lit by candles and torches. Vendors wove their way through the crowd with sweets, mulled wine and pastries. Mothers tossed their little ones on their laps to keep them amused while everyone waited for the new music.

The crowd held people of all ages, from babies in arms to almost toothless grandfathers. Several shopkeepers had rolled carts outside where they peddled ale and brats, pretzels and candies. Everyone wanted to be at Bremen’s first rock and roll concert!

Several fires had been lit on either side of the low wooden stage. Some people had brought out candles in holders they held or stood upright in the dry ground. An array of instruments was arranged as if waiting for their musicians. There was a lute, a harpsichord, a clavichord, a sackbut, a dudelsack, a recorder on a stand, a guitar, and even several ale barrels of varying sizes arranged in a circle.

Then a tall, young man took the stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you . . . Barbie and the Musicians of Bremen!” The tall man in his late twenties stood in the middle of a raised platform, surrounded by an array of musical instruments. The silver buttons and chains strewn across his black leather jacket, pants, and boots reflected back the flickering candlelight.

The audience watched as a procession of young musicians filed onto the stage and took up their instruments. A burly teenage male pulled up a straw bale behind the well-used ale kegs and started a backbeat. The rest of the musicians picked up their instruments. As the rest got going, Barbie in her blackest finery danced on stage, pounding a tambourine. She got into the first song—Geboren in Bremen. The few citizens who had heard up-time music and any up-timers in the crowd would recognize the tune as “Born on the Bayou.”

Barbie belted it out at the bottom end of her sweet alto register. The male harpsichordist joined in on the chorus, adding more depth. All the musicians, male and female, got lost in the tune and missed the hoots and calls from the attending family and friends. Some of the instruments were a little too light to be easily heard but all the musicians played, letting the music flow through their instruments.

One clump of listeners stood in shock near the back of the crowd. Herr and Frau Knaub stood flanked by their son, Ebbe, and several retainers. Silence swathed the small party as Herr Knaub’s face grew redder and redder. His wife kept glancing between her husband and the stage where his youngest sang and banged her tambourine as if the world were ending.

The scrawny, ginger-haired young man, Gunter, made his dudelsack sing like a moaning cow. Gilbert, in a dapper dark blue doublet with embroidered skeleton edging, played counterpoint on the harpsichord with a strong backbeat, echoed by blonde, chunky Metta on the flute. Other teens joined in on guitar, clavichord, sackbut and underneath it all like a giant heart was Bernhardt of the massive arms, the smith’s son, pounding the driving beat while sweat poured off his dark curls.

Marieke and Aunt Betlinda sat on a bale at the front of the audience where Barbie could see them. Shortly after the music started she saw them drawn along by the musical flood with the rest of the increasingly appreciative crowd.

By the end of the first song, the happy Bremenites were clapping and stomping, their legs carrying them through polkas and simple stomps, as they made largely unsuccessful attempts at singing along with the rousing chorus.

The song stopped, and Barbie swiftly swung the Musicians of Bremen into their next one, “Stolz Maria” or “Proud Mary” to the English speakers. Nobody seemed to care too much about the words as the young band carried the song to a rousing crescendo.

The Musicians of Bremen kept up their concert, bewitching the town square. By the end of an hour of up-time-based songs their black costumes were drenched in sweat, and the townspeople were dancing on and around the bales, with ersatz polka and waltz steps and some that resembled nothing more than an outright brawl.

Halfway through the gig, the Musicians of Bremen took a few minutes to grab some water and air. A few audience members had left, mumbling, “Devil’s music” and “Never want to hear that again!” But most of the townsfolk, of all ages, were just catching their breath and waiting for another round. They were saying things like, “Best polka I ever heard!” or “I haven’t danced a brawl that good in a long time!” The children universally took advantage of the chance to dance unabashedly across the square with their parents using more traditional steps. The older people seemed split, with a few leaving, complaining this must be devil-inspired, but most staying to clap hands and tap toes.

As soon as Barbie felt the band members could hit a beat again, she started into the second half. Now the audience was ready for them. There was no hesitation as there had been at the beginning of the first set. Bernhardt, sweat plastering his light linen shirt to his body like a wet second skin, hit the top of his ale barrel and everyone was on their feet.

The Musicians of Bremen kept the crowd dancing through several more songs ending with a fully German version of “It’s Only Rock and Roll But I Like It.” All the band members not playing an instrument that required their mouths joined in on the final chorus.

Then, just as suddenly as the music started it stopped. The young players were so tired they resembled nothing more than clockwork figures that had merely run down. Sweat dripped off their clothes and hair. They seemed almost too tired to hold their instruments. The crowd milled about, exhausted but too energized to stop talking. Nothing like this had ever been seen in Bremen!

The susurrus of the crowd rolled across the square. Then, one voice, one word, resounded from the back of the happy crowd. “Katrin!!!”

Herr Knaub, looking like an expanded red balloon, stood staring at his bedraggled youngest daughter. Her stepmother sat on the bale next to him, fanning her face with a Spanish lace fan.

Barbie was still on the stage, chattering happily with her band mates. Her father’s voice cut through everything, dragging her attention to the other end of the square where he stood, ready to explode.

She looked at each of the other musicians then stepped off the platform and headed toward her family. Barbie walked past where Marieke and Aunt Betlinda stood.

Marieke grabbed and hugged her as she drew near. “That was wonderful! You were wonderful l!”

“That you were, my girl!” Betlinda stood nearby, beaming with pride. “I have not had that much enjoyment in ages!” Her greying braids frayed where the hair had escaped as if to better enjoy the music. Her embroidered brown dirndl was unfashionably damp.

Fully aware that her father still loomed at the back of the milling crowd, Barbie hugged them and promised to talk more later. Then she headed to meet her father.

“Papa! Did you enjoy the show?” Barbie cast her lot by pretending she did not see her father’s impending explosion.

“Katrin, we MUST talk.” The words seemed to push their way past his clenched jaw rather than being propelled.

“Wasn’t it marvelous!?” Barbie looked from her father to her stepmother, even glancing at Ebbe who loomed at the back of the family. She hoped her status as youngest daughter would protect her from the worst of Herr Knaub’s ire.

“Not the words I would choose, Katrin. We will discuss this at home. In private.” With that he turned to his wife and then Ebbe. “Enough of this for now. We are all going home now. You, too, Katrin.” Herr Knaub walked off, somehow seeming to stomp without actually doing so, followed by his wife and son.

Ebbe grinned maliciously at Barbie as he pulled up the rear of the small procession. He had always been jealous of her. Barbie figured this was his chance to become the favored one. Fine with her! She never wanted to be a pampered princess. She wanted to have a real life! She was going to be a rocker! Imagine! The first down-time rock diva!



The Knaub Household

Later that evening


Barbie walked slowly up to the front door of her brightly illuminated home. Light poured out of the windows on the first and second floors.

This told her everything she needed to know, or feared, about her father’s anger. Normally, the house would be dark at this time of night. Maybe Old Albruna would be in the kitchen baking the morning’s pastries. But Barbie had never seen the house lit up like a lantern this late. Maybe she should wander outside for a while, hoping her father would fall asleep, and everyone else would follow.

Barbie started to move away from the ornately carved front door and back into the late night shadows. Too late.

Unseen, Ebbe had stationed himself at the library window as lookout. “Katrin, Father is looking for you.” His voice boomed out across the front yard like a foghorn.

As if waiting for the right sign, her stepmother swept out the front door, directly at Barbie. “Katrin, we were all so worried. Where have you been? You are still dripping wet and in this cool air, too.”

Before she could physically drag Barbie in the doorway, Herr Knaub’s voice reverberated through the house, out the windows and down the lane toward town. Somewhere in the back of her mind Barbie wondered if the band members could hear him, too. “Katrin!”

Barbie felt herself being dragged, gently, by her stepmother into the house and down the hallway to the library where her father radiated anger like some ancient battle lord. Her stepmother waited for Barbie to get all the way into the library and then left her standing in front of her father, who was also standing.

“Katrin. You are to begin a new life tomorrow. Or rather, you are to return to being my beloved daughter. I do not know this skull-bespangled, black-draped apparition that shrieks in public. This is not my Katrin! I demand to have my Katrin returned to me! With the morning light! Am I clear?” All of that he had ejected in what seemed like one breath. Then, with a deep “Hrumph!” he sat in his red leather desk chair with air of a king who has just made a kingdom-wide pronouncement. His dark grey eyes bore into her blue ones.

Barbie was silent, stunned by her father’s reaction. She had expected him to be upset but she had never seen him this angry. What should she say? What should she do? What could she say or do? She loved her rock and roll. How could she make him understand? This was who she was, what she wanted to be. No words came.

“Well, Katrin, you are home now, and the morning will see the return of my girl. You may go to bed now but make no mistake. I do not want to see you like that again. Am I understood?” The anger seemed to have bled away a little bit but Barbie could still hear the steel in her father’s words. With that, he waved his hand, motioning her towards the door. Then he put his head in his hands, feeling the anger replaced by exhaustion.

Barbie turned and left, climbing the stairs to her room. She noticed Ebbe and her stepmother had vacated the hallways. Where was Marieke? Barbie told herself she hoped she was already out of the way of their father’s temper.

Once in her room, Barbie disrobed, secreting her precious outfit away where, she hoped, no one could find it. She knew her father would order one of the servants to search her room for it so she planned to take it to one of the band members’ houses in the morning. Then she curled up in her bed, falling swiftly into an exhausted sleep.


Sure enough, Barbie woke as Old Albruna rummaged through her closet, obviously looking for something. Barbie noticed that various piles of clothes had been moved since the night before.

“Young Katrin, Guten Tag! I am looking for your dirty clothes. It is wash day and, after your raucous night, I suspect you have at least a few things to wash, do you not?” The old woman continued to cast her eyes across Barbie’s room as if the offending clothing would raise its hand to be recognized and collected.

Barbie thought quickly. She hated lying, but it had taken quite an effort to get that outfit together and if it went with Old Albruna she knew it would disappear. Her father would have already ordered it to be destroyed. No! She would not give up her dream so easily!

“I changed elsewhere before I came home and left last night’s clothes elsewhere.” She hoped the old woman would not check her story with anyone who had seen Barbie come home.

“Ach! Well, bring them home for cleaning when you go out. There are fresh buns in the kitchen for your breakfast, so come on, sleepyhead.” Old Albruna had been with the family since before Barbie was born so she could take such liberties with the young mistress.

Albruna bustled out of the bedroom, closing the door behind her. Barbie knew she couldn’t hide much longer in her room. She had to get up and out. She had to figure out what to do. Besides, by looking at the height of the sun, she realized it was mid-morning. Someone had decided to let her sleep in. Could this be a good sign? She could hope, couldn’t she?

She slipped out from under the voluminous, cream-colored comforter with a small whimper. The chill in the air caught her by surprise. Barbie wrapped a woven woolen blanket around her so she could perform her morning ablutions without shivering. Albruna or someone had brought a pitcher of clean water and set it next to the basin on her washtable. It could not have been too long before because a slight trail of steam still rose from it.

Barbie started to wash her face then stopped, startled by the image in her looking glass. Was that her with the huge black circles around her eyes? Oh, that was it . . . She had gone to bed so late and upset she had forgotten to take off her rocker makeup. Giggling at herself, Barbie started scrubbing her face, removing makeup and sweat alike. She would have to remember to wash after the shows, she told herself. If there were any more shows . . .

There had to be more shows! She would find a way no matter what it took! She had never felt more alive, more right! She knew the chill she felt now had less to do with a fall morning and much more to do with last night. The first night of her life as a rocker.

As she dried her face and pawed at her newly shorn hair with a wooden comb, Barbie began gathering her thoughts and strength for the battle ahead with her Papa. Surely he wanted her to be happy. Couldn’t he see this made her happy? She had to show him, convince him, that this was the best for her. But how? He was a traditionalist. He believed that the best thing for his girls was to marry well. Ebbe could do as he liked, but she and Marieke must obey Papa. That is what he believed.

And where was Marieke?? She should have heard from her by now. Normally, Marieke would have woken her, refusing to let her sleep so late. Oh well, that’s a question for later . . .

She silently argued her case to her clean-scrubbed image in the glass. The Ring of Fire had changed everything! The up-timers showed us women could do and be something other than hausfraus with retinues of servants. Look at Rebecca and Gretchen, the heroines who were changing the world! They did get married but they were not tied down to a house like a horse to a plow. Oh, no! She would be free, too!

Barbie felt her courage slowly creeping back in when someone knocked on her door. “Katrin dear, are you ready to come downstairs? Everyone else is up.” Her stepmother knocked again, this time a little harder.

Guten Morgen! I am up and dressing. Give me a few more minutes to properly prepare myself.” Barbie wanted to stick her tongue out in rebellion at the door but didn’t. She was above such childish displays. Besides, she must prepare herself to be a rock diva, and surely rock divas did not partake of such displays!

Listening to make sure the older woman walked back down the hallway, Barbie checked for her hidden clothing. She moved her painted dresser and found the now-dirty black bundle where she had placed it last night. “Good! I still have my rocker clothing!” She threw a glance around as if someone might have snuck in while her back was turned then returned the bundle and the dresser.

Under her breath Barbie mumbled, “I guess I must play the good girl at home and dress the part. But there is no growing my hair back overnight so I guess he will have to accept that part of me.”

She pulled on a blue skirt with yellow edging, a white linen blouse and her old dark blue bodice with embroidered edelweiss. “Don’t you look like the proper fraulein now?” Barbie allowed herself one display of tongue extension at the neatly-dressed girl she saw in her looking glass. “Papa will just LOVE you!”

She turned around, opened the door and walked into the hallway to meet today’s fate.

She had not even reached the bottom of the stairs before her father bellowed, “Katrin, please come to the library.”

Marvelous! He was not going to even let her break her fast before commencing with the lecture. Just great! Well, at least she looked the way he wanted her to look. He couldn’t complain about that. Except her hair.

Barbie walked down the hall to the already crowded library. An odd tableau met her view. Walking in she wasn’t surprised to see her father in his usual leather throne. But what did surprise her was who else awaited her. Aunt Betlinda, Marieke, and the Bürgermeister und Präsident des Senats himself! What was his name? Somebody Jausch . . . Never mind! What was happening?

All except her father seemed happy to see her. The bürgermeister stood in his warm fur-lined red doublet beatifically surveying the scene. Aunt Betlinda and her sister grinned like, like cats out of that up-timer book Alice in Wonderland. Aunt Betlinda kept looking, sidelong, at Herr Jausch and smiling in a peculiar way. Her father smiled with that tight-around-the eyes expression she had seen him use when he was avoiding telling the prince a hard truth. All too odd! What was happening? And what did they want with her?

Herr Knaub started to speak. “My dear Katrin, the bürgers . . .”

Before he could finish the sentence Herr Jausch broke in, offering his hand to Barbie as if she were a princess. “Katrin or Barbie, I must tell you I and my family thoroughly enjoyed your performance last night! I and my darling wife danced like we were bewitched! You and your band must perform again and often! That is why I am here.” He seemed to have completely forgotten Herr Knaub, now standing at the desk looking forlorn.

The bürgermeister continued to hold Barbie’s small hand in his large, somewhat hairy one. “The bürgers met right after the performance. None of us could have slept so soon after that invigorating music, could we? So we voted and decided that you and the Musicians of Bremen must be asked to perform at least once a month in Bremen. Your band will set Bremen apart from all the other towns, nay cities, in Germany! We will be the envy of the others because we have a real up-time style rock band! We will be the talk of Europe! We will have real Musicians of Bremen!”

As he talked the bürgermeister spoke faster and faster, obviously warming up to his topic. Meanwhile, Herr Knaub became more and more deflated. What was he to do? He could defy the bürgers and require Katrin live a life of quiet anonymity, or he could please the bürgers, and probably his prince who wanted to please the bürgers, and let her become that wild thing.

Finally, Herr Knaub could hold quiet no longer. “Sir, we are greatly honored by your offer . . .”

“Herr Knaub, this not an offer as such. Please consider this as more of a request. Barbie and the Musicians of Bremen are the most exciting thing to come out of Bremen in many generations. We do not believe what these young people are doing should be lost or go elsewhere. They are Bremen-bred and the whole world should know it!”

Barbie could not believe her ears! Not only did the town like their music, they wanted more! She noticed her Aunt Betlinda said nothing, but the grin on her face could not have been wider. She was enjoying this moment way too much! What part had she played in this scenario? Marieke stood behind Betlinda, grinning widely.

Herr Knaub gave up. He knew from long experience with the bürgers that he could not outtalk this one. He needed time to consider his options. He did not like being shoved into allowing Katrin to become a whirling, screeching display. Even if it would be good for his beloved Bremen.

“Indeed, Herr Bürgermeister, it was a long night for us all. As you can see, Katrin is as startled by your reaction to the performance as I am. I need some time to talk with her.”

Seeing he was not to get an immediate approval, the bürgermeister‘s face clouded over but he hung on to the remains of his smile. “Of course, we can understand, Herr Knaub. But please do not keep us waiting long. We want to publicize our jewel as soon as possible. The Christmas season is pressing close, and we would want to draw in visitors at least once during that time.”

He turned his attention back to Barbie, her hand still caught in his grasp. “Barbie, I hope that you can prevail on your esteemed father to do the best for his city.” With that, he leaned down, kissed her hand, bowed to the other women present and processed out into the hall, where someone led him to the door.

The air seemed to rush back into the library with the bürgermeister‘s exit. Herr Knaub fell rather than sat into the leather seat behind the desk. No one spoke.

He seemed to not know whom to glare at first, torn between Barbie and Aunt Betlinda. Herr Knaub had forgotten Marieke was still in the room, half-hidden behind an elaborately detailed clock.

“Is this your doing, Betlinda?” Herr Knaub spit out the words like they tasted bad. Now he only had room to glare at his sister.

“Not quite. He only asked me to come along because he suspected that you might not welcome the idea. Everyone DID hear you last night, after all. But now I must return home. I have some duties to attend to, and . . .”

“And you are done sticking your meddlesome nose in my family’s life for today, aren’t you?” It was a good thing that he could not really throw daggers out of his eyes, or he would have been charged with sororicide. At the moment, the penalty would not have distracted him. He was beyond furious with his older sister. She denied it, but he knew she had some guilt in this matter.

Enough time to deal with her later. For now, he was in a quagmire with Katrin. He needed time to think. “So be it, Betlinda. You have most certainly done enough here for now. But know, this matter is not done.”

Betlinda took that as her cue to leave, taking Marieke with her. Marieke seemed perfectly content to leave and put distance between herself and an exploding father.

That only left Barbie standing in front of her father. She had no idea what to say or do. She began the morning expecting it to go one way and something happened. But what? What would her father say! Would he allow her to openly play rock and roll? Would he demand she remain his Katrin?

Time stood still as Barbie stood in front of her temporarily silent Papa. The tall clock ticking was the only sound in the room for more breaths than she noticed. Both people were lost in their own thoughts.

Then Herr Knaub broke the silence with his quiet hammer of a voice. “What am I to do?”


Small is Good

Nürnberg City Hall

April, 1635


“You can’t be serious?” Master Grünberg just couldn’t believe his ears. “You really want to leave all rifles to these . . . these . . . people?” His voice sounded like what he really wanted to say was “northern barbarians,” but in the end, his sense of propriety had taken over.

Ratsherr Hans Petzold, a famous master goldsmith and member of the city council, tried to calm him. “Listen, Master Grünberg, it’s a temporary measure. We currently cannot compete with Suhl and Magdeburg on rifles. With our traditional methods it simply takes too long to produce a single one, and even if ours are prettier, there aren’t many noblemen left that are willing to wait that long and able to pay twice the price just for a pretty exterior. If we are lucky, they buy their guns in Suhl and then ask us to ‘improve’ on it. Until we get the needed machines produced in Essen, we will have to learn and pass the time by making handguns. Small is good, for now. Getting all the information on the necessary steps to reproduce the new Dutch pepperboxes was expensive enough. Let’s not waste that investment. We have an order for 600 of them from a cavalry regiment in Berchtesgaden. That’s enough work for all of us to keep busy for months.”

Ferdinand Grünberg shook his grey head. “If you want to go ahead and concentrate on those pistols, fine. They sure are impressive and effective weapons. But I have been a Büchsenmacher all my life. Long rifles are my specialty and I will continue making them.”

“You will go broke making them.”

“Let that be my problem. I am 55 years old, a widower, and I do not have an heir. I have saved enough over the last dozen years to last me for ages. So I’ll let you gentlemen worry about your own affairs. Look at it this way: Now the 600 ordered pistols will employ everyone else even longer. Good night to you.”

For a moment, the Ratsherr was tempted to involve his colleagues to make it a formal order. But in the end he figured Grünberg was right: it did mean more work for everyone else.


Nürnberg, Grünberg house

April, 1635


The next morning at sunrise, Master Grünberg sat at his table at the window, studying all the papers he had been able to acquire on the topic of up-time rifles, thanks to the efforts of a former apprentice of his who now was a journeyman in Suhl. He went through them one by one, stopping after each page, considering what he had seen and how it related to what he already knew. From time to time his eyes moved to the remains of an up-time shotgun he had bought cheaply last week. The stock and lock were still in very good shape, but some giant seemed to have squashed the two barrels. He got up and put the distracting thing into a bag that he put on a shelf, then sat down again.

He was halfway through the stack when Matthias Heckler, his journeyman, entered the workshop, with their single apprentice tagging along. Moritz Maus was fourteen and in his second year of apprenticeship. An orphan at age twelve, he very rarely smiled, almost as rarely as his master. As always, Heckler had bought fresh bread rolls and a couple of broadsheets.

“Good morning, Master Grünberg!”

“Good morning, Matthias. Moritz.”

As he had done every day for the last years, Heckler put the bread rolls and the broadsheets on the table, then went downstairs to the shortest of the three dry caves that reached into the stone of the mountain Nürnberg castle was built upon, to fetch some cool milk and cheese. The longest one served as Grünberg’s shooting range (with the ‘range’ part being defined rather loosely), while the third was used for storing his black powder and guns. Meanwhile, Moritz set the table.

They were eating in silence, Matthias and Moritz reading the broadsheets, Master Grünberg continuing through his bundle of sheets on up-time guns. Once he was through with them, he looked at his journeyman.

“Anything important happening in the world?”

“Not really. But after his fifth beer someone who shall not be named told me yesterday evening that Master Kotter is making progress with his cartridge project. It seems the trick is to use just the right amount of silver in the mix and to seal them with shellac when the cartridge is completed, to keep the bullet more firmly in place and the powder dry.”

“So, how close is he to be able to actually produce workable brass cartridges?”

“Pretty close, I think, as long as we are talking about small numbers. From what I gathered, they need a lot of soldering and other work to come out right, and he still has to buy the primers from Grantville. So he will be hard-pressed to compete with U.S. Waffenfabrik once they get their production facility up and running. It’s frustrating, really. Whenever one of us has a bright idea, we get trumped by up-timer technology.”

Master Grünberg looked out of his window and down to the wall. “Maybe. And maybe not. If I understood you correctly last week, the Suhl people will have a few production lines, concentrating on cartridges for their most common guns.”

Heckler nodded. “That is my understanding, at least. These machines are really expensive. So you need to produce large batches to pay for them.”

“Which means that all that Master Kotter needs are small series of special guns he can concentrate on.” Grünberg frowned slightly. Then he picked through the bunch of sheets he had looked through before. Slowly, a grin started creeping up his face. Heckler raised an eyebrow.

” ‘Small is good’ said our revered Ratsherr yesterday. I think he might be partially right. Just not in the way he thinks about it. Let’s go to the arsenal.”


Like many weaponsmiths, Grünberg had elected to pay most of his taxes to the city by equipping the city guard with weapons. His specialty in this respect had been, for a long time, all kinds of Hakenbüchsen. Those were huge rifles (unlike their earlier smoothbore predecessors of the same name which became known as harquebuses in French), about two yards long, which would be used as wall guns. Those were either equipped with trunnions that could be locked to swivel mounts on city walls or with hooks (Haken) or spikes that could be rammed into the top of an earthen rampart to keep the weapon there and transfer the enormous recoil into the earth instead of the shoulder of the user. Most of Grünberg’s guns were especially long and had both options; they were thus called Doppelhaken. Unlike many of his colleagues in other cities, he had rather soon, after some experimentation to find the optimal bullet, settled on a single bore size and caliber of balls. His guns thus had very similar performance profiles.

Traditionally, those very precise guns were used to snipe at enemy generals (who rarely came into range of the walls any more, though) and, more importantly, sappers and the crews of siege guns and mortars. At five hundred yards, the heavy bullets the gun fired could still cut through most provisional fortifications put up by enemy sappers. Recently however, Hauptmann Reinhold Gerber, captain of the city watch and an old friend of Grünberg, had told him that due to the increased range of the USE artillery, his Hakenbüchsen had lost most of their tactical value and they would soon have to require him to deliver normal rifles instead. Grünberg had been rather upset when he received that news.

Sure, he could easily afford to pay his taxes in cash and not even feel any effects. This was not about money; it was about pride. The pride of a man who had until recently made some of the best rifles in the world and now was relegated to amateur status. That would be hard to accept for anybody. For Grünberg, whose only wife had died giving birth to a stillborn son years ago, his work was all he had left. By now, though, he started to suspect that that dark cloud had a huge silver lining to it. Or was it a golden lining?


As Grünberg had expected, Hauptmann Gerber was at the city arsenal, inspecting part of the weaponry. Since the guard was well-acquainted with the master weaponsmith, he had no problem being admitted, while Matthias and Moritz waited at the entrance.

Gott zum Gruße, Hauptmann Gerber!” Given that he visited his friend in his official capacity, there was no way he would address him by his given name.

Gerber raised his eyebrows for a moment, then smiled. He knew Grünberg well enough to understand the reason for the formality and to feel that he had overcome his righteous anger at Gerber’s decision not to employ Hakenbüchsen any longer.

“Master Grünberg. A pleasure to see you here. How can I help you?”

“I wanted to talk with you about my Hakenbüchsen.” He held up a hand. “No, don’t worry. I am not trying to convince you to keep them in service when they can’t perform their task any longer.”

“That is very understanding of you. So what about these guns?”

“Well, you know, you might not have much use for them anymore. But when making them I gave them my very best, each time. Every single one of them is worthy of a master, I think.”

“No doubt about that. It really is a shame they have lost their defensive value for us. And of course they are too heavy to use in the field.”

“Still, they are my children and I don’t want to see them melted down to make muskets out of them—or pistols for that Scottish colonel. So I want to buy them back.”

Gerber grinned. “Hm. So you mean to pay the taxes you avoided by giving us the guns?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You got years of good service out of them. A decade, for some of them. No, I am going to pay you what you’d get from a metal collector.”

Gerber considered the demand, but only for a moment. While not a guild in the formal sense, the weapon makers were quite influential in the city. Having good relations with them was especially important for the city watch. Given the insult Grünberg must have felt when he was informed of the new tactical realities, this offer was the perfect way for all concerned to save face. And if the deal lost the city council a few thaler, it was still worth it.

Einverstanden. Last time I checked, there were 24 of your long guns here at the arsenal. Let’s see if we can find them all . . .


After Matthias and Moritz had dragged a little wagon filled with the guns up the hill to Grünberg’s house, they took the time for a second breakfast, consisting of a glass of beer, some bread, and a little bacon.

“So what are your plans for these guns, Master Grünberg?”


“Don’t look at me like that. I have known you for years now. You are up to something.”

Grünberg only smiled in response. It always had been difficult to keep a secret from Matthias, but by now it was near impossible. So he simply put a sheet of paper in front of the two. Moritz whistled when he finally understood what he saw.

“That is a pretty big gun,” was all he could say. And he was right. The 1918 T-Gewehr was a big gun. For a shoulder-fired weapon, the first anti-tank rifle in the world was simply massive. Still shorter than a Doppelhaken, though.

“We’ll start smaller. As I said: small is good.”

“Say rather ‘small is relative,’ ” intervened Matthias. “If I understand you correctly, you want to transform your Doppelhaken in something like an up-time sniper rifle, modeled after this monster?”

“Exactly. After all, they are the closest thing we have to sniper rifles down-time. The barrels are already there, and rifled all in the same identical caliber. I did a quick check of the two oldest ones while you were washing your hands. They were well cared for, and their steel barrels still look perfect. That’s most of the work already done. Now we simply need to add on the other parts to transform them into reliable breechloaders able to shoot brass cartridges.”

Moritz snorted. “Simply.”

“The T-Gewehr is really a simple weapon. Ingenious in its details, but simple. Which is why I chose it as a model.” Grünberg smiled again. In fact, he might have smiled as often today as he had during most of the year to this date. Thus was the power of inspiration.

Matthias had a more practical concern: “Let’s say we are able to complete these ‘small’ versions of that monster. Though, if I understand these numbers here right, unless we cut down your Doppelhaken a lot, the end result won’t be any smaller than that. A little more slender, maybe, but possibly even heavier. Bigger caliber, definitely, though with black powder it will be less powerful overall. And let’s assume you get Master Kotter to make brass cartridges for them. The question remains: Who do you want to sell them to? Our city guard won’t want them, especially after you tricked old Gerber to sell them to you for scrap value. The USE Army and the SoTF National Guard have their own sniper rifles. But if we sell those to Bavaria, in addition to the pistols, we might start a war of annexation by the USE. Then there is Bohemia, but I think Wallenstein wants to build up his own, independent weapons industry to compete with us, so he is out, too. Who does that leave?”

“Salzburg, Tyrol, or—most likely—Swabia. More precisely, the Count of Hohenrechberg. My masterpiece as a journeyman was a hunting rifle for his father, so he should know my work. They are basically next door, and he is building a nice little army in his part of the province. As the official head of a provincial military force, he might even  have simplified access to Grantville technology. More importantly, as vice-administrator, he controls most of the ironworks of the Aalen area. We are already getting more iron from them than from our traditional suppliers in the Oberpfalz. They are planning to modernize their foundries soon, in order to produce serious amounts of high quality steel. So I can see lots of potential for cooperation in future weapons projects.”

“Like a real T-Gewehr, you mean?” Matthias deadpanned, his amusement still shining through his eyes.

Moritz couldn’t help himself, he had to jump up and clap his hands together. “Yes!” he cried out, with the biggest smile anybody had ever seen on his face.

Maybe small wasn’t that good, all things considered, thought Master Grünberg.


“After two bottles of my best wine, Master Kotter is on board. In fact, he is as enthusiastic about the project as Moritz,” Grünberg told his crew the next morning with a wink. “Now, I showed you yesterday how to separate the barrels and how to shorten them. Moritz, the remainder of the week you will separate as many of them as you can. Matthias will help you with the first two. After that, he will cut them down to the right length. Meanwhile, I will work on a related project.”

“A related project?” asked Matthias.

“I think I found a good use for the cut-offs. Not telling yet. You’ll find out soon enough, if it works.”

Matthias looked at a bag sitting on Grünberg’s workbench. “I guess the content of that bag is related to your new project?”

“Right you are. But I’ll take both the cut-offs and that bag with me downstairs.” Grünberg had a second workroom on the underground level attached to the caves. It got lots of light, especially during the afternoon hours, and he used it when he wanted some quiet and could count on Matthias to keep an eye on Moritz upstairs. “Get to work!”


By Saturday afternoon, Moritz had detached all twenty-four barrels, and Matthias had cut down most of them from slightly over seven feet to about five feet, when Master Grünberg called them downstairs to his shooting range. On the shooter’s table, they could see something under a big piece of cloth. Strangely, at the end of the short range stood not the usual target, but an old, worm-eaten table lying on the side, top towards them.

“Please put on your ear protectors,” Grünberg ordered.

Once everybody, including himself, had his ears covered, he picked up the package and stepped behind the bar separating the entrance area from the shooting range proper. When he dropped the cloth, his back still covered its contents from sight.

BOOM! Crack! BOOM! Crack!

The whole cave was reverberating from the two blasts that had come within half a second—and the table that had served as a target was reduced to splinters. Grünberg turned back to his team and looked into wide-open eyes and even wider mouths. “What . . .” both started asking, then stopped, looking at the small object in Grünberg’s hand.

Grünberg grinned, pushed on a button, snapped the weapon open and turned it upside down. Two big brass cartridges, still smoking, dropped to the ground. “Given the unusual caliber, Master Kotter found it easier to start with shotgun shells. The up-timers call this a coach gun, I think. While they used longer barrels, at short range the one-inch caliber is devastating enough, as you have witnessed. And for every sharpshooter, an observer would need an easily-portable weapon of his own. Matthias took in the gun, especially its broad but short barrels—at one foot long they were closer to those of a contemporary cavalry pistol than a real shotgun. Well, you could still call it a sawed-off version of a shotgun. Then he looked at the stock and lock more closely. “Is that . . .”

Grünberg nodded. “Yes. The remains of the up-time shotgun I bought. Its caliber was close enough that I could get it to fit after some fiddling. Wouldn’t hold the pressures of an up-time smokeless cartridge, but as you have seen, I got it to fit closely enough that outgassing is not a problem. So what do you think?”

He looked at Moritz who was still standing there, eyes wide, but with another huge grin now spreading across his face.

Maybe small was good, after all?


Master Kotter and Ratsherr Petzold are historic down-timers.

Everyone else is invented or a blend of different down-timers.

A contemporary Doppelhaken from Suhl can be seen here:

Master Grünberg’s guns would be a little longer, but not much.



Life at Sea in the Old and New Time Lines, Part 4: Lights Across the Waters

In part 3, I talked about deck, cabin, and hold illumination. But there’s also a need for lighting by which the ship sees what lies around it, and is seen in turn. Lighting may also be used for communication, ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore.


Running lights


Stern Lanterns. When ships were traveling in formation at night, there needed to be a way for the helmsman on one ship to see the ship in front of him (rear-end collisions and meandering off both being frowned upon). Hence, sailing ships carried stern lanterns (Laughton 159). This practice was not limited to warships as, in the seventeenth century, European trading ships often sailed with escorts.

In Edward III’s navy, the number of stern lanterns indicated the status of the commander; three or more for the King, two for the admiral, and one for the vice-admiral (Traill 186). On sixteenth-century Venetian galleys, those commanded by a squadron commander had a single stern lantern, and the flagship of the Capitano Generale da Mar or the Provveditore Generale da Mar had three. Indeed, the flagship was sometimes referred to as a lanterna (Motture).

The 68-gun warship La Couronne (1626) had three lanterns above the taffrail; the center one was 12 feet high and 24 feet in circumference illuminated by twelve pounds of candles. (Sephton). On the Sovereign of the Seas (1637) there were five lanterns on the stern (Sephton 57, 61) , two apiece on the port and starboard quarter galleries, and the fifth and largest on the aft end of the poop above the taffrail. It was six or seven feet high, and four to four and a half feet wide. In 1661, Samuel Pepys, then clerk of the Naval Board, gave a tour of the Sovereign to his patron’s wife, Lady Sandwich, the Lady Jemimah, and their seven companions and servants, and persuaded this tour group to join him in squeezing inside the stern lantern (Dill 12)—plainly the seventeenth-century equivalent of squeezing into a phone booth.

While a single stern lantern reveals the position of the ship, it says nothing about its heading. But if you were looking at the stern of Sovereign, you would see three lights in circumflex (^) arrangement, whereas broadside you would see a rotated “L”. Nonetheless, this does not seem to have initiated a general trend toward use of multiple lights to show orientation.

In the early eighteenth century, all British first-, second-, and third-rates carried three lights, and this privilege was extended to fourth-rates in 1722. In 1804 it was decided that only a flagship would carry two lights, and all others just one (Willis 56). However, I believe that the second light in question was a top-lantern (see next section).

At least some early lanterns had panes of green-tinted mica, but these were displaced by glass, which rendered the light easier to see. Hexagonal and octagonal designs were the most common, but the lantern on the Merhonour (1622) was seven-sided (Howard 114). It cost over eleven pounds, not even counting the glass plate, but almost half of that was attributable to gilding (Laughton 142).



Top-Lantern. When William, Duke of Normandy, sailed across the English Channel, he “had a lantern placed at the top of his ship’s mast, so that the other ships could see it and hold their course behind him” (Musset, 196). On the 1564 Legazpi Pacific expedition, a ship in need of assistance at night would place a lantern in the main mast and fire a shot, and if it were an emergency, it also hung a lantern in the foremast and fired two more shots (Licuanan 64). In 1595, Drake ordered his fleet that if they had to unexpectedly make sail on a night that it had previously shortened sail, it would show “a single lantern with a light at the bow, and another at the fore-top” (Maynarde 64).

Later, it became customary that a British navy flagship leading a squadron would display a lantern at the aft edge of a masthead: the main top (full admiral), fore top (vice admiral), or mizzen top (rear admiral) (Lavery 255). It was supported on each side by iron braces (Falconer 294).

In 1762, Admiral Howe ordered that a ship tacking at night was to hoist a light and keep it visible until the maneuver was completed (Willis 56).

Lightships of course also displayed lanterns on high, but early lightships suspended small lanterns from a yardarm or dedicated crossarm. Robert Stevenson proposed a lantern that surrounded the mast of the vessel, and could be lowered to the deck to be trimmed and then raised back. (Stevenson 39). Presumably, the vertical traversal of that lantern would be limited by the yardarm above. It is conceivable that the lantern had a dedicated mast; i.e., one that did not ever carry sail.

In 1838, the US Congress enacted legislation providing that between sunset and sunrise every steamboat must carry one or more signal lights that can be seen by other boats navigating the same water. A three-light system was privately adopted by the Liverpool steam packets. In 1847, a different system—red on the port bow, green on the starboard bow, and a bright white light on the foremast head—was adopted for the mail steamers on the west coast of England. Finally, in 1848, a similar system was applied to all British steam vessels between sunset and sunrise. (Grosvenor).

By the 1870s, it was proposed that the masthead light be electric (Trowbridge 723). This was met with numerous objections—the ships met would be blinded by the light, the carrying ship’s side lights would be rendered inconspicuous by comparison, the ship would be mistaken for a lightship, etc. (Thomson 190).

The Titanic carried a single electric masthead light on her foremast, 145 feet above the water. It was 32 candlepower, and its Fresnel lens concentrated the light into a horizontal arc with a vertical amplification factor of 25. It thus would have been as bright as a first magnitude star at a distance of 17 miles(Halperin).


There is an obvious downside to the use of any lights on shipboard, let alone lights intended to reveal one’s presence to other vessels.. Drake ordered, “you shall keep no light in any of the ships, but only the light in the binnacle, and this with the greatest care that it be not seen, excepting the admiral’s ship . . . .” (Maynarde 64). And even today, there are waters where small boat captains don’t switch on their mast lights (Liss 62).

On the other hand, in 1800, Thomas Cochrane in the brig sloop Speedy was able to evade a frigate at night by placing a lantern on a barrel and letting it float away (Wikipedia).


Lighting the Waters: Star Shells


Sometimes it is desirable to illuminate the surrounding waters at night, in order to spot navigational hazards or enemy craft.

The star shell (“light ball”) is fired by a mortar (high trajectory gun) and contains a small explosive charge and a time fuse. The charge in turn ignites the illuminating composition. Early compositions included mixtures of sulfur, saltpeter (potassium nitrate), and realgar (arsenic tetrasulfide), orpiment (arsenic trisulfide), or antimony (Griffiths 91)

Appier’s La Pyrotechnie (1630) gives a formula for “fire balls . . . so white that one can scarcely look at them without being dazzled,” that comprises saltpeter, orpiment, gum arabic, and, strangely enough, ground glass and brandy (Skylighter).

In its original form it was not very useful at sea as the “stars” would fall into the water, and be extinguished within a few seconds. And even in land warfare, the enemy could be expected to throw water or sand over it.

Edward Boxer (1819-1898) proposed modifying this shell to be composed of two hemispheres, one containing the illuminant (“stars”) and the other a calico parachute connected to the first by ropes or chains. The explosion of the charge not only ignites the illuminant, it separates the hemispheres, but only insofar as the connector permits. The parachute slows the descent of the illuminant (Ibid.). Boxer was probably unaware that there had been experimentation during the time of Louis XIV with rockets equipped with parachute flares (Faber 181). For that matter, Congreve had a rocket light ball with a parachute (Sterling 401).

I have documented use of magnesium flares in photography of the Comstock Lode mine (1868) and the Great Pyramid (1865). I wasn’t able to determine when magnesium, aluminum, or magnalium ribbons were first used in star shells, but the first reference I found was from just before World War I (US Army, 2-11). The parachutes were also minimized, so that six or eight parachute-illuminant combinations could be fit inside a single shell.


Lighting the Waters: Searchlights


Searchlights are essentially a military development of the spotlight—that is, they combine a highly luminous source, a light concentration system, and a pivotable and tiltable mount.

In the new time line, there isn’t yet a military need for a searchlight: engagements are mostly as short range (a few hundred yards) and during the daytime. Flint and Gannon, 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies, chapter 48 is the first step toward changing that; the Resolve begins firing at a range of 1800 yards, and actually scores a hit after it closes to 1100 yards.

Still, the Resolve attacked in the daytime. The biggest reason for equipping naval warships, especially capital ships, with searchlights was the introduction of the motor torpedo boat, which could launch a night attack either stealthily or at high speed.

No foe of the USE has yet (1636) built powerboats or self-propelled torpedoes. But the USE navy did have to face a smoke-screened spar torpedo attack by Prince Ulrik’s galleys during the Baltic War in 1634. Moreover, the ironclads and timberclads are intended for riparian and coastal warfare, and they could encounter mines or massed rockets.

So there is an incentive to at least start thinking about military searchlights . . . . And conceivably small searchlights would be advantageous for nighttime civilian use, too: spotting navigational hazards, rescuing men from the water or a disabled craft, and signaling.

There is a strong kinship between ship searchlights and lighthouse lights. Of course, the latter can be much larger and heavier.


Light Sources. Electric searchlights, with light generated by a carbon arc, were used at the siege of Paris (1870-1). In a carbon arc, a strong electric current is made to flow across a short air gap between two carbon electrodes. The proof of concept was made by Davy in the early nineteenth century. Grantville literature provides some design guidance (EB11/Lighting, 659-66).

The arc can be started only by bringing them in contact with each other, but then the electrodes are slowly separated. Since the rods burn away you need a mechanism to maintain the arc gap. The stability of the arc is improved by putting a ballasting resistance in series with it (which increases the power requirement).

Direct current is preferred as it causes the anode to form a crater, which gives off most of the light. The intensity is greatest at a 30-45o angle from the anode axis, and this facilitates capturing the light with the reflector (Baird). High currents (130-300 amperes in 1917) are used in military searchlights so the source must be close by.

To provide the direct current, the carbon arc light would be powered by a dynamo (a type of generator). The first dynamo was built in 1832 but major industrial use (e.g., in carbon arc furnaces) didn’t come until after improved designs were patented in 1866-7. Electrical engineers in Grantville would know how to design a good dynamo.

In NTL, carbon arc lamps are in use in Grantville in October 1633; see Offord, “A Season of Change” (Grantville Gazette 50), and at Rasenmühle in April 1634, see Prem, “Ein Feste Burg, Episode 7” (Grantville Gazette 46),

The first carbon arc lamp emitted over 10,000 lumens (Banke), and I found an ad for a 60-inch WW II carbon arc searchlight that put out 525,000 lumens (candlepowerforums). Carbon arc lamps have low luminous efficacy (2-7 lumens/watt) and efficiency (0.3-1%). Hence, they generate a lot of heat; consideration must be given to providing proper ventilation.

Now, it is worth noting the power requirement for a searchlight-scale carbon arc lamp. The US Navy Model 24-G-20 24-inch searchlight used in WW II was operated at an arc current of 75-80 amperes and an arc voltage of 65 to 70 volts. However, the line voltage was 105-125 volts, so almost half the power was absorbed by the rheostat/ballast (General Electric). That corresponds to a power draw of 7875-10,000 watts. If we assume 80% efficiency in the generator and distribution system again, then we would need as much as 12,500 watts, and thus a steam engine of about 17 hp. That seems doable.

In fact, the Royal Anne, an airship built in Copenhagen and first flying in September 1636, has six steam engines (Evans, “No Ship for Tranquebar Part Two” Grantville Gazette 28), and I suspect that these steam engines correspond to those that Evans proposed for a medium-sized cargo airship in his “Wingless Wonders” (Grantville Gazette 19). Those engines were nine-cylinder, single-acting, “with 300 hp generated when running at full speed (2200 rpm, 400 psi).”


If electricity is unavailable, there is a chemical alternative. Limelights, invented by an ordnance survey officer in 1822, were first used theatrically in 1836. They relied on the reaction of oxygen and hydrogen gases with quicklime (calcium oxide). That reaction is potentially explosive, and the safest format is one in which the two gas jets meet at an angle where the lime cylinder is located (Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Photography 303).

Limelights were used by the Union Navy during its bombardment of Charleston in September, 1863 and to spot blockade runners in early 1865 (IATSE, KCWB, Navy 1). Drummond used the lime light (supposedly equivalent to “about 265 flames of an ordinary Argand lamp used with the best Sperm Whale oil”) in conjunction with a 21-inch parabolic reflector for geodetic purposes; the combination produced about 92,000 candlepower. While he urged its use in lighthouses, the American Lighthouse Board reported in 1868: “The Lime light required much labor, there was danger associated with the production of the gases used, it required expensive apparatus, and the liability of the lime to become deranged far outweighed any advantages in the way of superior illumination, which could be derived from it.” (USLS).

Some sort of chemical-based searchlight was still available for military use in the early twentieth century, but its useful range was something like one-eighth that of the 36-inch electric search light (Ordnance, 37).

The navy would likely rather use carbon arc searchlights, on both safety and performance grounds.


Light Concentration. Note that the “candlepower” (light intensity in the direction of the target) of a light increases if its light is more tightly focused, even though the total light output is constant. A searchlight may have millions of candlepower in its beam. Light may be concentrated by mirrors, lenses, or combinations of the two.

Reflectors. The earliest documented use of a polished metal reflector to concentrate candlelight was in 1532, at the lighthouse of Gollenberg. In 1669, Braun used a cast steel reflector with an oil lamp at the lighthouse of Landsort, Sweden (USLS). American Civil War searchlights used crude mirrors made of an unspecified metal that absorbed one-third to one-half of the incident light (Nerz 713).

Reflector shape. The ideal shape (figure) for a reflector is parabolic; if the light source is at the focal point, then all of the reflected rays will be parallel to the optical axis of the reflector. There were occasional experiments with spherical reflectors at lighthouses, since the spherical shape was easier to achieve. These proved to provide little concentration (USLHS).

For the techniques of grinding a mirror to a parabolic shape, see Cooper, “Seeing the Heavens” (Grantville Gazette 14),

Reflective Material. The ideal reflective material would be highly reflective across the visible light spectrum, easily formed into the parabolic shape, resistant to corrosion (tarnishing), easily cleaned and polished, low in density, and inexpensive. Most modern mirrors are composites—typically a metal coating on a glass or plastic substrate.

For metals, the reflectivities at 400 (blue) and 700 nm (red) are as follows: gold* (39%, 96%), copper* (51%, 95%), silver* (87%, 97%), aluminum (92%, 91%), iron* (48%, 54%), tungsten (46%, 52%), tin* (75%, 83%), chromium (69%, 64%), and rhodium (76%, 81%). Only the asterisked metals are known to European metalworkers at the eve of the RoF. Plainly, silver and aluminum are the best from a purely optical standpoint.

Silver of course is expensive and so there is some advantage to combining the high reflectivity of a silver coating with a lower-cost metal. A silvered copper parabolic reflector was fitted to the La Heve lighthouse in 1781 (Marriott 25). Robert Stevenson combined an Argand lamp with a silver-clad copper parabolic reflector and, installed at the Bell Rock lighthouse in 1811, it produced 2500 candlepower (USLHS).

Silver, however, is subject to tarnishing as a result of hydrogen sulfide in the atmosphere (or in perspiration if the mirror surface is touched). The resulting silver sulfide is black. The tarnishing is more rapid if the air is humid.

Costs could be reduced further by use of speculum metal (45% tin, 55% copper). Its reflectivities are 63% at 0.45 and 75% at 0.65 (Tolansky). Unfortunately, it, too, tarnishes, and it is also somewhat brittle.

The first telescope with a parabolic mirror was built by Hadley in 1721. It was a six-inch diameter piece of speculum metal. The Royal Society praised his achievement, but expressed the hope that someone would either figure out how to keep the metal from tarnishing or how to make a silvered glass mirror (Pendergrast 161). This proved to be a difficult proposition, and speculum continued to be used well into the nineteenth century.

When a metal mirror needed to be cleaned it also had to be repolished and often refigured. The Rosse telescope (1845), the largest in the world until 1917, had two six-foot speculum mirrors, one would be in use while the other was being refigured (Pendergrast 176-80).


For those for whom cost was an issue, Fitzmaurice invented platinum-glazed porcelain reflectors. They cost one-quarter of the equivalent silvered metal reflector but were inferior in performance. They were used at Sunderland Lighthouse (1860).


Various methods of “silvering” glass were discussed in Cooper, “In Vitro Veritas: Glassmaking After The Ring Of Fire” (Grantville Gazette 5).

Down-time glass mirrors weren’t actually silvered; rather a tin-mercury amalgam was applied to the rear surface of the glass.  After 1732, James Short tried and failed to use this method to make a paraboloid mirror; he switched to speculum metal (Pendergrast 161). In 1788, Rogers made lighthouse reflectors of “silvered” glass, but they proved to be too fragile USLHS).

Advances in the arts of silvering glass and of grinding glass to paraboloidal shape made possible the silvered glass paraboloidal mirror.

In 1835, von Liebig discovered how to deposit pure silver on glass by chemically reducing (with sugar) a boiling silver nitrate solution. Drayton patented several cold processes in the 1840s but the mirrors so manufactured were unsatisfactory (e.g., developed brownish red spots after a few weeks—”measles!”) (Chattaway).

Liebig came to the rescue in 1856 with the first truly satisfactory method, which used caustic soda and ammonia to accelerate the reduction. In 1856, Steinheil used it to silver a four-inch diameter telescope mirror (King 262). Foucault likewise made a silvered glass receptor in 1857, but used one of Drayton’s silvering methods (Chattaway). There were further advances in the silvering art that came later (Common). One such was Cimeg’s (1861), with Rochelle salt as the reducing agent. EB11/Mirrors describes the Brashear method (1884) in great detail.

In 1858, Foucault devised the knife-edge test, which could be used to determine how much a glass surface departed from spherical. Hence, you could make an accurate paraboloid surface by an iterative hand grind-and-check process. The same year, he made a 40-centimeter silvered glass paraboloid telescope mirror. The method was perfected by Draper in the 1870s, who preferred the Cimeg silvering process (Lemaitre 20).

Nonetheless, governments contented themselves in the 1880s with inferior catadioptric reflectors of the Mangin type (see below) for military searchlights (Burstyn). In 1885, Schuckert “invented a machine that could accurately grind glass into a parabolic” curve (USLHS) and quickly put this to work in making searchlight mirrors. These Schuckert searchlights were used in 1887-8 in the Italian campaign in Ethiopia (Rey 97), and a Schuckert searchlight was exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Schuckert mirrors of 30-inch diameter were used to make forty million-candlepower searchlights for the Heligoland lighthouse in 1902.

Articles in the electrical and military literature credit him with being the first to make “paraboloid glass mirrors with a sufficient degree of accuracy for searchlight work” (Murdock 359). Were they simply ignorant of the existence of telescope mirrors of that type? Or was the hand-grinding done by telescope makers prohibitively expensive for military and lighthouse use?

In 1909, the mirror alone for Lowell’s 42-inch reflector cost $10,800 ($209,200 is the 2001 equivalent) (Cameron 117); a Model-T Ford in 1910 cost $950 (135). (It is conceivable that the high price was necessitated by the degree of accuracy demanded for astronomical work, rather than the hand-grinding.)

What about tarnishing? On a telescope, the silvering must be applied to the front surface, to avoid ghost reflections from the glass. Hence, the silver is exposed to the atmosphere. It does tarnish, but it was discovered that the old coating could be removed and a new one applied without loss of the parabolic figure.

On a searchlight reflector, the silvering can be applied to the rear surface, where it is more protected from the atmosphere. However it will still deteriorate with time.

With large carbon arc searchlights, the heat generated may be such that one cannot use ordinary glass, but rather thermal shock-resistant borosilicate glass (Pyrex).


In NTL 1636, aluminum may be available, but only in experimental quantities. For the necessary raw materials and processes, see Cooper, “Aluminum: Will O’ the Wisp” (Grantville Gazette 8).

Aluminum is highly reflective and only a little denser than glass. Aluminum reacts with oxygen in the atmosphere, but the resulting aluminum oxide is clear and hard, protecting the aluminum from further attack. A mirror was first aluminized in 1932 and an aluminized glass reflector was first used in a telescope in 1935. Aluminization of glass requires a high vacuum, but the film is more durable (Yoder 62). Mirrors may also be made entirely of cast aluminum (264).

For the sake of completeness, I note that other metals have also been used as reflective coatings. Rhodium plating has been used for dental mirrors and chromium for the rear view mirrors in cars.


A continuing concern with silvered (or aluminized) glass searchlight mirrors was vulnerability to breakage—the enemy had a tendency to shoot at searchlights. Two types of coated metal mirrors were tested in World War I; one had its coating destroyed after a few hours exposure to the carbon arc, and the other was of inferior illuminating power to a silvered glass mirror (Baird 10-11).

In World War II, we had 60-inch, 800,000 candela carbon arc searchlights that used a rhodium-plated parabolic mirror (Wikipedia/Searchlight).



Segmented reflectors. Hutchinson built faceted reflectors in 1763-77. Some of his designs were tin plates soldered together, but the largest, twelve feet in diameter, was of wood with pieces of mirror glass (clear glass coated with a tin-silver amalgam) attached to approximate the parabolic shape. It was coupled to an oil lamp and reportedly could be seen ten miles away.

Another glass-faceted reflector was produced by Walker (18-inch parabolic reflector for the Old Hunstanton Lighthouse, 1776). The facets were set in a parabolic plaster shell in a metal frame. Reportedly, its beam of 1000 candlepower was two-thirds the intensity of a one-piece parabolic reflector of the same diameter. Thomas Smith similarly built an 18-inch parabolic reflector with 350 pieces of mirror glass. Used with a lamp having four rope wicks, the combination produced 1000 candlepower at the Kinnaird Head lighthouse in 1787.

A modern twist on this old idea would be to use spin-casting to create the shell. In essence, when a liquid is spun, its surface takes on a concave paraboloid shape because of the combination of the gravitational and centripetal forces acting upon it. All we need, then, is a substance that will harden into that shape. Appleyard reports that both gelatin and melted wax work. De Paula used plaster. The resulting figures are adequate for solar heating, and hence also for searchlights.

Spin-casting can be used in place of grinding to create glass paraboloid mirror blanks for telescopes, but you need a rotating furnace, and the molten glass must be cooled slowly (over several months). For telescope use, there is further milling and polishing to make the surface as accurate as possible (Mirror Lab). We don’t need this!



Lens. Big telescopes use mirrors rather than lenses of the same diameter because the latter are much more expensive. However, Fresnel invented a lens composed of separate concentric annular sections, whose surfaces approximate that of a simple lens of the same focal length. Since it is only using the part of the glass that contributes to the proper refraction of the light, it is much lighter and less costly than a simple lens.

The more sections there are, the less degradation in performance relative to a one-piece lens, but the greater the cost. The sections may have curved (better concentration) or flat (cheaper) surfaces. A Fresnel lens was first used in a light house in 1823 (Wikipedia/Fresnel Lens). The largest (“hyper-radial”) had a height of 148 inches and weighed 18,485 pounds. For a ship’s searchlight we would probably use one of “third order” (62 inch height, 1984 pounds) or smaller (USLHS).



Mirror-Lens Combinations. Robert Stevenson invented (1849) the holophotal reflector. This combined a central spherical reflector, a peripheral parabolic reflector and a Fresnel lens, and the point was to capture essentially all of the light from the source (USLHS).

Mangin reflectors were invented in 1876 for use with the carbon arc (Navy 1). This was a lens having two concave surfaces of different radii, the front surface having the shorter radius, and the back surface having a reflective coating (thus constituting a spherical mirror). The radii were chosen so the spherical aberration produced by the lens was exactly opposite to that produced by the reflective coating.

The Mangin reflector had the disadvantage that it had a longer focal length and therefore a smaller effective angle than a parabolic mirror of the same diameter; if the diameter were 60 centimeters, the angles would be 83o and 123o respectively, and as a result the parabolic reflector would gather 2.11 times as much light (Nerz 715) .



Weight. Can a NTL 1630s ship accommodate the weight of a searchlight and its power source? Insofar as the steam engine (including boiler) is concerned, I discussed the issue a bit in “Airship Propulsion: Part Three: Steaming Along” (Grantville Gazette 43). The big uncertainty is the weight of the condenser. For use on shipboard, bringing down the weight of the condenser is less critical, so let’s just say six pounds per horsepower—that’s 102 pounds for the 17 hp steam engine postulated above.

I don’t have figures for the weight of a 24-inch searchlight, but for a sixty-inch one (delivering 800 million candlepower!), with the six-cylinder gasoline engine, 16.7 kW generator, carbon arc, metal mirror, protective glass, and aiming apparatus all mounted on a small four-wheeled trailer, the combined weight was six thousand pounds. (Fort Macarthur). That may seem like a lot, but it was not unusual for a mid-nineteenth century naval gun to weigh 150-200 times the weight of its shot (Ward 30), which would make the 60-inch searchlight equivalent to a 30- to 40-pounder. (And in the late seventeenth century guns were heavier, 175-250 times shot weight (Glete 516).) If weight scales with beam area, then the 24-inch would weigh only 1,000 pounds, and a 12-incher would weigh 250 pounds.


Nighttime Light Signals


A ship might need to communicate with a friendly ship or with the shore. Daytime signaling with mirrors or smoke is ancient, but those aren’t useful at night. Until radio communications become readily available, light signals may be useful. Bear in mind that light communications may be more difficult to intercept than radio ones once the enemy has radio receivers.

It is worth noting that it takes “5 to 20 times as much light to distinguish the color of a light than to simply distinguish” its presence or absence (Lewis 34).


Pyrotechnics may be handheld (like sparklers), attached to a scaffolding, or fired into the air by rockets, mortars, or signal pistols. The last of these was found to be particularly convenient. Pyrotechnics provide an intense but brief illumination.

The first firework colors were ambers and off-whites (Plimpton 161), and it is possible that those were the only ones available in 1630s Europe  Babington’s Pyrotechnia (1635), chapter VIII claims to be able to make “stars” of “a blue color with red”, but the ingredient list is suspect: saltpeter, sulfur vive, aqua vitae, and oyl of spike. More plausibly, Wright’s Notes on Gunnery (1563) and Appier-Hanzelet’s La Pyrotechnie (1630) proposed adding verdigris (copper sulfate) to obtain green, but this green was deemed unsatisfactory by later pyrotechnicians (Werrett 160-2, 230, 281 n. 117).

My expectation is that shortly after the Ring of Fire there would have been research in Grantville as to how to attain red and blue (for the Fourth of July, of course!).

For red, one may use calcium, from the calcium carbonate of chalk, eggshells, or seashells. But this would be rather orange-y, and would be replaced as soon as possible with strontium salts. Strontianite was available from lead mines in Braunsdorf near Freiburg in Saxony, and from the marls of Munster and Hamm in Westphalia (EB11/Strontianite).

Blue could come from copper salts, several of which had long been known to the alchemists. The “resin of copper,” copper chloride, was first synthesized in the old timeline by Robert Boyle in 1664; it was easy enough to make from copper and corrosive sublimate, as Boyle had demonstrated, or by other methods.

By the mid-nineteenth century, the preferred green was from barium salt. Barite (barium sulfate) can be found in mines in the Black Forest and in Saxony and is reasonably likely to show up in a “canned” mineral collection sold to the high school for use in geology classes.

All of these colorants are disclosed in EB11/Fireworks.


Pyrotechnic signal codes. A two-color pyrotechnic signal system was conceived by Benjamin Coston in the 1840s, and a three-color one was developed and patented in his name (USP 23,356, 1859) by his widow, Martha Coston. According to this patent, the numerals 0 to 9 were represented by red, white and blue flares, either individually (for “1” to “3”) or a sequence of two (e.g., white then red for “4”) or three different colors (white then red then blue for “9”). The signals were fired from a signal gun. There were three different sizes of paper boxes that could be set off (either by hand percussion or by the percussion cap of a signal pistol), the larger sizes contained two or three different pyrotechnic compositions that would be burnt through in succession, corresponding to the key for that numeral. This was intended of course for use with a signal code book in which words or phrases were represented by numerical codes.

It was not possible to achieve a bright blue, and in American Civil War implementation, green was used instead. Short white, red and green represented 1-3; long red, 4; long green, 5; white-red, 6 green-red, 7; white-green, 8; red-green, 9; and green-red-white, 0. There was also a “P” (white-red-white) meaning “preparing to send a signal” and an “A” (red-white-red) to acknowledge the preparatory signal.

In 1878, the US Navy began using the Very code, which used a pattern of four bursts, each of which could be red or green, to encode numbers. Despite being a binary code, it did not correspond to Morse code in its original implementation (Wrixon 430).


Signal lamps. In 1617, Raleigh used a fire signal aboard his flagship to send commands to the other ships in his squadron. Given the general availability of lanterns on ships, I would imagine that he was not the only naval commander to do this (Wrixon 417).

A kerosene lamp with a focusing lens (Begbie lamp) came into use in the 1880s and was used until World War I (QSCVC). Subsequently, signal lamps were of the handheld incandescent (Aldis) or pedestal-mounted carbon arc type. Of course, signal lamps would require less power than searchlights of the same effective range.

In the NTL Baltic War, all of Simpson ships had signal searchlights converted from mining truck headlamps (Flint, 1634: The Baltic War, chapter 37).

It may be of interest to note that over the horizon communication is possible if there are cloud bases that can be illuminated.

Also, passing into the weird tech department, it is possible to transmit speech rather than Morse code at short ranges, with the appropriate receiver. Photophony was demonstrated by Simon in 1901 over a 0.72 mile distance using a Schuckert 90-centimeter searchlight as the transmitter and a 30-inch parabolic mirror with a selenium cell at the focal point as the receiver. The major limitation on photophony range was the combination of the divergence of the beam and the intensity of the light source. With a three degree divergence, a 30-centimeter beam would spread out to 150 meters at a range of three kilometers, and the intensity is reduced to four-millionths of the source (Burns 202-4).

Selenium is available according to canon; in October 1633, a radio with a selenium photo-resistor amplifier is being installed in a village, see Huff and Goodlett, “Credit Where It’s Due” (Grantville Gazette 36). Selenium is usually obtained as a byproduct of refining copper, being associated with copper sulfide ores (chalcocite, chalcopyrite). There is reference to electrorefining in Carroll and Wild, “The Undergraduate, Episode Two” (Grantville Gazette 50).


Signal lamp codes. In 1616, Franz Kessler proposed a binary code for use with a shuttered lantern for encoding letters of the alphabet and thereby sending messages (Ibid.). In 1862-3, Colomb used the combination of limelight and a shutter to send signals by Morse code (Sterling 209).

An alternative approach, used by Preble in 1803, relied on the spatial arrangement of three or four lanterns to encode numbers and a few special signals (Wrixon 419).

Colored light systems were proposed, too. In the 1850s, Ward proposed signals using combinations of red, white and no light (422). The Berg system used red, white, and green.

In 1891, the US Navy adopted the Ardois system. It used a cluster of four double lamps read top to bottom or sender’s right to left; within the pair, the upper light was red (Morse dot) and the lower light white (Morse dash); the light sources were 32-watt incandescents (424).


Combination Signals. The Royal Navy’s Night Signal Book for the Ships of War (1799) used a combination of lanterns, rockets, and “blank” cannon fires to encode numbers, which in turn had meanings specified in the code book (Wrixon 418).

Sometimes the Coston flares were combined with rockets. For example, the force blockading Charleston in 1864 used a rocket followed by Coston No. 0 for “blockade runner going out.”

Combinations signals were made easier to interpret by Greene, who advocated timing the intervals between signals, making it easier to figure out when one signal sequence ended and the next began.



Warships with sufficient electric power are likely to get equipped with a carbon arc searchlight. While it should be possible to prepare a silvered glass mirror by the Liebig process, my guess is that the first NTL searchlight mirrors will not be one-piece mirrors, but rather faceted mirrors in order to improve durability.

I would also expect them to use star shells, Until magnesium is available, these will probably use down-time “white star” compositions. However, I expect that some inventor will figure out how to add the parachute.

Fiat lux!


SMC, Part 1


July, 1634


Archie Mitchell was about to pull the lever on his reloading press when he heard his wife, Marjorie, call from the front of the house, “Pat’s here!” Archie was in what the family had come to call the gunroom. It was a room off the Mitchell’s portion of the two-story house jointly owned by Archie and Marjorie Mitchell and the Isslers, Dieter and Greta. Dieter Issler was Archie’s senior SoTF Deputy Marshal. He and Archie, the SoTF Marshal, had come to Suhl the previous spring when they were assigned to the SoTF First District Court.

The house was divided by floors. The Mitchells had the ground floor, less the large room in the front of the house that was the storefront for Greta Issler’s bakery. The Isslers had the upper floor.

The door of the gunroom was thick, heavy, and iron-strapped for security. The walls had additional thick, hardwood paneling and iron bars covered the room’s two windows. It was not as secure as an up-time safe, but it was the best strongroom that Archie could make until his up-time safe could be hauled from their house in Grantville. Inside the room was a wooden reloading table that faced one window. On that table, securely mounted, was a single-stage reloading press. Along one wall was a rack of rifles and shotguns.

Archie’s up-time oak desk, swivel chair and two wooden captain’s chairs faced the other window. The two chairs were newly made. He had commissioned them from a local cabinetmaker who used photos from one of Archie’s True Tales of the West magazine as a guide.

Pat Johnson walked into the gunroom and stopped when he noticed what Archie had in his hand. “Whatcha doin’, Archie?”

Archie turned to face Pat in the doorway, “Decapping brass, Pat. Take a seat and tell me what’s up.”

Pat walked into the room, pulled one of the chairs from Archie’s desk, and slid it around to face Archie at the reloading table. “Got a delivery for you, this just came in,” he said, giving Archie the box in his hand. It was addresseded to U. S. Waffenfabrik, Pat Johnson’s gun manufacturing company. “It was delivered to the shop. One thousand large pistol primers from the Hart boys.”

Archie looked at the box in his hand. It was a plain wooden box, flimsily made with LP written by hand on the top. “LP…large pistol? Did they size ’em right, this time?” The last box of primers from the Hart Brothers was supposed to have been sized for Large Pistol, the primer size used for .45ACP cartridge. They weren’t. When Archie tried to seat the primers into some brass, they wouldn’t fit. They were too large and had detonated. The detonation hadn’t damaged Archie’s reloading press, but it did destroy the cartridge brass in the press. He had quit trying to find one that was the correct size after a half-dozen failures. Forty-five caliber brass was too valuable to be wasted trying to seat primers that were oversized.

“Well, so they say. I guess you’ll find out when you try to seat them. I’d use my old brass first.”

“You better believe it,” Archie agreed.

Archie pulled the lever of the reloading press, finishing the act he had started when Pat arrived. The fired shell casing slid upwards and disappeared into the reloading press. Pat saw something shiny fall out of the bottom of the press and drop into a wooden box at Archie’s feet. Archie returned the lever to its usual upright position and the brass slid out of the decapping die. Archie took the decapped cartridge brass and dropped it into another larger box on the floor.

“Uh, what are you going to do with your spent primers?” Pat asked.

“Haven’t decided yet.” Archie glanced at the box at his feet. It was filled inches deep with spent primers. “They are metal. Should be worth something, I suppose,” he mused.

“Can I have some?” Pat asked. An idea was forming in his mind. Suppose . . .

“Well . . . okay. Why?”

“I just had an idea . . . well, it might be an idea,” Pat explained. “I’d like to have some used up-time caps to play with. See if my idea is something I’d like to try.”

Archie waited for Pat to expand on his statement. When he didn’t give one, Archie reached down, picked up the box with the spent primers littering the bottom and extended it to Pat. “Here, take all you need.” Pat reached into the box, took a handful of the spent primers and put them into his pocket.

Archie looked at the box of Hart Brothers primers and then back to Pat, “I hate using the Hart boys’ primers. They use fulminate of mercury and that makes the brass crack and split after a few reloads. It cuts their reloading life in half, if not more.” Archie muttered, “. . . wish I had a new supply.”

“What was that, Archie?” Pat had been thinking about the spent primers in his hand. He hadn’t heard Archie’s muttering clearly.

“I said I wish I had a new supply of cartridge brass. I think I’m going to run out of .45 Long Colt brass in a year or so, and then what? Back to cap ‘n ball?” He looked at the box of primers and shook his head, “I hope not.”

Archie’s wish gave Pat another idea. He needed to think on it for a while, do some research. When the time was right, he’d need to talk to Gary Reardon, maybe Ruben Blumroder. There could be opportunities here. He stood and said, “Well, see you later, Archie. Let me know how those primers work.”

“Will do, Pat,” Archie said. He stood and walked with Pat to the front door. Archie watched Pat walk down the street for a moment, then closed the door and returned to the gunroom to decap more fired brass.


Pat’s walk home took him past the Boar’s Head Inn. His mind was still working on an idea that had formed when he visited Archie Mitchell. Pat Johnson was in the business of making firearms. He, like a number of gunsmiths in Suhl, was introducing up-time technology to the seventeenth century. The design of the SRG rifle in use by the USE army utilized two technologies, rifling and the flintlock ignition system. Neither technology was new. Both existed before the Ring of Fire. However, the arrival of Grantville and up-time firearms had accelerated the development and use of rifling and flintlocks earlier than they had in the old timeline.

The thought was still in his mind when he turned a corner and entered the street where the Boar’s Head Inn was located. The inn had become the favorite watering hole for Suhl’s up-timers when it was the temporary residence of Marshal Archie Mitchell and Deputy Dieter Issler the previous spring. Although Archie and Dieter had moved out when they found permanent housing, the inn had become the place favored by the city’s up-timers. It had also become a cop bar, having become the chosen place to meet, eat, and drink by the city’s watch, the militia, and members of the Mounted Constabulary stationed in Suhl.

Pat shifted direction and entered the Boar’s Head to discover his favorite table, in a corner next to the fireplace, empty. He sat, with his back against the wall, ordered a stein of beer, and took a spent primer from his pocket.

He rolled the primer in his fingers, not really seeing it; his mind was elsewhere. The idea that had started during his visit with Archie Mitchell was percolating. He looked closely at the primer. On one side of the primer cup was the face of the primer with the center dented by the impact of a firing pin. On the other side, the primer was an open cup with . . . Pat took his lock-blade knife from his pocket, flicked it open, and used the tip to pry a three-legged, star-shaped piece of copper out of the cup—the primer’s anvil. When a firing pin hit the smooth face of the primer, that face was pushed into the primer, crushing the primer compound against the anvil and igniting the compound. The shape of the anvil directed the burning primer compound into the powder of the cartridge. It was a simple concept, a simple design, but difficult to make.

“May we join you, Herr Johnson?”

Pat looked up to see Wachtmeister Osker Geyer and Mounted Constabulary Captain Eric Gruber standing before him. The two habitually had a beer here in the Boar’s Head after making their joint walk around Suhl in the late afternoon. Their frequent walks were a public display of cooperation between the city watch and the Mounted Constabulary. On occasion, they would have a third party, Marshal Archie Mitchell or Deputy Marshal Dieter Issler, with them. “Certainly. Take a seat,” Pat replied.

“What have you there? You were studying it so much that you never saw us come in.” Gruber sat down next to Pat in the vacant chair that allowed him to watch the common room and its entrance.

“It’s a spent cartridge primer. Archie Mitchell gave me some.” He reached into his pocket, retrieved another spent primer, and gave it to Gruber. “Here, take a look.”

Gruber took the primer and rolled it in his fingers just as Pat had done minutes earlier. He examined it more closely and said, “I’ve never seen one that wasn’t in a cartridge. So little for what it does. Here, Osker, take a look.”

He passed the primer to Geyer, who made the same examination. Then he looked at the disassembled primer on the table before Pat.

They were interrupted by the arrival of the barmaid with Pat’s stein of beer. Gruber and Geyer gave their orders and returned to their examination of the spent primers.

Pat took a swallow from his stein while Gruber asked, “What makes the primer work?”

Pat completed his swallow and replied, “The most important part is the primer compound. It’s a small piece of explosive that ignites when it is crushed in the primer cup by the firing pin. The Hart brothers use fulminate of mercury. Fulminate of mercury is extremely dangerous. The Hart brothers have already had one explosion in their factory that I know of. Their finished primers have to be carefully handled, too. I’ve heard tales of their primers exploding in people’s hands.”

Gruber nodded. He knew that rumor was true. A man he knew, who was reloading some up-time cartridges, had a hole burned into his hand when a Hart primer ignited while he was handling it. It wasn’t a disabling injury, but still . . .

“Looking at this, it seems so simple,” Geyer observed. “Every time I see a piece of up-time technology, I think to myself, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?'”

“Me, too,” Gruber agreed.

“I’m with you,” Pat said. “I lived with up-time technology. I didn’t think about it. I had no idea how the technology worked. I just used it.”

The barmaid returned with two more steins of beer for Gruber and Geyer. Pat was still nursing his first. He didn’t drink a lot.

“Much of your technology is simple, once you understand the principles,” Geyer said. “Before the Ring of Fire, I was content to just make iron—cast iron, some better wrought iron. I made ingots and shipped them out. Iron was what factors wanted and I supplied them. Since the RoF, factors now want steel. I have been corresponding with some of my . . . uh . . . competitors about how they make steel. They don’t see me as a competitor, yet, so they’ve been very informative. I know now what mistakes not to make. I’d rather learn from their mistakes than from ones I make through ignorance. I’ve started making steel but I can’t meet all the demand.”

“How much different is making steel and making brass?” Pat asked.

Geyer paused, took a deep swallow from his stein, “In concept, not very much. Both are alloys, a mixture of two or more ingredients. For steel, it’s iron and carbon; for brass, it’s copper and zinc. The real difference is the temperature and how you manage extracting the metals from the ores. You need higher temperatures for iron and steel.”

Pat nodded, absently. His idea was still percolating. He remembered Gary Reardon, the owner of Suhl’s Bolt and Nut Company, saying that he needed to make more milling machines. He had started with one from Ollie Reardon and had made several more. But his stock of high-grade carbon steel was dwindling. Geyer’s mention of making steel entered the mixture of thoughts in Pat’s mind. He could almost see how Geyer’s comments merged with his idea. He needed to talk with Gary.

More customers were entering the inn, and the noise level was increasing. The afternoon was over, and the shadows were stretching along the streets. Time to go home, Pat decided. Pat changed the subject, and the three finished the last of their beer. They had talked through the last of the afternoon, and evening was approaching. The three left the inn, Gruber and Geyer turning left toward the center of town and Pat turned right.

I’ll sleep on this and talk with Gary tomorrow, Pat thought.



August, 1634



Pat Johnson didn’t meet with Gary Reardon the next day as planned; the unexpected intervened. Pat’s company, U. S. Waffenfabrik, received a new order for twenty rifles. That new order was followed by a letter from Grantville. The letter said Anse Hatfield had been severely wounded during the Battle of Ahrensbök and was now recuperating in Grantville. Hatfield was a friend and investor in Pat’s company. He had been a part-time employee until he had been recalled into the army the previous year. Hatfield’s TacRail unit should have been in a support position. Somehow, Pat was told, Hatfield became directly involved in the battle and was wounded. His wounds weren’t life-threatening but, apparently, he was suffering from PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Anse Hatfield was a friend—a good friend, and his condition worried Pat. He quickly wrote a letter to Hatfield assuring him that his job was waiting whenever he returned to Suhl.

One interruption led to another. July slipped into August. Weeks passed before Pat finally had an opportunity to sit down with Gary Reardon and discuss his idea.

Pat still hadn’t fleshed it all out; everything was still a bit nebulous. Pat was a visionary. He was good doing things, imagining things, and working in his shop and with his hands. What he wasn’t, however, was a planner. Planning was one of Gary Reardon’s skills. Pat’s method of operation was straightforward, see the hill, take the hill, as Archie Mitchell would say. Gary, given the same situation, would see another approach, usually a better one, plan it out in excruciating detail and get it done. Pat needed Gary. Gary had the drive, once he understood the end game, to get there quicker, and with less effort, than could Pat. Pat was the idea man. Gary was the man who could take the idea and make it a reality.


“. . . that’s the idea, Gary. What do you think?” The two met in Pat’s office in the U. S. Waffenfabrik factory. He and Gary had been discussing Pat’s idea. Gary had added to the vision with some of his own ideas. He wanted tungsten carbide to make harder, stronger dies and tools. With the added tungsten carbide, they saw a need for better steel, better than was currently available. Scope creep had set in.

The end-game vision was now much more clear. How to get to that end-game still needed more thought. The two of them listed five things that had to be made and assembled to make the final product. Determining those five things was the easy part. How to make them was the real task ahead of them. Pat got up, went to his office door and asked someone to go to the inn down the street and bring back two steins of beer. Pat reached into his pocket and gave the other person some coins. “. . . and tell them to fill the steins with the cool beer in the cellar.”

He returned to his desk. “I was getting thirsty, and I expect you were, too.”

Gary laughed. “I can count on you knowing your priorities, Pat.”

Pat hung his head for a moment. It was true. His momentary attack of ADHD had been appeased.

Gary stood and started to pace. He habitually paced when he was wrestling with a problem. He talked while he walked. He was clarifying his vision of the end game. Now the process was to work backward from the vision, detailing every item needed to make that vision a reality. “Well, we can get all the raw materials, I think. We have copper here in Suhl. We can get zinc to make brass from the Clausthal-Zellerfeld mines up in the Harz Mountains. Maybe tungsten, too. What we don’t have are the tools to make the tooling and the dies . . . and the power to operate the machines. We need better steel, good hard carbon and tungsten carbide steel.” He continued to build his list, mentally organizing them—what had to be done first, what was needed and when. He stopped before Pat’s office window. The messenger Pat had sent for the beer was approaching with a large stein in each hand. They needed one more partner, another partner for the enterprise that would be built on Pat’s initial idea.

“I think Osker Geyer would be interested.” Pat said. “I know he wants to start making carbon steel instead of cast and wrought iron. I know he’s experimenting with crude carbon steel, he told me so. And, he mentioned wanting a powered hammer forge and stamping mill, too.”

Gary stopped pacing for a moment and considered Pat’s statement. It mirrored his own thoughts. “Could be, Pat. If Osker Geyer wants to upgrade his iron foundry to a steel mill, I don’t see why we can’t help him—in exchange for him helping us.” Gary returned to his chair in front of Pat’s desk. “We’ll need power for our factory, too, if we want to get into commercial production—more output than can be made by hand.”

Pat agreed. “How about Schmidt steam engines? Maybe we can get a price-break if we make a volume order—combine our order with one from Geyer?”

“It’s worth asking, isn’t it?” Gary said.

“Let’s go visit Geyer and see what the thinks . . . after we finish our beer.”

“Good idea,” Gary agreed as Pat’s messenger appeared at the door with two steins. It was a hot day and, Gary thought, a nice cool beer would be a good interlude before bracing Geyer in his lair.


Instead of finding Osker Geyer in his foundry on the outskirts of Suhl, Pat and Gary found him sitting on a stool behind a tall desk in the watch office writing in a ledger. Geyer was getting tired of the city council stalling to fill his temporary position with a permanent appointment. I have work to do at my foundry. If the city council doesn’t act soon, I’ll give them an ultimatum. I’ll give them a week and if nothing is done, I’ll resign. It’s too much to ask…

Herr Geyer, Guten Tag,” Pat Johnson said. “How are you this fine day?”

Geyer glanced out the windows to the gray overcast outside. Looking back at the two, he simply said, “Herr Johnson,” Geyer looked at Gary Reardon, “and you, too, Herr Reardon.” Geyer was known for his bluntness but his greeting was more blunt than usual. Geyer was, if not quite friends with the two, a good acquaintance. He knew quite well that Pat Johnson and Gary Reardon wouldn’t appear before his desk without wanting something from him. What was it Archie Mitchell had said? Keep your hand on your purse when talking with these two.

“Pat and I would like to discuss an idea we have with you.” Gary Reardon said.

“What do you want the watch to do?”

“Absolutely nothing. This is a business proposal, well, not a proposal, yet. Just an idea.”

Geyer looked at Gary and then Pat. “Humph! Come back into my office.” With that, he got off his stool and walked into his office at the rear of the room.


“. . . we thought that a combined order may get us a volume discount and save us all some money,” Pat explained. “It’d help you with your upgrades and expansion and we’d get what we need from you at a discount, of course.”

Geyer looked at the two seated across from his desk. He had only asked a few questions but Pat could see the wheels turning in Geyer’s head. He had a hungry look but was too cautious to go further until he’d calculated his risk.

Pat continued, “And, of course, we would sell shares in our new . . . consortium. We’ve already spoken to some who may be interested and have some funds to invest.”

“Who?” Geyer asked.

“I can’t disclose that at the moment.”

Pat knew only too well that the only investors so far were Gary and himself. He knew of others who would invest when asked, but more money than that was needed. For that, they needed a plan, something that could be shown to the potential investors that would convince them the concept was feasible, and that Pat, Gary, and the…consortium were the ones who could make it possible.

“We need to develop a plan—actually a financial plan, business model, and a project plan for all of us. There are a number of interrelated tasks and dependencies that we have to manage if we bring this off.”

“Determine the critical path, determine what has to be done and when it has to be done,” Gary added. The critical path was those tasks that had to be done, in sequence, for the plan to progress. Some tasks could be done in parallel without affecting the critical path as long as they were completed as planned. “If the plan works, we could be millionaires.”

The three talked throughout the afternoon, interrupted occasionally by a watchman. Geyer wasn’t totally sold on the idea. He wanted to do some research and analysis himself. Towards the end of the day, he sent a message to the city council by a watchman to say that he was taking a few days off.


“Ambitious, aren’t you,” Archie Mitchell said. Pat and Gary had come to see him in his office in the Suhl District courthouse just as he was about to quit for the day. They recounted their conversation with Geyer and were about to expand on their need for funding when Archie interrupted, “Let’s talk on my way home.”

The three left the courthouse through a side door. Archie’s office, one that he shared with court bailiff Karl Wagner, was in the rear.

The courthouse was adjacent to the Mounted Constabulary barracks. As they passed the barracks, the troop of Mounted Constabulary came toward them, about to enter the compound. From their appearance, they were returning from an extended patrol along the surrounding roads and byways of the Suhl district. The lieutenant in command of the troop gave Archie a salute of respect as he rode past and Archie returned it. Archie was well liked by the troopers and their officers. He often rode with them whenever he had business in the area they patrolled and was willing and ready to take the same risks as they did.

“How much do you need?” Archie asked as the patrol trotted past and through the barracks gate.

Gary didn’t reply until the last trooper disappeared into the compound. “Sixteen thousand silver guilders to start.”

Archie choked. “Boys, if you think I have that much, you’re badly mistaken. I don’t have anywhere near that much. I put a big dent in my ready cash when Dieter and I bought the house here in Suhl.”

“No, no, no, you misunderstand,” Pat protested. “That’s how much we need in total for the first stage. We’re soliciting investors. You can invest whatever you can afford.”

They continued walking. The courthouse and Mounted Constabulary barracks were on higher ground than most of Suhl. They continued down into the city and along the river towards the western gate. Archie’s house nestled in a corner of the city and had room for a small stable for his four horses and buckboard wagon. It was just a couple streets from the western gate.

With the house in sight, Archie stopped. He needed to ask them something before he forgot. “And how many stages are there in this project of yours? You planning to sell more shares at each stage? That would dilute the value of my shares, wouldn’t it?”

“Well . . . maybe. We hope that after the first stage, the project will have products to sell to help finance the remaining stages. As an initial investor, we could give you a seat on the board.”

“Well, I’ll still need to think on that, see if there could be any conflicts of interest.” They walked on. “Ok,” he decided. “Since we’re here, why don’t you and Gary have supper with us, and then we’ll talk some more. I want to hear your complete plan. Dieter may be interested, too.”

“We don’t mind. We’re asking folks to keep quiet on this, even if they don’t invest, until we have more commitments, investors, and suppliers, plus a few material contracts.” They started walking toward the house with its aroma of fresh bread.

“You’re going to have to spend a lot of time on this. What about your businesses?” Archie asked.

“Anse Hatfield is coming back, I hope. I’ve sent him some letters telling him what’s been going on since he left last spring. He’ll keep U. S. Waffenfabrik running for me,” Pat said.

Gary chimed in. “And I have a good foreman. Gaylynn will keep a close eye on him. We’re covered, Archie.”

“I hope so. I don’t want you to impoverish yourselves doing this.”

“We won’t,” Gary replied. “Both companies will be tightly integrated into the new company once it’s running. I think we’ll have more business than we can handle.”

Archie opened the front door and ushered them in.


The family, as the Mitchells and Isslers thought of themselves, ate together around a large rectangular table. The table was another piece of up-time furniture that Archie had shipped from their house in Grantville to Suhl. Marjorie had brought the basics, chinaware, silverware, and cooking utensils, when she joined Archie in May. The remaining furniture, items they had selected before the move, had been arriving a few pieces at a time since then.

The table normally seated six. It could be expanded to seat more but that wasn’t necessary this time. For this evening, all six chairs were occupied. Marjorie had had a crock-pot simmering in the bakery’s oven all afternoon, a mutton stew. Fortunately, there was more than enough for Pat and Gary. By family custom, no business was discussed around the table. That custom was bent when Archie mentioned that Pat and Gary had a business deal they wanted to discuss with him. After the meal was over, Archie motioned for the men to follow him into his office, the gunroom.

“Okay, now what’s your game?” Archie asked when everyone was seated.

Gary talked. He recounted Pat’s initial idea about the spent primers and how that idea had sparked others. “It depends,” Gary Reardon said, opening the conversation. “What we want to do at first is, with Osker Geyer, to make machine tools—on a small scale. We need to make tools to provide mechanized production lines.”

Dieter Issler sat and listened. He didn’t completely understand all the issues that Gary talked about. It seemed very expensive. But, he decided, he trusted Archie. If Archie became involved, Dieter was willing to do the same, as much as he could. He and Greta had been saving for a long time. A good part of those savings had gone into the Issler share of the cost of their home in Suhl. Fortunately, since the opening of the bakery, Greta was making more than Dieter was with his SoTF salary. While he mused, he had missed some of Gary’s opening remarks. If he wanted to understand what was going on, he needed to pay closer attention.

“It’s the old, ‘make tools to make tools.’ What we want in the near term, next year, is to use those tools to start making cartridge brass . . .” Gary said.

“And primers,” added Pat when Gary paused.

“If you are going to make brass and primers, why not go whole hog and make complete cartridges?” Archie asked.

“We want to do just that,” Gary said, leaning forward for emphasis. “But we need to determine what is feasible and what, at this time, isn’t. Saying we want to make ammunition outright may not be advisable at this time. It could cost us investors if we’re not careful. Too many people seem to think we don’t have the ability, yet, to make cartridges in full commercial quantities, that the needed mechanization can’t be made nor put into operation. I know there are some people making cartridges but they’re low volume—using equipment like your single-stage press there,” Gary pointed to Archie’s reloading press bolted to a nearby table. “Each cartridge is handmade. How many can you reload with that press, Archie?”

Archie sat back in his swivel chair and rubbed his chin. High volume throughput wasn’t a feature of a single-stage reloading press. Back up-time, he used a Dillon progressive press. With it, he could load hundreds of cartridges, four or five hundred, in an hour. Still, hundreds was far from the number of cartridges needed for commercial quantities and he no longer had that Dillon progressive press. “I never counted, but maybe around fifty or sixty in an hour, somewhere around there,” Archie replied.

It was as Gary thought. He wasn’t a reloader himself, but he did know how it was done. The number Archie quoted was about the number he had estimated. “To be commercially viable, we need to make thousands, tens of thousands if we can, in an hour. Commercial quantities have always been a goal but no one believes it can be done—yet. So . . . we won’t mention it.”

“The Hart brothers have their primers in commercial production,” Dieter pointed out.

“That’s true, Dieter, but they’re using manual labor for their production line. Several people died last year when their plant blew up. In addition, they’re using fulminate of mercury and are mostly making just percussion caps and only a few actual primers.” Gary had been investigating the Hart Brothers business and manufacturing methods, as best he could from a distance. “Besides, I’ve heard they had another plant explosion.” As far as Gary Reardon was concerned, the way the Hart brothers did business was exactly the wrong way to do it. It was dangerous, and they displayed a callous disregard for the safety of their employees.

“We want to make primers that are non-corrosive—the French primers are corrosive—and don’t make brass brittle like the Hart brother’s primers. I’ve heard that lead styphnate is dangerous to make and to handle but it would be better than what the Hart boys are making.”

“Hang on a minute.” Archie stood and walked over to a shelf on his wall that was lined with books. He ran his finger across a number of titles and pulled one out. He scanned the table of contents while he returned to his chair. “Ah, page 65.”

“What’s that, Archie?” Pat asked.

Archie showed him the cover, “It’s the 1996 edition of Richard Lee’s Reloading Manual. I have several reloading manuals, Hornady, Speer, and Lyman. I remember writing some notes in this one.” Archie found page 65, read the page, flipped to the next page, “Here it is. Lee wrote that the EPA would soon ban lead styphnate for primers because of the lead used in its production. I remember thinking, what’s next? Lee talked about ‘green’ primers but I couldn’t find much about them. I did a bit of research and found another primer compound that was more stable than fulminate of mercury, didn’t leave a lead residue, didn’t damage cartridge brass and was non-corrosive. I thought I had written some notes here and I did—DDNP, full name, Diazodinitrophenol. It has been used in explosives for a long time, blasting caps and such, but also for primers before World War Two.” Archie gave the open manual to Pat, who read the page and passed it to Gary.

Gary returned the manual to Archie and asked, “Why did they continue to use lead styphnate if this was better?”

“Well, there’s better and then there’s better. I suspect that too many ammunition plants, the Army operated their own, you see, were already set up to use lead styphnate. With war on the horizon, no one wanted to change. It would be costly at a time when funds were hard to get. Besides, the danger of lead poisoning from the primers wasn’t well known at that time, if at all.”

“How is this DDNP made?”

“Beats me! I’m no chemist,” Archie said as he returned the manual to his bookshelf.

“Pat,” Gary said to his partner, “I think we, or one of us, should consult the library in Grantville. I think Geyer will need some up-time data, too.”

Archie interrupted. “Count me out. I can’t go.”

Marjorie entered the room and asked, “Archie, Dieter, can you help me for a minute? I need backs stronger than mine.”

Archie nodded, “Be there in a minute, Marj. I’ll be right back, boys.” And with that, he rose and followed Dieter out of the room.

Pat and Gary continued their conversation. “I have some orders to fill,” Pat said. “Think Geyer would want to go with you?”

“He might. I’ll ask. It’ll give me a chance to look for some more investors, too. How much do we have promised?”

“Umm, nine thousand guilders. We have credit with the local money people. I haven’t asked the gunsmiths yet. Some would be against it. They’d have to retool, and some can’t afford to do that by themselves.”

“They’ll have to at some point, Pat. Flintlocks are obsolete now that percussion caps are coming available in commercial volumes. I know the USE Army is buying the majority of the percussion caps but there will soon be more caps available for the public. It’s inevitable that change is coming.”

“True, and the timing is right for us if we can meet our business plan.”

They stood as Archie returned. “I think we have discussed all that we needed to for the moment, Archie. You’ve helped us a lot. May we borrow your manuals at some time?” Gary asked.

“Sure, Gary, just take care of them. There aren’t any more that I know of.”



September, 1634



Gary Reardon and Osker Geyer arrived in Grantville in the rain. It wasn’t a light rain; it was a downpour. They had hired a coach for their trip from Suhl and, when the rain started, it began to leak. Rain entered through the windows, around the leather shutters they had rolled down the windows and dripped from the coach roof where the rain had soaked through. They were wet, cold, and completely uncomfortable. “This is where I grew up, Osker,” Gary said when the coach rolled up before the two-story house. “Dad is in Magdeburg, but Mom is home. We’ll stay here while we’re in Grantville.” Gary had noticed Geyer looking at everything in Grantville. This was his first visit to the up-time town—city, now, and he appeared to be amazed at everything—the streets, the lights, the buildings, everything.

Gary and Geyer paid the coach driver and hauled their luggage up to the Reardon extended front porch out of the rain. Gary’s mother, Nancy, an elderly white-haired lady, was waiting in the doorway.

“Gary! How good to see you . . . and you’ve put on some weight, I see. Come inside and take off those wet coats.” The two men entered the house, and she waited while they hung their coats on hooks near the door. “Come back to the kitchen, and I’ll fix you something hot,” she said after giving Gary a strong maternal hug.

They followed her to the kitchen in the rear of the house. Osker Geyer was looking at everything—the linoleum-covered floor, the porcelain sink and chromed faucets, and, although he didn’t understand their purpose at first, the stove and refrigerator. Nancy Reardon continued her conversation with Gary as he and Osker sat at the kitchen table.

“Gaylynn is a great cook, Mom. She has to try every new recipe on me as soon as she finds one. Greta Issler is teaching her baking, and Gaylynn has discovered the joys of honey rolls.”

While they talked, she filled a kettle with water from the sink and put it on the stove to heat.

“Mom,” Gary said, “let me introduce Osker Geyer. He’s a business associate of mine in Suhl. We’re here to consult the library.”

Guten Tag, Frau Reardon. I’m most happy to make your acquaintance,” Geyer said.

“Glad to meet you, too, Herr Geyer. You are very welcome.”

She turned to Gary, “I’ve your old room available and Dewey’s room, too. He’s gone with your father to Magdeburg.”

The kettle began to boil. She placed some loose tea in a metal ball and put that ball in the teapot. She turned a knob on the stove, picked up the kettle, and poured water into the teapot. “Will you two be staying long?” she asked. “There’s no rush, I don’t expect your Dad and Dewey to be back for a couple of weeks.”

“I don’t know, Mom,” Gary replied. “It will depend on what we find in the library.”


The two men rose early the next morning and, after a quick breakfast at Nancy Reardon’s insistence, headed for the high school. Gary signed for the two of them in the registry just inside the library, walked past the guard and asked the librarian where to find books on steel making and chemistry. She directed them to the next available researcher, who consulted an existing bibliography on each subject and headed for the science section of the library. She brought Geyer several volumes on the production of steel and the Bessemer process. Geyer took two volumes and seated himself at a table in the corner. He had brought his secretary with him, a small leather case containing paper, several pencils—he had been warned that pens and ink were forbidden in the library—note cards, and other paraphernalia. Absorbed, he proceeded to read and make notes.

Gary wasn’t as fortunate. He hadn’t known that there were two kinds of chemistry, organic and non-organic. The researcher brought a stack of books from each category. Finally, in frustration, Gary went back to the researcher and asked her if she knew of any books on primers, specifically lead styphnate and DDNP. The researcher hadn’t heard of DDNP but a large number of ‘manufacturers’ had been interested in lead styphnate, and she brought him those volumes.

The two spent the morning reading and taking notes. Geyer issued a constant stream of muttered comments and hired a local researcher to help translate books from up-time English to colloquial German.

“Finding what you were looking for, Osker?” Gary asked. The hour was approaching noon, and Geyer appeared to have been successful in his search.

“Yes and no. The Bessemer process is more complicated than I thought. I have found that my initial understanding—blow air through the molten iron—is not as simple as I thought. I want to make specialty steel. I thought using the Bessemer process was the answer, but I think I was wrong . . . at least to start. I use what the books here call the puddling process. It’s easier to alter the alloys with my current method. I do need a hammer forge and a rolling and stamping mill, but I think I need to build what you up-timers call a prototype plant. I can add a Bessemer furnace later.”

“You’ll still be able to make tool steel and tungsten carbide steel for us, right? We need that to make the dies and other tools.”

“Yes, as long as I can get the proper ores. If you can get zinc to make brass, I can get tungsten from the same place. I think my next step is to place our orders with Schmidt Steam. Have you found what you need?”

Gary wagged his head from side to side and finally sighed. “Like you, yes and no. It’s harder than I thought. I think I need an alchemist.”

The trip to Grantville wasn’t a total loss, not for Geyer at least. Gary, unfortunately, had to search elsewhere. He had found some information—enough to know he couldn’t make primer compound, any kind, by himself. He just didn’t have the background, the experience, or the knowledge.


September, 1634



Nicki Jo Prickett sat in her office in the Essen Chemical works nursing a cooling mug of tea and staring out the window. October was approaching, and the weather had cooled earlier than expected. She should have been doing something, but . . . it just wasn’t the same since last year when Tobias Ridley and Solomon des Caux had blown themselves up. She watched the wind blow through the trees that had been planted in front of the building. Some were turning already, and autumn wouldn’t officially arrive for another week.

She knew the explosion that had killed two of her researchers wasn’t her fault. Katherine kept reminding her of that fact. She was . . . just depressed. She wasn’t motivated to do anything, just coasting. In one part of her mind, she was disgusted. She wasn’t used to being idle. The rest of her mind, however, kept returning the scene from the previous year, the scene of bodies being retrieved from the rubble after the explosion.

Katherine Boyle, the fifth daughter of Richard Boyle, the Earl of Cork, could be heard in the outer office. Katherine and Nicki Jo were . . . what up-timers would call a couple. They had been together for almost two years; meeting after Katherine had fled to Brussels, away from her abusive husband, the late and unlamented Arthur, Viscount Ranelagh. Ranelagh had hounded Katherine all the way from England to Brussels where he apparently drowned in a canal while drunk.

Tobias Ridley and Solomon des Caux had caused their own deaths and that of others by ignoring her instructions, trying to short-cut a process they believed could move faster by ignoring some steps. They were wrong. The steps, required to further refine and purify some of the ingredients, were important. Tobias and Solomon thought otherwise. The result was an explosion that destroyed the lab and killed Ridley, des Caux, and some other nearby experimenters.

GIGO, she thought. For Tobias, that was Contaminants in, BOOM out. She giggled and the sudden giggles startled her. The giggle was so . . . inappropriate. She sighed. I should be in the lab, she thought. At least I’m not cutting myself. Nicki Jo had a habit of . . . punishing herself. Katherine had found her cutting lines into her arm a week after the explosion. She pulled back her sleeve and glanced at the white lines of scars. The freshest scar was now more than six months old. That line of thought took her down one circuitous path after another. Her thoughts were interrupted by Katherine calling from the outer office. “Nicki Jo, you have a visitor.”

“Who is it?”

“Hi, Nicki Jo,” Gary Reardon called as he entered her office. “It’s been awhile.” Gary Reardon was twice Nicki Jo Prickett’s age. He knew her because he was a friend of her father. He walked over to Nicki Jo and sat down across from her desk.

Gary’s preemptive entrance startled her. “Gary Reardon! Why are you here?”

“Ms. Boyle, I believe her name is, made the mistake of glancing toward your office door. You know me, Nicki Jo. I don’t like waiting in outer offices—especially when it’s an office of an old friend. As for the why, I would like to consult with you on a project.”

“Sometimes Katy goes too far,” Nicki Jo muttered. Katy knew quite well she didn’t want to see anyone.

“I know it’s been awhile since we’ve seen each other but, I have a project that may interest you.”


“I think so, and so does Ms. Boyle.”

“Call me Katherine,” Katherine Boyle interrupted from the doorway. When Gary Reardon had marched past her into Nicki Jo’s office, she had followed.

“Katherine. Thank you,” he said. Focusing on Nicki Jo, again, he continued. “When I entered, I found you sitting here, giggling. I’ve been told why you are—have been—upset, but, Nicki Jo, it’s been almost a year! It’s time you got yourself working again. You can’t continue punishing yourself.”

“And you think you know how to motivate me?” Nicki Jo asked peevishly. Still, she thought, what am I doing here? Nothing. Maybe I do need something to take my mind off Tobias and Solomon. I really hadn’t liked them all that well, chauvinists that they were. She saw Banfi Hunyades slip into her office, watching. Clearly, Gary had gone directly to the chemical plant when he arrived in Essen and spoken with Banfi Hunyades, her senior chemist. So he would have found out that she hadn’t been actively working in some time.

Maybe. Maybe not. Won’t know until I try.”

“What do you want?”

Gary had noticed Hunyades’ entrance, too. He nodded to the older chemist in acknowledgement. “I want you to design and build a chemical plant,” he told Nicki Jo. “A plant that is safe, using well-documented processes, and able to operate with limited professional supervision and oversight.”

“What kind of plant?” she asked.


“Who’s we?”

“Nicki Jo. Let me finish a sentence, please. The we is me, Pat Johnson, Osker Geyer from Suhl, Archie Mitchell, others in Suhl, and perhaps some more whom I’ll meet in Magdeburg on the way home. The where is Suhl and the what is center-fire cartridge primers.”

“The Hart boys are already making primers,” she countered.

“Yes—using fulminate of mercury which shortens the life of cartridge brass and is highly unstable. We want to be able to reload fired cartridge brass. We want you to design a facility—from end-to-end, to make non-mercury, non-corrosive, non-toxic primers. Using DDNP if possible, lead styphnate as an alternative.”

“DDNP?” Banfi Hunyades asked, interrupting the conversation.

“Full name, Diazodinitrophenol. It’s made from picric acid. I understand you all have some experience with that.”

“More explosives,” Nicki Jo said. For many reasons, and not just because of the explosion last year, she was reluctant to be involved with explosives.

“Has to be, Nicki Jo, if the primers are going to work. We don’t want our plant to blow up in our face nor do we want to ignore the risk to our employees. That’s why we need a chemical engineer, one who can design the chemical processes and also design a safe plant to make the primers.”

“Do it, Nick,” Katherine said from the doorway.

“What about you, Katy?”

“Is this a permanent position, Mr. Reardon, or—” Katherine asked.

Gary saw Katherine’s question startled Hunyades. He had seated himself in a side chair during the conversation. I can imagine some of the thoughts going around in your head, Herr Hunyades. Ambition, fear, maybe a little greed?

“Call me Gary, Katherine, if you would.”


“It could be if that is what Nicki Jo wants,” he said to her. “It’s an option.”

Returning to Nicki Jo, he said, “I know you have a position here and I—we, our investors—wouldn’t ask you to give that up. We were thinking of a consultancy. Fixed duration, explicit goals with mutually agreed upon timeline, bonuses and options to alter or extend the contract.”

“How long?”

“We want to be in production in a year.”


Gary noticed that Hunyades was nodding his head. Gary understood that Hunyades wasn’t an idle member of Essen Chemical. He understood what was required to build a complete, new chemical plant. I may have an ally with Herr Hunyades. Nicki Jo obviously hadn’t realized the scale of the plant that I need.

“Yes. Full commercial production in a year producing at least a thousand primers per production line per day.”


“I think you should take the contract,” she answered.

“I agree, Nicki Jo,” Hunyades added.


“You need to do something besides sitting in your office feeling depressed and punishing yourself,” Katherine said. That was exactly what Nicki Jo had been doing. Everyone who knew her also knew what she was, and wasn’t, doing.

“I’m not—”

“Yes, you are. What about all those new scars on your arms?” she countered.

“What would Colette say? And Fernando and Maria Anna?” Colette Modi was the owner of Essen Chemical, and the one who had hired Nicki Jo as her chief researcher. Fernando and Maria Anna were the King and Queen of the Netherlands following the separation of the Netherlands from Hapsburg Spain. Fernando and Maria Anna, by happenstance, had become close friends.

“Tell them you’re taking a sabbatical from Essen Chemical and that we’re willing to license the process if it works, given some constraints and non-compete—and under our brand,” Gary responded quickly.

“Katy? What about her?” she asked Gary.

“She’s welcome, too, Nicki Jo. We’ll need you to train a staff to run the production lines safely when you are finished. Katherine can help and I’m sure Herr Hunyades can manage the research here at Essen Chemical while you’re gone. Correct, Herr Hunyades?”

Ja, Herr Reardon,” He confirmed. “It wouldn’t be any different from what I’ve been doing for the last year,” Hunyades added.

Nicki Jo knew something had to change. Katy was right. She needed something to take her mind off those two—no, she wasn’t going there. Maybe a change of scenery, new faces, new . . . She could design the plant from end to end, Gary had said . . . Banfi Hunyades could be trusted to run things here and send her reports in Suhl to keep her in the loop . . . Their research lines still had a long time to go, and most of the current work was planning how to upgrade their pilot plants to production capacity.

She drummed her fingers on her desk and exchanged looks with Katherine and Hunyades for a moment. It would be different, and she would have complete control, so Gary had said.

“Gary?” Nicki Jo asked.


“How many primers are the Hart brothers producing?”

“The best we know is 1,000 per day.”

Nicki Jo muttered, “Idiot boys. They’ll kill themselves yet.” She looked out her window. A freight wagon was leaving the warehouse and moving towards the gate. A delivery for someone. She remained, looking out the window, listening as Gary continued.

“We want to have several parallel production lines in operation.”
That statement didn’t surprise her. It was necessary if Gary’s intent was to produce tens of thousands of primers. She turned from the window and asked, “Does the army need that many?”

“I don’t know. We don’t intend to sell solely to the army. We have other plans.”

“Like what?”

“Well . . .” He looked at the three of them, Hunyades, Katherine Boyle, and Nicki Jo. “This is all confidential, you understand.”

“Yes,” Nicki Jo acknowledged. Katherine and Hunyades agreed.

“Okay. Let me tell you about the consortium . . .”



October, 1634


Archie Mitchell was alone in his office late in the afternoon reminiscing. The days were noticeably shorter, and his office was darkening. His officemate, Bailiff Kurt Wagner, was assisting Judge Fross in court. It was time to light the lamps or go home.

Dieter Issler, Archie’s senior deputy, had returned from a fugitive hunt in the ‘Wald and was taking some time off. He had returned with the fugitive and a little four-year-old orphan girl, Marta. He and his wife Greta were adopting her.

It felt strange to have a child in the house after all these years. Marta called him Großpapa. Marjorie was being very . . . grandmotherly. A sudden wave of emotion swept through him as a memory of his long-gone daughter Lena welled up. No time to be maudlin.

Anse Hatfield had dropped by earlier in the day, and Archie took him to lunch at the Boar’s Head Inn. Hatfield was in a bad way. His injuries, the loss of some fingers and part of his left hand, were minimal, but they still depressed him. He couldn’t do some things that he had before, couldn’t grip a tool with his left hand, he felt that he was useless. In addition, he hadn’t been medically discharged from the Army, just sent home as a National Guardsman. Hatfield took the change of his status as an insult even if it did come with a promotion. Too damaged for the Army, but good enough for the National Guard.

Pat Johnson had offered Hatfield a job. So far, Hatfield was resisting; he didn’t want an office job. He mentioned starting a small trucking company for the city and training drivers for the National Guard. Frank Jackson was sending some small trucks, too small to be used as APCs, for that purpose. Finally, he told Archie about his fiancé, Leonore von Wilke. She was still in the Army and she was another reason why Hatfield wouldn’t make any long-term commitments. Whither goest Leonore, so would Anse Hatfield, Archie observed.

Archie was about to grab his hat, cane and head home when Pat Johnson walked in. “Hi, Archie.”

“Hi, Pat. Pull up a chair. What brings you here?”

Pat walked over to Archie’s desk, moved one of the side chairs in front of Archie’s desk and sat. “Have a question. Do any of your manuals describe how cartridge brass is formed?”

Pat had been spending time taking notes from Archie’s reloading manuals. His question stirred Archie’s curiosity. “Hmmm, I’ll have to look. I know that cartridge brass is a 70/30 mix of copper and zinc and that primer brass is softer, about ninety percent copper to ten percent, or less, of zinc.”

“I didn’t know that. I hadn’t thought about primer brass yet. I’ve been focused on making cartridge brass.”

One of Archie’s junior deputies walked into Archie’s office, saw that he had a visitor, and left, closing the office door behind him. It must have been a minor matter. The deputies knew it was unwise to interrupt Archie when he had a visitor unless the interruption was warranted. “Why do you ask?”

Pat scooted his chair closer to Archie’s desk. “We need to mechanize the process if we are to produce the number of cartridge brass that we will need.”

Archie paused, searching his memory. “As best that I recall, the brass is made in three steps on three machines. You start with a small brass cup, less than an inch in diameter, and run it through three passes on each of the three presses. Each pass forms the copper cup into a closed cylinder until it’s at the required length and thickness after the last pass on the second machine.” Archie stopped, opened a desk drawer and retrieved a piece of paper.

He took a pencil and began to draw a block diagram of the process as he remembered it. “You have to do it in stages, you see.” He drew three squares on the paper. “Or the brass will split or crumple.”

Next, he drew arrows from the first square to the second, and another arrow from the second to the third. “The brass is cleaned and lubed before it is passed to the next machine.” He wrote C&L on each arrow and Extrude/3Passes in the first two boxes.

“The third stage, the final stage, actually, is where the base is formed, headstamp imprinted, the primer pocket made, and an ejector groove is cut. The last step includes cutting the brass to length and trimming the mouth. Once the tooling is set up you can make a bunch of brass in a few minutes.” He drew a bubble next to the third square, drew an arrow from the bubble to the third square and wrote inside the bubble, HS-PP-TRIM.

“You know more than I expected, Archie,” Pat said. One of the court’s staff knocked on Archie’s office door, entered, and lit the two brass lamps in sconces on the wall. Archie pulled some matches from his drawer and lit the lamp on his desk before returning to his conversation. “You’re lucky, Pat. I visited the Lake City Arsenal when I was a sergeant major at the Army’s Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth. That was just before I retired in ’83,” he said. “Lake City was only a short drive away in Independence, Missouri. The school ran a tour for every class. I went along a few times. Here. Take this.” He gave Pat the paper with the diagram on it. Pat glanced at it, folded it, and put it in his jacket pocket.

Pat returned Archie’s smile. “That’s good info. Gary and Osker Geyer went to Grantville to consult the library. Osker Geyer returned a couple of days ago, and Gary went on to find an alchemist,” he said with a smile.

“Alchemist?” Archie chuckled. He could imagine Gary saying something like that. For all his type-A personality, Gary had a wicked sense of humor.

“That’s what Osker said. I think Gary really meant a chemist.”

“More than likely,” Archie agreed. “Where’d he go?”

“Not sure. Osker said Gary didn’t want anyone connected with the government. He said Gary didn’t want the camel’s nose in our affairs.”

“I can understand that.”

“I’m surprised you’d say that. You’re part of the government here.”

“Yes, and I’m keeping as low a profile as I can. I don’t want the city and county becoming dependent on the Constabulary or me. They’re already loading Judge Fross with stuff they should be handling themselves.”

“So they can blame Judge Fross instead of themselves.” Pat made the question a statement. He was familiar with up-time politics and knew down-time politics was not any different.

“That’s one reason. Do you know when Gary’s getting back?”

“Don’t know,” Pat answered. “Couple of weeks, maybe. I know he planned to go to Magdeburg to talk to some money people. I think he was going to see if some of the Abrabanel clan would be interested in investing or know some potential investors who would.”

While they talked, darkness had fallen. “Well, if you think you can get the project running in a year, you better get moving. Winter’s coming on.”

“I’ve been busy, too. I’ve talked to the Wettins about buying a couple or three sections of land outside Suhl. We’ll need to make the primer compound some distance away from everyone, maybe have multiple sites depending on how the plant is designed.”

Archie nodded, “Yeah, I remember Lake City had bunkers and production buildings scattered all over.”

“The plot of land I’ve picked is two sides of a ridge. I figured we could put the chemical plant on the far side of the ridge away from people and the production side . . . just in case.”

“It goes boom,” Archie said, finishing Pat’s sentence.

“Yeah. The Wettins said they’d approve the deal pending proof of our ability to pay.”

“Proof?” Archie was surprised. That was not the way the aristocracy operated, or so he had been told. It was more like, cash on the barrelhead.

“A letter from our financiers,” Pat explained. “We now have enough funds on hand to buy the land but I want to save that for a reserve, as much as I can, in case we hit some unexpected expenses. Osker made a deal with Schmidt Steam. He bought some smaller engines in addition to the primary ones and still stayed within budget. Our finances are better than I’d estimated for this stage.”

Pat’s plans seemed to be coming to fruition . . . at least his part of them. Archie hoped Gary would be as successful. That thought brought forth a question. “When are we going to see this master plan of yours?”

“As soon as Gary gets back. I’ll call a meeting of the board.”

Archie watched the other courthouse employees leave through his office window, each one parading past his office. It was time to cut this conversation short. “Okay, I’ll go through my books when I get home. I think one of my manuals has a piece about making cartridge brass. I remember reading about Hornady’s plant but I don’t remember where, exactly, I read about it.”

“Fine. Thanks, Archie.” They both stood. Something had been nibbling in Archie’s mind. Something overlooked . . . and then he realized what it was. “Uh, Pat.”

Pat stopped just at the doorway, waiting for Archie to gather his coat, hat, and cane. “Yeah?”

“Don’t forget to add a brassworks to your project plan,” Archie said walking up to Pat. “You’ll have to make your own brass.”

“Crap! I hadn’t considered that. I just assumed Geyer would make the brass.” They walked down the hallway to the court’s side door. The outside street was lit by a three-candle lamp next to the doorway. As was his long habit, Archie swept the street with his eyes before he stepped completely outside. Seeing nothing to draw his further attention, he accompanied Pat down the street toward the center of town. As they walked, Archie continued explaining his thoughts about the brassworks.

“Geyer might operate it, but I think this consortium of yours should own it.”

Pat thought that over. Geyer had the experience to operate the brassworks. With minor differences, it was much like operating an iron foundry. But, did they—the consortium—want to give their investment over to Geyer? “Yeah, you’re right. Thanks again, Archie.”

“Any time, Pat.” At the front of the courthouse, they separated, each heading home. Pat’s questions gave Archie food for thought. He’d look through his reloading manuals after supper. And, he reminded himself, write down everything I can remember about Lake City Arsenal.


The Monster Society: From the Ashes

Henrietta crossed the muddy yard between the house and the barn, weaving back and forth to avoid the worst of the puddles. It was barely an hour past dawn, and already she was exhausted. No matter how hard she tried to put the Monster Society and the loss of Ray out of her head, she had lain awake all night thinking of things she might have done differently—things she might have done that would have saved him.

She ducked into the barn and stood for a moment, letting her eyes adjust to the dim light. It was warmer than the yard, at least. The ox and pigs gave off heat, and the hay in the loft above held it in, even when the wind whispered against the roof.

Henrietta tucked her braid up under her cap and grabbed the two-pronged pitchfork from beside the door. On any other day she might have been resentful of doing this work alone and the knowledge that she might not be able to see her friends. But with Ray gone, she no longer had friends, and the work was at least an outlet for the anger and grief that held her so tight she wondered if it would ever fade.

She murmured to the ox soothingly as she used the fork to pull the dirty straw from his stall. Her arms and back aching as she worked with a feverish determination – tossing the soiled bedding over her shoulder into the middle of the little barn. Thrust. Lift. Toss. Focusing on the work so she would not have time to think of anything else.

The door to the barn creaked open, light spilling in for a moment before it shut again. Henrietta shoved the fork into another mound of straw. “I’m not done yet, Papa.”

“It’s not . . . Hey!” Natalie dodged sideways as a clod of straw and manure hurtled toward her.

Henrietta turned and looked at her with a scowl. “I’m busy.”

“I can see that.” Natalie shuffled her feet. “But we need to talk.”

“About what? The Monster Society? I told you. I’m done with that.” She dug the fork into another pile of straw and hurled it over her shoulder.

“Hey!” Natalie sidestepped again. “No, it’s not about that.” She moved closer, leaning on the top rail of the stall. “It’s about John.”

Henrietta paused, a new wave of anger making her cheeks flush. She had known from the moment she first saw John and Natalie together that he was more interested in the up-timer than he ever had been in her. But now, with Ray gone, hearing Natalie say his name was just a reminder that she was alone.

She scraped the last bits of dirty bedding out of the corners and tossed it onto the pile, looked at Natalie, ready to tell her to get out. But Natalie’s normal shy demeanor was gone—a serious wrinkle across her forehead.

Henrietta sighed. “What about John?”

“He’s not taking Konrad’s . . . passing very well.”

Henrietta shook her head. “Some of us were his friends. Not just in the Monster Society. Some of us knew him. Some of us . . .” She stopped, throat burning with the effort of holding back tears.

Natalie reached out impulsively and laid her hand on Henrietta’s shoulder. “You loved him.”

Hearing it out loud hurt more than anything else, and Henrietta tried to shake her head, but tears spilled over, and she reached up to take Natalie’s hand. “Maybe.” She took a deep breath. “Yes.”

Natalie rubbed at her own eyes fiercely, but didn’t let go of Henrietta’s hand, still leaning awkwardly across the top rail of the stall. “I am so sorry, Henrietta.”

Henrietta looked at her, trying to say something sharp and nasty. Because she knew that being around Natalie and John again would only make Ray’s absence more obvious. But she couldn’t. Deep down she didn’t want to—she wanted her friends back, even if it meant thinking more about Ray. She realized that as much as it hurt to remember him, trying to forget him hurt even more.

She let the pitchfork fall to the ground and took Natalie’s other hand. “I’m sorry, too.” For a moment they stood, tears running across their cheeks in hot and sticky lines.

Finally Henrietta let go and wiped her face on her sleeve, then took a few deep breaths of the warm and pungent air inside the barn. “Tell me about John.”

“I think he’s lost it, Henrietta,” Natalie told her.

“Lost it?”

“We both know John walked a razor’s edge sometimes between what was real and what he had built in the Monster Society, but—” Natalie frowned as Henrietta interrupted her.

“John always knew what was real and what wasn’t,” Henrietta protested. She had seen firsthand what happened when someone got lost in the games the Society played. Her brother, Van, was the reason she had joined the Society. Van had never been right in the head. That and his age had drawn her to follow him in the Society to watch over him. With each passing adventure, Van had become more dangerous and more caught up in the world that the Monster Society had helped create in his mind. Ultimately, Van had injured another new recruit that John had brought in and was booted from the Society altogether. She had stayed, though. She had found more than she bargained for in the Society and fallen for John at first sight. The Society had become her family.

Natalie shook her head. “I got to know John better than any of us guys did, Henrietta, and you know it. I loved him too,” Natalie paused so she could keep her voice under control. “Trust me when I tell you that he was . . . troubled. Something happened to him during his time in the army. He never told me what but whatever it was, it shook him to the very core of his soul. I think the Monster Society was his means of coping with his past. It was a new start for him that gave him purpose. Through it, he wasn’t alone anymore either. He had us . . . all of us. When Ray died, all that shattered for him.”

“He’s hurting,” Henrietta said, “We are, too.”

Natalie couldn’t argue that. “Yes, we are, but John . . . I think John believes he can really bring Konrad back from the dead.”

Henrietta stared at Natalie for a long moment before she spoke again. “And you think he may hurt himself or someone else trying to do it.”

Natalie nodded. “John has never fit in anywhere but the Monster Society, Henrietta. He’s always lived on the edge and thought outside of the box. There’s no telling what he may do if he believes it could bring Konrad back to us. We have to stop him before something bad happens.”

“Fine,” Henrietta consented. “I’ll help you. Do you know where he is now?”

“No,” Natalie admitted.

“We’ll find him together then but not right now,” Henrietta told her. “I have to finish my chores around the farm first. You go on. I’ll meet you at the edge of town in a few hours.”

“Thank you,” Natalie said and left, leaving Henrietta to her work.

Henrietta finished her chores as quickly as she could. After she was done, she popped into the house long enough to tell her parents she was heading out for the evening to see her friends. As she left, Henrietta carried a shovel with her.

When Konrad died, she had buried her Monster Society costume nearby and swore to never put it on again. That was a promise she had known even then that she might not be able to keep.

Henrietta found the spot where she had buried her costume and set about digging it up. Sweat poured from her skin as she dug into the earth. Soon, she would be “Red” again. When she wore her hood and her cloak, she always felt stronger than she ever did as plain old Henrietta. It was as if the character of the wolf slayer that she portrayed became a part of her.

She flung the shovel aside in the wake of uncovering her costume. She cleaned it as best she could flapping the cloak about in the air to fling the dirt from it. Her hands trembled as she clasped the cloak around her throat. As she flipped its hood up over her head, her hands stopped shaking. The features of her face hardened with determination. Losing Konrad had been enough. She wasn’t going to stand by and let John destroy himself if there was anything she could do about it. Leaving the shovel lying where she had thrown it, Red set out towards the edge of town where she knew Natalie would be waiting.


Natalie paced a slow circle around the tree where the members of the Monster Society always met up. She had already eaten one of the sandwiches out of her backpack. It was the second time in a month that she’d skipped school without telling anyone, which meant she hadn’t gone home after she left Henrietta, but had stayed here—near the edge of Grantville—trying to pass the time while she waited.

She considered eating the other sandwich, but she wasn’t really hungry, just bored. And cold. She breathed into her gloves to warm her fingers and plodded another circle around the tree.

Up the road, something flickered. A splash of scarlet among the grey-brown winter trees. “Ah.” Natalie snatched up her backpack and broke into a run. There was no need to wait and see who it was; the red cloak could only belong to one person.

“Red!” Natalie sidestepped a puddle and skidded on the muddy road, struggling to stay upright as her arms flailed around for balance. “Whoops. Hey, I’m glad you’re here.”

Red nodded. “I’m glad you waited.”

Natalie looked at her more closely. “Are you all right? You’re a little , , , uh . . . ” She waved a hand at the muddy cloak.

“Oh. Yeah. I’d buried it.” She smoothed her hands across each shoulder, coaxing the wrinkled fabric to lie flat. “I guess some things shouldn’t stay dead.”

“Cool.” Natalie stuffed her hands in her coat pockets, suddenly wishing she’d brought her costume, too. But that would have made Mom suspicious.

“So.” Red looked at her intently. “Now what?”

“Now we go talk to John.” Natalie stamped her feet, boots squelching in the mud. “I do miss paved roads, you know. We could have taken my bicycle.”

Red nodded. “But our legs work. And it’s not that far if we go together.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Friends make things easier, right?”

“True,” Natalie said. She hitched her thumbs through the straps of her backpack and started walking. “And at least if we’re walking my feet won’t be so cold.”

John had been kicked out of his relative’s tavern and now lived in a tiny hut tucked back in the woods. There was a path that led from the main road, but it was narrow and the trees on either side tended to snag and catch at anyone walking that way.

When Natalie and Red finally reached the little clearing around the hut they were both red-cheeked and brushing bits of twigs from their clothes and hair.

“Oof.” Natalie untangled a particularly stubborn piece of a branch from the flap on her backpack. “Stupid trees.”

Red thumped on the door with her fist.

There was a muffled clatter from within, then silence.

Red frowned and knocked on the door again, surprised that doing so didn’t cause it to fall from its hinges. “John.”

Natalie leaned down close to the door jam. “We know you’re in there. Answer the door.”

There was more clattering, like pots or crockery being shoved to one side, and the floorboards creaked.

Red was just raising her fist to knock a third time when the door flung open and John burst through. “Hello.”

He pulled the door shut behind him and looked at both of them with a ragged smile. “I wasn’t expecting . . . And Red. I thought you were finished with the Monster Society?”

Red shook her head. “Maybe not. You look terrible.”

“What? Oh.” John raked his fingers through his hair, and tugged at his shirt. It did little to hide the black circles under his eyes or the dirt crusted under his fingernails.

Natalie wondered about the reddish tint to the stains on his shirt. “Is that blood, John?”

“No. No.” He flinched back as Red stepped closer. “I mean, yes. But I cut my finger the other day and I must have, you know, wiped it on my shirt.” He blinked and rubbed his sleeve across his face. “What are you doing out here?”

“I’ve been worried about you, John.” Natalie looked at Red. “And so is Red.”

“Worried? Why?” He looked back and forth between them.

Natalie fidgeted. “You told me you were going to . . . fix things. With Konrad. And you’ve been shut up in here for days now doing something. Getting dirty.”

“And bloody,” Red said quietly.

“Oh.” John flung his arm around Natalie’s shoulders, a gesture she would normally have found comforting, but today was only stiff and cold. “You don’t think I’m trying to do magic, do you?”

“Are you?” Red asked.

John laughed uneasily. “Magic is pretend, Natalie. You know that, right?”

“Yes.” She looked up at him. “Do you?”

“Of course. There’s no such thing as a proton-pack or aliens or magic.” His fingers dug into Natalie’s shoulder. “I know that.”

“Then you won’t mind if we come inside for a minute.” Red stepped toward the door and John leapt sideways to put himself between her and his little house.

“No. Ah. I mean. It’s kind of a mess.” He licked his lips. “You’re right about . . . I’ve been trying to . . . well, I needed some time to myself. And losing Ray was very hard. So, it’s messy in there. And you wouldn’t . . . there’s no need to come inside.”

“We could help you clean up,” Natalie said.

“No!” He wiped his mouth on his hand and forced a smile. “Thank you. But I’m all right. I just need to be alone right now. Okay?”

Natalie looked at Red, hoping she would push past John and throw open the door, wanting her to confront him about whatever it was he was doing. But Red was quiet, her face nearly hidden beneath her hood.

Natalie cleared her throat. “We just want to help, John. Red and I are both upset about Ray, too.” Her eyes stung with tears. “We all miss him. Just tell us what we can do to help. Please.”

“You can leave me alone,” John snapped. “If you want to help, then go away. Let me . . . let me do what needs to be done.”

“And what’s that, John?” There was an edge to Red’s voice that Natalie had never heard before.

John chewed on his lower lip for a moment, as though trying to find the right words. “Grieve,” he said finally. “And I don’t need either of you around for that.”

“Ah.” Red slipped her arm through Natalie’s elbow. “All right.” She tugged Natalie back towards the path.

“Red?” Natalie looked at her in confusion. “What—”

“We’ll leave you alone, John. Just like you’ve asked,” Red said loudly. Then softly, to Natalie. “He needs to think we’ve given up.”

Natalie nodded, drying her eyes with the back of her glove. “Goodbye, John.”

They pushed their way back along the little path, until Natalie, glancing back over her shoulder now and then, saw the white blur of John’s shirt disappear. “I think he’s gone back inside.”

Red stopped, head tilted as she listened for any sign that John was following them. “I think you’re right.”

“So, now what?”

“You’re right. He’s up to something stupid.” Red looked around for a moment. “There.” She pointed to a fallen tree, the trunk nearly covered in a drift of old leaves. “We’ll hide and wait to see what he’s up to.”

“Don’t we need to be closer to the hut?” Natalie asked as they squeezed slowly between the trees on either side of the path.

“No. Whatever he thinks he’s going to do, he’ll need Ray at some point.” Red climbed over the fallen tree and settled on the other side.

“But he’s . . . oh.” Natalie flushed as she understood. “He’ll have to go to the cemetery.”

“That’s right.” Red pulled some of the leaves over her cloak so the red was mostly hidden, lying down on the ground so only the top of her head poked above the fallen trunk. “And then we’ll follow him.”

The sun had long sunk from the sky when John emerged from his hut. Natalie knew she was way beyond just getting trouble for ditching school now. Her parents were likely freaking out. She’d be lucky to see the light of day, outside of school, for months when she got home. There was nothing for it, though. If they didn’t find out what was going on with John and help him, no one would. They were his only friends left in the world.

Just as Red predicted, John headed for the cemetery. Quietly, ever so careful not to be seen, they crept along after him.

When John reached the cemetery he made a beeline for Konrad’s grave. Once there, his hands vanished into the depths of his trench coat to re-emerge with five small candles in them. He positioned one atop Konrad’s grave and the others around it at four fixed points. John picked up a stick and drew a circle in the dirt around the four candles, muttering something in a bizarre language as he did so.

“I told you he’d gone off the deep end,” Natalie whispered to Red, shooting her a look where they hid in the trees at the edge of the cemetery.

“Shhh,” Red hushed her.

John lit all five of the candles and moved to kneel at the edge of Konrad’s grave within the circle. He began to chant as he removed his shirt. Natalie gasped as she saw the wounds that covered his chest. Red moved quickly to grab her and slap a hand over her mouth. Natalie was thankful she had; otherwise she might have screamed.

His voice rising, John cried out at the moon and stars above, still speaking in the strange language he had been muttering. One of John’s hands slipped down to the top of his right boot. He drew a small knife from it and brought the blade up in front of him, holding up and out into the light of the moon.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going to happen next.

“I think we’ve seen enough,” Red told Natalie in a gruff voice.

Red stood up and launched herself from the trees. “John! You put that knife down right now!”

John spun about to face them. His cheeks were slicked with tears as he stared at them as if he wasn’t sure they were really there. “Red? Natalie?”

“I thought you said you didn’t believe in magic John?” Natalie challenged him, anger thick in her voice.

“Put the knife down,” Red ordered him again, more firmly.

John looked at the knife he held and then at Red. “You don’t understand, Red,” he started but Natalie was on him before he could finish. Her hand shot out to knock the knife from his grasp. It went flying to land in the grass nearby. “How could you?” she rasped as she hauled back and slapped him across his cheek with all the force she could muster.

Staggering back a step, John caught himself before he lost his footing and toppled over.

“Look at what you’ve done to yourself!” Natalie raged thrusting a finger towards his wounded and scarred chest.

At that moment, John broke down, collapsing to his knees in front of Natalie. Tears streamed from his eyes. “I don’t . . . I don’t know how to bring him back Natalie. I’ve tried everything.”

Red stepped up to stand beside Natalie. “That’s because you can’t bring him back, John. Konrad is dead. There is no coming back from that.”

“It hurts so much,” John sobbed. “Please . . . Please help me.”

Natalie and Red exchanged a look of pity for the broken former leader of the Monster Society and friend.

Natalie dropped to her knees and pulled John into an embrace. “That’s all we’ve ever wanted to do John, help you.”

“Come on,” Red told the two of them. “Let’s get you home, John. We need to take a better look at what you’ve done to yourself and make sure those wounds aren’t infected.”

Natalie helped John to his feet and tried to lead him after Red, who was already heading for the trees. John stopped her, looking over at shoulder at Konrad’s grave, to which he said, “I’m sorry, Ray. I am so sorry I let you down again.”

Taking hold of him gently by the underside of his chin, Natalie pulled his face around towards her own. “You didn’t fail him John. You gave him a life of friends and fun. You were there for him to the very end and even beyond. Konrad loves you, John, even now, wherever he is, he loves you just like we do.”

It was going to be a long night, Natalie knew, as she and Red tended to John and a worse day afterwards as she faced the wrath of her parents, but it was all worth it. The Monster Society was together again and it took care of its own, no matter the price.





An Iconic Mystery

Limoges Cathedral, France

February, 1636


“Glorious, Master Renoir, simply glorious,” François de Lafayette said, trailing a finger down the palm-sized icon. “Their Majesties cannot help but be pleased when I present your gift to them at the christening.”

Master Renoir bowed, his face hard as he bowed over his worn, but serviceable, workman’s clothes. Renoir was a surprisingly thickset man, given his place as Limoges’s premier artist in a craft that required delicate skill. It was also, Bishop de Lafayette thought, caressing his own fashionable costume, surprising that a head of an important guild had come in work clothes instead of the finery both the artist and his wife affected at Mass.

“If the child is born and lives, Monsieur de Lafayette. And is a Dauphin. Her Majesty has been pregnant before without a live child. What matters most to me, my lord Bishop, is how their Majesties will show their pleasure to Limoges,” Master Renoir said gruffly.

De Lafayette sighed. If I could count the number of times I have tried, he thought, repressing the urge to run his hands through his thinning grey hair. Sighing, he smoothed his doublet over his belly. He was getting too old for this, de Lafayette told himself. Too old to do much of anything in a world that had turned upside down.

“Master Renoir,” de Lafayette said, “I assure you I shall do my utmost for my beloved city . . .”

Master Renoir scowled at the icon, refusing to answer the bishop’s obvious platitude, and tugged on his leather apron. That was deliberate, de Lafayette thought sourly. As representative (purely unofficial) of the town’s enamel workers, Master Renoir should have presented himself in a doublet and pantaloons, the clothes he wore to Sunday Mass. But his worker’s garb (which de Lafayette doubted he actually worked in) felt like a reminder that the Committees of Correspondence, if there were Committees in Limoges (or anywhere in France), were always there to rouse the disaffected.

Sighing, de Lafayette turned to the triptych.

It really was a masterpiece, de Lafayette thought. Not even the Byzantine or Russian masters of the Orthodox Church, or the up-timers of Grantville with their mastery of mechanization, could produce such a work—Saint Anne and Saint Martial on either side of the Virgin and Child, all created by Limoges’s greatest enamel artists.

And the cathedral nave was the perfect place to admire such a treasure, de Lafayette thought. The glorious rose window poured light over the altar, bare at the moment of everything but the golden cross and the icon, as if God Himself was blessing the work of human hands.

No candles though, not during the day, even if it left the rows of benches worn smooth by generations of worshippers lit only by the light coming from the high gothic arches. If he could, de Lafayette thought, he’d replace the rood screen and the frescos on the Romanesque crypt with icons like these, maybe even a gilded iconostasis? But no, he decided for the hundredth time, his parishioners might think it too Byzantine.

“It may have been more appropriate,” de Lafayette thought out loud, “for Saint Louis instead of Saint Martial.”

“Saint Martial is the patron saint of Limoges and the name of our great abbey,” Master Renoir said stiffly. “The guild felt . . .”

“Forgive me, Master,” de Lafayette interrupted softly. “I agree with the guild’s artistic judgment, of course. But perhaps the guild might consider a second commission? A private one, from myself, not as Bishop of Limoges?”

Smiling, de Lafayette put his arm around the master artist’s shoulder. “Come, my friend, come. Let’s discuss it over some refreshment. I have some excellent Bordeaux . . .”


Abbey of Saint Martial, Limoges


“Gabriel-Nicholas de Traslage! Get down from there right now!” Frère Jacques shouted as he limped through the abbey gardens toward the boy, his Benedictine black robe flapping around his spare frame.

Gabriel grinned from a branch in the abbey’s oldest apple tree at the edge of the apple grove. “I’m all right, Frère,” he called down at the monk, swinging his legs.

“I don’t care if you’re the healthiest young man in France! I said get down! Not only is that tree older than you, but you’re late for your Latin lessons!” Jacques called, waving a fist at the boy.

That tree really should have been cut down years ago, Frère Jacques thought crossly. It was old and twisted and hadn’t borne fruit for years. It served no purpose but to give sanctuary to students who should have been in their lessons.

Gabriel groaned from his perch. He hated Latin, almost as much as he hated Mathematics and Fencing. “But Frère . . .”

“Don’t ‘but’ me. Do I have to tell Father Pierre you’re due an extra penance?”

Gabriel shuddered and launched himself out of the tree, barely missing the monk as he landed. Father Pierre’s ‘extra penances’ always involved the wood paddle he kept in his office. Gabriel’s friend Charles had nicknamed it Dante after the class had read The Divine Comedy.

“What is this?” Jacques said, picking up the tattered bundle of papers Gabriel had dropped when he jumped.

“Something I was reading . . . for Literature . . . Frère,” Gabriel reached for the booklet, but the monk turned away too quickly, thumbing through the loosely-tied pages.

The Hound of the Baskervilles? That doesn’t sound like something Frère Michel would assign as class reading,” Jacques said sternly.

“It’s an up-time book by an Englishman,” Gabriel said. “The main character is paid by people to investigate mysteries. This one’s about a nobleman’s estate that is haunted. Monsieur Holmes . . .”

“Ah,” Jacques said, “it is one of their immoral novels.” The monk shook his head. What were the young coming to, infected by this godless up-timer fiction? he thought. When Jacques had been a novice . . .

“No, no,” Gabriel said, reaching for his booklet, “Monsieur Holmes uses the scientific method of observation to help. He frequently plays the violin to focus his thoughts, Frère Michel said . . .”

“That is not what I meant,” Jacques countered, holding the booklet away from Gabriel’s grasping hands. “Belief in ghosts and other so-called manifestations are superstition and heresy. It seems, young man, you need correction before you fall into serious error. I think I shall start by burning this piece of trash.”

“Frère Jacques! Frère Jacques! You must come quickly!” Turning, Jacques frowned as a novice ran across Jacques’s prize herbs, distracting him enough that Gabriel snatched his book from the monk’s hand. Reaching out, Jacques caught Gabriel’s arm as the novice stopped, panting on the path between the garden beds.

“What’s the matter boy?” Jacques growled, scowling at the broom-thin novice’s dirt-covered sandals.

“Frère Jacques . . .” The novice heaved as he bent over, placing his hands on his knees.

“Yes,” Jacques said, annoyed at both the novice and Gabriel. “What is it?”

“The bishop is here, Frère! Abbot Daurat is calling the chapter!” the novice said, practically jumping up and down in his excitement.

“Yes,” Jacques said dryly, “he does that frequently. Suppose you tell me why?”

“Bishop de Lafayette has arrived! There is important news!” the novice said, looking as if he was about to spontaneously explode.

Gabriel looked excited, too, which was bad, Jacques thought. Two seconds after he dismissed young Gabriel, the news that the bishop had arrived and the abbey chapter called would be all over the school, and it would be impossible for anyone to get the students to settle to their studies for the rest of the day.

Jacques sighed. “Gabriel, get to class. No, you may not have your book back, at least not yet. I shall turn this . . .” He waved the booklet. “. . . over to Father Pierre and see what he has to say. Now scoot!”


“It’s in the chapel on the altar,” Claude d’Aguesseau whispered to Gabriel. “I heard the bishop said an up-timer couldn’t have done better.”

“Of course not,” Henri de Lafayette said indignantly. “The up-timers are good at machines. This is art, and Limoges is the greatest center of French art! Bertrand de Born . . .”

“Shut up!” Gabriel hissed, and not just because Henri tended to go on (and on) about Bertrand de Born as if the medieval troubadour was an up-time rock star. It wasn’t as if de Born could compare to Queen anyway. Just because Henri was the bishop’s great-nephew . . . Gabriel started as he realized he was tapping the rhythm to “We Will Rock You,” the song that a group of soldiers had shouted out at a recent handball game.

Trying not to make too much noise, Gabriel pushed open the door to the choir loft, and the three boys crept into the chapel and down the tight spiral staircase to the floor.

The chapel was dark, the sconces and candelabra making pools of light along the walls at each end of the aisle, and at the foot of the stairs, but leaving most of the altar in the shadow of the choir monk’s stalls. There was some moonlight coming from the stained glass windows on the far side of the chapel, but not enough.

“Just like in one of our Mystery Book Club novels,” Claude whispered to Gabriel and Henri. They nodded absently as they crept along the benches to the aisle.

“That’s strange,” Gabriel whispered to his friends. “Didn’t you say Frère Joseph was supposed to be doing penance about now, Henri?”

“Novice David said the Abbot told Frère Joseph he was to pray for forgiveness all night for his blasphemy,” Henri said.

“What did he say?” Claude asked with a smirk. He’d had to serve penance for blasphemy a lot lately, ever since their teachers caught on to what OMG meant. Claude claimed he’d heard the expression from a lefferti, but Gabriel suspected it was from one of the pamphlets Claude kept hidden under his mattress.

Henri shrugged. “I don’t know. David just told me he’d be here now and I thought this would be a good time to come to see the triptych. You know how deaf Frère Joseph is and how he falls asleep at mass.”

Gabriel nodded, and turned toward the altar. He wasn’t really interested in the triptych itself, but in the adventure. But the triptych wasn’t on the altar. Or rather part of it was. The frame was still there, but the jewels were gone, and only the center icon of the Virgin and Child remained.

“What have you three done?” Abbot Daurat’s voice rang out, echoing in the stone chapel.

Gabriel whirled around. “Father Abbot, we didn’t . . . We just got here . . .”

The abbot scowled, looking like a bird of prey with the other choir monks behind him, candles in hand. “And who gave you permission to be here and out of the dormitory? Where is Frère Joseph?”

“I don’t know,” Henri answered. “We thought Frère Joseph was doing penance . . .”

“And you thought he wouldn’t hear you entering the chapel,” Father Pierre said caustically from behind the abbot, “or mind you destroying a treasure commissioned by our bishop for the royal house! How did you get in?”

“We didn’t come to destroy the triptych!” Claude shouted. “We just wanted to see it . . .”

The Abbot held up a hand. “I repeat, how did you get in, and where is Frère Joseph?”

“I’m here, Father Abbot,” Frère Joseph said from the side door of the chapel. The old monk looked around at the crowd curiously. “I had to relieve myself.”

Abbot Daurat sighed, but nodded. Frère Joseph was one of the oldest monks in the abbey, and as the abbot before him had remarked when Daurat was a novice, God had to forgive a person for interrupting his penance to answer the call of nature because, after all, God had designed a man’s bowels. But, he wasn’t about to let the boys off the hook yet.

“That only leaves the matter of how you got into the chapel,” the abbot said sternly. “I assume you used the side door like Frère Joseph? Since we came through the front doors.”

“No, Father Abbot,” Gabriel said, looking at his friends. It was better to come clean, he thought. If they were honest about how they gotten into the chapel without being seen, as well as why they’d come, then maybe the abbot would stop suspecting them.

“We came in through the choir loft,” he finished. “Henri said it would be unlocked and . . .”

“Oh?” the Abbot interrupted. He looked at a guilty Henri. “And just how did you know the door in the loft would be unlocked? I thought I gave orders for that door to remain locked?”

Henri shrugged. “One of the novices told me, Father Abbot. I forget whom.”

Abbott Dauret nodded gravely, not believing Henri’s evasion. “Well, well.” He cupped his chin in his hand as he stared hard at the boys. “Maybe a week of serving penance with Frère Stephan will help you remember, Henri?”

Henri groaned, and Gabriel felt bad for his friend. Frère Stephan ran the abbey’s infirmary, and helping out with the sick was one of the least favorite ‘penances’ available since the infirmarian used his young helpers to empty and clean the bedpans.

“It was David, Father Abbot,” Henri said hopefully.

The abbot nodded. “Thank you for your honesty, Henri. I hope you will contemplate its virtues as well as the pitfalls of gossiping instead of attending to your prayers over the next week and a half in the infirmary. And as for you, Jean-Claude and Gabriel-Nicholas . . .”

Gabriel looked at the Abbot with horror,

“. . . I think you should join your friend in the infirmary while you contemplate the consequences of being out of bed after hours.”

Gabriel and Claude groaned. But, Gabriel realized, at least the abbot believed they hadn’t destroyed the triptych.

“Father Abbot,” Father Pierre’s hard voice said, “about the triptych . . .”

Abbot Dauret nodded. “Yes,” he said, turning to the thickset novice master who oversaw student discipline, “However, I think for the moment . . .” He turned and gave the boys a stern look, “. . . we shall proceed as though everyone here is innocent until proven guilty.”


“Tough luck, guys,” Charles said as he helped himself to his third pastry from the tray in front of the boys. Another tray, empty of everything but crumbs, rested at the other end of the huge table Gabriel shared with his friends in the half-empty refectory. “At least Father Abbot didn’t expel you. You would have caught it then. I told you not to go. All this trouble for a stupid picture!”

“A stupid picture that might mean something more than tax-farming or marrying some pockmarked heiress,” Gabriel said bitterly. If Their Majesties had liked the triptych enough to grant Limoges their patronage, then maybe Gabriel could do something other than marry the heiress his parents had betrothed him to and spend his life as a provincial magistrate. Something special for France, like Monsieur Holmes or the Vicomte de Turenne.

“Well, now it’s ruined,” Charles said, reaching for a fourth pastry, but Claude slapped his hand away. “And it doesn’t matter anyway. My father told me there isn’t going to be a Dauphin except for Monsieur Gaston, and Queen Anne is going to be locked in a convent with her bastard.”

The boys groaned, Charles’s father, a tax farmer, was a convinced Orleanist.

“That’s foolish,” Gabriel said. “And anyway, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Limoges’ gift to the crown is gone, and there’s no way the craftsmen could make replacements in time.”

Charles snickered. “They’d have to replace Saint Anne with Saint Marguerite, anyway. Madame la Duchesse won’t want a portrait of someone else’s saint.”

“Will you shut up, Charles?” Gabriel asked angrily. “I think we should find out what happened to the icons.”

Henri shook his head. “My great-uncle will do that. There’s no need for us to get involved.”

“I agree with Gabriel,” Claude said. “After all, Father Abbot suspects us—you, me, and Gabriel—of destroying it. If we can find out who really did it, we can prove it wasn’t us.”

Henri smiled as he nodded. “And maybe get out of carrying bedpans for a week and a half?”

Gabriel shuddered. It wasn’t that he hated the sick, or thought the poor who inhabited the abbey infirmary were bad, but the stench of anyone‘s chamber pot was enough to make him retch.

“All right,” Gabriel said to Henri and Claude. “If we’re going to do this, we’ve got to have a plan. We’ve got to be methodical and thorough in our investigation, like Monsieur Holmes.”

The other boys rolled their eyes at Gabriel’s mention of the English sleuth, but Gabriel ignored them and reached for his notepad and pencil. The notepad was thin newsprint and expensive, but the abbey school required each student to purchase several to take notes in class and write reports.

“Who’s our first suspect?” Gabriel asked, writing “Suspects” at the top of the page.

“Frère Joseph,” Claude and Henri said together.

“Not even Frère Joseph should have to take a piss when he’s been praying and fasting since Nones.” Charles snickered.

Ignoring Charles, Gabriel put Frère Joseph’s name beside the numeral 1. “What about David, Henri? The novice who told you the choir loft would be unlocked?”

Henri nodded. “Now that I think about it, how did he know? Put Father Pierre on the list, too Gabriel. He was so determined to point the finger at us.”

Gabriel nodded and added Father Pierre and Novice David to the list. “Anyone else?”

When the other boys shook their heads, Gabriel sighed and pointed at Henri with his stylus. “Henri, since David is your friend, why don’t you ask him some questions? Ask him where he was, that sort of thing.”

“No, really?” Henri asked sarcastically. “We read those up-time detective stories too, Gabriel. Remember, it was all of our money that paid for the Mystery Book Club subscription? Though I liked those ones about the Belgian more, not to mention the ones about the English monk.”

“Welsh,” Charles corrected him, “not English. Frère Cadfael was from Wales.”

“Claude, why don’t you tackle Father Pierre since Charles isn’t interested?” Gabriel asked, ignoring Charles. “And I’ll investigate the crime scene and talk to Frère Joseph.”

“Why do you get to investigate the crime scene?” Claude whined. “You don’t even know what you’re looking for, or have any of the materials to do it. How are you going to photograph the scene or dust for fingerprints? You can’t even draw.”

Gabriel nodded. It was a definite problem.

“Photographing the scene won’t help us even if we could afford a camera,” Charles said, looking superior. “As for fingerprints . . .” Charles pulled a box out of his satchel. “I . . . um . . . borrowed . . . this from my mother the last time I was home. For science experiments.”

The other boys grinned as they saw the unmistakable red tint of rouge in the box.

“Yeah, science experiments,” Gabriel said. “Funny though, I haven’t seen you taking any prints.”

Charles flushed. “Do you follow me around every second of every day, Gabriel? Besides, I haven’t figured out how to transfer the prints to something that’ll stick yet. Do you want me to help or not?”

Gabriel glanced at the other boys, who nodded, then held out his hand to Charles. “The game’s afoot, my friends!”


“So, Frère Joseph, where were you when the triptych was damaged?” Gabriel asked, trying to sound ingenious. Gabriel knew that Frère Joseph had told the abbot where he was, since Gabriel had been there, but Gabriel wanted to be thorough.

“What does it matter to you?” the monk asked sourly as he adjusted himself on the chapel’s stone floor.

The chapel was only a little warmer in the day than it had been last night, Gabriel thought, as the cold ate through his doublet and up though his shoes. Gabriel had no idea how Frère Joseph could stand kneeling on the icy floor day and night.

“You novices are all the same,” Frère Joseph said, hitching at his robe. “Nosy about things that don’t concern you, in places you shouldn’t be. Take my advice, young man, and stay out of the abbot’s private rooms.”

“I’m not a novice, Frère, I’m one of the students. I’m asking about the triptych the bishop commissioned for the Dauphin. I’m . . . doing a report,” Gabriel lied, looking over the monk’s shoulder to where Charles was brushing furiously at the chapel altar, which had begun to turn pink. Gabriel doubted Charles had found anything yet.

“What dolphin?” Frère Joseph shouted, and Gabriel winced. The old man’s voice was loud enough to wake the dead.

“The Dauphin, Frère Joseph. Queen Anne’s baby. She’s supposed to deliver any day now,” Gabriel said, trying to speak loudly and clearly enough.

“Nonsense, boy, you’ve got it wrong. The novice master ought to be whipped, and you along with him! Fancy a novice not knowing who the Queen of France is! Well let me tell you, whoever you are, the Queen of France is Marguerite de Valois!” Frère Joseph said with an air of finality as he clapped his hands together and screwed his eyes shut.

Gabriel stared. “Ummm, Frère . . . La Reine Margot is dead . . . And she was divorced . . .”

“Nonsense!” Frère Joseph countered, opening one eye. “Young boys these days! If my poor bowels …”

The monk suddenly blanched and ran for the side door. Gabriel followed, motioning to Charles. Even if he had to put up with the stink of an old man’s plumbing, Gabriel vowed, he’d find the truth.

Frère Joseph barely made it down the short hallway to the necessary before crouching down to relieve himself with a groan. Gabriel perched in the doorway, trying to breathe through his mouth. “Frère Joseph, you must remember the other evening? My friends and I came into the chapel to see the triptych . . .”

Frère Joseph groaned. “Young man, if I could remember what I had for dinner I probably wouldn’t be in such pain now. Will you please leave?”

Frère Joseph let out a loud fart, and Gabriel retreated into the corridor, holding his nose.

“At it again is he? Poor old man,” a voice said from behind Gabriel.

Gabriel turned and saw one of the lay brothers standing nearby with a mop and bucket.

“Was he here last night?” Gabriel asked, pulling out his notebook.

The monk shrugged. “Not my night on duty. Matthew usually cleans up after Frère Joseph, poor sod.”

“Who’s Matthew? What does he look like?” Gabriel asked as he pulled his pencil out from behind his ear. There were so many lay brothers, he thought. The students had little to do with the monks who did the work of running the abbey, except at mealtimes. Mostly they interacted with their teachers, who were all choir monks.

The monk snorted and shrugged. “Tall guy, red hair. If I could find him, I’d strangle him for leaving me to take care of the old man like this.”

“Where did he go?” Gabriel said, his ears picking up.

The monk shook his head and slung his mop over his shoulder. “Last time I saw him he said he was done with this place. Can’t say I blame him,” the monk said, pinching his nose at the stink coming from the necessary.

Gabriel gagged and ran down the hall toward the garden where he found Henri and Claude. “Heh, guys! Learn anything?”

“Yeah, Frère Pierre did it with the Dante in the cupola,” Claude said sarcastically. “Frère Pierre told me to get lost, and I wasn’t about to argue, not when he was chewing out Marc for throwing spit wads in the scriptorium. Not a conversation I really wanted to interrupt if you know what I mean.”

“I found out something,” Henri said, kicking at a pebble on the path. “My friend David said the choir loft door is regularly left unlocked. The choir master keeps forgetting to lock it, and the choir doesn’t like reminding him. They’d rather practice in the music room where it’s warmer, but the master wants to practice in the chapel because of the acoustics. But the choir master is supposed to lock the choir loft even though the main doors are left open. Father Abbot doesn’t want someone breaking a limb on those stairs in the dim light.”

Gabriel nodded and scribbled the information down. “Great. At least one of us got something.”

The other boys nodded gloomily. So far, Gabriel thought, their investigation was turning up nothing.

Then Gabriel heard shouting coming from behind him.

“Ah, guys?” Henri asked. “Where’s Charles?”


“I can’t believe you deserted me like that,” Charles said as he emptied a bedpan into the garden cesspit. “I thought we were supposed to be in this together like the Three Musketeers.”

“We never said ‘All for one, and one for all,’ ” Henri said as he emptied his pan. “And that book has been overdone since the Ring of Fire!”

“Guys, come on!” Gabriel said, joining his friends. “We’ve got to come up with a plan. So far the only things we’ve learned is that the choir loft is left unlocked, the lay brother who regularly helps Frère Joseph is gone, Frère Joseph has a bad case of the runs, and rouge powder turns the chapel altar pink. We don’t have a clue what happened to the missing icons, let alone the jewels in the frame.”

“They must have fallen out,” Claude said. He scratched his head. “My father’s always complaining about the quality of Limoges jewelers whenever I’m on a visit.”

“They may have fallen out,” Gabriel countered, “if the frame fell or someone broke it trying to get the icons out.” Gabriel sighed. “It would have been so cool if Charles had been able to find some fingerprints, but I think we should stick to Monsieur Holmes’s method of observation and logic.”

The other boys nodded in agreement.

“Here’s what could have happened,” Gabriel continued. “Someone entered the chapel between the time Frère Joseph went to the necessary and the three of us entered. They ruined the triptych frame and either stole or destroyed two of the icons.”

“And stole the jewels from the frame . . . maybe,” Henri interjected. “They could have fallen out. It isn’t as though we got to look around before the Father Abbot caught us.”

“I hate to interrupt your skull session,” Frère Stephan said dryly, “but those bed pans aren’t cleaning themselves.”

Gabriel looked at Frère Stephan thoughtfully. The monk had been with the abbot when the destroyed triptych had been found . . .

“Frère Stephan,” Gabriel said, trying, not very successfully, to appear angelic, “we were wondering about what happened to the triptych . . .”

Frère Stephan sighed. “Boys . . . please leave these matters to your elders and God’s hands. His Grace the Bishop will make sure Limoges is not forgotten when a Dauphin is christened or a king crowned.”

“Yes, but, Frère,” Henri said, pushing forward. “One day we’ll be peers of the realm, magistrates, or officials. I might be Bishop of Limoges like my great-uncle. Don’t you think . . .”

“No, I don’t. I think you should mind your own business, which, my fine gentlemen, is how you ended up under my supervision.” Frère Stephan said. “Matthew!”

The boys traded glances as an older lay monk walked over with a stinky bucket. He was taller than the boys and the other lay brother Gabriel remembered, but Gabriel wouldn’t describe his hair as red so much as orange.

“Yes, Frère Stephan?” Matthew answered politely.

“Our young penitents need some supervision, if you please. See that they stay on task,” Frère Stephan commanded as he swept away.

“Frère Matthew?” Gabriel asked as the monk handed his bucket to Henri to empty.

“Yes. Gabriel, is it?” Frère Matthew answered with a small smile.

“Yes sir. I was wondering whether to look after Frère Joseph?” Gabriel asked, trying not to breathe in the stink of the bedpan he still held. It seemed to be getting worse the longer he held it. Frère Matthew reached out and emptied it into the pit, after setting his bucket down.

“I do sometimes, poor soul. Frère Stephan and I think he’s not long for this world if his bowels remain so loose. He’s not keeping enough inside to keep a bird alive.” Matthew shook his head. “And he sleeps all day then insists on keeping vigil alone all night in the chapel even though the abbot says he must follow Frère Stephan’s advice and rest.”

“Why don’t you send him to Italy or the Germanies where he might get up-time medical help?” Charles asked.

Frère Matthew shook his head. “There’s no cure for old age, even among the up-timers. You should have emptied these bedpans into a bucket like I did, then changed them for one of the newly cleaned ones. Come along, boys.”

Gabriel and the others followed Matthew through the main infirmary to the corner where the monks kept the cleaning supplies. The cots on either side of the center aisle were practically empty, Gabriel thought resentfully. There shouldn’t be a pile of bedpans waiting to be cleaned with sand and vinegar.

“But did you see Frère Joseph go to the necessary that night? If you were looking after Frère Joseph why weren’t you in the chapel or with him when he came back?”

Matthew raised his eyebrows, but unlike Frère Stephan, he smiled. “I did see Frère Joseph go to the necessary that evening, boys. I did my best to help him, and when he finished I stayed behind to clean up. Now are there any other questions?”

“Did you see the triptych? What about the jewels from the frame?” Henri asked.

Matthew’s face became closed and stern. “I did see the triptych and the jewels in the frame. It’s a pity what happened.”

“What did happen?” Gabriel asked eagerly.

Matthew shook his head. “I’ve said enough. You need to get to work cleaning the bedpans.”

“That was suspicious,” Charles said as they turned to follow Matthew. “You’d think he’d just say ‘The abbot knows everything, everything’s all right.’ And tell us what happened. Why all this secrecy?”

“I think it’s because they don’t want both settlements finding out their gift to the royal family was stolen,” Claude said, leaping over a branch. “I think we should take a look at the necessary.”

Gabriel wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Even if it hasn’t been used lately it’ll still stink. Charles, while you were trying to dust for fingerprints did you see anything, any clue?”

Charles shook his head, and stopped in the path. “Nothing. But then I wasn’t looking. Maybe I should take another look while you guys are looking in the necessary?”

“No. Any evidence that might have been there is probably long gone by now.” Gabriel scratched his head, trying to think of an idea that might work. “Charles, why don’t you try Frère Pierre? He might talk to you since you weren’t in the chapel the first time.”

“I have a better idea,” Charles said. “Why don’t I go with you and Henri goes to see Frère Pierre? He’s the bishop’s nephew and you know how Frère Pierre respects connections.”

The boys grinned at each other. It was an open secret that Frère Pierre wanted to be abbot when Abbot Dauret died or stepped down and hoped to convince Bishop de Lafayette to support him. It was an equally open secret that the Bishop didn’t interfere with the chapter vote.

“No way,” Henri said. “I’d rather face the necessary than Frère Pierre.”

“But the necessary isn’t that big,” Gabriel pointed out. “All four of us wouldn’t fit.”

“So you and I will examine the necessary and Claude and Charles will keep watch,” Henri countered.

The other boys nodded, and Gabriel looked around them. Apparently both Frère Stephan and his assistants had given up on making the boys clean the pile of filthy bed pans, he thought, because they were all busy with the patients. Gabriel nodded to his friends.

“Okay, let’s go,” he said, and the boys crept out of the infirmary and through the corridors to the necessary by the chapel.

Gabriel started to pull open the door and suddenly stopped. Frère Joseph was sprawled on the floor, a small streak of blood at one side of his mouth and a larger pool drying where the brother’s head met the floor.

“Mon Dieu!” Gabriel shouted as he jumped back, hitting something solid as he did. A pair of large hands grasped at his arms as he over-balanced and nearly fell onto Frère Joseph.

“For the love of . . .” Frère Jacques sputtered as he pulled Gabriel out of the necessary.

“I didn’t hurt him,” Gabriel shouted as the monk hauled him into the corridor.

“I know that, Boy,” Frère Jacques sputtered. “I was two seconds behind you, coming to see what the four of you were doing in the corridor instead of in the infirmary. Or did Stephan let them go, Matthew?”

Gabriel turned and saw Frère Matthew coming toward them. Matthew shook his head as he joined the group, slightly out of breath. “No, Frère Jacques. I was just coming to get them.”

“Frère Matthew,” Gabriel said, “Frère Joseph is in the necessary unconscious, I think something’s wrong.”

The lay brother blanched, and pushed his way through to Frère Joseph. Kneeling down, Matthew pressed his fingers to Frère Joseph’s neck, then shook his head.

“He’s gone,” Matthew said slowly as he looked up at the boys. Tears began to form in the younger monk’s eyes.

“Someone killed him?” Charles asked, trying not to sound excited.

“I doubt it,” Frère Matthew said, glaring up at Charles. “Frère Joseph had been ill a long time. Most likely he had another seizure.”

“Another seizure?” Gabriel asked at the same time the other boys asked, “Frère Joseph had seizures?”

Frère Jacques sighed. “Frère Matthew, please go get Frère Stephan. You know what he’ll need. As for the three of you,” Frère Jacques gave the boys a hard look, “I think Father Abbot should deal with you. Again.”


“So you see, Father,” Gabriel said, “we decided to investigate. Just like the people in the mysteries.”

Gabriel’s father nodded slowly and exchanged a look with Abbot Dauret that Gabriel didn’t understand.

“As you can see, Young Gabriel,” the Abbot said, waving at a tall chest, “the settlement’s triptych is perfectly fine.”

Gabriel flushed as he examined the triptych as it sat in isolated splendor on Abbot Dauret’s carved prie deau. It was a lovely thing, Saint Anne cradling Saint Mary, her blue veil embroidered with fleur-de-lys on the right, Saint Martial in gold on the left, the Virgin and Christ child in the center. Worthy, Gabriel thought, of a future king.

It was so lovely and new it made the rest of the Abbot’s office look faded and shabby. But then the plain, uncarved desk, the ordinary straight-backed chairs, rickety bench, and brass candelabra looked like they belonged in a peasant’s hut, Gabriel thought disdainfully. Even his parent’s home, as poor as they were for a noble family, was better furnished.

“But what happened, Father Abbot?” Gabriel asked, unable to stop himself.

“Frère Jacques knocked the triptych over when he had a seizure,” Gabriel’s father said, putting a hand on Gabriel’s shoulder. “May God bless his soul.”

“Indeed,” Abbot Dauret said, folding his hands into the sleeves of his habit. “The jewels and icons were knocked loose by the violence when Frère Jacques thrashed out. I believe he was reaching for the Host when the seizure took him. He often did that,” the Abbot told Gabriel’s father, “forgetting he was no longer able to function as a priest. Poor Frère Matthew has had to take communion from Frère Joseph several times, fearing stopping him would do more harm than good.

“Frère Jacques found the icon of Saint Martial in the necessary,” Abbot Dauret continued, looking at Gabriel. “The icon of Saint Anne was found by Frere Pierre with the jewels behind the altar.”

“But . . .” Gabriel started, then stopped when he felt his father’s hand on his shoulder.

“There’s nothing wrong with healthy curiosity, Gabriel-Nicholas,” his father said. “And it’s good for a magistrate to know how an investigation is run. But . . .” Gabriel flushed at his father’s stern look. “There is a difference between curiosity and interference. The next time one of your elders tells you not to interfere, you should listen.”

“Yes Father,” Gabriel said. “But what if the person telling me not to interfere is hiding a crime?”

“Hmmm,” Gabriel’s father said, nodding. His displeased expression softened slightly. “It depends, I suppose, on whether you’re investigating a real crime or indulging your curiosity. What do you say, Father Abbot?”

Abbot Dauret smiled softly. “I agree, Monsieur.”

“I think I understand,” Gabriel said, then paused. “Father? Can I ask you something?”

His father chuckled. “You already did, but go on.”

“Do I have to be a magistrate?” Gabriel asked in a rush. “What if I became a private investigator like Monsieur Holmes? Maybe I could go to Grantville or Magdeburg to study up-time police things? When we’re not at war with the up-timers anymore? Please?”

His father exchanged a strange look with Abbot Dauret and tugged on his doublet’s worn sleeve. “I don’t know. If we can afford it. Maybe when the war ends. But, Gabriel-Nicholas, there’s no place for a private investigator in Limoges.”

“But I could go to Paris,” Gabriel countered, his mind filling with dreams. “Paris could use an investigator.”

Abbot Dauret rubbed his chin. “Hmmm. Monsieur, I think you should have a talk with His Grace about the information we spoke about earlier. I think he might have an idea or two about young Gabriel’s desire to study in Grantville or Magdeburg when he’s a little older.”

Jean-Nicholas de Traslage, Seignior de la Reynie smiled down at his son. “Perhaps. If he stops cutting Latin class.”


Letters From Gronow, Episode 2



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


19 November 1634






1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Have not written in journal other than noting expenses since Wednesday afternoon.


No dreams last night.  No dreams since Tuesday night.


Forced myself to go to church today.  Didn’t want to go.  Haven’t wanted to get out of bed since Wednesday.  Haven’t wanted to do anything since Wednesday.  The message from Herr Gronow crushed me.  I had so hoped that I would see my story in Der Schwarze Kater, and it left me broken when it was rejected.


Herr Schiller noticed it, and asked me what was wrong.  All I could do was shake my head.


Even Martin could tell something was amiss, and found the courage or the charity to ask what was wrong and if he could do anything.  Again, all I could do was shake my head.


Thursday.  Friday.  Saturday.  Broken inside.  Avoided Syborg’s Books.  Came home.  Ate bites of bread that were dry as dust and bitter as wormwood.  Sat in the dark until sleep overcame me.  Offered meaningless prayers.


Today, didn’t want to go to church.  Pulled the blanket over my head and resisted getting up so strongly, but a voice in the back of my mind—my conscience, my guardian angel, my patron saint, who knows—told me that it was when I least want to assemble with the body as St. Paul instructed that I most need to.  I could not argue with that, and so, slowly, reluctantly, I forced myself to arise, and wash, and don my best clothing.


At church the music seemed dreary, and I did not sing.  The reading was meaningless to me, and I did not listen.  Then came the homily, from old Pastor Gruber who sometimes fills the pulpit at St. Jacob’s.  The leaders really need to appoint a new pastor for us.  I know the church is small and poor, but we need a regular pastor as much as the other churches do.


Pastor Gruber talked about making our lives a pleasing offering to the Lord.  He talked about how craftsmen and artists and musicians spend years learning and practicing and honing their crafts and arts and skills so they could make things of beauty.  He even talked about a famous musician from the future of Grantville, one of the greatest musicians ever, who wrote “Soli Deo Gloria”—For the Glory of God Alone—on the manuscripts of his greatest works.  He ended by quoting a verse from Ecclesiastes.  He said, “Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it with all thy might.”


It was like I woke up.  It was like Herr Schiller slapped the back of my head and said, “Pay attention!”  After that moment, I could only think of that verse, even after church as I was eating my lunch.


When I got home, I read through Ecclesiastes in my Bible until I found the verse in chapter 9, and it said exactly what Pastor Gruber had said.


Thought about that the rest of the day, even as I read a few more pages from The City of God, and as I ate supper.


Decided that I was a writer—that I am a writer—and if it takes me years to learn my art, so be it.  Herr Gronow will be my judge, but always Soli Deo Gloria.


Recited evening prayers.  And now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


20 November 1634




2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 wurst 1 pfennig

2 mugs beer 1 pfennig


Vague recollections of dreams, but obviously nothing strong if can’t recall them.


Felt better at work.  Caught Herr Schiller looking at me with his eyebrows raised.  When I grinned at him, he nodded and returned to his work.


Reviewed last week’s work.  Only found one error on one of Martin’s pages.  None on mine, which I don’t understand how that is.  I was so lost after Wednesday.  Deo gratias, nonetheless.  Herr Schiller must be in a good mood, because when I showed him the error, he didn’t shout at Martin or beat him with the ferrule, he just told him to copy the page over.


At the end of the day, told Herr Schiller that I wanted to take today’s pay in candle stubs and quill feathers—left wing ones, because they’re cheaper.  He didn’t quite frown, but asked me why.  Told him I’m going to be a writer, and I need to practice my writing so that the editor will take my work.  At that, his eyebrows went up again, but he just said, “St. Paul guide your hand, then,” and let me pick my own quills.


Tonight I took Herr Gronow’s letter and practiced writing some of the words from it.  This may take longer than I thought it would.  Endure.  Persevere.  Perfect.


Recited evening prayers.  And now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


21 November 1634




1 barley roll (old) 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


Dreams last night were strange.


Posted Master Gröning’s cash entries today.  Looked odd.  Not very many entries, but one of them was large.


Otherwise did what Herr Schiller told me to do.


Did ask Herr Schiller if I could help with the writing that has to be done.  He gave me a funny look.  Told him it had been so long since I had written regularly, that I was afraid I was going to forget how.  He laughed, then said that the hand I had learned in school was probably different than what was used by the factors and merchants and masters like Master Gröning.  I said I would try.  He gave me an old letter and some scrap paper.  Wasn’t so different from what I saw in school or what Herr Gronow’s letter looked like.  Spent the rest of the day at copying parts of the old letter, showed the best of it to Herr Schiller, he nodded and said I might be useful at that.


Went home.  Re-read part of the new volume of Der Schwarze Kater, looked at the last page where it says how to send stories to Herr Gronow.  Looked different.  Got out the first volume, compared the two pages.  It is different.  And now I know why Herr Gronow did not send my story back to me.


Took a deep breath.  Recited evening prayers.  Now to bed.




From Der Schwarze Kater, Volume 2


Black Tomcat Magazine Submissions


We recommend you keep a personal copy of your story.  All submissions become the personal property of the publisher upon receipt, and will not be returned, regardless of ultimate decision about publication.  Allow for six months of mail and processing time before querying as to the publication decision.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


22 November 1634






2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


Dreams last night.  Woke up twice.


Overslept this morning.  Somehow the church bells didn’t wake me.  No breakfast.  Threw on clothes, ran through streets, down alleys, jumped a fence to run across a lot and jumped another fence on other side, arrived at work just after Herr Schiller had unlocked doors and entered.  Came in on heels of Martin.  Herr Schiller raised one eyebrow when he saw me, but shook his head and said nothing.


Martin was set to logging the orders today.  Watched over him for a while, then started doing the cash entries.  More of them than usual again.  Said that to Herr Schiller.  He nodded, said that the war was creating opportunities.


Reminded Herr S about wanting to write more.  He pulled a document out of the stack on his desk, told me to make a copy.  Six pages!  Spent rest of day copying it, only got first two pages done.  Think he did that on purpose.  Lots of words I did not know.


Starting writing my story again tonight, with ink.  Being careful about letters.  Taking longer the second time because of that, and because I have to stop and think after every few sentences about what I had done in the story or how I had said things.  Understand now why I should keep a copy for myself, but that’s going to almost double the time it takes to prepare a story.  But I need to know what I’ve done, and no one in Magdeburg has any of the incredible Grantville machines that can automatically make pages of book stuff.  Which is too bad.  I think that must be really neat.


Read parts of the new Der Schwarze Kater again.  The other stories are good, but not as good as Herr Poe or Herr Lovecraft.  I shiver when I read their work.  I am not as good as the others, but I will be one day.  I will be better, one day.  Maybe not as good as Herren Poe and Lovecraft.  But to be almost as good as them would be a fine thing.


Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


24 November 1634




1 barley roll (old) 1 quartered pfennig

1 cup small beer 2 quartered pfennigs


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


Had dreams last night.  Woke up thrice, gasping.


Martin was logging more orders today.  I made some cash entries, then finished the last two pages of the document Herr Schiller told me to copy.  He looked at it, pointed out words where my hand was not regular, told me to copy it again.  All of it.  Joy.


Did ask him what the words I didn’t know mean.  He told me some of them, told me the rest were lawyer’s words and even he wasn’t sure what they meant.  Seems like it would be a fine thing to be a lawyer and get to use words that other people don’t know.


Looked at what I’ve been writing when I got home tonight, decided my hand with the story wasn’t any better than my hand at work.  Started over with that as well.  Joy.


Recited evening prayers.  Now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


10 December 1634






1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


No dreams last night that I remember, although I woke up a bit weary.


Went to church at St. Jacob’s this morning.  Music was better than usual, but I would have sung anyway.  Reading was for Advent.  Couldn’t help but think that Herod was a greater monster than anything from the minds of Herren Poe and Lovecraft.


Homily was by Pastor Gruber again.  I like him.  He’s pretty old—white hair, anyway—and his mind wanders a bit, and his voice keeps getting softer every time he preaches, but his homilies are always interesting, and about people, instead of just about big theology words.  I know the theology is important, but sometimes I just need to hear how people are supposed to be.  Including me.


Read more of The City of God.  Does anyone really understand St. Augustine?  I’ll keep trying.  Johann is having trouble getting it all into my head.  Not sure he really understands it, though.


After having started my story over twice, I think my hand at writing is finally where it needs to be.  Herr Schiller said as much for the latest document he had me write.  So when I get this version done, I’ll be ready to submit it back to Herr Gronow.  After I make a copy for myself, that is.


Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


13 December 1634




1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


Woke up sweating.  Usually means I dreamt, even though I don’t remember any.


Herr Schiller had me copying documents all day, new documents these were, that I hadn’t seen before.  Some new words I hadn’t seen before in them, but when I asked Herr S about them he said they were more lawyer words and to just copy them as they were.  The amount of money mentioned in them made me gulp.  I didn’t know anyone had that much money, even Master Gröning.  But he wasn’t the only person mentioned, so it must be something they’re all sharing in, or something.  Still, had to concentrate extra hard to keep my hand steady for a while.


Stopped at Syborg’s Books after work.  Herr Matthias himself was there and greeted me with a smile.  He asked me if I was still reading St. Augustine.  I said yes, and that I was still struggling with it.  He laughed, and said so was he.  I asked him if there was going to be another book of Der Schwarze Kater, and he said yes, but probably not until February.


So I need to start saving my pfennigs now, to have my two dollars ready when the next book comes out.


Maybe I can have my new story turned in before that.  Wouldn’t it be fine to see it in those pages?


Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


16 December 1634




2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreamt I was sitting in a classroom and St. Augustine was teaching.  Woke up in the middle of him about to apply the ferrule because I couldn’t explain The City of God.  Was really glad that I woke up.


Herr Schiller told me today that he was going to make me clerk over the contracts and agreements, and I would have to keep them straight and organized and make all the copies and things.  It will also raise my pay by two dollars a day.  I will be getting twelve dollars a day starting next Monday.  That means I’ll be able to buy the next Der Schwarze Kater and still eat something every day.  That will be nice.


Was so excited about that it was hard to concentrate on finishing the story, but I was able to do that tonight.  All done, and in my best hand.  And I think I spelled the words right—or at least the same way.  Something to thank God for in church tomorrow.


Recited evening prayers.  Now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


18 December 1634




2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


First day as contracts clerk.  Had to make copies of two agreements.  Had to find them first.  What a mess.  Going to have to figure out how to make sense out of the contracts.  All scattered around, all in different drawers and stacks and kinds of folders.  Hard to make sense, even harder to find.  Now I know why he wanted me to become the clerk.  Scheisse.  I mean, I know that’s rude and vulgar and St. Paul says not to be that way, but honestly . . .


Also had to review the entries from last week.  No errors.  Herr Schiller was pleased by that.


Martin is doing pretty well.  Not sure he’s going to be able to keep up with everything after I start spending more time on contracts, though.


Started writing out my copy of my story tonight.  Slow going, because I want it to be as good as the original that I will give to Herr Gronow.  Don’t have to think as much about what to write, but keeping my mind on the copying is just as hard as copying a contract, even though I wrote what I’m copying.  Haven’t figured out why, yet.


Read The Fall of the House of Usher from the second Der Schwarze Kater again tonight.  Even though I have read it at least twice before, Herr Poe still strikes sparks in my soul.  Will I ever be able to touch someone like he touches me?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  To know that I can touch another soul with my words and make them feel what I feel, that would be wonderful.


But enough for tonight.  Recited evening prayers.  Now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


21 December 1634




2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreams last night, mostly running with someone chasing me.  Didn’t get caught, but was sweating again when I woke up.


Have set aside the two dollars for the next Der Schwarze Kater.  Able to afford more food after paying the rent, paying a tithe to the church, and putting a little back for an emergency and for a new coat.  This one is about to unweave itself, it is so old and so threadbare.  It’s like it invites the wind to come in rather than holds it off.  If I wanted to, I could probably net fish out of the river with it.  Mother would be ashamed to see me in it.


Finished figuring out what I want—or need—to do to get Master Gröning’s contracts and agreements organized.  Had a long talk with Herr Schiller about it.  He finally agreed, but really resisted at first because he didn’t want to spend the money for the new folders and labels and shelves.  Not going to list the details here, but it’s going to take some work to get everything pulled together and sorted and put in new folders and labeled.


Almost halfway done in copying my story, but it’s going slow.  Have been really tired in the evenings this week.  Haven’t even gone by Syborg’s Books.  May have to try the coffee I hear everyone talking about, but it’s so expensive.


Done for the night.  Recited evening prayers.  Now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


22 December 1634




1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreams last night.  Dreamt I was flying through the air, arms spread out like wings.  Could look down and see Magdeburg below.  Could tell it was Magdeburg because of the river and the Dom.  Wonder if angels look down on us like that?  That would be so fine a thing, to see the world from the eye of a soaring bird—an eagle, maybe, or a raven or cuckoo.


Herr Schiller announced that Master Gröning had decided to follow the up-time practice of closing for Christmas Day.  Will enjoy the day, attending the mass at St. Jacob’s.  Will miss the pay, though.


Herr Schiller brought a small gift for Martin and I:  a full clump of raisins for each of us, still on the stem of the bunches just like they were when they were grapes.  I tried a few.  They were tough and chewy, but sweet, so sweet.  It was all I could do to not devour them all right then, as Martin did.  I wrapped the rest of mine in my kerchief and brought them home.  I shall try to only eat a few at a time, so that I can savor them for a long time.  So sweet, even with the crunchy seeds in them.


Read Matthew Chapter 1 tonight.  Will read Luke Chapter 2 tomorrow.  Will probably hear one or the other as the reading at mass Sunday, but that’s fine.


Spent some time copying my story.  Almost done with the copy.


Just ate a couple of raisins.


Recited evening prayers.  Now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


24 December 1634






1 sausage 2 pfennigs

2 wheat rolls 5 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreams last night.  Awoke twice, but don’t really remember them.


Attended St. Jacob’s this morning.  Music was pretty good, but it usually is during Advent.  Sang with a will.  Reading was for Advent again—or still, I should say.  Homily was not as good as Pastor Gruber’s last homily.  Found myself thinking about Joseph, the husband of Mary.  He must have been an unusual man.


Read five pages in The City of God this afternoon.  Either I’m starting to figure St. Augustine out, or that was a section where he took it easy on the readers, because I think I may have understood what he was trying to say.  Which means I probably have it all wrong.  Will have to wait until Johann returns to Magdeburg from his trip to find out.


Ended up falling asleep in the middle of the sixth page.  Woke up when the Vespers bells were ringing.


Copied half a page of the story.  Have decided to wait until after Epiphany to send my story to Herr Gronow.  I’m sure he’s a busy man during the holidays, and I would rather have his full attention.  I think.  Maybe.  Surely.


Can’t keep my eyes open.


Recited evening prayers.  Now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


28 December 1634




1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreams last night.  Woke up at least twice.  Don’t remember them, though.  Frustrating.


Martin came to work today.  Got sick not long after he came in.  Herr Schiller managed to get him to the door before he puked.  Then he shat his pants, nasty watery stuff from the stain it left.  Herr Schiller threw a few pfennigs at him and told him not to come back until he was well.  Hope whatever he has is not catching.  According to the up-timers, it is important to keep clean when sickness is around.  Found some soap and took a little of our water to wash my hands.  No towel, so had to wipe my hands on my trousers.  Cold, but if it keeps my guts in place, worth it.  Herr Schiller saw what I was doing, and came and did the same thing.


So, ended up doing Martin’s work instead of mine today.  Or maybe I should say alongside mine, as I still had to do at least a few contract things in addition to all the entries.  Herr Schiller gave me a couple of extra pfennigs at the end of the day.  Should have been more, but I’ll take what he can give.


Stopped at Syborg’s Books on the way home.  According to Georg, the next book of Der Schwarze Kater is still going to be published in February.  Frustrating.  Want it NOW!  Came home and re-read parts of the first one.  Wish I could mend the torn pages.  I know that’s why I got it so cheaply, but I would really like to fix them before they get damaged more.  I keep hearing about up-time stuff called ‘tape’, but probably isn’t available in Magdeburg, and would probably cost a lot more than I can afford.


Finished copying my story.  Compared it to the original version.  Didn’t see any differences.  Just waiting for Epiphany now.


Ate some raisins.


Recited evening prayers.  Now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


5 January 1635




1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Martin came back to work today.  He is very pale and skinny, but seems able to work.  I will have to review his work closely, I think.  But because he was there, I was able to spend a lot of time working on the contracts.  Got a bunch of them put in their new folders and labeled and put in their right places on the shelves.  Starting to make a difference in how the office looks, to not have piles of contracts just lying around.


Epiphany Eve tonight.  Had the story with me, tucked inside my shirt.  Address and stuff was on it.  After work, ran to the building where Herr Gronow’s office is.  The door was closed and locked again, which did not surprise me.  The slot was still cut in the door, and it still had the sign above it that says “Submissions,” so the story went into the slot.  And just like last time, as soon as I let go of it I wanted to take it back, but too late.  So I leaned against the door and prayed about it again.


Ate supper on the way home.


When I returned to my room I treated myself to The Dunwich Horror.  Very fine.


Trying not to worry about my story.  Hard.


Recited evening prayers.  Now to bed.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


12 January 1635




1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


No dreams last night.  Was still nervous when I awoke.


Was right to be nervous.  Today a messenger stepped inside the office.  Same one as last time.  Herr Schiller held out his hand, but the messenger shook his head and said, “Herr Philip Fröhlich.”


Herr Schiller waved his hand at me and turned back to his ledger.  The messenger stepped over to hand me an envelope before he ducked his head in a bow and left.


Herr Schiller said nothing, but when he looked back at me his face had a bit of a frown on it.  So like last time, I stuffed it inside my shirt and got back to work.  I didn’t open the message until I got back to my room.




10 January 1635


Herr Philip Fröhlich


It appears to me that you are going to be persistent.  I can admire that in a man.  It is, however, better to have something worthwhile to be persistent about.


I have received your most recent submission of a purported story for consideration of publication in Der Schwarze Kater.  It is an improvement over your previous submission.  I can at least read this one.  Mostly.  Your use of the local secretary hand is acceptable.  You executing it in very small size, I assume so you can get as many lines on a page as possible, is not.  Nor is filling the page from edge to edge, top to bottom and side to side.  I am not going to ruin my eyesight trying to read this.


I see I must educate you on the practicalities of writing for a publisher.


When you submit a story, you are making a presentation to the publisher, in much the same way that an artist or a musician is making a presentation to a patron.  It should represent your best work, and should be done so well as to make as good an impression as possible.  You want to make it easy for the publisher to read it.  The more things you do that hinder the reading of the work, the less likely the publisher is to buy your work—as you have now discovered twice.


So, first of all, use good quality octavo-sized paper of the same size no larger than eight inches wide by ten inches high.  I found the multiplicity of paper sizes in your submission to be confusing at best and irritating at worst.


Second, space the lines at least 1/4 inch apart—3/8 inch would be better.


Third, leave blank margins of about one inch on all sides of each page.


I did not read the story.  A few things caught my eye as I looked over the pages, though.  It appears that your spelling has improved.  Alas, it is now more evident that your grammar also needs work.  I refer you again to the Bible as translated by Martin Luther.  Model your grammar on his.


Finally, your title, “The Perils of Portia”—to quote the up-timers, lose it.  Think of a better title.


I again hesitate to say this, but if you can correct the issues in your story noted above, you may resubmit it.


Good day to you.


Johann Gronow

Editor and Publisher

Der Schwarze Kater


Letters From Gronow, Episode 1

Letters From Gronow Episode 1 banner


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

16 October 1634



2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 wurst 1 pfennig

2 mugs beer 1 pfennig

Did the cash entries in Master Gröning’s accounts today, then reviewed Saturday’s entries. Found two errors in Thomas’s work and took them to Herr Schiller. He boxed Thomas’s ears, then made him recopy the entire page, watching over his shoulder the entire time. Later Thomas tried to stab me with his pen, but the quill nib barely scratched me before the quill broke. Herr Schiller gave him his hand for that as well, and would not give him a good right wing quill to replace it but forced him to take one of the left wing quills. Serves him right.

After work and before supper I slipped into Syborg’s Book Store to dream. There on the table with the oldest hardest-used books was one I hadn’t seen before, larger than the others, but thinner, wrapped in heavy paper rather than boards or leather. My hands were cleaner than usual, so I picked it up.

LfG1cskThe cover was a block print of a great black cat, and I almost dropped it, but the title was Der Schwarze Kater – Eine Zeitschrift. I opened the cover to discover that this book contained several poems and prose stories. I turned the page, and began reading a work called The Cask of Amontillado.

Nine pages later, I closed the book, wide-eyed. This story had gripped me as nothing had before. I must have this book.

Evening prayers recited, so now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

17 October 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs


1 barley roll (old) 1 quartered pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Dreams last night were strange.

Checked incoming bills of lading against contracts all day, found one error. Gave to Herr Schiller. He double-checked, and gave me a pfennig as a reward along with today’s pay.

Thomas looked hungover. Tried to stay out of his way.

After work, ran to Syborg’s Book Store. Der Schwarze Kater was still there. I pulled it out and laid it flat atop the other books on the table and looked around. The Herren Syborg Elder and Younger were not present, but Georg their clerk was, and he came to the table when he saw my lifted hand. When I asked him how much for the book, he picked it up and looked around. “Herr Matthias took this on as a trial, and they sold very quickly. People want more, except for the old woman who brought this one back claiming it was filled with demonic filth and we should be ashamed of selling it in the same shop with Augustine and Melanchthon and Calvin. Herr Johann told me to get whatever I can for it since the old lady tore some of the pages. So, what can you do?”

I took two pfennigs out of my pocket and held them out to him. He shook his head. I added another pfennig. He shook his head. I added the last coin in my pocket, a quartered pfennig. He shook his head, but this time with a smile and held his hand out. I poured the coins into his hand, picked up the book and hurried back to my room.

Began the next story, The Dunwich Horror. Sadly, have not finished but cannot keep eyes open. Besides, candle is guttering.

Stumbled through prayers. Bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

18 October 1634



1 barley roll (very old) 1 quartered pfennig

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

Dreams last night were very strange.

Spent most of the day drawing columns on pages for Herr Schiller. Hate that. Wish Master Gröning would buy the new-fangled preprinted forms the up-timers made so useful. Old miser.

Thomas hungover again today. Wasn’t in a mood to deal with him today, so when he snarled at me I told him to leave me alone or I’d kick him in the stomach. He wrapped his arms around his middle and groaned. Never seen anybody turn green before. Almost laughed.

Took today’s pay in candle stubs. Herr Schiller looked surprised, but said nothing.

Finished The Dunwich Horror tonight. Think I finally understand what the up-time word wow means.

Evening prayers recited—twice. Now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

21 October 1634



2 barley rolls 1 pfennig


1 wurst 1 pfennig

Woke up several times last night from dreams.

Finished Der Schwarze Kater tonight. Started over at beginning.

On last page of book, Herr Johann Gronow, the editor—whatever that is—says that Der Schwarze Kater is looking for people to write stories.

I know what I want to do now.

What’s an editor? Must find out.

Recited evening prayers—three times. Now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

22 October 1634





1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 wurst 1 pfennig

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

2 mugs beer 1 pfennig

Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

No dreams last night.

Church this morning. St. Jacob’s had more people in the nave than the last few weeks. More people made it a little warmer, which was good.

Music was as bad as usual. Sang anyway. I like the old songs.

Sermon was better than usual. No one fell asleep, although old man Schicklegruber was breathing so loud he might have been snoring while standing.

Broke my fast after church. Spent the afternoon reading The City of God. St. Augustine is hard to understand, and my Latin is not as good as it should be, but I’ll keep trying.

Was supposed to meet Cousin Johann at The Green Horse tonight, but he didn’t come, so spent the evening meditating on St. Augustine.

A productive holy day.

Recited evening prayers, so now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

23 October 1634



2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 wurst 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 quartered pfennigs

No dreams last night—that I remember, anyway.

Did Master Gröning’s cash entries. Not very many this time. Hope that doesn’t mean Master G will be running out of money.

Reviewed Saturday’s entries. Found three errors in Thomas’ work. Herr Schiller was not happy. Unfortunately, found an error in my work as well. Herr Schiller even unhappier. Should have shown him mine first, I think. Had to recopy my whole page. Thomas had to recopy two pages, but he still laughed at me. Miserable son of a spavined donkey and an ugly sow.

LfG1pAfter work, went to Syborg’s Books. Herr Syborg the Younger—Herr Johann, that is—talked to me about Der Schwarze Kater. He says this is supposed to be modeled after an up-time thing called a magazine. Another case where the up-timers appear to take a perfectly good word and make it mean something very different from its usual meaning. An up-timer magazine is not a storehouse, but is something like a book that is published periodically, and they sometimes have a common theme or element. Herr Johann says Der Schwarze Kater will print stories by two up-timer writers, Herr Poe and Herr Lovecraft, and maybe others who would write the same kind of stories.

I asked Herr Johann what an editor was. He says that is the person who puts together the different stories to make the magazine. Which explains why the book says to send new stories to Herr Gronow, the editor.

Came home. Finished rereading The Dunwich Horror.

Recited evening prayers. Told God I want to be a writer. Asked Him to make that happen. And now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

26 October 1634



2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 cup cabbage soup, 1 wheat roll 4 pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Don’t remember dreams from last night, but awoke tired.

Thomas was discharged today. Herr Schiller caught him taking a swig from the wine bottle we’re not supposed to know that Herr Schiller keeps hidden in his desk drawer. When Herr Schiller shouted at him, Thomas dropped the bottle and it broke. Herr Schiller chased him around the office four times swinging Master Gröning’s old walking stick at him. I ducked under my table. Thomas yelped every time the stick hit him, and he finally tried for the door. He couldn’t get the door handle to turn, and Herr Schiller caught him by the collar just as the door began to open. After giving Thomas several licks with the stick on his back and butt, all the while yelling that he was a thief, Herr Schiller threw wide the door and kicked him down the steps, shouting that Thomas should never show his face here again just before he slammed the door. By that point I had mopped up what little wine was left and was sweeping the glass up. Herr Schiller said nothing, just closed the drawer on his desk and climbed back up on his stool. Put the pieces of glass in a box, got back up on my own stool, and drew forms the rest of the day.

Herr Schiller gave me an extra pfennig with today’s pay. Not sure why, but he still looked angry, so I didn’t ask questions.

Stopped at Syborg’s Book Store. Herr Matthias himself made time to speak with me—but only because we were the only ones in the store. He asked me what I was reading. I told him The City of God. He looked a little surprised and asked me how I was doing with that. Told him it was hard, that I wasn’t at all sure I was understanding it. He smiled, leaned closer, and whispered that he hadn’t finished reading it either, and I should just keep slogging away at it.

Made so bold as to tell Herr Matthias that I really like Der Schwarze Kater, and asked if there was anything else like it. He said, no, not exactly like it, although there were a couple of people trying to produce what the up-timers call “science fiction”. Then he told me something that drove all other thoughts out of my head.

There will be a new volume of Der Schwarze Kater available next week! With newly translated stories by Herren Poe and Lovecraft!

Don’t recall much after that. Hope I was polite when I left. I really don’t remember. Don’t remember walking back to my room.. I just remember sort of waking up, sitting on my bed, holding a newsletter talking about Der Schwarze Kater. It’s all wonderful until I see the price—two dollars.

I may be skipping some more meals.

Took three tries to recite evening prayers. Now to bed, and sleep—I hope.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

30 October 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Herr Schiller brought a new boy into the office this morning. His name is Martin Niemoller. He’s younger than I am, smaller, and very skinny. He doesn’t talk much, either.

First thing I showed him how to do is draw forms. His first few lines weren’t very straight, but he finally got the knack of it.

Reviewed the entries from late last week, found two errors in Thomas’ last work. Showed them to Herr Schiller. He took a deep breath, and muttered “Good riddance!” Then he took his own pen knife and scraped off the ink of those entries and rewrote them himself. We’re not allowed to do that, but I guess Master Gröning lets Herr Schiller.

Stopped at Syborg’s Book Store after work. No, Der Schwarze Kater’s new volume is not available yet.

Very unhappy and angry. After I got back to my room, decided that the anger was wrong. Made myself read an extra page from The City of God as penance.

Re-read The Cask of Amontillado to provide a sop for my hunger for the new volume.

Recited evening prayers. Then recited again to calm myself further. And now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

1 November 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

No dreams last night.

Hungry, but saving pfennigs.

Martin asked me today if I read any. Told him yes. When he asked what I read, I told him The City of God. He said that was good. Then I told him about Der Schwarze Kater. He frowned and said that sounded demonic, or pagan at best. He spent the rest of the day drawing forms while humming hymns loudly—and badly.

Stopped at Syborg’s Book Store after work. No, Der Schwarze Kater’s new volume is not available yet.

Made myself read Leviticus Chapter 23 to draw down my frustration.

Recited evening prayers. And so to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

2 November 1634



1 barley roll (old) 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll (very old) 1 quartered pfennig

Dreamt I was being bricked into a room that I had been tricked into entering because I was told the new volume of Der Schwarze Kater was there. Had it in my hand when I awoke and discovered that it was a dream. Said several words I shouldn’t have.

Herr Schiller had me doing cash entries all day. Guess they were late in arriving or something.  More than usual, too, which I guess is good. If Master Gröning has cash, he’ll be able to keep paying me.

Tired after work. Wanted to just come back to my room, but made myself go by Syborg’s Book Store. All of them were there when I walked in—Herr Matthias, Herr Johann, and Georg. Georg waved me over as soon as I came in. He had a big grin on his face, and he pulled something out from underneath the counter and put in my hands a copy of the new volume of Der Schwarze Kater. I started shaking.

“That’s our last copy,” he said. “Hope you’ve got the two dollars.”

Very excited, told him I’d be right back with the money. He kind of frowned, said something about he didn’t know, there were other people who wanted it. Herr Matthias heard him and came over, told him to quit tormenting me, told me to go get my money and it would be here when I got back.

Ran back to the room as fast as I could. Dodged around walkers, under wagons, over crates and barrels, leapt over a donkey, tripped over a cane, rolled, and came up running. Heard some yelling behind me, kept going. Made it to my rooming house with no further mishaps and tore up the stairs to my room. Pried up the loose floorboard and pulled out my coin sack, ran back downstairs and back to Syborg’s, if not quite as fast. Was panting heavily when I got there.

LfG1hsshrCounted out two dollars’ worth of pfennigs on the counter. Herr Matthias himself handed me my new volume of Der Schwarze Kater. Hurried home, not quite as recklessly as before. Didn’t want to drop it. Lit a candle stub, began reading The Fall of the House of Usher.

Candle is dying, can’t keep eyes open, want to finish story, but can’t. So frustrated almost weeping.

Stumbled through evening prayers. Bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

3 November 1634



2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 cup cabbage soup 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Exhausted this morning. Don’t remember dreams, but must have had some, because I was so tired. Felt hungover, but wasn’t drunk.

Head hurt all day. Wish I had some of Dr. Gribbleflotz’s little blue pills.

Martin was humming hymns again today. Badly. Finally told him that if he couldn’t do a tune better than that in public, he should be silent, as hymns were supposed to be a praise to God, and what he was doing was an insult. He looked at me shocked and almost on verge of tears, I think, but he shut up. Herr Schiller frowned at me, but said nothing. It was worth it, because it was quiet the rest of the day.

Didn’t visit the bookstore after work. Just ate supper and went home. Felt better after the soup.

LfG1lFinished The Fall of the House of Usher by Herr Poe. Herr Lovecraft’s story is The Doom That Came to Sarnath. Forced myself to not read it tonight so I can make the magazine last longer.

Recited evening prayers. Decided I was rude to Martin. Will apologize. Recited evening prayers again.

Now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

5 November 1634





1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 wurst 1 pfennig

2 mugs beer 1 pfennig

Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

Muddled dreams last night. Woke up twice.

Church this morning. St. Jacob’s had fewer people in the nave. Gossip is that some people have been sick, rumors of plague were whispered about, even though it’s winter.

Music was even worse than usual. Sang anyway.

Sermon was no better than usual. No one fell asleep, but suspect that may be because with fewer people, the nave was colder than usual. Old man Schicklegruber wasn’t there, so it was a bit quieter.

Broke my fast after church. Spent the afternoon reading more of The City of God and thinking about it. St. Augustine is still hard to understand.

Did meet Cousin Johann at The Green Horse tonight, and he explained one of my problems with St. Augustine, but told me he would have to think about the other one.

Even so, a productive holy day.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

6 November 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

I apologized to Martin Niemoller for being rude to him last week. Then I told him he still needed to learn his hymns better, as it’s disrespectful to God to sing them badly. He tried to tell me that he’s doing the best he can. I told him he needs to learn better, but not here. It’s distracting.

Herr Schiller commended me for apologizing, then told Martin I was right, and set him to work drawing more forms. He is getting the lines straighter than he was.

Reviewed the entries from late last week, found no errors. Pleasant surprise after following behind Thomas for so long. Showed the pages to Herr Schiller. He looked somewhat glad. He said Master Gröning would be pleased.

Have an idea for a story! It came to me while I was looking at the entries, and almost distracted me from the work.

Was so involved in thinking about the story idea this evening, didn’t even read any of the new Der Schwarze Kater. Was surprised when I noticed that.

Eventually recited evening prayers. Then recited again to calm myself more. Now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

11 November 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Master Gröning only hires us for a half day on Saturdays. Old miser. But he still expects near a full day’s ledger entries from us.

Today I was glad to leave after noon, as it gave me a chance to run to my room and work on my story. And I finished it.

That felt good. That felt really good. I was almost dancing in the room when I got done.

After a little while, I picked it up and read it. I like it.

So, I will fold it up and put the address on it and take it to Herr Gronow’s offices and submit it.


Back. Found Herr Gronow’s office in the building where the magazine said it would be. The door was closed and locked, which did not surprise me, but there is a slot cut in the door with a sign above it that says “Submissions”, so after a moment I dropped the story through the slot. And as soon as I let go of it I wanted to take it back, but my hand wouldn’t reach through the slot far enough to pick it up where it fell. So I leaned against the door and prayed about it.

Ate supper on the way home.

When I returned to my room I treated myself to The Doom That Came to Sarnath. Very fine.

Still I worry about my story.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

15 November 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

No dreams last night.

Today a messenger stepped inside the office. Herr Schiller held out his hand, but the messenger stood and said, “This here message is for nobody but Herr Philip Fröhlich.”

Herr Schiller frowned, but pointed at me, and the messenger stepped over to hand me an envelope before he ducked his head in a bow—to me!—and turned and left.

“If that is not part of the business of Master Gröning, you will leave it alone until your day is done,” Herr Schiller said. His face looked like he was tasting something sour. I stuffed it inside my shirt, and didn’t open it until I got back to my room.


14 November 1634

Herr Philip Fröhlich

I have received what appears to be a story submission to Der Schwarze Kater magazine with your name and contact address on the outside. Unfortunately, at this time I cannot publish your story, mostly because I cannot read the blasted thing.

First, I do understand if you are not able to afford one of the new Goldfarb und Meier typewriting machines. You will notice that, as much as I personally lust after one, this response is written with pen and ink. You will also notice that my letter is perfectly legible, with well-formed characters inked on the page. Sadly, your story was not. Pencil written on cheap tan paper does not make for a readable page, and the smudges and attempted erasures simply make it illegible.

Second, your handwriting, from what I could detect of it, is execrable. Your school teacher would be chastised if I knew who he was.

Third, it is simply not permitted to spell the same word three different ways on one page. I suggest you pay attention to the Bible as translated by Martin Luther. However he spelled a word is how it should be spelled in writing.

I hesitate to say this, but if you can find a way to improve the presentation of your story, whose title I cannot decipher, you may resubmit it.

Good day to you.

Johann Gronow

Editor and Publisher

Der Schwarze Kater


The Marshal Comes To Suhl

The Marshal Comes To Suhl banner

Early April, 1634



Dusk came early that evening with a light, intermittent rain. Four, in the shadows, watched the old man walking down the alley. He used a cane and wore a wide-brimmed hat and a long coat of some heavy cloth that shed the rain like feathers off a waterfowl. He was softly singing to himself.

Compared to the watchers, he was richly dressed and easy prey for those in need. A short run, a shove, some blows, sift his pockets, and take his purse and that coat. A knife would be the finish. They were four to his one. It would be easy.

The old man stopped and appeared to listen. Had they given themselves away? He left the alley and stepped towards the entrance of a shop—a well-lit shop.

He was getting away! Run! Catch him!


The old man thought he heard someone behind him. His leg ached with every step. His destination, a cabinet shop, was just a few yards away, across the cobblestoned street and two doorways down, when he heard a splash. Someone had stepped into a puddle. He turned to look back behind him, back down the alley where he had walked a few moments before.

Four men were running towards him not more than fifteen yards away. Two of the men had knives in their hands; the others had bludgeons or some sort of metal-shod truncheon. Their intent was obvious. He completed the turn, dropping the cane and sweeping back the oilskin coat that uncovered the up-time pistol that had been holstered at his waist.

As the coat flipped away from his belt, he drew the pistol. When the sights leveled on the nearest attacker, he fired. The sound was loud and distinctly different from the boom of a down-time weapon. It echoed, the sound reflecting off the nearby buildings. He shifted his aim slightly and fired again . . . and again . . . and again.

The last attacker staggered, tripped, and fell only a few feet away. His knife skittered across the cobblestones as he slid to a stop at Archie Mitchell’s feet. Archie remained in a slightly crouched stance, pistol sights sweeping from side to side searching for any further threats. There were none. He heard nothing other than the ringing in his ears from the reports of the pistol.

Archie stepped forward, ready for any movement, and checked the bodies. Young men, he thought, out for an evening’s fun, mayhem and profit. Or . . . mercenaries, perhaps? They were not as young as he thought at first glance. They were well-muscled and well-fed. No, they were not ordinary cutpurses. He kicked the knives and bludgeons away from the bodies in case one was shamming.

He scanned the surrounding buildings. Some were dark, abandoned, not uncommon in this part of Suhl. No faces peered from windows; no lights appeared in darkened rooms, no sound of someone running to investigate the shots in the night. Curious. And where is the watch?

Archie looked at the bodies. They had sought a victim and had found something else. He replaced the half-empty magazine in his pistol with a fresh one and holstered the pistol. Next, he stooped to pick up his cane, the scattered fired brass, and then, grunting softly, he straightened and placed the spent brass in a pocket. With cane in hand, he continued towards his destination where Heinrich Buch was waiting. Someone there could fetch the watch. As he walked, he resumed singing softly, “St. James Infirmary,” alert for others who might wish to interrupt his walk. He did not notice that his leg no longer ached.

Friedrich Achen watched silently from the shadows. Frustrated, he stepped back further into the darkness and slipped quietly away.



Early March, 1634



Judge Riddle sat behind his office desk. Harley Thomas, Dieter Issler, and Max Huffman were present, seated in well-padded side chairs. Archie Mitchell, however, was late.

Harley, Max, and Archie had been discharged from the Army just three hours previously. An hour before, with their families watching, Judge Riddle had sworn Max, Harley and Archie in as new SoTF marshals and Dieter as a SoTF deputy marshal.

The day was bright with a light southern breeze that brought a warming hint of spring. The warmth was a welcome break to the cold of winter and had melted the season’s last snow. Vina Thomas and Greta Issler had decided to hold the ceremony on the Thomases’ front lawn followed by a small reception. They prepared a selection of light pastries accompanied by a punch made from apple cider and ice cream. Frank Jackson had provided some unknown punch ingredient of approximately 100 proof. The new officers had been sworn in using the Issler family Bible, an enormous book that appeared to be old enough to have been printed by Gutenberg.

The marshals and deputy were now in Judge Riddle’s office. Everyone was present except Archie Mitchell. Judge Riddle was about to ask Harley if he knew where Archie was when he heard footsteps in the hallway—footsteps that included the tinkle of jingle-bob spurs. The door opened and Archie Mitchell stepped into the office.

“Good God Almighty!” the judge exclaimed. “What the hell is that?”

Archie walked into the room and said, “Sorry I’m late.” He wore Tony Lama boots with spurs, dark brown canvas pants, and a white shirt with an accompanying black string tie. Over the shirt was a five-button leather vest; on his head was a light gray Stetson hat. Around his waist was a wide leather belt and holster on the right containing a Colt single-action .45 caliber revolver and a second pistol, in a cross-draw configuration, on his left-front side. The pistol belt contained a number of large, fat cartridges in leather loops. He carried an oilskin coat called a duster over one arm. The other hand held a cane.

Judge Riddle glanced at Max and Harley. Max’s face was turning red and his shoulders were shaking. Harley was not as constrained and was openly laughing—loudly.

Archie stepped up to the desk. “Since you’ve made me a marshal, I thought I’d wear my marshal’s uniform.”

Max spoke up, “That’s Archie’s SASS costume. He was a member of the Single Action Shooting Society up-time. They dressed up like that.”

Riddle looked at Archie, his face turning red in anger. “Be very glad I’m not in court. If I were, you’d be looking at five days for contempt.”  He was not sure if he was being mocked or not. He needed this character, so he decided to overlook this affront to his dignity.

Archie’s look of surprise and hurt finally convinced Judge Riddle that Archie’s intent was innocent. Well, maybe not innocent, but at least not contemptible.

“Sit down, Archie, and don’t try my patience.”

Archie sat.

After a moment to collect his thoughts, Judge Riddle said, “I have your badges here. I asked Morris Roth to design and make them. My initial thought was to make them from some silver dollars I had collected, but Morris convinced me that would only attract thieves. Morris got together with Ollie Reardon and made these. Ollie had some stainless steel and brass stock left over from some job. Morris designed these badges. I had in mind something like the Texas Ranger badge, a five-pointed star inside a circle. Morris had other ideas. He likes six-pointed stars.” He gave a slight grin.

“Dieter, come here,” said the judge. “This is your badge. As a deputy, your badge is entirely stainless steel. Morris stamped your name, today’s date, and the serial number on the back. Your badge is number four.” Dieter stepped up, and Judge Riddle pinned the badge on Dieter’s shirt.

“Max, Harley, and you, Archie, stand up,” he said again. “The marshal’s badge, like Dieter’s, is made of stainless steel. The difference is that the points are brass-plated leaving the center as polished stainless steel. You are all equals as Marshals so we decided to assign the serial numbers in alphabetical order. Max, you have serial number one. Archie, you’re number two, and Harley is number three. Wear them in good health.”

He pinned the badges to the three new marshals and motioned them to sit down. “After much discussion with the other judges, Mike and Rebecca, Ed, and Frank, we decided to initially assign each of you marshals to some specific tasks as we build the larger service. Max, Doc Nichols doesn’t want you to do much fieldwork for awhile. Since you were a first sergeant in the US Army, we believe you would be ideal as the executive officer of the Marshal’s service. Harley, we thought the best area for you would be the marshal in charge of training since you did most of the tactical training for the old Marion County Sheriff . . . among other duties yet to be assigned. You’ll be in the field, too. Since you hurt your knee again you’re on leave until Doc Adams clears you for full duty.”

Judge Riddle paused for a moment, looking at Archie and shaking his head slightly. “Archie, we had thought that you would be the best for the marshal in charge of field operations. I’m having some second thoughts after seeing you in that outfit, but the decision has been made. Don’t disappoint me.”

“Uhhh, yes . . . I mean no, Judge, I won’t.”  Perhaps, Archie thought, dressing up wasn’t such a good idea.

“By the way, how’s the leg?”

“Well, for the most part, it’s healed. Doc Nichols is being cautious, I think, but he said it will get better if I continue with the PT.” Archie had been wounded in the leg the previous spring, and the wound had gotten infected, laying him up for months. The infection had caused some permanent muscle damage to his thigh and hip, hence the cane. He no longer needed it but he had become attached to the cane. It was made of hickory with molded alloy ball on one end and a steel cap on the other. It could be handy at times, he had decided—a knobknocker his grandfather would have called it.

Nodding to Archie, Riddle agreed, “That’s what Doc Nichols told me; you’ve been released for duty.”

Judge Riddle continued, “Max, for the time being, I want you to set up an office down the hall. The first task is to build a table of organization and equipment. All of us will be involved in that. One of the first tasks will be recruitment.”

Turning to Harley and Archie, he said, “Harley . . . don’t go hurting that knee again! I know he deserved it but next time, get someone else to kick the SOB in the ass.”

Judge Riddle paused and looked at Dieter. “You are the only deputy marshal available, at the moment, to take cases. Fortunately for us, everything’s quiet at the moment.”

Riddle looked at the quartet again before he continued. “Archie, I would like you and Dieter to go to Suhl and find a suitable place for a court. Suhl has been a thorn in our sides since last year so we think one of the first courts should be there—establishing a presence of law and order so to speak.”

“The district court system is still being designed, how many courts, how many judges, their area of responsibility, all that. The current plan is each court will have a presiding judge who’s in charge and two or three associate judges to help and take cases. You’ll need to keep that in mind when you look for a courthouse. We’re planning to place a troop of Mounted Constabulary there as well but that’s not your concern once they’re in place. They’ll use the old Swedish garrison barracks. It’s been turned over to us. Check it out when you get there, hire some people to clean it up and make any needed repairs. See if there is a site nearby for the court.”

“How many constables will be in the troop?”

“Here is a copy of the proposed table of organization. It’s still subject to change. Officially, it will be the 1st Mounted Constabulary Troop when it’s all said and done.”

Archie read the document.  A captain, a sergeant, and ten constables, plus a saddler, farrier, blacksmith, medic, radio operator, and file clerk.

“Some of the headquarters folks, like the blacksmith, farrier, and saddler may be local people hired to fill just those functions,” Riddle continued. “I would like you to spend some time with my son, Martin. He will go over everything in detail to answer any questions you may have. Do you think you could leave Monday for Suhl?  That will give you nearly a week to get ready for the trip. We’ll hire a bailiff to take over the admin for the court in May.”

“Yes, Sir,” Archie replied. “Monday will be fine. Dieter?”

“That is fine with me, too.”

“Well, that’s it, everyone. Any questions? If not, then the meeting’s over.”



Late April, 1634



The sky was slightly overcast as Dieter rode up to Archie’s home trailing a packhorse. In front of the house was a light wagon with a horse already hitched and another horse tied to the rear. In the back of the wagon were a saddle, worn and cracked, saddlebags, and two of Archie’s old footlockers. Marjorie Mitchell was standing on their porch giving Archie a kiss and hug. They had been married over forty years and weren’t used to being apart.

It was time to leave. “Bye, Marj. See you in a month?”

” ‘Bout that, I think. Be careful, Arch.”

Archie nodded and carefully stepped down his front steps using his cane to support his weakened leg and carried his lever-action Winchester rifle in his other hand.

“Where did you get this wagon, Archie? I’ve not seen one like this before.”

TMCSbckbrd“I had it built in Saalfeld last year. It’s called a buckboard. The wainwright built it from some pictures I had. A hundred years ago, Grantville time, these wagons were as common as automobiles were in the twentieth century.”

“It doesn’t appear too sturdy.”

“It’s not designed to carry heavy freight, just people and stuff, like a small pickup truck. Plus, I can haul more stuff than using a packhorse. Doc Nichols suggested that I not ride a horse yet.”

“What are you doing with that old saddle?”

“That was my grandfather’s. He used to be a cowboy in Oklahoma before he married my grandmother. I’ve heard about a saddle maker in Suhl. I’m going to have him make me a new one based on this design. I did some horse swapping last week and got a couple of good, sturdy riding horses. This is mine,” Archie said pointing to the horse tied to the back of the wagon. “Marjorie’s old saddle fits her roan, but mine, the pinto here, needs a new saddle. My old saddle doesn’t fit.”

Dieter wasn’t too familiar with horses or saddles. He just rode whatever was available. The new horse was a mottled white and brown.

He knew Archie had owned several horses before the Ring of Fire. He’d not thought about it much. Now that he had seen the wagon, he could see how useful it could be. Maybe he should talk to Greta about a wagon and some horses? He was well paid as a deputy marshal. Perhaps they should invest some of that money.

“Dieter, why don’t you put your gear in the back of the buckboard and tie your pack horse to it. It’s forty-five miles or so, a two-day trip to Suhl. That’ll free your hands if it becomes necessary.”

Dieter did so. The packhorse was to be his spare. Both of the horses had been assigned to him with his transfer to Suhl. Everything he and Archie needed for the trip, until their wives arrived, was now carried in the wagon. He frankly stared at the footlockers and bags that Archie had loaded in the wagon.

Archie, seeing Dieter’s expression said, “One of those footlockers is full of ammo, .45 Long Colt for my Winchester ’73 and my revolvers, and .45 ACP for my two Colt Commanders.”

“I brought .45 ACP and 12-gauge double-ought, too.”

“Good, I’ve some 12-gauge, too, a mixture of double-ought and slugs. Ammo weighs a lot. That’s why I decided to take the buckboard—and I can haul enough fodder for all our horses. Grazing won’t be all that good yet this time of year. Help me get this tarp over the bed and we’ll be off.”

Archie made sure the tarp covered the wagon bed in such a way that it would drain rainwater before he climbed into the wagon. A thick pad covered the seat to provide more comfort than would just hard wood. The steel leaf springs under the seat creaked. The pad helped soften the ride but Archie wasn’t going to complain. Marjorie had made it using an old foam rubber camp mattress.

Once seated, he inserted the rifle against the front mudguard into a clip designed for that purpose next to his Winchester Model 1897 pump shotgun.

“Let’s get going.” He released the brake and snapped the reins. The wagon started off down the street. Dieter kicked his heels, caught up with the wagon and rode along side.

Marjorie watched the wagon and rider depart down the street toward Highway 250 and the road that would eventually take them to Suhl. She stood on the porch, watching, until the two turned the corner down the block and passed out of sight..

She gave a sigh. She and Greta had work to do to move two households to Suhl. Time to get busy.



Late April, 1634



Archie and Dieter arrived in Suhl in mid-afternoon. The sky had gotten darker. They had been rained upon a few times during the trip. Both wore their oilskin dusters to help shed the light rain. The string of wagons they had joined continued on towards Franconia leaving them at the gate.

After passing through the east gate, Dieter and Archie separated. Dieter proceeded to the inn where they would stay while Archie drove the wagon towards the saddler’s shop.

He guided the buckboard through the streets towards the shop of the saddlemaker, Johann Zeitts. Archie would leave the pinto with Zeitts to allow him to make sure the saddle would fit. The new saddle would cost about the equivalent of forty dollars and the old cowboy saddle, he guessed. We’ll haggle some. Archie suspected that Johann would get the better side of the deal with a template for a new style saddle. I wonder if I could get a new saddle for Marjorie if I traded that old McClellan cavalry saddle?

Johann Zeitts’ shop was located in the southern edge of town. He had started life as a cobbler. In fact, his son, Hans, still worked as a cobbler in a corner of the shop. Johann had become a saddlemaker by accident. One of the leading members of the Suhl council wanted a new saddle, and Johann had made a bid for the job.

He made saddles using techniques learned as a cobbler. His technique, using small brass nails and hand stitching, was new. Several competitors in the area were copying his methods, but Zeitts was more skilled. His business had grown and he was able to acquire a combination shop and home for his wife, married elder son Hans and younger son Christian.

Hans Zeitts saw the wagon pull up in front of the shop and walked out to welcome Archie. His father wasn’t present, he said. Hans led Archie with the wagon and horses through the gate into the fenced-in area behind the shop where a small stable was located. The stable had room for several horses, with three already present. Hans helped Archie stable and groom his pinto.

“Your wagon and horse will be safe here while you meet with my father. My younger brother Christian normally takes care of the horses and the stable, but he’s shoeing some horses at the moment. He’s a farrier and journeyman blacksmith,” Han explained.

Johann arrived just as they finished with the horses. The elder Zeitts entered the front of the shop at the same moment Archie entered from the back, followed by Hans carrying the old saddle.

Wie Gehts, mein Herr!  Guten Tag. I’m Marshal Archie Mitchell from Grantville.”

“Welcome, welcome, Herr Marshal Mitchell. I see you have arrived safely.”

Why would I have not arrived safely? There’s been no outlaws anywhere near here, Archie thought. The comment surprised him. He was under the impression that Suhl was mostly quiet and peaceful after the late unpleasantness with the gunsmiths and the CoC the previous year.

He dismissed the comment and followed Zeitts into the main workroom where Hans placed the old saddle on a wooden trestle that could be adjusted to meet the size of different horses. Johann lifted the stirrups, examined the leather fenders, skirt, cantle, and seat.

“Hmmm,” he muttered. He flipped the saddle upside down on a nearby table to see the saddle’s wooden tree visible through holes in the rotten leather. Hans rubbed his chin and hummed again.

Ja! Now I see the differences. It is similar to some Spanish designs.”

“True,” Archie agreed. “The design evolved from saddles used by Mexican vaqueros up-time and they had Spanish ancestors. It is a working design to allow a horseman to ride comfortably all day.”

“Do you want any embellishments? Any silver?”

“No!” Archie chuckled, “I’m not rich. I just want a good working saddle . . . well, maybe a bit of leather tooling and embossing if it isn’t too expensive.”

“Very well.” Johann seemed a bit disappointed.

“When could you give me an estimate for cost and delivery?”

“Oh, yes, uhhh, tomorrow? Noon?”

“Noon, it is. I’ll be here. I’ve other business in Suhl, but I’ll make a point of being here at noon or as close to it as I can.”

“Would you be available for dinner tonight, Herr Mitchell? Our quarters are above the shop, and I would like you to meet my wife and family.”

“Thank you! I would be grateful, Herr Zeitts, but I’m not alone. Deputy Marshal Issler is with me.”

“Bring him, too. We would like to have both of you. Besides, it does me honor to  host the new marshal and his deputy.”


Archie drove his buckboard back into town to the Boar’s Head Inn where Dieter waited. The State of Thuringia-Franconia had a contract with the innkeeper to house them and their horses and gear until permanent quarters could be found. The innkeeper was being exceedingly helpful. He wanted them to remain at the inn as long as he could keep them. The SoTF was paying half again his current rate. More coins in his pocket.

Whoever had made the arrangements had requested a ground floor room in light of Archie’s injury. When Archie arrived, the innkeeper led him and Dieter to an area in the back of the inn where three rooms had been reserved for them.

It’s a suite! Archie thought when he entered. The front room contained a desk, chairs, a table that could be used for conferences, a sideboard that appeared to be well stocked, and waist-high cabinets. A strong-room had been built out of a small windowless closet-like room off the main room for storage of their guns and ammo. It would also keep secure the funds that had been given to him for the purchase of the new courthouse and incidentals. Off the central room were two others made up as individual bedrooms. A door on one side of the central room led to the inn’s bath, jakes, laundry, and an exit to the inn’s stables in the rear. Someone had made an excellent choice in choosing this inn. He was surprised the innkeeper was so accommodating.

The innkeeper appeared and asked for permission to take Archie’s buckboard and horse to the rear stable. “My stableboy will feed and groom your horse, Herr Marshal Mitchell. It will be in the stall next to Herr Deputy Marshal Issler’s horse.”

Danke, Mein Herr. I appreciate your courtesy.”

The innkeeper left.

“Nice place, Dieter,” Archie said.

“Ja. He bowed to me when I arrived. I almost thought he was going to add a von und zu to my name. I think he’s glad to see us.”

“I got the same impression from Johann Zeitts. It makes me curious. Everyone is happy to see us. It makes me wonder why.”

“Perhaps I should wander around and listen to gossip? No one would think twice about me . . . at least for the next day or so, until I become known.”

“Start tomorrow . . . and dress like you live here.” Dieter was dressed much like Archie: oilskin duster, Western-style boots, pants, shirt, leather vest, and a copy of Archie’s Stetson hat—Archie’s unofficial idea of a marshal’s uniform. “Tonight, we have dinner invitations with Johann Zeitts and his family.”


It was dusk when Archie and Dieter arrived at the Zeitts’ shop and home. Darkness came early this time of year. Johann welcomed them and introduced his wife Elizabeth, his son Hans and Hans’ wife Lena and Johann’s younger son Christian. Hans and Lena’s two children were already in bed.

Johann and Elizabeth’s ages were betrayed by their white hair but both appeared to be quite fit. Hans and Lena were in their late twenties. Christian was several years younger and had the shoulders and grip of a blacksmith. Hans was slighter than his brother although his hand was as calloused as that of the elder and younger Zeitts.

“Welcome to our home,” said Elizabeth. “We are very happy that you accepted our invitation. Follow us, please.”

She led them upstairs to the family area. It was much larger than it appeared from outside. Johann and Elizabeth had a separate room for themselves. Christian had his room, as did Hans and Lena. The rest of the upper floor was for common use by the entire family.

Dinner went well. Elizabeth and Lena had prepared a leg of mutton, roasted to a crisp, and a form of bread pudding for dessert. They had finished the dinner when, from the stables outside, they heard a scream from a horse. Everyone hurried downstairs, led by Hans and Christian who grabbed a lantern before leaving the shop. Hans saw two men in the stables with one of the horses. One had a knife in his hand.

Christian outran his older brother and yelled at the two intruders. One ran out of the stable and into the darkness. The other, the one with the knife, was slower. Christian threw the lantern at him and it hit with an audible clonk! The man stumbled, and fell to his knees.

Dieter arrived next and rolled the man over. A bloody dent in the man’s temple from the heavy brass lantern was clearly visible.

Christian ignored the other man who had disappeared in the darkness. He ran into the stable checking the horses.

“He was trying to hamstring the horses!” he called, pointing to a slash on the leg of one of the Zeitts’ horses. He soothed the shivering horse and examined the wound closely. “It’s deep, but I don’t think he cut the tendons.”

Dieter checked the other horses. “The rest appear to be all right. I don’t see any wounds.”

Archie and Johann were the last to arrive. Hans picked up the lantern and relit it. He held the lantern closely to the face of the body. He, like Christian, was shocked. Christian clearly had not intended to kill the intruder, just stop him from hurting the horses.

“You know him?” Archie asked.

“No,” replied Johann.

“Nor I,” added Hans.

Christian walked over and looked closely. “He’s one of Achen’s men. I’ve seen him around.”

“Who is Achen?” Dieter asked.

“He’s . . . well . . . I . . .” Christian was hesitant to say more.

“Friedrich Achen is . . . uh . . . a . . . he calls himself a businessman. He has, what he calls ‘a private security firm.’ You pay him a fee and he guards your home and business,” Johann said.

“If you don’t, things happen,” Christian added.

“His men came around wanting me to sign up for their protection. I refused. That is what the watch is supposed to do.” Johann said.

“Except the watch is seldom seen after dark,” said Hans.

“It isn’t seen much during the day, either,” Christian added.

Archie nodded. It was the old protection racket. He hadn’t expected to see it here, in this time, but there was no reason why it shouldn’t have occurred to someone.

“Did you report it?” Dieter asked.

“No. Why? It isn’t illegal,” Johann replied.

“It is if it includes intimidation and extortion.”

“What do we do with the body until the watch comes?” Archie asked.

“Leave him there,” Christian said. “The watch will show up eventually.”

“Okay. Be sure it’s reported in the morning if they don’t come tonight.”


Dieter Issler rose early the next morning. The sky was still gray. It was that time of morning just before dawn. He dressed as a down-timer, hiding his pistol inside his knee-length coat. His wide-brimmed hat would not draw attention. His boots were of up-time design but were unlikely to draw attention.

He left the inn and headed toward the riverside gate. That gate was not the one they had passed through yesterday. He was curious if it was manned at this time of the morning. Some cities in the SoTF had become complacent and failed to keep their gates well-guarded. As he walked, he kept an eye out for anyone about to dump their night soil. He didn’t want to get splashed.


Archie, having finished an early breakfast, had one of his Colt Commander pistols disassembled on a large cloth on the table when the innkeeper announced a visitor. “Herr Marshal, Bürgermeister Feld would like to see you.”

“Send him in,” Archie said rising to greet the burgermeister.

Guten Tag, Herr Marshal.”

“And to you, too. I’m glad to see you. I had planned to see you later this morning but now will do. Please sit and please excuse the mess. I like to clean my weapons after they’ve gotten wet. It rained often on the way here.”

Feld glanced at the pieces of the pistol, a collection of small, finely engineered pieces of a Model 1911 pistol, one of Archie’s Colt Commanders, laid out neatly on the thick cloth. “Ruben Blumroder would like to get his hands on that.”

“Ruben Blumroder?”

“He is the . . . not the guildmaster because there is no guild as such here. He’s the leader of the Suhl gunsmiths. He’s also our representative to the new legislature. He’s quite influential.”

“I wouldn’t object if he wanted to examine it. The pistol is easy to copy, the springs aside. It’s the ammunition that is difficult. How did you know I was here?”

“Word gets around. The militia guard on the east gate sent word that you had arrived. A message from Grantville said you were coming. We didn’t know when.”

“Well, it isn’t any secret. My deputy and I are here to secure a site for the new SoTF district court.”


“Yes. It will provide justice and legal services for the district—administer SoTF law. The judges will report directly to Judge Riddle, the chief justice of the SoTF Supreme Court.” Archie removed an envelope, wax-sealed with Riddle’s official court seal, from his saddle bag on the floor.. “I have a letter for you and for the city council.”

Feld took the envelope. It was addressed to him and to the Suhl council. He weighed it in his hand. It was impressive. The envelope was heavy paper. Up-time, perhaps. He looked up to see Archie watching him.

“Should I open it now?” he asked hesitantly.

“If you wish . . . as soon as you sign this receipt,” Archie replied extending a form letter and pen to Feld.

Feld looked at the receipt form as if it were a serpent. After a silent moment, he reached for the form and signed it with Archie’s pen.

“Thank you, Herr Bürgermeister. I’ve already given you a quick review of its contents,” Archie said, nodding toward the envelope in Feld’s hand.

“I suppose our . . . difficulty last year is why the court is being established here.”

“I wouldn’t know. There are difficulties in Franconia and I assume the Mounted Constabulary will be sending many patrols there.”

“They won’t stay here?” Feld said with some alarm.

“There will always be some here at headquarters, but most of the troopers will be patrolling the main roads and areas away from the larger cities.”

“We don’t have many watchmen. The militia mans the gates and the city wall.”

“That reminds me. I noticed the militia on my arrival. Who is the wachtmeister? There was an incident last night. A man tried to hamstring some horses and was killed during the commission of the crime.”

“Crime! Uh, we don’t really have much crime. Herr Heinrich Buch, one of our council members, oversees the watch and represents them, among others, in the council.”

“How many watchmen do you have?”

“I’m not sure of the actual number. Herr Buch is the de facto watchtmeister. I think they’re thirty-five or forty.”

“That’s all?”

“Well, the militia protects the city; the gunsmiths take care of their part of Suhl. The rest of Suhl is quiet. There haven’t been any complaints and the cost is expensive.”

“Suhl looks to be prosperous. You shouldn’t have any difficulty raising the funds to add more.”

“There are . . . concerns.”

Archie watched the bürgermeister sitting across from him. The situation wasn’t new. Cities always seem to shortchange their safety whether external or internal, especially when no danger was on the horizon. “Neither the SoTF Court, the Marshal’s Service nor the Constabulary is responsible for running Suhl. You are. It’s up to you and the council.”

“Yes, yes, we know. When we heard the rumor that the Mounted Constabulary was coming we thought . . .”

Archie said nothing. He was beginning to understand why he and Dieter were being welcomed so enthusiastically. “My deputy and I work for the court and answer to them. Suhl is your responsibility. I would suggest you and the city council review your needs. I believe you have some. That said, to whom should I report the incident?”

“Oh, well, Herr Buch, I suppose. We rarely have anything untoward reported.”

“Very well, I’ll pay him a visit. By the way, would you suggest someone I could see about what is available for a courthouse? The constabulary will use the former Swedish barracks.”

Feld seemed startled at that piece of information. “I’ll check with the council. One of them should know. I’ll ask them to see you.”

“Good, good. I appreciate your assistance.”

Feld glanced at Archie, looked down to the envelope still in his hand and nodded. Rising, he said, “I’ll present this to the council. Guten Tag, Herr Marshal.”

Guten Tag, Herr Bürgermeister.”


Dieter found the riverside gate manned by a very young militiaman, an apprentice to a local gunsmith he discovered. The youngster had a blue cloth tied to his sleeve and he was watching a farmer pass through the gate in an ox-drawn cart. The gate guard was unarmed as far as Dieter could see. He was just standing at the side of the gate watching people go and come. After a brief conversation, Dieter discovered the name of the inn favored by the journeymen and master gunsmiths. It was helpful. He decided to check the barracks next. He expected them to need minor repairs being unused over the winter.


After Feld departed, Archie had some time before his appointment with Johann Zeitts. The hard wooden chair made his hip ache, and he felt tired. He hadn’t slept well. The bed here was a simple pallet on a wooden frame. He would be sixty this year and he seemed to feel every one of those years. God, I miss the twentieth century. Marjorie was bringing some of their furniture when she and Greta came to Suhl. He hoped she would be able to bring his recliner. Hard beds made him restless and cost him sleep. Sleeping on the ground these last couple of days didn’t help, either. It seemed the only time he could sleep well was in his recliner.

The innkeeper’s wife cleaned up the remains of breakfast and swept the floor and the hallway to the stable. Archie made a mental note to tip her for her efforts.

He reassembled the Colt Commander, inserted a loaded magazine, chambered a round, and slipped it into his shoulder holster. The other Colt Commander was already on his belt. Rising from the table, he picked up his hat and walked through the inn’s common room and out the front door. Johann Zeitts would be waiting for him at his shop. Archie hadn’t taken but a few steps before he saw a familiar face.

“Hi, Archie. How are ya?” Anse Hatfield said. “I heard you were in town so I came over to visit.”

“Anse! Good to see you. It’s been, what, a year or more since we last met?”

“Yeah, ’bout that. It’s good to see a familiar up-time face.”

“I was just going out. I have an appointment.”

“That’s OK, I’ll come along if that’s all right? We can talk along the way.”


Dieter approached the barracks and was surprised to see a number of workers on the site. They appeared to be tearing down the palisade walls. He walked up to the one who seemed to be in charge and asked what was going on.

“None of your business,” Dieter was told.

“I’m Deputy Marshal Issler.” Dieter showed them his badge. “That is SoTF property and the barracks of the Mounted Constabulary troop that should be arriving shortly. That makes it my business.”

“Don’t know anything about that. I was told to tear down the walls and that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Who’s your boss?”

“That’s none of your business, either. Now go or we’ll make you go.”

Dieter saw that he was outnumbered by six to one. He’d better pass this to Archie. “I’ll be back. I strongly suggest you have your boss here when I return.”


“. . . I managed some leave to talk over some business with Pat Johnson, on condition I bring back more guns,  so I’ll be leaving in a few days to rejoin the army. There won’t be many up-timers here after that, just Pat, the Reardons, Gary and Gaylynn, and maybe one or two others,” Anse Hatfield said.

“Marjorie is coming in a few weeks along with Dieter’s wife, Greta. I don’t think there will be any more up-timers here after she arrives.” After a pause, Archie said,

“You just didn’t come to see me because we’re old friends. What’s on your mind?”

“There’s a problem here, a gang. I was starting to get a handle on it but now I’m leaving. I wanted to fill you in and ask if you’d look into it.”

“A gang that’s running a protection and extortion racket?”

“Yeah, among other things.”

“I’ve heard. I met one of them last night who was trying to cripple a horse. I understand he’s one of Achen’s men. Who is this Achen?”

“I don’t know too much. I’ve heard that he’s the new son-in-law of one of the city councilmen. They don’t try much in my part of town but they work the rest of Suhl and outside the gates. The watch never seems to be around when something happens. When they finally show up, they don’t do much. No one is caught and things just seem to get worse. It’s getting so that it’s not safe on the streets after dark.”

“I thought the Jaegers were helping to take care of things?”

“Only in our part of town, and most of them are gone.”

“That’s twice you’ve said, ‘my part of town.’ What do you mean?”

“Where the gunsmiths are, their shops and homes. After the, ahhh, incident last year, they’ve kept the peace in their area. The city council is supposed to handle the rest of town. They don’t. They think the militia is enough . . . you can’t keep the peace by manning the walls and gates with unarmed boys.”

“And the watch?”

“They seem more interested in patrolling the ‘better’ parts of town. The homes and businesses of the council members and others.”

“I met with Feld, the bürgermeister, this morning. He said they only have thirty-five to forty watchmen for the whole town.”

“I know. It’s one of the problems here in Suhl. Saves them money, don’cha know. I’m surprised the council hasn’t called for help. I’ve heard rumors that the council is deadlocked on that.”

“They need about seventy-five to a hundred men if they are to have good day and night patrols,” Anse continued. “They think the militia will fill in for their lack of watchmen. The militia has to provide their own weapons, and most militia members work for the gunsmiths and their families.”

“Where have I heard this before?”

“Yeah. Almost like old times.”

“Dieter Issler is my deputy—do you know him?”

“No . . . don’t think I do.”

“He’s out scouting the town. I’d appreciate it if you’d have a talk with Pat and Gary and ask them to keep their ears open and give us a holler if they hear anything we should know.”

“I can do that. I’m glad Pat and Gary aren’t in the army. I don’t really want to go but I haven’t a choice.”

“They kicked me, Max Huffman, and Harley Thomas out of the army and made us marshals. Frankly, I’m glad I’m not in anymore.”

“I better get back. I’ll drop by one more time before I leave.”

“Thanks, Anse, I appreciate it.”


Ruben Blumroder looked up from his workbench when Anse walked through the door. “Did you meet him?”

“Yep. I think ol’ Arch will do. He asked me about Achen before I had a chance. He’s already got some feelers out gathering information.”

“Tell me about him.”

“He’s hard to describe. He’s a SoTF marshal now. He was a deputy sheriff up-time, an army vet, up-time, not just here. He’s a combat vet, too.”

“What’s he like?”

“Well, like many up-timers, Archie has some . . . eccentricities. He has always been a cowboy fan. Have you heard about Westerns?”

“Ja, but I don’t think I understand.”

“Westerns are stories about the American West in the nineteenth century—the American Frontier. Archie lives it. Up-time he was a member of a group that had action shooting matches using old-style weapons—revolvers, rifles, usually lever-action, double-barreled shotguns, weapons that were common in the nineteenth century. Sometime they even shoot from horseback, and they dressed up in costumes like those from the West. Archie, too.  Like I said, he lives it.”

“Is he crazy?”

“No. Absolutely not. But, when we up-timers arrived here in the middle of the Thirty Years war, it was a shock. People reacted differently. Some did well, some didn’t. Everyone was affected in some form or another. Living as a real Old West marshal is Archie’s way of coping—but don’t doubt his competency. That would be a mistake. His, uh, eccentricity aside, he’s a tough lawman.”

“Good! We need someone like that.”

“I think Archie will do.”

“I have a meeting tonight with some of the other craftmasters. I’ll tell them about our new marshal.”


Guten Tag, Herr Zeitts,” Archie said as he entered Zeitts’ workshop.

Guten Tag, Herr Marshal.”

“Well, what do you think.” Archie pointed to the disassembled saddle on Zeitts’ workbench.

“I can do it,” Zeitts affirmed.

When the haggling was over, Zeitts and Archie had an agreement. Zeitts would finish the saddle in two weeks unless there was an unforeseen circumstance to delay delivery.

Archie and Johann Zeitts were shaking hands on the deal when Christian entered the workshop with the aid of his brother. Christian had been badly beaten, one eye almost closed.

“What happened?” Johann asked rushing to Christian’s side.

“Achen’s men caught him outside. They were looking for their man who didn’t come home last night. It was their two on Christian until I arrived.”

“Where are they?” Archie asked referring to Achen’s men. “Are they still around?”

“They ran up the street. I don’t know where. Don’t go after them,” Han said. “They outnumber you.”

“I think I can handle them.” Archie said as he left the shop. Outside he surveyed the scene. Zeitts’ shop was next to the city’s wall. A ring road ran parallel to the wall with homes and shops lining the cobblestoned street. A number of people were out walking the street but none appeared to be watching Zeitts’ shop.

“They ran that way,” Hans said, pointing to the left. The street ended where it met another that led to the eastern gate.

Danke. Tell your father I’ll look into this.” With that, he stepped into the street and proceeded in search of Christian’s assailants.

The buildings on the left side of the street abutted but did not actually touch the city wall. This gap provided space for wall maintenance and access in time of need. The right side of the street was like the left with narrow alleys appearing from time to time between buildings giving access to another alley to the rear.

I need a map, Archie thought. This place is a maze. You could hide an army in these alleys and no one would know.

Archie reached the intersection without seeing anyone or anything suspicious. He had stopped a few passersby, asking if they had seen two men running down the street and no one had . . . or at least would not admit that they had.  That was the problem with a gang. People were intimidated. Individually, they were at the gang’s mercy. If they united, the gang would be ineffective and would soon be removed or would leave for easier pickings.

Archie headed back to the inn. He’d not had any lunch, and he was getting hungry. After he had eaten, he thought he would visit Ruben Blumroder. He seemed to be the real leader of Suhl. Maybe Blumroder would have more information.


Achen’s two men watched the marshal walk past the alley where they had hidden themselves. Achen would not be pleased with their failure to extract information from the younger Zeitts.

Friedrich Achen was sitting in a corner of the taproom of Der Bulle und Bär, his favorite inn, when his two men entered. They walked over to Achen’s table and sat.

“What did you find?” he asked.

“Nothing. We were interrupted. Zeitts’ brother and some neighbors came before we had the younger one softened up. The new marshal was there, too, so we left.”

“Conrad’s dead. One of the Zeitts, maybe the marshal, killed him.”

“How did you know?”

“Feld told my father-in-law who told me. Also, the other marshal, the deputy, was nosing around the barracks. He told the men to stop working. They refused but the deputy will be back, probably with the marshal to stop them.”

“Shall we be there, too? Together we would have enough to take both of them.”

“Do so. Keep watch. When the workers refuse, join them and overwhelm the marshals. Don’t let them get away.”

“You want them dead?”

“No, not yet. I need to know why they’re here.”

“Your father-in-law doesn’t know?”

“He says not. I’m not sure I believe him.”

“We’ll find out. The marshal doesn’t look all that strong. He uses a cane.”

“Go. Wait for them as long as it takes.”


After following the directions from several people, Archie arrived at Ruben Blumroder’s shop located on the same street as Pat Johnson’s US Waffenfabrik. He heard a shot from the rear of the building. Instead of entering the front, Archie walked down the adjacent alley to the rear where Blumroder and a couple of men were testing long arms. He stood watching them load the long guns with patched balls. Rifles, he assumed. The target was a wooden board attached to a large square wooden post that was at least a foot on each side.  There were numerous holes in the board.

Bam! One of the men fired the rifle which produced a cloud of white smoke. Archie noticed the rifle produced significant recoil.

Guten Tag! Archie called as another shooter stepped forward to the line.

Ruben Blumroder, at least that is whom Archie assumed the older man was, appeared startled when Archie called. He turned his head swiftly and gave Archie a quick inspection. He stepped away from the other two, who ignored Archie’s interruption once the elder man started walking towards the visitor.

“Herr Marshal Mitchell, I presume?”

“The same. I assume you are Herr Ruben Blumroder?”

“The same,” he said with a grin. “I was going to visit you when I had some time. Herr Hatfield told me you arrived yesterday. And here you are. What is the occasion for your visit?”

“I don’t want to interrupt your work but I would like to talk with you about Suhl. I understand you will be the city’s representative to the SoTF legislature.”

“Ja, that’s so. The craftmasters and their people elected me. We outvoted our opponents.”

“The craftmasters were able to control fifty percent of the votes?”

“Not alone . . . but with some other allies, we did.”


“Politics,” he confirmed. “Come, let us go inside. I have some cider that I’ve been thinking about all day.”

Archie chuckled and followed Blumroder into the rear of his shop. Inside the door, Archie stopped to let his eyes become accustomed to the unlit room. The few light sources were the open door and two windows facing the alley that Archie had used to reach the rear of the shop.  To one side were three rifling machines next to a small forge that appeared to be used to make small metal pieces that would eventually become parts for the rifle’s lock.

Blumroder walked down the aisle to a table where rifles and long arms were assembled. He picked up a rifle and handed it to Archie. “This is a copy, as best we can determine, of your Kentucky rifle. It’s .50 caliber. Pat Johnson had a . . . magazine? . . . catalog? . . . that had an exploded view of this rifle. We created our molds from that and refined the final product to be this rifle.”

To Archie, it appeared to be very much like a flintlock Kentucky rifle he had once fired. The smooth honey-colored wooden stock, forearm and ramrod were expertly finished and varnished with fine checkering at the grip behind the trigger and at two points along the sides of the forearm. The brass side-plates and patch-box were polished to a mirror-sheen that brought out the detail of the light engraving depicting a hunting scene. He hefted the rifle and found it to be perfectly balanced. “A fine piece of work,” he told Blumroder.

Danke. It is intended as a gift for the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. A working rifle, not some pretty piece that will never be fired. I can’t say who ordered it but the commission was very welcome.”

“I repeat, a very fine piece of work.”

“A man who knows his weapons, I see.”

“Of necessity. A reliable, accurate firearm can mean the difference between life or death. A man can be known by his weapon. I’m used to mine.”

“If I may ask . . .”

Archie chuckled. “I’ve nothing fancy. He pulled his duster aside from one side to reveal a Colt Commander in a side holster, then pulled the other side of the duster aside to reveal a second Colt Commander in a shoulder holster.

“Ah, yes, the Colt model 1911A1. Anse Hatfield carries one.”

“Almost, these are the Commander model,” he said pointing to his two pistols in turn. “The 1911 has a five inch barrel, the Commander a four and one-half inch barrel. It’s not much shorter but it can make a difference if you have to draw quickly.”

Blumroder walked into the shop where he had an office—a side room from a larger space where his apprentices and journeymen worked small pieces of metal to insure they fit exactly into molds. This was the current method of standardizing parts. It worked well enough and helped keep parts interchangeable, more or less—a new concept introduced by up-timers. Using molds wasn’t as precise as using a milling machine but would do until those tools became available.

After they were seated, Blumroder asked, “What can I do for you, Marshal?”

“I came, mainly, to introduce myself. Anse Hatfield, whom I’ve known for years, paid me a visit this morning. He mentioned that you were one of the city leaders. I’ve found it’s best to know the PTBs.”

“Excuse me, Herr Marshal, ‘PTBs?’ ”

“Powers That Be. Folks like Herr Feld—and you. I keep forgetting few here know all our language foibles.”

Blumroder chuckled. “I’m not in the same category as Herr Feld. I’m just a local craftmaster.”

“Who effectively controls at least a third of the city.”

“Um, uh, well, yes.”

“And is the recently elected member to the SoTF legislature.”

“True, as well.”

“I think that qualifies you as being one of the PTBs, don’t you Herr Blumroder?”

“Anse said you were different, Herr Marshal.”

“Just call me Archie, if you would.”

“Very well . . . Archie, and please call me Ruben.”

“Thank you, Ruben.”

“Now, what can I do for you, Archie?”

“Information, really. Anse alluded to some troubles here in Suhl—different from last year. A gang, he said.”

“Yes, Friedrich Achen. He arrived a year or so ago. Married the daughter of  Heinrich Buch, one of the city council members. No one seems to know from where he came. He has, as Anse had said, no visible means of support. He hangs out at Der Bulle und Bär, one of our more disreputable inns. He has a gang that extorts money from the shopkeepers, selling ‘protection.’ The watch, really the city council, hasn’t done much to curtail Achen’s activities. It’s not our, the militia’s, responsibility, either. Achen knows better than to bother us.”

“Your militia?”

“The city’s militia. However, we—the gunsmiths and the remaining Jaegers, are the largest contingent of the militia. The Jaegers answer to us . . . me . . . for the moment. Patrolling is not a responsibility I—we want. It’s been thrust upon us. We ensure our people are safe. That’s all we can do.”

“I see. It’s not my responsibility, either. But, like you said, sometimes it is thrust upon us.”

“Have you met the council, yet?”

“I met with Herr Feld this morning. He arrived on my doorstep bright and early. I had some documents for him and the council and gave them to him. The SoTF will be establishing a district court here in Suhl. I’m here to find a suitable building for the court. And a troop of the SoTF Mounted Constabulary will be stationed here in the barracks.”

“I suspect the documents may disappear if he doesn’t like their contents.”

“I don’t think so. He signed a receipt . . . and I have copies.”

“I see Herr Feld’s reputation has gone before him.”

“Don’t know about that. It’s just a standard precaution.”

“I wouldn’t wait, Archie, to meet the council. I’ve been told there are workmen dismantling the barracks. If you don’t lay claim, there may be no barracks, shortly.”

Archie sat silent for a moment. “Danke, Ruben. I’ll get on that.”

“I have a meeting tonight with other gunsmiths and craft masters. If you don’t mind, I’ll tell them about the new court and the Mounted Constabulary.”

“Feel free. It’s no secret.”

“Thank you for coming, Archie, but if you don’t mind, I have some apprentices to oversee. Some need to be constantly supervised.”

Archie chuckled. “I understand, Ruben. That is true even up-time. Guten Tag.”

Guten Tag, Archie.”


Dieter arrived at the Boar’s Head Inn in time to see Archie enter before him. “Archie!” he called. “There’s a problem.”

Archie turned at the entrance to their rooms and asked, “The barracks?”

“Ja. It’s being torn down.”

“I know. Ruben Blumroder told me. He’s the head of Suhl’s gunsmiths. He’d be the master of the gunsmith guild if there was one.”

“I told them to stop but they refused and there were six of them to my one.”

“Get your gear. Let’s pay them a visit.”

Dieter disappeared into his room to shortly reappear dressed much like Archie—boots, canvas pants, white shirt and badge, leather vest, gun belt, shotgun on a sling and covering all, his duster. “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

They arrived at the barracks a few minutes later. “There they are. That one,” Dieter said pointing to a man in a leather coat watching the others, “is the leader.” To one side were two other men leaning against a partially dismantled palisade wall.

Archie walked up to the man in the leather coat. “Are you the boss of these men?”

“I’m their overseer. So what?”

“Then I’m ordering you to stop work and leave—immediately.”

“I don’t take orders from you.”

“You do now. That’s SoTF property, and it’s my responsibility. I have my authority here,” he said exposing his badge.

The man turned and shouted to the workers, “Get them!” and drew a large knife from under his coat.

Archie stepped back, shifted his grip on his cane and swung, knocking the knife from the overseer’s hand. He slid his hand down to the other end of the cane, and on the backstroke hit the overseer’s forearm with the alloy head breaking both bones. The overseer shrieked at the sudden surge of pain.

Archie heard a click behind him. Dieter had switched off the safety of his shotgun that had been unseen under his duster. He had it leveled at the rest of the workmen. From the corner of his vision, Archie saw the two leaners running towards him. He turned and punched one in the stomach with the steel foot of his cane. That one bent double from the punch blocking the path of the other before falling to the ground in a huddle. By the time the other attacker had stepped around the first, the cane’s alloy head was swinging towards the attacker’s jaw. It hit with a crunch and both attackers were out of action and on the ground.

The fight was over. Two men on the ground. One standing clutching a broken arm and five others with hands up, eyes on the muzzle of Dieter’s shotgun. Archie was panting and wheezing. I’m outta shape.

“Do you happen to know if Suhl has a jail, Dieter?” he asked between pants.


“I don’t, either. Let’s tie their hands and march ’em to Ruben Blumroder’s place. I think he’ll have a place to put them or tell us where’s the jail.”

Archie only had one pair of steel handcuffs. He and Dieter carried rawhide thongs instead of cuffs. Between the two of them, they had enough for the six men still standing.

“Archie, I think this one is dead,” Dieter said examining the one huddled on the ground.

“Well, crap.”

Archie checked to two on the ground. The first one, the one he’d punched with the steel foot of his cane was clearly dead. He opened the man’s shirt to reveal a purple blotch covering most of his stomach. His cane punch must have ruptured some internal organ and the man had hemorrhaged to death. He checked the second man. He was dead, too. The alloy head of the cane had impacted the hinge of his jaw. His skull had caved in. Hit him too hard. I need to practice with this cane more often.

“Dieter, take the bossman’s coat and cover these two. We’ll send someone for ’em later.”


Anse Hatfield was standing in the doorway of Ruben Blumroder’s shop when he saw Archie and Dieter approach with their prisoners. “Ruben!” he yelled.

Blumroder, hearing the urgency in Hatfield’s voice, strode quickly to join him.

“Archie’s been busy,” Anse said, “Told you so.”

“Ruben, do you have somewhere to stash these folks?” Archie asked when they reached the doorway.

“I could find a place, a storeroom I suppose.”

“Neither Dieter nor I know if Suhl has a jail. I assume there is one?”

“Yes, below the council chambers in the rathaus. I don’t think it’s been used much, not since last year.”

“I don’t think that jail would be the best place just now. Can you keep these people out of sight for awhile, until the Mounted Constabulary arrives?”

“I can do that.”

“Good. Dieter, go with them and get our cuffs back. I think we’re going to need them.”

Blumroder spoke briefly with one of his journeymen. He and a couple of apprentices armed themselves with pistols and marched the six down the street.

Archie sighed. “There are two dead men at the barracks, Ruben. Could you send someone to get them?”

“What happened?”

“They were waiting for us. The one with the broken arm was the boss of the crew tearing down the barracks. He refused to stop work and drew a knife on me. I have a sneaking suspicion the two deaders may have been a couple of Achen’s men. While Dieter and I were taking care of the workmen, those two joined the fight. They rushed me and I got careless. I hit them too hard—with my cane.”

Ruben eyebrows rose. “You killed them with a cane?”

“Unintentionally. I hit one too hard in the head with this—” He raised the cane to show the molded alloy knob. “—and punched the other too hard with this.” He pointed to the steel-capped foot of the cane. “They got too close to me. I had to use what I had. I was rushed.”

Ruben nodded. “I understand.”

“Does Suhl really have a watch? I’ve been here two days and I haven’t seen one yet.”

“They do. I don’t know their patrol schedules. They don’t come here because we take care of ourselves. The council has not asked the full militia for help. Truthfully, I haven’t really paid much attention.”

“I’m thinking the watch should be rebuilt from scratch with a professional wachtmeister who can properly train, organize, and lead the watchmen. The only ones I’ve seen on watch are your militiamen at the gates.”

“There are some on the walls, too.”

“Guess I didn’t look hard enough. While I’m thinking of it, I need someone to help me survey the barracks and see how much damage has been done. I’ll need to hire some workmen to fix it up, repair any damages, and ready the place for the constabulary troop.”

“I’ll speak with some of the other craft masters. It’s about time for our weekly meeting. I’ll ask them to send you a man or two—tomorrow?”

“Good. Tell them we’re staying at the Boar’s Head Inn. If I’m not there Dieter Issler, my deputy, will be. Feld is arraigning a meeting for me with the council sometime tomorrow.”


A messenger from the burgermeister arrived early the next morning. The council would meet with Archie later that morning. Archie sent a messenger to Anse Hatfield asking Anse to join him at the meeting. Anse knew, at least by reputation, many of the council members. Archie would have preferred to have Ruben Blumroder there, too. But that would appear to be political favoritism, Ruben being an SoTF official. If he needed a local representative, they would not be surprised to see Anse standing next to Archie. These folk understood family ties. They’d view the two up-timers as kith, if not kin.

Ruben had been good to his word. A master carpenter arrived early. He and Archie discussed the issue with the barracks. “Herr Heinrich Buch owns the barracks property,” the carpenter said. “I heard he bought it from the council. He said he planned to build a warehouse on the site. It is prime property.”

“I’m going to find out about that. It wasn’t the council’s property to sell. It belongs to the SoTF.”

“I only know what I’ve been told.”

“Is that going to be a problem with you? Herr Buch claiming it?”

“Nein. You said you would pay for the survey. It’s guilders in my pocket either way.”

“How long will you need for the survey? A day? Less?”

“Not a day. A couple of hours at least.”

“Would this afternoon be good?”


“Have you met my deputy, Dieter Issler?”

Ja, when I arrived.”

“Come back this afternoon. I have a meeting later this morning. If I’m not here, Dieter will go with you. He’ll keep anyone off your back in case someone objects.”

“I’ll be here.”

The carpenter departed. Archie glanced at his watch. It was time to meet Anse at the rathaus.

Archie was limping slightly when he arrived at the rathaus. He had been more active than usual. He had not been in a fight since he was wounded the previous year. He realized age was creeping up on him.

Anse Hatfield was waiting when Archie arrived. “Hurtin’, Archie?”


“Feelin’ mean and ornery?”

“Yeah, why?”

“You’ll need that with these folks.”

The rathaus was a three-story building, the only one in Suhl as far as he knew, Anse said. The ground floor was an open space used for large meetings, weddings, and festivals. The city council met in a room on the second floor. The top floor contained offices of city officials and departments.

Archie’s leg hurt more after climbing the stairs. If he needed to be feeling mean and ornery, he was ready. He and Anse walked into the council room. Herr Feld sat at the head of the table. Six other councilmen sat along both sides leaving Archie and Anse to sit at the end, opposite to Feld.

“Welcome Marshal, and you, too, Herr Hatfield,” he said. Without giving Archie the opportunity to respond, Feld introduced the other six members of the council. Heinrich Buch sat to Feld’s right, Archie noticed. Each councilman nodded in turn as he was introduced.

“We are here at your request, Herr Marshal, ” Feld said.

“I appreciate you acting so swiftly, ” Archie began. “I am SoTF Marshal Archie Mitchell,” he said speaking to the entire council. “I assume you have read the documents I gave you, Herr Feld. Has the entire council read them?”

“No, I’ve not had time to make copies. A couple of the councilmen have read them but not all.”

“By chance, I have a copy with me. I’ll read it to the council.” Which he proceeded to do.

Several councilmen interrupted as he read asking for clarification of one point or another. When Archie came to the part about renovating the barracks, Councilman Heinrich Buch interrupted. “That’s my property!”

“No it isn’t. It is owned by the government of the State of Thuringia and Franconia.”

“Noelle Murphy transferred ownership to the city council. I bought it from the council!”

“Noelle Murphy didn’t have that authority,” Anse replied. “She was very aware of the limits of her authority. No one knew it had been transferred to the SoTF until Marshal Mitchell arrived.”

“I have the document here. Right here! It’s proof that she did, whether she had the authority or not. You can’t take back what she has done.”

“May I see that document?” Archie asked.

“No! It is my only proof.”

“It is a transfer of ownership to Suhl, not you, Heinrich,” Feld said. “Give it to him.”

Grudgingly, Buch gave the document to the councilman sitting next to him. It was passed, councilman to councilman, until it reached Anse Hatfield.

Anse glanced at the document and looked up. “It’s a forgery.”

“What!” exclaim Heinrich Buch jumping to his feet.

“Look at it, Archie,” Anse said. “Look at the signature.”

“What about it?” Archie asked.

“Look at it. Is it written by someone who is right-handed or left-handed?”

Archie looked down at the document again. “Right-handed. Why?”

“Noelle Murphy is left-handed. I carried messages for her whenever I went back to Grantville. Whoever wrote this was right-handed.”

“You’re a liar!” Buch shouted.

“If I am, it can be refuted in a few days. I can send a radio message for samples of Noelle Murphy’s signature. They can get here by courier in a couple of days.”

“They’ll be fakes! You just want to steal my property.”

“Now why would we want to do that when no one outside Suhl even knew you claimed the barracks?”

Buch stood white-faced, trembling. Abruptly, he sat. He muttered something to Feld who in turn said, “We await your proof, Herr Hatfield.”

“In the meantime,” Archie said, “I’m having the barracks surveyed to determine what is needed for its full restoration. No work will be done until the council has proof the transfer of the barracks to Suhl was fraudulent. I also warn you now that the Court of the State of Thuringia-Franconia will be very interested how this all happened.”


“. . . that was the end of the meeting,” Archie told Dieter. “I’m very glad Anse was there. Otherwise, we’d be in a mess, a big lawsuit probably. Just the thing to kick off the new court here in Suhl. So how was your afternoon with the carpenter?”

“Interesting. A stonemason joined us at the barracks. Apparently, the Swedes had built a stone armory for their munitions and a stone outbuilding that could easily be converted to be a jail, guardhouse, whatever you call it. Strong fitted stone walls and floors, and thick iron studded doors. A little dark, no windows, but the stonemason said those could be added if we wanted.”

“I think we’ll have to do that. If we make that the holding prison for the court, the prisoners will need access to light and air.”

“He’s coming by here tomorrow. I can tell him then. He and the master carpenter will draw up some estimates for us, cost and time to do all the renovation.”

“Good. Now, we have to find a courthouse.”

“I think I found one.”

“Oh? Where?”

“Right next to the barracks. You remember that building right next to the place where the wall had been torn down?”


“It’s part of the barracks. It was quarters for the officers and their headquarters. They didn’t like the spaces in the barracks proper so they included that building when they appropriated the property for the barracks. I was told Buch had owned it before it was seized by the Swedes.”

“That explains much.”

“Yes, it does.”

“I didn’t go in today but I think we should give it a look over as soon as we can.”

“I agree. Tomorrow?”

“Let’s see, the carpenter and stonemason are coming in the morning. We could go with them. I don’t remember any other appointments, do you?”

Their conversation was interrupted by a knock on their door. The innkeeper entered. “Herr Marshal, this message just arrived for you.”

Danke. I appreciate your promptness.”

The innkeeper left to return to the taproom in the front of the inn. Archie tried to read the message but it was handwritten, and poorly at that. “Can you read this, Dieter?”

“Well. Uh, it’s from Heinrich Buch. I think he is offering an apology and would like to meet you tonight at . . .” he glanced at his watch, a gift from Greta, “at around 9 PM, if I’m reading this right. His handwriting is terrible!”

“Huh! I wonder what he wants? After the meeting today, I wouldn’t think he wants to meet for hugs and kisses.”

“What?” It was another of Archie’s witticisms that always surprised Dieter.

“Never mind. Ask the innkeeper to send a messenger to Buch and tell him I’ll be there. Remind me that we need to budget for messenger service.”

“I’ll do that. Is it alright if I don’t go with you? One of my horses has cast a shoe. I’d like to take it to Christian Zeitts and get it shod.”

“Go ahead. I don’t think Buch is going to try anything, not now that all has been exposed.”


Archie entered Buch’s shop. The smell of burned powder still lingering on his duster and clothes.

Heinrich Buch approached from the rear of the cabinetry shop. “Herr Marshal.”

“Herr Buch. I think you have a mess out front. There are four dead bodies.”

“I heard.” He sighed. “I need to confess.”

“Luring me here to be killed?”

“No! No, I . . . I didn’t know what was planned. My son-in-law told me to invite you here. He . . . uh . . . he forced me.”


“My daughter. She’s six months with child. Achen beats her. I’m afraid he’ll kill her.”

“Isn’t that frowned upon?”

“Yes, no, the church won’t interfere. It’s not against the law if it’s just a beating. There’s no one.”

“I know how that can be. I’ve seen it often enough. Back up-time, if something like this occurred, a man gathered his friends and family and fixed the problem, put the son of a bitch in the hospital. No one talks, nothing can be proved.”

“I don’t have anyone that I could trust to not talk. This whole scheme with the barracks is his idea. He told me to build a warehouse and storefront at the barracks. When finished, it and the building next to it could be sold for three times what it cost me.”

“And what did it cost you to buy the barracks?”

The price Buch gave was astonishingly low. “Who pushed this through the council? You?”

“Feld. He gets a percentage of the profit when the buildings are sold.”

“Somehow, I’m not surprised.”

“Now, where can I find your son-in-law?”

“He’s usually at Der Bulle und Bär this time of night. He lives, sometimes, here with my daughter. They have rooms upstairs. But most of the time he’s there.”

“Will he be there tomorrow?”

“He should be.”

“Don’t warn him I’m coming.”

“No—no, I won’t.”

“I think Suhl needs a new councilman and bürgermeister, don’t you?”

Buch didn’t speak but just nodded and hung his head. He’d be lucky to get off with some jail time and a heavy fine. He and Feld both. The SoTF was hard on public corruption.


Archie wished he hadn’t given Dieter time off to get his horse shod. He wasn’t up to bracing Achen in his own territory. He didn’t know how many men Achen had. Seven of them were now pushing up daisies. He could easily have more. Tomorrow would do. He and Dieter would scout Der Bulle und Bär. If Achen was there, he and Dieter would arrest him . . . one way or another.

He headed back to the Boar’s Head. He felt fine. The adrenaline hit made his aches and pains slip away.

He walked through the Boar’s Head doorway and made his way over to a table in the corner. He didn’t drink much but once in a while, he liked a beer. “Ein bier, Mein Herr,” he called to the innkeeper. The beer arrived in a large mug, still foaming. The innkeeper brewed it himself. It wasn’t what he liked, but in the time since the Ring of Fire, he had become accustomed to the down-time brew. It would do.


Archie slept late the next morning. He had left Dieter a note on his bedroom door to postpone the follow-up with the carpenter and stonemason for a day. He and Dieter had law business to attend to today.

TMCStrnchA visit to the jakes, a bath, and he was ready. He retrieved his Model 1897 shotgun from their makeshift armory and dumped a handful of double-aught shells in his side coat pocket. He loaded the shotgun with five more shells of double-aught buck. The shotgun was once known as a trench gun. It had a twenty-inch barrel, and, at one time, a bayonet lug. Archie had never owned a bayonet for the shotgun. He was well off without it. All a bayonet did, in close quarters, was get in the way.

Dieter stood waiting. He, too, had his double-barreled shotgun ready and his Colt 1911 on his belt. The two walked out through the front of the Boar’s Head Inn, Archie in front with Dieter following. The innkeeper did a double-take as they passed. They were armed and appeared ready for business.

Der Bulle und Bär was in a part of Suhl that Archie had not yet visited. It was nestled  in the shade of  the city wall. Archie and Dieter walked up to the entrance. Dieter opened the door and stepped aside to let Archie enter first.

Archie walked in and stepped to one side. Dieter followed and stepped to the other side. Neither were silhouetted against the open doorway.

Schlick-schlock! The strange sound caused Achen to look up, interrupting his conversation with his last two men.

“Friedrich Achen,” Archie said. “You are under arrest for fraud, extortion, assault on a SoTF marshal, and murder. Place your hands on your head and stand up!”

Achen looked into three shotgun barrels, the double-barrel in Dieter’s hands and the one in Archie’s. Both marshals stood covering the inn’s common room, their six-pointed badges clearly visible in the dimness of the inn.

No one moved. Then, Achen slowly raised his hands, put them on his head and slowly rose. The other two sitting at his table didn’t move, neither scarcely breathed.

“Step forward and turn around.”

Achen did so.

“I’m using my good steel handcuffs on you, Achen. The rest of you—don’t interfere. Stay where you are and don’t move until we’re gone. Don’t follow us either. We can take you all out if necessary.”

The room remained silent. None doubted his word. Archie and Dieter pulled Achen with them and backed out of the room. Dieter kept watch as they headed for Ruben Blumroder’s shop.

“We REALLY need a jail, Dieter.” Archie said as they neared the gunshop. “This is just getting repetitious.”


Mid-May, 1634,



A Mounted Constabulary trooper dismounted outside the entrance of the Boar’s Head Inn. The inn’s stableboy took the horse’s reins and led it to the stables in back for watering while the trooper went inside the inn. “Where may I find Marshal Mitchell?” he asked.

“He’s in back. Wait. I’ll get him,” the innkeeper replied and disappeared into the rear of the inn to reappear a few minutes later with the Marshal.

“I’m Marshal Mitchell.” he told the trooper.

“Sir, the 1st Mounted Constabulary Troop with Frau Mitchell and Frau Issler should arrive in two hours. Captain Gruber sent me ahead to tell you.”

“That’s very good news, trooper.” Archie, walked back to the rear doorway and shouted, “Dieter! They’re here. Want to ride out to greet them?”

“Yes!” Dieter replied from the rear of the inn.

Archie returned to the trooper and said, “Have a beer on me while we saddle our horses. We’ll ride back with you.”

Danke, Herr Marshal.” The trooper never refused a free beer. He took his time to finish it and then walked out the front entrance in time to see Archie and Dieter appear on horseback with the stableboy leading the trooper’s horse.

“Lead off,” Archie instructed after the trooper had mounted, and the three departed.

They rode down the road that ran along the river until they found the troop and several accompanying wagons coming towards them. Archie saw Marjorie sitting on one wagon. Greta was seated on another. Both wagons, covered by waterproof tarps, were heavily loaded and driven by MC troopers.

“I think Majorie and Greta brought everything but the kitchen sink,” Archie said to Dieter as they approached the troop. Archie greeted the officer in the lead and then rode down the column until he reached Marjorie’s wagon. Dieter rode on to the next wagon and Greta.

“Hi, Marj, I’ve missed you,” Archie said pulling up next to the wagon.

“Arch, I missed you, too…I’m glad to be here. You’re looking good.”

“Feel good, too. I was really whupped when I first got here. Dieter and I had some troubles but that’s all cleared up.”

TMCSsddl“I see you got a new saddle.”

“Yeah, I made a good deal. Where’re your horses?”

“My mare and the gelding are in the string back behind the wagons with the MC’s spare horses. I rode most of the time, but too much made my rear hurt. I’m not up for long rides on horseback anymore.”

“I hear ya. Dieter and I found a nice house in town. It’s two stories and big enough for all of us with room to spare. It’s not far from some new friends of mine, Johann Zeitts and his family. I think you’ll like them.”

“I brought your recliner and our bed. I had to disassemble them to get everything in the wagon but I knew you’d want them.”

“Thank you. I really miss that recliner. The beds here are OK, but my leg starts hurting in the middle of the night.”

Captain Gruber rode up next to Archie and introduced himself. “Is the barracks ready, Marshal?”

“Almost. The workmen should finish up today—just minor stuff. The trooper barracks and the stables were finished first. I left two tall trees standing for the radio antenna according to the instructions I received.”

“Good. I brought a permanent radio station with me and two radio operators. They’ll work for the court. Did you find a blacksmith, farrier, and saddler?”

“Yes, I did. Johann Zeitts and his son, Christian. I have them under contract to give you twenty hours each, each week. Johann Zeitts is a saddler. He made the saddle I’m sitting on. His son, Christian, is a journeyman blacksmith and farrier. I don’t think you’d need them more than twenty hours a week.”

“No, that should be sufficient. The horses were all shod before we left.”

“Before I forget, I did make one commitment for you.”


“There’s been a shakeup in the Suhl city council. The city watch has been pretty much ineffectual. They’ve not been competently led. The militia has been manning the gates and the walls but that’s all. The new city council has asked for some suitable watchtmeister candidates. I told the council that you would provide troopers to help train the watch and help patrol the city until a new wachtmeister takes over or for two months whichever occurs first.”

“Hmmm. I think I can do that. Some of them can do double-duty for a while.”

“I’m glad you agree. I was put into a spot, and I hate to make commitments for other people. My deputy and I have been helping to improve the watch’s overall capability and with some on-the-job training on a few promising watchmen. We’ve been making random patrols through the city with them but we’re just two and when the court is established, we’ll have our own work to do.”

“I must start sending out patrols as soon as I can, but we’ll need some time to get everything set up and to rest the horses and men before we start. I think we can work something out.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

“You are very welcome, Herr Marshal.” Gruber kicked his heels and rode up to the head of the column. Archie stayed with the wagon and Marjorie.

They rode silently for some time, he on horseback and she on the wagon seat next to the driver. Archie broke the silence, “I really missed you, Marj. I don’t like living alone.”

“What? No dancing girls in that inn?”

Archie laughed, “No, no dancing girls. I hope you like the place Dieter and I found for us. It was a bakery at one time. I had some walls added to divide it into two apartments, one for us and the other for Dieter and Greta.”

“It sounds good, Arch . . . Arch, I’m ready to go home.”

“Me too, Marj, me too.”



About the Faces on the Cutting Room Floor Number Eight: Authenticity, Site Surveys, and Blind Serendipity

Faces on the Cutting Room 8 banner

I have been asked a number of times how much research I did in order to invoke the sense of place that often pervades 1635: The Papal Stakes. The answer is, “Lots.” And there are two parts to that answer.

The first part is the frank admission that strong reliance upon good libraries, wary utilization of Wikipedia, and—above all—deep forays via Google Earth were indispensable in acquiring a good sense of the land and architecture of the various locales depicted in Papal Stakes. That being said, those sources often came close to leading me into error, as well. For instance: there is a scene early in the book where Estuban Miro is leading the Wrecking Crew over the alps in a dirigible and they come across a “duck pond” called the Marmelsee.  Harry Lefferts is surprised that it is not a larger expanse of waters, given how vast it looked on their Fodors maps. Well, in the E-arc, I believe you’ll find that it is shown to be just that large—because the small duck pond was turned into a vast alpine lake by a damming project in (I believe) the early twentieth century. But that was not flagged in any of the references I had and was, I believe, pointed out by a reader familiar with the region’s history. Google Earth doesn’t lie, but we do occasionally change the planet (and sometimes it changes all by itself, as I learned when trying to locate the seventeenth-century shoreline of Louisiana versus the modern one as I commenced writing 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies).

The second part of the answer is that I have actually visited a number of key sites in Papal Stakes. Certainly Rome, but more especially Mallorca, where, over the years, I’ve probably spent a cumulative total of about four months. During some of my final visits there, I was fortunately under contract for Papal Stakes and so had the opportunity to go armed with a camera and conduct what, in the film business, we call “site surveys.” What I found, and its value to enriching the narrative, are for you to judge. However, not all of these photos were snapped by your humble narrator, and for every one that you see here, there were twenty passed over for one reason or another.

So to end this series on the same cinematic theme with which we began –”faces on the cutting room floor”—here are some of the site survey (and other helpful graphics) that went into the making and visualizations of 1635: The Papal Stakes.

01 Monte Cristo resized

#1 The Island of Monte Cristo. This is the view entering the bay into which Miro and Harry Lefferts led the pirate xebec beneath the ambushing guns of North’s Hibernians and then the boarders under Owen Roe O’Neill’s Wild Geese. You will note the scrub cover, the crags that provide stony foxholes and the murderous downward angle of fire and commanding view of the battlespace. A narrow inlet any other day, at that point in the book, it was nothing less than a kill zone.

02 Bay of Canyamel

#2  The Bay of Canyamel. The view here is from the crest of the Cap des Pins looking across the bay at Cap Vermell. If you look closely, you will see a triangle of shadow approximately one third of the way in from the extreme right hand of the image, set in the face of the stony spur of land and relatively close to the water. This is the entrance to the Caves of Arta, known as a pirate lair since Roman times and a tourist attraction today. But trust me, a firefight in there would be not merely a gothic horror show, but deafening. This was, of course, the site of the second attack Miro’s band made upon pirates, grabbing another hull (a llaut, a Balearic boat still used today) and much-needed supplies with which to begin their covert stay upon Mallorca.

03 Palma map

#3 A period map of Palma de Mallorca, first city of the entire Balearic Island chain. Although the map was drafted approximately one hundred years after the events in Papal Stakes, it is inspired by the layout of the city as it was in 1644 (hence the strangely anachronistic mix of ship types). Even as an “epochal fusion” map, it still offers an excellent sense of the layout and scope of this picturesque and strategically important provincial capitol. Long a point of contact between Moors and Spanish, as well as Carthaginians and Romans, trade and piracy are integral parts of the island’s heritage. The Castell de Bellver, the site of Frank and Giovanna Stone’s final imprisonment and one of the two pitched, final battles in the novel, is located well to the west/left of the map edge.

04 1895

#4 Convincing description must extend to artifacts as well as architecture. In the case of all the boats depicted, considerable examination of deckplans and accounts (unofficial as well as official) was exhaustive. Weapons and equipment were handled similarly; if you are going to convincingly depict any device, one must have a sense of its physical properties.

In the case of the hallmark weapons of this combat-intensive novel, the signature rifle of the Hibernian Mercenary Battalion was the Winchester Model 1895 lever action in .40-72. A black powder weapon (in 1635), it was an excellent compromise between simplicity of design, portability, rate of fire, and stopping power (it was used with reasonable success as a big game rifle). Nowhere near as affordable or easy to manufacture as the standard shoulder arms of the USE, having a model of the weapon from which to build copies allowed it to become a practical “special equipage” model for small, elite formations such as the Hibernians.

05 sks

#5 The other shoulder weapon used by some of the elite forces in the second half of The Papal Stakes—an “equalizer” to make up for the heavy losses suffered in Rome—was the Russian SKS. As shown here, most models (like the top one) are loaded via ten-round stripper clips. However, as shown below, certain variants are able to use an AK-47 magazine (it fires the same 7.62 x 39 mm cartridge). However, the SKS arguably enjoys greater accuracy due to superior ergonomic design (my personal experience aligns with this opinion). Remember this gun when we get to the pictures of the lazarette/tower at the Castell de Bellver…


07 Hibernian helmet

#6 and #7 A few more pieces of standard Hibernian Mercenary equipment: the top revolver (shown for comparison with a modern model) is a close approximation of the Hockenjoss & Klott .44 cap and ball pistol, and the “lobstertail” helmet, which offers good protection and excellent field of vision. (Made famous by Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads, but it was in broad use on the continent as well.)

08 Castell de Bellver

09 Castell de Bellver

#8 and #9  The Castell de Bellver. A singular architectural wonder and largely held to be impregnable prior to the advent of seventeenth-century artillery, the layout reflected the mathematical metaphysics of Ramon Llull. As is visible in the photo with the Bay of Palma (and city) in the background, it is a tight, circular structure, with one attached outlying tower (the “lazarette,” although this was usually used for visiting dignitaries requiring high security) and a single drawbridge access over an empty moat. The perfect geometric symmetries of the structure are more evident in the other image, as are the outlying revetments that guard the approaches to the fort, and by the seventeenth century, were its primary artillery stations.

10 lazarette

#10 The Lazarette. Accessible only by a very narrow walkway (accessed by single file) suspended high above the moat, this was an extraordinarily defensive position even if only defended from the ground. However, with marksmen on the roof . . .

11 overlook

#11 The approach to the lazarette and its commanding presence. This narrow spire of a tower (with fifteen-foot-wide round rooms and a single tight staircase) was clearly designed to provide a clear field of fire for either musketeers or crossbowmen not only across the broad expanse of the top level of the castell, but also of the opposite galleries and a good part of the arms court. As can be seen from . . .

12 snipers view

#12 The overlook from the top of the lazarette. To coin a phrase, this was obviously designed quite intentionally to provide “a view to a kill.” With marksmen on either side of the stone cupola protecting the roof access point of the lazarette’s staircase, this view, in stereo, provides complete coverage of the entirety of the upper level of the castell, and is designed to enable murderous crossfire concentration upon the approaches to the single-stone bridge linking it to the lazarette. If anyone ever wondered if Harry Lefferts and his Hibernian partner could rip apart two dozen Spanish soldiers with their extended-magazine SKSs (thirty rounds, no waiting) . . . think again.

13 upper level view

#13 View from the upper level. In addition to offering a commanding view of (and artillery trajectory toward) the Bay of Palma to the east, the other points of the compass allowed direct, uncovered fields of fire upon the artillery revetments that were the forts’ outer works.  Another scene of (in this case, implied) carnage from the pages of Papal Stakes.

14 arms court

#14  The interior of Castell de Bellver. Comprised of an “arms court” and two circular vaulted galleries, any conventional intruders would find themselves in one of the world’s most striking crucibles of defensive small arms fire.  The taller upper gallery affords defenders waist-high stone cover in a 360-degree encirclement of the court. Access is by two staircases accessible directly from the lower gallery.

15 lower gallery

15a room

#15 and #15a  The lower gallery. Devoted mostly to the practical, day-to-day needs of the fort, these rooms were somewhat more rude in construction, but also quite sturdy, with heavy door and iron hardware. The site of housing, kitchen, storerooms, and privies, it was the working level of Castell de Bellver. One of the nicer rooms on this level (a commander’s office and marshalling area, apparently) recalls the more refined features and architectural interest (groined vaulting) of the chambers that ring the more airy and bright upper gallery.

16 stairway

#16 The ascending stairway to the upper gallery. Narrow and steep, with stout doors, an upwards assault against well-prepared defenders was sure to be a costly matter. Even with the superior firepower, surprise, speed, and training of the Wild Geese and Hibernians, reaching and breaking out into the second level was a difficult task and ultimately, where the majority of casualties were inflicted upon them.

17 upper gallery

#17 The upper gallery. With taller doorways, more windows, and graceful stonework throughout, the ceiling of the second level soars and also receives some cooling sea breezes scalloping down and in through the circular opening to the roof and the sky beyond. Despite its refinements, the upper gallery is also designed for murderously effective defense against any intruders who might fight through the single, double-portcullised entrance into the arms court. And for any attackers who might (improbably) get this far, access to the roof level was only to be had through three stairways protected within rooms lining the promenade.

18 Fort Carlos

#18 Fort Carlos. Not seen in the narrative per se, but a location of grave concern to the attackers who escaped by boat, Fort Carlos is a bastion of a later age. Built specifically both to house and resist the fire of cannons, it shows the squat, “star fort” walls with raked glacis outer surfaces and wider and more functional interior marshalling areas for mustering troops and repositioning heavy equipment. In the final stages of construction at the time of the novel, it had already become the “serious” harbor defense, with Castell de Bellver being relegated to the equivalent of a second governor’s residence, garrison, and maximum security prison—a role in which it continued for almost another two centuries.

19 Tramontera

#19 The Tramontera. These scrub-covered mountains predominate along the northern fringes of Mallorca, becoming more steep and inhospitable as one progresses from these western slopes to the towering easternmost extent of Formentor.  These are the low peaks between which the rescuers’ dirigible fled at the end of the extraction mission—and which, navigating on a dark night, were objects that posed their own dangers.

20 secret tunnel

21 secret tunnel

22 secret tunnel

#20, #21, #22   The secret tunnel up into Castell de Bellver. These three pictures warrant a story that goes a long way to illustrate how persistence and blind luck can often combine to be an author’s best friend.

As I evolved the story of the rescue of Frank and Giovanna Stone, I saw a variety of ways for the strike team to get into Castell de Bellver, but an exit was less clear. Any number of ruses could have inserted a team within its walls—and indeed, Owen Roe O’Neill and one of his Wild Geese employ one such trick to sneak inside. However, once there, even opening a door for a larger waiting force was problematic: how would so large a force be waiting close enough, undetected, and then not become hopelessly bogged down engaging the troops whose duties and billets were outside the walls in service of the batteries in the artillery revetments? I thought about postulating the existence of a secret tunnel, but, while many such fortifications often had these hidden escape routes, it seemed unfair and just a bit too authorially convenient to invent one.

Except, as it turns out, I didn’t have to.

I visited Castell de Bellver three times. On the last and final occasion, I called ahead and made an appointment with a curator to get a guided tour. We walked nearly every linear foot of the place and I learned many things about it I had not before. However, I was no closer to finding my answer to a reasonable method of mass attack—and certainly, mass escape. On our way to the exit, as we passed by the storeroom immediately to the left of the entrance (from the internal perspective), I noticed that it had a light barricade in front of it, proclaiming it temporarily closed to visitors. What was going on there, I asked.

“Oh, that’s where we found a hidden tunnel,” exclaimed my guide. Stunned, I asked if I could see what they had unearthed.

Buried beneath two courses of stone flooring, what you see in the first picture is the claustrophobic descending cleft, from the perspective of someone about to head down into it. The other two images are taken from the side of the aperture and show the staircase, which was fashioned from stone risers laid across grooves cut into stepped ramps carved from the limestone that predominates beneath the fort’s foundations.

At the time of my last visit, the history of the tunnel was still a mystery. It had been explored enough to determine that it connected with subterranean galleries from which much of the finer-grained stone of the castell itself had been quarried. However, time and water had eroded some of the limestone chambers and passages and it was unclear when (or even if) the other end of the tunnel would ever be found. However, given its unswerving eastward course and steady if gentle declination, all conjectures pointed to an egress point well down the slope and probably halfway to the shore: a logical escape route for a party of besieged personages of high station. Which is just how the passage is depicted in Papal Stakes.

So, truly, the third time was the charm in my three visits to Castell de Bellver—and if you find yourself in Mallorca, I urge you to take a tour and explore this piece of living history yourself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes, and among the faces on the cutting room floor, that went into the making of 1635: The Papal Stakes. Although science fiction, and more specifically alternate history, I hope this imparts some of the effort and diligence with which authors in the series pursue authenticity and factual details of locales, organizations, objects, and individuals which were the living (and often breathing) realities of that epoch. We might not get everything right—who could?—but it’s never for lack of trying.

Thanks for coming along for the trip—and for having read 1635: The Papal Stakes.


Art Director’s Note: With the exception of the title banner, all of the images in this article are courtesy of the author, Charles E. Gannon. I tried to stay as close to the author’s original concept of presentation throughout the piece as I could, within the limitations of our software. If the reader wishes to, they can click on any image here in the Gazette’s online version for a larger view.