Article Category Archives: 1632 Content

Material from Eric Flint’s 1632 Universe

Blood Brothers

Winter, 1635

Near Modern-Day Rhode Island


Fast as Lightning in the Sky watched the person he hated most in all the world approach him from the long line of snow-covered trees. He gnashed his teeth against the cold and reflected on his feelings. Perhaps hate was too strong. He hated no one. But this boy, this Montaukett warrior named Speaks His Mind, had a strut, a way of carrying himself that bothered Fast as Lightning. He tried hiding his disdain as Speaks His Mind stepped up to him through the drifted snow, smiling ear to ear as if he hadn’t a care in the world. But he should care, Fast as Lightning thought, for they were about to face the enemy.

“Runs Like Deer,” Speaks His Mind said in greeting, “why do you look so trodden upon?”

“I am Fast as Lightning in the Sky now,” the former Runs Like Deer said. “It is the Red God I serve from this day forward, and that is the name he has given me.” He tried showing as much respect as possible. Speaks His Mind’s father was sachem for all the Montaukett people. That alone was reason enough to show deference.

“Yes, we have heard,” Speaks His Mind said, nodding and looking Fast as Lightning up and down as if a change in name meant a change in body as well. When he saw that no physical change was present, he continued. “They say a white man gave you that god. A dead white man.”

Speaks His Mind’s emphasis on ‘dead’ angered Fast as Lightning. He took a step forward, imagined the back of his hand smacking blood from Speaks His Mind’s mouth. He thought better of it and held his ground. He smiled. “The people from the future, the up-timers they are called, brought the Red God to our land. He speaks to me like no other god before him. I found him in the pages of the white man’s book. He called to me and made me his own.”

Speaks His Mind nodded. “And yet, the Red God was not powerful enough to keep the English white man who gave him to you from dying. What does that say about the Red God’s power?”

It was an insult, and Fast as Lightning reconsidered his patience. Yet, there was truth in what Speaks His Mind had stated, a truth that perhaps Fast as Lightning had ignored. The Red God had been good to him since they had met. And yet . . .

“The sun is about to set, Speaks His Mind,” Fast as Lightning said, ignoring the brash comment. “Your father has asked me to accompany you to Sun Rising’s village. The Narragansett people are Montauk enemies and have been so for a long time. Why do we go and speak with him?”

Speaks His Mind turned and walked back towards the tree line. Fast as Lightning followed, lifting his bear fur-wrapped boots high with each step to plod through the drifted snow. “The Mohegans have been raiding both Montaukett and Narragansett villages all winter. They have captured many of our people, children included, and are selling them as slaves to tribes north. This cannot be allowed to continue. We now have a mutual enemy, Sun Rising and I, and so we will go and speak with him and convince him to give us warriors for the negotiations with Sachem Raging Wolf.”

Fast as Lightning shook his head. “Raging Wolf of the Mohegans will never negotiate with you or with Sun Rising.”

They reached the treeline. There, five Montaukett warriors rose out of the snow. Fast as Lightning was impressed by how well their thick white wolf pelts blended seamlessly with the drift. Speaks His Mind greeted them with kind gestures, then turned to Fast as Lightning, and said, “I am Speaks His Mind, or so I am told. But negotiation is not always conducted with words; your Red God should know this, coming from a white man. Sometimes force is the best argument, and so we will go to Sun Rising in force and see what he has to say. And then . . .” He drew a tomahawk from his belt and waved it through the cold air. “. . . we will meet Raging Wolf for further negotiation.”

“You might start a war, Speaks His Mind,” Fast as Lightning said. “A war that you might not be able to win. Raging Wolf has English friends. Many English friends.”

Speaks His Mind shrugged. “Then Raging Wolf may not be able to hear the truth of my words. But I have to try. My father expects me to. My people expect me to. I have been asked to do this, and I will do it. Will you attend me or not?”

What arrogance! What bravado! How has this boy not been killed yet by an enemy’s blade? Yet, there was strength in Speaks His Mind’s words and eyes that Fast as Lightning found appealing, and he wondered how the Red God would manifest himself through this impetuous little boy that stood before him, layered in deerskin, bear fur, and snow.

“Very well,” Fast as Lightning said. “I will come, if for no other reason but to try to keep you alive.”

Speaks His Mind chuckled. He put his hand on Fast as Lightning’s shoulder. “Pray to your Red God that he keeps us both alive.”


Sun Rising was sachem and a highly respected man among the Narragansett people. Therefore, it was an honor to be admitted to his long house and invited to smoke. Speaks His Mind accepted the invitation for himself and for Fast as Lightning. The rest of their men waited outside standing guard, for they were in dangerous territory, despite Sun Rising’s warm welcome. Fast as Lightning was not sure how Sun Rising and the Narragansett people would view five Montaukett warriors fully armed outside their sachem’s dwelling. But Sun Rising took it in stride, and so they entered, shared greetings, smoked, and talked.

“Raging Wolf is powerful,” Sun Rising said, his elder voice coarse and broken with occasional fits of coughing. “The Mohegan are powerful. You do not have enough men to defeat them.”

“That is why I have come to you, Sun Rising,” Speaks His Mind said, drawing smoke from a pipe. He let the smoke drift from his mouth like a snake, then he said, “I propose that we confront him together, you and I and any warriors you may wish to add to my party. If we go together, united, and he sees that the Narragansett and Montaukett people stand against him, how can he not relent?”

Sun Rising grunted and puffed on his pipe. “Raging Wolf is younger than me, but he is still old like me, and age can make men stubborn. Raging Wolf believes that he is destined to be chief of all Algonquin lands. It is a foolish dream, of course, but dreams can sometimes make men do foolish things. He has the support of the English colonists too, most of them anyway, despite my personal relationship with William Bradford of the Plymouth colony. Raging Wolf is strong, and no amount of Narragansett and Montaukett warriors will stay his hand in this long, bitter winter.”

Speaks His Mind drew smoke from his pipe, then handed it to Fast as Lightning, who took it humbly and smoked. Speaks His Mind cleared his throat, then said, “I do not propose that we go and fight him, Sachem Sun Rising. I propose that we go and make peace with him, and that we propose an alliance to stand against the coming Ring of Fire.”

From the blank expression on his face, it was clear that Sun Rising did not understand this term. Fast as Lightning wasn’t sure that he understood it either. All he had heard about it was rumor and hearsay from French, English, and Dutch colonists. Indeed, the Red God he worshipped had come through the Ring of Fire, but he did not know if anything else from it would come all the way over from Europe.

“Tell him, Fast as Lightning,” Speaks His Mind said, gesturing him forward. “Tell Sachem Sun Rising about your Red God, and how he seized you as a worshipper without your consent. Tell him about the dead Englishman who brought the Red God to you and how he sacrificed himself to the snake so that his spirit would carry the Red God’s message to you. Tell him about the people that have come through the Ring of Fire from the future, descended they say, from the English, and how they intend on riding boats powered by boiling water and dragon fire across the great sea, to bring death and desolation to us all. Tell him!”

Speaks His Mind raised his voice, and Fast as Lightning had to admit that it was a good show. But that’s all it was: a show. And lies . . . all lies. None of it was true, or, at least, none of it could be proven. There were rumors, whispers among colonists about the Ring of Fire. But it was all speculation, and it certainly was not the case that the Red God had coerced Fast as Lightning in any way. He had accepted him with open arms and open heart.

Fast as Lightning stared back at Speaks His Mind, trying to figure out how to refute everything the little cretin had just said. His hatred for the boy rose, but he swallowed his anger, breathed deeply, and nodded. “There is some truth in what Speaks His Mind says, Sachem Sun Rising.” It was difficult for Fast as Lightning to lie about his god, but he sensed that that was what Speaks His Mind wished him to do. “I am burdened by the Red God’s will, though I struggle against it every day. And the colonists speak of ships that belch fire, and muskets that can put a warrior down at nearly a mile. These are truths, and that is the future that awaits us when the Ring of Fire comes.” Fast as Lightning wondered if he had gone too far but Speaks His Mind’s sudden glance at him told him that he done exactly what had needed to be done.

“And so you see, Sachem Sun Rising,” Speaks His Mind said, in his most earnest voice, “it is very likely that the English are supporting Raging Wolf’s raids against us, so that our two peoples are weak for the coming spring . . . and for the coming Ring of Fire. The English are not Raging Wolf’s allies. None of the white colonists are and never have been, but this is different, more sinister, more evil. Raging Wolf is being deceived by the English thralls of the people of the future, and I believe that once he sees how Fast as Lightning has been seized by their infernal Red God, he will know the truth of it, and ally with us, so that we may stand together, as one nation, against the coming Ring of Fire.

“So, I ask you again, Sachem Sun Rising, come with me to meet Raging Wolf and make him see the truth.”

Sun Rising puffed on his pipe for a very long time, staring into the fire between them. Fast as Lightning could hear the bitter wind pick up outside the longhouse. He drew his bearskin robe up tighter around him and shivered despite the warm fire. He was angry, furious in fact, for allowing Speaks His Mind to put him in such a spot with Sun Rising. He wanted to reach out and smack the boy’s smug little face. He imagined doing so by the spirit of the Red God that now coursed through his veins. But he waited until the Narragansett chief finally spoke.

“My people are concerned about my health, Speaks His Mind,” Sun Rising said, followed by a fit of coughing. “This winter is very cold, and I am coughing more than usual. Thus, I will respect my people’s concern and refuse your offer to go see Raging Wolf for myself. However, I will give you five of my warriors to match your five. And I will also ask my nephew, Good Hawk, to represent me in these negotiations. He will be sachem one day. The experience will be to his benefit. They will go with you and support you in this effort.”

Hearing all this, Speaks His Mind smiled and nodded. “I thank you, Sachem Sun Rising. Today, I hope we have forged a lasting peace between our peoples.”

Sun Rising stood with help, but his back was curved and he leaned forward in his thick wrappings. “Go now,” he said, waving them away. “I must rest. But listen to me, Speaks His Mind. Take caution with Raging Wolf. He is unlike any sachem you have ever faced. He is brave, wise, and deceitful. Go in peace, and let us pray that your skills as a speaker, as a negotiator, will bear fruit.”


When they were far away from Sun Rising’s longhouse and men, Fast as Lightning grabbed Speaks His Mind by the scruff and pushed him against a tree. “You have dishonored me. You lied to Sun Rising about me. I was not taken by the Red God. I accepted him willingly, and I have benefited from him. Nor are the rumors about the up-timers and their Ring of Fire correct. The English despise them, and so do the French. Only the Dutch seem to accept them, and that, too, is suspect. So why did you lie? Why?”

Speaks His Mind’s men came up and crowded Fast as Lightning, and suddenly he realized that he had let his anger get the better of him. He let go. Speaks His Mind adjusted himself, waited until Fast as Lightning stepped back a few paces, then he said, “I will do what I have to do to save our people. If it means lying to an old man to ensure that he gives me what I need, I will do so. And come good weather, if my lie turns against me and I suffer for it, so be it. What matters to me is now. We have to stop Raging Wolf from attacking our villages . . . now!

“Besides, what I said was only half false. All the colonists who know or have heard of these people from the Ring of Fire agree. They are coming, and they are, for the most part, descended from English colonies that do not even exist yet, and maybe they will never exist now. We know nothing about these people, but we do know one thing: the white man has never dealt with our people honorably. Individual white men, yes; one can always find a flower among the weeds. But they are coming, Fast as Lightning. The people who created your Red God will come, and their ships and weapons are better than ours, better than the English and French colonists that we know. But is their heart better? Are they better human beings? We cannot afford to wait and see. We must unite now and be ready when they come.

“So yes, I lied to Sun Rising. And I will do it all over again if I have to.”

Fast as Lightning did not speak. He just stood there, staring into this young boy’s eyes. How was it possible that such a young man had so much wisdom? It didn’t seem real. He was still furious for being forced to lie, to deceive Sun Rising. The Narragansett leader was an enemy true, and perhaps it was fine to deceive an enemy to get what you wanted, as Speaks His Mind had just said. But deception was a dangerous path. He knew that. Once a man travelled that path, it was difficult to stop, for one lie always led into another, until a man could not tell the difference between a lie and a truth.

Fast as Lightning sighed deeply, nodded, and said, “Very well, Speaks His Mind. This is your mission. Your father has given you command of it. Now that you have your men, what is our next move?”

Speaks His Mind stepped away from the tree, smiling ear to ear. It was clear that he had no doubt about their next move, and that scared Fast as Lightning the most.


“Raging Wolf has refused to let us enter his home,” Fast as Lightning’s growl of discontent was faint in the growing wind.

Speaks His Mind nodded. “But nonetheless, he did agree to meet with us. I will see that as… hope.”

“It is an insult.” Fast as Lightning spat into the snow. “We should refuse the meeting immediately.”

“We have no time for such petty concerns, follower of the Red God. Raging Wolf has agreed to meet and that is enough.”

Sun Rising’s nephew, Good Hawk, appeared to be watching them intently as they argued back and forth, as if gathering his thoughts before entering the conversation. Then he walked over to them and said, “Speaks His Mind is right. But so are you, Fast as Lightning. Raging Wolf looks down upon us just as sure as we know that the sun will rise in the morning. I do not trust him. But even should he agree to join us, could we fully rely on his word? He is as a white man now. They even say that his eyes have turned as white as an Englishman’s.”

“It would seem we have little choice,” Speaks His Mind said. “We can but hope he will listen to reason and see the truth of things.”

The five Montauk and five Narragansett warriors who joined with them had spread out around the clearing, waiting as patiently as they could for Raging Wolf to arrive. The Narragansett warriors, however, appeared to be keeping close to Good Hawk. Fast as Lightning did not doubt that Sun Rising had instructed them to make sure that his nephew returned to him alive.

“Someone comes!” One of the Montauk warriors said, pointing to the clearing’s northern edge.

A man, alone and with a stride that bespoke the fearlessness of his heart and his name, entered the clearing.

“Raging Wolf!” Speaks His Mind said upon recognizing the man. “We welcome you.”

Fast as Lightning stared at Raging Wolf. There was no doubt the man was a hardened warrior, but it was disturbing that the Mohegan had come alone to this meeting. The man was either braver than Fast as Lightning imagined him being or very foolish. Perhaps both.

“Speaks His Mind,” Raging Wolf said, appraising the smaller man. “I am told that you would speak with me.” He lifted his fur-covered arms and turned to acknowledge everyone else in attendance. “And you brought a party. Do you fear me?”

Speaks His Mind shook his head. “A man would be foolish not to, Raging Wolf, Sachem of the Mohegans. I am told that there is much to fear in your stare, though looking upon your face now, it does not seem so untrustworthy. Perhaps they were wrong. Perhaps you are a man that can be spoken to in a rational manner.”

Raging Wolf already seemed to grow weary of the banter. Fast as Lightning could see the Mohegan’s jaw clench as he gnashed his teeth in rapid succession. “Very well. Speak to me then. Why do you come to me?”

Speaks His Mind nodded and cleared his throat. “I would speak with you about the coming ring.”

“Ring? What ring?”

“The Ring of Fire,” Speaks His Mind said. “I know that you are aware of it. You hear the rumors like we do, from your English friends. Your relationship with the white man is well known. Surely you must see the danger that comes with them.”

Raging Wolf shook his head, his strong, prominent nose wiggling in the cold air as if sniffing for meat. “My friendship to the white man is strong. They are of no threat to me, nor is this ‘ring of fire’ that you speak of.”

“They use you, Raging Wolf,” Speaks His Mind said bluntly. “They turn our tribes against one another. Already you raid us, taking our women and children as slaves for them. I ask you: where will it end, Raging Wolf? When they have destroyed the Montaukett and the Narragansett, will they not turn upon the Mohegan?”

“You speak as if you would have me go to war with the white man.” Raging Wolf frowned, his earlier arrogance and solid stance lessened in his tone. “There has always been war among the tribes. That is nothing new. I raid your villages for slaves because I choose to do so, not at the white man’s bidding.”

“But they are the ones who buy them from you and sell them further north to tribes that they wish to influence even more,” Speaks His Mind argued. “Should you not stand with your own? You ask if I would have you go to war with the white man. I would ask you to do this, but not alone. Our tribes would stand with you to protect this land and our way of life.” Speaks His Mind gestured at the Narragansett man standing beside him. “This is Good Hawk, nephew of Sun Rising and soon to be Sachem of the Narragansett. Let him tell you that his people also see the dangers of the up-time white men from the Ring of Fire.”

Fast as Lightning saw Good Hawk flinch as he was put on the spot, like he himself had been just a day ago in a lie against his god. But Good Hawk straightened, breathed deeply, and spoke with the authority of his uncle.

“We do stand with Speaks His Mind’s people,” Good Hawk nodded. “If we do not unite, then hope will be lost. None of us alone can stand against the weapons of those from this Ring of Fire. I have never seen any of them, but what I have heard is true. They are devils conceived from a blinding flash of light, and they are coming, Raging Wolf. None of us are safe.”

“I have already told you that the white man is not my enemy,” Raging Wolf said, his eyes blinking wildly against the cold wind.

“See this man?” Speaks His Mind stabbed a finger in Fast as Lightning’s direction. “The white man’s Red God has claimed his soul. I brought him here to show you the horrors that await us all if we fail to act.”

Fast as Lightning didn’t know exactly what lie Speaks His Mind expected of him this time, but it was clear he was to make a show of his affliction for Raging Wolf. He began twitching his body as he had seen those who had been bitten by a poisonous snake. He bubbled saliva on his lips as he mumbled words that had no meaning, words that he made up quickly with no thought. He raved and babbled like a madman as his body shook. Two Montauk warriors stepped forward to take hold of him. As they did, he ended his spectacle by crying out, “Red God! Red God come across the waves! Come to us so that we may serve you! All must serve him!”

Raging Wolf seemed convinced that Fast as Lightning was mad, taking a step back, his hand sliding to touch the hilt of the large knife sheathed on his hip.

“What happened to this fool?” Raging Wolf asked.

“As I told you, their Red God has claimed him. What remains of his mind is filled with the god’s red fury. Such a fate awaits us all if we do not act and do so soon,” Speaks His Mind urged Raging Wolf. “Will you join with us to stand against the white man?”

Raging Wolf stared at Speaks His Mind in silence. Fast as Lightning caught the wink Raging Wolf gave in the direction of the trees to the west as he raised a hand to scratch his cheek.

The twang of a bowstring being released followed.

“A trap!” Fast as Lightning screamed as he felt the power of the Red God flowing through him. He threw himself at Speaks His Mind, plowing into the boy and taking them both to the ground as an arrow flew through the air where Speaks His Mind had stood a moment before.

From the trees surrounding the clearing came Raging Wolf’s Mohegan warriors. They wore war paint with an eager bloodlust in their eyes. Bowstrings twanged as they unleashed a volley of arrows at the Narragansett and Montaukett warriors. One of the Narragansetts took an arrow to the heart and staggered backwards before falling to the ground. Another arrow buried itself in the shoulder of a Montaukett warrior. The man grunted loudly, his features twisting into a snarl. He tore the arrow free from his flesh and charged at the ambushers while drawing his knife. His charge was cut short as two more arrows slammed into him, one piercing his exposed throat, the other plunging into his gut.

The quiet of the clearing had turned into chaos and violence. Fast as Lightning was up in an instant, leaving Speaks His Mind struggling to get to his feet. One of Fast as Lightning’s tomahawks flew end over end through the air as he flung it at one of Raging Wolf’s bowmen. The side of the man’s skull split open as the weapon’s blade sunk into it. Fast as Lightning yanked his other tomahawk from his belt and charged the bowmen. They were already discarding their bows and engaging the Narragansett and Montaukett warriors who had survived their initial attack.

More of Raging Wolf’s warriors entered the clearing from the other side. Fast as Lightning noticed that Speaks His Mind was directly in their path as they advanced into the clearing with maddening war cries. To his credit, Speaks His Mind did not run from them. He stood his ground, though feebly, and met them. Speaks His Mind’s tomahawk slashed a wide gash across the chest of the first warrior to reach him. The man shrieked before Speaks His Mind finished him with a savage swing of his tomahawk against the man’s neck. Speaks His Mind readied himself to engage the next of Raging Wolf’s warriors, his eyes wild but steady and determined.

An arrow flew from the trees and caught Speaks His Mind in the shoulder. He dropped his weapon, just as he was trying to thwart a blow from another Mohegan warrior standing in front of him. He failed to block the attack, and the Mohegan’s war club struck Speaks His Mind’s skull and sent him reeling. Blood flowed from Speaks His Mind’s forehead as he staggered and then toppled over.

Fast as Lightning tore into the line of Raging Wolf’s bowmen, the power of the Red God blessing him with speed. His tomahawk slashed open one bowman’s cheek, knocking him aside, and Fast as Lightning spun to catch a second bowman in the neck with his tomahawk’s blade. The man’s blood spurted over Fast as Lightning as he kicked the man’s flailing body away from him. Fast as Lightning counted over two dozen warriors from Raging Wolf’s tribe still facing them, and he saw that Speaks His Mind had fallen and knew this was a fight that he and his allies could not win.

“Raging Wolf!” Fast as Lightning heard Good Hawk roar. “Face me!”

Raging Wolf was laughing as he drew his knife and joined the fight, wading through the carnage that now littered the red-and-white trampled ground of the clearing. Good Hawk hefted his war club with a grim expression of determination and rage. He swung the club at Raging Wolf’s head, but the Mohegan sachem was quick. Raging Wolf easily avoided the blow, rushing in close to Good Hawk. He rammed his knife’s blade upwards and into Good Hawk’s ribs. Good Hawk coughed blood, but managed to shove Raging Wolf away. Raging Wolf laughed as Good Hawk’s war club fell from his hands. Blood stained Good Hawk’s chin as he drew his knife and lurched forward at Raging Wolf. Raging Wolf dodged a flurry of wild swings as Good Hawk slashed at him. Good Hawk’s blade struck nothing but empty air as Raging Wolf outmaneuvered him until Raging Wolf finally reached out to catch Good Hawk’s wrist with his left hand. Holding Good Hawk’s weapon at bay, Raging Wolf slid close to him, ramming his knife into Good Hawk’s belly and twisting the blade. Good Hawk howled in pain, blood flying from his lips. When Raging Wolf released him, he dropped to his knees. Raging Wolf spat on him in contempt before a final slash of his knife opened Good Hawk’s throat in an explosion of red.

The fight had drawn the attention of Raging Wolf’s warriors, thus giving Fast as Lightning time to reach Speaks His Mind. One of Raging Wolf’s warriors stood over the wounded boy. Fast as Lightning struck the warrior in the face with the butt of his tomahawk, shattering the man’s teeth. As the warrior staggered from the blow, Fast as Lightning finished him with a swing of his tomahawk that cut the man’s face open from forehead to chin.

Fast as Lightning picked Speaks His Mind up, throwing him over his shoulder. Then he ran, praying to the Red God for speed as he went, his legs aching beneath him as he raced out of the clearing, leaving Raging Wolf and his gleeful warriors behind. The few surviving Narragansett and Montaukett warriors followed after him.


The escape from the Mohegan ambush had been a narrow one. Their party had been reduced from thirteen to seven. Three of those seven had taken terrible wounds, Speaks His Mind’s worst among them. They had run for what seemed like hours before finally feeling secure enough to stop and do what they could for the wounded. With Speaks His Mind wounded so badly and Good Hawk dead, Fast as Lightning found himself in charge of those who remained.

A small fire crackled and burned in the center of the small clearing where they had stopped for the night. There had been no signs of pursuit from Raging Wolf’s men for some time now, and Fast as Lightning was sure that Raging Wolf and his warriors were done with them. For now, at least.

Two of the warriors stood watch as the others tended to the wounded. Speaks His Mind lay near the fire. His groaning broke Fast as Lightning’s heart. However wise and fearless he might be, Speaks His Mind’s life had been cut short, and Fast as Lightning knew the boy wouldn’t make it through the night.

Fast as Lightning knelt at Speaks His Mind’s side. Speaks His Mind looked up at him with weary, bloodshot eyes.

“That did not go as I had hoped,” Speaks His Mind rasped.

“You can’t blame yourself, Speaks His Mind,” Fast as Lightning tried to comfort him. “Raging Wolf surely always intended to betray us. Your intentions were good. His were not.” Anger boiled in Fast as Lightning’s blood. The Red God boiled. “I will see to it that he pays for his betrayal.”

Speaks His Mind nodded. “But you do not have many men left, my friend. Not enough to go after him now. Go to Sun Rising. Tell him of Good Hawk’s death. He will seek the right vengeance against Raging Wolf.”

Wisdom again was flowing from this young man, this near-death boy whose impressive behavior was growing stronger in Fast as Lightning’s mind. Going back to the Narragansett was the right thing to do. They did not have enough men to confront Raging Wolf. Going back to Sun Rising, however, meant certain war. And that was not why they had faced Raging Wolf in the first place, what Speaks His Mind had wanted. What would Sun Rising do once he did learn that Raging Wolf had killed his nephew and next sachem of the Narragansett people? Wage war against the Mohegan, probably. But maybe if Raging Wolf were killed beforehand, that might sate Sun Rising’s need for revenge and give them all a chance later to unite against the Ring of Fire. Maybe . . .

“I will go and kill Raging Wolf myself.”

The camp paused, and every man around the fire stared at Fast as Lightning. Surely, he was mad with what he had just said. Perhaps the Red God had made him crazy after all. Fast as Lightning stood amidst their confused stares. He placed his hands on his hips and stared them all down.

“I will go with you,” one Montaukett warrior said. A Narragansett warrior did the same, and then another, and another, until five of the remaining seven had stood and offered their allegiance for Fast as Lightning’s plan.

“Give me your knife,” Speaks His Mind said through a terrible cough.

Fast as Lightning shook his head. “No, I will not let you kill yourself. You may live yet.”

“Give me your knife!”

He did as requested, placing the knife into Speaks His Mind’s shaking hand. “Now, come to me.”

Fast as Lightning knelt. Speaks His Mind pulled deer skin away from his arm, exposing his wrist. He placed the knife against his skin and drew the blade across it, spilling blood. “Now, give me your wrist.”

Fast as Lightning’s heart leapt. He had never done this with anyone; he wondered if he wanted to do it now. But he did as requested, pulling his covering away from his arm. Speaks His Mind cut it quickly.

They locked arms, their blood pressing together. Fast as Lightning held tightly, squeezing Speaks His Mind’s arm until surely it must have hurt. But the young boy never flinched, never moved. Instead, he smiled. “Now we are bound together as brothers forever,” he said. “And perhaps I will gain some of the fire that your Red God possesses.”

Fast as Lightning nodded. “And perhaps I will gain some of your wisdom.”

They held arms together for several more minutes. Then Speaks His Mind pulled away. “Go now, my brother, and seek your vengeance.”


They retraced their steps back to the ambush site, and Fast as Lightning was pleased. The Red God had honored him with fair weather. Snow had not fallen in this place, and the moon was out, so they could easily follow the beaten path left by the Mohegans as they fell back to their village. It was still bitter cold, but Fast as Lightning did not feel it. Now, he felt only anger and sorrow. For even if he succeeded on this raid and Raging Wolf lay dead at his feet, Speaks His Mind might never know the truth. The thought of it made his arm warm where the boy had cut him.

It did not take long to find the Mohegan village. It was circular, like most he had seen, and surrounded by a wooden palisade. Small fires from the houses flickered in the moonlight, and thin lines of smoke could be seen drifting away in the cold air. It was quiet, save for the bark of a dog. Fast as Lightning counted his men again. Five, including himself. He shook his head. What a foolish thing to come here. Speaks His Mind had been correct, but it was too late to stop now. Somewhere down there, hopefully fat with venison and arrogant and loud, lay Raging Wolf, telling tall tales of how he bested Good Hawk, and left him to die. Fast as Lightning shivered at the thought of it.

“Let’s go!” Fast as Lightning said, and they followed him down the wooded ridgeline and up to the entrance. There was no gate, for this was friendly territory, and what did Raging Wolf have to fear anyway? There were guards, just two, wrapped heavily against the cold. Fast as Lightning walked up to them as if he were a Mohegan coming back from a hunt. They did not notice his differences until he was upon the first guard. The man tried moving to block his passage, uttered a word, then received a thick war club across his face. Fast as Lightning’s hand moved faster than he thought possible, the Red God’s gift working through his stiff muscles to give him strength and speed. The other guard tried to raise his tomahawk, but was put down with three strikes against his head. Both were down before any alarm could be sounded.

They pulled the limp bodies to the snow bank and covered them as best as possible. Then they entered the village.

The houses were lined up in a circle around the village. They took the outer walkway, in between a row of houses and the garden plots that lay fallow and covered in snow and ice. Fast as Lightning could smell seared meat on the wind. He sniffed twice, letting his stomach react positively to the scent. He did not realize how hungry he was. But that would have to wait. Right now, they needed a diversion.

The house at the very end of the row seemed the most logical. Fast as Lightning nodded to his men. They nodded back, knowing in advance what they were supposed to do. He did not like it, but what other choice did they have? Their women and children had been killed and captured by the dozens.

The men rushed inside the longhouse, catching the family inside by surprise. There was much screaming, shouting, killing. As he held guard outside, Fast as Lightning shut his eyes and said a small prayer for them. War was a terrible endeavor. He knew this, but maybe some good would come from all this once it was over.

The chaos inside subsided. Fast as Lightning watched to see if they had sounded any alarm. Nothing so far, and his men emerged from the longhouse, followed by heavy grey smoke.

They continued their move around the perimeter of the village. The house they left behind was burning strongly now, and people were beginning to notice and file out of their own houses.

The flow of people towards the fire was constant, and Fast as Lightning was pleased. The diversion had worked. Now all they needed was to find Raging Wolf.

But Fast as Lightning knew where he was. It came to him now, suddenly, like a dream, as if he had been to this Mohegan village before. He had never stepped foot in it. The cut on his arm burned, and he wondered if perhaps Speaks His Mind had been here before, as a child perhaps, with his father. It was possible.

Fast as Lightning stood tall, and flanked by his men, he walked proudly, defiantly towards Raging Wolf’s longhouse, as anxious Mohegan men and women passed them as if they were not there, their minds fixed on the fire burning through one of their homes.

Sachem Raging Wolf popped his head out of his house to look at the commotion. Fast as Lightning jabbed him straight in the face with his war club.

Raging Wolf fell back, and Fast as Lightning followed. The Mohegan leader fell through his fire pit, overturning a spit of venison that charred over the flames. There were two women and three children in the house as well. They screamed as Fast as Lightning and his men poured in.

“Raging Wolf!” Fast as Lightning said, standing over the older man with war club held firmly for a second strike. “I have returned to avenge Good Hawk’s death. We came to you in peace, and you betrayed us. Now you will die, in front of your wife and children.”

Raging Wolf looked small and insignificant in the scattered firelight, his head bleeding profusely. He blinked through the blood and pain and held up an arm as if he were shielding his eyes from the sun. He looked small, indeed, but his words revealed no fear, no worry.

“You came to my village,” Raging Wolf said, raising up on his elbows and looking around the room. He blinked away a line of blood. “With only four warriors? You entered my home with just a few men, and you expect to kill me and escape? Where does that arrogance, that courage, come from?”

“From the Red God,” Fast as Lightning said. “The god of the Ring of Fire. It was a lie what Speaks His Mind said. He does not fill me with madness. He gives me strength and speed. He gave me the courage to come here, and it will be in his honor that I will make you pay for your crimes. All of them”

Raging Wolf nodded, looked again towards his wife, his children. “Then so be it,” he said, lying back prostrate, like the cross with Jesus that Fast as Lighting had seen hanging from a Dutchman’s neck. “Your courage should be rewarded. Strike me down, and strike fast.”

What was this? The great Raging Wolf, Sachem of the Mohegans, would not fight? Would not at least try to rise and defend himself? “Stand,” Fast as Lightning said, stepping back a pace. “We will fight each other, fairly, and I will show you the power of the Red God.”

Raging Wolf shook his bleeding head. “No. I will not fight you in my own home, in front of my wife, my children. Go ahead and do your duty, for your Red God, and for that Ring of Fire that Speaks His Mind fears so much. If what he says about it is true, then perhaps I should die, for our people will need leaders like you, like Speaks His Mind, to face it. I am old, stuck in my ways. Perhaps we need new thinkers for what awaits us in the future. So, I say again, kill me now, and be done with it.”

Fast as Lighting raised his war club to strike, but he caught the terrified face of a small boy out of the corner of his eye. Raging Wolf’s wife too had tears running down her cheek, his daughter as well. All of them could be dead in a moment. All he had to do was swing the club, and vengeance for the Red God, for Good Hawk, would be taken.

Instead, he lowered his club, held it out like a stick towards Raging Wolf’s face. “Let this be a warning, Raging Wolf. You will stop raiding our villages, stop stealing our women and children. You will do so now, or I will return and unleash the Red God upon you all, and there will not be a single Mohegan alive by the end of winter.”

He jabbed the club once again into Raging Wolf’s face, breaking his nose, and knocking him cold.

Then he fled, dropping the club and running as fast as his legs would carry him, towards the entrance to the village, and out into the cold, bitter night.


“I’ve failed you,” Fast as Lightning said, staring into the dying embers of the fire. “I’ve failed us all.”

Speaks His Mind shook his head, coughed. “No. You showed Raging Wolf mercy. That is more than he would have shown you.”

“Sun Rising will go to war, now, once he learns of his nephew’s death. Once he learns that Raging Wolf is still alive.”

“Perhaps. But I will advocate against it, for now. And maybe he will listen. You impressed Raging Wolf, I’m sure, with your bold raid on his village, under the favors of the Red God, and he won’t be so quick to move on any more of our villages.” Speaks His Mind chuckled. “His broken nose will remind him. Sun Rising will want vengeance, yes, but I must remind him that the Ring of Fire is real, and its people are coming. War amongst ourselves can wait. A greater war is coming from across the sea. Unity is what we need to face it.”

Fast as Lightning cringed at the young man’s warning. “With respect, I do not agree, Speaks His Mind. I do not believe that the Ring of Fire will bring war to our land. I do not know what it will bring, but something in me says that it will not bring death and desolation. The Red God comes from the future, and I have faith in Him. He does not fill me with fear. Our future may be complicated, yes, but it will not end when the up-timers come.”

Speaks His Mind paused, nodded, and adjusted himself near the fire. “I pray that you are right. One thing is certain: whatever power flows in your blood, it has given me purpose to live.”

Fast as Lightning nodded. “And me as well. I am glad to see you alive. Can you walk?”

Speaks His Mind nodded, and Fast as Lightning helped him to his feet, saying, “I will help you walk. I will take you to Sun Rising so that you may tell him of Good Hawk’s fate, and the glory that he achieved before he fell.”

“No,” Speaks His Mind said. “We will tell him together, as brothers.”


Letters From Gronow, Episode 4



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


25 March 1635






1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 cup sauerkraut 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreamt last night, but nothing that I remember. Just enough to remember I dreamt.
Attended church today. Music was surprisingly good. Sang with a will. Reading and homily were about like usual.

Must be getting used to rejection. Herr Gronow’s letter not a great surprise, not a blow. Disappointing, but not crushing. Pinned it up on the wall next to the others. So, will learn from it. Still determined to see my story in Der Schwarze Kater.

Read four pages from The City of God. St. Augustine uses—used—words well. Plus, my Latin is getting better. I need to learn from him as well as from Martin Luther. Was hoping to see Johann today, because he is supposed to have been back from Jena by now, but no word of his return yet, so spent the evening alone.

I am a writer. From what Herr Gronow says, I am not very good yet, but I will learn. Wonder if Herr Poe and Herr Lovecraft had their stories rejected? Surely not. If they did, wonder how long it took them to sell? How many words did they write?

Will sell something to Herr Gronow someday.

Recited evening prayers. And now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

28 March 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreams, dark at first. Reminded me of The Ore of the Gods story from Der Schwarze Kater, Issue Three. By Augustus von Hohenberg, I think. Another down-timer writer. Story wasn’t bad, but was set in a mine, dark underground. Shivery. Dream woke me at least twice. Then it shifted and Max appeared. Slept easy after that. May be something to this guardian angel thing after all.

Was doing cash entries today, something looked wrong. Entry was linked to a contract, but did not look right. Pulled contract from shelf behind me, read through to the part about payments. Note for payment did not agree with contract terms. Showed to Herr Schiller. He agreed, said he would show to Master Gröning. Gave me an extra two dollars at the end of the day.

Stopped by Syborg’s Books on the way back to the rooms. Herr Matthias was there. Asked about the next issue of Der Schwarze Kater. He grinned, told me first part of next month. So, need to save the money for it. Really want to read it now.

Think I have an idea on how to change the story to make it work better. Will not try any more stuff to make it fancy. Should have realized that would not impress Herr Gronow. Stupid idea. Make the story good. Make the copy good. Nothing else matters.

Read The Gold of the Rhine from Issue One again. Another down-timer writer, Herr Klaus Wolfenstein. Meh. Not very scary. Dwarves were more like comedians than evilness. Made notes about making characters.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


30 March 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreams last night. Didn’t wake up. Only thing I remember is Max telling me I’m a good writer and he enjoys being my guardian angel. Dream ended before I said anything, I think.

Herr Schiller had me reviewing the Hamburg contract, the one I found the problem with a couple of days ago, and looking back through the earlier cash entries to see if there were any other problems. Didn’t find any today, but not done yet. Master Gröning not happy about the problem, Herr S says, but is happy that I found it. Guess that’s good.

Continued work on new version of the story. Is working so far. Considering new title—Portia in Tauris. Lines up with old play someone told me about. We’ll see if Herr Gronow likes this one. Long way to go before he sees it.


Recited evening prayers. Twice, because fell asleep the first time. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


1 April 1635






1 cup sauerkraut 2 quartered pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

Began the day with church. Music was good again. Two Sundays in a row. Unusual, but enjoyable. Sang with a will. Reading was good, Pastor Gruber did the homily. He spoke on the young boy who gave the loaves and fish to the Savior for the feeding of the five thousand. Everyone talks about the miracle of the feeding, but what about the miracle of the boy being right there, right then, with just that much food, and being willing to give up all that he had? From the smaller miracle came the larger one. Small things come first. No one does great things without doing small things first, not even the saints. Must think on that. Think that’s true about lots of things.

Still haven’t heard from or about Cousin Johann. Though he was supposed to be back from Jena by now. Starting to get worried.

Five pages read from The City of God. Beginning to love St. Augustine’s words. Not sure I understand them all, but the way they flow, the way he can say such grand things, makes a chill run up my backbone sometimes.

Spent some time reading in Kings in the Bible, finished the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal. Glad that he won. Think I’m glad he killed them. Had to be a bloody mess, though. But it wasn’t enough. Elijah wasn’t the king’s favorite then. Should have been. Should have won the fight with that. But didn’t. Had to run for his life. So sometimes the story doesn’t end up the way that people think it should. Sometimes the story is dark, or hard. How do I apply that to my life? How do I apply that to my writing? Think about that, too.

Oh, no dreams last night.

Recited evening prayers. Three times. Needed that many to be calm for some reason. So now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


3 April 1635




1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreamt I was sitting at the Green Horse and Herr Poe was sitting across from me and we were talking about writing. Wish I could remember what we said. I’d write it down.

Finished reviewing cash entries at work that tied to the Hamburg contract. Found a couple of other entries that didn’t look right to me. Showed them to Herr Schiller. Could tell he wasn’t happy that I’d found them, but he said he’d show them to Master Gröning. Gave me an extra dollar at the end of the day.

Stopped at Syborg’s Books. Herr Johann was there. Asked him about the next issue of Der Schwarze Kater. He said maybe in a month it will be in their store. Showed him my extra dollar from today, told him I had my money ready. He laughed and promised I would have a copy.

Worked on Portia in Tauris tonight. New opening is done. Think it works better at getting reader’s attention. Think I know where the story is going next. Will work on that tomorrow evening. Must remember to get some more candle stubs.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


6 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreamt I was listening to Herr Lovecraft and Herr Poe talking. Some about life, some about writing, remember that much. Really wish I could remember everything they said. Stupid dreams. What good are they if you can’t remember anything from them?

Herr Schiller told me today that Master Gröning was very pleased that I had found the other problems with the Hamburg contract. Proves that the bastards in Hamburg, as the master put it, have been cheating for some time. He was ready to sue for breach of contract before, but his regular lawyer died, and he wasn’t happy with any of the regular lawyers in Magdeburg. But there is a new lawyer who has opened offices in the city now, and the master is impressed with him, so they will probably act on this.

Hope the master wins, and hope it doesn’t affect me.
More work on Portia in Tauris tonight. Seems to be going well—but then, I thought that about the first three versions of the story. Only time and Herr Gronow will tell.
Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


9 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 cup sauerkraut 2 quartered pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Raining today. Cold rain. Dislike being wet, dislike being cold, really dislike being both wet and cold. Took a longer way to work so I could stay on the graveled streets rather than deal with the mud. Heard the city was going to gravel the rest of the streets before too long. Hope so. Really don’t like the mud, but seems like cobble stoning it all would be expensive. The up-time finished roads are nice, but I heard they weren’t cheap either.

Herr Schiller made us clean and sweep this morning, because Master Gröning and his new lawyer were going to come by later. Since we got the contracts organized, lot easier to dust and clean and sweep. Good thing, because they arrived just a few minutes after we got done. Martin was putting the broom in the closet when they stepped through the door.

Was surprised. Expected lawyer to be big imposing serious man. Short, not much taller than me, very lean. Dark eyes, hair almost black, no beard. Wouldn’t want to be facing him if he was angry, but he was laughing when they came in the door and smiled a lot during the conversations.

Herr Wulff, the lawyer, wanted to talk to me about how I found the problem. Showed him the first cash entry I saw, showed him what looked funny about it, then showed him the contract and the part of it that the cash entry seemed to not match. He looked back and forth between them, then took the contract file and read through the entire thing. He read fast—a lot faster than I do. Then he went back to the part I had pointed to and read it again.

When Herr Wulff got done, he put the file down. He had a serious expression on his face and gave me a nod. He told Master Gröning that I was right and that there were grounds to sue the Hamburg partners. Then he looked at me and wanted to know who had trained me to read contracts. I said Herr Schiller had told me some things, and the rest I had figured out for myself. He looked very surprised at that and told Master G and Herr S that I was really good and they should take care of me.

They left not long after that. Herr S didn’t say anything, but he gave me ten extra dollars at the end of the day, plus told me to take as many of the candle stubs as I needed.

So, long day. Stopped at Syborg’s Books on the way home. Herr Matthias told me before I could ask that it would be another few weeks before they would get the next issue of Der Schwarze Kater. Getting really anxious again.

Worked on Portia in Tauris a little. Slow going, as I am rethinking everything before I put it down again. Lots of stuff being changed. Different story now—very different.
Recited evening prayers. Twice. So now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


12 April 1635




1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Had a dream that Herr Gronow was chastising Herren Poe and Lovecraft for not being better writers, not writing more and better stories. Couldn’t see his face, but knew it was him because he talked about Der Schwarze Kater. He was pretty rude, too. If he’s like that really, not sure I want to know him.

Spent today like yesterday, teaching Martin how to do the checking of the entries to make sure they were done right. He had a lot of trouble yesterday, but today, after the first couple, he caught on and was able to see what I was telling him and figure out what the error had to be. Smart kid. Looks healthier, too. Filling out a little. Doesn’t look like a walking skeleton now.

Raining again when work was over. Not good. Not heavy rain—not much more than a mist, but wet and cold, with a bit of east wind blowing.
Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


15 April 1635






1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

Church was good. Music wasn’t as good as last week, but better than usual. Sang with a will. Reading was okay—up-time word, I know. Not sure what it really means, but it seems to be used as the same as all right or satisfactory. Okay is shorter, faster to say. Lots of people using it now. Anyway, homily wasn’t as good as Pastor Gruber’s last week, but have heard worse, and recently.

Read several pages from The City of God. Read the story from Kings about the young men mocking Elisha and the bears coming and ripping them apart. Seemed harsh. But on the other hand, if you are faced with someone who is very close to God, it may not be wise to mock him. Even if the man doesn’t take offense, God might. There’s a reason why Jesus taught the Golden Rule, after all.

Was very surprised when Johann appeared at my door late in the afternoon. Immediately went to The Green Horse. Had food, some beer, talked and talked about all sorts of things, but mostly his travels and my readings. Turns out he was traveling with a wealthy companion in a great circuit around the important cities. They even went to Vienna. His friend was talking to many of the renowned teachers, and wanted someone to travel with him, so Johann went.

He was surprised at how far I have come in reading St. Augustine and in the sense I make of it. He said there are doctors teaching who have no better understanding than I do. Then he grinned and said there were a couple he could think of who didn’t know as much. Unsettling thought. If a man doesn’t know more than I do, why would anyone want to pay him to teach? Especially in the Grantville era. Doesn’t make much sense.

Came home, lit a few candle stubs and wrote on Portia in Tauris. Didn’t get many words down, but think I have the path for the story clearer. Hope to write more tomorrow.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


17 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Very bad news at the office today. Herr Schiller told us that Thomas is coming back. He didn’t look very happy.

I asked why. He said that Thomas is some sort of cousin to a merchant that Master Gröning wants to do business with, but the man won’t talk to him or make deals with him unless he hires Thomas back.

Told Herr Schiller that we’ll all be sorry if they bring Thomas back. He sighed, and said it was the master’s order, and that was that. Got the feeling he’d already argued with Master G about it. Just shook my head, and went back to copying the new agreement that had arrived.

After work, walked with Martin to his rooming house. Told him about Thomas, told him to keep close watch on his things and not to let Thomas bully him. Suggested he mark his things some way. Told him to double check his work and then have me review it.

Nothing good will come of this.

Was so upset tonight couldn’t write. Didn’t read Der Schwarze Kater issues again. Tried to read The City of God, couldn’t focus on that. Finally was able to read in the Bible, Psalms for the most part.

Recited evening prayers twice, then a third time. Tired, but not sure I can sleep.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


18 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreams. So many dreams last night, shifting from one to another almost like skipping pages in a book. Tossed and turned all night, never rested. Max didn’t appear. Not sure what to think about that.

Made sure my clothes were clean and neat this morning. Wasn’t going to face Thomas not at my best. Surprised me. He was there waiting on us when we got there this morning. Clean. Sober. More polite than usual. Did what Herr Schiller told him to do. Appeared to do it right. But saw him looking around from time to time with odd little smile on his face. Nothing wrong. Still nervous about this. Really not a good idea. But it’s Master Gröning’s business, so he makes decisions. Just hope none of us have to regret this one.

Wrote in Portia in Tauris tonight. Got much done. Made breakthrough, I think, in moving story forward. Was still on edge from work, poured that into the writing. Pushed me, I think. Anyway, got more done tonight than in any three nights up until now. Felt good. Story feels good. I’m more relaxed, too.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


20 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Calm night last night. No dreams I remembered upon waking, other than faint feeling Max had been around. Better rested than I have been for a week, I think. Glad.

Thomas was still behaving today. Still seems to be just coming to work and doing his job. Saw a look cross his face after Herr Schiller corrected one of his entries this afternoon and made him do it over. T wasn’t happy, and his face showed it for a moment, but he waited until Herr S had turned away before he let it show. When he saw me looking, he turned away.

Still nervous about this.

Lots of writing tonight, just like yesterday and day before. New version of story has started flowing after working through difficult changes. Like the direction it’s going. Can’t let myself like it too much. Need to keep focused on telling story. Doesn’t matter if I like it. Only person who counts is Herr Gronow.

Tired, but good tired.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


22 April 1635






1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

Rained hard this morning. Church was miserable. Cold and dank. Not many people there. Music was thin and limp. Sang anyway. Reading was long, reader was dull. Managed to stay awake. Pastor Gruber did homily. Was surprised to see him, but glad. Taught on Elijah’s drought, how it didn’t rain for over three years, but Elijah remained faithful and prayed, and how when the king finally submitted to God, the rains came. Had to bite lip to keep from laughing as gust of harder rain beat on church roof right then. Pastor related it to how sometimes our lives are dry and seemingly barren, but if we remain faithful and pray and keep doing what we know we’re supposed to do, God will send the rains of life to come and bless us and fill our heart cisterns full again. Need to think about that. Think I understand it, but want to make sure.

Johann left Magdeburg with his friend on Wednesday, headed for Hamburg. Not sure when he’ll be back. So spent the afternoon reading more of The City of God. Latin is improving. Guess practice is useful. St. Augustine is becoming interesting. Or I’m learning to see more in him. Guess both could be true.

Spent the evening writing. Portia in Tauris is nearing completion, I think. Glad. But then I need to write the good copy for Herr Gronow. Not glad. But necessary. Ready for Herr Gronow to see this. No tricks. No fancies. Just trying to tell the story.

Tired at the end of the day.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


24 April 1635




1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Had a dream with Max last night. Really clear. He told me to quit worrying about my dreams. Anything that he lets by isn’t going to hurt me. Had a serious look on his face, and was holding his big black rifle like he meant business. I wouldn’t argue with him. So, do I listen to a dream tell me about dreams?

Oh, and Max says he’s really good with the rifle now.

Herr Schiller says that Herr Wulff is proceeding with filing the lawsuit on the Hamburg contract before a judge.

Today Martin was checking earlier entries and found a mistake in Thomas’ work. I saw the look on his face and motioned him over to my desk. He showed me. I checked myself, and yes, the work was wrong, and yes, it was on one of Thomas’ pages. So, I sent Martin back to his desk, and I carried the page over to Herr Schiller. He looked at the page, asked me if I was sure. I said yes. He sighed, and sent me back to my desk. In a little while, he called Thomas over to his desk and showed him the error, told him to correct it. Thomas started trying to say that it wasn’t wrong, but Herr S showed him step by step why it was wrong. So then he tried to say that one of us had changed it. Herr S told him there was no evidence of that, and told him to correct it. He took it and stomped back to his desk. Spent the rest of the day fixing it. Really mean look on his face when he looked my way.

Walked with Martin most of the way home, made sure he got home safe. Didn’t see Thomas at all, but wasn’t happy about it. This is not good.

Still managed to finish Portia in Tauris tonight. Will start working on good copy tomorrow.

Read a little out of Psalms. Read a little out of Issue Three. Sat and stared for a while at the three letters from Herr Gronow pinned to the wall. Will sell a story. Want it to be this one.

Recited evening prayers. Three times. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


26 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Had very different dream last night. Dreamt that Portia—from my story—was talking to me and telling me how I hadn’t gotten some things right about her and her story, and I needed to fix that right now. She said it was no wonder Herr Gronow was rejecting the stories, if I couldn’t do any better than that. Talked loud and fast, and her voice was high and screechy in the dream, although it’s supposed to be low and furry sounding. I couldn’t interrupt, but over her shoulder I could see Max standing and laughing. Think that’s where I woke up. Pretty bad when your dreams laugh at you.

But wish I could remember what she told me. It might have helped.
Thomas quiet today, although he trod on my foot once. Didn’t push or hit him, although was tempted. Still don’t like it, but if he does nothing more than that, we—Martin and I—can put up with it. Sooner or later he had to do something stupid like before and get thrown out. I hope.

Spending more time in the contracts again. Thomas started looking at them, and at me. Think he was trying to figure out what had changed. A lot.

Did two whole pages of the clean copy of Portia in Tauris tonight. Looks good so far, but still have a lot to do. Not unusual, you could say.

Recited evening prayers, ready for bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


29 April 1635






1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

2 mugs beer 2 pfennigs


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

Sunny day this morning. Church still seemed cold and damp after all the rain the last week or so. A few more people. Music was as good or as bad as usual, however you want to think of it. Sang anyway. Pastor Gruber did the homily today. Surprised but glad. Spoke today on the Syrian woman who asked for her daughter to be healed, and how Jesus instructed her that she wasn’t one of the chosen children, but she had the courage to persist and to finally say that even an unclean dog could feast on the crumbs from the children’s table. And Jesus healed the daughter. The pastor spoke on the virtues of longsuffering and of persistence, and on how through them we attain both maturity and reward. Not sure that Pastor G would agree, but feel like I’ve been dealing with longsuffering for sure in getting my stories written. Probably not what he means at all, but still . . .

After the benediction, Pastor Gruber called to me and waved me over. Invited me to lunch with him. With Johann still traveling, no reason not to, so went with him. Think he may be a bit lonely. Smiled really big when I said I’d come. Spent a few hours talking with him, mostly about St. Augustine again. Nice time. Learned a lot. Pastor has a surprising appetite for bad jokes, like “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Uggh.

Got back to rooms early, put the time to good use. Copied three more pages of Portia in Tauris. Over a third of the way done. Hope to submit to Herr Gronow soon.

Good tired when done. Fingers cramping from holding and guiding the pen. Can’t press too hard, or will break the nib of the quill.

Made note, need to get more candle stubs and left-wing quills from work this week. Herr Schiller lets me take some instead of my pay.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


2 May 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Pretty sure I dreamt last night. Remember waking up at least once. But don’t remember anything from them if I did.

Thomas has been quiet all week. No funny looks, no words, doing his work right. That’s good. Still catch him looking at me every once in a while. He was standing by my desk one day when I came in, looking at the contracts. Didn’t say anything, just looked at them. Really wonder what’s going on in his mind. Can’t help but worry. Haven’t seen anything that proves he really has changed. Sad. I mean, to be as young as we are and to have that reputation. What’s he going to be like when he’s older?

Stopped in again at Syborg’s Books, to stop and warm up a bit as much as anything. Glad I did. Herr Johann beckoned me to their counter as soon as he saw me come in, and handed me a copy of the fourth issue of Der Schwarze Kater. I was very excited! Fortunately, I had started carrying the two dollars necessary for the magazine, even though I didn’t expect it to come out for a few more days. So, I gave Herr J the money and took the magazine. They wrapped it in a piece of extra paper, and I stuffed it inside my jacket and hurried back to my room

No writing tonight. Instead, feasted on new Poe and Lovecraft. First, Nyarlathotep, by Herr Lovecraft. Shivery. Then, The Masque of the Red Death, by Herr Poe. Not sure I’ll sleep tonight.
Looked at the magazine submissions page. Again, I see that I am affecting the magazine, although not necessarily in the manner I wish.

Close to finishing clean copy of Portia in Tauris. Two pages tonight. Maybe another night or two and it will be done and ready to take to Herr Gronow. Ready to be done with it.

Recited evening prayers. Three times. Now to bed.


Not going to sleep. Recited evening prayers twice more, plus three Our Fathers. Now to bed—again.



From Der Schwarze Kater, Volume 4


Black Tomcat Magazine Submissions


1. Legibility is paramount. If we can’t read your story, we won’t buy it. To that end, we strongly recommend that your work be prepared with the new Goldfarb und Meier typewriting machine or something similar. If a true manuscript is presented, please use practiced penmanship and calligraphy. Standard Magdeburg and Thuringia secretary hands are acceptable.

2. Please use octavo-sized paper no larger than eight inches wide by ten inches high. All pages of a story submission should be approximately the same size. Use one side of the page only. Natural color or bleached paper only—No Dyed Or Tinted Paper, please! And black ink only. Not blue, or red, or purple.

3. If the story is typed, please insert a blank line between each line of lettering. If the story is written out, please space the lines about 3/8 of an inch apart. Either way, leave a blank margin of approximately one inch on all sides of each page. This facilitates both ease of reading and making comments or instructions on the page. Keep in mind that the easier it is for the publisher to read your work, the more likely it is to be published.

4. Whether typed or written, do not write a story in all uncials. Leading sentence character and leading noun character in uncial with the rest in minuscule is preferred. All minuscule is acceptable. Again, let us stress that legibility is critical to getting your work accepted for publication.

5. No illuminated manuscripts, please. Likewise, do not submit illustrations along with your story. If your illustrations are an integral part of your story’s construction, we suggest you seek out another publisher.

6. Our manual of writing style is Martin Luther’s translation of Holy Scripture. All issues of grammar and word spellings will be decided in accordance with his practice. Note that familiarity with and practice of those guidelines improve your chances of having your story published. All things being equal, the story requiring the least amount of work on our part has the advantage.

7. Format the first page such that your name, contact address, and word count of your story are in the upper left-hand corner, the story title should be in the upper edge center, and page number in the upper right corner. Subsequent pages should contain your surname and abbreviated title in the upper left corner and page number in the upper right corner. Page numbers are important. If your work gets dropped, we need to be able to put the pages back in the right order.
8. We recommend you keep a personal copy of your story. All manuscripts 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


4 May 1635




1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


To quote the up-timers, wow. Issue Four of Der Schwarze Kater is intense. Relived Masque of the Red Death in my dreams last night. Woke up four times, even after lying awake a lot of the night. Four. Wow. Toward the end, Herr Poe and Max were standing to one side commenting on the story. Tried to talk to them, but they acted like they couldn’t hear me and the story kept sweeping me along. Very strange night. If Max is supposed to be my guardian angel, not sure he was doing his job last night.

Had hard day at work today. Very tired. Managed to get my work done, but was hard. Herr Schiller kept looking at me, finally asked me if I was hung over. Just said I didn’t sleep well last night. Didn’t tell him why. Even as tired as I was, wasn’t that stupid. He frowned, but didn’t say anything else.

Tried to work on Portia in Tauris copy, but just couldn’t focus, so picked up Issue Four. Had skipped over first story last night to read the important work, so went back and read it. Title was The Brass Homunculus, by V. I. Fuchs. Idea was a man of science created a device shaped like a man out of metal and gave it the ability to move and to reason. Things didn’t go well. Man of science wasn’t very smart. Have to wonder where some of these writers get their ideas. I mean, a metal man? Who could take that seriously, Herr Fuchs?

Wish I had thought of it.

Can’t keep eyes open. Stumbled through evening prayers. Hope I sleep better than last night. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


6 May 1635






1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

Rained this morning, just like yesterday and day before. Church was cold and dank again, not many people there. Music wasn’t good because so few voices. Sang anyway. Reading and homily were dull. New young guy spoke, wasn’t very good. Needs to learn to speak louder and with some feelings. Also needs to learn how to write a homily. Wasn’t very good, made no sense, just rambled.

Quiet day after noon. Went back and read some of the early passages in The City of God. Think I understand them better now. Read some in Samuel, about David and Jonathan. Wish I had a friend like that. But not if he had a father that would throw spears at me like King Saul did at David. David was a better friend than I would be, I think.

Finished the clean copy of Portia in Tauris late in the afternoon. Read through it, bundled it up and addressed it and took it over to Herr Gronow’s office before I could get scared, pushed it through the slot in the door. Felt what was my customary panic when it left my fingers, leaned my head against the door and made my customary prayer. Went back to my room.

Reread issue three of Der Schwarze Kater to finish the evening. Leaving issue four for a treat. Got about halfway through.

Recited evening prayers. Three times. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


16 May 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


More dreams about Herren Poe and Lovecraft last night. They were arguing about whether stories involving demons would be more horrible and horrifying than stories that show the full depravity men are capable of. Then Max appeared and told me I was wasting my time listening to them, because they were both right and both wrong. I was trying to figure that out when I woke up.

Quiet day at work today. Thomas left early because his kinsman, the merchant that Master Gröning is cultivating, needed him for something. Okay for me. The less I see him, the happier I am.

Realized late in the afternoon that I haven’t heard anything from Herr Gronow. Surprised. He usually responds to my offerings quickly. Hope nothing’s wrong. Hope he’s still going to publish Der Schwarze Kater!

Worried about that all evening.

Read another story in issue four. This one was Shadow of Furies, by Georg Hannover. Must be one of those pen names Herr Matthias was telling me about. Had me looking over my shoulder before I finished it, so better than some of the down-time written stories I’ve read.

Recited evening prayers. Three times. So now to bed, and sleep—I hope.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


19 May 1635




1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreams still dark. Issue Four is almost haunting me. Woke up three times even after not reading any of the Der Schwarze Kater issues yesterday. Dreams ran stories together in a muddle. Max was there for a while, but tide of dreams swept me away.

Stopped in at Syborg’s Books. Both Herren Syborg were there. Talked to Herr Johann, told him how much I liked Issue Four of Der Schwarze Kater. He asked me if the down-timer stories were as good as those by Herren Poe and Lovecraft. Told him not yet, but each issue seems to get better. Herr Matthias told me I was lucky I got my copy, because they didn’t get as many copies as they usually do, and a few of their regulars had been disappointed and had had to try and find copies other ways. That alarms me. Told him I want my copy no matter what, even if it means I have to pay for it ahead of time. He got a thoughtful look on his face, and said he’d think about that.

Still have not heard from Herr Gronow.

Very worried. Couldn’t focus on anything all day. Fortunate that work was very routine today.
Worried all evening.

Recited evening prayers. Four times. Four. Still worried, but now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


21 May 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreams, but nothing I recall. Stupid dreams.

Messenger finally brought a letter from Herr Gronow today! Late in the afternoon. Wanted to rip it open and read it right then, but both Herr Schiller and Thomas were looking at me, so just stuffed it inside my shirt and carried on with work.

After a few minutes, Thomas walked over to Herr Schiller’s desk and said something, asked a question, I think. I couldn’t hear what he said, but he looked over at me when he said it. I could hear Herr Schiller tell him it wasn’t any of his business and to go sit down and finish his work. Thomas didn’t like that, looking at his expression, but he did go back to his desk. Caught him staring at me later on.




21 May 1635


Herr Philip Fröhlich


Your persistence is admirable, Herr Fröhlich. And I will say, you have yet to make the same mistake twice. That is also admirable.

It is not, however, sufficient to achieve publication. Your work has improved, yes, but not enough.

Your latest work proves that you have mastered the art of presentation. Your manuscript was acceptable in its form and structure, with nothing of note objectionable about it. The content of your manuscript, however, is another matter entirely.

There are two things I must set out before you. First, there is a difference between noting facts and telling a story, Herr Fröhlich. It is not enough to clearly state that someone is frightened or horrified or disgusted. You must describe it. You must evoke it. You must make your reader feel it along with the character.

Second, there is a movement, a progression to a story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is not enough to simply place on the page a setting where something happens, or someone has an experience. There must be reasons why the character is there, and why he has that experience. There must be a flow from scene to scene, there must be transitions. You are not scripting a play, where a character stands here and says this, then moves over there, and says that. You are leading the reader through terra incognita by the hand. The reader must understand what is occurring, and you, as the author, are the only person who can give them that understanding. Progression. Transition. Beginning, middle, and end. Master these, Herr Fröhlich, and you will sell your stories.

“Portia in Tauris” is an . . . interesting . . . title. Better than your previous titles. Nonetheless, it is not adequate. Try again.

It is now with some interest that I say when you correct the issues noted above, please resubmit your story.

Good day to you.


Johann Gronow

Editor and Publisher

Der Schwarze Kater

1636: Land Radio Communication in Europe

In “Marine Radio in the 1632 Universe” (Grantville Gazette 52) and “1636: Marine Radio in the Mediterranean” (Gazette 66) we explored the possibilities for communication across salt water. We also considered, briefly, a few overland paths of special interest to the Navy and commercial shipping interests.

Here, we’ll turn the focus to communication across land. As before, we’ll concentrate on reliable Morse code message-handling at commercial speeds and not other radio services such as broadcasting or navigation.

In the previous articles, there were certain routes of particular interest, for which we could calculate power requirements. It’s much less certain where military units will operate in the coming land campaigns, so instead we’ll estimate the distances achievable with the power levels and antennas most likely to be available. Where to apply those capabilities must be left to authors and their topographic maps.

Due to the complexity of the subject, this will be a simplified treatment of some representative cases. It would be impossible in a brief article to give thorough coverage to the motley menagerie of physical effects by which a radio wave can propagate across land. Not only are there entire books on the subject, but a thorough engineering analysis of any communication route requires topographic maps, ground conductivity maps, and local atmospheric data which neither we nor our fictional characters have.

Beyond those limitations, canon decrees a decades-long hiatus in the high frequency ionospheric skip by which hundred-watt ham stations in our own era are accustomed to reach halfway around the world. That leaves our down-time friends with a remaining menu of propagation modes for which there is little published performance data in the high frequency region. It’s possible to extrapolate from the handbook charts, but the uncertainties will be larger, and some useful physical effects may be overlooked altogether.

Fortunately, our purpose here is not to achieve the accuracy and certainty which professional communication systems engineers are called on to accomplish in the real world. That takes shelves of reference books, adequate time to collect and analyze field survey data, and years of experience. Our objective is to offer reasonable guidelines for plausibility in science fiction.

What we can do, then, is examine the major workhorses among the many land propagation modes and run the numbers for some representative cases. Those results can suggest when our characters could plausibly get a message through, when they couldn’t, and when communication could become marginal and intermittent.


Overview, for the non-technically inclined reader


Grantville Gazette readers and authors come from a wide variety of backgrounds. A few preliminary remarks may be helpful to orient those whose first language isn’t tech talk.

First, the folks who are faced with setting up radio communication, whether in the real world or in our fictional universe, have a variety of goals that revolve around what reliable range is achievable with what means and at what cost. The tradeoffs get tighter if the station must be mobile; limitations on equipment size, weight, and antenna height affect range. And, all of this is a moving target. The bounds of what is technically and economically feasible will expand, rapidly at times, as the electronics industry and the national economy mature.

Second, radio waves can travel from place to place by several different physical mechanisms, called “propagation modes” in tech jargon. They often occur in combination along different parts of a single geographic path. Each mode has its own quirks. The details of how a signal becomes weaker as it travels further from the transmitter determine what range is possible using a particular frequency, transmitter power, antenna design, and station location. We’ll examine three major propagation modes: ground wave, free space, and sky wave. We’ll also look at diffraction and reflection. Whether to think of the latter two as separate modes is as much a matter of semantics as anything else. They’re separate physical effects, but in practice they generally show up as part of a path that’s otherwise free-space.

Third, the variables that radio specialists juggle are station location, transmitter power, frequency, antenna design, the height of the antenna’s supporting structure, and the surrounding terrain. Location can be a compromise between where the communication is actually needed, and where it’s possible to get a signal out past terrain obstacles. Power and frequency both depend partly on the transmitter technology (tubes, electromechanical alternators, spark gaps).

The very longest ranges occur with night-time sky wave, largely limited by our period’s quiet sun to frequencies below 700 KHz (wavelengths greater than 428 meters). Consequently, maximum performance requires very tall and expensive antennas, and high power to overcome the strong natural noise at such low frequencies.

Conversely, mobile operations favor the smaller antennas that go with higher frequencies, and operate mostly by ground wave and diffraction-boosted free space modes. Ground wave ranges decrease with increasing frequency, but not in a linear fashion. Free space ranges depend almost entirely on antenna height above surrounding terrain, and diffraction is governed by bend angle over terrain obstacles.


Where we stand


By 1636, Grantville’s electronics industry is no longer strait-jacketed by the dwindling legacy of up-time parts. In the last year and a half, it has crossed the threshold of sustainability. It’s now manufacturing all the components for a simple but practical tube-based radio communication station. Production is still limited, but growing all the time.

The main focus here will be on the performance achievable with that equipment. However, we’ll also touch on the fairly numerous fractional-watt “tuna can” transceivers made earlier from salvaged up-time transistors.

Calculations will lean toward the conservative side. The criterion throughout is a reliable and predictable communication service for military and commercial needs, when conditions are at the unfavorable end of their natural range of variation. At other times, signals are likely to be stronger and easier to copy.


Supporting technical information


The Terminology section of the original article in the series “Marine Radio in the 1632 Universe” contains a good deal of background information, which readers may find helpful to review. Two of the definitions are ubiquitous in propagation and antenna calculations, and worth repeating here:

Decibels or dB: A logarithmic way to express a power gain or loss ratio P2/P1


The dB form of expression is very convenient. Gains and losses expressed in logarithmic form can be added up algebraically, instead of multiplying very large and small numbers. Gains are positive, losses are negative. For example, an increase in power by a factor of 10 is +10 dB, while a decrease by a factor of 1000 is -30 dB.

Absolute power levels can be expressed as dB relative to some stated reference level, such as one milliwatt or the thermodynamic noise floor of a reference antenna.

dBm: decibels relative to 1 milliwatt

1 W=+30 dBm


Fixed versus mobile stations

One very convenient way to classify radio stations and networks is by mobility.

1636 is a little early for the industry to achieve the miniaturization and the high frequencies best suited to mobile-in-motion operation.

In the context of 1636 logistics, a reasonable definition of a “mobile” land station is one that can be transported in any vehicle up to a horse-drawn heavy freight wagon or a river barge, and set up in the field in half a day or less. “Fixed” stations would be everything else.

Mobility has a major impact on the practical size of a station’s equipment and the amount of radio frequency power it can generate—and indirectly, on the frequency bands and propagation modes it can use most effectively. The lower the frequency, the longer the wavelength, and the larger an antenna must be if it is to deliver optimum results.

There are degrees of mobility. For a wagon-mobile station, the height of a tall tree is a practical limit for an antenna structure, whether actual trees or guyed poles are used to support the antenna. Sustained operation at up to fifty watts would be reasonably manageable for this kind of station. Anything more than that would present some difficulties.

Five watts and a wire antenna would be more reasonable for a station that must be transported in a mounted scout’s saddle bags.

A likely practical limit for a major fixed station in this period would be a single guyed tower 150 meters high, with steam or water power to run the transmitter. Depending on the transmitter technology and prime power source, a kilowatt or more would be possible.


Signal types and technologies


We can also classify communication stations according to the type of signal they can generate and receive. That, in turn, depends on the transmitter and receiver technology.

Tubes, transistors, and electromechanical alternators generate a fairly pure continuous sine wave, a “CW” signal. This concentrates the power into the minimum bandwidth necessary to contain the on-off keying of a Morse code signal—on the order of 100 Hz wide. Since the amount of natural noise that gets through the receiver is proportional to the bandwidth of the receiving filter, a narrow signal helps in maximizing the signal-to-noise ratio.

The CW signal has no modulation other than the keying. It must interact with a tube or transistor oscillator in the receiver to generate an audible tone. Again, this helps maximize the signal-to-noise ratio by not wasting power on a steady carrier wave that contains no information. On the other hand, it also means that Grantville-made components are required in the receiver as well as the transmitter.

Large fixed CW stations would start to appear toward the end of 1635. They would grow over the next few years into the backbone of Europe’s new communication infrastructure. Once that backbone is up and running, a mobile unit (or one station in a mobile net) would only need to set up where one of these big stations can hear it. From there, it could dispatch a message anywhere the net reaches. Think of the fixed stations as the late 1630s information superhighway.

Spark stations could be built nearly anywhere in Europe using down-time skills and materials, and they could be built long before Grantville learns how to make tubes. Rick Boatright has suggested that enterprising down-timers will get busy bringing up local spark nets and relay arrangements as soon as the cheat sheets appear.

Unfortunately, a spark transmitter’s output is a train of poorly-shaped short bursts of radio frequency power that repeat at an audio rate. This results in a low average power output and poor frequency control, spreading its limited power across a wide bandwidth.

Complementing the spark transmitter, a crystal set doesn’t require Grantville’s manufacturing facilities, either. It can receive the burst-modulated spark signal, but it has both wide bandwidth and no amplification. It lets a lot of atmospheric noise through, and it’s not very sensitive.

Consequently, spark stations make much less effective use of their power than CW stations. They’re far from useless, but their effective range is nothing like that of CW stations of similar power consumption and antenna design. Worse, far fewer of them can operate in a given frequency band without mutual interference, because of their broad signals.

Most of the calculations that follow will be for CW, which is much easier to describe mathematically as well as much more effective. We’ll get to spark, though.


Suitable frequency bands for land communication


For a given communication need, the choice of band depends on a variety of considerations. For any propagation mode, some bands work better than others, or reach further than others, or require less power than others, or are easier to build equipment for than others.

By 1636, we can expect a first-generation family of simple tubes that deliver reasonable efficiencies at frequencies up to perhaps 15 MHz, at power levels from under a watt to a few hundred watts. That isn’t everything the communication services would like to have, but it’s enough to accomplish quite a lot. It will be a couple more years before the industry can master the design, materials science, and manufacturing of the more complex and expensive tubes that will open up the higher frequencies.

Electromechanical alternators top out at around 600 kHz, but can reach tens of kilowatts.

On the other hand, 500 kHz is about as low in the spectrum as we can expect the early builders to construct full-size transmitting antennas, even at the largest fixed stations. A standard quarter-wave vertical antenna for that frequency requires a 150-meter tower centered on a radial-wire ground plane 300 meters across. (The radial wires need not impede farming or grazing if they’re buried or elevated.) Such an antenna could be externally tuned down to 400 kHz or so and still perform fairly well.

To get a feel for the size of this kind of structure at such a low frequency, look at this picture from the Wikipedia article on antennas: Even this example is slightly shortened from optimum height, with a small capacitive top hat.

Below that frequency we’d have to accept the engineering and cost tradeoffs of shortened antennas, which are both more expensive and less efficient. This picture from the Wikipedia article on T antennas is probably at about the maximum height that could be built with wood lattice towers:

Many low-frequency antennas are a lot more complicated and expensive than that. See this example: They’re technically possible, of course, but not likely to happen this early.

The cost and real estate of huge antennas isn’t the only obstacle to the early use of the favorable propagation characteristics at low frequencies, either. The atmospheric noise rises very rapidly below 500 kHz, requiring much more power to be heard at the greatest potentially possible distances. It’s doubtful that such super-powered transmitters would be feasible or affordable this early.

Bottom line: in this period, the most useful frequencies lie between about 400 kHz and 15 MHz.


Propagation modes


Propagation across land often doesn’t lend itself to straightforward rules and calculations, because land isn’t a uniform medium. It’s not flat, the ground conductivity varies from place to place, and some locations are covered by lakes and swamps instead of low-conductivity dirt and rock.

Multipath effects are common. Signals can arrive at a receiver by multiple propagation modes, and along multiple terrain paths by the same propagation mode. They can add in phase, enhancing the signal strength by 3 to 6 dB, or add out of phase, causing deep cancellations of 20 dB or so. As the temperature and humidity distribution of the atmosphere changes, the arriving signals can drift in and out of phase, sometimes as rapidly as a couple of times a second.

Different parts of a single path often involve different propagation modes, making calculations complicated even where the detailed data exists to estimate path losses. This article will focus on conservative estimates for several fairly simple but common types of land paths.

As before, we’ll concentrate on propagation modes that can provide reliable day-in, day-out service at commercial Morse code speeds. Exotic modes that provide only sporadic openings are of interest to hams, but usually not to military services and businesses, unless an author wants to use a freak band opening as a plot device. (There are ways that can happen, especially in summer.) We’ll also leave out of the discussion potentially useful modes that would require hardware not yet available.

With the tubes and other radio parts expected to be in at least limited production by 1636, the USE and its partners could reasonably expect to exploit (or wrestle with) the following modes for land communication:


  • Ground wave
  • Free space propagation
  • Diffraction
  • Reflection
  • Sky wave


Ground wave mode


Ground wave is an interaction between a radio wave and the electrical conductivity of the earth. The traveling wave induces currents just below the surface, which cause it to deflect downward toward the surface so that it follows the curve of the earth. The path losses and power requirements are fairly simple to estimate with the aid of the graphs in the Radio Propagation Handbook. Land is much less conductive than salt water, particularly poorly conductive European land, so the propagation losses are far greater than we calculated in the marine radio articles. Therefore, the usable ranges are much shorter.

We can generally ignore topography for ground wave; it doesn’t have a strong influence at the frequencies where ground wave is usable. For that reason, ground wave range offers a conservative minimum level of performance that we can be reasonably confident will be available along any route, regardless of the intervening terrain. If the terrain is favorable, other modes may allow communication with smaller antennas and less power, but if not, ground wave will still be there.

Frequency selection for ground wave is a complicated tradeoff. The lower the frequency, the lower the propagation losses, and the greater the potential range. Unfortunately, the lower the frequency is, the taller the transmitting antenna must be to get reasonable efficiency and the low radiation angle needed to launch its power along the surface. And, the lower the frequency, the higher the atmospheric noise is, so low frequencies require more power to take full advantage of the superior propagation. In the OTL world, very low frequency ground wave signals have traveled to the far side of the world, at the cost of enormous transmitting antennas and colossal power.

With the power levels and antenna heights likely to be feasible by 1636, it would be impossible to exploit low-frequency (under 300 kHz) ground wave to its fullest. As we’ll see, though, what can be affordably achieved at practical frequencies is of great value.

Under these constraints, 500 kHz is something of a sweet spot for long-range ground wave. Therefore, we’ll calculate poor-earth ground wave ranges at that frequency. We’ll also do the calculations at 5 MHz and 15 MHz. Those frequencies are within the capabilities of the first generation of down-time tubes, and they’re better suited to the antenna dimensions and power levels of a land mobile station.


Free space propagation mode


Mathematically speaking, pure free space propagation is the simplest to analyze of all modes, and is by far the least lossy. “Path loss” for this mode doesn’t involve actual power dissipation along the propagation path at all. It’s just a mathematical expression of the continuous decrease in power density as the spherical wavefront expands away from the transmitting antenna and grows in frontal area—the classic “inverse square law” that follows from simple geometry and the capture area of the receiving antenna.

Unfortunately, that ideal can rarely be achieved in practice anywhere near the earth’s surface. Even at microwave frequencies, antennas can’t be made sufficiently directional to avoid reflections off the earth along point-to-point routes. Consequently, wave interference between direct and reflected paths is unavoidable. About the only place it could be applied in pure form is in high-angle communication with aircraft. That’s outside the scope of this article.

However, an approximation to free space propagation can occur over much of a path, if at least one end of the link is many wavelengths above nearby terrain, and the reflections are off lossy surfaces. A common practical case is communication between a hilltop base station and a mobile unit on flat land. While most of that type of path might be unobstructed, the last part of almost any terrestrial path comes within a wavelength or less of the earth as the wave leaves or approaches an antenna near ground level. That terminal portion of the path transitions into high-loss ground wave. The Rural Electrification Administration’s publication Power System Communications: Mobile Radio Systems has loss curves for that type of mixed path down to 40 MHz. With an adjustment for the larger capture area of an antenna scaled for 15 MHz, we can extrapolate path loss at the frequencies our 1636-period tubes can handle.


Diffraction mode


Diffraction is an electromagnetic phenomenon that causes a small portion of a radio wave’s power to re-radiate from the edge of an obstruction and propagate into the shadowed space beyond. It’s the reason you can hear an FM broadcast station when you’re behind a hill. Given the bend angle needed to reach the antenna behind the obstacle, the diffraction loss can be calculated and added to the rest of the path loss terms. With that number, it’s possible to calculate the increase in transmitter power needed to overcome the diffraction loss.

Diffraction very conveniently complements free space propagation. In a situation where a fraction of a watt might be enough to reach a receiver up in the clear on a hilltop, several watts to several tens of watts might be needed to be heard in the valley beyond. The synergistic combination of free space propagation and diffraction is a major workhorse of land mobile communication in our own era, and it will be in the 1630s as well—just at lower frequencies for the first decade or so. Interestingly, it will often work better at these lower frequencies, because the longer wavelength results in a larger effective capture area at the edge of the obstruction. Thus, more of the transmitter’s power is available to be re-radiated into the shadow.


Reflection mode


Reflection can occur off any conductive surface. A bounce off a hillside can carry a signal around a mountain or down into a valley. In modern cities, the metal structures of buildings cause multiple reflections. The lead and copper roofs of large early modern buildings may offer some useful reflection paths at the higher frequencies, if the field teams can locate the hot spots by exploring for them. However, large expanses of metal can also cause radio shadows.


Sky wave mode


These first four modes are only modestly affected by weather, time of day, and season. With adequate receivers, transmitter power, and antennas, they offer very reliable full-time service over quite useful distances.

Sky wave, on the other hand, offers far greater range than any combination of these terrestrial modes, but only during the hours of darkness, and only below 700 kHz or so during the long quiet-sun decades of the seventeenth century. (At high latitudes, the summertime hours of darkness are very short, or even non-existent.)

In the marine radio articles, we looked extensively at sky wave at 500 kHz. For a single hop, it doesn’t make much difference whether the path is over sea or land, since the only bounce is off the ionosphere. As it happens, European land distances are mostly single-hop distances. We’ll repeat just a few key performance numbers here.


Power levels


The earliest NTL-built CW transmitters were the “tuna can” transceivers, made from salvaged up-time solid-state parts. A quarter watt is a reasonable guess for typical output. Using transistors originally intended for receivers, audio equipment, and power supplies, operation to 15 MHz is within reason. Some units might be able to reach 30 MHz or higher.

The new electronics industry would put early effort into a 5-watt tube, to drive a receiver’s speaker. This would make a very useful low-power transmitting tube. A 25-watt tube would follow soon afterward. We could expect these two power levels to be fairly common for mobile transmitters. Their power demands would be a reasonable fit for transportable storage batteries and foot pedal generators.

The next priority for power tubes would probably be at about the 250-watt level, intended for fixed stations. An amplifier built around four of those tubes could deliver a kilowatt. We found in the marine radio calculations that 1 kilowatt at 500 kHz is sufficient to achieve the maximum possible range of a single sky-wave hop (in European noise levels), while 100 watts is the bare minimum to use sky wave at all.

We can assume that a 500-kHz station will be optimized for either marine ground wave or sky wave, or both, since that’s where its expensive antenna really pays off. Whatever land ground wave service it offers in the daytime will be within that power range. Still, it’s easy enough to do the calculations for the lower power levels typical of mobile stations and see what the results are. A mobile station could conceivably loft a 500-kHz wire antenna on a kite or a balloon and lay out a few radials on the ground, though that’s unlikely to be a common practice.


Signals and noise


Electromagnetic noise is an unavoidable fact of life in radio communication. Signal-to-noise ratio is central to the calculations and estimates that follow. It’s what determines whether a radio signal will be heard.

The earth’s atmosphere is the dominant RF noise source below 10 MHz. The noise is generated mainly by thunderstorms, primarily in the tropics and in some continental interiors. The lightning bolt is both the RF source and the transmitting antenna, a miles-tall writhing filament of ionized air powered by megavolts and kiloamps.

Atmospheric noise decreases rapidly with frequency, giving way to cosmic sources somewhere above 10 MHz.

In the VHF and UHF bands, cosmic noise in turn gives way to noise sources within the receiver, leading to an entirely different set of engineering tradeoffs. But in 1636 the electronics industry won’t be ready to go there.

As in the previous articles, our criterion for an adequate signal-to-noise ratio for Morse code communication at commercial speeds is +16 dB in a 100 Hz bandwidth.

The European regions where we’re likely to see land action in the next few novels fall roughly from latitude 45 to 55 degrees north and 0 to 30 degrees east. The intensities for this region taken from the noise maps in the Radio Propagation Handbook are selected for summer, 8 PM to 4 AM. This is the most unfavorable season and time of day. That choice is appropriate to our objective, a reliable full-time communication service with minimal outages.

As with season and time of day, we will apply the graphs for standard deviation in the most pessimistic way. Authors needing uncertain communication in more favorable circumstances can make more optimistic estimates for distance or power requirements.

As noted in the earlier article, the handbook’s data and text dealing with atmospheric noise include no term for the gain of the receiving antenna. The assumption made here is that antenna directivity enhances noise pickup from the favored direction to the same degree that it suppresses noise from the insensitive directions, provided the noise is spatially uniform. Thus, the following table represents the noise received on any efficient antenna.

(An inefficient receiving antenna, such as a Beverage wave antenna, would attenuate noise and signal by the same amount, so the S/N would be unchanged, as long as the noise from the antenna remains greater than the receiver’s internal noise  At these frequencies, that would almost always be the case.)


Atmospheric noise in a 100 Hz bandwidth at selected frequencies, dBm


500 kHz 5 MHz 15 MHz
-68 -90 -116


Basic land antennas


For each of these three bands, we’ll assume for simplicity that the transmitting antenna is a full-size quarter-wave vertical with a ground plane. There are several reasons for this choice.

A land station on the 500-kHz band in this early period would almost certainly construct this type of antenna. Anything with higher performance would be structurally unaffordable.

Furthermore, any station wanting to use ground wave requires a vertically polarized antenna. Ground wave and sky wave are the useful modes at 500 kHz.

A mobile unit, on the other hand, would usually prefer a vertical antenna because it’s omnidirectional and easy to erect. It could be a quarter-wave vertical with a ground plane, or an elevated half-wave antenna such as a coaxial sleeve vertical. For simplicity, the calculations will be for the quarter-wave case. A quarter wavelength at 5 MHz is 15 meters, and a quarter wavelength at 15 MHz is 5 meters. Either of these would be lightweight structures, easy to break down and transport. A unit traveling with a wagon could easily carry disassembled poles and guy ropes of those dimensions, or shoot cords over a tree limb with a slingshot to support a wire antenna. Or, a half-wavelength vertical wire antenna of similar performance could be hung inside a church tower, provided it’s higher than any nearby metallic structure.

We’ll assume that these communication stations use their transmitting antennas to receive. That will usually be true in the early years. Specialized 500 kHz directional receiving antennas that deliver improved signal-to-noise ratio may come later, but probably not in 1636.

This is not to say that our early modern radio technicians and operators couldn’t design and construct more sophisticated antennas. They certainly could, and the higher in frequency they go, the smaller the arrays would be, and the easier to manage. Grantville arrives in the seventeenth century with multiple editions of The ARRL Antenna Book, an excellent practical guide to the design and construction of antennas for 1.8 MHz and higher. The popular antenna analysis program EZNEC was available in the 1990s; one or more of the hams might have had copies. So, it’s possible that certain fixed stations intending to communicate with distant mobiles might install high-gain directional arrays for 15 MHz on tall poles, and even make them rotatable. Generally, the benefit would tend more toward working weak mobiles in unfavorable locations than toward dramatically increased range. For a mobile unit, though, it would usually be easier to set up on a hilltop than to cope with a bulky and awkward directional antenna.

As for the horizontally polarized antennas common in twentieth-century ham radio, they’re designed to make optimum use of ionospheric skip in the HF bands. There’s little sky wave skip in those bands during the seventeenth-century sunspot minimum. Therefore, we leave them out of consideration.


Ground wave communication ranges


For ground wave on European land we’ll use the published path loss curves for “poor earth.”

Ereqd in the following table is the calculated signal strength in dB relative to 1 microvolt per meter, required to produce a +16 dB signal-to-noise ratio in a 100 Hz bandwidth at the stated regional noise level, at the given frequency, using the theoretical antennas on which the handbook’s charts are based.

G is the total gain of the two quarter-wave vertical antennas at the two ends of the link, relative to the theoretical antennas. The quarter-wave transmitting antenna has a gain of +3 dB compared to a short vertical, and the same antenna used for receiving has a gain of +5 dB relative to an isotropic antenna. Thus, the total antenna gain G=+8 dB. This term increases the signal power at the receiver without affecting the noise power. Conversely, it reduces the transmitter power required to achieve the target S/N of +16 dB. With that correction added, we can then apply the ground wave curves to find the maximum range at the stated transmitter power.

One limitation is that the handbook’s noise maps and ground wave loss curves only go to 10 MHz. Therefore, the figures for 15 MHz are extrapolated, and contain more uncertainty than those for 500 kHz and 5 MHz.

One caution that should be kept in mind when applying the maximum range estimates to story plotting is that they assume a receiver with an optimized narrow passband filter. The filters in the receivers built in the first few years won’t be that good; therefore, their working range will be somewhat less. This is particularly true of the little tuna-can transceivers. Nevertheless, they will be very useful for tactical field communications. The whole tuna-can outfit can be carried in a cavalry scout’s saddlebag, and set up in a few minutes. And, a regimental headquarters station with a good receiver would be able to hear it at the calculated range and answer with a hundred times the tuna can’s power.


Value, Units 500 kHz 5 MHz 15 MHz
Pnoise, dBm -68 -90 -116
Preqd, dBm -52 -74 -100
Ereqd, dB µV/m +18 +18 +0.4
Ereqd-G, dB µV/m +10 +10 -7.6
D1KW, km 350 73 80
D100W, km 250 45 55
D25W, km 200 33 44
D5W, km 155 22 31
D250mW, km 80 10.5 16


There are some interesting observations here. We see that lower frequencies give much longer ground wave distances across poor earth. Although the losses are much greater at the higher frequencies suited to mobile use, even modest power offers very useful ranges for tactical operations or village-to-village local nets. And power requirements go up rapidly as distance increases, because of the exponential factor in ground wave path losses. That’s why quite useful range is available even at very low power levels.

This suggests creating a general-purpose communication infrastructure consisting of many low-cost stations providing local access for end users, all connected together through a backbone network of much larger stations on lower frequencies.


Pseudo free space communication ranges


There’s a rule of thumb that says free space propagation occurs between a base station antenna on a hilltop or tower and a mobile unit at that base station’s geographic horizon. This type of radio path is extremely reliable; it’s more likely to be interrupted by artificial interference than by any natural phenomenon.

For spherical earth, the range calculation is a straightforward exercise in trigonometry. At ordinary hilltop heights, the horizon distance can be approximated accurately enough by a simplified equation in the REA handbook:



Dfree=free space path distance in miles

H1=height of base station antenna above ground level in feet

H2=height of mobile station antenna above ground level in feet

In kilometers and meters, that would be


There’s also a rule of thumb that the distance to the radio horizon is about 4/3 the distance to the geographic horizon. That’s because of refraction due to the density gradient in the lower atmosphere. However, that effect can vary a lot with weather conditions, especially at microwave frequencies. Relying on over-the-horizon tropospheric bending can result in random outages.

With the free-space geographic range calculated, the curves in the REA handbook can then supply the path loss. The curves assume an antenna height of 6 feet at the mobile end. That’s a reasonable assumption for our wagon-mobile units if they don’t find a convenient hill or a tall tree. We’ll do the path loss and power calculations for 15 MHz only, extrapolated from the 40 MHz loss curves. That’s less of an extrapolation than doing it for 5 MHz as well; also, the noise is much lower at 15 MHz, so that band is a good choice for land mobile use anyway.

The free space distance equation obviously includes the case in which both station antennas are elevated, as in hilltop-to-hilltop operation between relay stations. The range between them is the sum of their horizon distances. Of course, this assumes no terrain obstacles tall enough to obstruct the direct path between the stations, and no interfering bounces off highly reflective surfaces. For that case, where the wavefront continues to expand and the power density declines after the wave passes the transmitting station’s horizon, the path loss is not the sum of the losses of the two separate paths from each station to a 6-ft high station at their mutual horizon. Instead, the inverse square law applies to the second part of the path. For the case of two stations at equal heights, the additional path loss would be -6 dB due to the quadrupling of the wave front’s area in the second half of the path. Quadrupling the transmitter power would compensate for that. For example, taking the case in the table below where a 250-mW transmitter on a 1600-ft hill could reach a 6-ft high antenna 60 miles away, 1 W would be sufficient to reach a station on another 1600-ft hill 120 miles away.

The REA curves show path loss at distances continuing well beyond the horizon (for a mobile station on flat ground), at which point the free space wave transitions into ground wave, and the losses increase. In other words, with increased power it’s possible to communicate reliably for some distance beyond the geographic horizon. We’ll explore the distances where the received power falls to the desired +16 dB S/N, for 25 W, 5 W, and ¼ W.

The curves assume a half-wave vertical at the base station and a quarter-wave vertical at the mobile. That’s a reasonable setup for a fixed base station communicating with a mobile unit. A quarter-wave antenna at a mobile set-up on a hilltop might send 3 dB less power toward the lower elevations.

For this calculation, we’ll use the assumed antenna combination, and add a correction for the 15 MHz receiving antenna’s larger capture area relative to the same antenna design at 40 MHz. That comes out to G=+8.5 dB.

As with the ground wave case at 15 MHz:

  • Pnoise=-116 dBm
  • Receiver Preqd=-100 dBm

In the following table

  • Lfree is the path loss at Dfree
  • G=+8.5 dB
  • Pfree is the transmitter power required to achieve +16 dB S/N at Dfree

The published curves are drawn for eight base station heights given in feet, with distances in miles, so we’ll use those as the primary units and calculate the metric equivalents.


ft (m)
mi (km)
mi (km)
mi (km)
mi (km)
6 (1.83) 6.9 (11.1) -124.8 -116.3 0.042 10.6 (17) 20.5 (33) 28 (45)
25 (7.62) 10.5 (17) -129.5 -121 0.126 12 (19.3) 23.5 (37.8) 32 (51.5)
50 (15.2) 13.5 (21.7) -130 -121.5 0.141 15 (24.1) 28.5 (45.9) 38 (61.2)
100 (30.5) 17.6 (28.3) -128 -119.5 0.089 20.5 (33) 37 (59.6) 47 (75.7)
200 (61) 23.5 (37.88) -129.5 -121 0.126 27 (43.5) 45 (72.5) 57 (91.8)
400 (122) 31.7 (51.1) -130 -121.5 0.141 35.5 (57.2) 57 (91.8) 70 (113)
800 (244) 43.5 (70) -130.5 -122 0.159 47 (75.7) 71 (114) 90 (145)
1600 (488) 60 (96.6) -132.5 -124 0.251 60 (96.6) 86 (138) 105 (169)


In short, at any distance up to 60 miles, a quarter-watt tuna can transmitter is powerful enough to communicate by Morse code, as long as the station at the far end is on a high enough hill and has a receiving filter just wide enough to pass a CW signal.

With relatively simple first-generation tube equipment, five watts would be adequate to send messages over a 100-kilometer path, from even a fairly modest hilltop. Even a kilowatt wouldn’t be sufficient to do that by ground wave.

(Operators generally prefer not to select the narrowest possible filter that will pass the signal, unless they need it either to suppress noise or to separate closely-spaced signals in a crowded band. Given that mobile tube transmitters would usually fall into the 5- to 25-watt range, this propagation mode offers the less fatiguing sound of a somewhat wider filter.)

These examples demonstrate the great value of high locations for communication across land. With the coming of radio, mountaintops have become strategic terrain. That’s why the USE government maintains a major relay station on top of the Brocken in the Harz Mountains. Though canon doesn’t mention a permanent station atop the Großer Beerberg in the Thüringerwald, it’s reasonable to expect one there as well. Let’s look briefly at a few terrain altitudes of interest in the USE.


Feature Altitude MSL
ft (m)
mi (km)

above 50 m
Approximate location
North German plain, typical 80-250 (25-75) Most regions north of Grantville
Brocken 3747 (1142) 89 (144) 118 km SW of Magdeburg

243 km S of Hamburg

132 km N of Grantville

Großer Beerberg 3222 (982) 82 (132) 37 km W of Grantville

85 km N of Bamberg

140 km N of Nürnberg

216 km N of Ingolstadt

Aircraft at 5000 ft 5000 (1524) 101 (164)
Aircraft at 14000 ft
max altitude without oxygen
14000 (4267) 170 (274)



Diffraction losses


Calculating the additional path loss due to diffraction over an obstacle can be very complex. The Radio Propagation Handbook devotes an entire chapter to it, and we can’t do full justice to the topic here. What we can do is examine a few simple cases that a mobile communication crew is likely to encounter.

If a radio path that’s otherwise free-space or close to it is obstructed by higher terrain near one end, it can be modeled mathematically to a good approximation as an additional loss term added to the free space path loss. The diffraction loss can be compensated by increasing the transmitter power. That loss is a nonlinear function of the frequency and the angle through which the path must bend to reach the receiver. The handbook provides a nomograph for the purpose.

If both ends of the path are obstructed, then two diffraction loss terms must be added to the free space path loss.

The handbook says that diffraction is likely to dominate the path over the obstacle if the bend angle is less than 0.02 radian. That’s equivalent to a 2% grade, if the wave arrives at the obstacle parallel to the horizon. For example, that would be the case if there were a 50-meter-high ridge line 1 km from the receiver. If the angle is greater than that, the handbook indicates that other less lossy propagation mechanisms such as forward scatter might deliver a stronger signal to the receiver. However, the chapter is written with UHF and microwave signals in mind. At the wavelength of a 15 MHz signal (20 meters) other modes are less likely to be of much help, so we’ll make the pessimistic assumption that an obstructed station depends on diffraction.


Diffraction Angle
50 m Obstruction Distance
15 MHz Diffraction Loss
Transmitter Power Multiplier
0.01 2 9.5 8.9
0.02 1 11 12.6
0.04 0.5 12 15.8


For example, a mobile unit communicating with a base station on a 30-meter hill 28 km away over an unobstructed path would require about 90 mW. But if the mobile’s path is blocked by a 50-meter ridge 1 km away, the route would require 12.6 times as much power, or 1.13 W. If both ends are similarly obstructed, 14.2 W would be needed.

50 watts should be sufficient to communicate over the majority of pseudo-free space paths where there’s a single obstruction at one end. Mobile-to-mobile paths where both stations have limited power and nearby obstructions tend to have significantly reduced range. That situation is common in hilly terrain. For that reason, there would be a tactical advantage to setting up a relay station or a command post on a high location, if one can be secured in the operation area.




Radio waves reflect from conductive surfaces and can bounce into shadowed areas. In up-time cites reflections off the metal structures of buildings are very common. In the seventeenth-century world it’s possible that 15 MHz signals might reflect from metal-roofed church spires or off steep cliffs. Otherwise, they’re not likely to be a frequent source of help to radio operators. The handbooks give little information on estimating their magnitude, except for billboard-sized metal mirrors used on microwave fixed routes and oriented with great care.


Sky wave


To recap very briefly the discussion in “1636: Marine Radio in the Mediterranean,” sky wave below the AM broadcast band is likely to be reliable while the ionospheric path is in full darkness. That lasts from about an hour after sunset at the west end of the path to an hour before sunrise at the east end. The range estimated in that article, using a standard full-size antenna on a single-hop path, came out to about 950 km with 100 watts, and 2000 km with 1 kilowatt.

Shorter ranges may be iffy. The published loss curves for 100 and 200 kHz show reasonable path losses down to 200 km or so, but this may not be reliable in the weak ionization conditions of the seventeenth century. A signal striking the ionosphere at a steep angle may not be bent enough to return to earth. The shallower incidence angles at longer ranges are more likely to be reflected back to the ground.

Thus, we could encounter a skip-over zone somewhere between 350 km where 24/7 ground wave becomes too weak to copy, and 500 km or so, where night-time sky wave first reaches the ground. Message traffic for that dead zone might have to be relayed by a station 1000 km away.

Interestingly, the “gray line” mode canonized in a number of places, beginning in 1632 itself, is a manifestation of sky wave, but at higher frequencies. The canon contacts made with this mode used unmodified up-time ham gear. Ham transmitters aren’t built to operate at 500 kHz and lower. Their lowest band starts at 1.8 MHz. At that frequency, the weak ionization of the seventeenth-century Maunder Minimum is barely enough to offer skip for a short period around twilight. Sky wave opens when the ionosphere’s high-loss lower layer fades shortly after sunset, allowing the signals to reach the higher layers where skip happens. But the higher-layer ionization degrades with time, too. The higher frequencies need stronger ionization to be bent back to earth, so the ham band opening fades quickly. The short duration of that opening limits communication to stations near the same longitude, hence the term “gray line.” But based on long historical experience, medium and low frequencies should be able to reflect off much weaker ionization than the ham bands need, and persist for many hours during the night.


Spark communication capabilities


Having covered with reasonable confidence what CW could do using the major propagation modes, it’s time to take a look at spark. Here, we’re on much shakier ground. In fact, any estimate of what could be done with spark verges on outright speculation. The problem is that most of the published material dealing with spark that can be easily found nowadays is more historical than technical. There are a great many unknowns.

We do have Rick Boatright’s spark article “Radio FAQ Part 1: Spark and Crystal Radios” posted at We also have “The History of Amateur Radio, Part IV” at They’re in good agreement that after the U.S. 1912 Radio Act pushed hams above 1.5 MHz (200 meters), the working ranges were typically between 25 and 75 miles. That’s with 600 watts input, on ground wave across North American “good earth,” with the equipment and antenna a ham could set up at home. So, what should we expect in our early NTL years in Europe?

It’s a fair guess that anyone who doesn’t have access to tube gear probably won’t be getting power from a commercial electric utility, either. That’s doubly true for a mobile station. So, 20 or 30 watts from storage batteries or pedal generators is a lot more likely than 600 watts. Not to mention, components for that power level would be a lot easier to fabricate from materials generally available in early modern times, and a lot more reliable as well. And, as noted above, European soil is typically considered to be “poor earth” in the absence of specific data.

Going from 600 watts down to 30 watts is a change of -13 dB. We can look up the loss for ground wave propagation across 75 miles on good earth at 1.5 MHz, and then look up the distance on the poor-earth chart for 13 dB less loss at the same frequency.

All other things being equal, we get 13 miles (21 km).

But all other things may very well not be equal.

For a typical early twentieth-century ham living in a suburban lot with trees for antenna supports, a full-size antenna for 1.5 MHz was impossible, let alone an optimally constructed full-size antenna. That would be 50 meters high on a ground plane 100 meters in diameter. The obvious solution would be a “T” antenna. But there usually wasn’t the space or budget for that either.

What a ham in that period could usually put up would be a single wire going up at a roughly vertical angle to somewhere in a tree’s branches. A single horizontal wire from the top to another tree would provide some amount of capacitive top-loading, but the more-or-less vertical wire would connect to one end, not to the precise center. Then, instead of multiple radial wires at ground level for the return current to flow into with low resistive loss, there would usually be a clamp on a single water pipe running out to the water main in the street. Lacking city water, there would often be nothing more than an eight-foot metal rod driven into the ground outside the window, which might or might not reach the water table.

Everything is wrong with this. It’s a random shortened vertical, which has a broadened vertical radiation pattern to begin with. The antenna current is less than optimally coupled to the electromagnetic field; that requires the electrical resistances elsewhere in the RF circuit to be very low if the antenna is to be at all efficient. But the ground resistance is high, so power is wasted. Because the horizontal wire isn’t centered on the top of the vertical wire, horizontally polarized emission isn’t cancelled out, so some of the power is wasted in a horizontally polarized signal that can’t couple into the ground wave. The random-wire top loading is generally insufficient to resonate the antenna, so inductance must be added, but an imperfect inductor adds more resistance to the circuit and wastes more power. The tilt of the vertical wire further de-optimizes coupling into the ground wave.

It does radiate. Any conductor that carries RF current will radiate something. It just doesn’t do an efficient job of converting RF power into a ground wave signal.

A military communications detachment in the field, or a commercial enterprise with money to spend and the connections to obtain an unobstructed site, need not accept these limitations. They could locate where there’s room to put up a proper antenna for the band they’re using. (This becomes easier if they select a higher frequency, where antennas aren’t so large.)

Another limitation of the early ham station was the crystal set. A crystal set’s only source of power to drive the headset is the radio wave. The signal-to-noise ratio was not the only determinant of whether the signal could be heard; it was the absolute strength of the signal itself. The capture area and efficiency of the receiving antenna had as much to do with that as the transmitting antenna. (Not only that, the passive crystal set imposes an unfortunate trade-off between selectivity and sensitivity. The more tightly the resonant tank circuit is coupled to the antenna, the more signal can be passed through to the headset, but the broader its bandwidth becomes, and less effective it is in separating signals on nearby frequencies.)

Those limitations would be the case for most of the crystal sets in our fictional universe, but it need not be true for all of them. One of the pieces of bypassed technology, which is certainly known to Grantville’s radio scholars, is the electromechanical audio amplifier. In principle, it’s an earphone mechanically coupled to a carbon microphone. Drive one or two stages of audio amplification from a crystal set, and a weak signal could be brought up to audibility. Noise would again become the limitation.

Combine optimally designed and installed antennas with crude audio amplification, and perhaps that -13 dB could be made up. That doesn’t take deep knowledge and years of experience, it just takes money, materials, and manpower. Any army that’s had a spy in the libraries could at least optimize its antennas.

Which bands would likely be used for spark radio is another major area of uncertainty. 1.5 MHz is inside the upper end of the AM broadcast band. All the thousands of legacy up-time broadcast band receivers cover 530 kHz to 1.710 MHz with 10 kHz channel spacing. That’s a large enough installed base of equipment to permanently nail down that band for broadcasting. Spark would be most unwelcome there. Besides, an optimum antenna for such a low frequency is inconveniently large for most users, especially mobile stations. Broadcasting stations are few in number and commercially funded, hence can afford good antennas and enough power to reach crystal sets.

The next band up in the spectrum is the 160-meter ham band at 1.8 to 2.0 MHz, which has been in use for vital government and military communication almost from the time the up-timers arrived. The spectrum plot of a spark transmitter in Rick’s article shows most of the power concentrated in a 10 kHz bandwidth, but with splatter spreading out for 100 kHz on each side.  That kind of interference would be even more unwelcome in this busy piece of spectrum.

Up-time band allocations place a marine band at 2.0 to 2.5 MHz, which appears in “Storm Signals” (Grantville Gazette 31). That’s a broad enough chunk of spectrum to accommodate at least one spark channel without seriously inconveniencing all the CW stations. The experimental spark transmitter Rick cites was tested at 2 MHz, so we know it’s feasible. It’s reasonable to expect some spark stations at somewhat higher frequencies as well, to take advantage of the smaller and less expensive antennas, the more modest demands on real estate, and the less demanding logistics.

Rational considerations don’t always govern in real life, though. A wide variety of individuals, associations, businesses, governments, and other entities are likely to get involved with radio in the early years. They’ll have wildly varying resources, sources of knowledge, locations, and willingness to cooperate with others. Given all that, spark stations are liable to show up anywhere in the low, medium, and high frequency bands. The efficiency and radiation pattern may be abysmal, but any antenna will put out some kind of a signal. Even if a random length of wire isn’t tuned to resonance, it will radiate something, if there’s any RF current flowing in it at all. Depending on the need of the moment, it might be enough.

So, things could get quite messy for quite a long time, until tube gear becomes a lot more plentiful. The hash and splatter from spark stations could be showing up in more places and on more frequencies as time goes on. CW operators with good receivers are likely to be very grateful for their narrow filters and noise blankers.





Saveskie, Peter N. Radio Propagation Handbook. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: Tab Books, 1980. ISBN 0-8306-9949-X, ISBN 0-8306-1146-0 pbk.

Rural Electrification Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture REA Bulletin 66-8 Power System Communications: Mobile Radio Systems. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1978.

American Radio Relay League The ARRL Antenna Book. Various editions.

Boatright, Rick. “Radio FAQ Part 1: Spark and Crystal Radios”

Boatright, Rick. “Radio FAQ Part 3: RF Environment”

Unidentified author. “The History of Amateur Radio, Part IV”

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A Printer’s Dream


September, 1633


Louis Elzevir noticed a shadow over his shoulder as he finished the last bit of goldwork on the exquisite, red-leather bound tome he had been laboring over for weeks. The twenty-nine-year-old journeyman had slaved over this volume; everything from the typesetting, to the printing of each page, to the bookbinding was by his own hand. Louis poured his soul into this order. It was designed to show the printers of Amsterdam that he was worthy to join their ranks. Louis wished to get married, set up his own shop, and start a family. He would need this book and many more like it to show that he was ready. Slowly, not sure who was casting the shadow, Louis turned around. The master of the shop, Willem Jansz Blaeui, was looking over Louis’ shoulder at the newly finished book. Louis stepped aside as the book was picked up for inspection. The master turned the pages carefully examining the printing on the pages, several of the illustrations, and even tested the quality of the binding by opening the book well past flat. Blaeu’s face was as inscrutable as a sphinx until he slowly and carefully set down the book and broke into a smile. “A fine work worthy of presentation to a distinguished customer, Louis. If your work continues like this, I will be happy to support your elevation to master when the time comes.”

Louis practically strutted out of the shop that day. Blaeu was old and would need someone to take over the shop within the next few years. If Louis could take over Blaeu’s business or even just a few of the more valuable contracts, like the one with the Athenaeum, his future was assured. He had come to Amsterdam only a few months before, lured by rumors of booming business and room for more masters. It was now all so close to his grasp. Louis caught the eye of a few of his fellow journeymen, and together they went to one of their favorite taverns to celebrate.

The next morning, Louis’ head ached. Too much strong beer had passed between his lips the night before and now he had to drag himself into work. Louis struggled to get ready for the day, and then staggered out of his lodgings to visit his favorite cook shop for some breakfast to help soothe his hangover. The sun was shining far too brightly for Louis’ liking and despite how pretty the day was starting out, everything seemed to pall. There were far fewer people on the streets than there should have been at this hour, and those that were on the streets were huddled in small groups. The past few days had been like this. Everyone was waiting on news of the Dutch fleet that had sailed out to meet the Spanish blockade. The Dutch fleet was unstoppable and was supported by the strong French and English fleets, but lately the world had been turned upside down by the odd new town in the Germanies. Nothing seemed to be certain anymore, including the strength of armies. An unstoppable Spanish army had been burnt to a crisp in the Wartburg, and the mighty Catholic army had suffered several defeats, including the loss of both Tilly and Wallenstein. Nothing seemed certain anymore.

Louis quickened his pace and swiftly reached the cook shop. Several of his friends were there already, looking much as Louis felt. The shop owner took one look at their table, ducked behind the counter, and pulled out an odd bluish-white box.

“Here, these are better than any other remedy I know for curing the effects of too much ale. They come from an up-time recipe using essence of willow bark and I guarantee they actually work,” the shop owner wheedled.

He then opened the box and let Louis and his friends examine the contents of the box, some odd blue pellets. After some quick dickering over price, Louis bought two of the pills and his usual breakfast order.

Louis was only halfway through his meal when an acquaintance, Karel, burst into the shop carrying some barely dry broadsheets. Karel was trembling and his face was pallid.

“Karel, what’s wrong? Here, come sit by me and calm down,” Louis said and patted the bench beside him.

“Calm down?! The Dutch fleet has been destroyed!! Haarlem has fallen! The Spanish are at the doorsteps of The Hague and we are next! How can I be calm?! Get out of Amsterdam if you can!” Karel shrieked, throwing down the broadsheets on a table. Then Karel paused, as if struck by a horrible thought, and whimpered “Mother!” before rushing out the door.

Louis sat there frozen while one of his friends went and grabbed one of the broadsheets. It only took a quick glance at the broadsheet to confirm what Karel had said. Louis leapt up from the table, ran out the door, and beat a swift path back to his lodgings, sinking onto his bed once he entered his room. What should I do? I can go to work, but if the Spanish were coming, what is the point? The Spanish burned towns and people wholesale. They’d put everyone to the sword in Amsterdam. It would be worse than Magdeburg if I stay here, death by either starvation and disease or by a sword. I have no family in Amsterdam, no reason to stay, other than my dreams of opening a shop here. At the thought of family, Louis sprang up and started gathering up his meager possessions and cramming them into a rucksack. He would be a true journeyman once more and see what Amsterdam’s fate would be.




May, 1634


For almost nine months, Louis had lingered in Leiden, waiting for an opportunity to return to Amsterdam. Fortunately, his uncle and cousin had room for a journeyman in their shop, and it was interesting, for the first few months at least, to study the extensive collection of type his family owned, which covered everything from common typefaces for Latin and Greek, to exotic and rare ones like Syrian and Ethiopianii. When he wasn’t assisting his cousin Abraham with the presses, he was helping his Uncle Bonaventure in the bookshop, binding the books to get them ready for sale. It was worthwhile work that increased his already extensive skill set, but there was no room for another master in Leiden. There was not enough demand for another person to set up a shop, and all of the master printers were in fairly good health or had a different successor in mind. Based on the newspapers and the occasional letter he received from friends stuck in the city, Louis thought the siege was a truly unusual one. There was no disease in either the city or the Spanish camp, goods and money were flowing into and out of the city, and the Prince of Orange was negotiating a settlement with the Spanish prince in charge of the siege. Louis was merely waiting for word that it was safe to return.

Louis had spent a long, hard day in the important job of beater, inking the type before it was pressed. It was a task that showed off his skills as a printer, but it felt pointless to show off when there was no room for further advancement and his kinsmen did not seem to notice when Louis produced exquisite pressings over and over, did some excellent work binding every page neat and straight, or other little things which showed off his skill, while the other journeymen seemed to show half his skill and be showered with praise. However, if the ink was fat when he was the beater, a page or two crooked either in a pressing or after binding, or he got caught playing quadratsiii, he received a harsher punishment and lecture than anyone else even if they were playing quadrats with him. He was family and was expected to be the best and set a good example. Louis couldn’t wait to leave Leiden and return to Amsterdam where he would be seen as another senior journeyman, instead of “family” and held to an equal level with his peers instead of a ridiculously high standard no mortal could meet.

Finally, the long day was over. Louis and several of the other journeymen washed up and headed to their favorite tavern to grab some dinner. As soon as he entered, the publican waved him over to the bar and held out a letter. It had one of those new portraits on it to show the postage had been paid, this one in the colors of the House of Orange. It was from Karel, who had been unable to flee Amsterdam with his infirm mother and younger siblings, so he had endured the siege instead.

Full of anticipation, Louis tore open the wax seal and started reading Karel’s slightly messy scrawl. The letter began promisingly; Karel was now the master of his own shop. The printers and booksellers who had stayed behind had decided to confiscate the shops of those who had fled and sold them at market price to the available journeymen. Lucky Karel, Louis thought jealously. Then there came the crushing blow, Karel wrote, “Although you are a great printer and bookmaker worthy of a shop anywhere and I would support your elevation here in Amsterdam, the rest of the guild is not ready to admit any journeyman who fled to the rank of master. I do not know if this will change eventually. You should be able to return now if you wish, but there is not a place here for you. I have heard that Grantville and Magdeburg have plenty of opportunities for journeymen to become masters. Maybe you should try there instead. They will welcome a printer and bookmaker of your skill.”

Louis barely glanced at the rest of the letter. Karel prattled on about an up-time doctress treating his mother, the wonders of the Committee of Correspondence sanitation procedures, and other inanities. Louis’ appetite was gone. A black depression was engulfing him. Amsterdam has no place for me anymore? That blasted whoreson! I fled when you warned me in such dire terms of the looming siege. Now you’re a master and have the temerity to tell me that because I fled the siege, I am not welcome in Amsterdam? The only reason you didn’t flee was because your mother couldn’t travel fast enough to beat the Spanish army, otherwise you would have run from Amsterdam faster than I had. Curse you, Karel! Louis slumped onto a bench and tried to cure his woes with food, ale, and some ginever.




June, 1634


Louis functioned in a fog. His dreams were dead. His work suffered from the black cloud surrounding him. Pages were crooked and smeared, bindings were poor, and Louis barely spoke and never smiled. Even his kinsmen seemed to be worried about him, barely chastising the sudden drop in the quality of his work and insisting Louis eat his breakfast and dinner with family instead of on his own. At each meal, he was subjected to an interrogation to find out what was wrong.

Sunday dinner at Abraham’s residence had been the worst. The entire meal was uncomfortable, with Abraham asking prodding questions like “Louis, what is wrong with you? Your work is terrible of late and you attitude is detrimental to everyone around you. Do you want to be dismissed?”

Abraham’s wife Marie made things even more painful by trying to coddle him with comments like “Now dear, don’t push Louis. I’m sure Louis will tell us if anything is wrong when he is ready. He knows he can trust us, and we will do anything in our power to help him.” Worst of all, Abraham’s family was there including his eleven-year-old cousin Jean, drinking in the whole awkward scene.

Finally, Louis blew up at them. “Someone I once called a friend just wrote to me that I’m no longer welcome in Amsterdam because I’m a coward and should try my luck in Magdeburg or Grantville! No one wants me in Amsterdam, there’s no future for me in Leiden, and I doubt there is much of a market for scholarly books in either Grantville or Magdeburg!” Louis pushed himself back from the table, stormed out of the dining room, slammed the door behind him. He stomped back to his meager lodgings. He and Abraham had barely spoken even when Louis worked in the print shop, but he was sure that Abraham had informed Bonaventure about Louis’ words and behavior and that the pair were planning to dismiss him.

Louis was working for Bonaventure binding books. He tended to make fewer mistakes at this particular art. The day was bright and sunny, which felt like it was mocking him. He had been hard at work for a few hours when Bonaventure had strolled into the small, brightly-lit building in his typical cheerful mood. Then Abraham had stormed into the shop bellowing about dirty thieves and worthless kinsmen, before Bonaventure had steered him into the office to calm him down. Louis expected that he was in for a tongue-lashing at the least and would probably be dismissed from the shop. He probably deserved it. I’m useless. Everyone knows I cowardly fled, and no one wants me in Amsterdam. Karel suggested I go to Grantville or Magdeburg, but neither has a university, and I doubt there is room for a bookseller and printer with a scholarly bent. My kinsmen are surely going to dismiss me, and I have no idea of where to go to next, Louis thought dejectedly.

After what had seemed to be an eternity, his uncle and cousin staggered from the office in a better mood, but it was unclear if that was due to a productive discussion, or the relief one usually felt after making a difficult decision. Louis felt his stomach fall to the floor when his cousin looked at him, extended an accusatory finger and said, “Louis, we have business to discuss.” Feeling the heat of the stares of everyone else in the shop on his back, Louis slumped into the office, struggling to look nonchalant about the expected dismissal.

As soon as he entered the office, Louis took note of the drained ginever bottles on the desk. It wasn’t normal for his kinsmen to resort to liquid courage. That was usually for mourning or celebration. To his surprise, Uncle Bonaventure gestured for him to sit down, instead of keeping him standing for a dressing-down. Feeling a touch apprehensive, Louis sat down in one of the comfortable chairs that were usually reserved for clientele and looked across the room at his uncle and cousin. Everything felt off, and Louis did not trust the smiles on the faces of his uncle and cousin.

His uncle took a breath, seemingly to gather his thoughts, and began. “Louis, we know that you are upset about Amsterdam and have been trying to decide what to do next, and we have a little proposal for you. We think it would be smart for you to go to Jena to study up-time printing and publishing methods. At the Frankfurt fair, the customers only wanted up-time books. Those printers using new methods from Grantville had more copies of many different books than we could produce in five years to sell and were doing a brisk trade. We know you would like to be near a university. The one in Jena has a great reputation, and the printers there have been acquiring those new methods. With these skills, you should be able to set up a shop wherever you like.”

Louis breathed out deeply as he digested his uncle’s words. To give up on my dream of Amsterdam will make it official I am a failure, or will I be a failure if I just cling to my dashed dream and give up on my future? Abraham cleared his throat, looked at him and said, “If you do choose to go to Jena, there is a favor I would like to ask of you. I would like you to escort Jean to Jena to begin his apprenticeship at one of the printing or publishing houses there to learn both traditional and up-time printing methods. While you are in Jena I would appreciate it if you kept an eye on Jean and ensured that his apprenticeship and education are suitable for when he takes his place here.”

Louis fought the urge to sigh. The request was one he should have expected. As a senior journeyman of almost thirty and family, Louis was the perfect person for the job of escorting Jean to find an apprenticeship. Jean was family, and Louis loved him as a kinsman, but Jean was trying at the best of times. The boy was smart, but he was already gaining a reputation for being enthusiastic, yet inconsistent. Little things like starting to sweep a floor to impress people and then getting distracted partway through, building a grand model ship to impress his uncle, Isaac, and stopping midway through, and heaps of other partially complete tasks and chores. Jean tended to dream big but then would not put in the work to make his dreams bear fruit. It was a tendency that he would hopefully grow out of or get beaten out of him by the right master. Louis could also guess that when Uncle Bonaventure’s eldest son Daniel was ready, Louis would be asked to find an apprenticeship for him, too. But as much as he didn’t like it, it appeared the best way forward would be to forget Amsterdam and forge a new path. So off to Jena he would go. At least it had a nice proper university so he could print for the scholarly Latin trade, although he wasn’t sure if there would be room for him to become a master.

After ten days of preparation, Louis and Jean set off for Jena, bearing letters of introduction to the master printers there. Uncle Bonaventure also included a letter to Dr. Green and the Bibelgesellschaft in order to start a dialogue with a potential new client, since they had been so kind to write him about the wonderful Bibles that sadly didn’t sell well.



Near Arnheim

July, 1634


Five days, only five days on the road, and Jean would not stop whining about how his feet were aching. True, Jean had never traveled so far in his life, but Louis was on his last nerve. Even being kind to Jean and carrying both of their rucksacks for a while didn’t alleviate the complaints. Then as they came around a bend in the road, he spied a welcome sight, a slightly ramshackle inn where they could stop for a greatly needed midday meal. Sitting down and eating would hopefully stall Jean’s complaints for a little while. The boy really needed to develop some stamina, endurance, and forbearance in Louis’ opinion. Once he was apprenticed, Jean would have all of the worst jobs in the shop. Constant complaining would win him no friends. It was best if he were broken of the habit as soon as possible. But now it was time to get some food. They could venture on, but it would likely be another hour at least before there was another coaching inn, and Louis’ stomach was rumbling. Louis started to enter the coaching inn, took one look at the dim, dank interior of the inn and instead steered Jean to a table beneath a large oak tree. Then Louis ventured inside the inn to order two steins of small beer and food for two. First came the two small beers, some bowls of stew with a bit of crusty bread, then there was a platter of stinky, runny cheese and sausage. Louis gave Jean a stern look and said, as gravely as he could, “Jean, eat the stew and bread. Don’t eat the cheese and sausage.”

Jean rolled his eyes at Louis and had the nerve to say, “But Louis, they both look tasty. I love cheese.” Then Jean grabbed a few pieces before Louis could push the platter out of Jean’s reach, and swiftly plopped them in his mouth. “Mmm, this is really good. Louis you should try some.” Louis just fought the urge to sigh and pushed the platter away so Jean couldn’t grab more. Hopefully, Jean wouldn’t learn why Louis had avoided the platter.

Sadly, not long after they reached another coaching inn to stop for the night, Jean learned why Louis had told him not to eat the platter of cheese and sausage. They had barely entered the inn and sat down to supper when Jean broke out in sweat and his face blanched. Instead of a nice supper followed by chatting with their fellow travelers to pick up the latest news and gossip, Jean spent the evening in their room groaning over a chamber pot. The next morning, Jean was still pale and ate only bread with a bit of broth. They made very slow progress for the next two days until Jean recovered from his self-inflicted illness. After that, Jean only ate what Louis indicated was okay.




July, 1634


Finally, the pair reached Jena. Jean had learned to stop complaining around ten days into their journey, thank goodness, but that didn’t stop Jean’s constant questions about everything. Louis found lodgings at an inn that wasn’t too expensive but looked reasonably clean. Then he and Jean rifled through their packs to find a precious parcel. Within were letters sealed with wax. “Louis, what are those? Why do we need them now?” Jean asked.

Louis patiently answered, “Jean, these are letters of introduction your father and Uncle Bonaventure wrote for us. It will be hard to find a master willing to take you without a proper letter of introduction. I need them as well to help prove my status and skills. The masters of Jena will want to know who we are and where we come from. Let’s grab a quick meal and then go meet the printers here. I think Uncle Bonaventure recommended we visit Ernst Steinmanniv first.” So, after some lunch to recover from their travels, they set out towards Steinmann’s shop.

Ernst Steinmann had a large print shop from his father.  It was located right near several of the University of Jena’s important buildings, as befitted a notable shop. The shop reminded Louis of the shop founded by his grandfather in Leiden. With some trepidation, Louis entered with Jean trailing behind. The Elzevir name wasn’t a bad one in printing and bookselling, and hopefully, Steinmann wouldn’t mind taking on the Elzevir boys in exchange for apprenticeships and journeymen berths for his own kin with the Elzevirs in Leiden. The familiar scents of paper and ink filled the air. It was noisy and bustling. There were only the slightest of glances at the two strangers in the shop. Everyone seemed to be very intent on the task at hand or at the drama occurring at the far end of the shop near some boxes of type. A well-dressed, dark-haired man who looked only a few years older than Louis was loudly rebuking a sandy-haired man Louis’ age while waving around a printed page and gesturing at several more. Finding a man slightly older than him who appeared to be supervising, or simply watching the work going on all around him, Louis asked where Meister Steinmann could be found. A finger pointed at the well-dressed man.

Louis hesitated, debating what to do. Jean looked slightly scared and anxiously tugged on his cousin’s sleeve. It would have been better to wait until Steinmann was in a better mood, but there was only so much money in the purse Abraham and Bonaventure had given them for the journey. They needed to find a willing master or masters quickly. Taking a quick breath to brace himself and bringing his courage to bear, Louis and Jean approached the man identified as Steinmann. As they approached, they heard, “Just because up-timers will accept a blurry, crooked page does not excuse printing one. The scholars of Jena and Europe demand better, and so do I. If you want to continue printing sloppily and rushed, you are dismissed from this shop.” Steinmann whirled around to face Louis and Jean as soon as he noticed them. “Who are you and what do you want?” Steinmann barked.

Louis bowed slightly and then held out the letters from Uncle Bonaventure and Abraham. “How do you do, Meister Steinmann, I presume? My name is Louis Elzevir, and this is my cousin Jean Elzevir. We are seeking a master printer to work under. I am a senior journeyman, and my cousin is seeking to begin an apprenticeship. The Meister Elzevir speak highly of your skill and knowledge.” Louis barely kept a nervous tremor out of his voice and thankfully, his hands were not shaking. Jean, however, was trembling like a leaf.

Ernst Steinmann inspected Louis and Jean, with the glare softening. “I see Bonaventure has not lost his good taste. I run a select shop and work heavily with the scholars of the University of Jena. I am looking for a new journeyman at the moment, and I am always open to taking on an apprentice.” Steinmann glared at the sandy-haired youth, who turned beet-red. “Let’s discuss this more in my office, shall we?” Steinmann motioned for the pair to follow him to a door on the furthest wall.

Once inside, Louis glanced at their surroundings. In the office, there was a small desk that was well-organized with one tidy stack of papers and another of books. On the walls on either side of the desk were bookshelves lined with volumes, the cloth of the binding and the gilding still bright. Behind the desk, there were two small windows covered with oilcloth. In one corner opposite the desk, there were several well-constructed wooden chairs. In the other, there was a small stack of ornate cushions. After Steinmann closed the door behind them and gestured for the pair to bring over and take a seat on the chairs, Jean started to move towards the cushions, but Louis stopped him. Those cushions would only be added to the chairs for the comfort of important clientele, not for the likes of Louis and Jean. It was a kind gesture that they were allowed to sit in the first place, instead of stand.

Once Louis and Jean were seated, Steinmann began peppering Louis with questions designed to confirm his skill level and technical knowledge. Once Steinmann was certain what the pair already knew of the arts of printing and bookmaking, the important question was asked, “What is it you are looking to learn? I have a host of skills and techniques I am willing to teach each of you, but I find it useful to start with what you are interested in learning.”

Taking a moment to gather his thoughts and quickly nudge Jean to warn him to keep quiet when he started to open his mouth, Louis began, “We are looking for a few things. One is to learn or expand our knowledge of traditional techniques. The other is to learn up-time techniques.” Louis didn’t bother mentioning becoming the master of his own shop. Steinmann was only a little older than Louis and had only a few years before inherited it from his father. This was not a shop Louis could take over.

Steinmann snorted at the mention of up-time techniques. “Do you want to be like my journeyman who just ruined a folio of paper? The current methods coming out of Grantville are slovenly and slothful. The only benefit is speed, while the results are smeared and crooked. I pride myself on the quality of my publishing. I will not accept anything that messy. Many of the books that came from up-time are splendidly printed, but the new techniques are wretched. If you wish to understand what I mean, go visit Barbara Weidnerv, Johann’s widow, and her second husband Christoph Kuche. I will be glad to train you both if you put aside this foolishness.”

After a few more minutes of idle chatter, both Louis and Jean thanked Meister Steinmann for his time, requested a few days to mull the decision over, and headed back out onto the streets of Jena. Steinmann would not be suitable if they wished to learn up-time printing techniques, and his family’s instructions were to find someone or someones to train Jean in the new methods. Steinmann’s offer was also of little use to Louis. Louis was looking to become a master, and there would be no room for advancement in Steinmann’s shop.

So Louis decided to visit the shop Steinmann had mentioned, that of Barbara Weidner and her second husband, Christoph Kuche. Although Christoph Kuche was the master of the shop, it was owned by Barbara Weidner, who would have been a master printer if she were a man. The shop was a fairly small one and situated not as close to the university itself. However, it appeared to be quite well-built and well-maintained. After entering the building, Louis was surprised by how quiet and still it was. Most print shops were filled with the sound of the presses in operation and the small clinks as the type were set in a page. Instead, there was an odd rat-a-tat-tat sound coupled with a chime, plus odd rubbing sounds. No one was standing near the press, and all attention was on a contraption with what appeared to be cylinders on it and some trays. One person was feeding in paper and watching the trays while another cranked the handle on the large machine. At another station was a small device with a sheet of paper jutting out of it that was unlike anything Louis had ever seen. It had large coins on sticks that someone was pressing down and was the source of the odd rat-a-tat-tat and chime. A third station had someone with a razor blade carefully cutting out letters. The final station had someone coating pages with wax. Hovering over it all was a respectably dressed medium-sized woman with gray hair streaked with chestnut. “Is this a printer’s shop or have we come to the wrong place?” Louis wondered aloud. Jean looked dumbfounded next to him.

The woman turned around when she heard Louis speak. “This is indeed a print shop, a very modern one. Are you looking to publish something? We can produce large runs of pamphlets and broadsheets quickly and at a reasonable rate.”

“My name is Louis Elzevir and this is my cousin Jean Elzevir.” Louis gestured to his cousin next to him. “We are looking for a master printer to work under. I am a senior journeyman and Jean would like to begin his apprenticeship.” Once again, Louis held out the letters of recommendation that Uncle Bonaventure addressed to Meister Christoph Kuche and Barbara Weidner.

Barbara Weidner nodded to the pair and took the letters. She called over to the sallow-faced youth who was working at the cutting station. “Hans, can you go and fetch Meister Kuche? I believe he is at a meeting in the tavern down the street.” As Hans went off to fetch the master of the shop, its mistress turned her focus back towards the pair of Elzevirs before her. “Let me show you around the shop. I doubt you have seen anything like it in Leiden.”

First, she took them over to the large contraption with rollers and trays. “This is a Vignelli duplicator. From one waxed paper stencil, we can produce 50 copies, and when we make a waxed silk stencil for a really large order, we can produce 500 copies.” She held up a piece of paper. Some letters were cut out of the top, while the rest of the page felt like it had been forcefully impressed. The whole page was lightly coated with wax. Then she ran the stencil through the duplicator and held out to Louis the resulting printed page. She then repeated the process, using the same stencil. Again, the resulting printed page was of very low quality, but it was produced far faster than Louis had heard of anyone doing so by a printing press. The shop only had a few people on hand to make stencils and operate the duplicator and typewriter, far fewer than his family needed to operate a press or set type, but was producing far more sheets than his family could produce in a week. Now some of Ernst Steinmann’s complaints about up-time printing became as clear as crystal.

Next, he was shown how the stencil was made, but Louis barely paid attention to the explanation. The only piece of information he caught was that the odd small contraption with coins on sticks and paper sticking out of it was apparently called a typewriter, and it was used to create the text of the stencil. Barbara Weidner steered the pair through the other stations, but while Jean was reacting enthusiastically to each novelty, Louis was deep in thought, weighing these new methods. So fast, but Uncle Bonaventure and Abraham would dismiss any journeyman who produced a page of such low quality and severely reprimand an apprentice. None of the people who buy our family’s books would want a book printed this wretchedly. Maybe a broadsheet or a pamphlet, but we focus on books, and I want to make and sell books. However, these were up-time methods, and he had been told it was important to learn up-time methods as well as find Jean a place to be trained in both up-time and traditional methods. He was starting to feel a touch of despair. Are all up-time printing methods like this? Just speed and sloppiness?! It might be what he was directed to learn, but it wasn’t making Louis happy. Then a thought crossed his mind as he looked at the unused press.

“Do you still use your printing press, or are you planning to sell it?” Louis asked hopefully. Presses were expensive, and it was always worthwhile to acquire one when you could. His own family had entered the bookselling business without presses, subcontracting to printers to produce the books they sold until his cousin Isaac had used his wife’s dowry to buy some presses. Louis had dreamed of owning his own press when he finally set up his own shop, but would subcontract if he had to.

“No. We have no plans to sell the press. We still use it a few times a week to make stencils for larger runs,” a deep voice replied behind Louis. Louis swiftly turned around. Christoph Kuche had arrived at last. He was a heavy-set man with strawberry-blonde hair who appeared to be slightly younger than his wife. “I see my wife has been giving you the grand tour. Follow me, and we can discuss matters.”

Louis and Jean followed Christoph Kuche into a small office, and Kuche took a seat in one of the two chairs behind a long, low table. Barbara Weidner entered behind them and took a seat at the table next to her husband, giving him a small smile as she did so. Louis and Jean remained standing across the table from them. The table itself was covered in messy piles of documents. Throughout the whole office, there were piles of paper everywhere. There was likely some sort of order to the chaos, but Louis couldn’t see it. As Louis looked around Kuche, glanced at the letters his wife handed to him. “So what brings you all the way from Leiden?” Christoph Kuche asked.

“Abraham and Bonaventure Elzevir requested that I escort Abraham’s son Jean to Jena to find a place for an apprenticeship and learn up-time printing methods in addition to the traditional ones,” Louis said and gestured towards his cousin. Jean visibly brightened at the mention of his name and nodded enthusiastically. “I am a senior journeyman, and I also wish to learn up-time printing methods that I hope to eventually use in my own shop.” Louis finished.

Christoph Kuche rubbed his chin thoughtfully while his wife bit her knuckle. Then, after exchanging a quick glance with his wife, Kuche said, “We would be happy to take on Jean as an apprentice, but we do not have the funds for a journeyman at this time. The duplicator and typewriter were rather expensive, but are proving quite profitable. We are doing a brisk business in pamphlets and broadsheets. Maybe in a few months, we could afford another journeyman. However, we rarely use the old-fashioned methods here. Jean would have to go elsewhere to learn those ancient arts if he wished to do so, although I can’t imagine why. This is the way of the future. If you forget this nonsense of learning the traditional methods, Jean has a place here.”

Then Barbara Weidner chimed in. “Have you met with Blasius Lobensteinvi yet? He uses a mix of the old-fashioned methods and some new ones from Grantville. My son, Johann Christoph,vii could not stop talking about the techniques they have been using in the shop when he came home last weekend. He’s a senior journeyman working for Lobenstein. I think you would like him; he is a good boy. He’s ready for his own shop and has his heart set on inheriting this one.” Louis fought the urge to sigh. Even if Barbara Weidner’s shop had room for a journeyman, this was not a shop where he could become a master. Her son had the first claim.

Christoph Kuche nodded and said, “Yes, you two should go see Lobenstein. His methods are likely to be more suitable to your purpose. He has one foot in the past and one in the present. Don’t bother with Steinmann, the old stick in the mud. Steinmann simply refuses to move with the times and grows crankier every day as he loses money.” This was news to Louis, as Steinmann seemed to be quite busy, but then he remembered the dismissed journeyman. Louis was looking for a place he could settle in and being summarily dismissed would ruin that. The couple then stood up and escorted the pair to the door. As Louis and Jean were about to leave, Barbara Weidner held out a small package, asked them to take it to her son, and gave them directions to the shop.

Fortunately, Abraham and Bonaventure had included a letter of introduction to Blasius Lobenstein and, intrigued, the pair set off towards his shop. This was a bit of a trek because Lobenstein’s shop was located near some university buildings on the opposite side of town from Steinmann’s and Barbara Weidner’s. The building seemed to be quaking as they approached it, something Louis had only seen when Abraham was in the process of printing the pages for a large run of books. The press was clearly in use, a good sign for it indicated a busy shop. As Louis and Jean entered, Louis noticed a young man about his age with chestnut hair like Barbara Weidner’s who was peeling something that looked like papier-mâché off of a page of type. The man put the mold on a drying rack and then turned to address the pair of visitors, “Hello, what brings you here?”

Louis then introduced himself with, “I am Louis Elzevir and this is my cousin Jean Elzevir. We are looking for Blasius Lobenstein. We also have a parcel for Johann Christoph Weidner from his mother.” Louis showed it to the young man.

The young man blushed. “I see you have already stopped by the shop my mother runs. She loves acting as if I am a boy just beginning my apprenticeship instead of a man ready to become the master of his father’s shop.” He then grabbed the parcel Louis was holding out.

Louis nodded sympathetically. “My uncle and cousin sometimes treat me similarly. They see a young child instead of a senior journeyman. However, do you know where we can find Meister Lobenstein?”

Then Jean rudely butted in. “Why are you making a papier-mâché mold of a whole page of type? If you are making new type, isn’t it best to mold one piece at a time?” Louis shot a glare at Jean, who had been warned repeatedly to keep his mouth shut and let Louis do all the talking. Johann Christoph smiled at Jean indulgently.

“It’s a new technique Meister Lobenstein picked up from a recent trip to Grantville. I like it a lot,” Johann Christoph gushed. “Mother’s techniques are only good for broadsheets and pamphlets. This stereotype printing is good for everything and produces a cleaner page more consistently than handset type. I was making one of the molds—they’re called flongs by the up-timers. From that, I can make a stereotype, a solid plate of a page.” Johann Christoph showed them a very thin lead sheet that was the page of a book, complete with illustrations. He led them to a stack of papier-mâché molds. “The flongs are lightweight and easily stored and shipped. You do not have to store the type for a page when you think there will be large demand or do a potentially error-laden second run if a book is more popular than expected. We can do large runs of books on demand or make flongs and ship them to other printers, and they can ship them to us. We could publish the same book jointly in Leiden and Jena for both universities. Every student can have the exact same books for their classes instead of waiting in line to read books in the library.”

Then Johann Christoph showed them a stack of pages printed from a stereotype plate and let Louis examine one of the pages. It’s not as good as the best works of my uncle and cousin and Steinmann, but it is on par with our average books. Most of our customers would be pleased by a book of this quality. It is certainly better than what Barbara Weidner was printing. He then rifled through the stack of pages, making sure they were the same as the page he was looking at. So many pages and all are of equal quality. I could never produce this many acceptable pages from one typeset page. The later pressings inevitably becoming messy as the type shifts in the press with each strike.

“Do you still print in a traditional manner, or just this new way?” Louis asked. “I know Jean will need to learn both sets of techniques.” He knew that this method would interest his family but his uncle and cousin would not want to completely abandon the traditional printing methods, given the demands of some of their higher-end clientele for books of the finest quality. The scholars and students of Leiden and the rest of their usual clientele, however, would love the cheaper books. This method also intrigued Louis. There was a fortune to be made printing this way, and it would be a useful technique to know.

“We often do a few presses the traditional way before we make a flong,” Johann Christoph quickly answered. “That way we can proofread the page and make sure it is perfect before the flong is made. We also will make a presentation version for the right book. Then we make the flong and then the stereotype plate and print the rest from the stereotype plate. We can print a lot of books that way, as well as pamphlets and broadsheets.”

To Louis, this sounded exactly like what he had been looking for. The shop has an interesting technique I actually want to learn and could teach Jean the traditional printing methods and an interesting up-time method. With this method, I and the rest of my family will take the book trade by storm. However, life had made a cynic of him. There has to be a fly in the ointment, he thought. I could not have possibly stumbled into a shop that would teach me what I need to finally be back on the path to becoming a master. This seems too good to be true. He fixed his gaze on the drying pages again, trying to see what flaws or problems there could be.

“Indeed we can,” a tenor voice behind the trio admiring the drying pages chimed in. All three quickly whirled around. A blond-haired gentleman with a beard and mustache in the Dutch fashion and clothes that looked quite odd to Louis had snuck up beside them. He smiled at the trio in front of him and said, “I am Blasius Lobenstein. Whose ears are you talking off, Weidner?”

Louis launched into a familiar spiel, “I am Louis Elzevir and this is my cousin Jean Elzevir. I have been sent by my uncle, Bonaventure Elzevir, and my cousin, Jean’s father Abraham Elzevir, to find a suitable master to oversee Jean’s apprenticeship. I am a journeyman and also looking for a master to work under.” Yet again, he held out the letters of introduction from Abraham and Bonaventure.

Meister Lobenstein took a deep breath and scrutinized the pair before him. “Hmm, Elzevir. I have noticed your name and mark on many interesting books and journals in Grantville. I expect your family is interested in up-time printing methods and books to sell, with a focus on those already bearing your mark, correct?” Lobenstein said in a faraway voice.

Louis paused, knowing he had to navigate some difficult waters, and chose his next words carefully. “Yes, we would like to learn up-time printing methods and of course are seeking books that would be of interest to our usual customers to print. We seek what you seek, too, and would be happy to partner with you. There are enough books there for all the printers in Europe.” He wasn’t sure what stance his uncle and cousin wished to take on the books from the future. From what he heard his cousin shout to his uncle, the family had no legal claim, but it would be good to be perceived as having the first claim on the rights to reprint the new knowledge bearing their mark. He hoped his words were enough to assuage Lobenstein. He did not want to ruin this opportunity.

Lobenstein pursed his lips, clearly weighing Louis’ words carefully, and pulled his hands out of the pockets in his odd blue pantaloons and thrust them behind his back and rocked slightly on his heels carefully debating what to do with the pair of Elzevirs before him. Then he glanced at Jean fidgeting next to Louis, and his face softened. “Indeed there are, and the same book can be printed in both Jena and Leiden for the respective universities.” Lobenstein then gestured for the pair to follow and headed towards a long table on the other side of the building near a window and a bookcase. Weidner went back to work making a flong.

The table itself was stacked with papers and a few books, as well as quills, a penknife, and several inkwells. The nearby bookcase was filled with more volumes. Around the table were several well-constructed wooden chairs, one of which was well-worn with a prime view of the entire shop. Meister Lobenstein took a seat in that chair and gestured for Louis and Jean to sit opposite. Lobenstein peppered Louis and Jean with questions to ascertain their skill levels and appeared slightly pleased when Louis admitted that he was trained in bookbinding as well as printing. Then they reached the heart of the matter, whether Meister Lobenstein would be able to take them. “I will admit that I am looking for another journeyman and would be open to bringing on an apprentice,” Lobenstein said in a slow, even tone. “I have been working on acquiring a shop within the Ring of Fire in Deborah to gain better access to the many up-time books, visiting scholars, and to have the freedom to print whatever I wish without the oversight of the University of Jena. The up-timers do not have any guilds and there is a high demand for more printers. You could build yourself a shop there whenever you want, all you need is the money to do so.”

Louis couldn’t suppress his expression of surprise at Lobenstein’s words. Print whatever you want? Even in Leiden, we were subject to censorship and the usually benevolent oversight of the university. Uncle Bonaventure would think he had died and gone to heaven if we could print anything, no matter how controversial. Usually we had to resort to a fake name or other trick. No guilds, no more hoops to jump through before becoming a master? Louis was sure his work was worthy of a master printer, all that had been delaying him was obtaining residency and building or inheriting a shop. This was bizarre and unheard of. It had to be false.

Acknowledging the surprise on Louis’ face, Lobenstein nodded and continued. “I plan on sending Johann Christoph and a few other journeymen to oversee it and I will travel back and forth between the shops. The new shop in Deborah will focus on stereotype printing while I will continue to do a mix of letterpress and stereotype printing here in Jena. I hope to be able to sell not just books but flongs as well. I should be able to maintain a suitable level of training at both locations but if it becomes a problem I plan on simply moving my business there and selling this shop to young Weidner or one of my other senior journeymen, if Weidner insists on waiting to inherit his father’s shop.”

Louis mused on this. It is possible to take over Lobenstein’s shop here in Jena, and there is enough demand that I could build my own shop within the Ring of Fire if I chose to do so? This is what I have been waiting to hear, but what about the scholarly trade? Is it worthwhile to become a master but not run the sort of shop I always expected to? Then Louis asked the question that had been nagging his thoughts, the reason he had chosen to come to Jena instead of going straight to Grantville, “Will you be able to keep the scholarly trade if you move fully to Deborah? The up-timers do not have a university. What happens once all their books have been copied?”

Lobenstein snorted, “I doubt that their library will be exhausted in our lifetime. The number of books there is astounding. True, there is no university, but the akademie they call a high school is viewed by many around here as equal or superior to any university. Scholars flock to it and their library. I am opening a shop in Deborah to be closer to that trade.”

Louis barely suppressed a broad smile and nodded at this and asked, “Would you wish for Jean and I to work here in Jena or in Deborah? I would like to work in both Deborah and Jena, but Jean should be trained in both styles of printing here in Jena.” Jean, who had been alternating between fidgeting in his chair and staring off into the distance, looked slightly crestfallen and apprehensive. Louis could guess what Jean was thinking. Even in Leiden, stories were being told about the wonders of Grantville. It would be a shame to be so close to them, yet not make the trip. It was likely also slightly troubling to Jean that he might be separated from the comforting presence of Louis, but he would be lucky to have his cousin still relatively close. For Louis, the option of taking over Lobenstein’s shop in Jena was a pleasant one, but he wanted to have access to the up-time books within the Ring of Fire, the potential to be free to print anything, and to set up his own shop as soon as he had sufficient funds. His uncle and cousin would also be pleased if Louis could find up-time books in his spare time to copy and send to Leiden. The bonuses he’d receive would ensure he could set up the shop of his dreams very soon.

Lobenstein rocked slightly in his chair as he considered the problem. “Jean should be trained here in Jena, maybe with the occasional trip to Deborah and Grantville.” Louis glanced at Jean who was smiling so broadly his head might split in two. Lobenstein then took a deep breath and said, “Louis, it would be best if you spend a month or two here in Jena learning how to do stereotype printing, and then split your time between Jena and Deborah, maybe spending a fortnight or a month in Jena, then another in Deborah. While an additional journeyman printer will be useful here in Jena, your bookbinding skills are needed at both locations.” Louis nodded at this feeling quite pleased at the offer, and Jean looked relieved too, safe in the knowledge that he would be seeing Louis frequently.

Louis, struggling to suppress the joy and butterflies in his stomach, said, “Meister Lobenstein, my cousin and I would be honored to work for you.” After a little negotiating on Louis’ salary and Jean’s apprenticeship fee, Louis Elzevir and Blasius Lobenstein shook hands to seal their agreement, and Louis signed the apprenticeship contract for Jean on the behalf of Abraham and his own employment contract. He had succeeded in the task his family had set for him, and he was sure this stereotype printing would be of great benefit to himself and his family. His dream of setting up his own shop was so close he could taste it. Finally, after all of the setbacks he had suffered the previous year after fleeing Amsterdam, his plans for his future were back on course. The future was finally something to look forward to again. Now I just need to earn enough money to set up a shop. How hard could that be?
















SMC, Part 3



Late February, 1635

The Reservation


The pilot plant consisted of several buildings: the chem plant where the primer compound was made, the primer plant where the compound was added to the cups to make a finished primer, and the brassworks that made the primer cups on one small production line and the cartridge brass in another line. The remaining building was the assembly plant where the primers were inserted into the brass. It was in a separate building for safety. Nicki Jo was adamant about separating the fab plant from the chemical plant to prevent sympathetic detonation if the chem or primer facility went up.

All stages of production had been tested individually. Now it was time to test the entire production line from end to end. The test run would start at 7:00 AM and run until they were out of materials—in other words, when they could make no more primer cups, no more cartridge brass, no more live primers, no more primed cartridge brass.

The crews were ready. They had been training for a week, walking through each step of their piece of the process under supervision. The workstations were completed and, where they were handling explosive material, surrounded by sandbags and armor plate. They were ready.

Gary looked at the group—officers, stockholders, managers, professional staff, Nicki Jo and Katherine. The employees were at their positions waiting for the signal to start. Gary pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and waved it. The fabrication plant steam engine operator was watching for the signal. When the operator saw Gary waving a handkerchief, he followed his instructions and pulled the lanyard on the brass whistle on top of the engine.

The whistle sounded, echoing across the Reservation. Everyone except for the company officers and stockholders dispersed. The test was on.

Archie watched them leave. He turned to Pat Johnson. “Is it gonna work?”

“Yeah, it should—it will. We reached this point sooner than I estimated. I really thought Nicki Jo was going to have more problems making DDNP safely. I knew she’d be paranoid about that. It’s one reason why I wanted her.” Every member of the Board knew about the explosion at Essen Chemical the previous year. No one spoke of it but each board member agreed that, for Suhl, Incorporated, her paranoia was exactly what was needed.

“We’re still behind schedule, though?” Archie asked.

“Yes, a month,” Pat agreed. “It would have been worse if Nicki Jo hadn’t altered her design. That saved us several weeks. She thought it would introduce additional worker risk but after that accident in the chem plant a couple of weeks ago, she now thinks she was too cautious in her original design.”

“Let’s get inside, Pat. I’m getting cold out here.”

They were now alone on the reviewing stand. It wasn’t much of a stand, a hastily constructed platform a couple of feet above the ground. They stepped down and headed for the admin building. The test run would last most of the day, and both of them had jobs to do.

As they walked, Pat mentioned, “I’ve already had requests from employee committees asking if, when, they could buy stock. I’ve assured them that we will have some kind of profit sharing program once we’re in full production and selling our product. That’s satisfied most of them.”

Archie nodded in agreement. He, as a member of the board, had received some queries, too.

“Gary and I,” Pat continued, referring to the upcoming initial sale of stock, added, “along with our financiers, have decided to restrict the number of shares to be sold on the open market. We have enough financing that selling more shares just isn’t needed. We may make some concessions to our existing partners, like H&K. They’ve just bought another 10 blocks.” They continued toward the admin building, across the graveled driveway to the front steps. “We had thought to sell shares to our employees but we now think a simple profit-sharing plan is better. That will still allow our employees to have a stake in the corporation.”

They reached the main door of the admin building. Archie held the door open for Pat, “How much for a block?”

“Fifty silver guilders for one block.”

“So H&K’s initial investment was 500 guilders?” Archie asked.

“More, actually.” They passed through the double front doors, past the receptionist desk and down the hallway towards Pat’s office. “Our financiers suggested we convert to USE dollars and declare one share equal to a hundred USE dollars or roughly two and a half guilders. I argued against that. I want us backed by silver, not paper. In the end, the financiers appreciated that view. We need to repay them, buy out their investment, and they’ll want a profit for investing and risking their capital. If all goes well, we can be free and clear of them in a few years. This will allow us to remain a closely-held corporation and still allow us the leeway to sell more shares in the future if we ever need to do so.”

They reached Pat’s office and went inside. Pat hung his coat and hat on a coat tree next to the door while Archie draped his coat over the back of a side chair and pulled a second chair closer to Pat’s desk and asked, “What is the total investment at this point?”

Still standing, Pat walked to a side table, poured two mugs of hot broth, and gave one mug to Archie. He sat and continued the conversation. “Not counting the initial cash on hand, we have about thirty thousand guilders total investment. The actual asset value is half again more. I’ve asked the financiers to send an auditing team. They’ll arrive later this month and will be our assurance to the investors that we’re really doing what we say we’re doing.”

“Any money worries?” Archie asked.

“Surprisingly, no.” Pat leaned back in his swivel chair, and stretched. He hadn’t noticed how tense he had been that morning. He shouldn’t have been. All the trial runs had performed well; bugs had been found and corrected. If the test went well, they would pass a major milestone and the possibility of failure would be greatly reduced. From this point forward, research would be finished and development nearly so. Pat closed his eyes for a moment, and then opened them and looked at Archie. “You know, there was a real risk it would all collapse if we hadn’t gotten enough initial funding, if the Abrabanel clan hadn’t come through for us.”

“Are they directly invested?” Archie doubted direct involvement. From what he knew and had heard, the Abrabanels preferred to work behind the scenes, not out in public.

“No,” Pat confirmed. “Indirectly? You can count on it.”


Gary blew his whistle. It wasn’t really needed. Everyone was already present, standing in the shadows of the western peaks. His watch read 4:35 PM. The individual managers gathered in front of the reviewing stand. “Report!” he bellowed.

Pat Johnson stepped forward. “Four thousand, seven hundred, thirty-two cartridge brass manufactured.”

Nick Jo spoke next, “Eight thousand, two hundred seventy-six primers manufactured.”

Gary reached into his pocket, extracted a piece of paper and read the figures aloud, “Four thousand, six hundred and ninety-three primed cartridge cases.” The managers and supervisors clapped. They knew they had done their jobs. “We would have primed all the brass,” Gary reported, “except for one box of primers that was spilled. Those are being picked up at the moment . . . carefully,” he added, to the laughter of some of the employees.

He turned to the rest of the officers and stockholders. “I’d call that a success. We overran our goal by a factor of four—and that was just one production line that was only semi-mechanized.”

Later than evening Gary Reardon walked into the radio station and told the attendant, “I have some messages that I need sent.”








“Send that same message to these people and addresses, too,” Gary ordered, passing the list to the attendant.

I think I’ll have a little celebration, Gary thought as he left the station. The Boar’s Head was slightly out of his way home, but not all that far. Gaylynn would understand. The proprietor had received some superb brandy from Amsterdam, and Gary thought he’d try it. He wasn’t a drinker, but today . . . Yes, today was special.


“We need to track down who Zoche is working with here in Suhl and up the line to Zwickau,” Archie said. He was sitting in the new boardroom in the Reservation’s admin building with Gary Reardon, Nicki Jo Prickett and Katherine, plus Eric Gruber.

“Francisco Nasi, in his private capacity, is interested in our situation and has promised to watch Zoche’s couriers from Suhl up to Zwickau. When the courier passes our secret data, he’ll sweep in and gather them up.”

“But, he doesn’t have any authority, now,” Gary said.

“Well . . . yes and no. He still has contacts in the government and the military. If he finds evidence of foreign espionage, it falls into the area of responsibility of the military.”

“So we’ve been told,” Eric Gruber added.

“What do you plan?” Nicki Jo asked.

“Zoche has been hired as janitorial staff for the admin building. We were thinking if you, Nicki Jo, left some altered documents covering the DDNP process—processes that don’t work—out where he could find them, we could watch him steal them and pass them on to the courier. When Nasi tells us he’s closed the other end, we pick up Zoche and his friends. Nasi believes they can be charged with treason if they are working for a foreign nation. They all claim to be USE citizens.” Archie wasn’t sure about the treason charges. As long as he had proof of theft, it would be enough to charge them. Then he, Gruber and the Watch, that is, would arrest them, and the prosecutors could take it from there.

“Can you do that, Nicki Jo?” Pat asked.

“Easily. We had a number of failures, some very spectacular, before we reached our final formula. Some go boom very easily.”

“What about the other one, Mohr?” Gary asked. Mohr was trying to steal his drawings for the mechanized brass production and ammunition assembly system. Pat was very protective about those designs. He’d worked extremely hard to develop and test them. He didn’t care to give all that work away without some profit.

“We believe he is working for some possible competitors in Magdeburg. If we can prove that, we can sue them and win.”

Pat interrupted, “As long as I—we get paid for our work, Archie, I’m satisfied,”

Archie nodded and continued, “If our plan works with Zoche, we’ll try something like it on Mohr, Gary.”




March, 1635




Gary Reardon was working for himself, today, at his Nut and Bolt works. He hadn’t spent much time with his business for the last seven months. He had a good manager, but sometimes Gary had to be there. That good manager, his wife Gaylynn, was passing Gary’s office and heard his outburst. She paused at his open door and gave him a look. Gary returned her look with a frown. Gaylynn returned the frown, held it, and then nodded to Gary and proceeded down the hallway. Gary understood that look—keep your voice down!

“They refuse to sell us any black powder, Gary, under the terms in our contracts,” Pat Johnson reported, sitting in from of Gary’s desk. He had just given Gary the news. Their black powder suppliers had reneged on their contract. “They refused to discuss any options or alternatives. They raised their prices by four hundred percent, and they won’t deliver any more powder than one ton per week. We can take or leave it.”

“How can they do that? They agreed last November they would be our supplier. Ten tons per week. We have a contract with each of them!” Gary stood up. He needed to pace; it was one of his stress relievers. Unfortunately, his office wasn’t big enough to pace and what little free space it had was now occupied by Pat Johnson.

“I don’t think they can make ten tons a week even if they combine all their output. They are small producers, and only make enough for local customers . . . until now. They didn’t expand their mills—expanding would cost them money.”

“But they’d make more, more than enough to pay back their investment in a short time,” Gary countered. “We would even provide financing for their expansion if they needed it.”

“They don’t see it that way, and please sit down, you’re putting a crick in my neck standing there,” Pat said. “They think they’re in a controlling position and claim they have preexisting commitments to other clients.”

Gary sat, stared at Pat, looked away, and then hit his desk with his fist in frustration. It was one of his rare expressions of anger. He couldn’t pace, he couldn’t relieve his growing anger and frustration. The project was still behind. They’d gained a week, and now this—a new job and an expensive one. With no outlet for his anger, it seethed and continued to grow.

“Where’s Nicki Jo?” Gary asked. There was a solution. It wasn’t one he liked but he had a project manager coming free who could be used. “We’ve got another job for her.”

“Out at the site, probably.”

Gary expected that answer. If she weren’t home in the house Marjorie had found for her, she’d be in her lab. “I need to think on this, would you go get her and bring her back here? Katy, too. We need to put our heads together on this.”

With Pat gone, Gary stood up and left his office. He needed to pace. He had to moderate his temper. They thought they could act like robber barons. They were wrong. Oh, they’ll pay, he promised himself.


“I know it’s not in your contract, Nicki Jo,” Gary said, “but we’re in a bind. Can you do it?”

“Make a powder mill?” Nicki Jo responded, “Sure. It’s just mechanics. Once you have the mill wheels set up, it’s just a construction job. I hadn’t planned on one so there’s no place in the current plant design. We’ll need an additional site, mill, and bunkers.”

“Fortunately, we have workers available.” Gary muttered. He had planned to turn some laborers loose now that the major construction phase was over. God, the cost! “Would you manage this—the design of the mill and oversee its construction?”

Nicki Jo didn’t mind building the mill. It was just a simple construction job. It did affect her plans. She was about to wrap up her contract. The DDNP fabrication plant and the primer manufactory were done. All she had left was some final documentation and training reviews. She glanced at Katherine. Objections? she mentally asked. Nicki Jo knew that if Katherine had objections, she would not hesitate to speak. Apparently, she had none. “I’ll do it, Gary. Shouldn’t be a big deal, just supervision.”

“Thank you, Nicki Jo. Would it be okay if I work with Katy on your contract change?”

“Go ahead. She’s better than I on contracts.”

Katherine and Nicki Jo left Gary’s office to return to the Reservation. “You have a list of these people—the ones who are holding us up?” Gary asked Pat Johnson.

“Right here,” Pat said, laying the list on Gary’s desk.

“I wanted to keep Suhl, Incorporated, a friendly affair. We’d deal fairly with the people in Suhl, provide them new jobs, improve the economy and the overall prospects of the entire city. But there’s always some sons-of-bitches who have to screw things up. Damn it!


“I’m gonna screw ’em, Pat. I’m going nail their asses to the wall. I’m going to find out who their suppliers are, where they get their saltpeter, their charcoal and sulphur and put those sources under an exclusive contract to us. We’ll outproduce them and undersell them—even at a loss if necessary. No one stabs me in the back! And when they come to us begging for relief, we’ll buy them out for pennies on the dollar.”

“Gary, there’s more.”

“More?” Gary asked. His eyebrows leaping upward.

“I think Zoche bribed them.”

The pressure to meet the October deadline was growing for everyone involved in the project. Pat knew that Gary was usually an even-tempered man. A type-A personality, certainly, and driven to meet his self-designated goals. Pat had known Gary all his life but he’d forgotten that Gary, when his anger was aroused, held a grudge.

“I think it’s time for Andres Zoche to go away.”


“Oh, nothing physical . . .” But I can still imagine beating the shit out of him. “. . . just insure he’s jailed and no longer a factor. Let’s put Archie’s plan in motion. I’m tired of Zoche’s interference.”

“What about Mohr?” Pat asked.

“He’s working for some interests in Magdeburg. I’m not all that concerned about him. We’ll keep him from finding any drawings of our tools and presses. Eventually, some will get out, but we’ll have our head start and the people in Magdeburg will be playing catch-up.




April, 1635



“Nicki Jo, a letter from Banfi Hunyades arrived today,” Katherine announced as she walked into Nicki Jo’s home office, a small room on the upper floor of the house rented for them by the consortium. Nicki Jo often did her writing, documentation, and process plans here, in the quiet of their home. Today, she was seated at her desk writing in her daily diary. The diary was a log of her activities for the day, the details of the issues and resolutions that she was documenting for her reports to the board.

“What does he want?” Nicki Jo replied looking up.

“I didn’t read it. It’s addressed to you.” Katherine gave Nicki Jo the sealed letter and sat in the chair at the side of the desk.

“Katy. I’ve told you before. I have no secrets from you. I want you to read my mail.”

“Only if I want, Nick, and I see no need. You’ll tell me what I need to know.” Katherine propped her elbow on the edge of the desk and rested her cheek in the palm of her hand. She’d wait while Nicki Jo read the letter. Then, she knew, Nicki Jo would tell her what was in it.

Nicki Jo sighed. With the letter in hand, she broke the wax seal, opened the letter, and read it through while Katherine waited. When she finished, she handed it to Katherine. “I think you need to go back to Essen for a while. I don’t know if what we’re doing here has gotten out, but this may be something we can leverage.”

Katherine read the letter and looked up, “Nitrocellulose?”

“Yes, the stuff for smokeless gunpowder.”


“I know. I’ve said it’s too dangerous but I’ve been rethinking that.”

“Picric acid and DDNP are dangerous, too,” Katherine mentioned.

“Yes. Some differences but not all that much.” Nicki Jo drummed her fingers on her desk and looked out the side window. She could see Suhl’s rooftops and, in the distance, the ridge that blocked her view of the Reservation. The view from the window had become a welcome sight. She could just see the top of the tower next to the Rathaus.

“You know where this leads,” she said, continuing to look out the window. After a few moments, she turned from the window and said to Katherine, “If we do this, we’ll need to tell the others. They’ll be interested, too.”

Katherine read the letter again, “There’s no mention of confidentiality.”

“Oversight? Deliberate?” Nicki Jo asked. “What do you think?”

“Don’t know, Nick.”

Nicki Jo looked out the window again. She tapped her teeth with the pencil, a habit she’d had since grade school. She looked at Katherine. There could only be one course of action. “That’s why you need to go and talk with Banfi. We need to know what constraints, if any, are in this contract, the clients, the project scope . . . any conflicts of interest?”

Katherine looked down at the letter and for a moment, contemplated what she should do. Nicki Jo was right. Someone had to go back to Essen. That meant . . . “Oh, Nick . . . I don’t want to go. I like it here. We’ve made new friends here.”

“I can’t go, Katy, not now. There’s still the mill to build.”

The two women looked at one another. They’d not been apart more than a few days for nearly two years. Katherine had fears that Nicki Jo would get depressed again if she weren’t here to help her. She knew Nicki Jo’s weaknesses—Nicki Jo didn’t do well being alone. Katherine didn’t know the term bipolar cycle, but if she had, she would have recognized its effects on Nicki Jo. The method Nicki Jo used to keep that cycle at bay was work. She could immerse herself in work and ignore the outside factors that could trigger a cycle. On the other hand, Nicki Jo hadn’t been depressed since they arrived in Suhl late last September. That change was welcome. But, could Nicki Jo continue to fight her recurring depression without her?

“I know what you’re thinking, Katy. Marjorie’s here . . . so are Gaylynn, Greta, and Ursula. I’m not alone.”

Katherine sighed. She knew when her objections had been reviewed and rejected. Truth be known, she wasn’t as concerned as she had been in Essen. “Very well.”

“I’ll come, too, as soon as the powder mill is finished,” Nicki Jo said.

“But that’s . . .”

“Yes, a couple of months.”

Katherine’s eyes were moist. “Very well, I’ll leave on the next coach north.”

“And take those mercenaries with you,” Nicki Jo added. The squad of mounted mercenaries had liked living in Suhl. They were well-paid, well-fed, and no one was shooting at them. It was time they earned their keep once again.


May, 1635

The Reservation


“Any word from Nasi?” Nicki Jo asked Archie as she entered his office in the courthouse and sat down. She was getting anxious. The trap had been set in motion a week ago. She and Archie had watched Zoche find the doctored file in her office in the admin building. Her office there actually held nothing more than correspondence with suppliers. That information wasn’t critical. All her most important documentation was kept in her safe in her house in Suhl, watched by a trusted guard, a Mounted Constabulary trooper on medical leave for an ulcer.

Nicki Jo puttered around in her office waiting for Zoche to come and clean it. She and Georg Rohn would discuss the DDNP process when Zoche walked in. She would put the folder in one of her file cabinets and be called away before she locked the cabinet. That would give Zoche the opportunity to steal the altered formula.

Zoche arrived. Nicki Jo gave him a nod in acknowledgement and continued her conversation. “Do you need this anymore, Georg?” she asked, taking the folder from Georg’s hands.

“No, Nicki Jo. I’ve noted the last change on the process. It’s all up-to-date now, and you can store it all in the archives down in the strong room.” Georg Rohn had practiced his part in the scene they were playing for Zoche. He was careful not to look at Zoche, to ignore him. Nicki Jo took the folder with its red stripe across the cover and walked over to the filing cabinet. Standing next to the cabinet was a long iron bar. When the bar slid through the metal handles of the cabinet, it could be locked with an up-time pad lock. She opened a drawer, thumbed through some folders, and slid the striped folder in place just as Pat Johnson walked into her office.

“Nicki Jo . . . Georg, you, too, would you join me in my office? I want you to review my idea to speed up the primer assembly line. I’m concerned about the pressure being applied to the compound. I don’t want any self-detonations.”

Nicki Jo slid the drawer shut. “Sure, Pat.” She and Georg followed Pat out, leaving the cabinet unlocked as planned. Archie Mitchell had watched through a pinhole from the next office. Zoche opened the cabinet, removed the red-striped folder and one other. He switched the contents and put the red-striped folder back. The other folder, now containing the altered DDNP process, he hid inside his shirt and walked out.

That had been a week ago. When Zoche returned to his room in Suhl, he sealed the folder inside a weatherproof pouch and delivered it to a private courier. Two of Gruber’s troopers followed the courier to Erfurt where the surveillance was handed over to Francisco Nasi’s operatives.

“Nothing yet, Nicki Jo. It’s not dark yet, so I doubt anything will come in on the radio net until then. Why don’t you go home? I’ll let you know as soon as I do—after I have Gruber and the watch arrest Zoche.

Nicki Jo didn’t want to go home. Her cook and maid were waiting for her, but they weren’t Katherine, and she greatly missed Katherine. She still needed six more weeks to finish the powder mills on the Reservation. Once that was done, she could go to Katherine. She managed to wait another half an hour before she decided she couldn’t waste any more of Archie’s time. She stood to take her leave when a messenger from the radio station arrived.

The messenger handed the paper to Archie who quickly read it. “Tell Captain Gruber that I said it’s time,” he instructed the messenger, who left the office to find the Mounted Constabulary captain.

“Nasi got them,” Archie told Nicki Jo. “They were Saxons. Nasi decided to let the package go on. He thought they’d blow their lab up at least once before they got wise that your formula won’t work.”

Nicki Jo sat back down and sighed. “I’m so relieved. I’ve been worrying about this for months.”

“Well, you can quit now. We’ll grab Zoche and his friends and lock them up. I expect the people in Magdeburg will want to talk to them.”

“What about the other one, Mohr?”

“That turns out to be some domestic espionage. He is working for a group in Magdeburg. Nasi has identified them all. We’ll sue them and recoup more from them than if they had just licensed our process from us. We all will win from this.”

“Except for the Saxons.”

“And the people in Magdeburg.”




July, 1635



Nicki Jo pointed to her bags, designating which ones the porter was to load on the coach and which ones she would keep inside with her. A number of people had gathered to say goodbye. Marjorie, Gaylynn, Ursula, and Greta lined up to give her departure hugs. Pat, Gary, and Archie had all hoped she would stay, but she had fulfilled the terms of her contract and had done so months earlier than planned. Nicki Jo was a whirlwind when motivated. More so, when her primary source of motivation was in Essen. Nicki Jo had resolved most of her personal issues. Perhaps the new surroundings and new people had been more therapeutic than everyone thought. Whatever the reason, Nicki Jo had returned to her “pre-explosion” self, and any thoughts of self-punishment had vanished. Permanently, everyone hoped.

Katherine had resolved the contract issue in Essen but the political situation along the Rhine had deteriorated. Colette Modi was offering a deal. Essen Chemical would accept a contract with Suhl, Incorporated, to operate the Suhl chemical plant. She would also move parts of Essen Chemical to Suhl, away from the armies marching near Essen. That move would safeguard her company and expand Collette’s operations in the SoTF. No one knew where that would go. Behind all the military maneuverings, Suhl County was seen as a peaceful island in a world of turmoil.

The black powder mills, Nicki Jo’s last task, were in full operation. Gary had paid her a sizable bonus for her achievements. She had met every milestone either on time or earlier than planned.

“We’ll keep your house waiting for you, Nicki Jo,” Marjorie said.

“Thank you. I expect I’ll be back in a couple or three weeks. I’m meeting Katherine in Magdeburg and we’re spending a few days with the people at the Imperial College. I just don’t know at this time how long we’ll be there.”

“I’m glad Katherine got out of Essen. I’ve been worrying about her all the while she’s been gone. It will be good to see her again.”

“I’m not sure how she managed that. I think she may have taken a ship to Luebeck and from there on to Magdeburg.”

The three men stood back from the fray. Finally, at the urging of the coach’s driver and guard, Nicki Jo entered, and the porter closed the coach’s door. She waved to her friends as the coach moved out toward the north road, accompanied by hired guards, to Erfurt and on to Magdeburg.

“Well, I need to get back to work. See ya,” Gary said to the other two men and walked off.





DATE: JULY 7, 1635



The radio station’s operator looked up, “More messages, Herr Reardon?”

“Yes. Just like the last times, Karl. Here is the list of recipients.”

The station operator glanced at the clock. “These will go out in about six hours on the evening net, Herr Reardon. I can barely hear Grantville right now, and they can’t hear me at all.”

Gary knew well the propagation effects of the Maunder Minimum that restricted radio transmissions, usually, to the evening hours, at dusk, and in the morning at dawn. The operators called it the gray line effect—that period just before and after dusk and dawn. “I understand. If you can’t send them tonight would you please send me a message?”

“Certainly, Herr Reardon. If not this evening, we’ll try again in the morning. I’ll let you know whenever they are sent.”

Danke.” Gary placed a silver guilder on the counter, “. . . for your efforts.”

The radio operator’s eyebrows rose at the sight of the coin. He swept it off the counter and slipped it into his pocket, nodding respectfully. He would have insured Herr Reardon’s messages were sent as quickly as possible and privately, too, but it was nice for Herr Reardon to reward that confidentiality.

An hour later, Gary rode up to the Suhl, Incorporated, administration building. He had taken Archie’s advice and had bought a horse for his daily commute. It was much better than the hour-long walk it would normally take to reach the Reservation. Should we provide a shuttle service? Another item for his to-do list to think about.

Portions of the admin building, the upper floor, were still empty. He entered and greeted the receptionist who sat behind a counter just inside the main door. He was a new hire and had been on the job only a week.

“You have some visitors waiting for you, Herr Reardon. They’re in the waiting room.”

“Their names?”

The receptionist glanced at the register that every visitor had to sign, “Herr Lang, Herr Thalmann, and Herr Exel, Herr Reardon.”

Gary recognized the names. They were the three who owned the black powder mills in Suhl. Last fall, each one had promised to supply Suhl, Incorporated with black powder. Each had signed a contract. Then, when bribed by the spy, Zoche, they had each reneged on their contracts.

“Give me five minutes and then escort them to my office. Send a security guard to my office first.”

“Jawohl, Herr Reardon.”

Gary turned left and walked down the hall to his office. He reached Pat Johnson’s office, which was next to his, and saw Pat was inside. He opened the door and asked, “Pat, would you join me in my office? Lang, Thalmann, and Exel are here.” Before Pat could answer, Gary closed the door, walked a few more steps down the hall and entered his own office. He had just seated himself behind his desk when Pat entered through a doorway between their offices. Gary gestured for Pat to sit in the chair that would give him a view of the visitor chairs and of Gary.

As Pat was sitting, a security guard, one of Anse Hatfield’s men, entered. “Just stand over there along the wall, if you would, Eric. I want you to be visible. I don’t think our visitors will get violent but I think your presence will help keep them in control of themselves.”

“Jawohl, Herr Reardon.” The guard positioned himself along the wall, spread his legs, crossed his arms, and stood guard.

The receptionist knocked on Gary’s office door, opened it and announced, “Herr Lang, Herr Thalmann, and Herr Exel, Herr Reardon.”

“Thank you, Mattheus. Show them in.”

The three men walked into the office. Lang strode in, looked at the chairs before Gary’s desk, walked over, and sat before Gary could give an invitation to sit. Herr Thalmann and Herr Exel were more hesitant, but quickly followed Lang’s lead.

So that’s how it’s going to be. So be it, Gary thought. No reconciliation, just snub me from the start. If they had been more . . . respectful, he might have cut them some slack. Maybe. Not now.

“What do you want?” Gary asked bluntly.

Thalmann opened his mouth to speak, and then stopped. He glanced at Lang and shut his mouth. There was a brief moment of silence then Lang spoke. “You will stop stealing our customers or we will sue you and shut you down.”

Gary smiled and said nothing.

When Gary gave no response. Pat Johnson spoke instead. “Stop? We aren’t stealing anything. We’re selling a better, cheaper product. If your former customers prefer us over you, that’s just too bad—for you.”

Lang opened his mouth to refute Pat’s statement but Pat silenced him by pointing a finger at Lang and continuing. “We didn’t want to build a powder mill. We wanted to help existing Suhl merchants—you! Each one of you promised to supply us and then refused. You failed to deliver. You refused to do business with us, not we with you. If anyone has a complaint, it is us with you for breaking your contracts. If you are unhappy that we’re making our own black powder, selling powder that is better and cheaper than yours, you have no one to blame except yourselves.”

Lang sputtered. Thalmann and Exel glanced at one another but remained silent. “Do you have anything else to discuss?” Gary asked. “No? Then Guten Tag, Meine Herren. Eric, please escort these gentlemen off Suhl, Incorporated property.”

Jawohl, Herr Reardon. This way, Meine Herren.”

The three rose and walked out. Thalmann and Exel had not said a word. Obviously, it was Lang who led the group. As they left, Lang stalked off in the lead.

“Think they’ll be back?” Pat asked.

“Not yet, but yes, they will. Our powder mill is now operating, and we’ve a surplus to our needs. We can increase the amount we sell to their customers and drop our price another ten percent to put the squeeze on them.”

Pat nodded but said nothing. He wasn’t as vindictive as Gary was but he agreed that a lesson had to be learned. Suhl, Incorporated, would treat any honest businessman fairly. But try to screw Suhl, Incorporated . . . and you’ll regret it.

“Have you received their current valuation?” Gary asked.

Pat stood. He nodded and replied, “Several times. It keeps changing—downward. They’re not being underwritten by Zoche anymore.”

“I’ll give them another month,” Gary stated.

“That sounds about right.”

“What will be your price?” Gary asked. He preferred to let Pat be the dog in this fight. Pat was more . . . conciliatory. No, that wasn’t the word; Pat would put them out of business and do it in such a fashion that everyone would know why it was being done, and everyone would approve the action. Gary could not do that. Oh, he’d put them out of business, probably in the same way Pat did, but the citizens of Suhl would consider Gary a tyrant, arrogantly imposing his power on three small factors. No, Pat was the better one to handle this.

Pat didn’t immediately answer. “I’m feeling generous, Pat. I think ten cents of the dollar would be fair,” Gary said with a smile.

Pat looked out the window and watched the three climb into a coach for the trip back to Suhl. “Some people are so short-sighted.” He turned from the window. “Are we back on schedule?”

“Almost. The production lines are all working. We’re continuing to stockpile ores and materials for the primer fabrication plant. We have four bunkers full of .45 Long Colt, sealed, crated and ready to ship, and another three bunkers of .45-70. We’re still playing catch-up finishing the interiors of the brassworks and the chemical plant. As work teams get finished, we’re putting them to work building the remaining berms.”

“Good,” Pat responded.


“Gary, Lang has closed his doors,” Pat reported as he walked through the interconnecting door between his office and Gary’s. “Ruben just sent me the news. He thinks Thalmann and Exel will close, too, within a week.” Their meeting with Gary and Pat had occurred a month ago. The three had lasted longer than either of them had thought they would.

Gary looked up and the news, and a smile spread across his face. “Think it’s time to make them an offer?”

Pat rubbed his jaw. “No, not yet. We can do that after the lawyers swoop in to collect their debts. Then we’ll deal with the lawyers. Lang and the rest can take it and be glad to get it. If not from them, then from the new owners.”

“Who is our property lawyer?”

“Ahh, I can’t remember his name at the moment. He’s new.”

“Put him on it. Tell him what we want, why, and turn him loose when you think it’s time.”

“Will do.”

Gary ticked another item off his mental list, returned to his desk and began reading the next report from the stack before him.


Archie Mitchell woke to the shaking of his house. He heard some small object fall and shatter in the next room. Marjorie had been awakened, too. He could hear Dieter and Greta stirring upstairs, and Marta was crying.

“What was that, Archie?” Marjorie asked.

He wasn’t sure. Something had shaken the house. Earthquake? No, he had felt those before when he had been assigned to The Presidio in San Francisco. What could have happened—the Reservation!

“I think something blew up at the Reservation. Go upstairs and tell Dieter we need to head out there.”

Archie was saddling his pinto when Dieter ran up. “I’ll be right with you,” he said as he paused to saddle his horse.

Archie tightened the saddle’s belly band and mounted. Dieter joined him, and they headed for the Reservation. The Reservation was three miles outside of Suhl to the west. Archie and Dieter lived not far from the western gate. Archie knew Pat Johnson and Gary Reardon would be coming but they lived on the other side of Suhl. Archie and Dieter would arrive first.

They reached the Reservation twenty minutes later. The administration building came into sight, and lamps were visible inside. That was normal. The security guards worked out of the admin building. This evening, there should be ten guards patrolling the grounds and buildings. “Let’s stop here first, Dieter. Someone here should know what happened,” Archie said. They dismounted and tied the horses’ reins to the hitching rail in front.

They were met at the door by the security shift supervisor. “I thought you would be coming, Herr Marshal.”

“What happened?” Archie asked.

“One of the bunkers blew up. Number 9. We’re checking the other buildings and bunkers but, other than some broken windows and some minor roof damage, the damage isn’t bad . . . except for that one bunker.”

“Where is Bunker 9?”

The supervisor walked over to the map of the Reservation mounted on the wall. There was an index on one side. Each building and bunker was numbered. The supervisor looked at the map and pointed to one bunker. “Here,” he said. “It’s on the edge of the storage area, more than a mile from here. That’s probably why the damage was so slight.”

What could cause the bunker to explode? “What was stored there?” Archie asked.

The supervisor took a binder from a desk drawer. In the binder was a list of the bunkers and what was stored within each. Some contained finished ammunition. Others had finished primers and others, Number 9 among them, contained DDNP. “DDNP,” he replied.

Archie turned to Dieter and said, “Let’s go.”

Before he left, Archie told the supervisor, “Herr Reardon and Herr Johnson will be here soon, as well as Herr Rohn, I expect. Tell them we’ll be at the bunker site.”

Jawohl, Herr Marshal!”

It was a short ride to the bunker site. The moon had appeared after the evening’s earlier overcast had dispersed. Moonlight lit their way.

They smelled the odor from the explosion before they reached the bunker. It had been a standard bunker, a sunken stone and concrete building covered with earth and surrounded by a twenty-foot-high berm. The entrance had been through a dog-leg designed to keep most of the force of any explosion within the berm. From Archie’s visual examination, it had not worked. The dog-leg was gone. Two security guards were present. One was sitting on the ground. The other was tending his partner.

“You okay?” Archie asked riding up to the pair and dismounting. He recognized both of the guards. One was a former gunsmith apprentice who joined the security force for its higher wages. The other was a militiaman.

The one sitting, the former apprentice, said, “The explosion knocked me off my horse. I broke my arm, I think.”

“What about you?” Archie asked the other guard.

“I’m all right. We were a quarter of a mile away and had several berms between us when it exploded. My ears are ringing, though.”

“Mine, too,” said his partner.

“Glad you’re okay. Do you know what happened?”

“There was an intruder. We found some wagon tracks coming in from outside—not through any of the entrances. We were following them when it all blew up.” The protective berm around the Reservation was one of the tasks still uncompleted. There were gaps, here and there, mostly along the furthest side from Suhl. The intruder had entered through one of those gaps.

The bunker was a smoking hole in the ground. The grass on the sides of the berm was gone, blasted clean by the force of the explosion. The dog-leg entrance was gone, too, completely erased. Archie sniffed the air. He had popped enough primers to identify the odor from the exploded DDNP. But . . . there was another smell, one he couldn’t quite identify. “Do you smell that, Dieter?”

Dieter sniffed, sniffed again. “Black powder, I think. It’s faint but . . .”

That was it. Archie walked around examining the scene. There wasn’t much left inside the berm. Most of the force of the blast had been directed upwards just as Nicki Jo had planned. “Let’s check outside,” he said to Dieter.

They walked outside the berm in time to see Pat Johnson arrive with Gary Reardon. “Got an injured man inside,” he told them.

“Check the ground, Dieter. That powder didn’t come here by itself. Our powder mill and bunkers are on the other side of the reservation.”

More mounted guards arrived with lanterns. Archie gave them instructions to check the ground around the nearby berms looking for anything suspicious. Any nearby tracks outside the bunker had been wiped clean. The search would have to spread out if they hoped to find anything.


Archie and Gary looked at the splintered wagon, illuminated by the light of a dozen lanterns. “Damn fool,” Gary muttered. The remains of the wagon, two horses, and the driver were only a hundred and fifty yards from the exploded bunker. Most of the force of the explosion had been directed upwards . . . but not all. The dog-leg entrance to the bunker had been blown out allowing some of the explosive force to vent horizontally—directly towards the bunker and berm where the wagon driver had stopped to watch.

“You know him?” Archie asked. The body was mixed in with the wagon. In several pieces. The head was, surprisingly, intact. Mostly.

“Yeah, Joseph Lang. I put him out of business. Zoche bribed him to break a contract with us. He’s the reason why we were forced to build our own black powder mills.”

“I don’t know what he was thinking. He was too close. A bunker full of DDNP makes a much bigger explosion than a keg of black powder,” Archie observed.

“Is that what he did?” Gary asked.

“I think so. There was a keg still on the wagon when the bunker blew. It blew, too. I think he rolled a keg of black powder against the bunker door, lit a fuse, and took off.”

“Why didn’t he go further away?”

“He didn’t know the explosion would be so big. It would have been a safe distance for a black powder explosion.”


“Yep,” Archie agreed.

Georg Rohn walked up. He had been checking the scene as well. “How much DDNP did we lose?” Gary asked him.

“I’ll have to check the records but I think about seven hundred pounds. We have more stored in other bunkers,” Rohn answered. “We have enough empty bunkers that I spread the DDNP storage as far from one another as I could.”

“Will this affect our production lines?”

“No. We’ve more than enough for the primer line. This bunker was for the new blasting cap line.”

Gary watched the guards carry off what was left of Joseph Lang, what they could find of him. The remains of the two horses would be removed later.

“Dieter and I will write up a report for Judge Fross and the Suhl watch,” Archie told them. “I’ll send you an official copy, too, Gary. I’ll label Lang’s death as, Death by Misadventure, as our former British compatriots would say.”

“Death by idiocy,” Gary replied.

“Yeah, that, too.”




September, 1635



“Well, Anse, it’s not quite Labor Day, but It’ll do,” Archie spoke into Anse Hatfield’s ear. Hatfield was wearing his third hat, as he liked to call his part-time job overseeing the corporation’s security force. He divided his time between working with Ursula Johnson reviewing the books of U. S. Waffenfabrik, supervising the foremen of his trucking company, training drivers for the Suhl National Guard unit and building Suhl, Incorporated, security with Dieter Issler. The noise from the crowd made conversation difficult, especially for old soldiers whose hearing wasn’t all that good to begin with.

“I’d forgotten, Archie. This is Labor Day, isn’t it?” Anse Hatfield swept his eyes across the crowd. “No parades and no politicians speechifying, though.” His wife, Leonore, was somewhere in the mass of people likely with Marjorie Mitchell or Gaylynn Johnson. Leonore had arrived unexpectedly last autumn. She married Anse Hatfield not long after that.

Servers, hired for the event, circulated with trays of drinks, pitchers of beer, and platters of finger food. The lawn was littered with open tents and long tables and chairs positioned under the few trees remaining after the previous year’s clearance. A wagon rolled up to one tent, and the carters unloaded a number of barrels of beer. Everyone appeared to be having a great time. Here and there, one of his security guards could be seen wandering through the crowd, keeping the peace.

“Maybe not, but we do have the picnic, and Suhl, Incorporated, is picking up the tab. Have you reported all this to your boss?”

“Pat? Why should I? He’s right over there.” Pat Johnson was conversing with a man just ten feet away.

“No, your other boss, Francisco Nasi,” Archie said.

Anse turned towards Archie. “So . . . you know about that.” He wasn’t asking a question, he was confirming to Archie a poorly kept secret.

“I get copies of every message sent and received by the radio station, Anse. The station is administered by the court, and guess who supervises the operators?”

“Does anyone else know?”

“No, why should they?”

“Then why do you . . .”

“You forget who I work for—Judge Fross. I keep him in the loop whenever I think it’s appropriate. I may be on the Board of Suhl, Incorporated, but my primary loyalty is to the SoTF. There’s no conflict of interest. That said, speaking as one of the Board of Directors, Suhl, Incorporated, doesn’t mind Nasi knowing what we’re doing. He’s known officially since he helped us collar that spy. I suspect he is one of our original investors and probably gets copies of our progress updates from the Abrabanels. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nasi won’t be one of our better marketeers.”

On the far side of the crowd, under one of the trees, musicians started playing, and Archie could see couples dancing to the music. “As for others?” Archie continued, “like the Hart boys? Well, we preferred to keep our business to ourselves, keep it all a secret until we were ready to announce the news—like now.”

He saw Pat Johnson, Gary Reardon, and Ruben Blumroder head for the reviewing stand. He knew what was coming next. Archie grinned, “I think the show is about to start,” he said changing the subject. “Shall we join them?”


The weather was still warm for the gathering. Anse Hatfield left to join his wife and the members of his National Guard unit. Archie estimated that just about all of the corporation employees were here. So were the others from Suhl who had a connection with the company and the project in one form or another, including those who had helped when the storm had ruined RJ City the previous year. The festivities were being held on the lawn of the Suhl, Incorporated administrative headquarters outside Suhl. Maps of the Reservation were on display at several locations showing the layout of the plant, the fabrication buildings, the brassworks, the powder mill, and the storage bunkers.

Those maps had initially given Archie some concern but on reflection, everyone in Suhl knew the layout already. Moreover, as far as outsiders—spies—were concerned, they could get a copy of the Reservation map easily. The Reservation contained forty-seven buildings and bunkers in all. The black powder mill was Nicki Jo’s last project. It was in a separate area of the Reservation divided into five buildings and bunkers.

Everyone was dressed in their finest. Archie knew Marjorie and the other wives had plotted and planned to help those who couldn’t afford any expensive finery. He couldn’t help but compare Marjorie with the other wives. Marjorie had a fashion mind of her own as the down-timers discovered. She and Archie were dressed alike, more or less. Marjorie had altered one of his black suits that had come with them through the Ring of Fire. She had his suit jacket shortened to waist length and the buttons replaced with silver ones. The alterations allowed him to wear his ‘church’ regalia—black polished cowboy boots, black pants, and a silver and turquoise belt buckle that he had bought on their last vacation in Arizona. Add to all that was his white shirt, black bolo tie with silver and turquoise clasp, his tooled leather holster for one of his Colt .45 revolvers and topped off with his freshly cleaned and blocked off-white Stetson.

Marjorie wore a short black Bolero jacket similar to Archie’s, including matching silver buttons, with a long, ankle-length black pleated skirt that left her silver-toed black boots exposed. Like Archie, she wore a white blouse—hers was ruffled—and a silver and turquoise brooch at her throat. She also wore a tooled leather belt and holster around her waist holding her Smith and Wesson Model 25 in her customary cross-draw position on her left hip.

Her pistol gleamed brightly. It had been polished and blued by Pat’s gun shop in compensation for its use during the research and development of the primers. The Mitchells stood out from all the seventeenth-century dress as if they were Hollywood celebrities at a premier showing of a movie.

The other up-timers present wore variations of their up-time suits except for Pat Johnson. He chose to join the locals and was dressed in stockings, knee pants, buckled shoes, frock coat, and ruffled shirt. All he needed to be mistaken for a down-timer was a sword. Instead of a sword, he wore his revolver, freshly hot-blued like Marjorie’s. A number of pistols had been reblued after Pat finally gotten around to building his hot-bluing tank. That was one reason Archie was wearing his revolvers. His matching Colt Commanders were in that tank being reblued.

“If I may have your attention, please!” Gary Reardon called. The crowd was so large that he used a speaking trumpet to allow everyone to hear. He turned in a circle repeating his call.

When the crowd quieted, he began, “Thank you all for coming.” His voice sounded hollow through the megaphone. “Tonight is our celebration. The Project, as some of you have called it, is finished. I hope all of you have received your performance bonuses. You finished a month ahead of the plan. You came in ahead of schedule despite the storm that hit RJ City last year. That storm put us behind schedule by a month. But you—every one of you—buckled down and didn’t let that stop you. You met and exceeded your goals at every stage—even when behind! You not only made up the time from the delay after the storm but when we had to build our own powder mill, you chipped in and built it in two months. You all are to be congratulated,” he said amid the applause.

“I would like to announce the completion of two final project tasks before you rejoin the celebration. First, I’ve sent out a press release to Grantville, Bamberg, Magdeburg, to Nicki Jo and Katy, and a few other places. The press release announces the creation of a new, wholly owned subsidiary of Suhl, Incorporated—SMC! The Suhl Metallic Cartridge company!”

He waited again for the applause and shouting to subside before he continued. “Some members who worked on the Project deserve some special recognition . . . Marjorie Mitchell, would you come up here, please?”

Marjorie was surprised at the request. She and the other wives had been busy preparing the celebration. It had grown to be a much larger festival than they had planned, but nothing in the party agenda had included her.

When she walked up and joined Gary, he motioned her to stand at his side. “Marjorie has been one of the most important people in the Project. Not because she is some technical expert, not because she provided some special knowledge, although we’re very happy she lent us her pistol for some of the testing. No, Marjorie is special because she was there for all of us right when she was needed. When the storm hit RJ City, Marjorie organized the emergency kitchens to keep everyone fed until the mess halls were repaired and back feeding people. When Katy Boyle went back to Essen, Marjorie stepped in to fill her spot. Nicki Jo told me how much that helped before she left to join Katy. When Jurgen Holtz fell and broke his leg during the construction of the chemical fabrication building, Marjorie and some of the other wives helped the family care for their kids, and Jurgen, too, so Jurgen’s wife could take a job in our headquarters. When someone needed help, Marjorie was there.”

“For that, and many other reasons, we have something for Marjorie. Ruben—do you have it?”

“Right here,” Ruben answered from the front of the crowd. He walked up to the steps of the reviewing stand, carrying a large case of polished wood under his arm and joined the two. By the way he carried it, it obviously had some weight. One of the party workers set up a portable table next to Gary and Ruben laid the case on it.

Gary continued, “I know all of you can’t see this. It will be on display here for the rest of the evening. Ruben will you make the presentation?”

Ruben stepped forward, gave the crowd a glance, nodded to Gary Reardon and turned to Marjorie. “Gladly, Gary. Marjorie, I, and some others—Hockenjoss and Klott, and Georg Rohn over there, had parallel plans running with the Project. It was all well and good to produce cartridges in .45 Long Colt but there were few existing pistols chambered in that caliber. To sell ammunition, there needed to be a market, something that would shoot the ammunition. Suhl, Incorporated is announcing a new revolver they are placing on the market. It is a copy, as close as we can make it, of Marjorie’s Smith and Wesson Model 25. The Model 1 will be chambered in .45 Long Colt. It will be available is various barrel lengths and is a six-round revolver with swing-out cylinder. We’re including a cleaning kit, fifty rounds of SMC ammunition, and four speed-loaders with every pistol.”

Ruben paused to clear his throat while the crowd clapped and cheered. He held up his hand to quiet them. “In this case is a special SI Model 1. It is one of five,” he explained. “The first to be produced by Suhl, Incorporated. We gave these five some . . . special treatment. My people engraved each one. The model and serial number is engraved on the barrel and inlaid with gold script. This one says, “SI Model 1, .45LC, Number Five. Georg Rohn built the case and carved the oak grips. Another contributor provided the speed loaders. The case contains the engraved pistol, cleaning kit with rod, and one hundred rounds of SMC ammunition. That’s why the case is so heavy.”

The audience laughed. Many of them knew about the special pistols. They just didn’t know who would get them.

“Serial Number One goes to Emperor Gustav Adolf, Number Two goes to Ed Piazza, Number Three to Mike Stearns, and Number Four . . . well, I can’t disclose that yet. I think you all will understand when it’s finally announced.”

Archie stood watching the presentation. He had been told earlier that afternoon about Marjorie’s pistol. It wouldn’t have been possible if Osker Geyer hadn’t been able to improve his steel to be near-up-time quality. He was extremely proud of his newly revamped company, Geyer Steel. He had borrowed a number of Archie’s manuals and had used them, along with the information he brought back from the Grantville library, to produce a close copy of 4140 and 4150 ordnance steel. Geyer hadn’t been able to obtain enough molybdenum to match the amount called for in the up-time formula, but he had experimented and found an intermediate compromise, one that would do until he found a better source for molybdenum. Using Geyer’s steel, the new SI revolver weighed almost the same as did Marjorie’s original revolver. Geyer had other plans, too. He had told Archie that he was opening a steel and copper wire drawing plant in a couple of months. He said he already had orders on hand for copper wire of several gauges and for steel cable.

Pat Johnson appeared from within the crowd, walked up to Archie and joined him watching the rest of the presentation. When the presentation was finished, Pat turned to Archie, “I have something for you, Archie.” He placed a wooden box in Archie’s hand. It was smoothly finished and varnished with brass hinges. Overall, it was slightly larger than his hand.

“Open it, Archie.”

Archie unlatched and lifted the lid. Inside were rows of shiny, new .45 Long Colt cartridges . . . ten rows of ten cartridges. The inside of the lid was engraved with a logo of the letters, SMC, imposed over crossed SI Model 1 revolvers and the company name, Suhl Metallic Cartridge Company. Under that was a line that said Wholly-owned subsidiary of Suhl, Inc.

“Take a closer look,” Pat instructed.

Following Pat’s orders, Archie pulled one of the fat cartridges from its felt-lined hole. He had to squint to read the headstamp. It read, SMC, 45LC and Suhl 35. At first, Archie wasn’t sure what was so special about the cartridges…and then it hit him. He looked at the bullet. It was copper! And it had a hole in it! “JHPs!”

“Yep,” Pat said when he saw Archie had discovered his surprise. “When I was figuring out how to draw brass, I came across a page in one of your manuals about swaging lead to make jacketed bullets. After that it was simply a matter of drawing the copper over the lead and molding the hollow-point and cannelure.”

“Thank you, Pat. I really appreciate this.”

“These are black powder, but I hope for something better in the coming year.”


“You heard why Nicki Jo sent Katy back to Essen?’

“Yeah, something about a contract.”

“To safely make guncotton . . . nitrocellulose.”


“Yeah, just a short step away from smokeless powder. I think Poudre B was made from nitrocellulose. I gave her a cup of each of your smokeless powder that you used to reload .45ACP cartridges. I hope you don’t mind?”

“No! If she can make smokeless powder, I don’t have to worry about running out of .45ACP ammo.”

“I thought that, too. That’s why I had her sign an option to make smokeless for us when she thinks it’s feasible.”

A burst of clapping erupted from the crowd.

“You haven’t been keeping all this a secret, have you?” Archie asked with a wave of his hand towards the crowd.

“Well, secret from some, not from some others. We had a head start with SMC, and I want us to stay that way, ahead of all the others.”

“So you have orders in hand, don’t you?”

Pat grinned. “I received one today from Abel Abrabanel for 10,000 rounds.”

“Of .45 Long Colt?” That order surprised Archie. What would the Abrabanels want with 10,000 rounds of pistol ammunition?

“No, .45-70,” Pat explained. “U. S. Waffenfabrik is announcing today, in partnership with Suhl, Incorporated, of course, our new rifle, the Model 1635, a takeoff of Remington’s rolling block rifle in .45-70. We have two versions, a sporter-hunter version and the M1635 military version. The military version comes complete with a ladder-sight marked out to 500 yards, a bronze cleaning rod, a cleaning kit in the butt, and a bayonet with scabbard. Abel ordered ten M1635 military version rifles, too.”

Archie chuckled, “Beating all the competition,” he repeated. “I always knew you were a sneaky one, Pat.”

“But the best part is the other orders I’ve received.”


“From the USE Army and another group. All told, they will take about all of our current stockpile and up to 85% of our production for quite some time.”

“Eighty-five percent of what?”

“Just about everything. I don’t know if we’ll get an order for the new Model 1s, but I did for the M1635.”

“I thought you said you didn’t want to sell to the army?”

“No, what I said is that I didn’t want to sell solely to the army. We aren’t.”

“God, Pat, if I didn’t know you better, I’d say you were a Jesuit. You parse your words like them.”

Pat Johnson laughed, waved at Archie, and left to rejoin the celebrating crowd.



Fair or Foul: Part 2, Observing Pressure and Wind

Barometric Pressure


The barometer measures air pressure. A local fall in air pressure can indicate the approach of a frontal system with associated bad weather.

Pre-RoF Baroscopes. While the down-timers do not have barometers, they do have a baroscope (which shows pressure change without quantifying it). The earliest form was actually Drebbel’s perpetuum mobile; it featured a glass tube half-filled with water, partitioned at the top with one side communicating with a spherical reservoir, and the other being perforated and thereby exposed to the atmosphere. A lowering in air pressure would cause a drop in the water level. (A change in the temperature of the air in the reservoir would, too, so the device was also a thermoscope.) (Zittel 101). The earliest evidence of the device is from 1604, and it was presented to James I in 1607 (103). Drebbel was aware that the “perpetual motion” was attributable to the air, but didn’t suggest that the device had any value other than entertainment.

However, in 1619 the wife of the engineer Ghijsbrecht de Donckere sold to Ghent an instrument invented by her husband, “with which it is possible to see every day, through the rising of the water, bad weather, through the falling of the water, instead, the weather calming down, and, when the water rises very high and drops come out, that there will be storms at sea.” (Note that this design must have differed from Drebbel’s, because the direction of movement is inverted.) Similar devices were used by Henri de Heer and Jan Baptista van Helmont in the 1620s (Zittel 114-5). They came to be known as weather, storm, or thunder glasses, but these terms also are applied to true barometers (and at one time also to thermometers). It is also called the “Goethe Barometer.”

One form that I have seen is a pear-shaped glass bottle with an up-curving open spout. The water level in the bottle is above the bottle end of the spout. The spout being narrower than the bottle amplifies the effects. The device needs to be shaded to minimize temperature effects.

Mercury Barometers. There are two basic types of liquid barometers, cistern and siphon. In the cistern barometer, the lower end of a vertical tube is within a cistern holding the liquid. Air presses on the surface of the liquid and forces it up the tube, whose upper end is sealed. Mercury barometers need to be fairly large since the density of mercury is such that average sea level air pressure will force the liquid up to about thirty inches (760 mm) above the basin level. (But a barometer based on any other liquid would have to be much larger.) Historically, the first barometers, built in the 1640s by Evangelista Torricelli (1608-47) or Vincenzo Viviani (1622-1703), were of the cistern type.

In the siphon barometer, the tube is bent into a J-shape, sealed at the end of the long limb, and the barometer reading is the difference between the mercury heights in the two limbs. (EB11/Barometer).

There was also a hybrid, invented by Lavoisier; essentially a “siphon barometer with the addition of some sort of reservoir of mercury by means of which the level in both limbs of the siphon can be simultaneously varied.” (Middleton 228).

Efforts to improve on the mercury barometer addressed three aspects: readability, portability, and accuracy. There is likely to be little guidance in Grantville literature on how to improve these aspects, but I will briefly outline the more interesting of the post-Torricelli expedients that might be reinvented.

The world record high and low pressures differ by about five inches of mercury, and a normal range is more like three inches. For greater readability, inventors sought to increase the movement caused by a change in pressure. Hooke’s wheel barometer (1664) was in use for more than two centuries; a float in the mercury was attached by a cable that ran around a pulley to a counterweight, and the axis of the pulley was attached to the pointer of a dial (Middleton 94). There was also the “diagonal barometer” that employed an obliquely bent tube; this evolved into an L-shaped instrument that could be mounted into a corner of a mirror frame. It was more stylish than accurate (112). Both are alluded to by EB11/Barometer.

With regard to portability, the concern was not so much with weight or size, but rather fragility. The major demand for more portable barometers were from those who intended to take them up into the mountains and use them as altimeters, or from mariners. Carried while climbing, they were subject to shocks and even drops. Use at sea posed the additional problem of coping with the motion of the ship as a result of the wind (or the firing of the guns) during use.

With cistern barometers, there was the further problem of keeping the mercury from spilling while still permitting air to have access. By 1688 it was known that some woods (boxwood) are permeable to air and not to mercury, and thus may be used to make a closed cistern (145). A 1695 barometer used a screw to reduce the open volume of the cistern, causing the cistern and tube to be completely filled with mercury; the filled tube was less likely to break when jostled (151).

Blondeau (1779) designed a siphon barometer for marine use with an iron (unbreakable) tube. This had an ivory float, attached by a wire to a scale pointer. The wire passed through a bushing on the top of the short limb of the tube (158). The problem of tilting was addressed by Nairne (1773); he fixed his instrument in a gimbal, a technique also used for ship lighting (163). Fitzroy (1860) shock-mounted the barometer tube in rubber (164).

Improvements in accuracy generally were achieved by improving the vacuum at the top of the closed end of the tube, increasing the bore size of the barometer (reducing the capillary depression of the meniscus at the periphery), making the level easier to read, and supplying a mechanism to maintain the level of mercury in the cistern at the zero level.

In theory, you can obtain a vacuum in a cistern barometer by turning the tube so the open end is up, pouring in some mercury, then inverting it over the cistern. The level of mercury in the tube will descend until its weight is balanced by the air pressure on the exposed mercury, leaving a vacuum in its wake. But “as early as 1649 Zucchi noted the difficulty of filling a tube with mercury without introducing bubbles.” (Middleton 241). Boyle tried to clear out bubbles with iron wires, with imperfect success. Moreover, the tube would be cleaned with some solvent (ethanol) before filling, and the solvent could be entrained.

A big improvement was achieved by boiling the mercury (first described in 1723 and universal by 1772) to remove air and other gaseous impurities. The sealed end of the tube was held over a small stove, and an iron wire jiggled in the tube to expedite the bubbling of the air. Once there were no more bubbles, the tube was repositioned to heat a different part of the tube.

The reader will surely realize that this process produces dangerous mercury vapors. The Cardinal de Luynes warned colleagues to do it in a large room, with no gold or silver about (thus protecting the gilded furniture if not the artisan). In 1935, Patterson combined the purification of mercury with this outgassing process; the tubes, connected to the mercury distillation column, were placed in a heated vacuum chamber (248).

Insofar as readability is concerned, one expedient was providing a ring-shaped index that could be moved to be level with the top of the meniscus, to facilitate reading off its height relative to the external scale. Another was providing a fine scale (vernier) that could be slid up or down the tube to align with the top of the meniscus.

With regard to the cistern level, there would be a means of indicating a departure from the zero level (overflow, a fixed index, a floating index, a scale on the cistern), and a means of adjustment (pouring, putting a supply of mercury in a leather bag, a plunger in the cistern, a screw for moving the cistern relative to the tube or moving a plunger within the cistern). Or one could make the scale rather than the cistern adjustable.

The Fortin barometer (1809), later known as the “weather service” barometer, was a cistern barometer with the mercury reservoir taking the form of a leather bag (inside a boxwood or glass container) that could be raised or lowered from below by a screw. Above the bag is an ivory pointer; before taking a reading, the bag is adjusted so that the point just touches the mirror image of the point on the surface of the mercury ( The glass tube is enclosed in brass tubes with a reading slit for protection. The fixed tube carries the scale on an adjustable brass plate, and the movable tube has the sighting ring and vernier for reading the mercury level (Brombacher 6). This was an extremely popular, accurate, and durable design. In 1856, Green devised a way to minimize leakage of mercury at the cistern joints, replacing cement with clamping screws, leather washers, and boxwood specially selected from the center of the wood and specially treated (saturated with shellac in a vacuum) (Middleton 346). The accuracy is dependent on the bore size (0.25-0.8 inches). Two of the ten Fortin-type barometers imported by the Signal Service in 1878 were still being used as working standards by the Weather Bureau in 1962 (Middleton 350).

There is a reasonable possibility that if an up-timer who majored in physics had to do a course lab experiment that involved measuring air pressure, that the instrument used was a Fortin-type barometer (UQ Physics Museum).

(Elastic) Barometers. An aneroid barometer, by definition, is merely one that doesn’t use a liquid as a sensor. However, in practice the term signifies a particular mechanical sensor. The basic concept, proposed by Leibnitz, is that a hollow capsule with an interior vacuum has at least one flexible (elastic) wall, and this will deflect to a greater or lesser degree depending on the outside air pressure. Of course, this tiny deflection would have to be magnified by mechanical linkages so it can be read out and quantified. Elastic barometers were designed by Zeiher (1763) and Conte (1797), but the approach that caught on was that of Vidie (1844). The flexible wall was supported by internal helical springs (otherwise the capsule would be crushed) and, in the readout mechanism, there is a bimetallic strip for temperature compensation.

With the bimetal, there is perfect compensation at only one temperature. If a small amount of gas is left in the capsule, it is possible to make the compensation perfect at two temperatures (412). It also helps to keep the capsule volume very small.

But if the metal used is one in which Young’s modulus has no temperature dependence (thermoelasticity) in the meteorological range, then the mechanism can be engineered to provide perfect compensation at all temperatures. NISPAN-C (patented 1955) has essentially no thermoelasticity for -50 to +150oF (Hamden). Unfortunately, I haven’t found any indication that either its composition or its properties would be known in Grantville. Before NISPAN-C was available, one could make the two sides of the diaphragm out of different metals, one with positive thermoelasticity (modulvar) and the other with negative (beryllium-copper). But those alloys are also problematic for NTL 1630s.

The metal used to make the capsule in the nineteenth century was brass or German silver, and they were soldered together (Srivastava 56). (Nowadays, a 0.002″ thick sheet of copper-beryllium alloy (a corrosion-resistant material) is stamped out to form two thin diaphragms, and their edges are electron beam-welded in a vacuum to form the capsule (McClung). Steel may be used instead, and there can be a series of capsules in a single barometer (for greater total movement). Usually, the diaphragms are corrugated for additional strength, and the supporting spring is now likely to be external. One diaphragm is clamped and the other is free to move. The vacuum is about 95% (Srivastava).

The mechanical linkages have to be accurately machined, to tolerances similar to those used in watchmaking. Friction must be minimized so that they are responsive to small changes in pressure. The encyclopedias don’t provide much detail, but it is reasonable to expect that there are aneroid barometers in Grantville—it’s a rural area, and the barometer has some value for short-term weather forecasting. Hence, one of these can be disassembled and studied.

Precision electronic aneroid capsule barometers feature contact-free measurement of the displacement of the aneroid capsule. There are several different means of achieving this, including capacitive and potentiometric displacement detectors, but there is probably nothing in Grantville literature about this (WMO2008 3.3.1).

Miscellaneous Electronic barometers. There are also piezoresistive (these need a monolithic silicon crystal element) and cylindrical resonator (pressure variation changes strain in a nickel alloy cylinder and thereby changes its resonant frequency) barometers (WMO2008). I think Grantville information on these approaches is minimal if not nonexistent and the required infrastructure well beyond that is achievable in the foreseeable future of the new time line.


Deadweight Barometer. This is “weird tech.” Blaise Pascal invented (~1650) a barometer which Middleton (396) describes as a sealed “concertina bellows” attached at its upper end to a roof beam and at its lower end having a chain that reaches and is partly coiled up on the floor. As air pressure changes, “various amounts of the chain will be lifted from the floor.” (The chain is analogous to the drag rope used by balloonists; as the lift on the balloon changes as people get on or off, or temperatures inside and out change, the amount of drag rope lifted changes, and thus changes the weight that the balloon is lifting.) The problem with Pascal’s barometer is the difficulty in making the bellows airtight.

Boyle (1660) proposed “hanging a dead weight on the piston of his air pump.” The air pressure on the piston would be opposing the weight of the piston. The idea has had legs; a fancy piston barometer was described by Indrik in 1959 (397). The cylinder was evacuated by a high-vacuum pump, most of the upward force of air on the piston was balanced by weights, and the remainder by a weak spring. (The accuracy was equivalent to that of the best mercury barometer, and the temperature correction smaller by a factor of 18. Unfortunately, the design is not suitable for use as a primary (calibrating) barometer because of the difficulty in exactly measuring the piston area.)


Mercury barographs (Middleton Chap. 11) may record the column position intermittently or continuously. Hooke adapted his float-based wheel barometer into an intermittent barograph (the mechanism moved a punch).  A float may also be used to guide the movement of pens vertically across paper carried by a rotating vertical axis drum, producing a continuous record, as in the Dines barograph (1904). Barographs have also been based on the mercury movement causing a shift in balance.

A crude photographic barograph was built the very year (1839) that Talbot published his photogenic drawing method. In the years that followed, natural lighting was replaced by artificial lighting, and the simple imaging of the shadow of the column with a sharper image created by a lens system.

Wheatstone’s intermittent electric barograph (1845) lowered a pair of platinum wires into the short limb of a siphon barometer, and raised them again, driven by clockwork. The immersion created a circuit and the emersion broke it. When it broke, a hammer fell on carbon paper. The printing could be at a remote location if there was suitable intermediate wiring.

Aneroid barographs. The mechanism that moves the dial on the conventional aneroid barometer is readily adapted to moving a pen across paper on a rotating drum. The drum of course is moved at a constant time rate by clockwork and in Breguet’s barograph (1867) it drives a separate clock face, too, so the barograph is also a clock (Middleton 426).

As you might expect, there have also been aneroid barographs in which the mechanical movement is converted to a transmittable electrical signal.


Correction and Calibration. All mercury barometer readings must be corrected for temperature (which can cause expansion of the glass, the mercury, and of any air above the mercury), air pressure changes with altitude, and the change of local gravity with altitude and latitude (remember, the earth isn’t quite spherical).

Errors can also be introduced by individual defects, e.g., in the vacuum, the purity of the mercury (Middleton 246), the variation in the size of the bore with length, and imperfections in or misalignments of the attached scale. A cistern barometer is also susceptible to the errors of capillarity (the mercury level is convex not flat) and capacity (a change in the mercury level in the tube causes a change in the level in the cistern, which then no longer corresponds with the scale zero) (EB11/Barometer). While the siphon barometer is free of these errors (the capillary depressions in the two limbs cancel each other out, and there is no cistern), “impurities are contracted by the mercury in the lower limb, which is usually in open contact with the air . . . .” All of these errors are addressed by periodic calibration.

Aneroid (elastic) barometers have some degree of internal temperature compensation, and do not need correction for gravity, but still need the correction for direct pressure change with altitude (NPL). That may make them sound more accurate than mercury barometers, but in fact at the time of RoF they were less so because of “irregularities in the elasticity of the metal of the pressure capsule, and those introduced by mechanical linkages” (Srivastava 59). And some older aneroid barometers (certainly the household models in Grantville) do not have temperature correction graphs. Typically, mercury barometers are used to calibrate aneroid barometers, not the other way around. However, aneroid barometers are very suitable for nautical use where the fragility of the mercury barometer is a serious issue.

It is possible to design a so-called primary barometer that can be used to calibrate an ordinary barometer. It’s essentially a barometer of high accuracy (and weight and cost). The field barometer is placed alongside it, and the difference in reading is applied to the field barometer as a scale correction. It is then taken back to the field and need only be corrected for gravity (to mean sea level pressure—a one-time correction, unless it is moved) and temperature. Periodic recalibration is advisable.

Required Accuracy. In 1960, primary barometers had an accuracy of 0.001-0.005 mm (Brombacher 8). WMO in 2008 expected station barometers to have an accuracy of 0.1 hPa (0.075 mm or 0.003 inches mercury). For marine barometers, 0.5 hPa was tolerated.


Barometers in Grantville. Next to the thermometer, the barometer is the meteorological instrument that is most likely to have been found in a Grantville home at the time of RoF. The barometer that David de Vries took with him to Suriname in fall 1633 “had once hung on the roof post of a Grantville porch” (Cooper, “Beyond the Line,” in 1636: Seas of Fortune).

There are certainly aneroid barometers in Grantville; I am not sure about mercury-based ones. Attempts have been made to limit mercury use since the 1970s. The amount of mercury in a liquid barometer is typically 400-620 grams. In 2001 (one year after RoF), the total mercury in barometers sold in the United States was 353 pounds (NEWMOA). With 454 grams to the pound, if we say 500 grams per instrument, that’s 321 instruments sold throughout the United States, so the chance of a brand-new one being in Grantville is not high. Of course, there could be barometers in Grantville that were bought earlier, and even before mercury became a concern. But some old mercury barometers would have been disposed of and replaced by aneroid ones before RoF.

Frankly, it is more helpful that we have aneroid barometers, because the down-timers will quickly understand how to build a mercury barometer, even without a sample, whereas aneroid barometers are of a more complicated and unfamiliar nature.


There are several references to the barometer in canon. What is more difficult to ascertain is when production of new barometers commenced. In Roesch & Hidaka, “The Things We Do for Love” (Grantville Gazette 46), Logan brings Sorrento an up-time barometer which she has calibrated against the mercury barometer in the physics lab. That suggests to me that her barometer is an aneroid barometer. She proposes in turn to use it to adjust the “down-time altimeters.”

These altimeters almost certainly are judging altitude by measuring air pressure; i.e., they are really barometers. (It is possible to measure altitude by bouncing a radio wave off the ground, but that’s more advanced than a barometer).





I have grouped wind with pressure because, in essence, wind is air moving down a pressure gradient from high to low pressure. For wind meteorology, see Cooper, “Untying the Wind” (Grantville Gazette 35).



Wind Direction


Wind direction is indicated by the wind vane, which is already known to the down-timers. In essence, a vane is pivotably mounted on a vertical shaft, balanced so there is equal weight, but unequal profile area, on either side of the shaft. For outdoor readings, directional indicators marking the compass directions surround the shaft. The vane should be observed from close to directly below the vane to minimize perspective errors.

When a wind vane is not available, the wind direction may be estimated by comparing the movement of drifting smoke or a flag on a flagstaff with the compass.

The pre-RoF wind vane may be improved upon in several respects. First, if the tail vane is given an airfoil shape—a “vertical wing”—it will follow the wind better (MiddletonMI, 137). Second, one can make it possible to read the wind direction from indoors, or better yet, to record changes in wind direction with time. In 1695, the shaft of the wind vane at Wallingford House was coupled through a system of rods and cams to a large wall dial. Wallingford House was later integrated into the Admiralty building, with the dial being a prominent feature of their Lordships’ board room (Pope 22). There was also a wind vane repeater in the ceiling of the east portico of Jefferson’s Monticello (Peterson 393).

Mechanical connections are fine when the wind vane is mounted on the roof above the observer’s room, but for more remote connections, an electrical system is desirable. Either AC or DC transmission is possible. In the AC form, you have two small motors. The rotor on the transmitter is attached to the wind vane shaft and that of the repeater to the pointer of the readout dial. The stator field windings (forming an equilateral triangle) of the transmitter are connected to the corresponding windings of the repeater, and they are both fed the same AC source. The result is that the rotor on the repeater motor will tend to assume the same angular position as the rotor on the transmitter motor. (Srivastava 188).

Wind directions are reported as the direction the wind is coming from. Prior to the twentieth century, the points of the compass were used. In modern practice, the direction is given in degrees from true north, to the nearest ten degrees, with an accuracy of five degrees (WMO2008).

A wind vane used on shipboard (or any moving vehicle) indicates the direction of the apparent wind, not the true wind. However, if the ship’s true speed is known, the true wind may be calculated. For logging ship speed, see Cooper, “Soundings and Sextants, Part One, Navigational Instruments Old and New” (Grantville Gazette 14).


Wind Speed


Wind Scale. Without a device for measuring wind, the strength of the wind can only be described consistently by different observers (or the same observer at different times) if there is some sort of objective scale. As of RoF, the down-timers lacked such a scale.

The Brahe wind scale (1582) ran from dead calm, through two categories of light winds, five of strong winds, and finally three of storms (De Villiers 61). However, the descriptions of his categories lacked any objective standard (Huler 82).

Captain John Smith, in his Sea Grammar (1627) defined the customary sailors’ terms for the winds. Most of these definitions weren’t that helpful, but his “Loome Gale” was one in which the ship could carry all its sails, and the “Stiff Gale” one that was the most that the topsails could endure to bear (Huler 85). Keep those terms in mind.

The first objectively defined numerical scale was perhaps that of James Jurin (1723). It began well with zero as “perfect calm” and one as “the gentlest motion of the wind, which scarcely shakes the leaves on the trees” and culminated in four, “the most violent wind.” I do not know the definition of the intermediate levels. In 1780, the Palatine Society (Mannheim, Germany) adopted a similar five-point scale, defining two as “small boughs move,” three as “large boughs move,” and four as “boughs are torn off.” Anders Celsius also devised a five-point scale, though his required that grade two “move a heavy weathervane,” and grade four cause the trunk to “sway vehemently.” A 1779 Swedish scale distinguished among several different degrees of “topsail gales,” and it is suspected that the intent was to correlate with how much the topsail needed to be reefed (single, double or triple) (84). Beaufort took this a step further, characterizing the lighter breezes (forces 2-4) by the speed in knots of a man-of-war with all sails set, and the stronger winds (forces 5-12) by which sails had to be taken down or reefed (Huler 121).

The displacement of sailing ships by steamships rendered obsolete the definitions based on sail carried, and Simpson proposed (1906) a scale based on the sea state. (Explicit wave heights were added in 1960.) And of course, sea state isn’t useful for land observers, so Simpson also proposed one that categorized the effect of the wind on smoke and trees (NMLA).

Strictly speaking, the Beaufort wind scale categorizes wind force, not wind speed, and the force is theoretically proportional to the square of the speed. The International Commission for Weather Telegraphy’s empirical equivalent wind speed formula (1946) is v = 0.836 B1.5 m/s; B, scale number (Wikipedia). Yes, I know the exponent is 1.5, not 2.

The wind scale may be used to estimate the wind speed if the anemometer fails.

Anemometer. A deflection anemometer was invented by Leonardo da Vinci. “The flat plate, hinged at the top, is blown up along the curved scale in proportion to the speed of the wind” (Keele 135). (In proportion, but not linear proportion. Strictly speaking, wind pressure-based anemometers measure wind force, not wind speed, and even then, the scale of a deflection anemometer is not linear because the force on the inclined plate is proportional to the square of the cosine of the angle of deviation of wind incidence from the perpendicular.) A deflection anemometer was used on a Swedish warship in the late 1700s to take wind readings (Huler 89).

The four-cup (Robinson) anemometer (1846) is essentially a miniature windmill with a vertical axis. Robinson erroneously assumed that the cup speed would be one-third the wind speed, but the ratio is dependent on the dimensions of the cups and arms (EB11/anemometer). But at least there is a mostly linear relationship between wind speed and the rotation speed of the cup center (Pindado). Unfortunately, cup anemometers accelerate faster than they decelerate, so they tend to overshoot.

There has been experimentation with respect to the number of cups, the cup shape (cone, hemisphere, combination), the length of the arms, the means used to minimize friction (ball, tapered, and roller bearings), and the manner of reading the number of rotations (Choon). Patterson found that a “two-cup rotor runs very unevenly, while a three-cup rotor in this respect is actually superior to a four-cup rotor and also has a more linear calibration . . . and gives a larger torque . . . .” (Kristensen). More recently, a six-cup rotor (two tiers of three) was developed, and increasing the drag coefficient of the reverse side of the cups dealt with the overshoot problem. (Frenzen). Designers should also consider that a short shaft or large, sharp-edged body will create flow disturbances (Hunter).

One can instead use a horizontal axis, but then a wind vane must be used to keep the axis parallel to the direction of the wind. Also, instead of cups, one may use a propeller.

No anemometers are mentioned in canon. Anemometers are described in EB11, and in an Amateur Scientist column of Scientific American (1972 Jun, 122). Crude four-cup anemometers are featured in several pre-RoF books on science fair experiments (e.g., Janice VanCleave’s Weather, 1995).  Even without that guidance, the cup anemometer is something that some of the up-timers have surely seen, and a good mechanic can surely come up with a practical design. There may even be an exemplar at the high school science department.

The anemometer will have to be calibrated (so we know the relationship between rotational speed and wind speed), and the simplest way to do it is to mount it on a car and drive the car at a set speed on a day the air is still. In modern practice, anemometers are sometimes calibrated in a wind tunnel. The performance of an anemometer can degrade with time as a result of wind damage, corrosion, dust infiltration, etc.

It is possible to read the anemometer remotely if an electrical generator is connected to its axis. Rotation of the axis creates an electric current which can be measured at the observer end of the wire with an ammeter. The electrical readout also facilitates recording the wind speed as a continuous graph by an electromechanical linkage that moves a pen across a scrolling paper in response to the change in current.

The cup or propeller anemometer is not accurate for measuring low wind speeds. For this purpose, one can use a hot-wire anemometer (measures how ventilation cools an electrically heated wire).

Operation. In modern practice, the wind vane and anemometer are supposed to be mounted at a point well exposed to the wind from all directions (distance from any obstruction should be at least ten times its height), and at a height of ten meters. An anemometer on top of a building should be raised at least one building width above the top. For ship-based measurements, good exposure is considered more important than fixing it at a height of ten meters, and a correction is made for height (WMO2008).

Reporting. The anemometer reports, with a short time lag, the instantaneous wind speed. Usually, what consumers are interested in are the average wind speed and the maximum gust speed over a set time interval. This can be estimated by study of the recorded wind trace from an anemograph, or by taking a series of observations manually from an anemometer over the course of ten minutes. In modern practice, the desired accuracy is 0.5 m/s for speeds under 5 m/s, and 10% for higher wind speeds (WMO2008).


Now that we know how the basic meteorological instruments can be made in the new time line, we are ready to talk about the development of an observer network, the propagation of weather maps, and weather forecasting. Stay tuned to this channel . . . .


Freemasonry in the World of 1632

Almost since the beginning of the Ring of Fire Universe, readers (and writers) have speculated about potential activities by social and fraternal organizations in Grantville and how they might continue to operate in the seventeenth century. In particular, the Masonic Fraternity could have made the journey back in time and sought to function in the down-time environment.

There are a number of obstacles to fraternal activity in the form in which it would have existed up-time, and these place significant constraints on stories set down-time. I have been a writer in the universe for a few years and have had the benefit of excellent advice and editorial direction regarding a large number of subjects; now, as an active Freemason who serves as Grand Historian for the oldest Grand Lodge in North America and as librarian at its library, I have the opportunity to provide my own exposition which I hope will be useful for any writers seeking to work Freemasonry into stories set in the world of 1632.


Freemasonry in Up-time Grantville


Grantville, West Virginia is closely based on an actual town, Mannington, which up-time had a local lodge—Mannington #31, originally chartered (brought into existence) under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Virginia; it was inactive during the Civil War and was reformed and chartered in 1867. While not among the lodges that helped create the Grand Lodge of West Virginia in Fairmont in 1865, Mannington Lodge was still one of the earliest lodges created in the new state, and is still on West Virginia’s rolls today.


Lodges and Grand Lodges


Since the early eighteenth century, a distinct geographical area—a country or region or, in the United States, a state or territory—will have a supernumerary body called a grand lodge. This organization, governed by a grand master, performs the following functions exclusively within its territorial jurisdiction:


  • It issues and controls charters: official documents that permit a lodge to perform Masonic functions and admit new members
  • It directs the performance of Masonic rituals and determines official protocols under which lodges operate
  • It collects fees for new and existing members of lodges.

Though they have done so in the past, Grand Lodges in the United States do not generally confer membership (“the degrees”) on applicants; this is generally reserved to the lodges.


Lodge Organization


Lodges in the United States vary somewhat in their exact organization, but every lodge—the local, constituent body that actually performs the Masonic ritual—will have a number of officers, either elected by the membership or appointed by the governing officer, who is universally called the Master (or “Worshipful Master”). The next two officers are called Wardens, Senior and Junior; that is the minimum number of officers absolutely required to conduct a meeting. There are varying numbers and types of other officers depending on jurisdiction—Deacons and Stewards to help perform the Masonic rituals, a Marshal (or Master of Ceremonies) to conduct processions, a Chaplain to offer prayers; a Secretary and Treasurer to manage the business of the lodge, a Tyler (who generally remains outside the room to receive visitors and “guard the door”), and even an Organist, if the lodge has an organ or piano, as music has been a part of Masonic meetings for centuries.

The primary function (“work”) of a Masonic lodge is to confer the “degrees”—a series of presentations that teach moral lessons and impose obligations upon candidates. Each degree includes an oath, generally sworn on bended knee at an altar, which includes the obligation to keep secret the “modes of recognition”—signs and handshakes (“grips”) that permit Masons to “recognize” each other. (In modern times, Masons tend to recognize each other by lapel pins, belt buckles, and baseball caps, but that’s beside the point.) It is worth noting that all presentations in lodges are done from memory, and in West Virginia (as in many other jurisdictions) the “work” is taught from mouth to ear, that is, without any sort of textbook. Officers learn their words sentence by sentence from a teacher. This is aided (in West Virginia) by “schools of instruction,” where a teacher might have a printed text of the ritual, but it is not permitted to copy it for personal use. However, much of the “secret work” has been available in one form or another, particularly with the advance of the Internet; it is unclear what might have been available in that form in 2000.




West Virginia lodges generally meet once or twice a month on the same night (“First and Third”); if multiple times they would meet once for business and once to confer degrees. According to the current West Virginia Grand Lodge list, a few lodges meet according to the phase of the moon; this practice was much more common when members needed to find their way home from meetings at night by moonlight.

Most lodges in West Virginia hold special meetings on one or both “Saint John’s Days”—June 24 (Baptist) and December 27 (Evangelist).




While the exact conduct of Masonic meetings might be kept somewhat secret, the Mannington lodge met—and still meets—in a publicly identifiable location at a well-known time; in this case, at 107½ Clarksburg Street on the first and third Tuesdays.


Effects of the Ring of Fire


The single most important effect of the event would be to isolate the Grantville lodge from the rest of the up-time Masonic fraternity. For all intents and purposes, the only Masonic lodge—in the up-time sense—that would exist would be Grantville Lodge. There would be no Grand Lodge to govern it, no neighbor lodges to share duties. It would be effectively alone.

There would be additional complications, not the least of which would be that the first year or two might leave little time to keep up meetings of the lodge.

But there would be an even greater obstacle to conducting Masonic work if some – or most—of the active officers were not in Grantville when the Ring of Fire took it away. If the Master and Wardens lived a few towns away, they would simply be absent and unable to give the memorized lectures that are essential to the conferral of degrees. This might be ameliorated if some of the people who happened to be there on the day of the event—say, one or more male members of the wedding party—happened to be Masons, but if they belonged to a lodge in another jurisdiction, even if they were officers they might be familiar with a completely different version of the lectures. Modes of recognition are fairly universal within the United States, but protocols and practices might be completely different.

For convenience, it might be assumed that at least one of Grantville Lodge’s senior officers came through the Ring of Fire, and if we decide to be generous, that one of the members of the lodge—perhaps a past Master (one who had previously been the presiding officer)—served as a lecturer or instructor and happened to have a copy of the ritual text book. Given those modest assumptions, Grantville Lodge might be able to return to operation a few years after the Ring of Fire. It would effectively be its own Grand Lodge, but depending on the temperament and judgment of its members, it might face insuperable challenges in continuing to function. It could make its own rules—but while that dispenses with many problems, it creates almost as many more.


Freemasonry Outside the Ring of Fire


Here we reach the heart of the difficulty regarding the future of Masonic activity and stories that might be written about it. Well-defined history of the Fraternity dates from the year 1717, when the first Grand Lodge (the “Grand Lodge of London and Westminster,” which ultimately became the Grand Lodge of England, the ancestor of all “regular” Freemasonry in the world) was organized by four lodges in London. The oldest Grand Lodge in the New World, Massachusetts, was created by this Grand Lodge in 1733, with many others not far behind.

However, it is well-known—just not well-documented—that there was considerable Masonic activity, with at least some of the forms and ceremonies resembling the modern ones, well before 1717. This took place all during the seventeenth century, and possibly during the sixteenth century as well. Anecdotal accounts freely mix with legend, and what you believe has a lot to do with what you believe about the origin of the fraternity itself.

Most traditional histories suggest that the “speculative” form of Masonry—the philosophical and benevolent society that doesn’t actually work in stone—grew out of the medieval stonemasons’ guilds, which had codes of behavior, modes of recognition, traditions of charity, and a strong predilection for keeping secrets, including in some cases the identity of its members. At some point these guilds began to admit non-operative members, particularly those who would give the society a cachet.

There is, however, a poorly-supported theory that the Freemasons are, in fact, the descendants of members of the Templar order, who were forced to “go underground” after the order was betrayed and banned by the Church in the early fourteenth century. This theory began to gain popularity in the early- to mid-eighteenth century, and while romantic, it does not stand up to close scrutiny.

Finally, the principles and beliefs of the Masonic fraternity are closely aligned with the Enlightenment—equality, fraternity, freedom of thought—and the modern-day society derives much of its true philosophy from the beliefs of that era; all of that precedes the seventeenth-century incarnation of Freemasonry. In short: whatever the form of the fraternity in the seventeenth century, it will be a lot different than the twentieth-century form. It will be secretive, charitable only within its membership, jealous of its privileges, and—unlike the up-time version—doctrinaire and likely hostile to “outsiders”—even people who know the modes of recognition. Up-time Freemasons will have a tough time cracking the shell of down-time ones.

J. G. Findel’s History of Freemasonry gives an account of the development of the Steinmetzen, a society of stonemasons in the Holy Roman Empire. Findel identifies the headquarters of the organization as Strasbourg, with subordinates—Bauhütten—which might compare with lodges, with the oldest ones in various cities in the Empire dating from the thirteenth century. He notes that there was some decline in the Bauhütten over the next two centuries, but in 1459 a confederation of nineteen Bauhütten formed a new confederation. They gathered in Ratisbon to write a set of Ordinances to govern it, and these statutes became the standard throughout the Empire, confirmed by a series of Emperors. These Steinmetzen—actual operative stonemasons—used recognition modes (Wahrzeichen) and initiation ceremonies that were similar to those used by Freemasons in modern times. The Thirty Years’ War seriously disrupted the fraternal activities of the Steinmetzen, as well as putting many builders and craftsmen out of work.

Understand, however, that the Steinmetzen in the Empire were operative Masons—they actually worked with tools and built things. They were bound together by more than fraternalism; they were professional colleagues.


Interaction Between Up-time and Down-time Masons


Properly treated, the interaction between up-time Freemasons and down-time Steinmetzen would be a good source of interesting stories. The Steinmetzen would by their nature be more secretive and more jealous of their relationships; any chance encounters would be the result of some accident, like an up-time Mason seeing a recognition sign or overhearing a password and then seeking to greet the down-timer. These are unlikely to be received well, at least at the outset. But if a trusting relationship could be established, it would give the Grantville Masons access to a wide network of intelligence and local knowledge.



Drahuta Residence, Bamberg, USE


Julie always entered her residence with a certain suspicion.

From a husband who enjoyed wearing his cavalry armor to the dinner table to a house that could, sometimes at the same time, hold the world’s greatest mathematician and a worldwide sensation who was currently on medication for that, the Drahuta household was nothing like it would have been had she remained in the year 2000 and not been tossed into the seventeenth century.

The blatant stench of garlic was only a warning—and a vague, confusing one at that.

“Logan made pizza?” Julie asked her ebullient daughter as she bounded into the entranceway which had seen its share of minor drama and arterial blood flow.

“Why does everyone assume that she made the pizza?” Karla demanded, pouting a well-used and experienced lip out before her.

“Because I don’t smell smoke and burning.”

“I got the oven to the right temperature, Ma! If it was a frozen pizza and I had the oven at our real home in Grantville, there would be no fire.”

“There was that time you forgot to take the pizza out of the cardboard box . . .”

“When will people stop reminding me of that?”

“When the last person who remembers it, in this century, dies.”

“I don’t want you to die, Ma.”

“That would not have been the conclusion someone would have jumped to if they had seen the kitchen. What in the name of heaven led you to believe threading a garden hose through the window, while it was on, was a good thing to do. Couldn’t you have opened the window?”

“There was fire, Ma. You don’t think during a fire. You do. I busted a hole for the hose with a cheap garden gnome, and Dad hated them anyway.”

“I know there was a fire. I was there when the insurance adjuster was making notes on her clipboard. The water damage was more expensive than the smoke and fire damage. I didn’t think the fire department put that much water in my kitchen.”

“You and Dad got a new stove out of it.”

“Did you have to spray every electrical outlet?”

“There was smoke coming out of that one and . . .”

“Let’s just focus on the pizza Logan made and leave it at that. I believe the saying is, leave sleeping dogs alone.”

“She’s in her room, crying.”

“Okay, Karla, that was important information. Why is she crying?”

“She’s sitting on her bed staring at her airplane poster.”

That meant her poster of current aircraft, current for the year 2000 from whence Grantville and she had come.

“But I think it’s Blaise . . . apparently he’s got a new girlfriend. She thinks she’s losing him.”

“Oh Lord . . .”

And, true to form, speak or even think of the devil and he appears.

“Greetings all!” Blaise Pascal announced, pushing his way into the entranceway and coming to all the wrong conclusions. “I think I have found the perfect carpet to replace this one. That blood stain causes too many questions. My eyes are unnaturally directed to it and my sister, Gilberte, never fails to remind me if it seems I forget. She says she will not buy carpeting until she is sure I will not routinely bleed all over her house.”

“Blaise . . .”

“It smells like Logan made pizza!” Blaise patted his stomach. “She makes good pizza!”

“Blaise . . .”

“It is hard to find just the right circular rug. I am sorry about the blood stain, Madame Drahuta,” Blaise Pascal stated solemnly.

“Blaise! Forget the blood stain!”

“How do I do that? Everyone is always reminding me. I want to do something to make amends. I am told there is little that can be done about the damage to the wall but I replaced the little table you liked.”

“Blaise, Logan is upstairs, crying . . .”

Blaise flinched and looked very much like a hunted animal.

“I didn’t do anything . . .” he flinched.

“Karla says you have a new girlfriend?”

“Oh, her? She’s just a really smart girl who knows her mathematics. That’s all. Really. I have done nothing inappropriate. We are well chaperoned when we are at the chalkboard. And she is German. German women do not accept ungentlemanly behavior.”

Karla’s snicker was unnerving for the sudden attention Blaise gave it.

“I would like Logan in the dining room to share supper with us, Blaise. Go up and see to it.”

“Alone? She’s crying . . . does she . . . is she . . . armed?”

“Blaise! Now!” Julie pointed in the general direction of the staircase. She remembered Logan falling down that staircase in her overeagerness to get to Blaise who had cut himself and was lying in a growing puddle of his own blood, right there where the stain was.

Blaise, with all the alacrity of a well-trained regiment commanded by its strictest officer, went. Pizza, even theoretical pizza, was involved, after all.

Logan Sebastian’s bedroom, Drahuta Residence


Logan Sebastian sat on her bed, her eyes apparently transfixed by the large poster nailed to the wall across from her bed. The tears leaked down her cheeks slowly but with a grim determination. She barely heard the door squeak.

“Go away,” she whispered, not turning her head to look at the reason for the squeak.

“What is wrong?” She recognized his voice and her fingers clenched as if gripping something or wishing they could. She did not see his eyes fastening on one of her hands, the one visible to him.

“Madame Drahuta said you were crying and that I should get you to come down to dinner. She suggested I could not have any of your fine pizza if I did not. Gilberte refuses to leave the tried and true Parisian cuisine that mostly, it would seem, involves chicken. I think father made a vast mistake complimenting her on her chicken. Now that is all she does. I saw sausage on the pizza, did I not?”

“Oh, Blaise, go away . . .”

“What is wrong?” Blaise quickly assessed himself and the room he stood within. Logan could have weapons hidden anywhere and when she was crying and especially looking at the pictures of the aircraft that would no longer roam the skies, she ws in the mood to lash out with those weapons. He had learned to walk carefully and speak even more carefully.

“Everything is wrong . . .” she snapped.

“Karla suggested that you might be angry with me.”

“Why would anyone be angry with you, Blaise Pascal?” Logan moaned. “I am angry with myself. Are you going to stand there or sit down on my bed? I don’t have a chair to offer you.”

“French gentlemen do not ‘sit’ upon a young lady’s bed in her bedroom.”

“Blaise . . .”

“I certainly will not until I see your other hand,” he added.

Logan held up her empty hand, and Blaise collapsed onto the bed, beside her.

“Do you like her?”

“Logan, be reasonable. She knows mathematics. She looks at an equation, and she can see the solution. We do marvelous mathematics together. That is all. I am teaching her calculus. You threatened to do something vulgar with a calculus textbook if I continued to try and teach you calculus.”

“Maybe she is better for you. My mathematics is only okay . . .”

“I do not like or dislike people because of their mathematics . . . Your mathematics is more than okay. Descartes’ is okay. Don’t tell anyone that. My father is angry enough with me. Descartes will not even acknowledge my presence on the planet now.”

“Don’t forget Aristotle and Gleick.”

“I have written a long letter of apology to Descartes. Can people ever drop that? I did not say the things I said about him because of his mathematics. I was . . . annoyed by his failure to understand the applicability of mathematics. He sees mathematics as something holy and untouchable. Aristotle is dead and Gleick might as well be. Chaos . . . what was he thinking? Was he thinking?”

“It was kind of funny to watch you stare at a dripping faucet all day.”

“I am not in the mood to get into a debate about the philosophy of mathematics, Logan. Besides, I solved the mathematics of the dripping faucet, thank you very much.” Blaise snorted. “Your mother banned me from her kitchen. Her faucet was perfect!”

“Took you long enough. Look, can we not talk about mathematics? Math makes me think of aerodynamics and that makes me think of P-51 Mustangs. Now that was an airplane. I had a chance of flying in one before all this crap.”

“Good, let’s talk about eating because your pizza is getting cold or, worse, Karla is going to try and reheat it.”

“You don’t understand . . .” Logan moaned.

“Okay, I accept that. But can you at least try to help me understand?”

“When I was younger . . . I wanted to fly the jumbo jets. I took it for granted that, assuming I wasn’t blinded in some accident, with the proper training—BAM—I would be flying a 747. Then—BAM—the Ring of Fire changed everything. I remember seeing you, sitting there in the library after years of my father talking about the Great Blaise Pascal at the dinner table until Mama threw mashed potatoes at him. You made the whole Ring of Fire thing real to me. There won’t be 747s in my lifetime and the space shuttle is simply a pipe dream . . . completely out of reach as the moon was to that lunatic Jules Verne and his sending astronauts to the moon via cannon.”

“I remember that story. Can you imagine the g-forces involved? They wouldn’t need an airlock. They would need a spout to pour them out when they landed. I mean, did this Verne person know any mathematics at all? He was unaware of any of Newton’s laws, certainly.”

“This is not a math lesson, Blaise! I am distraught, not seeking a mathematical solution!”

“Sorry, Logan . . .” Blaise flinched, drawing his hands to his chest in a defensive posture. Logan almost smiled as she reached out and took one of his hands, ignoring his muttered attempt at telling her to stop. She placed his hand on her shoulder.

She had a strong shoulder, not the soft thing most girls had, Blaise thought very carefully to himself.

“I took you for granted. Just like I took it for granted that there would be 747s when I got old enough. Now you found someone who you can talk math with. Of course you like her more than you like me. She’s blonde, and you’re French.”

“You are being rude, Logan. I know for a fact that women can change the color of their hair. She’s like talking to my echo. You don’t echo, Logan. You’re like a tomato.”

Logan almost couldn’t stop herself from laughing.

“There’s always something new with you. You think you know a tomato then you come along and make it into a sauce and—BAM—pizza! Maria is conventional. She is as predictable as a linear equation. You . . . you are not a linear equation. You are a tomato. You can be salsa or tomato sauce or sauce on spaghetti or . . . why are you laughing?”

Blaise made the attempt to remove his hand from her shoulder but she lashed out and pinned it there with her hand.

“That’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me. I am your tomato. I am going to remember that. I should make a poster of that. I could put it right next to that one. I am a tomato.”

“I am not romantic, Logan Sebastian! What would your father say about such a comment? No, I do not want to know.”

“I don’t want to lose you like I lost the 747.”

“And that is the most romantic thing you have said to me . . . even more romantic than when you called me a big-nosed French boy. I am proud of my nose.”

“Do you have to keep reminding me of that? That was mean.”

“My nose reminds me of the jumbo jet.”

“What’s your father going to want for a dowry?”

“Shall I ask him?”

“No! God no. Things are happening with the dirigibles. There is no time for thinking about dowries. The company is planning on more than mere courier service, and he sees beyond hot air balloons. Everything is going hydrogen, all the way. They got you figuring out free energy reactions, and he has Antonio making me look for maintenance issues and other problems concerning wear and tear. Makes sense. Ship captains of oceangoing vessels spend a lot of time worrying about ropes and sails wearing out. Kick the tires and light the fires. Balloon pilots need to know what needs to be watched, or you will fall out of the sky like anyone else up there. Look at Icarus and Daedalus. Wax? Sounds like something you would do.”

“Humans are not meant to fly. Anyone with a basic understanding of mathematics knows that. We don’t have the breast bone to support the muscles to produce the downward force to stay airborne. There, you made me say breast, twice, in your presence. What will your father say?”

“Nothing. He would be laughing right now. I know him. He thinks this is all some sort of cosmic amusement.”

Blaise flexed his fingers slightly on her shoulder. What bothered him was that she was letting him do so.

“I dislike you up in balloons because of falling. I like it even less with the idea of burning, too.”

“Don’t forget explosions.”

“You are so . . . nonchalant about this. What do you do at a few thousand feet in a burning blimp?”

“Jump?” Logan shrugged. “Antonio Sorrento is very interested in the concept of parachutes. My idea is, prevent the need to jump and save the weight. He agrees with me.”

“I would be very upset if you died,” Blaise stated carefully. Talking about death around Logan was not always predictable.

“So would I. Eventually you will get tired of me and then what?”

Blaise, with his other hand, obviously, withdrew the metal ruler from its place of honor next to his chest under his clothing.

“Mathematics is very interesting . . . as you are and will always be. See? I still have it.”

“You being upset about the possibility of me dying led to you slicing open your femoral and destroying the entranceway. I can assure you that there would be far more damage if you died and left me alive.”

“I can take care of myself . . . What?”

“There is an entranceway not far from here that says you can’t. Maybe if I were a piece of cheap furniture or a rug, I might be just a bit afraid of you but everyone else just laughs.”

“I was wounded! I am a much better swordsman than that. Why can’t people forget the entranceway? It was very embarrassing. I thought Monsieur Drahuta was a burglar . . . trying to escape through the front of the house.”

“And if he had been . . . he might have died laughing or given himself a splinter trying to clean up after you but that was all.”

Blaise made to pull his arm off her shoulder but Logan kept it there.

“I was kidding . . .” Logan frowned.

“You never take me seriously.”

“Of course I do!”

“When was the last time?”


“Then let’s go have some pizza. This time, I want to cut it. I have an interesting theory of chords and how you could divide a circle into three equal parts with diagonal, parallel lines . . .”

“Blaise, only you can turn a pizza into a math problem. Let’s go before you start a war with Italy over dissecting circles.”

“Actually, Italy doesn’t exist. Italy is a collection of independent states and pizza was from the city of Naples, not Italy as a whole.”

“I’ve noticed something about you. You only lecture people you care about.”

“The history of pizza only makes it taste better. Food for the stomach and the mind. Let’s go. Do you need to dry your eyes?”

“I’ll be fine . . .”

Blaise put away his kerchief. “Father wants you to make some lace for your trousseau. When he mentions that he usually smiles in a way that means he is being . . . mischievous.”

“He thinks I will smack you a good one if you ask.”

“He said you didn’t like my French cuffs. Something about a prince.”

“Prince was a famous singer, up time. He thought he was being . . . I don’t know the word . . . popular by wearing enough lace to make Liberace jealous.”

“I have looked up this man, Liberace. Some say my taste for colors reminds them of him. I do not think I am quite happy with the comparison but it makes you smile, that is well worth any minor annoyance.”

“Tell me who they are, and I’ll hit them with my mother’s lacrosse stick.”

“No, that is for me only. If you start randomly assaulting people then you might assault me. As long as you only threaten me then I can imagine it is merely a threat, and you won’t actually hit me. Gilberte already calls you a hoyden. I don’t want to have to call you a felon, too.”

“She does?”

“Mostly in her ongoing attempt to annoy me. I actually like you as a hoyden. If you hadn’t been a hoyden you wouldn’t have pushed me into the pool, and I wouldn’t have learned how to swim. And stop thinking what I see you thinking. Hoyden has nothing to do with low morals or prostitution.”

“You almost called me a loose woman because of my one-piece bathing suit.”

“I was shocked . . . I cannot be held accountable for what I say when I am shocked.”

“And I pushed you into the shallow end.”

“I was most shocked when, after all that paddling, all I had to do was stand up. I felt embarrassed after all that bellowing.”

“It was cute. I still laugh when I remember the expression on your face when you stood up.”

“It was relief that I was not going to drown.”

“So, you don’t like this Maria more than me?”

“She is very good at mathematics. Almost as good as I am but she would never push me into a pool or, I am guessing, hold pressure on a serious laceration. Like I said, she is far too linear for me.”

“Call me ‘your tomato’ again.”

“Logan,” Blaise sniffed, “I do not trust that smile. Not one bit. Shall I hug you or will that seem too . . . forward.”

“You may hug me if you wish.”

Logan tried very hard and was largely successful at not giggling as she watched Blaise try to calculate the trajectories and angles of his arms to perform the act of non-forward hugging.

Her mother was going to bust a gasket when she told her; she was Blaise Pascal’s tomato.

All of a sudden, the poster of unattainable flight did not seem so sad with Blaise Pascal, ‘the’ Blaise Pascal, trying to figure out how to properly hug her.

“Blaise! It’s a hug, not a mathematical equation.”

“Everything is a mathematical equation!” Blaise bellowed. “See? You were going to hit me, weren’t . . .” the rest was muffled as Logan showed the world’s greatest mathematician how to hug.

“Let’s go get pizza. And, yes, those were sausages but they are kosher. Shabby might be here for dinner. Never know with him.”

“Shall I be jealous of the Jew?”

“He would never call me his tomato.” Logan laughed.

“He wouldn’t dare!”

“Watch where you wave that ruler. It’s metal, and it’s sharp!”

“It’s not sharp enough to cut me.”

“Let’s see.”

“Logan! You go too far!”

“You are in a young lady’s bedroom. How much farther shall I go?”

“Was that your grandmother’s pistol I felt?”

“You rake! Feeling me up to see if I was armed.”

“Self-defense is permissible no matter where a gentleman finds himself.”

“Yes, it is!”

“Logan, put that away!”

“I have a reputation to hold onto. I work with men all day. Some of them have seen me practice with the pistol. They are impressed.”

“They are probably terrified.” Blaise muttered. Blaise leapt off her bed and stood defiantly before the door.

“Holster your pistol and let us go and find out if there is pizza left.”

“Karla knows better than to eat all the pizza.”

“If we are to be married, I do not want that poster in our bedroom, and you will not come to bed armed. Is that clear?”

Logan smiled. “Call me your tomato again.”

“Tomatoes do not have arms.”

“Like hell they don’t,” he muttered in self-defense.

“Blaise . . .”

Blaise closed his eyes and turned around. Then, with small, determined steps he imagined a condemned man making while going to his death, headed for the stairway. That he survived leaving Logan’s bedroom was proof enough of divine intervention.

“Do I really scare you that much?”

“None of the common rules apply to you, Logan Sebastian. I don’t know the boundary conditions of you. Yes, you scare me but I want to learn how not to be afraid of you, my tomato. Let us go have some pizza.”

“Right behind you.”

“No! Beside me! Nowhere else!” Blaise demanded, bending his elbow and waiting at the top of the stairs. Logan would either come and push him down the stairs or she would come and properly take his arm the way a lady should. Either way, he hoped he survived.

“The Germans have this thing called ‘bundling.’ Do the French believe in that?”

Blaise Pascal almost fell down the stairs as the word made sense to him. Logan grasped him firmly by his collar and prevented him from falling.

“My sister is correct. You are a hoyden!”

“I am a tomato!” Logan laughed as she guided him down the stairs toward pizza.

Blaise now had two things to ask his sister about; bundling and the use of the term tomato—where and when it is applied to a girl or a woman, whichever Logan was.



Fair or Foul: Part 1, Observing Temperature, Humidity, and Precipitation

Our up-time characters are in Little Ice Age Europe now, and hence neither their experience with twentieth-century American agriculture nor their limited literature on twentieth-century European agriculture are a completely reliable guide as to what crops will grow where. The effect of the Ring of Fire on climate is also somewhat uncertain.


Airship lift depends on the difference in density between the lift gas and the ambient air, and thus in part on their respective temperatures. So temperature is relevant to airship pilots, not just farmers.


We need to start making accurate records of weather conditions, and we will certainly be looking at temperature, humidity, and precipitation.






In Grantville, the most common form of outdoor thermometer is the liquid expansion thermometer. Most such thermometers will probably use, as the “thermometric liquid,” an organic liquid with a red or blue dye, but it will be common knowledge that mercury may also be used.


Mercury has the advantages of being opaque, easily purified, chemically stable, not wetting or chemically attacking glass, liquid over a wide temperature range (-38.8oC to 356.7oC, thus unlikely to evaporate at the top of the column), and having clearly defined meniscus, a high thermal conductivity, low specific heat (making it rapidly responsive to changes in temperature), and a fairly linear coefficient of thermal expansion. Unfortunately, it is poisonous, the expansion is small compared to alcohol, and in very cold climates it can solidify.


Several different organic liquids have been used, but the most readily available in the 1632 universe is ethanol, with a liquid range of -114 to 78oC. My prediction is that mercury will be used for a small number of precision reference thermometers and the actual weather stations will use ethanol thermometers.


Glass composition is also significant. It is not just the liquid, but also the glass, that expands as the temperature increases, and not entirely linearly (or at the same rate as the liquid). Also, after being first heated and then cooled, the glass bulb of some compositions did not return to its original dimensions, leading to a slow rise in the zero of mercury thermometers. In the late nineteenth century, Schott developed a series of more stable glasses, notably borosilicate (Pyrex(R) glass) (Vogel 21). Hard glasses are generally preferred (EB11/Thermometry).


Most modern meteorological thermometers have the stem, with engraved scale markings, inside a protective glass sheath, and there is a white enamel backing on the stem to make the liquid movement more visible. (Srivastava 96). My “hardware store” thermometers are unsheathed, and the scale is on a separate attached metal frame. The attached scale will “inevitably move slightly with time.” (Burt 116).


The first thermometers sensed air rather than liquid expansion. The first known drawing of a thermometer is from 1611. It shows an inverted flask with a long narrow stem, fitting into the neck of a short-necked flask, the latter partially filled with water. The bottom of the stem of the first flask is below the liquid surface. A rise in temperature caused the expansion of the air in the short flask, pushing the water up the stem. Alongside the stem there was a scale divided first into eight degrees and these each into six ten-minute intervals. Its inventor, possibly living in Rome, is unknown (Middleton 11).


The basic problem with unsealed air thermometers was that the expansion of the air was a function of pressure as well as temperature. In 1632 Jean Rey (1583-OTL c1645) dispensed with the second flask, and turned the first flask stem upward, creating a liquid expansion thermometer. However, the tube was unsealed so errors could arise from evaporation of the water (27). The sealed spirit-in-glass thermometer is attributed to Ferdinand II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and most likely invented in 1654. The first experiments with mercury were in 1657, but the Tuscan academicians deemed it inferior in performance (28-37).


Before leaving the subject of early temperature measurement, I wish to call the reader’s attention to Fitzroy’s chemical weather glass (1862), as is it the sort of curiosity that a resident of Grantville might have inherited, or picked up at a craft fair, before the Ring of Fire. It “consisted of a solution of camphor and certain inorganic salts in aqueous alcohol, sealed in a glass tube.” Negretti & Zambra used potassium nitrate and ammonium chloride. The salts formed crystalline dendrites, and Fitzroy claimed that when the crystals built up, the weather would get colder and stormier, and if they disappeared, it would be dry and clear. Studies by Mills have shown that the chemical weather glass is sensitive both to the current temperature and “any preceding regime of temperature changes.” It is thus a thermoscope. Mills comments, “A rapid fall in temperature associated with an approaching vigorous cold front could conceivably trigger … rapid crystal growth if observed at a fortuitous time, but in general any correlation between appearance and future weather patterns would be purely coincidental.”


Manufacture. In 1612, Giovanfrancesco Sangredo (d. 1620) made several thermoscopes, at a cost of four lire each. These had no scale, but the column height could be measured with a caliper. He apparently made use of “a wine glass with a foot, a small ampoule, and a glass tube,” and he could make ten in an hour.


The Grand Duke’s glassblower, Mariani, had incredible skill and was able to manufacture thermometers with a “50 degree range” (corresponding to the modern -18.75 to 55oC) with great consistency. He admitted, however, that he could not do this for the Medicean 100- and 300-degree range thermometers, because “inequalities could more easily occur in the larger bulb and longer tube” (Middleton 34-5). On the other hand, Middleton asserts that “workmen north of the Alps found it difficult enough at first to make a plain bulb and tube and fill it with spirit of wine” (132).

Roemer proposed that after forming the tube, it be examined for uniformity by examining the length of a drop of mercury as it passed down the bore. If the tube was found to be irregular, it was discarded, and if conical (the length increased or decreased at a constant rate), he took measurements and divided the bore into four equal volumes (67).


While in many thermometers the bulb was blown on the capillary tube, EB11/Thermometry recommends that it be formed of a separate piece of glass fused onto the stem.


Bimetallic Thermometers. In Grantville, there should also be thermometers with a dial readout. These have a strip with two different metals layered together, usually brass and iron. The metals have different coefficients of expansion and thus the strip bends toward the less responsive metal. The deflection is proportional to the temperature change and to the square of the length; winding the strip into a helix allows a long and thus more sensitive element to be relatively compact. A pointer is connected to the center. Generally speaking, they are less accurate than liquid expansion thermometers, and require weekly (if not daily) recalibration (Thermoworks), but they are the basis for the most common kind of thermograph.


Platinum Resistance Thermometers. These, known as RTDs (Resistance Temperature Detectors) rely on the change of electrical resistance with temperature. EB11/Thermometry provides formulae, circuit schematics, and comments on errors and corrections. The current levels must be kept very low (<1 ma) to minimize self-heating (Srivastava 135, 137).


In the twenty-first century, RTDs are available in two grades, “standard” and “industrial.” RTDs will not be found in Grantville homes or schools, but it is conceivable that the power plant has them (most likely “industrial” grade). The standard RTDs are used as primary reference thermometers. They have platinum wire of 99.999% purity wound in a strain-free configuration (MINCO). Unfortunately, the strain-free resistance element is extremely delicate (Ripple), so SPRDs are used in laboratories.


The industrial grade RTDs use platinum of lower purity and also have a simpler construction in which the resistance element is supported (or thick enough to be self-supporting). When calibrated, they have an accuracy of perhaps 0.01oC, an order of magnitude less than the SPRTDs. But they are also cheaper to make and calibrate (Fluke).


There is a small quantity of platinum available in Grantville in the form of jewelry, and it may be sufficient for experimentation. Commercial development of RTDs will have to await platinum mining (see Cooper, Mineral Mastery, Grantville Gazette 23) and purification. Developers will have to worry not only about platinum purity, but also about mounting the wire so as to minimize the strain caused by thermal expansion and contraction (Price).


Even if the wire is not subject to chemical attack, it is mechanically fragile, and the wire is typically protected from the medium by encasing it in a glass, quartz, porcelain, or metal tube (Patranabis 223). A plastic cladding might also work. In any event, the sheathing increases the lag time (Srivastava).

Platinum’s advantages are that it is a noble metal, with a high melting point, and that it has a very linear response over a wide temperature range. Copper is more responsive, and linear over the range -50 to 150oC, but subject to chemical attack. Nickel is even more responsive, and is chemically resistant, but there is no simple formula for calculation of its resistance (MINCO). One can scavenge the nichrome wire heating element from a defunct toaster or heating pad. However, nichrome actually has a rather low temperature sensitivity (Lemieux). My expectation is that the first NTL resistance thermometers will use copper wire.


Thermistors. In an automated weather station, there’s no one to go out and read the mercury (or spirit) level on a conventional thermometer. Hence, some sort of electrically based temperature sensor is needed, and the platinum resistance thermometer (RTD) is too expensive for most meteorological applications.


A thermistor is a resistor whose resistance is temperature-dependent. In 1833, Faraday discovered that the electrical “resistance of silver sulfide decreased dramatically as temperature increased;” i.e., it is a negative temperature coefficient (NTC) material (Wikipedia). The first commercial thermistor was Ruben’s (1930).


There are thermistors in Grantville; they are the sensing element in the digital clinical thermometer. They are ten times as sensitive as an RTD but their temperature response is highly nonlinear (exponential). Also, a single thermistor has a useful temperature range of not more than 100oC and their maximum temperature of operation is 110oC(Ripple) (so don’t take them into the desert). (Industrial RTDs can be used outside the thermistor range.)


I assume that one of the electrical engineers in Grantville has Dorf’s Electrical Engineering Handbook (2d ed., 1997). It discloses that NTC thermistors are “ceramic semiconductors made by sintering mixtures of heavy metal oxides such as manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper and iron” (14). It is known that the automation engineering department in the power plant and public works department have copies of Instrument Engineer’s Handbook Third Edition, edited by Béla Lipták, and The Instrumentation Reference Book, Third Edition, edited by Walt Boyes. Both have extensive sections on thermometry and temperature measurement instrumentation. So that gives us a starting point, but I suspect that these must be purified to very high purity and we must also experiment to find which combinations provide strong temperature dependencies. The simplest type of thermistor to make is probably a bead; the metal oxide powders are combined with a binder (to be determined!) to make a slurry and this is applied to a pair of platinum alloy wires held parallel. The beads are dried and then fired in a furnace at 1100-1400oC to sinter the particles (Lavenuta). Given the infrastructure and experimental requirements, I am doubtful that a practical thermistor can be built before the NTL late 1640s.


Scale, Range, and Calibration. For the thermometer to be useful in meteorology, we needed to have a way of assuring the comparability of observations made with different thermometers.


If the scale were an arbitrary one, then the only way of calibrating the scale of a new thermometer would be to place it next to a reference one, expose them to several markedly different temperatures, and then mark the tube of the new one to correspond to the temperatures displayed by the reference one.


It was realized at a quite early stage that the temperature scale should be defined according to reference points corresponding to readily reproducible laboratory conditions. Then a reference thermometer is not needed at all. By 1702, Roemer proposed a scale in which 7.5 was the melting point of ice and 60 the boiling point of water. A decade later, Fahrenheit experimented with several scales, of which the final one had 32 as the melting point of ice and 96 as human body temperature (now known to be 98.6oF). He extrapolated that on that scale, the boiling point of water would be 212oF, and it was only later that others adopted that as the “hot reference” for his scale (Middleton 78-9). Celsius, in 1742, proposed the melting point of snow as the cold reference and the boiling point of water when air pressure was 25.25 Swedish inches as the hot reference, with 100 degrees in between. Other inventors proposed other scales, and a mid-eighteenth century thermometer featured eighteen scales.


The modern thermometers found in Grantville are likely to be marked in both Fahrenheit and Celsius, and it is very likely that the scientists and engineers in Grantville will push very hard for one or both of these scales to be universally adopted.


The portion of the standard temperature scale that is marked on the thermometer is its range. Typically, the bigger the range, the less accurate the reading; for ordinary thermometers, an error equal to 1-2% of the maximum range is not unusual. The outdoor thermometers I own have a range of -50 to +50oC.


Calibration has three aspects: (1) marking the thermometer scale so as to correspond exactly to the reference scale at the two points and at least roughly at in-between points, (2) tabulating the remaining errors in the thermometer scale, and (3) checking the thermometer from time to time to determine the necessary adjustments for physical changes in the instrument.


When matter is changing phase (between solid and liquid, or liquid and gas, or solid and gas), as long as both phases are present, the temperature should remain constant. Hence, the melting point of ice and the boiling point of water are, at least theoretically, “fixed points.”


In 1777, the British Royal Society reported on “the best method of adjusting the fixed points of thermometers.” They had found that depending on the manufacturer, thermometers could differ by 3.25oF in their measure of the temperature of steam. Accordingly, they gave specific instructions as to the design of the vessel (a cylindrical pot with a cover and a chimney, the latter covered with a loose-fitting tin plate), the placement of the thermometer inside, the application of the heat, and the correction for atmospheric pressure. For the ice point, the Society called for the crushed ice to reach almost to the top of the column, and for provision to made for drainage of the meltwater (Middleton 128).


The vessel used in the boiling point determination is called a hypsometer, and there is a diagram and brief description in EB11/Thermometry. The boiling point needs to be corrected for differences in pressure from the reference pressure. Characters should not use the correction set forth in EB11, but rather one based on modern steam tables. (The power plant should have them.)


Some of the precautions recommended by the Society are now known to inhibit superheating, a phenomenon in which liquid water exceeds its nominal boiling point (Chang).


Modern ice slush and steam calibration baths can achieve accuracies of 0.002oC and 0.1oC respectively (Moore 614).


Even though we can use the Celsius reference conditions to define a scale from first principles, for meteorological purposes, the range -50 to +50oC is much more useful than one of 0 to 100. For that range, other reference points may prove helpful. (The accuracy that can be expected “without extraordinary attention to purity” is typically about 1oC for most of the transitions (although it is 0.05oC for melting gallium) (Moore). Unfortunately, only a few of the “standard” phase transition baths have temperatures in that range, and we don’t have access to gallium (melting point 29.7646oC) or indium (159.5985oC). Mercury is available and melts at -38.8344oC. We might be able to obtain p-xylene (13oC); this would involve isolating it from a natural source (perhaps wood tar) or synthesizing it from readily obtained chemicals. Most syntheses also produce its two isomers, which have different boiling points, and the separation isn’t trivial despite that difference.


Studying physical data on organic compounds (The CRC Handbook should be in Grantville), I have noted some common chemicals with phase transitions in the meteorological temperature range: the boiling points of acetone (56.2oC) and benzene (80.1), and the melting points of tert-butyl alcohol (25.7) or glycerol (17.8). In each case, you must be sure that the chemical is pure (so you can rely on the reporting values) and that both phases are present. In general, melting point determinations are better than boiling point ones, because the latter are also affected by atmospheric pressure.


I have also found reference to the use of crystal transition temperatures, at which a crystalline salt changes form (perhaps as a result of the loss of water of hydration). For example, the transition temperature at which both sodium sulfate decahydrate and anhydrous sodium sulfate coexist is 32.383oC (Middleton 57). Sodium sulfate (Glauber’s salt) is commonly used because its transition temperature is close to room temperature and it is easily purified by successive recrystallization. Another possibility, once we have access to chromium ores, is sodium chromate decahydrate, which transitions to the hexahydrate at 19.529oC (Magin; Richards).


Once the two reference points are marked on the scale, the intermediate points can be marked manually by geometric dividing methods (these are known to the down-timers) or ultimately mechanically by a “dividing engine.” Either way, a uniform division is achieved.


Unfortunately, the behavior of liquid expansion thermometers is not entirely linear. The liquid and glass may change expansion rates with temperature, and the bore might not be uniform.


Modern precision meteorological thermometers are calibrated by putting the thermometer in an alcohol, water, or paraffin bath that is heated to a series of set temperatures, say 10oC apart (Srivastava 108). Naturally that means that you need a calibrated and even more accurate thermometer for monitoring the bath temperature. The platinum resistance thermometer is excellent for this purpose. (Platinum resistance is highly linear over the meteorological range, Middleton 180) The NWS in 2014 uses an SPRTD (NWSRS 8), but our characters would have to settle for less. Even better, this thermometer is incorporated into a thermostat so that the heat is turned on or shut off as needed to maintain the set point temperature. A table is prepared showing the correction needed by the test thermometer to match the reference thermometer at each of these calibration marks, and the observed applies the correction as appropriate.


On early thermometers, the scale was drawn on paper that in turn was mounted on a wood board. Scales have also been engraved on metal, glass, or ivory back plates, or directly onto the thermometer tube (etched with hydrofluoric acid).


Even a calibrated thermometer needs to be recalibrated from time to time. For example, the residual strain in a glass thermometer eases slowly, causing the glass to shrink. Most of the change occurs in the first year (Bentley 2:98).


Recalibration involves carrying an “inspector thermometer” (precisely calibrated in the laboratory) to each weather station. The station thermometer and the inspector thermometer are exposed to an ice bath (the single calibration point is good enough for a liquid expansion thermometer, see Ripple) and the station thermometer’s correction table updated.


In twentieth-century practice, inspector thermometers are mercury-based. It may have a narrow bore, so the change in length of the column is greater for a different temperature change. The downside is that the inspector thermometer must either be longer than the norm, or have a restricted range (say 30oC) (Srivaslava 103).


Accuracy. Spirit thermometers typically have an accuracy of 1-2 degrees Celsius in the meteorological temperature range (Facts).


In 2014, for NWS land stations, current and maximum temperature must be measured with 1oF accuracy in the range -20 to 115oF, and 2oF in the extreme ranges -40 to 20oF and 115-140oF. Minimum temperature accuracy is 1oF for -20 to 110oF, and 2oF for -80 to -20 (NWSRS 7). The data is nonetheless reported to the nearest 0.1oF (9).


Interestingly, this performance standard is inconsistent with the WMO recommendation that in the central range the maximum error be less than 0.4oF; NWS comments, “in practice, it may not be economical to provide thermometers that meet this performance goal.”


The accuracy with which temperature is measured can be increased by using a panel of several thermometers. If the thermometers are equally inaccurate and there is no systematic bias, the average of four thermometers will be twice as accurate as just one. (The standard error is proportional to the individual standard deviation and inversely proportional to the square root of the sample size.)


Maximum and Minimum Thermometers. These indicate the extreme value since they were last reset by the observer.


EB11/Thermometry (836) describes three different kinds of maximum thermometers: the Rutherford (1790) type, in which the mercury in a horizontal tube pushes a steel (originally, glass) index and leaves it behind when the temperature drops; that of Negretti and Zambra, with a constriction in the horizontal tube past the bulb (the mercury expands past the constriction but the “column” breaks there when it contracts); and that of Phillips (1832) and Walferdin (1855), where the horizontal “column” is divided by a bubble of air that acts as an index. Note that the physician’s thermometer is really a maximum thermometer of the constriction type. The Rutherford type was “little used” by 1911; the problem was that the mercury tended to seep past the index (Middleton 152).


Rutherford also invented the favored minimum thermometer; again, a horizontal tube, but the liquid is amyl alcohol (originally, ordinary alcohol) and the index is made of porcelain (or glass).


There was also Six’ combination minimum/maximum thermometer (1782), a U-tube with a bulb at both ends. There is mercury in the middle and spirit in the legs, but one bulb also contains spirit and the other a mixture of air and alcoholic vapor.  The mercury merely serves as an indicator, the “thermometric fluid” being the spirit, and unfortunately the alcohol can wet the glass and pass by the mercury. (Middleton 161).


Thermographs. These provide continuous records of temperature, and thus reduce the utility of minimum and maximum thermometers. Note, however, that they tend to be less accurate than thermometers.  In essence, they couple a thermometer to a readout mechanism.


If the internal thermometer is of the liquid-in-glass type, the liquid must be mercury rather than alcohol, as the latter is too sluggish. The dominant design used a photographic readout; light shining around the mercury column onto photographed paper moved by clockwork (193). The temperature record was thus a negative image (black except where the paper was shadowed by the mercury), and the device evolved, taking advantage of improvements in light sources and paper. There were ingenious alternatives of uncertain practicability; one design balanced the thermometer horizontally on a knife edge; the temperature change shifted the center of gravity, and the tilt was recorded.  It is uncertain how this would fare in a strong wind.


The other major type was that in which a bimetallic strip is deformed in response to temperature change. The strip moves a stylus that draws on paper carried by a rotating drum; the rotation is driven by a clock mechanism inside the drum and thus protected from the elements (201-4).


I was surprised to discover that in general there wasn’t much meteorological use of thermographs featuring electrical thermometers.


Thermometer Exposure. It is not easy to expose the thermometer in such a way that it displays the true air temperature; the heat exchange between the thermometer and its surroundings is complex. The down-timers know that it is warmer in the sun than the shade, and in the mid-seventeenth century Medicean meteorological network it was initially standard for thermometers to be placed at the north and south windows of each station (Middleton 208).


For its Cooperative Observer Program, the National Weather Service advises that a temperature sensor be mounted four to six feet off the ground, in a level open clearing and away from obstructions and paved surfaces.


It is also customary for meteorological instruments to be housed in an elevated shelter (“Stevenson screen” or “Cotton Region Shelter”) that shades the instruments while providing ventilation. One shelter design appears in Popular Science (May, 1935). Typically, the shelters have louvers that slope downward and outward, are painted white to reflect solar radiation, and, in the northern hemisphere, the door faces north.


There have been a couple of thermometer designs intended to increase ventilation beyond that provided by passive air movement through louvers. One is the sling thermometer; a thermometer mounted on a frame pivotably connected to an axle that terminates in a handle. This evolved into the sling psychrometer, using two thermometers (one with a wet bulb), and used to measure humidity. The other is the aspirated thermometer; with forced convection from a suction fan. This, too, evolved into a psychrometer.


Temperature readings can be perturbed, not only by solar radiation and precipitation, but also by the observer’s own heat. Hence, readings must be taken expeditiously.


As of 2014, NWS Cooperative Observer Stations were equipped with a spirit-based minimum thermometer and a mercury-based maximum thermometer, and/or certain models of thermistor-type electronic thermometers. After the maximum thermometer is read, the tube can be spun in its mount to force the mercury in the stem past the constriction, joining the mercury in the bulb, and then it indicates the current air temperature (NWCSOM A-24).






Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. The warmer the air, the more water vapor it can hold. Somewhat non-intuitively, increasing humidity decreases air density (because the water vapor molecules replace heavier air molecules). So humidity is relevant to airship operations.


Absolute humidity is the exact water vapor content of the air, whereas relative humidity is the current content compared to the maximum possible at the current temperature and pressure. The “dew point is the temperature at which airborne water vapor will condense to form liquid dew” (Wikipedia). The higher the relative humidity, the closer the dew point is to the current air temperature. The difference between the two is called the “dew point depression.”


To measure dew point depression (from which we can calculate relative and absolute humidity if the pressure is known), we need both an ordinary (dry bulb) thermometer and a “wet bulb thermometer.” The latter, which approximates the dew point, is a thermometer that “has its bulb wrapped in cloth—called a sock—that is kept wet with distilled water via wicking action” (Wikipedia). (Some inventors replaced the water of the classic wet bulb thermometer with a more volatile liquid; Daniell (1820) used ether.) The combination of the two matched thermometers is called a psychrometer, a type of hygrometer.


The thermometers can be ventilated by whirling (sling psychrometer) or by a fan. The so-called psychrometer coefficient (which relates the vapor pressure to the dew point depression) is 0.0008 for a naturally ventilated psychrometer inside a Stevenson screen, and 0.000667 for a force-ventilated one (Harrison 117).


Accuracy is typically equivalent to 5% relative humidity and response time to get a reliable reading is about a minute (122).


Crude gravimetric absorption hygrometers were designed by Nicolaus Cusanus (1450), Leo Battista Alberti (1470), and Leonardo da Vinci (1490). In essence, this was a balance with a hygroscopic substance (cotton, wool, sponge) in one pan and a water-repelling substance (wax) in the other. Under dry conditions, the pans are at the same level, but if humidity increases, the cotton absorbs water and that pan sinks lower (Robens 556).


Condensation (on the outside of a vessel containing snow or ice) was weighed directly by Grand Duke Ferdinand in the 1660s (Bentley 181).


Mechanical hygrometers may be constructed using a substance whose mechanical properties are altered by humidity. Such materials include hair, goldbeaters skin (also used for airship gas bags), and animal horn or antler (109). In 1614, Santorio Santorre (1561-OTL 1636) stretched a center-weighted cord between two fixed points; absorption of water vapor caused the cord to contract and lift the weight (Wiederhold 4). In 1664, Francesco Folli (1624-85) made similar use of a paper ribbon, but the weight was connected to the center of the ribbon by a cord running over a pulley, and the pulley was connected to a dial pointer. Later, ivory (de Luc 1773) and goose quills (Buissart and Retz, 1780) were used as humidity sensors (Zuidervaart).


A hair tension hygrometer was proposed by de Saussure in 1783 (Wikipedia/Hygrometer); hair increased length by 2-2.5% for a 100% change in RH. The response is not linear (but still better than the sensors used previously) and depends on the type of hair. At subzero temperatures, response time and responsiveness are reduced. The hair length changes more when humidity increases than when it decreases. Hair is very sensitive to contamination (dust, finger oils, etc.). A hair hygrometer is usually calibrated with an aspirated psychrometer. But in a pinch, you can wet the hair bundle to reach 100% RH (JMA). Likewise, to get to 0% RH, find an up-timer with a blow dryer. Trowbridge (1896) showed that the RH error didn’t exceed 3% if the true RH was 20-85%.


In the late twentieth century, hair hygrometers were still in use. In these modern iterations, a bundle of human hair of different types is used, the hairs are carefully cleaned, and in some instances the scale is nonlinearly divided (Belfort; Ambient Weather).


In a metal-paper coil hygrometer, the paper is impregnated with a hygroscopic (water-absorbing salt) and laminated to the metal. Its absorption of water changes the curvature of the coil in a manner analogous to how temperature changes the curvature of the strip in a bimetallic thermometer. Accuracy is perhaps 10% RH.


Electrical hygrometers detect the change in electrical capacitance or resistance of a sensor element as a result of the change in humidity. Typically, capacitance changes are easier to detect. The capacitance-type hygrometer (developed in the 1930s, Wiederhold 5) features a thin film of polymer or metal oxide (the dielectric) deposited between the electrodes. The change in capacitance is about 0.2-0.5 picofarads for a 1% RH change (JMA). I am doubtful that the electrical hygrometer can be made in the NTL 1630s.


Hygrometers are typically calibrated by sampling the humidity above a saturated salt solution (Potassium nitrate and chloride, magnesium nitrate, sodium and lithium chloride are all used.) within a sealed container at a controlled temperature (121).  An older method was placing the hygrometer inside a container with a known mixture of dry air and saturated air, or in air saturated at one temperature and pressure and then increased in temperature or reduced in pressure (Middleton 1960, 116).







Rain gauges date back at least to fourth-century BC India, where rain was collected in a bowl. A cylindrical shape facilitates the estimation of the volume of rainfall; such a shape was used in the Korean iron cheuguggi used from 1441 to 1907 (Strangeways). (I believe the volume was estimated by inserting a ruler and measuring the level of the rainwater.) A further improvement was made by Castelli (1639); he used a glass cylinder. The accuracy of the deduction of rain volume from level measurements of course is dependent on the goodness of the cylindrical figure, and the accuracy of the diameter and level gradations. Rain gauges of the recording type may use a float (connected to a pen), which moves with the water level in the gauge.


Rather than reading the level, one may place the rain gauge on a balance of some kind and weigh the rain. The pan in turn can be connected to a pen for recordation, or, as in the Fischer Porter rain gauge, to a punch that puts a hole at a corresponding location on a “ticker tape” at intervals.


With a standard rain gauge, if rainfall is heavy, you have to go out, measure the rain, and empty the bucket before it fills up. A single “tipping bucket” rain gauge was developed by Wren and Hooke in the late seventeenth century as part of a “weather-wiser” (a multiple element meteorograph!). The “tipping bucket” makes possible automatic operation; each time the bucket tips, the event is recorded in some way. Another self-emptying gauge design uses a siphon.


The modern NWS non-recording precipitation gauge comprises a large (8″) diameter overflow can with a small diameter measuring tube inside, and a funnel connecting the two. These are sized so that 2 inches of rain entering the funnel will occupy 20 linear inches in the measuring tube, making it practical to measure rainfall amounts to the nearest hundredth of an inch (A-6). The Fischer & Porter recording rain gauges used to have a mechanical weighing sensor and paper-tape recording assembly, but by 2014 all of the mechanical gauges were replaced with electronic ones (A-8). The NWS expects rain to be measured with an accuracy of 0.02 inches, and (melted) snow and sleet to 0.04 inches (11).


The biggest source of error for rain gauges is the wind catching droplets and wafting them away before they fall into the receptacle (or even causing eddies that remove them after they are below the lip of the container). This was combated by giving the container a funnel top (trapping the droplets) and surrounding the gauge with a wind shield. The NWS recommends that precipitation gauges be placed in a location “where the gauge is shielded in all directions (i.e., a clearing in a grove), but “the distance of the gauge to the nearest obstruction should be at least equivalent to twice the height of the obstruction” (A-5).


Snow is more difficult to measure than rain because (1) snow is more readily deflected by the wind and (2) snow compacts with time. Ideally, snow is melted by the gauge. It is not strictly true that ten inches of fresh snow is equivalent to one inch of rain. That is correct only if the temperature is 30oF, and all of the precipitation is snow (Schwartz).


The NWS requirements for measurement of rain is 0.02″ or 4% hourly accuracy, and 0.01″ resolution. For snow, it is 0.5-1″ accuracy, 1″ resolution




In part 2, I will look at measurements of pressure and wind (which is the result of pressure gradients).



Time May Change Me, But I Can’t Trace Time

Time May Change Me, But I Can’t Trace Time

By Charles E. Gannon, Ph.D., and David Carrico

(with props/apologies to David Bowie for the title)



(This is the first of several possible articles that will grow out of a series of discussions among the members of the Grantville Gazette extended editorial board.)


One of the interesting things about playing in Eric Flint’s 1632/Ring of Fire sandbox lies in thinking through all of the changes that can happen and will happen in the New Time Line (NTL) post-Ring of Fire (ROF) and how they will occur both earlier and differently than in the Original Time Line (OTL). Writers get rather excited about those kinds of story possibilities. There’s just one little hitch: most of the various 1632 writers are Americans, and we have a tendency to think that the changes are going to happen both more quickly and more easily than they probably will.


Unfortunately, they probably won’t. There are several reasons for this, the thorniest of which is cultural inertia (for lack of a more precise term).


Any of you who have overseas diplomatic experience, overseas military experience, or overseas NGO experience outside of Europe can testify to the incredible (to the American mind) tendency of other cultures to resist anything that is a “core” change. This is a fact of life in most cultures, and it’s one that will be in place in the NTL. Eric Flint and the Grantville Gazette editors are aware of this, and as a consequence rather firmly resist a lot of story ideas that are presented that ignore it.


In the OTL, the U.S. and its four primary Anglic allies (the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—sometimes referred to as the Five Eyes) are very deltaphilic: they tend to embrace change. (Interestingly and revealingly, the old world primogenitorial source, the UK, is often the one most likely to drag its heels.) The West, in general, has that tendency, but we would say that the US view is Futurist, while the continent is Modernist.


But in 1630, that Modernist trend was essentially a very narrow edge of very radical change that would not only widen in the decades to follow, but would ultimately transform European culture.


And yet . . . if that powerful anchor/inertia against change wasn’t still present, you wouldn’t have the basis of almost all the major nineteenth-century English novels (Oliver Twist, Far from the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure, etc.—as well as pretty much all of Blake’s and Wordsworth’s poetry). The drama and tension in each was a cultural push-me/pull-you: the impulse toward change was the source of the society’s energy vs. traditions as the source of its definition. Lots of humans got ground up in the process, and the way forward was never smooth, easy, or straight. These played out over decades in an already more-industrialized England that had been one of the major cultural imbibers of the various transformative concepts of the Age of Reason.


Now, jump to the continent, 1630 NTL. None of the cultural elasticity of Dickens’ and Blake’s England (as limited as it was) is present in any widespread or deeply-rooted sense. People are changing because they must, but culture doesn’t follow along.


To illustrate with an OTL example, one word:




In the mid-twentieth century, disease is fought, infant mortality plummets, lives are saved, happiness ensues—until culture-driven disaster strikes. Despite everything the sub-Saharan populations were told, were taught, were exhorted, they maintained the same birth rates and valued family size just as they have for centuries. And it really hasn’t budged much since.


It didn’t matter that 10-20% heard, learned, and believed that smaller family sizes made more sense now and would allow more emphasis on infrastructure, better education, etc., etc. They kept the same farming techniques, the same birth rate, the same cultural template—and their swift population increase overtaxed the land, led to widespread erosion, water shortage, and desertification.


We use that example because almost everyone is familiar with it to some degree. It’s still going on across the world, where what futurists call “culturally selective adoption” of technologies or methodologies continues to confuse and confound our planners. (You see this in the Secretary of Defense’s blue-sky direct report group, the Office of Net Assessment, all the time.) We Americans are profoundly driven by utility; receptivity to change is one of our legacy (albeit by no means ubiquitous) social values. We just have a higher proportion of it, and in our nation, forces of change tend to be strong enough to drag along those parts of the nation that are not so enamored of it.


But in Malaysia, India, Angola, Chile, etc.? No, not so much (understatement fully intended). Adoption of advanced techniques is a matter of cherry-picking, and the connection between those adoptions and a concomitant adjustment to culture is slim to non-existent. Which is why so many Western (and particularly U.S.) foreign aid projects and assistance programs generate skewed, sometimes disastrous results that utterly bewilder our ‘experts.’ The same ‘experts’ who rarely appreciate that the problem is not in what we deliver, but the cultural filters through which it will be received. We constantly apply projective models of how aid will improve another culture: models that are, in sad fact, based on what we see in the mirror, not the other nation. We rarely appreciate just how ingrained culture is, or how, in the face of obvious proofs, people will still press on with traditions that will kill more of their kids and will kill themselves earlier, all the while living lives of privation and uncertainty—because they will choose the certainty of the definition they feel in their old culture over the possibility of betterment that might reside in new change.


The British cultural scholar/analyst Raymond Williams retooled Antonio Gramsci’s cultural hegemony theories to represent this dynamic this way:


Culture is always a dynamic synthesis of three impulses:

  1. the emergent (change)
  2. the dominant (contemporary cultural formations)
  3. the residual (traditional components which hang on even if they are somewhat outdated or anachronistic in relation to the dominant)


The power of the residual in the countries we’ve been mentioning is, to our minds, a very close cousin to the forces that made the adoption of new ideas and technologies so gradual in the 1630s OTL. Many, many things are possible in the post-Ring of Fire 1630’s NTL—but many may be left lying fallow along the cultural roadside, just as they were in the OTL.


One of the reasons the Ring of Fire is such an exciting series for us to write in is the powerful tension and drama created by introducing ideas and technology from the late twentieth century into this environment, with several thousand persons present to not only export them, but to “live by example.” This is a tremendously powerful narrative and dramatic device. This process is also tremendously destabilizing to a culture. And widespread adoption will be slow and uneven—particularly if/where the leaders of these highly authoritarian conservative monarchies and guild structures see a threat to the status quo in these changes. And they’d be idiots not to. As Eric said early on, part of this story (and Mike Stearns’ objectives) is to do away with the tyranny of aristocracy, of some people feeling they are inherently better simply because of their lineage.


A world capable of rapid change, rapid adoption—even when driven by express, desperate need to embrace it—would be a world that no longer needed Mike Stearns’ crusade, the one that Rubens tellingly and shrewdly depicted in his painting of Mike, not as a peace-bringer, but a darker figure. (See 1634: The Baltic War, Chapter 10.) Because Rubens, with an artist’s oblique and instinctive perceptivity, partially sees and partially feels the storm of change following behind the man and what he represents. When the storm has passed, will it be a better world? In almost every objective measure, yes—but there will be losers along the way, and many innocent bodies from both sides whose blood is part of the palette from which Rubens worked his imagery unto the canvas.


This is not a particularly cogent bullet-point discussion, but that is, in part, a consequence of the topic: culture. And that’s where the series really does—and ultimately must—focus. The resistance to changes and innovations proposed by (understandably enthusiastic) newer authors is not a matter of engineering. (Although frankly, we don’t think you can quickly train the labor pool of the 1630s to the tasks being proposed—and shift so many out of food production into that industrial role—to be able to create the factories and mines and transshipment matrix that would be required to work so many changes in a single generation. The diversion of labor from agriculture in a low-tech culture needs its own discussion.) But to return: even if you could find enough workers, even if they were willing to leave the land that their families have worked upon for many, maybe dozens, of generations, even if you could push aside the guilds who see their end writ large in the onrushing leviathan of industrialization, there is this: most people won’t feel comfortable with it. It’s like a cuisine that might be far more healthful for them, might ensure stronger children and longer life, and yet—it just plain tastes funny. It’s not what they’re used to.


It’s not as wacky an analogy as it sounds. As this is being written, Charles is 56 and David is 65. Charles remembers when sushi arrived in this country (late 70s/early 80s in a few cities). In the mid-80s, when he was working TV in NYC, it was very chic and daring to eat sushi. (We kid you not.) Today, kids think nothing of it—and even if they don’t like it personally, they mostly don’t think their peers weird or questionable or alien for liking it. (Although you can still find plenty of pockets in the US where those reactions are alive and well—David has friends who still refer to it as ‘bait.’) The point is: you couldn’t find sushi as an option outside of a few cities until the early 90s. It expanded dramatically in that decade. And by 2000 it started showing up as a “take out” item in a few of the more daring supermarkets. Now, it’s a routine part of our foodscape. But that’s the progression of forty years—a full generation to simply implement a minor dietary change in one country.


Granted, there is so much more at stake with industrialization. But there was a lot at stake in Sub-Saharan Africa, too—and still, change lagged, and the Sahel spread south to create a persistent belt of misery. The odd, maddening, thing about culture is that while it is the solidity that anchors us in place, there is a flip side to that coin: it is also the weight that holds us back—and in both cases, that is an impulse that is strangely, even uniquely, resistant to appeals based on reason.


This is something that American writers—and readers, for that matter—have trouble getting their own heads around. (Arguably, that is yet another case of “cultural habit” seeming so inevitable that, to those in it, it feels like a law of physics, not a socially-ingrained habit of thought/perception.) We have a particularly hard time when it comes to tempering the expectations that arise from possibilities of engineering with an acceptance of the innate resistance of culture . . .and that may largely be because our own culture has embraced change like no other in recorded history.


The difficulty, of course, is that engineering responds wonderfully to quantification. Cultural assessment and analysis—eh, not so much. These are shades of grey. And ‘experts’ usually go wrong when they try to create explanations via tortuous theories of cause and effect—which usually don’t hold up. But if you put causality (and its natural affinity with quantification) aside for a moment, and just look at correlation, you’ll find that the examples we’ve used here are the tip of an iceberg. And just because we can’t resolve it to hard numbers doesn’t mean that, like the “weak” force of gravity, it shouldn’t still be one of, if not the defining force in the Ring of Fire universe/scenario.


Indeed, it not only gives the series its unique appeal and dramatic tension, but conforms to a realism that transcends mere numbers and metrics: it not only tracks with precedent, but acknowledges the diverse impacts of culture as a genuine and very powerful force.


From our perspective, that is the “other half” of the impediment to speedier change: there is techne, and then there is temperament. And you can change the former a whole lot faster than the latter—simply because temperament is where the will to change is vested.