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Letters From Gronow, Episode 1

Letters From Gronow Episode 1 banner


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

16 October 1634



2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 wurst 1 pfennig

2 mugs beer 1 pfennig

Did the cash entries in Master Gröning’s accounts today, then reviewed Saturday’s entries. Found two errors in Thomas’s work and took them to Herr Schiller. He boxed Thomas’s ears, then made him recopy the entire page, watching over his shoulder the entire time. Later Thomas tried to stab me with his pen, but the quill nib barely scratched me before the quill broke. Herr Schiller gave him his hand for that as well, and would not give him a good right wing quill to replace it but forced him to take one of the left wing quills. Serves him right.

After work and before supper I slipped into Syborg’s Book Store to dream. There on the table with the oldest hardest-used books was one I hadn’t seen before, larger than the others, but thinner, wrapped in heavy paper rather than boards or leather. My hands were cleaner than usual, so I picked it up.

LfG1cskThe cover was a block print of a great black cat, and I almost dropped it, but the title was Der Schwarze Kater – Eine Zeitschrift. I opened the cover to discover that this book contained several poems and prose stories. I turned the page, and began reading a work called The Cask of Amontillado.

Nine pages later, I closed the book, wide-eyed. This story had gripped me as nothing had before. I must have this book.

Evening prayers recited, so now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

17 October 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs


1 barley roll (old) 1 quartered pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Dreams last night were strange.

Checked incoming bills of lading against contracts all day, found one error. Gave to Herr Schiller. He double-checked, and gave me a pfennig as a reward along with today’s pay.

Thomas looked hungover. Tried to stay out of his way.

After work, ran to Syborg’s Book Store. Der Schwarze Kater was still there. I pulled it out and laid it flat atop the other books on the table and looked around. The Herren Syborg Elder and Younger were not present, but Georg their clerk was, and he came to the table when he saw my lifted hand. When I asked him how much for the book, he picked it up and looked around. “Herr Matthias took this on as a trial, and they sold very quickly. People want more, except for the old woman who brought this one back claiming it was filled with demonic filth and we should be ashamed of selling it in the same shop with Augustine and Melanchthon and Calvin. Herr Johann told me to get whatever I can for it since the old lady tore some of the pages. So, what can you do?”

I took two pfennigs out of my pocket and held them out to him. He shook his head. I added another pfennig. He shook his head. I added the last coin in my pocket, a quartered pfennig. He shook his head, but this time with a smile and held his hand out. I poured the coins into his hand, picked up the book and hurried back to my room.

Began the next story, The Dunwich Horror. Sadly, have not finished but cannot keep eyes open. Besides, candle is guttering.

Stumbled through prayers. Bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

18 October 1634



1 barley roll (very old) 1 quartered pfennig

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

Dreams last night were very strange.

Spent most of the day drawing columns on pages for Herr Schiller. Hate that. Wish Master Gröning would buy the new-fangled preprinted forms the up-timers made so useful. Old miser.

Thomas hungover again today. Wasn’t in a mood to deal with him today, so when he snarled at me I told him to leave me alone or I’d kick him in the stomach. He wrapped his arms around his middle and groaned. Never seen anybody turn green before. Almost laughed.

Took today’s pay in candle stubs. Herr Schiller looked surprised, but said nothing.

Finished The Dunwich Horror tonight. Think I finally understand what the up-time word wow means.

Evening prayers recited—twice. Now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

21 October 1634



2 barley rolls 1 pfennig


1 wurst 1 pfennig

Woke up several times last night from dreams.

Finished Der Schwarze Kater tonight. Started over at beginning.

On last page of book, Herr Johann Gronow, the editor—whatever that is—says that Der Schwarze Kater is looking for people to write stories.

I know what I want to do now.

What’s an editor? Must find out.

Recited evening prayers—three times. Now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

22 October 1634





1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 wurst 1 pfennig

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

2 mugs beer 1 pfennig

Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

No dreams last night.

Church this morning. St. Jacob’s had more people in the nave than the last few weeks. More people made it a little warmer, which was good.

Music was as bad as usual. Sang anyway. I like the old songs.

Sermon was better than usual. No one fell asleep, although old man Schicklegruber was breathing so loud he might have been snoring while standing.

Broke my fast after church. Spent the afternoon reading The City of God. St. Augustine is hard to understand, and my Latin is not as good as it should be, but I’ll keep trying.

Was supposed to meet Cousin Johann at The Green Horse tonight, but he didn’t come, so spent the evening meditating on St. Augustine.

A productive holy day.

Recited evening prayers, so now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

23 October 1634



2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 wurst 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 quartered pfennigs

No dreams last night—that I remember, anyway.

Did Master Gröning’s cash entries. Not very many this time. Hope that doesn’t mean Master G will be running out of money.

Reviewed Saturday’s entries. Found three errors in Thomas’ work. Herr Schiller was not happy. Unfortunately, found an error in my work as well. Herr Schiller even unhappier. Should have shown him mine first, I think. Had to recopy my whole page. Thomas had to recopy two pages, but he still laughed at me. Miserable son of a spavined donkey and an ugly sow.

LfG1pAfter work, went to Syborg’s Books. Herr Syborg the Younger—Herr Johann, that is—talked to me about Der Schwarze Kater. He says this is supposed to be modeled after an up-time thing called a magazine. Another case where the up-timers appear to take a perfectly good word and make it mean something very different from its usual meaning. An up-timer magazine is not a storehouse, but is something like a book that is published periodically, and they sometimes have a common theme or element. Herr Johann says Der Schwarze Kater will print stories by two up-timer writers, Herr Poe and Herr Lovecraft, and maybe others who would write the same kind of stories.

I asked Herr Johann what an editor was. He says that is the person who puts together the different stories to make the magazine. Which explains why the book says to send new stories to Herr Gronow, the editor.

Came home. Finished rereading The Dunwich Horror.

Recited evening prayers. Told God I want to be a writer. Asked Him to make that happen. And now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

26 October 1634



2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 cup cabbage soup, 1 wheat roll 4 pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Don’t remember dreams from last night, but awoke tired.

Thomas was discharged today. Herr Schiller caught him taking a swig from the wine bottle we’re not supposed to know that Herr Schiller keeps hidden in his desk drawer. When Herr Schiller shouted at him, Thomas dropped the bottle and it broke. Herr Schiller chased him around the office four times swinging Master Gröning’s old walking stick at him. I ducked under my table. Thomas yelped every time the stick hit him, and he finally tried for the door. He couldn’t get the door handle to turn, and Herr Schiller caught him by the collar just as the door began to open. After giving Thomas several licks with the stick on his back and butt, all the while yelling that he was a thief, Herr Schiller threw wide the door and kicked him down the steps, shouting that Thomas should never show his face here again just before he slammed the door. By that point I had mopped up what little wine was left and was sweeping the glass up. Herr Schiller said nothing, just closed the drawer on his desk and climbed back up on his stool. Put the pieces of glass in a box, got back up on my own stool, and drew forms the rest of the day.

Herr Schiller gave me an extra pfennig with today’s pay. Not sure why, but he still looked angry, so I didn’t ask questions.

Stopped at Syborg’s Book Store. Herr Matthias himself made time to speak with me—but only because we were the only ones in the store. He asked me what I was reading. I told him The City of God. He looked a little surprised and asked me how I was doing with that. Told him it was hard, that I wasn’t at all sure I was understanding it. He smiled, leaned closer, and whispered that he hadn’t finished reading it either, and I should just keep slogging away at it.

Made so bold as to tell Herr Matthias that I really like Der Schwarze Kater, and asked if there was anything else like it. He said, no, not exactly like it, although there were a couple of people trying to produce what the up-timers call “science fiction”. Then he told me something that drove all other thoughts out of my head.

There will be a new volume of Der Schwarze Kater available next week! With newly translated stories by Herren Poe and Lovecraft!

Don’t recall much after that. Hope I was polite when I left. I really don’t remember. Don’t remember walking back to my room.. I just remember sort of waking up, sitting on my bed, holding a newsletter talking about Der Schwarze Kater. It’s all wonderful until I see the price—two dollars.

I may be skipping some more meals.

Took three tries to recite evening prayers. Now to bed, and sleep—I hope.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

30 October 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Herr Schiller brought a new boy into the office this morning. His name is Martin Niemoller. He’s younger than I am, smaller, and very skinny. He doesn’t talk much, either.

First thing I showed him how to do is draw forms. His first few lines weren’t very straight, but he finally got the knack of it.

Reviewed the entries from late last week, found two errors in Thomas’ last work. Showed them to Herr Schiller. He took a deep breath, and muttered “Good riddance!” Then he took his own pen knife and scraped off the ink of those entries and rewrote them himself. We’re not allowed to do that, but I guess Master Gröning lets Herr Schiller.

Stopped at Syborg’s Book Store after work. No, Der Schwarze Kater’s new volume is not available yet.

Very unhappy and angry. After I got back to my room, decided that the anger was wrong. Made myself read an extra page from The City of God as penance.

Re-read The Cask of Amontillado to provide a sop for my hunger for the new volume.

Recited evening prayers. Then recited again to calm myself further. And now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

1 November 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

No dreams last night.

Hungry, but saving pfennigs.

Martin asked me today if I read any. Told him yes. When he asked what I read, I told him The City of God. He said that was good. Then I told him about Der Schwarze Kater. He frowned and said that sounded demonic, or pagan at best. He spent the rest of the day drawing forms while humming hymns loudly—and badly.

Stopped at Syborg’s Book Store after work. No, Der Schwarze Kater’s new volume is not available yet.

Made myself read Leviticus Chapter 23 to draw down my frustration.

Recited evening prayers. And so to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

2 November 1634



1 barley roll (old) 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll (very old) 1 quartered pfennig

Dreamt I was being bricked into a room that I had been tricked into entering because I was told the new volume of Der Schwarze Kater was there. Had it in my hand when I awoke and discovered that it was a dream. Said several words I shouldn’t have.

Herr Schiller had me doing cash entries all day. Guess they were late in arriving or something.  More than usual, too, which I guess is good. If Master Gröning has cash, he’ll be able to keep paying me.

Tired after work. Wanted to just come back to my room, but made myself go by Syborg’s Book Store. All of them were there when I walked in—Herr Matthias, Herr Johann, and Georg. Georg waved me over as soon as I came in. He had a big grin on his face, and he pulled something out from underneath the counter and put in my hands a copy of the new volume of Der Schwarze Kater. I started shaking.

“That’s our last copy,” he said. “Hope you’ve got the two dollars.”

Very excited, told him I’d be right back with the money. He kind of frowned, said something about he didn’t know, there were other people who wanted it. Herr Matthias heard him and came over, told him to quit tormenting me, told me to go get my money and it would be here when I got back.

Ran back to the room as fast as I could. Dodged around walkers, under wagons, over crates and barrels, leapt over a donkey, tripped over a cane, rolled, and came up running. Heard some yelling behind me, kept going. Made it to my rooming house with no further mishaps and tore up the stairs to my room. Pried up the loose floorboard and pulled out my coin sack, ran back downstairs and back to Syborg’s, if not quite as fast. Was panting heavily when I got there.

LfG1hsshrCounted out two dollars’ worth of pfennigs on the counter. Herr Matthias himself handed me my new volume of Der Schwarze Kater. Hurried home, not quite as recklessly as before. Didn’t want to drop it. Lit a candle stub, began reading The Fall of the House of Usher.

Candle is dying, can’t keep eyes open, want to finish story, but can’t. So frustrated almost weeping.

Stumbled through evening prayers. Bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

3 November 1634



2 barley rolls 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 cup cabbage soup 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Exhausted this morning. Don’t remember dreams, but must have had some, because I was so tired. Felt hungover, but wasn’t drunk.

Head hurt all day. Wish I had some of Dr. Gribbleflotz’s little blue pills.

Martin was humming hymns again today. Badly. Finally told him that if he couldn’t do a tune better than that in public, he should be silent, as hymns were supposed to be a praise to God, and what he was doing was an insult. He looked at me shocked and almost on verge of tears, I think, but he shut up. Herr Schiller frowned at me, but said nothing. It was worth it, because it was quiet the rest of the day.

Didn’t visit the bookstore after work. Just ate supper and went home. Felt better after the soup.

LfG1lFinished The Fall of the House of Usher by Herr Poe. Herr Lovecraft’s story is The Doom That Came to Sarnath. Forced myself to not read it tonight so I can make the magazine last longer.

Recited evening prayers. Decided I was rude to Martin. Will apologize. Recited evening prayers again.

Now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

5 November 1634





1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 wurst 1 pfennig

2 mugs beer 1 pfennig

Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

Muddled dreams last night. Woke up twice.

Church this morning. St. Jacob’s had fewer people in the nave. Gossip is that some people have been sick, rumors of plague were whispered about, even though it’s winter.

Music was even worse than usual. Sang anyway.

Sermon was no better than usual. No one fell asleep, but suspect that may be because with fewer people, the nave was colder than usual. Old man Schicklegruber wasn’t there, so it was a bit quieter.

Broke my fast after church. Spent the afternoon reading more of The City of God and thinking about it. St. Augustine is still hard to understand.

Did meet Cousin Johann at The Green Horse tonight, and he explained one of my problems with St. Augustine, but told me he would have to think about the other one.

Even so, a productive holy day.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

6 November 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

I apologized to Martin Niemoller for being rude to him last week. Then I told him he still needed to learn his hymns better, as it’s disrespectful to God to sing them badly. He tried to tell me that he’s doing the best he can. I told him he needs to learn better, but not here. It’s distracting.

Herr Schiller commended me for apologizing, then told Martin I was right, and set him to work drawing more forms. He is getting the lines straighter than he was.

Reviewed the entries from late last week, found no errors. Pleasant surprise after following behind Thomas for so long. Showed the pages to Herr Schiller. He looked somewhat glad. He said Master Gröning would be pleased.

Have an idea for a story! It came to me while I was looking at the entries, and almost distracted me from the work.

Was so involved in thinking about the story idea this evening, didn’t even read any of the new Der Schwarze Kater. Was surprised when I noticed that.

Eventually recited evening prayers. Then recited again to calm myself more. Now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

11 November 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Master Gröning only hires us for a half day on Saturdays. Old miser. But he still expects near a full day’s ledger entries from us.

Today I was glad to leave after noon, as it gave me a chance to run to my room and work on my story. And I finished it.

That felt good. That felt really good. I was almost dancing in the room when I got done.

After a little while, I picked it up and read it. I like it.

So, I will fold it up and put the address on it and take it to Herr Gronow’s offices and submit it.


Back. Found Herr Gronow’s office in the building where the magazine said it would be. The door was closed and locked, which did not surprise me, but there is a slot cut in the door with a sign above it that says “Submissions”, so after a moment I dropped the story through the slot. And as soon as I let go of it I wanted to take it back, but my hand wouldn’t reach through the slot far enough to pick it up where it fell. So I leaned against the door and prayed about it.

Ate supper on the way home.

When I returned to my room I treated myself to The Doom That Came to Sarnath. Very fine.

Still I worry about my story.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

15 November 1634



1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

No dreams last night.

Today a messenger stepped inside the office. Herr Schiller held out his hand, but the messenger stood and said, “This here message is for nobody but Herr Philip Fröhlich.”

Herr Schiller frowned, but pointed at me, and the messenger stepped over to hand me an envelope before he ducked his head in a bow—to me!—and turned and left.

“If that is not part of the business of Master Gröning, you will leave it alone until your day is done,” Herr Schiller said. His face looked like he was tasting something sour. I stuffed it inside my shirt, and didn’t open it until I got back to my room.


14 November 1634

Herr Philip Fröhlich

I have received what appears to be a story submission to Der Schwarze Kater magazine with your name and contact address on the outside. Unfortunately, at this time I cannot publish your story, mostly because I cannot read the blasted thing.

First, I do understand if you are not able to afford one of the new Goldfarb und Meier typewriting machines. You will notice that, as much as I personally lust after one, this response is written with pen and ink. You will also notice that my letter is perfectly legible, with well-formed characters inked on the page. Sadly, your story was not. Pencil written on cheap tan paper does not make for a readable page, and the smudges and attempted erasures simply make it illegible.

Second, your handwriting, from what I could detect of it, is execrable. Your school teacher would be chastised if I knew who he was.

Third, it is simply not permitted to spell the same word three different ways on one page. I suggest you pay attention to the Bible as translated by Martin Luther. However he spelled a word is how it should be spelled in writing.

I hesitate to say this, but if you can find a way to improve the presentation of your story, whose title I cannot decipher, you may resubmit it.

Good day to you.

Johann Gronow

Editor and Publisher

Der Schwarze Kater


The Marshal Comes To Suhl

The Marshal Comes To Suhl banner

Early April, 1634



Dusk came early that evening with a light, intermittent rain. Four, in the shadows, watched the old man walking down the alley. He used a cane and wore a wide-brimmed hat and a long coat of some heavy cloth that shed the rain like feathers off a waterfowl. He was softly singing to himself.

Compared to the watchers, he was richly dressed and easy prey for those in need. A short run, a shove, some blows, sift his pockets, and take his purse and that coat. A knife would be the finish. They were four to his one. It would be easy.

The old man stopped and appeared to listen. Had they given themselves away? He left the alley and stepped towards the entrance of a shop—a well-lit shop.

He was getting away! Run! Catch him!


The old man thought he heard someone behind him. His leg ached with every step. His destination, a cabinet shop, was just a few yards away, across the cobblestoned street and two doorways down, when he heard a splash. Someone had stepped into a puddle. He turned to look back behind him, back down the alley where he had walked a few moments before.

Four men were running towards him not more than fifteen yards away. Two of the men had knives in their hands; the others had bludgeons or some sort of metal-shod truncheon. Their intent was obvious. He completed the turn, dropping the cane and sweeping back the oilskin coat that uncovered the up-time pistol that had been holstered at his waist.

As the coat flipped away from his belt, he drew the pistol. When the sights leveled on the nearest attacker, he fired. The sound was loud and distinctly different from the boom of a down-time weapon. It echoed, the sound reflecting off the nearby buildings. He shifted his aim slightly and fired again . . . and again . . . and again.

The last attacker staggered, tripped, and fell only a few feet away. His knife skittered across the cobblestones as he slid to a stop at Archie Mitchell’s feet. Archie remained in a slightly crouched stance, pistol sights sweeping from side to side searching for any further threats. There were none. He heard nothing other than the ringing in his ears from the reports of the pistol.

Archie stepped forward, ready for any movement, and checked the bodies. Young men, he thought, out for an evening’s fun, mayhem and profit. Or . . . mercenaries, perhaps? They were not as young as he thought at first glance. They were well-muscled and well-fed. No, they were not ordinary cutpurses. He kicked the knives and bludgeons away from the bodies in case one was shamming.

He scanned the surrounding buildings. Some were dark, abandoned, not uncommon in this part of Suhl. No faces peered from windows; no lights appeared in darkened rooms, no sound of someone running to investigate the shots in the night. Curious. And where is the watch?

Archie looked at the bodies. They had sought a victim and had found something else. He replaced the half-empty magazine in his pistol with a fresh one and holstered the pistol. Next, he stooped to pick up his cane, the scattered fired brass, and then, grunting softly, he straightened and placed the spent brass in a pocket. With cane in hand, he continued towards his destination where Heinrich Buch was waiting. Someone there could fetch the watch. As he walked, he resumed singing softly, “St. James Infirmary,” alert for others who might wish to interrupt his walk. He did not notice that his leg no longer ached.

Friedrich Achen watched silently from the shadows. Frustrated, he stepped back further into the darkness and slipped quietly away.



Early March, 1634



Judge Riddle sat behind his office desk. Harley Thomas, Dieter Issler, and Max Huffman were present, seated in well-padded side chairs. Archie Mitchell, however, was late.

Harley, Max, and Archie had been discharged from the Army just three hours previously. An hour before, with their families watching, Judge Riddle had sworn Max, Harley and Archie in as new SoTF marshals and Dieter as a SoTF deputy marshal.

The day was bright with a light southern breeze that brought a warming hint of spring. The warmth was a welcome break to the cold of winter and had melted the season’s last snow. Vina Thomas and Greta Issler had decided to hold the ceremony on the Thomases’ front lawn followed by a small reception. They prepared a selection of light pastries accompanied by a punch made from apple cider and ice cream. Frank Jackson had provided some unknown punch ingredient of approximately 100 proof. The new officers had been sworn in using the Issler family Bible, an enormous book that appeared to be old enough to have been printed by Gutenberg.

The marshals and deputy were now in Judge Riddle’s office. Everyone was present except Archie Mitchell. Judge Riddle was about to ask Harley if he knew where Archie was when he heard footsteps in the hallway—footsteps that included the tinkle of jingle-bob spurs. The door opened and Archie Mitchell stepped into the office.

“Good God Almighty!” the judge exclaimed. “What the hell is that?”

Archie walked into the room and said, “Sorry I’m late.” He wore Tony Lama boots with spurs, dark brown canvas pants, and a white shirt with an accompanying black string tie. Over the shirt was a five-button leather vest; on his head was a light gray Stetson hat. Around his waist was a wide leather belt and holster on the right containing a Colt single-action .45 caliber revolver and a second pistol, in a cross-draw configuration, on his left-front side. The pistol belt contained a number of large, fat cartridges in leather loops. He carried an oilskin coat called a duster over one arm. The other hand held a cane.

Judge Riddle glanced at Max and Harley. Max’s face was turning red and his shoulders were shaking. Harley was not as constrained and was openly laughing—loudly.

Archie stepped up to the desk. “Since you’ve made me a marshal, I thought I’d wear my marshal’s uniform.”

Max spoke up, “That’s Archie’s SASS costume. He was a member of the Single Action Shooting Society up-time. They dressed up like that.”

Riddle looked at Archie, his face turning red in anger. “Be very glad I’m not in court. If I were, you’d be looking at five days for contempt.”  He was not sure if he was being mocked or not. He needed this character, so he decided to overlook this affront to his dignity.

Archie’s look of surprise and hurt finally convinced Judge Riddle that Archie’s intent was innocent. Well, maybe not innocent, but at least not contemptible.

“Sit down, Archie, and don’t try my patience.”

Archie sat.

After a moment to collect his thoughts, Judge Riddle said, “I have your badges here. I asked Morris Roth to design and make them. My initial thought was to make them from some silver dollars I had collected, but Morris convinced me that would only attract thieves. Morris got together with Ollie Reardon and made these. Ollie had some stainless steel and brass stock left over from some job. Morris designed these badges. I had in mind something like the Texas Ranger badge, a five-pointed star inside a circle. Morris had other ideas. He likes six-pointed stars.” He gave a slight grin.

“Dieter, come here,” said the judge. “This is your badge. As a deputy, your badge is entirely stainless steel. Morris stamped your name, today’s date, and the serial number on the back. Your badge is number four.” Dieter stepped up, and Judge Riddle pinned the badge on Dieter’s shirt.

“Max, Harley, and you, Archie, stand up,” he said again. “The marshal’s badge, like Dieter’s, is made of stainless steel. The difference is that the points are brass-plated leaving the center as polished stainless steel. You are all equals as Marshals so we decided to assign the serial numbers in alphabetical order. Max, you have serial number one. Archie, you’re number two, and Harley is number three. Wear them in good health.”

He pinned the badges to the three new marshals and motioned them to sit down. “After much discussion with the other judges, Mike and Rebecca, Ed, and Frank, we decided to initially assign each of you marshals to some specific tasks as we build the larger service. Max, Doc Nichols doesn’t want you to do much fieldwork for awhile. Since you were a first sergeant in the US Army, we believe you would be ideal as the executive officer of the Marshal’s service. Harley, we thought the best area for you would be the marshal in charge of training since you did most of the tactical training for the old Marion County Sheriff . . . among other duties yet to be assigned. You’ll be in the field, too. Since you hurt your knee again you’re on leave until Doc Adams clears you for full duty.”

Judge Riddle paused for a moment, looking at Archie and shaking his head slightly. “Archie, we had thought that you would be the best for the marshal in charge of field operations. I’m having some second thoughts after seeing you in that outfit, but the decision has been made. Don’t disappoint me.”

“Uhhh, yes . . . I mean no, Judge, I won’t.”  Perhaps, Archie thought, dressing up wasn’t such a good idea.

“By the way, how’s the leg?”

“Well, for the most part, it’s healed. Doc Nichols is being cautious, I think, but he said it will get better if I continue with the PT.” Archie had been wounded in the leg the previous spring, and the wound had gotten infected, laying him up for months. The infection had caused some permanent muscle damage to his thigh and hip, hence the cane. He no longer needed it but he had become attached to the cane. It was made of hickory with molded alloy ball on one end and a steel cap on the other. It could be handy at times, he had decided—a knobknocker his grandfather would have called it.

Nodding to Archie, Riddle agreed, “That’s what Doc Nichols told me; you’ve been released for duty.”

Judge Riddle continued, “Max, for the time being, I want you to set up an office down the hall. The first task is to build a table of organization and equipment. All of us will be involved in that. One of the first tasks will be recruitment.”

Turning to Harley and Archie, he said, “Harley . . . don’t go hurting that knee again! I know he deserved it but next time, get someone else to kick the SOB in the ass.”

Judge Riddle paused and looked at Dieter. “You are the only deputy marshal available, at the moment, to take cases. Fortunately for us, everything’s quiet at the moment.”

Riddle looked at the quartet again before he continued. “Archie, I would like you and Dieter to go to Suhl and find a suitable place for a court. Suhl has been a thorn in our sides since last year so we think one of the first courts should be there—establishing a presence of law and order so to speak.”

“The district court system is still being designed, how many courts, how many judges, their area of responsibility, all that. The current plan is each court will have a presiding judge who’s in charge and two or three associate judges to help and take cases. You’ll need to keep that in mind when you look for a courthouse. We’re planning to place a troop of Mounted Constabulary there as well but that’s not your concern once they’re in place. They’ll use the old Swedish garrison barracks. It’s been turned over to us. Check it out when you get there, hire some people to clean it up and make any needed repairs. See if there is a site nearby for the court.”

“How many constables will be in the troop?”

“Here is a copy of the proposed table of organization. It’s still subject to change. Officially, it will be the 1st Mounted Constabulary Troop when it’s all said and done.”

Archie read the document.  A captain, a sergeant, and ten constables, plus a saddler, farrier, blacksmith, medic, radio operator, and file clerk.

“Some of the headquarters folks, like the blacksmith, farrier, and saddler may be local people hired to fill just those functions,” Riddle continued. “I would like you to spend some time with my son, Martin. He will go over everything in detail to answer any questions you may have. Do you think you could leave Monday for Suhl?  That will give you nearly a week to get ready for the trip. We’ll hire a bailiff to take over the admin for the court in May.”

“Yes, Sir,” Archie replied. “Monday will be fine. Dieter?”

“That is fine with me, too.”

“Well, that’s it, everyone. Any questions? If not, then the meeting’s over.”



Late April, 1634



The sky was slightly overcast as Dieter rode up to Archie’s home trailing a packhorse. In front of the house was a light wagon with a horse already hitched and another horse tied to the rear. In the back of the wagon were a saddle, worn and cracked, saddlebags, and two of Archie’s old footlockers. Marjorie Mitchell was standing on their porch giving Archie a kiss and hug. They had been married over forty years and weren’t used to being apart.

It was time to leave. “Bye, Marj. See you in a month?”

” ‘Bout that, I think. Be careful, Arch.”

Archie nodded and carefully stepped down his front steps using his cane to support his weakened leg and carried his lever-action Winchester rifle in his other hand.

“Where did you get this wagon, Archie? I’ve not seen one like this before.”

TMCSbckbrd“I had it built in Saalfeld last year. It’s called a buckboard. The wainwright built it from some pictures I had. A hundred years ago, Grantville time, these wagons were as common as automobiles were in the twentieth century.”

“It doesn’t appear too sturdy.”

“It’s not designed to carry heavy freight, just people and stuff, like a small pickup truck. Plus, I can haul more stuff than using a packhorse. Doc Nichols suggested that I not ride a horse yet.”

“What are you doing with that old saddle?”

“That was my grandfather’s. He used to be a cowboy in Oklahoma before he married my grandmother. I’ve heard about a saddle maker in Suhl. I’m going to have him make me a new one based on this design. I did some horse swapping last week and got a couple of good, sturdy riding horses. This is mine,” Archie said pointing to the horse tied to the back of the wagon. “Marjorie’s old saddle fits her roan, but mine, the pinto here, needs a new saddle. My old saddle doesn’t fit.”

Dieter wasn’t too familiar with horses or saddles. He just rode whatever was available. The new horse was a mottled white and brown.

He knew Archie had owned several horses before the Ring of Fire. He’d not thought about it much. Now that he had seen the wagon, he could see how useful it could be. Maybe he should talk to Greta about a wagon and some horses? He was well paid as a deputy marshal. Perhaps they should invest some of that money.

“Dieter, why don’t you put your gear in the back of the buckboard and tie your pack horse to it. It’s forty-five miles or so, a two-day trip to Suhl. That’ll free your hands if it becomes necessary.”

Dieter did so. The packhorse was to be his spare. Both of the horses had been assigned to him with his transfer to Suhl. Everything he and Archie needed for the trip, until their wives arrived, was now carried in the wagon. He frankly stared at the footlockers and bags that Archie had loaded in the wagon.

Archie, seeing Dieter’s expression said, “One of those footlockers is full of ammo, .45 Long Colt for my Winchester ’73 and my revolvers, and .45 ACP for my two Colt Commanders.”

“I brought .45 ACP and 12-gauge double-ought, too.”

“Good, I’ve some 12-gauge, too, a mixture of double-ought and slugs. Ammo weighs a lot. That’s why I decided to take the buckboard—and I can haul enough fodder for all our horses. Grazing won’t be all that good yet this time of year. Help me get this tarp over the bed and we’ll be off.”

Archie made sure the tarp covered the wagon bed in such a way that it would drain rainwater before he climbed into the wagon. A thick pad covered the seat to provide more comfort than would just hard wood. The steel leaf springs under the seat creaked. The pad helped soften the ride but Archie wasn’t going to complain. Marjorie had made it using an old foam rubber camp mattress.

Once seated, he inserted the rifle against the front mudguard into a clip designed for that purpose next to his Winchester Model 1897 pump shotgun.

“Let’s get going.” He released the brake and snapped the reins. The wagon started off down the street. Dieter kicked his heels, caught up with the wagon and rode along side.

Marjorie watched the wagon and rider depart down the street toward Highway 250 and the road that would eventually take them to Suhl. She stood on the porch, watching, until the two turned the corner down the block and passed out of sight..

She gave a sigh. She and Greta had work to do to move two households to Suhl. Time to get busy.



Late April, 1634



Archie and Dieter arrived in Suhl in mid-afternoon. The sky had gotten darker. They had been rained upon a few times during the trip. Both wore their oilskin dusters to help shed the light rain. The string of wagons they had joined continued on towards Franconia leaving them at the gate.

After passing through the east gate, Dieter and Archie separated. Dieter proceeded to the inn where they would stay while Archie drove the wagon towards the saddler’s shop.

He guided the buckboard through the streets towards the shop of the saddlemaker, Johann Zeitts. Archie would leave the pinto with Zeitts to allow him to make sure the saddle would fit. The new saddle would cost about the equivalent of forty dollars and the old cowboy saddle, he guessed. We’ll haggle some. Archie suspected that Johann would get the better side of the deal with a template for a new style saddle. I wonder if I could get a new saddle for Marjorie if I traded that old McClellan cavalry saddle?

Johann Zeitts’ shop was located in the southern edge of town. He had started life as a cobbler. In fact, his son, Hans, still worked as a cobbler in a corner of the shop. Johann had become a saddlemaker by accident. One of the leading members of the Suhl council wanted a new saddle, and Johann had made a bid for the job.

He made saddles using techniques learned as a cobbler. His technique, using small brass nails and hand stitching, was new. Several competitors in the area were copying his methods, but Zeitts was more skilled. His business had grown and he was able to acquire a combination shop and home for his wife, married elder son Hans and younger son Christian.

Hans Zeitts saw the wagon pull up in front of the shop and walked out to welcome Archie. His father wasn’t present, he said. Hans led Archie with the wagon and horses through the gate into the fenced-in area behind the shop where a small stable was located. The stable had room for several horses, with three already present. Hans helped Archie stable and groom his pinto.

“Your wagon and horse will be safe here while you meet with my father. My younger brother Christian normally takes care of the horses and the stable, but he’s shoeing some horses at the moment. He’s a farrier and journeyman blacksmith,” Han explained.

Johann arrived just as they finished with the horses. The elder Zeitts entered the front of the shop at the same moment Archie entered from the back, followed by Hans carrying the old saddle.

Wie Gehts, mein Herr!  Guten Tag. I’m Marshal Archie Mitchell from Grantville.”

“Welcome, welcome, Herr Marshal Mitchell. I see you have arrived safely.”

Why would I have not arrived safely? There’s been no outlaws anywhere near here, Archie thought. The comment surprised him. He was under the impression that Suhl was mostly quiet and peaceful after the late unpleasantness with the gunsmiths and the CoC the previous year.

He dismissed the comment and followed Zeitts into the main workroom where Hans placed the old saddle on a wooden trestle that could be adjusted to meet the size of different horses. Johann lifted the stirrups, examined the leather fenders, skirt, cantle, and seat.

“Hmmm,” he muttered. He flipped the saddle upside down on a nearby table to see the saddle’s wooden tree visible through holes in the rotten leather. Hans rubbed his chin and hummed again.

Ja! Now I see the differences. It is similar to some Spanish designs.”

“True,” Archie agreed. “The design evolved from saddles used by Mexican vaqueros up-time and they had Spanish ancestors. It is a working design to allow a horseman to ride comfortably all day.”

“Do you want any embellishments? Any silver?”

“No!” Archie chuckled, “I’m not rich. I just want a good working saddle . . . well, maybe a bit of leather tooling and embossing if it isn’t too expensive.”

“Very well.” Johann seemed a bit disappointed.

“When could you give me an estimate for cost and delivery?”

“Oh, yes, uhhh, tomorrow? Noon?”

“Noon, it is. I’ll be here. I’ve other business in Suhl, but I’ll make a point of being here at noon or as close to it as I can.”

“Would you be available for dinner tonight, Herr Mitchell? Our quarters are above the shop, and I would like you to meet my wife and family.”

“Thank you! I would be grateful, Herr Zeitts, but I’m not alone. Deputy Marshal Issler is with me.”

“Bring him, too. We would like to have both of you. Besides, it does me honor to  host the new marshal and his deputy.”


Archie drove his buckboard back into town to the Boar’s Head Inn where Dieter waited. The State of Thuringia-Franconia had a contract with the innkeeper to house them and their horses and gear until permanent quarters could be found. The innkeeper was being exceedingly helpful. He wanted them to remain at the inn as long as he could keep them. The SoTF was paying half again his current rate. More coins in his pocket.

Whoever had made the arrangements had requested a ground floor room in light of Archie’s injury. When Archie arrived, the innkeeper led him and Dieter to an area in the back of the inn where three rooms had been reserved for them.

It’s a suite! Archie thought when he entered. The front room contained a desk, chairs, a table that could be used for conferences, a sideboard that appeared to be well stocked, and waist-high cabinets. A strong-room had been built out of a small windowless closet-like room off the main room for storage of their guns and ammo. It would also keep secure the funds that had been given to him for the purchase of the new courthouse and incidentals. Off the central room were two others made up as individual bedrooms. A door on one side of the central room led to the inn’s bath, jakes, laundry, and an exit to the inn’s stables in the rear. Someone had made an excellent choice in choosing this inn. He was surprised the innkeeper was so accommodating.

The innkeeper appeared and asked for permission to take Archie’s buckboard and horse to the rear stable. “My stableboy will feed and groom your horse, Herr Marshal Mitchell. It will be in the stall next to Herr Deputy Marshal Issler’s horse.”

Danke, Mein Herr. I appreciate your courtesy.”

The innkeeper left.

“Nice place, Dieter,” Archie said.

“Ja. He bowed to me when I arrived. I almost thought he was going to add a von und zu to my name. I think he’s glad to see us.”

“I got the same impression from Johann Zeitts. It makes me curious. Everyone is happy to see us. It makes me wonder why.”

“Perhaps I should wander around and listen to gossip? No one would think twice about me . . . at least for the next day or so, until I become known.”

“Start tomorrow . . . and dress like you live here.” Dieter was dressed much like Archie: oilskin duster, Western-style boots, pants, shirt, leather vest, and a copy of Archie’s Stetson hat—Archie’s unofficial idea of a marshal’s uniform. “Tonight, we have dinner invitations with Johann Zeitts and his family.”


It was dusk when Archie and Dieter arrived at the Zeitts’ shop and home. Darkness came early this time of year. Johann welcomed them and introduced his wife Elizabeth, his son Hans and Hans’ wife Lena and Johann’s younger son Christian. Hans and Lena’s two children were already in bed.

Johann and Elizabeth’s ages were betrayed by their white hair but both appeared to be quite fit. Hans and Lena were in their late twenties. Christian was several years younger and had the shoulders and grip of a blacksmith. Hans was slighter than his brother although his hand was as calloused as that of the elder and younger Zeitts.

“Welcome to our home,” said Elizabeth. “We are very happy that you accepted our invitation. Follow us, please.”

She led them upstairs to the family area. It was much larger than it appeared from outside. Johann and Elizabeth had a separate room for themselves. Christian had his room, as did Hans and Lena. The rest of the upper floor was for common use by the entire family.

Dinner went well. Elizabeth and Lena had prepared a leg of mutton, roasted to a crisp, and a form of bread pudding for dessert. They had finished the dinner when, from the stables outside, they heard a scream from a horse. Everyone hurried downstairs, led by Hans and Christian who grabbed a lantern before leaving the shop. Hans saw two men in the stables with one of the horses. One had a knife in his hand.

Christian outran his older brother and yelled at the two intruders. One ran out of the stable and into the darkness. The other, the one with the knife, was slower. Christian threw the lantern at him and it hit with an audible clonk! The man stumbled, and fell to his knees.

Dieter arrived next and rolled the man over. A bloody dent in the man’s temple from the heavy brass lantern was clearly visible.

Christian ignored the other man who had disappeared in the darkness. He ran into the stable checking the horses.

“He was trying to hamstring the horses!” he called, pointing to a slash on the leg of one of the Zeitts’ horses. He soothed the shivering horse and examined the wound closely. “It’s deep, but I don’t think he cut the tendons.”

Dieter checked the other horses. “The rest appear to be all right. I don’t see any wounds.”

Archie and Johann were the last to arrive. Hans picked up the lantern and relit it. He held the lantern closely to the face of the body. He, like Christian, was shocked. Christian clearly had not intended to kill the intruder, just stop him from hurting the horses.

“You know him?” Archie asked.

“No,” replied Johann.

“Nor I,” added Hans.

Christian walked over and looked closely. “He’s one of Achen’s men. I’ve seen him around.”

“Who is Achen?” Dieter asked.

“He’s . . . well . . . I . . .” Christian was hesitant to say more.

“Friedrich Achen is . . . uh . . . a . . . he calls himself a businessman. He has, what he calls ‘a private security firm.’ You pay him a fee and he guards your home and business,” Johann said.

“If you don’t, things happen,” Christian added.

“His men came around wanting me to sign up for their protection. I refused. That is what the watch is supposed to do.” Johann said.

“Except the watch is seldom seen after dark,” said Hans.

“It isn’t seen much during the day, either,” Christian added.

Archie nodded. It was the old protection racket. He hadn’t expected to see it here, in this time, but there was no reason why it shouldn’t have occurred to someone.

“Did you report it?” Dieter asked.

“No. Why? It isn’t illegal,” Johann replied.

“It is if it includes intimidation and extortion.”

“What do we do with the body until the watch comes?” Archie asked.

“Leave him there,” Christian said. “The watch will show up eventually.”

“Okay. Be sure it’s reported in the morning if they don’t come tonight.”


Dieter Issler rose early the next morning. The sky was still gray. It was that time of morning just before dawn. He dressed as a down-timer, hiding his pistol inside his knee-length coat. His wide-brimmed hat would not draw attention. His boots were of up-time design but were unlikely to draw attention.

He left the inn and headed toward the riverside gate. That gate was not the one they had passed through yesterday. He was curious if it was manned at this time of the morning. Some cities in the SoTF had become complacent and failed to keep their gates well-guarded. As he walked, he kept an eye out for anyone about to dump their night soil. He didn’t want to get splashed.


Archie, having finished an early breakfast, had one of his Colt Commander pistols disassembled on a large cloth on the table when the innkeeper announced a visitor. “Herr Marshal, Bürgermeister Feld would like to see you.”

“Send him in,” Archie said rising to greet the burgermeister.

Guten Tag, Herr Marshal.”

“And to you, too. I’m glad to see you. I had planned to see you later this morning but now will do. Please sit and please excuse the mess. I like to clean my weapons after they’ve gotten wet. It rained often on the way here.”

Feld glanced at the pieces of the pistol, a collection of small, finely engineered pieces of a Model 1911 pistol, one of Archie’s Colt Commanders, laid out neatly on the thick cloth. “Ruben Blumroder would like to get his hands on that.”

“Ruben Blumroder?”

“He is the . . . not the guildmaster because there is no guild as such here. He’s the leader of the Suhl gunsmiths. He’s also our representative to the new legislature. He’s quite influential.”

“I wouldn’t object if he wanted to examine it. The pistol is easy to copy, the springs aside. It’s the ammunition that is difficult. How did you know I was here?”

“Word gets around. The militia guard on the east gate sent word that you had arrived. A message from Grantville said you were coming. We didn’t know when.”

“Well, it isn’t any secret. My deputy and I are here to secure a site for the new SoTF district court.”


“Yes. It will provide justice and legal services for the district—administer SoTF law. The judges will report directly to Judge Riddle, the chief justice of the SoTF Supreme Court.” Archie removed an envelope, wax-sealed with Riddle’s official court seal, from his saddle bag on the floor.. “I have a letter for you and for the city council.”

Feld took the envelope. It was addressed to him and to the Suhl council. He weighed it in his hand. It was impressive. The envelope was heavy paper. Up-time, perhaps. He looked up to see Archie watching him.

“Should I open it now?” he asked hesitantly.

“If you wish . . . as soon as you sign this receipt,” Archie replied extending a form letter and pen to Feld.

Feld looked at the receipt form as if it were a serpent. After a silent moment, he reached for the form and signed it with Archie’s pen.

“Thank you, Herr Bürgermeister. I’ve already given you a quick review of its contents,” Archie said, nodding toward the envelope in Feld’s hand.

“I suppose our . . . difficulty last year is why the court is being established here.”

“I wouldn’t know. There are difficulties in Franconia and I assume the Mounted Constabulary will be sending many patrols there.”

“They won’t stay here?” Feld said with some alarm.

“There will always be some here at headquarters, but most of the troopers will be patrolling the main roads and areas away from the larger cities.”

“We don’t have many watchmen. The militia mans the gates and the city wall.”

“That reminds me. I noticed the militia on my arrival. Who is the wachtmeister? There was an incident last night. A man tried to hamstring some horses and was killed during the commission of the crime.”

“Crime! Uh, we don’t really have much crime. Herr Heinrich Buch, one of our council members, oversees the watch and represents them, among others, in the council.”

“How many watchmen do you have?”

“I’m not sure of the actual number. Herr Buch is the de facto watchtmeister. I think they’re thirty-five or forty.”

“That’s all?”

“Well, the militia protects the city; the gunsmiths take care of their part of Suhl. The rest of Suhl is quiet. There haven’t been any complaints and the cost is expensive.”

“Suhl looks to be prosperous. You shouldn’t have any difficulty raising the funds to add more.”

“There are . . . concerns.”

Archie watched the bürgermeister sitting across from him. The situation wasn’t new. Cities always seem to shortchange their safety whether external or internal, especially when no danger was on the horizon. “Neither the SoTF Court, the Marshal’s Service nor the Constabulary is responsible for running Suhl. You are. It’s up to you and the council.”

“Yes, yes, we know. When we heard the rumor that the Mounted Constabulary was coming we thought . . .”

Archie said nothing. He was beginning to understand why he and Dieter were being welcomed so enthusiastically. “My deputy and I work for the court and answer to them. Suhl is your responsibility. I would suggest you and the city council review your needs. I believe you have some. That said, to whom should I report the incident?”

“Oh, well, Herr Buch, I suppose. We rarely have anything untoward reported.”

“Very well, I’ll pay him a visit. By the way, would you suggest someone I could see about what is available for a courthouse? The constabulary will use the former Swedish barracks.”

Feld seemed startled at that piece of information. “I’ll check with the council. One of them should know. I’ll ask them to see you.”

“Good, good. I appreciate your assistance.”

Feld glanced at Archie, looked down to the envelope still in his hand and nodded. Rising, he said, “I’ll present this to the council. Guten Tag, Herr Marshal.”

Guten Tag, Herr Bürgermeister.”


Dieter found the riverside gate manned by a very young militiaman, an apprentice to a local gunsmith he discovered. The youngster had a blue cloth tied to his sleeve and he was watching a farmer pass through the gate in an ox-drawn cart. The gate guard was unarmed as far as Dieter could see. He was just standing at the side of the gate watching people go and come. After a brief conversation, Dieter discovered the name of the inn favored by the journeymen and master gunsmiths. It was helpful. He decided to check the barracks next. He expected them to need minor repairs being unused over the winter.


After Feld departed, Archie had some time before his appointment with Johann Zeitts. The hard wooden chair made his hip ache, and he felt tired. He hadn’t slept well. The bed here was a simple pallet on a wooden frame. He would be sixty this year and he seemed to feel every one of those years. God, I miss the twentieth century. Marjorie was bringing some of their furniture when she and Greta came to Suhl. He hoped she would be able to bring his recliner. Hard beds made him restless and cost him sleep. Sleeping on the ground these last couple of days didn’t help, either. It seemed the only time he could sleep well was in his recliner.

The innkeeper’s wife cleaned up the remains of breakfast and swept the floor and the hallway to the stable. Archie made a mental note to tip her for her efforts.

He reassembled the Colt Commander, inserted a loaded magazine, chambered a round, and slipped it into his shoulder holster. The other Colt Commander was already on his belt. Rising from the table, he picked up his hat and walked through the inn’s common room and out the front door. Johann Zeitts would be waiting for him at his shop. Archie hadn’t taken but a few steps before he saw a familiar face.

“Hi, Archie. How are ya?” Anse Hatfield said. “I heard you were in town so I came over to visit.”

“Anse! Good to see you. It’s been, what, a year or more since we last met?”

“Yeah, ’bout that. It’s good to see a familiar up-time face.”

“I was just going out. I have an appointment.”

“That’s OK, I’ll come along if that’s all right? We can talk along the way.”


Dieter approached the barracks and was surprised to see a number of workers on the site. They appeared to be tearing down the palisade walls. He walked up to the one who seemed to be in charge and asked what was going on.

“None of your business,” Dieter was told.

“I’m Deputy Marshal Issler.” Dieter showed them his badge. “That is SoTF property and the barracks of the Mounted Constabulary troop that should be arriving shortly. That makes it my business.”

“Don’t know anything about that. I was told to tear down the walls and that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Who’s your boss?”

“That’s none of your business, either. Now go or we’ll make you go.”

Dieter saw that he was outnumbered by six to one. He’d better pass this to Archie. “I’ll be back. I strongly suggest you have your boss here when I return.”


“. . . I managed some leave to talk over some business with Pat Johnson, on condition I bring back more guns,  so I’ll be leaving in a few days to rejoin the army. There won’t be many up-timers here after that, just Pat, the Reardons, Gary and Gaylynn, and maybe one or two others,” Anse Hatfield said.

“Marjorie is coming in a few weeks along with Dieter’s wife, Greta. I don’t think there will be any more up-timers here after she arrives.” After a pause, Archie said,

“You just didn’t come to see me because we’re old friends. What’s on your mind?”

“There’s a problem here, a gang. I was starting to get a handle on it but now I’m leaving. I wanted to fill you in and ask if you’d look into it.”

“A gang that’s running a protection and extortion racket?”

“Yeah, among other things.”

“I’ve heard. I met one of them last night who was trying to cripple a horse. I understand he’s one of Achen’s men. Who is this Achen?”

“I don’t know too much. I’ve heard that he’s the new son-in-law of one of the city councilmen. They don’t try much in my part of town but they work the rest of Suhl and outside the gates. The watch never seems to be around when something happens. When they finally show up, they don’t do much. No one is caught and things just seem to get worse. It’s getting so that it’s not safe on the streets after dark.”

“I thought the Jaegers were helping to take care of things?”

“Only in our part of town, and most of them are gone.”

“That’s twice you’ve said, ‘my part of town.’ What do you mean?”

“Where the gunsmiths are, their shops and homes. After the, ahhh, incident last year, they’ve kept the peace in their area. The city council is supposed to handle the rest of town. They don’t. They think the militia is enough . . . you can’t keep the peace by manning the walls and gates with unarmed boys.”

“And the watch?”

“They seem more interested in patrolling the ‘better’ parts of town. The homes and businesses of the council members and others.”

“I met with Feld, the bürgermeister, this morning. He said they only have thirty-five to forty watchmen for the whole town.”

“I know. It’s one of the problems here in Suhl. Saves them money, don’cha know. I’m surprised the council hasn’t called for help. I’ve heard rumors that the council is deadlocked on that.”

“They need about seventy-five to a hundred men if they are to have good day and night patrols,” Anse continued. “They think the militia will fill in for their lack of watchmen. The militia has to provide their own weapons, and most militia members work for the gunsmiths and their families.”

“Where have I heard this before?”

“Yeah. Almost like old times.”

“Dieter Issler is my deputy—do you know him?”

“No . . . don’t think I do.”

“He’s out scouting the town. I’d appreciate it if you’d have a talk with Pat and Gary and ask them to keep their ears open and give us a holler if they hear anything we should know.”

“I can do that. I’m glad Pat and Gary aren’t in the army. I don’t really want to go but I haven’t a choice.”

“They kicked me, Max Huffman, and Harley Thomas out of the army and made us marshals. Frankly, I’m glad I’m not in anymore.”

“I better get back. I’ll drop by one more time before I leave.”

“Thanks, Anse, I appreciate it.”


Ruben Blumroder looked up from his workbench when Anse walked through the door. “Did you meet him?”

“Yep. I think ol’ Arch will do. He asked me about Achen before I had a chance. He’s already got some feelers out gathering information.”

“Tell me about him.”

“He’s hard to describe. He’s a SoTF marshal now. He was a deputy sheriff up-time, an army vet, up-time, not just here. He’s a combat vet, too.”

“What’s he like?”

“Well, like many up-timers, Archie has some . . . eccentricities. He has always been a cowboy fan. Have you heard about Westerns?”

“Ja, but I don’t think I understand.”

“Westerns are stories about the American West in the nineteenth century—the American Frontier. Archie lives it. Up-time he was a member of a group that had action shooting matches using old-style weapons—revolvers, rifles, usually lever-action, double-barreled shotguns, weapons that were common in the nineteenth century. Sometime they even shoot from horseback, and they dressed up in costumes like those from the West. Archie, too.  Like I said, he lives it.”

“Is he crazy?”

“No. Absolutely not. But, when we up-timers arrived here in the middle of the Thirty Years war, it was a shock. People reacted differently. Some did well, some didn’t. Everyone was affected in some form or another. Living as a real Old West marshal is Archie’s way of coping—but don’t doubt his competency. That would be a mistake. His, uh, eccentricity aside, he’s a tough lawman.”

“Good! We need someone like that.”

“I think Archie will do.”

“I have a meeting tonight with some of the other craftmasters. I’ll tell them about our new marshal.”


Guten Tag, Herr Zeitts,” Archie said as he entered Zeitts’ workshop.

Guten Tag, Herr Marshal.”

“Well, what do you think.” Archie pointed to the disassembled saddle on Zeitts’ workbench.

“I can do it,” Zeitts affirmed.

When the haggling was over, Zeitts and Archie had an agreement. Zeitts would finish the saddle in two weeks unless there was an unforeseen circumstance to delay delivery.

Archie and Johann Zeitts were shaking hands on the deal when Christian entered the workshop with the aid of his brother. Christian had been badly beaten, one eye almost closed.

“What happened?” Johann asked rushing to Christian’s side.

“Achen’s men caught him outside. They were looking for their man who didn’t come home last night. It was their two on Christian until I arrived.”

“Where are they?” Archie asked referring to Achen’s men. “Are they still around?”

“They ran up the street. I don’t know where. Don’t go after them,” Han said. “They outnumber you.”

“I think I can handle them.” Archie said as he left the shop. Outside he surveyed the scene. Zeitts’ shop was next to the city’s wall. A ring road ran parallel to the wall with homes and shops lining the cobblestoned street. A number of people were out walking the street but none appeared to be watching Zeitts’ shop.

“They ran that way,” Hans said, pointing to the left. The street ended where it met another that led to the eastern gate.

Danke. Tell your father I’ll look into this.” With that, he stepped into the street and proceeded in search of Christian’s assailants.

The buildings on the left side of the street abutted but did not actually touch the city wall. This gap provided space for wall maintenance and access in time of need. The right side of the street was like the left with narrow alleys appearing from time to time between buildings giving access to another alley to the rear.

I need a map, Archie thought. This place is a maze. You could hide an army in these alleys and no one would know.

Archie reached the intersection without seeing anyone or anything suspicious. He had stopped a few passersby, asking if they had seen two men running down the street and no one had . . . or at least would not admit that they had.  That was the problem with a gang. People were intimidated. Individually, they were at the gang’s mercy. If they united, the gang would be ineffective and would soon be removed or would leave for easier pickings.

Archie headed back to the inn. He’d not had any lunch, and he was getting hungry. After he had eaten, he thought he would visit Ruben Blumroder. He seemed to be the real leader of Suhl. Maybe Blumroder would have more information.


Achen’s two men watched the marshal walk past the alley where they had hidden themselves. Achen would not be pleased with their failure to extract information from the younger Zeitts.

Friedrich Achen was sitting in a corner of the taproom of Der Bulle und Bär, his favorite inn, when his two men entered. They walked over to Achen’s table and sat.

“What did you find?” he asked.

“Nothing. We were interrupted. Zeitts’ brother and some neighbors came before we had the younger one softened up. The new marshal was there, too, so we left.”

“Conrad’s dead. One of the Zeitts, maybe the marshal, killed him.”

“How did you know?”

“Feld told my father-in-law who told me. Also, the other marshal, the deputy, was nosing around the barracks. He told the men to stop working. They refused but the deputy will be back, probably with the marshal to stop them.”

“Shall we be there, too? Together we would have enough to take both of them.”

“Do so. Keep watch. When the workers refuse, join them and overwhelm the marshals. Don’t let them get away.”

“You want them dead?”

“No, not yet. I need to know why they’re here.”

“Your father-in-law doesn’t know?”

“He says not. I’m not sure I believe him.”

“We’ll find out. The marshal doesn’t look all that strong. He uses a cane.”

“Go. Wait for them as long as it takes.”


After following the directions from several people, Archie arrived at Ruben Blumroder’s shop located on the same street as Pat Johnson’s US Waffenfabrik. He heard a shot from the rear of the building. Instead of entering the front, Archie walked down the adjacent alley to the rear where Blumroder and a couple of men were testing long arms. He stood watching them load the long guns with patched balls. Rifles, he assumed. The target was a wooden board attached to a large square wooden post that was at least a foot on each side.  There were numerous holes in the board.

Bam! One of the men fired the rifle which produced a cloud of white smoke. Archie noticed the rifle produced significant recoil.

Guten Tag! Archie called as another shooter stepped forward to the line.

Ruben Blumroder, at least that is whom Archie assumed the older man was, appeared startled when Archie called. He turned his head swiftly and gave Archie a quick inspection. He stepped away from the other two, who ignored Archie’s interruption once the elder man started walking towards the visitor.

“Herr Marshal Mitchell, I presume?”

“The same. I assume you are Herr Ruben Blumroder?”

“The same,” he said with a grin. “I was going to visit you when I had some time. Herr Hatfield told me you arrived yesterday. And here you are. What is the occasion for your visit?”

“I don’t want to interrupt your work but I would like to talk with you about Suhl. I understand you will be the city’s representative to the SoTF legislature.”

“Ja, that’s so. The craftmasters and their people elected me. We outvoted our opponents.”

“The craftmasters were able to control fifty percent of the votes?”

“Not alone . . . but with some other allies, we did.”


“Politics,” he confirmed. “Come, let us go inside. I have some cider that I’ve been thinking about all day.”

Archie chuckled and followed Blumroder into the rear of his shop. Inside the door, Archie stopped to let his eyes become accustomed to the unlit room. The few light sources were the open door and two windows facing the alley that Archie had used to reach the rear of the shop.  To one side were three rifling machines next to a small forge that appeared to be used to make small metal pieces that would eventually become parts for the rifle’s lock.

Blumroder walked down the aisle to a table where rifles and long arms were assembled. He picked up a rifle and handed it to Archie. “This is a copy, as best we can determine, of your Kentucky rifle. It’s .50 caliber. Pat Johnson had a . . . magazine? . . . catalog? . . . that had an exploded view of this rifle. We created our molds from that and refined the final product to be this rifle.”

To Archie, it appeared to be very much like a flintlock Kentucky rifle he had once fired. The smooth honey-colored wooden stock, forearm and ramrod were expertly finished and varnished with fine checkering at the grip behind the trigger and at two points along the sides of the forearm. The brass side-plates and patch-box were polished to a mirror-sheen that brought out the detail of the light engraving depicting a hunting scene. He hefted the rifle and found it to be perfectly balanced. “A fine piece of work,” he told Blumroder.

Danke. It is intended as a gift for the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. A working rifle, not some pretty piece that will never be fired. I can’t say who ordered it but the commission was very welcome.”

“I repeat, a very fine piece of work.”

“A man who knows his weapons, I see.”

“Of necessity. A reliable, accurate firearm can mean the difference between life or death. A man can be known by his weapon. I’m used to mine.”

“If I may ask . . .”

Archie chuckled. “I’ve nothing fancy. He pulled his duster aside from one side to reveal a Colt Commander in a side holster, then pulled the other side of the duster aside to reveal a second Colt Commander in a shoulder holster.

“Ah, yes, the Colt model 1911A1. Anse Hatfield carries one.”

“Almost, these are the Commander model,” he said pointing to his two pistols in turn. “The 1911 has a five inch barrel, the Commander a four and one-half inch barrel. It’s not much shorter but it can make a difference if you have to draw quickly.”

Blumroder walked into the shop where he had an office—a side room from a larger space where his apprentices and journeymen worked small pieces of metal to insure they fit exactly into molds. This was the current method of standardizing parts. It worked well enough and helped keep parts interchangeable, more or less—a new concept introduced by up-timers. Using molds wasn’t as precise as using a milling machine but would do until those tools became available.

After they were seated, Blumroder asked, “What can I do for you, Marshal?”

“I came, mainly, to introduce myself. Anse Hatfield, whom I’ve known for years, paid me a visit this morning. He mentioned that you were one of the city leaders. I’ve found it’s best to know the PTBs.”

“Excuse me, Herr Marshal, ‘PTBs?’ ”

“Powers That Be. Folks like Herr Feld—and you. I keep forgetting few here know all our language foibles.”

Blumroder chuckled. “I’m not in the same category as Herr Feld. I’m just a local craftmaster.”

“Who effectively controls at least a third of the city.”

“Um, uh, well, yes.”

“And is the recently elected member to the SoTF legislature.”

“True, as well.”

“I think that qualifies you as being one of the PTBs, don’t you Herr Blumroder?”

“Anse said you were different, Herr Marshal.”

“Just call me Archie, if you would.”

“Very well . . . Archie, and please call me Ruben.”

“Thank you, Ruben.”

“Now, what can I do for you, Archie?”

“Information, really. Anse alluded to some troubles here in Suhl—different from last year. A gang, he said.”

“Yes, Friedrich Achen. He arrived a year or so ago. Married the daughter of  Heinrich Buch, one of the city council members. No one seems to know from where he came. He has, as Anse had said, no visible means of support. He hangs out at Der Bulle und Bär, one of our more disreputable inns. He has a gang that extorts money from the shopkeepers, selling ‘protection.’ The watch, really the city council, hasn’t done much to curtail Achen’s activities. It’s not our, the militia’s, responsibility, either. Achen knows better than to bother us.”

“Your militia?”

“The city’s militia. However, we—the gunsmiths and the remaining Jaegers, are the largest contingent of the militia. The Jaegers answer to us . . . me . . . for the moment. Patrolling is not a responsibility I—we want. It’s been thrust upon us. We ensure our people are safe. That’s all we can do.”

“I see. It’s not my responsibility, either. But, like you said, sometimes it is thrust upon us.”

“Have you met the council, yet?”

“I met with Herr Feld this morning. He arrived on my doorstep bright and early. I had some documents for him and the council and gave them to him. The SoTF will be establishing a district court here in Suhl. I’m here to find a suitable building for the court. And a troop of the SoTF Mounted Constabulary will be stationed here in the barracks.”

“I suspect the documents may disappear if he doesn’t like their contents.”

“I don’t think so. He signed a receipt . . . and I have copies.”

“I see Herr Feld’s reputation has gone before him.”

“Don’t know about that. It’s just a standard precaution.”

“I wouldn’t wait, Archie, to meet the council. I’ve been told there are workmen dismantling the barracks. If you don’t lay claim, there may be no barracks, shortly.”

Archie sat silent for a moment. “Danke, Ruben. I’ll get on that.”

“I have a meeting tonight with other gunsmiths and craft masters. If you don’t mind, I’ll tell them about the new court and the Mounted Constabulary.”

“Feel free. It’s no secret.”

“Thank you for coming, Archie, but if you don’t mind, I have some apprentices to oversee. Some need to be constantly supervised.”

Archie chuckled. “I understand, Ruben. That is true even up-time. Guten Tag.”

Guten Tag, Archie.”


Dieter arrived at the Boar’s Head Inn in time to see Archie enter before him. “Archie!” he called. “There’s a problem.”

Archie turned at the entrance to their rooms and asked, “The barracks?”

“Ja. It’s being torn down.”

“I know. Ruben Blumroder told me. He’s the head of Suhl’s gunsmiths. He’d be the master of the gunsmith guild if there was one.”

“I told them to stop but they refused and there were six of them to my one.”

“Get your gear. Let’s pay them a visit.”

Dieter disappeared into his room to shortly reappear dressed much like Archie—boots, canvas pants, white shirt and badge, leather vest, gun belt, shotgun on a sling and covering all, his duster. “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

They arrived at the barracks a few minutes later. “There they are. That one,” Dieter said pointing to a man in a leather coat watching the others, “is the leader.” To one side were two other men leaning against a partially dismantled palisade wall.

Archie walked up to the man in the leather coat. “Are you the boss of these men?”

“I’m their overseer. So what?”

“Then I’m ordering you to stop work and leave—immediately.”

“I don’t take orders from you.”

“You do now. That’s SoTF property, and it’s my responsibility. I have my authority here,” he said exposing his badge.

The man turned and shouted to the workers, “Get them!” and drew a large knife from under his coat.

Archie stepped back, shifted his grip on his cane and swung, knocking the knife from the overseer’s hand. He slid his hand down to the other end of the cane, and on the backstroke hit the overseer’s forearm with the alloy head breaking both bones. The overseer shrieked at the sudden surge of pain.

Archie heard a click behind him. Dieter had switched off the safety of his shotgun that had been unseen under his duster. He had it leveled at the rest of the workmen. From the corner of his vision, Archie saw the two leaners running towards him. He turned and punched one in the stomach with the steel foot of his cane. That one bent double from the punch blocking the path of the other before falling to the ground in a huddle. By the time the other attacker had stepped around the first, the cane’s alloy head was swinging towards the attacker’s jaw. It hit with a crunch and both attackers were out of action and on the ground.

The fight was over. Two men on the ground. One standing clutching a broken arm and five others with hands up, eyes on the muzzle of Dieter’s shotgun. Archie was panting and wheezing. I’m outta shape.

“Do you happen to know if Suhl has a jail, Dieter?” he asked between pants.


“I don’t, either. Let’s tie their hands and march ’em to Ruben Blumroder’s place. I think he’ll have a place to put them or tell us where’s the jail.”

Archie only had one pair of steel handcuffs. He and Dieter carried rawhide thongs instead of cuffs. Between the two of them, they had enough for the six men still standing.

“Archie, I think this one is dead,” Dieter said examining the one huddled on the ground.

“Well, crap.”

Archie checked to two on the ground. The first one, the one he’d punched with the steel foot of his cane was clearly dead. He opened the man’s shirt to reveal a purple blotch covering most of his stomach. His cane punch must have ruptured some internal organ and the man had hemorrhaged to death. He checked the second man. He was dead, too. The alloy head of the cane had impacted the hinge of his jaw. His skull had caved in. Hit him too hard. I need to practice with this cane more often.

“Dieter, take the bossman’s coat and cover these two. We’ll send someone for ’em later.”


Anse Hatfield was standing in the doorway of Ruben Blumroder’s shop when he saw Archie and Dieter approach with their prisoners. “Ruben!” he yelled.

Blumroder, hearing the urgency in Hatfield’s voice, strode quickly to join him.

“Archie’s been busy,” Anse said, “Told you so.”

“Ruben, do you have somewhere to stash these folks?” Archie asked when they reached the doorway.

“I could find a place, a storeroom I suppose.”

“Neither Dieter nor I know if Suhl has a jail. I assume there is one?”

“Yes, below the council chambers in the rathaus. I don’t think it’s been used much, not since last year.”

“I don’t think that jail would be the best place just now. Can you keep these people out of sight for awhile, until the Mounted Constabulary arrives?”

“I can do that.”

“Good. Dieter, go with them and get our cuffs back. I think we’re going to need them.”

Blumroder spoke briefly with one of his journeymen. He and a couple of apprentices armed themselves with pistols and marched the six down the street.

Archie sighed. “There are two dead men at the barracks, Ruben. Could you send someone to get them?”

“What happened?”

“They were waiting for us. The one with the broken arm was the boss of the crew tearing down the barracks. He refused to stop work and drew a knife on me. I have a sneaking suspicion the two deaders may have been a couple of Achen’s men. While Dieter and I were taking care of the workmen, those two joined the fight. They rushed me and I got careless. I hit them too hard—with my cane.”

Ruben eyebrows rose. “You killed them with a cane?”

“Unintentionally. I hit one too hard in the head with this—” He raised the cane to show the molded alloy knob. “—and punched the other too hard with this.” He pointed to the steel-capped foot of the cane. “They got too close to me. I had to use what I had. I was rushed.”

Ruben nodded. “I understand.”

“Does Suhl really have a watch? I’ve been here two days and I haven’t seen one yet.”

“They do. I don’t know their patrol schedules. They don’t come here because we take care of ourselves. The council has not asked the full militia for help. Truthfully, I haven’t really paid much attention.”

“I’m thinking the watch should be rebuilt from scratch with a professional wachtmeister who can properly train, organize, and lead the watchmen. The only ones I’ve seen on watch are your militiamen at the gates.”

“There are some on the walls, too.”

“Guess I didn’t look hard enough. While I’m thinking of it, I need someone to help me survey the barracks and see how much damage has been done. I’ll need to hire some workmen to fix it up, repair any damages, and ready the place for the constabulary troop.”

“I’ll speak with some of the other craft masters. It’s about time for our weekly meeting. I’ll ask them to send you a man or two—tomorrow?”

“Good. Tell them we’re staying at the Boar’s Head Inn. If I’m not there Dieter Issler, my deputy, will be. Feld is arraigning a meeting for me with the council sometime tomorrow.”


A messenger from the burgermeister arrived early the next morning. The council would meet with Archie later that morning. Archie sent a messenger to Anse Hatfield asking Anse to join him at the meeting. Anse knew, at least by reputation, many of the council members. Archie would have preferred to have Ruben Blumroder there, too. But that would appear to be political favoritism, Ruben being an SoTF official. If he needed a local representative, they would not be surprised to see Anse standing next to Archie. These folk understood family ties. They’d view the two up-timers as kith, if not kin.

Ruben had been good to his word. A master carpenter arrived early. He and Archie discussed the issue with the barracks. “Herr Heinrich Buch owns the barracks property,” the carpenter said. “I heard he bought it from the council. He said he planned to build a warehouse on the site. It is prime property.”

“I’m going to find out about that. It wasn’t the council’s property to sell. It belongs to the SoTF.”

“I only know what I’ve been told.”

“Is that going to be a problem with you? Herr Buch claiming it?”

“Nein. You said you would pay for the survey. It’s guilders in my pocket either way.”

“How long will you need for the survey? A day? Less?”

“Not a day. A couple of hours at least.”

“Would this afternoon be good?”


“Have you met my deputy, Dieter Issler?”

Ja, when I arrived.”

“Come back this afternoon. I have a meeting later this morning. If I’m not here, Dieter will go with you. He’ll keep anyone off your back in case someone objects.”

“I’ll be here.”

The carpenter departed. Archie glanced at his watch. It was time to meet Anse at the rathaus.

Archie was limping slightly when he arrived at the rathaus. He had been more active than usual. He had not been in a fight since he was wounded the previous year. He realized age was creeping up on him.

Anse Hatfield was waiting when Archie arrived. “Hurtin’, Archie?”


“Feelin’ mean and ornery?”

“Yeah, why?”

“You’ll need that with these folks.”

The rathaus was a three-story building, the only one in Suhl as far as he knew, Anse said. The ground floor was an open space used for large meetings, weddings, and festivals. The city council met in a room on the second floor. The top floor contained offices of city officials and departments.

Archie’s leg hurt more after climbing the stairs. If he needed to be feeling mean and ornery, he was ready. He and Anse walked into the council room. Herr Feld sat at the head of the table. Six other councilmen sat along both sides leaving Archie and Anse to sit at the end, opposite to Feld.

“Welcome Marshal, and you, too, Herr Hatfield,” he said. Without giving Archie the opportunity to respond, Feld introduced the other six members of the council. Heinrich Buch sat to Feld’s right, Archie noticed. Each councilman nodded in turn as he was introduced.

“We are here at your request, Herr Marshal, ” Feld said.

“I appreciate you acting so swiftly, ” Archie began. “I am SoTF Marshal Archie Mitchell,” he said speaking to the entire council. “I assume you have read the documents I gave you, Herr Feld. Has the entire council read them?”

“No, I’ve not had time to make copies. A couple of the councilmen have read them but not all.”

“By chance, I have a copy with me. I’ll read it to the council.” Which he proceeded to do.

Several councilmen interrupted as he read asking for clarification of one point or another. When Archie came to the part about renovating the barracks, Councilman Heinrich Buch interrupted. “That’s my property!”

“No it isn’t. It is owned by the government of the State of Thuringia and Franconia.”

“Noelle Murphy transferred ownership to the city council. I bought it from the council!”

“Noelle Murphy didn’t have that authority,” Anse replied. “She was very aware of the limits of her authority. No one knew it had been transferred to the SoTF until Marshal Mitchell arrived.”

“I have the document here. Right here! It’s proof that she did, whether she had the authority or not. You can’t take back what she has done.”

“May I see that document?” Archie asked.

“No! It is my only proof.”

“It is a transfer of ownership to Suhl, not you, Heinrich,” Feld said. “Give it to him.”

Grudgingly, Buch gave the document to the councilman sitting next to him. It was passed, councilman to councilman, until it reached Anse Hatfield.

Anse glanced at the document and looked up. “It’s a forgery.”

“What!” exclaim Heinrich Buch jumping to his feet.

“Look at it, Archie,” Anse said. “Look at the signature.”

“What about it?” Archie asked.

“Look at it. Is it written by someone who is right-handed or left-handed?”

Archie looked down at the document again. “Right-handed. Why?”

“Noelle Murphy is left-handed. I carried messages for her whenever I went back to Grantville. Whoever wrote this was right-handed.”

“You’re a liar!” Buch shouted.

“If I am, it can be refuted in a few days. I can send a radio message for samples of Noelle Murphy’s signature. They can get here by courier in a couple of days.”

“They’ll be fakes! You just want to steal my property.”

“Now why would we want to do that when no one outside Suhl even knew you claimed the barracks?”

Buch stood white-faced, trembling. Abruptly, he sat. He muttered something to Feld who in turn said, “We await your proof, Herr Hatfield.”

“In the meantime,” Archie said, “I’m having the barracks surveyed to determine what is needed for its full restoration. No work will be done until the council has proof the transfer of the barracks to Suhl was fraudulent. I also warn you now that the Court of the State of Thuringia-Franconia will be very interested how this all happened.”


“. . . that was the end of the meeting,” Archie told Dieter. “I’m very glad Anse was there. Otherwise, we’d be in a mess, a big lawsuit probably. Just the thing to kick off the new court here in Suhl. So how was your afternoon with the carpenter?”

“Interesting. A stonemason joined us at the barracks. Apparently, the Swedes had built a stone armory for their munitions and a stone outbuilding that could easily be converted to be a jail, guardhouse, whatever you call it. Strong fitted stone walls and floors, and thick iron studded doors. A little dark, no windows, but the stonemason said those could be added if we wanted.”

“I think we’ll have to do that. If we make that the holding prison for the court, the prisoners will need access to light and air.”

“He’s coming by here tomorrow. I can tell him then. He and the master carpenter will draw up some estimates for us, cost and time to do all the renovation.”

“Good. Now, we have to find a courthouse.”

“I think I found one.”

“Oh? Where?”

“Right next to the barracks. You remember that building right next to the place where the wall had been torn down?”


“It’s part of the barracks. It was quarters for the officers and their headquarters. They didn’t like the spaces in the barracks proper so they included that building when they appropriated the property for the barracks. I was told Buch had owned it before it was seized by the Swedes.”

“That explains much.”

“Yes, it does.”

“I didn’t go in today but I think we should give it a look over as soon as we can.”

“I agree. Tomorrow?”

“Let’s see, the carpenter and stonemason are coming in the morning. We could go with them. I don’t remember any other appointments, do you?”

Their conversation was interrupted by a knock on their door. The innkeeper entered. “Herr Marshal, this message just arrived for you.”

Danke. I appreciate your promptness.”

The innkeeper left to return to the taproom in the front of the inn. Archie tried to read the message but it was handwritten, and poorly at that. “Can you read this, Dieter?”

“Well. Uh, it’s from Heinrich Buch. I think he is offering an apology and would like to meet you tonight at . . .” he glanced at his watch, a gift from Greta, “at around 9 PM, if I’m reading this right. His handwriting is terrible!”

“Huh! I wonder what he wants? After the meeting today, I wouldn’t think he wants to meet for hugs and kisses.”

“What?” It was another of Archie’s witticisms that always surprised Dieter.

“Never mind. Ask the innkeeper to send a messenger to Buch and tell him I’ll be there. Remind me that we need to budget for messenger service.”

“I’ll do that. Is it alright if I don’t go with you? One of my horses has cast a shoe. I’d like to take it to Christian Zeitts and get it shod.”

“Go ahead. I don’t think Buch is going to try anything, not now that all has been exposed.”


Archie entered Buch’s shop. The smell of burned powder still lingering on his duster and clothes.

Heinrich Buch approached from the rear of the cabinetry shop. “Herr Marshal.”

“Herr Buch. I think you have a mess out front. There are four dead bodies.”

“I heard.” He sighed. “I need to confess.”

“Luring me here to be killed?”

“No! No, I . . . I didn’t know what was planned. My son-in-law told me to invite you here. He . . . uh . . . he forced me.”


“My daughter. She’s six months with child. Achen beats her. I’m afraid he’ll kill her.”

“Isn’t that frowned upon?”

“Yes, no, the church won’t interfere. It’s not against the law if it’s just a beating. There’s no one.”

“I know how that can be. I’ve seen it often enough. Back up-time, if something like this occurred, a man gathered his friends and family and fixed the problem, put the son of a bitch in the hospital. No one talks, nothing can be proved.”

“I don’t have anyone that I could trust to not talk. This whole scheme with the barracks is his idea. He told me to build a warehouse and storefront at the barracks. When finished, it and the building next to it could be sold for three times what it cost me.”

“And what did it cost you to buy the barracks?”

The price Buch gave was astonishingly low. “Who pushed this through the council? You?”

“Feld. He gets a percentage of the profit when the buildings are sold.”

“Somehow, I’m not surprised.”

“Now, where can I find your son-in-law?”

“He’s usually at Der Bulle und Bär this time of night. He lives, sometimes, here with my daughter. They have rooms upstairs. But most of the time he’s there.”

“Will he be there tomorrow?”

“He should be.”

“Don’t warn him I’m coming.”

“No—no, I won’t.”

“I think Suhl needs a new councilman and bürgermeister, don’t you?”

Buch didn’t speak but just nodded and hung his head. He’d be lucky to get off with some jail time and a heavy fine. He and Feld both. The SoTF was hard on public corruption.


Archie wished he hadn’t given Dieter time off to get his horse shod. He wasn’t up to bracing Achen in his own territory. He didn’t know how many men Achen had. Seven of them were now pushing up daisies. He could easily have more. Tomorrow would do. He and Dieter would scout Der Bulle und Bär. If Achen was there, he and Dieter would arrest him . . . one way or another.

He headed back to the Boar’s Head. He felt fine. The adrenaline hit made his aches and pains slip away.

He walked through the Boar’s Head doorway and made his way over to a table in the corner. He didn’t drink much but once in a while, he liked a beer. “Ein bier, Mein Herr,” he called to the innkeeper. The beer arrived in a large mug, still foaming. The innkeeper brewed it himself. It wasn’t what he liked, but in the time since the Ring of Fire, he had become accustomed to the down-time brew. It would do.


Archie slept late the next morning. He had left Dieter a note on his bedroom door to postpone the follow-up with the carpenter and stonemason for a day. He and Dieter had law business to attend to today.

TMCStrnchA visit to the jakes, a bath, and he was ready. He retrieved his Model 1897 shotgun from their makeshift armory and dumped a handful of double-aught shells in his side coat pocket. He loaded the shotgun with five more shells of double-aught buck. The shotgun was once known as a trench gun. It had a twenty-inch barrel, and, at one time, a bayonet lug. Archie had never owned a bayonet for the shotgun. He was well off without it. All a bayonet did, in close quarters, was get in the way.

Dieter stood waiting. He, too, had his double-barreled shotgun ready and his Colt 1911 on his belt. The two walked out through the front of the Boar’s Head Inn, Archie in front with Dieter following. The innkeeper did a double-take as they passed. They were armed and appeared ready for business.

Der Bulle und Bär was in a part of Suhl that Archie had not yet visited. It was nestled  in the shade of  the city wall. Archie and Dieter walked up to the entrance. Dieter opened the door and stepped aside to let Archie enter first.

Archie walked in and stepped to one side. Dieter followed and stepped to the other side. Neither were silhouetted against the open doorway.

Schlick-schlock! The strange sound caused Achen to look up, interrupting his conversation with his last two men.

“Friedrich Achen,” Archie said. “You are under arrest for fraud, extortion, assault on a SoTF marshal, and murder. Place your hands on your head and stand up!”

Achen looked into three shotgun barrels, the double-barrel in Dieter’s hands and the one in Archie’s. Both marshals stood covering the inn’s common room, their six-pointed badges clearly visible in the dimness of the inn.

No one moved. Then, Achen slowly raised his hands, put them on his head and slowly rose. The other two sitting at his table didn’t move, neither scarcely breathed.

“Step forward and turn around.”

Achen did so.

“I’m using my good steel handcuffs on you, Achen. The rest of you—don’t interfere. Stay where you are and don’t move until we’re gone. Don’t follow us either. We can take you all out if necessary.”

The room remained silent. None doubted his word. Archie and Dieter pulled Achen with them and backed out of the room. Dieter kept watch as they headed for Ruben Blumroder’s shop.

“We REALLY need a jail, Dieter.” Archie said as they neared the gunshop. “This is just getting repetitious.”


Mid-May, 1634,



A Mounted Constabulary trooper dismounted outside the entrance of the Boar’s Head Inn. The inn’s stableboy took the horse’s reins and led it to the stables in back for watering while the trooper went inside the inn. “Where may I find Marshal Mitchell?” he asked.

“He’s in back. Wait. I’ll get him,” the innkeeper replied and disappeared into the rear of the inn to reappear a few minutes later with the Marshal.

“I’m Marshal Mitchell.” he told the trooper.

“Sir, the 1st Mounted Constabulary Troop with Frau Mitchell and Frau Issler should arrive in two hours. Captain Gruber sent me ahead to tell you.”

“That’s very good news, trooper.” Archie, walked back to the rear doorway and shouted, “Dieter! They’re here. Want to ride out to greet them?”

“Yes!” Dieter replied from the rear of the inn.

Archie returned to the trooper and said, “Have a beer on me while we saddle our horses. We’ll ride back with you.”

Danke, Herr Marshal.” The trooper never refused a free beer. He took his time to finish it and then walked out the front entrance in time to see Archie and Dieter appear on horseback with the stableboy leading the trooper’s horse.

“Lead off,” Archie instructed after the trooper had mounted, and the three departed.

They rode down the road that ran along the river until they found the troop and several accompanying wagons coming towards them. Archie saw Marjorie sitting on one wagon. Greta was seated on another. Both wagons, covered by waterproof tarps, were heavily loaded and driven by MC troopers.

“I think Majorie and Greta brought everything but the kitchen sink,” Archie said to Dieter as they approached the troop. Archie greeted the officer in the lead and then rode down the column until he reached Marjorie’s wagon. Dieter rode on to the next wagon and Greta.

“Hi, Marj, I’ve missed you,” Archie said pulling up next to the wagon.

“Arch, I missed you, too…I’m glad to be here. You’re looking good.”

“Feel good, too. I was really whupped when I first got here. Dieter and I had some troubles but that’s all cleared up.”

TMCSsddl“I see you got a new saddle.”

“Yeah, I made a good deal. Where’re your horses?”

“My mare and the gelding are in the string back behind the wagons with the MC’s spare horses. I rode most of the time, but too much made my rear hurt. I’m not up for long rides on horseback anymore.”

“I hear ya. Dieter and I found a nice house in town. It’s two stories and big enough for all of us with room to spare. It’s not far from some new friends of mine, Johann Zeitts and his family. I think you’ll like them.”

“I brought your recliner and our bed. I had to disassemble them to get everything in the wagon but I knew you’d want them.”

“Thank you. I really miss that recliner. The beds here are OK, but my leg starts hurting in the middle of the night.”

Captain Gruber rode up next to Archie and introduced himself. “Is the barracks ready, Marshal?”

“Almost. The workmen should finish up today—just minor stuff. The trooper barracks and the stables were finished first. I left two tall trees standing for the radio antenna according to the instructions I received.”

“Good. I brought a permanent radio station with me and two radio operators. They’ll work for the court. Did you find a blacksmith, farrier, and saddler?”

“Yes, I did. Johann Zeitts and his son, Christian. I have them under contract to give you twenty hours each, each week. Johann Zeitts is a saddler. He made the saddle I’m sitting on. His son, Christian, is a journeyman blacksmith and farrier. I don’t think you’d need them more than twenty hours a week.”

“No, that should be sufficient. The horses were all shod before we left.”

“Before I forget, I did make one commitment for you.”


“There’s been a shakeup in the Suhl city council. The city watch has been pretty much ineffectual. They’ve not been competently led. The militia has been manning the gates and the walls but that’s all. The new city council has asked for some suitable watchtmeister candidates. I told the council that you would provide troopers to help train the watch and help patrol the city until a new wachtmeister takes over or for two months whichever occurs first.”

“Hmmm. I think I can do that. Some of them can do double-duty for a while.”

“I’m glad you agree. I was put into a spot, and I hate to make commitments for other people. My deputy and I have been helping to improve the watch’s overall capability and with some on-the-job training on a few promising watchmen. We’ve been making random patrols through the city with them but we’re just two and when the court is established, we’ll have our own work to do.”

“I must start sending out patrols as soon as I can, but we’ll need some time to get everything set up and to rest the horses and men before we start. I think we can work something out.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

“You are very welcome, Herr Marshal.” Gruber kicked his heels and rode up to the head of the column. Archie stayed with the wagon and Marjorie.

They rode silently for some time, he on horseback and she on the wagon seat next to the driver. Archie broke the silence, “I really missed you, Marj. I don’t like living alone.”

“What? No dancing girls in that inn?”

Archie laughed, “No, no dancing girls. I hope you like the place Dieter and I found for us. It was a bakery at one time. I had some walls added to divide it into two apartments, one for us and the other for Dieter and Greta.”

“It sounds good, Arch . . . Arch, I’m ready to go home.”

“Me too, Marj, me too.”



About the Faces on the Cutting Room Floor Number Eight: Authenticity, Site Surveys, and Blind Serendipity

Faces on the Cutting Room 8 banner

I have been asked a number of times how much research I did in order to invoke the sense of place that often pervades 1635: The Papal Stakes. The answer is, “Lots.” And there are two parts to that answer.

The first part is the frank admission that strong reliance upon good libraries, wary utilization of Wikipedia, and—above all—deep forays via Google Earth were indispensable in acquiring a good sense of the land and architecture of the various locales depicted in Papal Stakes. That being said, those sources often came close to leading me into error, as well. For instance: there is a scene early in the book where Estuban Miro is leading the Wrecking Crew over the alps in a dirigible and they come across a “duck pond” called the Marmelsee.  Harry Lefferts is surprised that it is not a larger expanse of waters, given how vast it looked on their Fodors maps. Well, in the E-arc, I believe you’ll find that it is shown to be just that large—because the small duck pond was turned into a vast alpine lake by a damming project in (I believe) the early twentieth century. But that was not flagged in any of the references I had and was, I believe, pointed out by a reader familiar with the region’s history. Google Earth doesn’t lie, but we do occasionally change the planet (and sometimes it changes all by itself, as I learned when trying to locate the seventeenth-century shoreline of Louisiana versus the modern one as I commenced writing 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies).

The second part of the answer is that I have actually visited a number of key sites in Papal Stakes. Certainly Rome, but more especially Mallorca, where, over the years, I’ve probably spent a cumulative total of about four months. During some of my final visits there, I was fortunately under contract for Papal Stakes and so had the opportunity to go armed with a camera and conduct what, in the film business, we call “site surveys.” What I found, and its value to enriching the narrative, are for you to judge. However, not all of these photos were snapped by your humble narrator, and for every one that you see here, there were twenty passed over for one reason or another.

So to end this series on the same cinematic theme with which we began –”faces on the cutting room floor”—here are some of the site survey (and other helpful graphics) that went into the making and visualizations of 1635: The Papal Stakes.

01 Monte Cristo resized

#1 The Island of Monte Cristo. This is the view entering the bay into which Miro and Harry Lefferts led the pirate xebec beneath the ambushing guns of North’s Hibernians and then the boarders under Owen Roe O’Neill’s Wild Geese. You will note the scrub cover, the crags that provide stony foxholes and the murderous downward angle of fire and commanding view of the battlespace. A narrow inlet any other day, at that point in the book, it was nothing less than a kill zone.

02 Bay of Canyamel

#2  The Bay of Canyamel. The view here is from the crest of the Cap des Pins looking across the bay at Cap Vermell. If you look closely, you will see a triangle of shadow approximately one third of the way in from the extreme right hand of the image, set in the face of the stony spur of land and relatively close to the water. This is the entrance to the Caves of Arta, known as a pirate lair since Roman times and a tourist attraction today. But trust me, a firefight in there would be not merely a gothic horror show, but deafening. This was, of course, the site of the second attack Miro’s band made upon pirates, grabbing another hull (a llaut, a Balearic boat still used today) and much-needed supplies with which to begin their covert stay upon Mallorca.

03 Palma map

#3 A period map of Palma de Mallorca, first city of the entire Balearic Island chain. Although the map was drafted approximately one hundred years after the events in Papal Stakes, it is inspired by the layout of the city as it was in 1644 (hence the strangely anachronistic mix of ship types). Even as an “epochal fusion” map, it still offers an excellent sense of the layout and scope of this picturesque and strategically important provincial capitol. Long a point of contact between Moors and Spanish, as well as Carthaginians and Romans, trade and piracy are integral parts of the island’s heritage. The Castell de Bellver, the site of Frank and Giovanna Stone’s final imprisonment and one of the two pitched, final battles in the novel, is located well to the west/left of the map edge.

04 1895

#4 Convincing description must extend to artifacts as well as architecture. In the case of all the boats depicted, considerable examination of deckplans and accounts (unofficial as well as official) was exhaustive. Weapons and equipment were handled similarly; if you are going to convincingly depict any device, one must have a sense of its physical properties.

In the case of the hallmark weapons of this combat-intensive novel, the signature rifle of the Hibernian Mercenary Battalion was the Winchester Model 1895 lever action in .40-72. A black powder weapon (in 1635), it was an excellent compromise between simplicity of design, portability, rate of fire, and stopping power (it was used with reasonable success as a big game rifle). Nowhere near as affordable or easy to manufacture as the standard shoulder arms of the USE, having a model of the weapon from which to build copies allowed it to become a practical “special equipage” model for small, elite formations such as the Hibernians.

05 sks

#5 The other shoulder weapon used by some of the elite forces in the second half of The Papal Stakes—an “equalizer” to make up for the heavy losses suffered in Rome—was the Russian SKS. As shown here, most models (like the top one) are loaded via ten-round stripper clips. However, as shown below, certain variants are able to use an AK-47 magazine (it fires the same 7.62 x 39 mm cartridge). However, the SKS arguably enjoys greater accuracy due to superior ergonomic design (my personal experience aligns with this opinion). Remember this gun when we get to the pictures of the lazarette/tower at the Castell de Bellver…


07 Hibernian helmet

#6 and #7 A few more pieces of standard Hibernian Mercenary equipment: the top revolver (shown for comparison with a modern model) is a close approximation of the Hockenjoss & Klott .44 cap and ball pistol, and the “lobstertail” helmet, which offers good protection and excellent field of vision. (Made famous by Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads, but it was in broad use on the continent as well.)

08 Castell de Bellver

09 Castell de Bellver

#8 and #9  The Castell de Bellver. A singular architectural wonder and largely held to be impregnable prior to the advent of seventeenth-century artillery, the layout reflected the mathematical metaphysics of Ramon Llull. As is visible in the photo with the Bay of Palma (and city) in the background, it is a tight, circular structure, with one attached outlying tower (the “lazarette,” although this was usually used for visiting dignitaries requiring high security) and a single drawbridge access over an empty moat. The perfect geometric symmetries of the structure are more evident in the other image, as are the outlying revetments that guard the approaches to the fort, and by the seventeenth century, were its primary artillery stations.

10 lazarette

#10 The Lazarette. Accessible only by a very narrow walkway (accessed by single file) suspended high above the moat, this was an extraordinarily defensive position even if only defended from the ground. However, with marksmen on the roof . . .

11 overlook

#11 The approach to the lazarette and its commanding presence. This narrow spire of a tower (with fifteen-foot-wide round rooms and a single tight staircase) was clearly designed to provide a clear field of fire for either musketeers or crossbowmen not only across the broad expanse of the top level of the castell, but also of the opposite galleries and a good part of the arms court. As can be seen from . . .

12 snipers view

#12 The overlook from the top of the lazarette. To coin a phrase, this was obviously designed quite intentionally to provide “a view to a kill.” With marksmen on either side of the stone cupola protecting the roof access point of the lazarette’s staircase, this view, in stereo, provides complete coverage of the entirety of the upper level of the castell, and is designed to enable murderous crossfire concentration upon the approaches to the single-stone bridge linking it to the lazarette. If anyone ever wondered if Harry Lefferts and his Hibernian partner could rip apart two dozen Spanish soldiers with their extended-magazine SKSs (thirty rounds, no waiting) . . . think again.

13 upper level view

#13 View from the upper level. In addition to offering a commanding view of (and artillery trajectory toward) the Bay of Palma to the east, the other points of the compass allowed direct, uncovered fields of fire upon the artillery revetments that were the forts’ outer works.  Another scene of (in this case, implied) carnage from the pages of Papal Stakes.

14 arms court

#14  The interior of Castell de Bellver. Comprised of an “arms court” and two circular vaulted galleries, any conventional intruders would find themselves in one of the world’s most striking crucibles of defensive small arms fire.  The taller upper gallery affords defenders waist-high stone cover in a 360-degree encirclement of the court. Access is by two staircases accessible directly from the lower gallery.

15 lower gallery

15a room

#15 and #15a  The lower gallery. Devoted mostly to the practical, day-to-day needs of the fort, these rooms were somewhat more rude in construction, but also quite sturdy, with heavy door and iron hardware. The site of housing, kitchen, storerooms, and privies, it was the working level of Castell de Bellver. One of the nicer rooms on this level (a commander’s office and marshalling area, apparently) recalls the more refined features and architectural interest (groined vaulting) of the chambers that ring the more airy and bright upper gallery.

16 stairway

#16 The ascending stairway to the upper gallery. Narrow and steep, with stout doors, an upwards assault against well-prepared defenders was sure to be a costly matter. Even with the superior firepower, surprise, speed, and training of the Wild Geese and Hibernians, reaching and breaking out into the second level was a difficult task and ultimately, where the majority of casualties were inflicted upon them.

17 upper gallery

#17 The upper gallery. With taller doorways, more windows, and graceful stonework throughout, the ceiling of the second level soars and also receives some cooling sea breezes scalloping down and in through the circular opening to the roof and the sky beyond. Despite its refinements, the upper gallery is also designed for murderously effective defense against any intruders who might fight through the single, double-portcullised entrance into the arms court. And for any attackers who might (improbably) get this far, access to the roof level was only to be had through three stairways protected within rooms lining the promenade.

18 Fort Carlos

#18 Fort Carlos. Not seen in the narrative per se, but a location of grave concern to the attackers who escaped by boat, Fort Carlos is a bastion of a later age. Built specifically both to house and resist the fire of cannons, it shows the squat, “star fort” walls with raked glacis outer surfaces and wider and more functional interior marshalling areas for mustering troops and repositioning heavy equipment. In the final stages of construction at the time of the novel, it had already become the “serious” harbor defense, with Castell de Bellver being relegated to the equivalent of a second governor’s residence, garrison, and maximum security prison—a role in which it continued for almost another two centuries.

19 Tramontera

#19 The Tramontera. These scrub-covered mountains predominate along the northern fringes of Mallorca, becoming more steep and inhospitable as one progresses from these western slopes to the towering easternmost extent of Formentor.  These are the low peaks between which the rescuers’ dirigible fled at the end of the extraction mission—and which, navigating on a dark night, were objects that posed their own dangers.

20 secret tunnel

21 secret tunnel

22 secret tunnel

#20, #21, #22   The secret tunnel up into Castell de Bellver. These three pictures warrant a story that goes a long way to illustrate how persistence and blind luck can often combine to be an author’s best friend.

As I evolved the story of the rescue of Frank and Giovanna Stone, I saw a variety of ways for the strike team to get into Castell de Bellver, but an exit was less clear. Any number of ruses could have inserted a team within its walls—and indeed, Owen Roe O’Neill and one of his Wild Geese employ one such trick to sneak inside. However, once there, even opening a door for a larger waiting force was problematic: how would so large a force be waiting close enough, undetected, and then not become hopelessly bogged down engaging the troops whose duties and billets were outside the walls in service of the batteries in the artillery revetments? I thought about postulating the existence of a secret tunnel, but, while many such fortifications often had these hidden escape routes, it seemed unfair and just a bit too authorially convenient to invent one.

Except, as it turns out, I didn’t have to.

I visited Castell de Bellver three times. On the last and final occasion, I called ahead and made an appointment with a curator to get a guided tour. We walked nearly every linear foot of the place and I learned many things about it I had not before. However, I was no closer to finding my answer to a reasonable method of mass attack—and certainly, mass escape. On our way to the exit, as we passed by the storeroom immediately to the left of the entrance (from the internal perspective), I noticed that it had a light barricade in front of it, proclaiming it temporarily closed to visitors. What was going on there, I asked.

“Oh, that’s where we found a hidden tunnel,” exclaimed my guide. Stunned, I asked if I could see what they had unearthed.

Buried beneath two courses of stone flooring, what you see in the first picture is the claustrophobic descending cleft, from the perspective of someone about to head down into it. The other two images are taken from the side of the aperture and show the staircase, which was fashioned from stone risers laid across grooves cut into stepped ramps carved from the limestone that predominates beneath the fort’s foundations.

At the time of my last visit, the history of the tunnel was still a mystery. It had been explored enough to determine that it connected with subterranean galleries from which much of the finer-grained stone of the castell itself had been quarried. However, time and water had eroded some of the limestone chambers and passages and it was unclear when (or even if) the other end of the tunnel would ever be found. However, given its unswerving eastward course and steady if gentle declination, all conjectures pointed to an egress point well down the slope and probably halfway to the shore: a logical escape route for a party of besieged personages of high station. Which is just how the passage is depicted in Papal Stakes.

So, truly, the third time was the charm in my three visits to Castell de Bellver—and if you find yourself in Mallorca, I urge you to take a tour and explore this piece of living history yourself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes, and among the faces on the cutting room floor, that went into the making of 1635: The Papal Stakes. Although science fiction, and more specifically alternate history, I hope this imparts some of the effort and diligence with which authors in the series pursue authenticity and factual details of locales, organizations, objects, and individuals which were the living (and often breathing) realities of that epoch. We might not get everything right—who could?—but it’s never for lack of trying.

Thanks for coming along for the trip—and for having read 1635: The Papal Stakes.


Art Director’s Note: With the exception of the title banner, all of the images in this article are courtesy of the author, Charles E. Gannon. I tried to stay as close to the author’s original concept of presentation throughout the piece as I could, within the limitations of our software. If the reader wishes to, they can click on any image here in the Gazette’s online version for a larger view.

Hungary and Transylvania, Part 4: High Politics of Hungary at the Ring of Fire

Hungary and Trans 4 banner

Here is the list of persons either living in the Ring of Fire period or who directly impacted the political scene leading up to the Ring of Fire:


HT4bksstvnIstván Bocskay, Prince of Transylvania (1557-1606)

He was a very important figure leading up to this period: learning about his person and his achievements is essential to understand the situation in 1630. Many people, active at the time of the Ring of Fire, had fought under Bocskay and Bethlen, two heroes of Protestantism. You can see his statue on the Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland, next to Luther’s.

Bocskay was an extremely wealthy nobleman of Royal Hungary and Transylvania. He had played important roles in previous Transylvanian politics and eventually gained more lands and power. He was also a skilled general and in 1595, the Transylvanian army under his command advanced into Wallachia and together with the Wallachian voivode defeated the Ottoman army nearby. The young Gábor Bethlen, the next prince of Transylvania, served in his army and was his advisor.

Later the Habsburgs cast their eyes on his vast lands and accused him of treason in order to confiscate his possessions. He had no choice but to lead a revolt against the Holy Roman Empire.  He established an alliance with the Ottoman Empire and, supported by the Hajdus (emancipated peasant warriors or armed herders), compelled the Viennese court to reaffirm and guarantee the religious freedoms of and his right to his lands.

Bocskay also succeeded in gaining the support of the middle and partially the upper classes of the Hungarian nobility for his struggles. More and more rebels flocked to his forces, and as a result of this, Bocskay’s army won two critical battles against the Habsburg armies. In 1605, István Bocskay was elected to be the ruling prince of Hungary and Transylvania and by the end of the year, Bocskay gained supremacy over Transylvania and the entire part of the Kingdom of Hungary which was not under Ottoman control and eventually forced Archduke Matthias to open negotiations on recognition.

Prince Bocskay granted titles of nobility to 9,254 Hajdus and settled them on the northern part of River Tisza. He allowed tax benefits for their towns which provided them the economic ability to serve militarily. They had the personal obligation to defend the country, thereby becoming the principality’s favored social class.

At the same time, the Ottoman sultan sent a magnificent jeweled crown to Bocskay to make him king for Transylvania and Hungary. It is important to know that the Turks never gave anyone a crown and it was not their intent at this time, either. It was Bocskay’s diplomatic success to achieve it and as it turned out, it was just part of a magnificent political show.

The Turks received Bocskay in Pest and under great celebrations he was belted with a decorative saber and dressed in a cloak embroidered richly with gold and silver. Then, the second mightiest man of the Ottoman Empire placed the Turkish crown, sent from the Sultan, onto Bocskay’s head. This crown was said to have belonged to the last Byzantine Caesar, a masterpiece of a Persian goldsmith, it had been highly esteemed in the Sultan’s treasury.

At this point, the coronation took an unexpected turn: Bocskay profusely thanked them for the gift and suddenly took it off his head, saying that he could not accept this crown’s authority above the Holy Crown of Hungary. “As the Holy Crown is on Emperor Rudolf’s head, I cannot be the crowned king of Hungary, according to the Hungarian laws,” he declared and handed the Turkish crown over to one of his men, Homonnai Drugeth, to guard it. The Turks and the assembled people were astonished but it may have been possible that the present Great Vizier and Pasha Lalla Mohamed of Buda had known what would happen. The Turkish crown remained with Bálint Homonnai Drugeth and later it was confiscated from his heirs by the Court of Vienna where you can see it in the museum.

We can see how Bocskay refused the royal dignity, but made skillful use of the Turkish alliance.

The Habsburgs, who wanted to save the Hungarian provinces and set aside the unstable Rudolf II, entered into negotiations with Bocskay and concluded the Peace of Vienna in 1606. The peace guaranteed all the constitutional and religious rights and privileges of the Hungarians both in Transylvania and Royal Hungary. Bocskay was acknowledged as Prince of Transylvania by the Austrian court, and the right of the Transylvanians to elect their own independent princes in the future was officially recognized. Simultaneously, the Peace of Zsitvatorok was concluded with the Ottomans, which confirmed the Peace of Vienna: it ended the Fifteen Year War between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans. It is worth noting that at the time of the Ring of Fire many Hungarians in their forties or fifties had military experience from either this long war against the Turks or from Bocskay’s campaigns.

Bocskay survived this diplomatic triumph for only a few months—on 29 December 1606 he was allegedly poisoned by his chancellor, who was then hacked to bits by Bocskay’s adherents (or enemies?) in the town’s marketplace. It was never learned which empire had been responsible.



HT4gbrbthlnGábor (Gabriel) Bethlen (1580-1629)

He was a Protestant uncrowned King of Hungary (1620-21) and a Prince of Transylvania (1613-29) and Duke of Opole (1622-25) who led an insurrection against the House of Habsburg in Royal Hungary. He was the one who turned Transylvania into the famous “Fairy Garden” as it was called at that time.

Bethlen was born in Transylvania and served in the court of Zsigmond (Sigismund) Bathory, a Transylvanian prince, and accompanied him on his campaign to Wallachia. Although he was a Calvinist, he helped György Káldy, a Jesuit, translate and print the Bible. He also composed hymns and from 1625, employed Johannes Thesselius from Erfurt, as kapellmeister (composer).

As many Ring of Fire stories deal with musicians, some facts about musicians in Bethlen’s court seem worth mentioning. Bethlen loved music and in addition to eight previously-hired German musicians he had six harpists and violinists and invited more from Silesia. He also had Italian and Polish musicians as well as eleven Turkish players. There were additionally twelve trumpeters and when Catherine of Brandenburg, his second wife, arrived, she brought along the organ player Michael Hermann who later became the city judge in Brassó (Kornstadt). Bethlen also invited organ builder masters from Germany in 1629. The last group of ten musicians arrived in January, 1628, led by the dance master called Diego del Estrada.

As previously stated, in 1605 Bethlen supported Prince István (Stephen) Bocskay and his successor Gabriel Bathory (1608-1613). Bethlen later fell out with Báthory and fled to the Ottoman Empire where he made excellent connections.

In 1613, after Báthory was murdered, the Ottomans installed Bethlen as prince of Transylvania and this was also endorsed by the Transylvanian Diet at Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg). Taking advantage of the chaotic situation after the previous prince’s murder, Bethlen was able to get into power by relying on his diplomacy at the Sublime Porte. After using the Turks’ military assistance so openly, he tried hard to improve his reputation because he was accused of “Turk friendship,” and Transylvanians in general were mockingly called “Turks with hair on” by other Hungarians.

The Transylvanian-Turkish relations were far from peaceful; it was an alliance born under pressure and the parties didn’t trust each other at all. Bethlen tried to manipulate and use his Turk “allies” as much as he could. Transylvania was still too far from both Vienna and Istanbul and Bethlen had to pay the Turks only symbolical taxes to keep them out of his country. The Turks said about Bethlen that “. . . even those who show friendship toward us, do not wish the victory of the Muslims.” Nevertheless, in 1615, after the Peace of Tyrnau, Bethlen was also recognized by Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor.

Bethlen’s rule was one of patriarchal enlightened absolutism. He developed mines and industry and nationalized many branches of Transylvania’s foreign trade. His agents bought goods at fixed prices and sold them abroad at profit. In his capital, in Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), Bethlen built a grand new palace. Bethlen was a patron of the arts and the Calvinist church, giving hereditary nobility to Protestant priests. He also encouraged learning by founding a college, encouraging the enrollment of Hungarian academics and teachers, and sending Transylvanian students to the Protestant universities of England and the Low Countries, as well as in the Protestant principalities of Germany. He also ensured the right of serfs’ children to be educated.

Bethlen maintained an efficient standing army of mercenaries. While keeping relations with the Sublime Porte, the Ottomans, he sought to gain lands to the north and west. During the Thirty Years’ War, he attacked the Habsburgs of Royal Hungary (1619-1626). Bethlen opposed the tyranny of the Habsburgs and the persecution of Protestants in Royal Hungary, as well as the violation of Bocskay’s Peace of Vienna, 1606.

In August, 1619, Bethlen invaded Royal Hungary for the first time and took Kassa (Kosice) in September. His Protestant supporters declared him the leader of Hungary and protector of Protestants and thus he gained control of Upper Hungary. Three Jesuits were mercilessly executed in Kassa that same month, under his authority but without his knowledge. Later these victims, one of which was a good friend of Péter Pázmány, became known as the Martyrs of Kassa and were canonized by the Catholic Church.

In October, 1619, Bethlen took Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg), where the Palatine of Hungary ceded him the Holy Crown of Hungary. He was able to take the Royal Hungarian territories quite easily because the local landlords and the warriors of the Frontier sided with him at once. Skeptics may say that the nobility swore fealty to him because they didn’t want armies marching through their lands.  After all, at that time it was only Bethlen who could guarantee the territorial status quo and the nobility’s unperturbed continuity of their feudal rights. Also, Bethlen’s quick success somewhat resembled the glorious age of King Matthias. On the other hand, the petty nobility appreciated that Bethlen had the money to offer an honest rate of pay for both the warriors of the Frontier and the Hajdus, the free soldiers. He encouraged them to join him, and they flocked to his flag: a foot soldier was paid three florins and a rider received four per month. It was very little, but at least it was paid regularly.

In November, his army took the suburbs of Vienna. Unfortunately, they did not take Vienna, and soon the forces of George Druget, Captain of Upper Hungary and Polish mercenaries forced Bethlen to leave Austria and Upper Hungary.

In 1619 everything was ready for Bethlen to be elected and crowned King of Hungary, but if he had taken the title and the Holy Crown at that point, he would have made any further talks with Ferdinand II impossible. In the summer of 1620 Bethlen refused the Holy Crown like Bocskay had in 1605 but later negotiated for peace at Pozsony and in Kassa. He finally received ownership of thirteen counties in the east of Royal Hungary in that same year and was elected King of Hungary at the Diet of Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica). As a result the war with the Habsburgs resumed.

In his 1620 campaign, Bethlen was successfully able to call the Hungarians to his flag again. He entered Royal Hungary with only three thousand Transylvanian soldiers, but when he arrived in the Trans-Danubian region, all the warriors of the frontier castles, from Tata, Pápa, Veszprém, Várpalota, Sümeg (mentioning just the biggest ones of the fourteen strongholds that changed sides) gladly joined forces with him after a very short time. They reasoned this way: “We have made this turn over neither in hope of booty nor for aspiring after someone’s property: but it was out of true love of our homeland and our agreement in defending the freedoms of our country and to safeguard and restore justice, and above all, it was out of the desire of the right to freely live to our faith and religion that had driven us in our actions.” Bethlen appreciated that they were the best warriors, experienced and hardened through the wars with the Turks for many generations. The Austrian general Buquoi and Miklós (Nicholas) Eszterházy tried to force them back to the Emperor’s service in 1621, but in vain; the warriors followed Bethlen’s call and in January they gathered near Szombathely (Savaria) to oppose General Collato’s army. It was interesting that these warriors fought not only against Bethlen’s enemies but also against Bethlen’s Turkish “friendly” auxiliary forces which were pillaging the Hungarian countryside.

In 1621, Ferdinand II regained Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) and the central mining towns. Now it was Bethlen who asked for peace, and in December, 1621, the Peace of Nikolsburg was made. Bethlen renounced his royal title on the condition that Hungarian Protestants were given religious freedoms, and in return he was given the title of Imperial Prince of Hungary and Transylvania, seven counties around the Upper Tisza River, the important fortresses of Tokaj, Munkács (Munkacsevo), and Ecsed (Nagyecsed), and a duchy in Silesia. The Peace of Nikolsburg was a result of Bethlen’s realization that he alone didn’t possess sufficient power to reunite Hungary against the Habsburgs and that trying to do so without getting rid of the Turkish yoke would lead to great peril.

In 1623, 1624, and 1626, Bethlen, allied with the anti-Habsburg Protestants, made campaigns against Ferdinand in Upper Hungary. The first campaign ended with the Peace of Vienna in 1624, the second by the Peace of Pozsony (Pressburg) in 1626. After the second campaign, Bethlen offered the court of Vienna an alliance against the Ottomans and offered himself in marriage to Renata Cecilia, the Archduchess of Austria, but Ferdinand rejected it. Instead, on his return from Vienna, Bethlen wed the young and beautiful Catherine of Brandenburg, the daughter of John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg and the brother-in-law of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. Catherine’s sister was the wife of Christian IV of Denmark, who had just attacked Ferdinand.

After Bethlen’s death in 1629, it was his wife, Catherine of Brandenburg, who became the only female crowned ruler of Transylvania in 1629-1630. She is the connection between the Swedes and the Hungarians.

Swedish-Hungarian diplomatic relations began with negotiations, and when King Gustav Adolph’s envoy, Filip Sadler [i.e., Philip Sattler], arrived in Transylvania in 1626, he tried to persuade Bethlen to attack Poland. Bethlen sidestepped and offered to meet Gustav Adolph’s troops in Silesia. The Swedish-Transylvanian negotiations went on in Gyulafehérvár, Bethlen’s capital. They discussed how to aid each other mutually against the emperor, and the Swedish made an attempt to gain joint monopoly over the red copper mines. It is likely that Bethlen wanted the Polish throne for himself and may have thought of Gustav Adolph as his rival.

The princely wedding with Catherine of Brandenburg took place in Kassa (Kosice) in 1626, but only under the condition set by the bride that Bethlen should make a compensation for the Jesuit martyrs who were executed a few years previously in the very same city. Catherine was twenty-one and Bethlen was forty-five; the latter spoke neither German nor French so they must had had language barriers at first. After arriving in Transylvania, Catherine wasn’t warmly accepted by the nobility because she was too fond of grandeur and festivals. Besides, she was German. Soon gossip started connecting her with a handsome young count, István Csáky. On top of that, Bethlen seemingly fell in love with her, giving her luxurious presents and nominating her as his heir on the throne, just a few months after the wedding. The influence of the young Count Csáky had been growing and became more and more obvious. Yet, after Bethlen’s death in 1629, the nobility raised no obstacles and allowed her to take the throne, in accordance with Bethlen’s will. Bethlen had assigned his younger brother, István Bethlen, to act as a governor, thus assisting in Catherine’s reign.

The Protestant István Bethlen developed a strong dislike towards the princess because the young Catholic Count Csáky’s influence had become even stronger. The young nobleman was given control over seven royal counties in 1630 and convinced the spiritually unbalanced Catherine to convert to Catholicism and tried to make her negotiate with the Habsburgs. Although the princess hadn’t done anything wrong during her ten-month reign, her suggestibility forecast a frightening prospect for the future, and nobody wanted to take the risk. So István Bethlen and the nobles played the inexperienced princess off against the laws and took her power and wealth away, making her resign in September, 1630, just a few months before the Ring of Fire.

It was around this time that György Rakoczi appeared on the scene, and a fierce political fight developed between István Bethlen and him for the throne of Transylvania. The humiliated Catherine of Brandenburg took her revenge on István Bethlen by voting against him in favor of György Rákóczi. Her intervention decided the fate of Transylvania . . . she was able to obtain the Sultan’s athname for Rákóczi that officially put him in power. She read it in the Council with utter pleasure. The details of events concerning Catherine between 1630-1633 before she left Transylvania, never to return, would take an entire article by themselves.

In Vienna Catherine met Francis Charles, Prince of Saxonia and Lauenburg. They married in 1639 and lived happily together until she died in 1649.

Gábor Bethlen left behind a stable and independent country, a true “Fairy Garden.” It remained George Rakoczi I’s task to make it even stronger. When Wallenstein came to know of his adversary’s death, he was cursing and loudly exclaimed that “it was due time that he has finally croaked.”



HT4ptrpsmnyPéter Pázmány (1570-1637)

He was a Jesuit, a noted philosopher, theologian, cardinal, pulpit orator, a “Hungarian Cicero in purple” and a great statesman. He was considered to be the most important figure in the Counter-Reformation in the Hungarian kingdom. It was said, “He was born in a Protestant country and died in a Catholic one.” He created the Hungarian literary language and became the Primate of Hungary, the chief priest of the kingdom, in 1616.

In 1619 he founded a seminary for theological candidates at Nagyszombat (Trnava) and in 1623 laid the foundations of a similar institution at Vienna, the still famous Pazmaneum. In 1635 he founded the university in Nagyszombat. The faculty of Theology later, in modern days, became the famous Peter Pázmány Catholic University of Budapest, named for him. Pázmány also built Jesuit colleges and schools at Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) and Franciscan monasteries at Érsekújvár (Nove Zamky) and Körmöcbánya.

It was chiefly due to him that the Diet of 1618 elected Archduke Ferdinand to succeed the childless Matthias. He also repeatedly softened the martial ambitions of his good friend, the Transylvanian Prince Gabriel Bethlen and prevented György Rákoczi I, over whom he had a great influence, from allying with the Ottoman Empire and the Protestants.

Pope Urban VIII made him a Cardinal in 1629. He was assigned by the emperor to be the tutor of young Nicholas (Miklos) Zrinyi.

In 1630 he was in Rome and tried through his influence with the pope to help his country. Sadly, the pope was very cold to him and was happy when he left.

The emperor sent Pázmány to Rome again in 1632 to persuade the pope to support the steps against the decline of Catholicism. Pázmány asked the pope to dissuade Louis XIII of French from supporting the Swedish king. Urban VIII turned it down, saying that the Swedish king’s war motives were not religious ones. While Paul V and Gregory XV perceived the Thirty Years War as a religious struggle, Urban VIII didn’t because he was looking at it from the Italian princes’ viewpoint. The Pope strongly disliked the Spanish success and could hardly hide his happiness as he witnessed the Habsburgs’ decline. The Pope absolutely agreed with Richelieu on that.

In vain did Pázmány hope that the Catholic forces would do away with the heretics first, then would sweep the pagan Turks out altogether. The Barberinis of Rome praised his clever brain and wits but coldly refused his plans. He was told that he couldn’t be an advocate nor envoy of rulers because he was a high priest. He was sent back to Vienna with a very small amount of financial support against the Turks.

Later, the pope was not very happy with one of the Spanish rulers’ idea that he wanted Pázmány to return to Rome.

In one of his letters to the Emperor Ferdinand II, written in Pozsony in 1632, Pázmány suggested the creation of a western Catholic coalition against the Turks. “I know very well what they say about the Austrian Empire in Rome,” he wrote. “They think you do nothing against the Ottomans and you only want to make war with foreign help.” He did his utmost to use his influence with the pope to provoke Ferdinand and urge the war. It was a measure of his skill that he could negotiate between Prince Rákóczi and István Bethlen in 1636.  He died in Pozsony in 1637. (Unless possibly superior medical treatment from the future prolongs his life—his good intentions and negotiator’s skills could be most helpful.)



Péter Alvinczi – born Nagyenyed (Aiud), 1570; died Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau), 1634.

He was a famous Reformed pastor, polemicist, and the great adversary of Archibishop Péter Pázmány. He studied first at Nagyvárad (Oradea). It is unknown whether he went to Switzerland and Italy but he must have gone to Wittenberg and Heidelberg, Germany. He returned in 1602 and became a dean in Debrecen, then became a pastor in 1603 in Nagyvárad where he stayed until 1604. He was invited by Prince Bocskay to come and be his pastor at Nagykereki. He accepted and became the Prince’s vicar. He was then a pastor in Kassa, 1606, where he stayed in this office until his death in 1634. When the three Jesuits were executed in Kassa, allegedly it was he who had demanded their death; one of them used to be a dear friend of Péter Pázmány. He became most famous for his debates with Archibishop Péter Pázmány. He wrote political pamphlets and exchanged letters with Prince Gábor Bethlen. He also published a Latin grammar book and was dealing with Hungarian grammar as well but his Hungarian grammar book published in 1639 has since disappeared.  He would probably not have welcomed the Americans from Grantville, despite being a Protestant. Yet because of the Ring of Fire, he could possibly have lived beyond 1634.



HT4ncsthzyBaron Miklós (Nicholas) Esterházy (1583-1645)

He was the founder of his family’s wealth. Coming from the lower nobility he rose to became a baron, count, and Palatine of Hungary. He had seven younger and two elder brothers as well as two sisters. He was brought up in Vienna by the Jesuits.

He converted to the Catholic faith in 1601, and his father disinherited him and chased him away from home. During the siege of Esztergom he was in one camp with Wallenstein in 1604 but nothing is known about their relationship. After serving under the former palatine, he went to Kassa where he served under its captain.

He became immensely rich because of his first marriage in 1612 with Orsolya Dersffy, the widow of the departed captain of Kassa. He had been having a love affair with Orsolya—who was many years older than him—while her husband (his boss) was still alive. Later the lady helped him a lot, and they had a son, István, in 1616.

Orsolya died in 1619 and Esterházy married another rich widow, Krisztina Nyáry, in 1624. During the fifteen years of their marriage they had nine children.

The Habsburgs noted Baron Esterházy because he was one of the few members of the Hungarian nobility to convert to Catholicism, and also because of his zeal in fighting the Turks. The king made him a baron, along with five of his brothers, in 1613, and the next year he gained his reputation as a negotiator in Linz.

His former Jesuit tutor was Péter Pázmány, and Esterházy helped him to be promoted to archbishop of Esztergom. Their relationship later was spoiled, and Pázmány vehemently attacked him in public many times while Esterházy blamed the Jesuit for his friendly relations with the almost bigot Calvinist Prince Rákóczi I. Pázmány also tried to restrict the palatine’s power and rights in favor of his own authority.

Esterházy had been in battles against the Turks during the Long War, but he also defeated the army of the Pasha of Bosnia in 1623. (When the pasha was dismissed by Prince Bethlen from his camp, the Turk soldier returned angrily home, packed with plunder and slaves. He was attacked and utterly defeated by Esterházy when crossing the Nyitra river. All the Christian captives were freed, and it was guessed that it may have been Bethlen himself who had informed Esterházy about the pasha’s route in order to get rid of his unwanted Turkish ally.)

The Emperor made him Palatine of Hungary in 1625, giving him the highest political function in the country. This time the Palatine’s annual salary was twenty-two thousand Hungarian florins. He also became Count of Fraknó and Knight in the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1626. He had been entrusted with the most important questions of the country since 1622. In his court he surrounded himself with the most talented young Hungarian aristocrats whom he trained to become successful diplomats. The list of his titles and domains is long. He fought against Prince Bethlen and was rewarded by the Emperor for it. Also, he was an enemy of Prince György Rákóczi I. Esterházy collected a five thousand-strong army when the Prince was crowned and tried to defeat him, but Rákóczi won the battle of Rakamaz in March, 1631, by sending his Hajdus to attack the mounds of the fortification.

The emperor issued some warnings against the palatine in the 1630s because he had made some attacks from the frontier castles against the Turks. He was said to have been struggling with the emperor and many times had considered resigning from his posts.

He openly supported the Hungarian interests in court and organized the upkeep of the frontier castles. Esterházy established the famous library called Bibliotheca Esterhazyana in his palace in Lackenbach, near Vienna. This palace also had a huge and elegant Renaissance garden. He considered writing to be as important as politics. His court became a meeting place of notable theologians of the age. He founded a renowned treasury-collection at his other main residence, the great castle of Fraknó (Forchtenstein) of Upper Hungary.

The palatine’s goal was to bring about the unity of Royal Hungary and Transylvania under the Habsburgs’ rule in order to defeat the Turks. He considered Transylvania a puppet-state of the Ottoman Empire, a dangerous bastion against the Catholics, but he defended the feudal privileges of the Hungarian nobility and fought for the emperor’s approval of an independent Hungarian army at the same time.

After the death of Ferdinand II in 1637, he suddenly had many enemies, although the Ring of Fire could change this. In the original timeline he was central in Hungarian anti-Protestantism and achieved the conversion of many Hungarian aristocrats, including Ádám Batthyány and Ferenc Nádasdy. He also supported the baroque-style constructions and music throughout the country.

During his last years, the young Miklós Zrínyi visited him. Later Pál Esterházy, Miklós’ son, served under Zrínyi against the Turks.

Four members of the Esterházy family died in the battle of Vezekény against the Turks when they defeated an army that was three times bigger than theirs. The palatine’s son, Pál, never joined the conspirator aristocrats against the court and helped the Habsburgs put down Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II’s freedom fight in 1703-11.

Palatine Miklós Esterházy is a dividing figure, and one can’t jump to conclusions about his person easily. It is true that he fought against the Turks with all his might, but he was absolutely loyal to the Habsburgs. The reaction of Miklós Esterházy to the Americans’ arrival is an open question.



HT4rkczigyrgyGyörgy I Rákóczi (1593-1648)

He was an important Hungarian nobleman who became Prince of Transylvania from 1630 until his death in 1648. During his influence Transylvania grew politically and economically stronger. He was a well-educated and tolerant, “modern” absolute ruler with good military skills and experience. As a strong and independent sovereign ruler of Transylvania, an area then twice as big as modern-day Hungary, he was indeed in a position to make a difference in the Thirty Years War after the Ring of Fire.

In 1605 he was placed in the service of then-Prince István Bocskay. After Bockskay’s death in 1606, he rejoined his father, Zsigmond (Sigismund) Rákóczi. Zsigmond was elected Prince of Transylvania in 1607, but resigned a year later.

In 1619, György joined Prince Gábor Bethlen’s invasion of Royal Hungary, ruled by Ferdinand II as king. György commanded a wing of Bethlen’s army, which was sent to oppose a Polish army coming to the aid of Ferdinand. The Polish force defeated Rakoczi’s force at the Battle of Homonna (Homoneau, Humenné) on November 23rd. As a result, Bethlen had to give up his attack on Vienna and make peace. This is the attack on Vienna in which its suburbs were taken.

It is an interesting commentary on Rákóczi’s character that when he was with Bethlen’s army he received the news that his wife was about to deliver a baby. He didn’t care about the dismay of Bethlen and left the army behind just to be with his wife.

Rákóczi remained in Bethlen’s service until Bethlen died in 1629. Bethlen was briefly succeeded by his widow Catherine, and then his brother István. But the Transylvanian Diet soon turned to György instead. On December 1, 1630, at Segesvár (Schäsbrich, Sighisoara), the Estates elected Rákóczi as Prince.

He made a treaty with Ferdinand II in 1631. Rákóczi was accepted as a prince and in return he was obliged to send away the Hajdu troops. The Sultan also reaffirmed Rákóczi’s title during the same year in June.

Rákóczi was even more independent from the Turks than Bethlen had been. In 1636 he defeated the Pasha of Buda at the Battle of Nagyszalonta. Four years later he made a coalition against the Turks with the Polish king Sigismund III—unless the Ring of Fire has changed all of this.

Rákóczi followed in Bethlen’s steps and also sent a delegation to Sweden but it happened too late because Gustav Adolph had died—in that timeline—so Rákóczi couldn’t join the Swedes against the Habsburgs to take Hungary back from the Austrian usurpers. Their coalition was delayed because the Swedish king wanted Rákóczi’s military support against the Austrians quite unconditionally. But Rákóczi had his own terms: he wanted to keep his lands and the Transylvanian tradition of freedom of religion.

The Habsburgs had done everything to hinder Rákoczi’s intervention in the Thirty Years War: they had bribed the Turkish serasker (chief military leader under the sultan) who threatened to send Tatar and Turkish raiders to Transylvania if Rákóczi tried to attack the Austrians. When this serasker received his “silk string” from Murad, this obstacle was not there anymore.

So it happened in our original timeline that a decade later Rákóczi was free to decide to side with the Swedes when he learned that Torstensson broke into Austria after 1642 at Olmütz. With the coming of the Ring of Fire, who knows where twentieth-century technology will take this land?  Rákóczi occupied the whole Hungarian Highland from the Habsburgs as his fellow Transylvanian princes in the past had made a habit of doing, and in February, 1644, his army was on the march to join Torstensson at Vienna. Finally the prince joined the Swedish army in Bohemia where they were besieging Brno.

In 1644, he intervened in the Thirty Years War, declaring war against the new emperor, Ferdinand III. He was able to achieve his basic military goals (keeping his lands intact and defending the unique Transylvanian religious freedom) with an army that outsmarted superior forces, without a major defeat. He didn’t really want to bring the Austrian kingdom down before dealing properly with the Turks since the Habsburgs represented at least some kind of an opposing power against the sultan. The international political situation was unique, but finally resulted in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. As part of the treaty, Rákóczi and Ferdinand made peace, too, at Linz.

Rákóczi didn’t hurry to help Torstensson in our timeline but he would probably have made more haste had he suspected that the Grantvillers might be willing to help him to get rid of both controlling powers—the Habsburgs and the Ottomans. In any case he couldn’t have come to such an agreement with the USE before 1636, but he could have let the Turks reach Vienna in 1637, in exchange for some strategic forts. The Turks’ successful Viennese campaign must have increased his political and military value in the hope of a future agreement with the USE.

Not encountering the Grantvillers, he ruled until his death in 1648 and left behind a magnificent Transylvanian Fairy Garden to be utterly destroyed by the Habsburgs and the Romanians in future centuries.



Dávid Zólyomi (around 1600-1649)

He was a tough Secler soldier of the age, vice-general of Prince György Rákóczi I, who started his career under Prince Bethlen as the Chief Captain of Field Armies. He married István Bethlen’s daughter, Kata Bethlen, in 1629. They had two children, Krisztina and Miklós.

In 1630 he took Rákóczi’s side against Catherine of Brandenburg and had a great role in helping Rákóczi to the throne. Along with his brother-in-law, Péter Bethlen, he was defeated by the army of Palatine Miklós Eszterházy in 1631 at Rakamaz. He defeated a peasant uprising led by Péter Császár in 1632.

His friendship with Prince Rákóczi worsened so much that he exchanged letters with the Pasha of Buda in order to prepare his escape if it was needed in 1632. He wanted to make the prince continue his fight against the Habsburgs so the prince had to arrest him. He was sentenced to death but was pardoned and instead imprisoned in the castle of Kővár. After his death the prince didn’t take away the lands of his widow.



HT4nkzrnskBaron Miklós (Nicholas) Zrínyi (1620-1664)

Born in Csáktornya (Cakovec) from a Croatian father and a Hungarian mother, he was an outstanding Hungarian military leader, statesman, and poet, having written the first epic poem in Hungarian literature.

Although Miklós Zrínyi was only eleven years old at the time of the Ring of Fire, his story is a good example how the Habsburgs were treating Hungary and the Turkish question. After the early loss of his parents, Péter Pázmány was made his caretaker and tutor. He inherited the northern part of his family’s lands and gradually chose to feel himself a Hungarian, rather than a Croat.

With Pázmány’s help Zrínyi became an enthusiastic student of Hungarian language and literature, although he prioritized military training. In our timeline, he accompanied Szenkviczy, one of the canons of Esztergom, on a long educative tour through Italy from 1635 to 1637. The young aristocrat was received by the pope, and Zrínyi gifted him with a collection of his poems written in Latin.

Over the next few years, he learned the art of war in defending the Croatian frontier against the Turks and proved himself one of the most important commanders of the age.

Their family raised the money for their wars against the Ottomans from their own income: they traded with salt, grain, wood, and cloth. They herded 40,000 grey cattle annually to the marketplace of Légrád (Legrad) in order to avoid paying taxes to Vienna. They made a business contract with the Turk Pasha of Kanizsa as well as with the Venetian merchants to trade. They used their own armed men to herd the cattle to the harbors. It all looked very close to treason but the family was reasoning to the court that they needed the money for the defense of their homeland, and they had to get it from somewhere because Vienna couldn’t have financed the wars alone.

In 1645, during the closing stages of the Thirty Years War, Zrinyi acted against the Swedish troops in Moravia, equipping an army corps at his own expense. At Szkalec he scattered a Swedish division and took two thousand prisoners. At Eger he saved the life of Ferdinand III, who had been surprised at night in his camp by the offensive of Carl Gustaf Wrangel. Although not enthusiastic for having to fight against Hungarians of Transylvania, he subsequently routed the army of George I Rakoczi on the Upper Tisza river. For his services, the emperor appointed him Captain of Croatia. On his return from the war he married the wealthy Eusebia Draskovich.

In 1646 he distinguished himself in the actions against Ottomans. At the coronation of Ferdinand IV, King of Austria, King of Germany, King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, he carried the sword of state and was made a “Bán” (duke), and the Captain-General of Croatia. Yet, his loyalty to the Habsburgs had been continually declining.

During 1652-1653, Zrínyi was fighting against the Ottomans; nevertheless, from his castle he was in constant communication with the intellectual figures of his time. The Dutch scholar, Jacobus Tolius, even visited him, and has left in his Epistolae Itinerariae a lively account of his experiences. Tolius was amazed at the linguistic resources of Zrínyi, who spoke Hungarian, Croatian, Italian, German, Turkish, and Latin with equal ease. It was also noted how heroically Zrinyi had led his people to battles, often deciding the fight with his personal bravery.

In 1655, he made an attempt to be elected Palatine of Hungary. In spite of getting support from the petty nobility, his efforts failed as the king—because of Zrínyi’s good connections to the Protestants and the Hungarians of Transylvania—nominated Ferenc Wesselényi instead.

In 1663, the Turkish army, led by Grand Vizier Köprülü Ahmed, launched an overwhelming offensive against Royal Hungary, ultimately aiming at the siege and occupation of Vienna. The Imperial army failed to put up any notable resistance; the Turkish army was eventually stopped by bad weather conditions. As a preparation for the new Turkish onslaught due next year, German troops were recruited from the Holy Roman Empire, and aid was also called for from France, and Zrínyi, under the overall command of the Italian Montecuccoli, leader of the Imperial army, was named commander-in-chief of the Hungarian army. In 1664, Zrínyi set out to destroy the strongly fortified Suleiman Bridge of Eszék (Osijek). Destruction of the bridge would cut off the retreat of the Ottoman Army and make any Turkish reinforcement impossible for several months. Zrínyi advanced 240 kilometers in winter, through enemy territory and destroyed the bridge on 1 February 1664. He was frustrated by the refusal of the imperial generals to cooperate. The court remained suspicious of Zrínyi all the way, regarding him as a promoter of Hungarian separatist ideas. Zrínyi’s siege of Kanizsa, the most important Turkish fortress in southern Hungary, failed, as the beginning of the siege was seriously delayed by machinations of the overly-jealous Montecuccoli. Later the Emperor’s military commanders, unwilling to combat the grand vizier’s army hastily coming to the aid of Kanizsa, retreated.

The court concentrated all its troops on the Hungarian-Austrian border, sacrificing Zrinyi to hold back the Turkish army. The Turks, ultimately, were stopped in the Battle of Saint Gotthard (1664). The Turkish defeat could have offered an opportunity for Hungary to be liberated from the Turkish yoke. However, the Habsburg court chose not to push its advantage in order to save its strength for the future conflict that would be known as the War of the Spanish Succession. So the infamous Peace of Vasvár, the peace with the Turks, was negotiated by Zrínyi’s adversary, Montecuccoli. The peace treaty laid down unfavourable terms for the Hungarians, not only giving up recent conquests, but also offering a tribute to the Turks, all despite the fact that Austrian-Hungarian troops were the stronger.

Yet, Zrinyi was internationally praised, received the Golden Fleece, and was honored equally by the pope, King Louis XIV of France, and King Philip IV of Spain.

Zrínyi hurried to Vienna to protest against the treaty, but he was ignored; he left the city in disgust. It is widely accepted that he, despite being a loyal supporter of the court before, participated in the conspiracy which later became known as the Wesselényi conspiracy for an independent Kingdom of Hungary. However, on November 18, he was killed in a hunting accident by a wounded wild boar. Until this day, legend maintains that he was killed at the order of the Habsburg court and “that boar spoke German.” No conclusive evidence has ever been found to support this claim; however, it remains true that the Habsburgs lost their mightiest adversary with his death.

Zrínyi is also well known for his literary works. He is the author of the first epic poem in Hungarian language, written in 1648-1649.

Its subject is the heroic but unsuccessful defense of Szigetvár (1566) by the author’s great-grandfather, who was also called Miklós Zrinyi and who lost his heroic life by desperately attacking the besiegers on the last day of the Turks’ siege. It is interesting that Suleiman I the Great, the victor of Mohács who had defeated the Hungarian King Louis in 1526, also finished his life during this siege, and his heart was buried there.

Miklós Zrínyi wrote another famous political work about the Turkish peril. Its title is Do not hurt the Hungarians—An antidote to the Turkish poison.  He makes a case in it for a standing army, moral renewal of the nation, the re-establishment of the national kingdom, the unification of Royal Hungary with Transylvania, and, of course, driving the Turkish out. He thought a well-organized, small, modernized army of five to six thousand men could be a core of a standing army, and he himself was able to rise this army anytime (as he had offered this in his letter to the Emperor Leopold I before his death.)

Unfortunately, it was this political open-minded thinking and activity that was observed with utter suspicion from Vienna.

Miklós Zrínyi wrote a book about the greatest Hungarian king, King Mátyás (Matthias), showing up the idea of a strong national monarchy, and this idea was a counterexample of the current reigning foreign dynasty, governing from Vienna. Zrínyi, along with the contemporary public opinion, regarded the Habsburgs as weak and if not outright ill-disposed towards the Hungarians, at least incapable of defending their Empire against the “rage of the Ottomans.” There were opinions that Zrínyi, the Bán (Duke) of Croatia could be a better leader of the Hungarian Kingdom. Some say it was Zrínyi himself who may have hinted this. In his book about King Mátyás he remarked that the great king hadn’t come from any ancient dynasties but was elected freely by the Hungarian nobility. However, Zrínyi never claimed openly that he wanted to get the crown. On the other hand, he was trying hard to get the rank of the Palatine of Hungary and to achieve it, he had built a very good relationship with George Rakoczi II, Prince of Transylvania. The Transylvanian prince in the 1650s was believed to be the perfect ruler with capable characteristics and conditions to conduct the reunion of the country with success.

Zrínyi was a devout Catholic but he was far from being a fanatic. He addressed the Protestant nobility like this: “I am of a different faith, but your lordships’ freedom is my freedom, if you are hurt, I am hurt, too. I wish the prince had a hundred-thousand good papists, a hundred-thousand Calvinist and the same Lutheran warriors, they could save this homeland . . .” (. . .) “I hold a confiding Lutheran in higher esteem than an evil-hearted Catholic.” (. . .) “Dear Sir, we have to keep our oaths even to infidels, how much more we should keep our words to our Christian brothers.” (. . .) “Attacking someone under the name of the religion is not right, it is against God’s mercy; also, it is a great sin and wrong to break our agreement with our enemy, under the cover of religion.”  Here he refers to that contemporary belief that the Hungarian King Ulaszlo I had broken alliance with Sultan Murad II, and because of his perfidy he was killed at the Battle of Varna in 1444.

Zrínyi was also affected by the French idea of separating church and state and the concept of national absolutism.

At this time the Swedish king was paying closer attention to the anti-Ottoman wars and to Protestant Transylvania. Stäyger, the delegate of the Swedish ruler in Vienna, in 1655, wrote home that the Catholic aristocrat Zrínyi spoke against the Jesuits and had had a conflict with Prince Auerperg in the Court of Vienna, in an audience of the emperor which almost resulted in a duel.

Zrínyi’s opinion about religious wars was plain: “I can hardly believe that it would either be kind before God or acceptable for men to attack all of our neighbors or any Christian princes only under the excuse of religion. There are other reasons that force us to fight against the Turks or against other enemies who either share our faith or not; there are more noble reasons than the religion.”

His family’s slogan was Sors bona, nihil aliud (Only good luck, nothing else), but he used to add that God gave the fortune and showed the way. Human efforts must be made, of course: “. . .the human mind never gets so much help for the valiant soldiering or for any other thing as from learning and reading history.”

There are some rather interesting additions about Miklós Zrínyi’s family background. His father, György Zrínyi was said to have possessed outstanding characteristics. He was a Protestant. His wife was of this faith as well, but he was converted to Catholicism in 1619 by Péter Pázmány. George Zrínyi was in his best health when he joined Wallenstein’s army in 1626, April, but died in Pozsony in the same year at the age 29. Eyewitnesses wrote that Wallenstein had him killed during a lunch by giving him a poisoned radish. It is not a totally mad accusation since Wallenstein himself had written a letter to Vienna when he was very angry at Prince Bethlen for defeating his army. He proposed to the Austrian king that Bethlen should be gotten rid of by poison. There was not too much love in the Hungarians towards Wallenstein at the time of the Ring of Fire. Just imagine, had Wallenstein not died in 1634, how would Miklós Zrínyi, the second largest statesman in the Carpathian Basin beside George Rakoczi I, react in 1636 or 1637? Would the young Zrínyi, knowing that his father was murdered by the Grantvillers’ ally, join the Habsburgs who, after all, had been destined to mercilessly kill both him and his younger brother in a future unchanged by Grantville? This foreknowledge would likely leave him feeling that he had nowhere to go for advice except George Rákóczi I, Prince of Transylvania.

Miklós had a younger brother, Péter, who took care of the family’s lands near the Adriatic Sea and defended the shores against the Turks all of his life. He, too, is considered a great Croatian hero. He was later tried for treason and was beheaded by the Emperor after Miklós’ suspicious death in a hunting accident in 1664.



Zsigmond Erdődy ( ?-1639)

He was the Bán (Duke) of Croatia between 1627-1639. He studied in Vienna in 1610-11, then married Anna Keglevich in 1616. He became the Chief Count of Varasd, upon his father’s death, in 1624. The Turks defeated him at Kulpa in 1625; they shot his horse out from under him.



Countess Mária SzéchyCountess Mária Széchy (born in Rimaszécs, about 1610; died in Kőszeg, 1679)

She was a Hungarian aristocrat who became known as the “Venus of Murány castle” for her extremely good looks. She had three husbands: first, when she was 17 she wed István Bethlen Jr., captain of Várad, who died after five years of marriage in 1632. Then she was the wife of István Kun, Chief Comes of Szatmár county between 1634-1637, but she divorced him. Finally she wed Ferenc Wesselényi, captain of Fülek castle, in 1644 when she was about 34. Later it was Wesselényi who was the leader of a famous conspiracy against the Habsburgs for which all the conspirators—Péter Zrínyi was among them—were beheaded. Wesselényi had died before the plot was discovered but Mária Széchy spent some time in prison because of it, too.

Mária had been strongly disliked and even hated by moralistic people of her time. She was said to be eccentric, unconventional, and she was rebuked for her love of men’s clothes and riding a horse like a man. It was also written about her that although she liked pageantry, she also spent great amounts of money on charity as well, supporting hospitals and poor students. She was a Protestant and her family’s lands were among the largest in Upper Hungary. Her family’s center, which was on a strategic location, became the impregnable castle of Murány in 1617. Later the castle of  Murány fell into Prince Rákoczi I’s hands.Wesselényi (at that time still loyal to the Habsburgs) and his wife, Mária, took it back in 1645 from their in-laws by outsmarting them: Mária Széchy–while her family was at Rákoczi’s side—entered the castle and made the guards drunk.



Pasha Murtesa (?-1635)

First he was a pasha in Bosnia but later he became the Pasha of Buda between 1626-1630. He became Pasha of Silistria in 1603 and he was there until 1632 when he was appointed as the Pasha of Dijárbeker. He married the widow of Pasha Háfiz Ahmed in February, 1633. His wife was the sister of Sultan Murad IV.  At the end of that year he was ordered to Constantinapolis where he became a kaymakam (lieutenant-governor). He was the serdar (general) in the 1634 war against the Polish. He was made Captain of the Castle Erivan in 1635, where he died next year.



Pasha Adjem Hussein (?–1631)

He was of Persian origin, and he was the standard-bearer of his country. He became the Pasha of Buda in February 1630 and vizier at the same time. He was removed from these offices in October, 1631, which so saddened him that he died after a few days. It’s possible that the Ring of Fire  might change the circumstances which led to his death.



Pasha Beirám (?–1638)

He was born in Constantinople (current day Istanbul), he was an odabasi and a chorbadji. He became a muhzi-aga in 1620 then he was a turnadjibashi in 1622, then received the rank of a samsudjsibashi and a zagardzibashi the same year, whatever these names may mean. He became a jannichar-kiaya in October 1623 then a jannichar-aga. Four or five weeks later the sultan was forced to remove him from this function but as compensation he was named Pasha of Egypt in 1626. He was removed from there in 1628. He was called back to the court, and they made him the sixth vizier among the viziers. He was appointed as the Pasha of Buda in 1631 but a few days later he became a vizier again. The sources mention him as the Pasha of Rumelia in 1632. Next year he married one of the sultan’s elder sisters and thus was made a kaymakham. He acted as the Pasha of Buda again in 1634, but for just a few weeks. Then he became vizier again; and kaymakham for the second time. He wore the title of grand vizier in February, 1637. He was leading the Ottoman army against the Persians toward Baghdad but he died on the road in Djulab, in August, 1638.



Pasha Musa (?-1647)

He was the Pasha of Buda between 1631-34, 1637-38, and 1640-44. He was appointed to be the Pasha of Buda at first in October, 1631, and he was dismissed in June, 1634. He had to go to the court, but he became Pasha of Buda again in February 1637. A year later he was summoned to the court and was given the office of kaymakham. He became a second vizier in June, 1639 and in 1640 he was made Pasha at Buda for the third time. Four years later he was called to the court and they made him Pasha of Sivás. He was a kapudan-pasha in 1646. He was killed during an attack of a Venetian warship while traveling from Crete to Morea in 1647. The Ring of Fire could entirely change his timeline after 1631, and he could be involved in the Ottoman Onslaught.



Pasha Hussein

He was a silibdar-aga and he became a vizier and the Pasha of Buda in June, 1634. He was removed a few days (!) later from this office and became Pasha of Bosnia. Soon he was sent away from here, too, and was made the leader of Sanjak Paphlagonia. He became the Captain of Erzerum in 1635.



Pasha Djáfer (?-1635)

He was a bostandjibashi. He was made a kapudanpasha and a vizier in July, 1632. He became Pasha of Buda in July, 1634. He was sentenced to death and stringed in May, 1635, Buda, in the original time line; events may have changed significantly for him after the RoF.



Pasha Nazuhpasazade Hussein

He had a high rank at court. He became Chief Master of Horse in 1634. Sultan Murad IV promoted him to be Pasha of Buda and vizier in 1635. At the end of February, 1637, he was made the Pasha of Rumelia by the Emperor but he lost this office in September. He stayed in the Divan as a vizier and in 1639 he achieved the rank of Pasha of Erzerum.



Pasha Tabani Jassi Muhammed (?–1639)

He was of Albanian origin and had been the servant of Mustafa Kizlar-Aga and succeeded him as a Chief Master of Horse. He became Pasha of Egypt in 1628 but was summoned to the court in 1630. He became the grand vizier from 1632 to 1637. He was assigned to Buda as its pasha in 1638 and he became Pasha of Silistra as well. He was removed from Buda in February, 1639, then went to the court where he was made a kaymakham in May. He was imprisoned into the Yedikule fortress and stringed accordingly in December, 1639.



Benedek Cseszneky

Nobleman from Pozsony (Pressburg) county. He was converted from Lutheran to Catholic.

He acted as Ferdinand II’s negotiator on the peace talks with the Transylvanian prince until 1626 and was rewarded by the emperor with a village. His wife was Sára Kánya of Budafalva. Their son’s name was Peter.



Pál Nádasdy (Born in 1597, Sárvár; died in 1633 at Csepreg)

His father died when he was seven and his uncle’s son, his cousin, Tamás, took care of him until 1620. Tamás supported the anti-Habsburg Bocskay but Pál remained loyal to the king.  Pál reached adulthood when he was thirteen in 1610 so he could officially take over offices that went with the male members of his family; this was the year he became the Chief Comes of Vas county (which was one of the hereditary offices of his family). When Ferdinand was crowned in 1618, Pál was made a so-called “knight with the golden spurs.”

Unlike his predecessors, Pál disliked politics and economics; he preferred hunts and pageantry. His property was taken care of by his man János Vitnyédi. His offices were: 1605, hereditary Comes of Sopron County; 1610, hereditary Comes of Vas County; 1622, hereditary chief-captain of Trans-Danubian Captaincy; 1627, chief captain of the frontier opposing the Turk-held Kanizsa castle; 1623, royal advisor and chief senechal; 1625, count and chief chamberlain.

He completed the construction of Sárvár Castle in the manner of his family’s tradition in 1615. He constructed printing houses at Csepreg and at Sopronkeresztút, too. He also sponsored talented students learning abroad such as the Protestant preacher of Csepreg, István Letenyei. Letenyei had his prayer book printed in Csepreg in 1631, in the printing house run by Imre Farkas.

Pál wed his second wife, Judit Révay, in 1620. Their children were Ferenc (eight years old at the Ring of Fire) and Anna Mária, who became a nun.



János Homonnay Drugeth (1609-1645)

He was the one who gained the title of count for his family. They were the wealthiest lords in Zemplén County and Ung County, but he had lands in Poland, too. His father György was converted to Catholicism in 1610 and he began anti-Protestantism on his vast lands. He settled Jesuit priests to his land at Homonna in 1612. Later he supported the union between the Orthodox Catholics and the Roman Catholics by bringing the high priest Athanasius Krupetzkij from Poland to Munkács (Munkacsevo) in 1613, along with 50 lesser priests. This gave an excuse later to Prince Bethlen to take away György’s lands in Zemplén County (even Homonna was taken away) so there was a traditional enmity between the Drugeth family and the tolerant Transylvania. The elder Drugeth was defeated there in Homonna in a bloody battle in 1619.

János continued his father’s policy of converting those in his lands and helped Bishop Tarasovich Bazil get his office in Munkács in 1633.

János helped to put down the peasant uprising of Péter Császár in 1632 in Gönc, with the help of the palatine and István Bethlen. He played a rather cruel role in it. He got back his lands of Zemplén County and the city of Homonna for his deed. He became Captain of Kassa and the judge of the country in 1636. Prince György Rákóczi took Homonna from him again in 1644 and the family began its decline.

See “The Austro-Hungarian Connection” in Ring of Fire II and subsequent mainline novels for his role in the New Time Line.


Below the Radar in the Hungaries:

Notable People from Ring of Fire Hungary


Palatine Ferenc Wesselényi (1605–1667)

He was a Hungarian aristocrat, general, and the Palatine of Hungary 1655-1667. His father, István Wesselényi (1583-1627) was a court advisor to Ferdinand II.

He was brought up in a Jesuit school in Nagyszombat (Trnava, Tyrnau) where he became a Catholic. He had immense physical strength and was quick-tempered; soon he became a soldier. He was very young when he took part in several battles against the Turks. He helped the Polish King Wladyslav IV Vasa by bringing him Hungarian troops against the Russians and the Tatars for which he was rewarded with Polish nobility and received a dominium worth one hundred thousand florins, too. Later Ferdinand II made him a count and the Captain of Fülek castle. He became the Chief General of Royal Hungary in 1647 and fought against the Swedes and against Prince Rakoczi II. He got hold of the castle of Murány in 1644 as has been described. For this deed he was gifted the castle of Balog as well. At the 1655 Diet of Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) he was elected as palatine of Hungary. As a Palatine, he took part on the coronation of Leopold I. He was fighting the Turks in 1663. After the suspicious death of Miklós Zrínyi in 1644, he joined the conspirators against Vienna in 1655, supported all the way by Péter Zrínyi. Wesselényi died before the plot was discovered so he could not be executed.



Count Miklós Forgách

He was a count in Ghymes and Gács and the Chief Master of Treasury in Royal Hungary. In 1633 he was the Chief General of Upper Hungary and the representative of Ferdinand II at the same time. He was not alive in 1649. His wife was Eszter Bossányi who wrote a Hungarian letter to Prince György Rákóczi II in 1649.



Zsófia (Sophia) Bosnyák, born Nagysurány, 1609–died Sztrecsény, 1644.

She was the lady of Sztrecsnó Castle, Upper Hungary. Her father Tamás Bosnyák was a famous warrior who had been valiantly fighting the Turks. Her mother was Mária Kenderes. She was seventeen when she was made to marry Mihály Serényi, the Captain of Fülek and Szendrő Castles. The marriage lasted for only a few months, and her husband died in 1626.

She returned to his parents’ home, but her mother also died that year. Next year she lost her twenty-two-year-old brother. Her father was fighting the Turks this time in Fülek, so Zsófia had to manage the family’s lands. Soon she has become known as the generous helper of the poor and the sick.

She was twenty-one when Archibishop Péter Pázmány assisted her in marrying Palatine Ferencz Wesselényi. They moved to Sztrecsnó castle and had two boys: Ádám was born in 1630 and László in 1633. Later they moved to Vágtapolca.  Zsofia’s father Tamás Bosnyák died of cholera in 1634 so Palatine Wesselényi took Fülek Castle over and then he rarely came home to visit Zsofia because Fülek was frequently attacked by the Turks because of its strategic location.

So Zsófia had to carry on maintaining the lands and bringing up the children. She was taking care of the poor, too; she established a house for them that was used as a hospital as well. The locals respected her for her good heart. Legend says that her husband cheated on her with the famous Mária Széchy, the “Venus of Murány Castle,” and Zsófia grieved a lot because of it. She spent more time with charity and regularly went to pray to the chapel of the castle at night. She had an apparition of the Holy Mary who allegedly told her to trust and pray. Eventually, her health gradually got worse, and she died at the age of thirty-five. She was put to rest in the chapel of Sztrecsnó castle.

Her brother, István Bosnyák, the bishop of Nyitra (Nitra) was two years older and died the same year. Sztrecsnó Castle got a new owner in 1689 who, when he took the place over, found the fully untouched body of Zsófia in the chapel. The body was taken to the church in Vágtapolca, Wesselényi’s village. Zsófia Bosnyák’s resting place had become a pilgrim’s destination and crowds arrived to see her in her glass-covered coffin. Her body was destroyed in 2009 when a thirty-one-year-old Slovakian man set it on fire with gasoline.

The Ring of Fire could have changed this portion of history quite a bit if Tamás Bosnyák didn’t die of cholera in 1634, and if Zsófia didn’t die at age thirty-five.



Count Pál Csáky (born circa 1603, died sometime after 1649)

He converted to Catholicism in 1614 and studied in Vienna between 1620-23, acquiring an unusually high education for his time and age. He began managing his estates in 1623 and then settled down in the Castle of Nagyalmás, in Transylvania.

He was 22 in 1625 when he married Éva, the daughter of the Hungarian Palatine Zsigmond Forgách. Éva died in April, 1639, so he married again in 1640 to Maria, the daughter of the Chief Comes (Count) of Abaúj, György Perényi. Anna died in September, 1641 and he remarried in 1643, taking the hand of Krisztina Mindszenti. He had a total of nine children from these marriages.

Prince Gábor Bethlen made him the Chief Comes of Kolozs county in 1625. He belonged to the most confidential circles of Catherine of Brandenburg, the wife of the prince. This was the reason why Prince György Rákóczi I chased him out of Transylvania in 1630, under the charge of usurping the throne. His lands were confiscated at the same time, just a year before the Ring of Fire. (This could possibly make him a likely “refugee” to Grantville. He had the education and courtly contacts in both Hungary/Transylvania and Austria, and he doesn’t quite seem to qualify for high politics. It could be made quite plausible that—upon hearing about the Ring of Fire—that he traveled to Grantville as a paid agent of the Habsburgs, copied  pages regarding Hungary and Transylvania from a late-sixties-era encyclopedia and returned to Vienna to study, absorb, and forge the information to mislead his personal enemy, Prince Rákóczi I of Transylvania. At which point he’d regret not having lifted more information about the Habsburgs and the Soviet Union. He could be the source of thinking that the Americans in Grantville would be antagonistic toward Hungary and the other Soviet-bloc countries).

In Royal Hungary he became the Captain of Szendrő Castle in Borsod county, in Upper Hungary, in August, 1633. He also gained the estates of Tarcal and the castle of Tokaj from Catherine of Brandenburg. Soon, he got his Transylvanian estates back, too. He was made a count in 1636. Through his marriages he got the castle of Szepes with 123 villages in Upper Hungary, for just 85,000 florins—which in 1651 finally became 168,000 florins because of the machinations and the greediness of the Viennese court. The Austrian emperor made him master of the treasury in 1647, for his deeds in the campaign against Prince György Rakoczi I. He was on the Diet of Pozsony (Pressburg) in 1649 and had visited Vienna countless times. This ex-lover of Prince Bethlen’s wife and turncoat would make a prime anti-Grantviller.



Count Nádasdy Ferenc (1623-1671)

Judge of the Country, aristocrat. Later he was beheaded in Royal Hungary for taking a leading part in the Wesselenyi conspiracy against the emperor. He would have been about eight years old at the Ring of Fire, and about thirteen or fourteen by the time of the Ottoman Onslaught against Vienna.



Baron István (Stephen) Thököly (1581-1651)

He was a wealthy aristocrat in Upper Hungary and unconditionally supported the Habsburgs. He would have been fifty years old at the Ring of fire, and his son, István, born in 1623, would have been about thirteen or fourteen by the time of the Ottoman Onslaught in the NTL. OTL he took part in the Wesselényi conspiracy (ca 1664-71) and was punished for it severely. His descendant was the famous Imre Thököly who rebelled against the Habsburgs and let the Turks come to Vienna in 1683. If he had known how rebellious his family members would become, how would this affect his relationship with the Habsburgs?



István (Stephen) Pálffy (1586-1646)

Aristocrat, Comes of Pozsony, general and Chief Captain of Trans-Danubian Region, loyal to the Habsburgs.  His mother was Mária Fugger, from the wealthiest banker family of Europe. He was guarding the Holy Crown 1608-1625. He was given high functions and became advisor to the king and the emperor. Betlen defeated and captured him in 1621 but he remained loyal, nevertheless. He was freed in exchange for 24,500 florins. Ferdinand made him a count in 1634. He respected Péter Pázmány very much. Pálffy was converting people very aggressively.  He raised a cavalry contingent for the Emperor in 1639. He remained a very firm adherent of the Habsburgs all his life. An older man at the Ring of Fire (about forty-five), he would likely be set in his ways, suspicious of the American technology, and possibly a strong adversary of the Americans.



Benedek Bakai (?-Sárospatak, February, 1633)

He was a teacher and a school principal from Kassa (Kosice). After finishing his basic schooling, he went to Belgium in 1622 then to the University of Wittenberg in 1625, and he was the first Hungarian who went to study in England. Returning home, he became a teacher or priest in Kassa (Kosice). Prince György Rákóczi I invited him to lead the college of Sárospatak in 1630.



János Bánfihunyadi (Joannes Banfi Huniades) (Nagybánya, 1576-Amsterdam, 1646)

Professor. His father was a Reformed pastor, Benedek Mogyoró of Bánfihunyad, bishop of the Trans-Tisza River Region. After his studies in Europe, János (Joannes) went to England and studied chemistry. Later he taught mathematics and alchemy in the Gresham College of London. At the beginning of his stay in England he made his living as a goldsmith, according to early English sources. Prince György Rákóczi I invited him in 1633 to come and teach at the Academy of Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg) but he couldn’t accept it due to his previous obligations in England. He became the acolyte of Sir Kenelm Digby 1633-1635. He had an English wife named Dorothy Colton, the daughter of Sir Francis Colton from Kent County, and they had four children. They set out to Hungary together in 1646 but he died in Amsterdam. János and Dorothy could be quite affected by the Ring of Fire, depending on their standing with the English government. As a Protestant scientist/mathematics teacher, Charles I could make their fellow church members’ positions quite uncomfortable. It’s possible that since Charles sold the rights to New England to the French, that János could lead a migration to Hungary/Transylvania in the NTL.

He was dealing with the effect of the mercury on gold and silver as well as different technological problems of chemistry. He was experimenting with the production of paints, glues, glass, and the creation of basic materials for medicine. One of his chemical formula can be found in the Bibliotheca Bodleiana in Oxford. He had a recognized name among the contemporary British scientists, and he was closely connected with Arthur and John Dee, William Lilly, John Booker, John Aubrey, and Jonathan Goddard. At the same time he was in everyday connection with his homeland and had been a great helper of Hungarian students in England.



János Bényei Deák  (?-1645)

A Reformed teacher and pastor. Educated in Hungary, he then taught in Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), 1630, and in Marosvásárhely (Tirgu Mures ), 1633.

He was a tutor of two sons (Zsigmond and György) of Prince György Rákóczi I at Gyulafehérvár, and he edited the Latin handbook of  Janua Linguarum Bilingvis, Latina et Hungarica with his pupils. He accompanied his students abroad, visiting the University of Leiden in 1634 and the University of Utrecht in 1635. Upon his return home, he became the second teacher in the college of Sárospatak in September, 1637. In his inaugural he made a speech about the “Merciful wisdom and the wise mercyness,” and he taught rhetoric among other things. He resigned in 1641 and became a pastor at Mád, and he was made a scrivener by the Diocese of Abaúj. He died of cholera in 1645. His life could have been quite altered by the Ring of Fire.



György Berényi (Bodok, 1601-1677)

Politician, writer. He learnt at Körmöcbánya (Upper Hungary) in a monasterial school and went abroad to an unknown university. Returning home, he became the castle captain of the aristocrat Forgach family, first at Sempte, then he served the Thurzó family at Temetvény as a captain.

He wrote a diary about the happenings of the Diet of Sopron (1634-35) and of the Diet of Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) between 1634 and 1638 where he was a delegate of Nyitra County. He became the leader of the county’s insurrection in 1641, and he was a delegate again on the 1642 Diet. He joined the royal army against Prince György Rákóczi I in 1643.

We can find him in Rákóczi’s service in 1646 but two years later returned to Vienna and got a dominium from the king in 1655 for it. Next year he was made a baron. He was successfully negotiating with Rákóczi on behalf of Emperor Leopold I in 1659. He became a royal advisor at the court in 1660. He seemed to change sides easily.



Gáspár Bojthi Veres (born 1595, died after 1640)

Teacher; secretary of Prince Gábor Bethlen and later court member of Prince Rákóczi I.

He studied in Debrecen from 1613, then from 1617 to 1620 he studied in Heidelberg, at Prince Gábor Bethlen’s expense. Returning home in 1621, he next became a tutor to István Bethlen and a teacher at Marosvásárhely. The prince made him his historian and a professor as well, at Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia). He was responsible for the archives of the local church. Prince Rákóczi I made use of his services as a secret envoy to Germany in 1640.



Tamás Borsos  

He was a teacher, the son of Prince Bethlen’s envoy, Tamás Borsos. He travelled abroad for ten years. He finished his studies at the University of Padua in 1632 where he got his physician and bachelor of arts degree. After returning home, he became a Unitarian teacher and dean in Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg). Here he wed Anna Ádám in 1638. He resigned from his dean position in that year and worked as a physician. At this time he began to write his diaries, keeping records of his family and contemporary history until 1647.



János Büringer

He started his studies at the University of Wittenberg in April, 1631. In the 1630s there were about three hundred Hungarians learning or teaching in Western schools: he was one of them. He was teaching between 1644-47 in Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica), Upper Hungary, then in Eperjes (Prjesov) in 1648. He became a notary public in Modor in 1651. Finally he taught at the Evangelical College of Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) until his death. János might make a good agent of change in Hungary if he became fascinated with the new technology available because of the Ring of Fire.



Péter Czack  (?-1636)

He was a writer and a member of a delegation in 1602 from Kassa (Kosice) to Lőcse (Levoca), escorting Peter Zabler. He was a skilled diplomat and in 1605 successfully negotiated with the Hajdu soldiers who were threatening his city, Lőcse (Levoca). We can see him among the city’s officials from 1606 until his death: he was in charge of taking care of the buildings’ and roads’ safety. He was a city judge between 1632-33. He kept a diary that has disappeared. It’s possible that his life could be expanded by medical knowledge learned from Grantville and/or that he becomes interested in America’s up-time building codes and road construction.



Anna Csáky

She was a nun of the Poor Claires, the daughter of Master of Treasury István Csáky and Anna Wesselényi. She joined the nunnery in Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) in 1625. She sent letters from there to her mother and brothers and to Gábor Vadas between 1639-71. We know twelve of her letters which bear witness of her high education.



Baccio (Bartholomeo) del Bianco (1604-1656)

He was a painter, a stucco-artist, an architect, and a military engineer. He was born in Florence and he got his artistic education there. He became the assistant of Giovanni Battista Pieroni and set out to find his luck in the Holy Roman Empire in 1620.

The Council of War assigned him to examine the castles and walls in Hungary. He made scale models of Mosonmagyaróvár and Pozsony and was working on the walls of Győr, Sopron, and Komárom. Later he and Pieroni worked on the fortifications of Prague. At this time, 1623-30, Andrea Spezza was building Wallenstein’s palace in Prague, between. They got work here, too: Pieroni had designed the stanza of the garden while Baccio del Bianco made the stuccos of the central great hall between 1629-30.

Then he returned to Italy and taught architecture and fortification building in Florence. He designed the plans for the facade of the cathedral in Florence. He joined the court of Phillip IV of Spain in 1650 where he was organizing festivities and designing gardens until his death. As an architect and artist he probably would have been fascinated by the technological advancements made possible by the up-timers.



Johann Heinrich Alsted (John Henry Alsted, Alstedius)

(Ballersbach, 1588-Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), 1638)

He was a German Protestant theologian and philosopher and epitomized what would now be called a Renaissance man. He was teaching between 1629-1638 at the College of Gyulafehérvár where he had come with Heinrich Bisterfeld and Ludwig Piscator at Prince Bethlen’s invitation. He created numerous encyclopedic works regarding theology and philosophy, which were well-known at the time. We know of three hundred fifty-five of his works.



Tamás Borsos  (born in Marosvásárhely in 1566, died sometime after 1633)

He was a notary public and city judge in Transylvania, and also acted as Prince Bethlen’s envoy to the Turks.



Mihály Dálnoki Nagy

He studied at the Unitarian college of Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg), then travelled to Italy in 1631 and studied at Padova. He returned in February, 1637. He became the president of the university. In 1645 he was studying the solar eclipse and was almost totally blinded. He was famous for his remarkable memory and for teaching philosophy. He was a pastor from 1646 on. Knowledge from Grantville would have (hopefully) saved him from losing his eyesight and certainly would have expanded his thoughts on philosophy.



Péter Debreczeni (Debrecen, 1608-?)

He was a Protestant pastor who studied in Debrecen (located in Turkish-occupied land) and became a teacher there. He was learning in western universities from 1636 on (Leiden, Franeker). He was a pastor at Munkacs (Munkacevo) in 1647 and in 1649 and perhaps in 1666 as well. Later he was pastor at Técső.



István Deselvics  

A Protestant pastor from Győr, in 1630 he was studying at the University of Leipzig, then came home and became the court pastor of Count György Széchy, the Lord of Murány Castle.



Zsuzsánna Dóczi

A poet in the Trans-Danubian region, her religious songs can be found in the Codex Lugosy of 1635.



Count Miklós Draskovits (1595-1659)

A poet, he was in school in 1608 when he wrote a poem for the nobleman, Ferenc Forgács. He was said to be an envoy of this nobleman. His wife was Erzsébet Endrődy.



Dániel Dubravius

Lutheran bishop from Zsolna (Upper Hungary). His parents gave him a nice education. He went abroad to learn and returned in 1619. He was teaching in Breznóbánya and in Bánóc in 1630. Then he became a pastor for Count Predmirre, and from there he went to Szenic. He had to run away from there because of his religion. Finally, he was elected bishop in Bánóc in 1648. He was a great orator and had a good knowledge of the Bible. He was a humble person and dressed in very cheap clothes.



Mátyás Duchon

Lutheran poet from Nyitra county (Upper Hungary). His brother was Florián Duchon, a Lutheran pastor. He gained the title of doctor and was famous for smaller poems.



János Fabinus (?-1644)

Lutheran pastor. His ancestor came from Poprád (Upper Hungary). He was studying in Boroszló in 1630. He was shot down at Illésháza by one of the hussars of Rákóczi.



Ambrus Földvári

Protestant pastor from the first part of the seventeenth century who wrote epic poems and translated the Catechisatio, Theologia, and Theologicum Examen of Guillelmus Bucanus into the Hungarian language. These works were never printed and were entirely lost.



Pál Fráter (?-1658)

Soldier, poet. He was the son of a Transylvanian judge, and his mother was Ilona Horváth Suselich. He was a soldier at several points during the reign of Prince György Rákóczi I.

In 1634 he was arrested because he was accused of being a friend of István Bethlen, the enemy of the prince. He was imprisoned in his own castle from where he escaped to Royal Hungary.

It was during his exile when he wrote his poetic letter to Anna Barcsay. Later he became a confidential advisor of Prince György Rákóczi II, the next ruler, and he was given the leadership of the Hajdu soldiers. He got his lands back in 1654, after the campaign in Moldova. There are lots of different possibilities for this character post-Ring of Fire.



Pál Keresztúri Bíró (?-1655)

Protestant preacher, distinguished educator and famous for his polemics.

He studied in Debrecen, where he became a student of theology in 1617. He became president of the students in 1620 and returned to his home village to teach in 1622. He went to Bréma, Germany, in 1624 and to the Netherlands. The following year he took a longer trip in England and came home in the summer of 1626. He set out again in 1627, presumably sent by Prince Gábor Bethlen. He became a student at the University of Leiden and came home during the late summer of 1629 to become the leading teacher of the University of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), in the capital of Transylvania.

He was instructing the children of Prince György Rákóczi I from the summer of 1634 on. In this court-school the children of the Prince studied together with the children of the Transylvanian nobility. He became the court-priest of the next ruler, Prince György Rákóczi II, at Várad. He moved to Gyulafehérvár in 1648 and took charge again of leading the court school.

His theology consisted of a synthesis of traditional Reformed thought and Puritanism. He firmly represented the theological inheritance of the traditional Protestantism. It was not enough for him just to know the theory in all details but he was urging people to consider these principles very thoroughly and make them into a personalized religious experience. This experience was supposed to be obtained continuously, with a very close-to-God feeling. In his preachings he emphasized the Puritan moral views and not the prophetic zeal. He highlighted that a Christian man should spend his life in constant spiritual activity. He debated with his Jesuit adversaries both theologically and politically. He defended the writings of Prince György Rákóczi I, too.

In his pedagogics he thought that physical punishment should be avoided and rather than that, placidity and motivation should be applied. He didn’t consider the children “small adults” as they had been considered in the Middle Ages. In his pedagogics he used the sense of humor, the good mood, and playing, more open-mindedly than others. He thought that the attention of the children should be attracted all the time. His thinking was similar to Comenius’ slogan:  “Omnia sponte fluant, absit violentia rebus” or: “Let everything go on and let the violence be far away.”

He didn’t teach reading and writing apart from each other, but taught them side by side. His students had to learn first in Hungarian and later in Latin. In teaching a language he put the emphasis on talking skills rather than making the children memorize the grammar. He may have been the first who taught the basics of modern languages this way. He taught the languages of neighboring nations and the “civilized nations’ ” languages as well: Romanian, Polish, Turkish, German, French, and English were taught in his school.



Gáspár Madách (1590-1641)

He was a juryman, judge, and a representative of the Diet of Upper Hungary. He was a comes (count) from 1636, the familiaris of the aristocrat Simon Balassa, the director of his properties of Kékkő Castle. He wrote poems in Hungarian and in Czech languages:  these writings were not considered the best poems on Earth.


Some Final Thoughts:


The Hungarian heroism against the Ottoman Empire allowed the civilized Western monarchs to fight their political/religious wars for thirty years.

As a result of the Ring of Fire, the Prince of Transylvania would have learned that after these wars the Austrians would drive the Turks out after the siege of Vienna in 1683. Once Buda was retaken, Hungary would be liberated by the allied European crusaders. Contemporary sources agreed that this “liberation” caused greater misery and destruction across Hungary than the long Turkish occupation, not forgetting the Serbian attacks and massacres that followed it in the 1700s.

After forcing the Turks out, Hungary would lose the last bits of its independence and even Transylvania would fall into the hands of the Habsburgs, who, after putting down two major wars of independence (1704-1711 and 1848-49), would finally force Hungary into their monarchy, taking control over foreign, military, and financial affairs. They had only been able to create their monarchy with the Russian tsar’s help.

Hungarians would learn through the Ring of Fire that the Austrian Habsburgs would bleed them dry for three hundred years in defense of Christendom and then drag them into the First World War. Hungary was the only country in 1919 that shrank back to a smaller size than what it had been after 1541, with the allied American and West European politicians signed the Treaty of Versailles which took away seventy-four percent of its territory.

The Habsburgs were common enemies of Hungary and the USE, and the Turks could have been manipulated into crushing them. Obviously, there were either no negotiations with the Grantvillers before 1637 or they were kept completely secret. Either the Habsburgs or the Turks could have succeeded in stopping or hindering them.

It would be very much in the prince’s interest to use the Turks to destroy the Habsburgs. Of course, he would have asked for a high price from the sultan for letting them through. Who knows how many cities, villages, and strategic castles would be returned to the Transylvanians in exchange for the passage to Vienna? Who knows how many Hungarians could be saved from the Muslims’ slavery? How much stronger would his power grow?




The following books have given me a great help in writing my article:

Péter Katalin: “A magyar romlásnak százada” Budapest, 1979

Péter Katalin: “Esterházy Miklós” Budapest, 1985

Hegyi Klára: “Egy Világbirodalom végvidékén” Budapest, 1976

Újváry Zsuzsanna: “Nagy két császár birodalmi között” Budapest, 1984

Bitskey István: “Pázmány Péter” Budapest, 1986

Makkai László: “Bethlen Gábor emlékezete” Budapest, 1980

Nagy László: “Megint fölszánt magyar világ van” (Társadalom és hadsereg a 17.század első felének Habsburg-ellenes küzdelmeiben) Budapest, 1985

Földi Pál: “Zrínyi Miklós” Budapest, 2015

Földi Pál: “Tündérkert őrzői” Debrecen, 2014

Földi Pál: “Végvárak vitézei” Debrecen, 2014

Nagy László: “A török világ végnapjai Magyarországon” Budapest, 1986

Nagy László: “Hajdú vitézek” Budapest, 1986

Nagy László: “Kard és szerelem” Budapest, 1985

ifj. Barta János: “Buda visszavétele” Budapest, 1985

Somogyi Győző: “Végvári vitézek 1526-1686” Budapest, 2014

Somogyi Győző: “Az erdélyi fejedelemség hadserege 1559-1690” Budapest, 2013

Benda Kálmán: “Magyarország történeti kronológiája 1.-2. kötet” Budapest, 1981

Szerecz Miklós: “Vitézség tüköri: Zrínyitől Rákócziig” (kézirat)

Please, visit this page for pictures of castles and other information:****


The Monster Under the Bed

 The Monster Under the Bed banner v2

On Top of a Little Boy’s Bed, Bamberg, July, 1636


Joseph Drahuta knew how old he was—nine, but he also knew how old he felt—older.

First, there had been the entire Ring of Fire thing, when his entire life changed down to his underwear. Who would have thought elastic waistbands were such a big thing?

And socks! Who would have thought that even socks would change?

From toilet paper to a change in diet, he had grown used to the lack of television and no cell phones and riding horses instead of cars.

Then there had been his adopted brother and sister, which led to the whole sharing a bed thing.

Ulrich snored lightly beside him.

Joseph Drahuta was used to sharing a bed by now. It certainly was warmer on cold nights when there was no heating like he was used to, only creeping cold that seemed to be everywhere. In the summer, though, things were different. Joey turned toward the edge of his bed where it was cooler.

“Hey,” Joseph whispered, “do you still hear ‘em?”

The silence from under his bed was disturbing. The initial sounds, when they came, startled him even though Joseph knew well this ‘monster’ under his bed.

This ‘monster’ was, after all, the shortstop on his little league team. At least baseball had survived the Ring of Fire.

“Yes,” the monster answered, finally, “but not so loud and not so much. I think the tea was stronger this time. The tea tastes horrible.”

Joseph listened to Ulrich’s soft snoring. Ulrich was used to crowded beds and bedrooms and could sleep through almost anything.

“Momma says you’re . . . schiz . . . schizophrenic . . .” Joseph struggled but he had been practicing for some time. The word was even harder to spell but he could, at least, say it.

“I thought the voices were God . . .” the monster whispered with a certain determined reverence. “. . . if the voices were from God . . . the tea would not stop Him.”

“What do the voices say now?”

“The same. They are just softer now. I can pretend they aren’t real now. Playing baseball helps. You have to keep thinking in baseball. Thank you for letting me hide under your bed.”

“Sure,” Joseph stated, “any time. There’s a big game tomorrow.”

The silence from the monster under his bed was unnerving.

“I know,” the monster said, finally. “The voices don’t like me playing baseball. The voices say it is a sin against Hashem to play when I could be reading the Torah. I tell them it is a sin to pretend to hear the voice of God. Amen.”

Joseph took a deep breath. It was always dangerous to talk religion with Shabby, the monster under his bed, when he was like this—in the middle, between listening to the voices and ignoring them.

“It scares the other team when you shout verses from the Torah.” Joseph laughed slightly.

TMUtBzb“I know . . .” Shabbethai Zebi, the monster under the bed, said with a smile you could almost see in the darkness of the bedroom, even when it came from the monster under the bed.


A Somewhat Larger Bedroom, Bamberg, July, 1636


Meanwhile, in another bedroom, larger with a larger bed that refused to move despite what was happening upon its surface . . .

“Thank you for not trying to wear the spurs this time,” Julie stated breathlessly. “The arguing just wastes time, Norman, and they ruin the blankets . . .”

“I could still get them . . .”

The answering slap was quite loud.

“How do you still find this all funny, Norman? Talk about mental health issues . . . You are a walking, talking DSM full of psychiatric problems, Norman. Worse, you got your daughter thinking it’s funny, too. Karla has enough problems with simply heating water on a stove let alone wearing armor like her dad.”

“Funny? Sex? With you? That’s never funny . . .”

This time the slap was intercepted. Norman Drahuta giggled and even avoided the other hand.

“Norman . . . let go of my hand . . .”


There were, in the dark room, the sounds of a largely friendly struggle then silence.

“At least the bed doesn’t squeak,” Julie finally stated, somewhat breathlessly.

“This bed would stop a tank. They don’t even bother to dress the trees in this century. They chop it down and force it into furniture here. It’s like . . . trying to sleep in a bunker. I think I could get the horse on this bed and it wouldn’t squeak. You know . . . didn’t Catherine the Great . . .”

This time, the slap connected. There were, in the dark room, the sounds of a largely friendly struggle then silence.

The knock at the door was largely anticlimactic but accepted with a certain reluctance.

“You think it’s the neighbors?” Norman giggled.

“No,” Julie growled, “it’s probably Karla. I bet her face hurts. Who is it?”

“Ma . . .” came the muffled reply. The doors, even the interior ones in a place like this, were not hollow core garbage found up-time. You could, conceivably, bar this door and guarantee all but the most determined attempt at entry would be dissuaded. “. . . Ma . . .”

“Pull the blanket over yourself, for Christ’s sake . . . come in!”

The door opened slowly but not for dramatic effect. It was heavy, and Karla was barely seven. There weren’t even the sounds of scampering, childish feet. The floor wouldn’t notice a herd of Karlas stampeding across it. You required a solid, thick floor to support a bed like this one.

The bed barely noticed her pouncing upon it and clambering across its rumpled expanse.

“What is it this time, Karla?” Julie demanded of her daughter.

“Joey’s got Shabby under his bed, Ma,” Karla said breathlessly. The bed was not something to be crossed lightly. Such things took time.

“Shabbethai does that, sometimes, after he takes his medicine, Karla. We’ve had this discussion before. Now why are you up?”

“I heard them giggling in there,” Karla stated suspiciously. “He’s scary when he giggles like that. He’s like a monster under the bed.”

“They are probably talking baseball. Now, why are you up? How’s your face? Is it bothering you?”

“It stings little. I miss my bed . . . back home in Grantville. And Sibylla snores. Sometimes she talks in her sleep, too. She talks in German. You got Joey a little brother why did you have to get me an older sister? She’s mean. We could still adopt a younger sister. Can’t we?”

“Sibylla put out the fire, didn’t she?” Norman was trying very hard not to laugh.

“That wasn’t my fault! If Sibby wasn’t always yelling at me I would’ve been able to concentrate more . . . and it wasn’t really a fire . . . really. It was just real . . . Stop laughing, Daddy! My whole face almost burned off!”

“At least you have one eyebrow left,” Julie muttered. “Snuggle up and don’t get the goop on the blankets.”

There were, in the dark room, the sounds of a largely friendly snuggle then silence.

“What are we going to do about that monster under the bed?” Julie whispered.

“Get him his own bed?” Karla asked, nestled between her two parents.

“People in town are watching you and him like cats watching twitching string. They want to see if this ‘medicine’ thing works or not. It seems a lot of people ‘hear voices’ in seventeenth-century Germany. That ‘tea’ is gonna be popular, I bet. I can’t believe my little wifey is introducing pysch-meds to the world.”

“Call me wifey again, and I will introduce the world to level four trauma centers,” Julie growled.

“Mom didn’t mean that, Daddy,” Karla stated from her position of authority. “That was her funny voice.”

“If you are going to be here, Karla, then less talking and more listening. Better yet . . . go to sleep. Sleep helps healing time. If you think real hard maybe you’ll grow a new eyebrow before your brother makes a comedy routine out of it.”

“Is the lithium working?” Norman asked.

TMUtltm“He says the voices aren’t as loud. That goes along with what I know, which isn’t that much, about schizophrenia and lithium treatment. I just don’t know how much lithium I am giving him. I am driving on ice, on a mountain road, blind here. I have to talk to Stoner about extracting lithium. I heard you can get it from sea salt or something . . . seaweed . . . I remember hearing some holistic guy talk about natural supplements and treatment of schizophrenia. That’s how I heard about the seaweed thing. I am going to have to be the whole damn FDA, too.”

“You shouldn’t use bad words . . . hey!” Karla whined.

“Next time it will be your face I slap. Now be quiet and go to sleep.”

“That’s child abuse . . .” Karla muttered.

“She has a point, dear,” Norman nodded ‘loudly’ enough to almost be seen in the darkness of the room. The bed, far too sturdy, didn’t move at all despite his nodding.

“In this day and age I would use a stick and be considered affectionate,” Julie grumbled. “The definitions of child abuse and even the term ‘child’ are very different now.”

“And human experimentation,” Norman told his wife, “don’t forget that. I doubt you would get anyone to support you testing drugs on a kid up-time. Now? Even the pack of Rabbis are listening and watching carefully. Hell, some of the Germans think you should use Jews to experiment on. Makes for some interesting conversation, let me tell you. The CoC gets involved, and things get tense from there.”

“They are not a pack of Rabbis,” Julie grumbled.

“Shabby calls them . . .” Karla began.

“Do not repeat what he calls them. It isn’t nice . . . even in Yiddish. There are some who think I should dose him with something stronger . . . like Drano or something. Solve the whole ‘Son of God’ thing once and for all.”

“Do you think Shabby was really hearing the voice of God?” Karla asked in stark, though largely unseen, defiance of her mother’s previous and horrific edict concerning silence and the punishments for violating it.

“According to the histories . . . a lot of people thought so,” Julie said softly. “He was a worldwide sensation.”

“Wow, you shut up God, Mama,” Karla whispered.

“Yeah, but I can’t seem to shut you up or stop you from trying to go all Joan of Arc in my own damn kitchen!”

There were, in the dark room, the sounds of careful consideration, then silence.

“Go to sleep, Karla. Tomorrow is a new day full of opportunities to incinerate more meals,” Julie Drahuta grumbled. “And, Norman, you say one more damn thing and I will slap you someplace as painful as Karla’s face! Now let’s get some sleep!”

“You say that now but a little while ago you . . .”

“Norman?” Julie whispered. “Do you want your daughter to see her mother kill her daddy?”

“That’s her serious voice, Daddy. I’d listen to her.”


A Little Help From His Friends

A Little Help From His Friends banner

Near Magdeburg

November, 1634


“Hey, Linus! Where is the sergeant?”

Becker sighed. The party had gone on until around two in the morning, and somewhere in that time, Hartmann had vanished. “Josef, does it look like I have been assigned to keep track of him?” He picked up the stack of plates, carrying them over to the tray that had held snacks, and was now filling up with dirty dishes. “If he felt the need for company, he could ask. Now take this tray to the women before I thump you.”

Jawohl, Herr Wachtmeister!

Becker looked toward the door. He didn’t even have to think about where his sergeant had gone. He knew. Poor bastard.


Snow had begun to fall, the graveyard becoming a white expanse in the early morning. One set of feet were walking through it, and they paused at the gravestone. Hartmann knelt, then sat, leaning on the stone, only it and death separated him from the people he loved the most. He set down the rifle, drew out his new pipe, and filled it. Then before he took out his lighter, he drew a flask from another inner pocket, pouring schnapps into a small glass he had dug into the soil in front of the stone.

“I love the present. I wish Alexander were still alive; I would have liked to thank him.” He sighed, looking up into the clouds. “I miss you.” He opened the flask, tapped the glass with it. “To us forever.”


Hartmann looked at the sign; Die graue Katze. He snorted. Because all cats are gray in the dark. Maybe there was a more stupid name for a whorehouse, but he couldn’t think of one. What in the hell was Hamner of all people doing here?

He pushed open the door. The inside was all warm wood, tapestries, and the smell of furniture polish. One man, built like an ox and looking about as bright, watched him. If he had begun chewing a cud, Hartmann would have turned and walked right back out.

“Welcome, Sergeant!” The woman who came into the hall was full-fleshed, with a wide open face and brilliant smile. “You I have not seen. Are you new to Magdeburg?”

“I have been here almost a year,” Hartmann replied. “I am looking for someone.”

“Everyone who graces our establishment is looking for someone, Sergeant. It is the nature of the business.”

He sighed. “Madam, I am looking for a man.” Even as he said, it, he knew he had stated it wrong.

The smile slipped. “Sergeant, we do not serve your kind here. However—”

She stopped as Hartmann raised his hand. “No. I am looking for a particular man. Wachtmeister Hamner, who told his friends he would be here.”

At the name, the woman’s smile returned. “Ah! Michel! I am sorry, Sergeant, we get all kinds of people coming here. I am Sophia, the proprietor.” She hooked her arm through his, and like a tugboat began to drag him. They passed into another room.

There were six women in the next room, all under-dressed to show off the wares. The women watched him with the same predatory air he had seen from wolves in winter, wondering how he might taste. The madam pulled him through, and the instant they reached the halfway point, the women ignored him as if he didn’t exist.

Down a hall, then to a door that led into a dining room. Instead of men and women enjoying a meal before their sport, a dozen boys and girls from around eleven to seventeen were seated heads down, writing. The woman motioned for silence. At the other end of the table, Hamner sat in uniform, glancing up, then at an hourglass before him. He stood, walking quietly to where his sergeant stood. “Just another few minutes please, Sergeant.”

Hamner returned to the end of the table, and as the last sand fell he spoke. “Pencils down. Pass the papers to this end, please.” Obediently the children did as instructed. “Now, go to your work. I will grade these tonight.” He motioned, and they stood, the lines of silent, attentive students suddenly becoming a swarm of giggling children as they fled.

“When I heard you were in a whorehouse this early in the evening, I imagined something else.”

Hamner blushed. “I am affianced, Sergeant, and she lives less than three blocks away. I will allow you to imagine what she would do.”

“So what you have been doing?”

“I made my living as a tutor before I joined the Army, Sergeant. Madam Schreiber had spoken to the CoC here in the capital, hoping to find someone who could help the older children who had no chance of an education so they would not fall too far behind. They are paying me a stipend per student.”

“Which he spends here on tea and snacks for the children,” the madam commented. “And once a week he teaches my girls how to speak and read other languages.”

“I don’t know how your new commanding officer will feel about that,” Hartmann said softly.

“Sergeant?” Hamner looked stunned. “You are going to kick me out of the company?”

“Nothing so harsh.” Hartmann pulled a folder from his tunic and passed it over. “You have been transferred to the Third Division.”


“Some of their regiments are still being organized. All of us from officers down to sergeants have been asked to recommend men to transfer.”


Hartmann smiled, but it was that gentle smile those who had known him for a while rarely saw. “As a sergeant, Michel. They may call it something else, but the top enlisted man in the company.”

Hamner clutched the folder to his chest. “I will try to follow your example.”

“Oh, I am not done with you yet.” Hartmann commented, hands behind his back, rocking heel to toe in what his noncoms had begun calling the sergeant’s training pose. “Since you are leaving, who would you suggest for a replacement?”

“Kohlner.” Hamner said instantly.

“Explain your choice.”

“Sometimes he is adamant that he is right, and it took time to teach him otherwise. However, he pays attention when he is instructed and asks good questions. If others are too slow to understand, he is willing to explain until the last trump, though after four or five times, he does get a bit upset.”

“Will he grow out of it?” Hartmann’s eyes bored into the younger man.

“In time,” Hamner grinned. “I did.”

“I agree.” Hartmann stuck out his hand. “Do me proud, Sergeant.” Hamner shook his hand. “Now I have to tell Becker he is going to Third Company. I wonder if he is as observant as you.”

“But first, we must celebrate!” The madam bustled out, then returned with a dusty bottle. She pulled the cork and poured. “Madeira wine, Sergeants.” She handed them the glasses, then lifted her own. “Would you decide the toast, Sergeant? Or shall I?”

Hartmann looked at the earnest face. “Absent friends.” He drained the glass, set it down, and left.

“Such a self-controlled man. He walked through the antechamber without leering even once! His wife must be proud.”

“She was.” At her look, he added, “She died days before Ahrensbök.”

The woman looked at the closed door. “There must be something we can do about that.”


Suddenly, it seemed, Hartmann was a prize catch for a dinner partner.

He’d had dinner with his lieutenant and of course Colonel Ludendorf, both with family. But considering his relationship with them, it would have been a surprise only because of his rank. But suddenly he was inundated with invitations even from civilians who would come up to him on the streets! He had gone to three before he saw the pattern.

All had an unmarried woman younger than him as his table partner. If asked from that point on, he merely said he was busy—which was true. The personal invitations stopped, but that wasn’t the end of it. Instead, there came letters.

Frankly, it was beginning to irritate him. He had one of the feldwebel from his company going through them and told him that if any of them mentioned “perhaps you would like to meet my sister-cousin-niece-good friend Frau Whatever-the-hell-her-name-was,” they would be set aside to use to start the fire in the orderly room after he dashed off a quick note saying he was busy. If someone slipped one in without the mentioned woman, he would arrive, stay a polite amount of time, make his apologies, and leave.

Worse yet, both the company and the training company had found out, and there was a lot of whispering that stopped when he was seen.

He was lucky about Christmas at least. One of the letters had been from Bobby Hollering to invite him to Grantville. By then almost all of the training for his present unit would be done.



December, 1634


Hartmann climbed down from the train. It was a wonder. A seven-day trip in less than two. He swung the scabbard of his rifle aside to allow those boarding for the return trip to Magdeburg to pass. Ahead was one of the horse-drawn carriages, and he whistled.

He stopped the cab at the bottom of the hill. While one of the cars the up-timers used could have taken the hill, a horse-drawn one would have struggled. He climbed it on foot with few problems.

The shack was still there, and he noticed the smoke rising from the small metal chimney. Had Kirsten and the others stayed this long? He was about to knock when he heard a plaintive meow. Kočka stood there, her paws on his boot, looking up at him.

ALHfhFct“Kočka.” He knelt beside the door, her head pushing against his hand. But she kept walking toward the rear looking down the hill, meowing, then returning for more stroking. “You miss her, too.” he whispered. The cat allowed him to pick her up—a rare event—and he held her to his chest. Hartmann felt his eyes tear up, and he buried his face against her fur. “I cannot bring her back,” he whispered.

“Minuette? What is wrong this time?” The door opened, and Hartmann looked up. Kirsten stood there, the baby held against her hip. “Oh, Richard!” She stepped down, then hugged the man as he stood. She let him go, backing up. “Henri!”

Poirot looked out, then stepped down, hand out. “Please be welcome to enter our home,” he said in halting German.

“Thank you.”

The younger man smiled and ushered him in. The shack had been cozy with just Marta and Hartmann, well, and Kočka. But he got a glimpse of what could have been. One of the up-timers had made a hanging cradle for little Marta, with enough space for her to grow into for a year or more.

But with three adults, it was like being in a full closet.

Even crowded, Hartmann felt content, watching them both while sitting at the table with Henri perched on the edge of the bed sharing tea. Kirsten stood to go to the tea kettle, and for a moment, when she turned back with a teapot and cups, Hartmann saw himself watching Marta as he held his son, and she looked at him in happiness.



He shook his head. “Sorry, just letting my mind wander.”

Kirsten leaned across, touching his hand gently. “You saw her for a moment.”

“Yes, and our son.” He smiled sadly. “It was the most peaceful I have been since she died.”

“Well . . .” Henri tried to break the melancholy mood. “If you give us a day, you can have your home back again.”

“Nonsense. I am only in town for a few days. Stay here with my blessing. I will talk to the landlady and let her know.” Hartmann flinched when Kočka jumped up onto his lap.

“I see Minuette likes you. It had taken weeks before she accepted us.” She looked stricken. “But that is not her name, is it?”

“I always just called her Kočka, which is Czech for cat. You gave her a real name.” He smiled gently scratching her ears. “I also called her žárlivý žena, which is jealous wife. Does she still sit on the table and steal butter?” The grins they gave him were answer enough.

“I did not know you were here. I just came by to see her,” he said, stroking the cat the way she liked it. “So I will be on my way.”

“Wait!” Kirsten leaped up, went to a chest in the corner, and brought him back a book. He took it, and opened the cover. “Polyxandres: The Trip to the Future.”

“My master had it printed here first to assure you would get the very first copy,” Henri commented. He opened the book to a page entitled “The Ferocious Yet Gentle Warrior” bookmarked with a letter. “And he said farewell to you in his letter.”

“Did he at least stay long enough to see the railroad completed?”

“He left the town just after it had been announced. In fact, he probably rode it to Magdeburg on his way home.”

“And you stayed?” Hartmann asked gently.

ALHfhFcrssHenri reached into his shirt and pulled out an oddly shaped cross. “Monsieur, I am a Huguenot. If this were seen in public in Catholic France, I could be dragged before the Inquisition.” He put it away. “I would like to stay alive.”

“And we could get married here, even if we are of different faiths,” Kirsten said. “Marta was christened in the Presbyterian church, so her soul is safe. Now Henri and I work for the library, translating books written in German into French and Danish.” She giggled. “We even think of future demand; when one of us is asked to translate, I read it, and as I do, I translate it into Danish, he into French. Then we tell the library so if anyone asks, the translation already exists, and we get royalties when they purchase it.”

Hartmann stood. “I must go.” The couple stood, and Hartmann reached out, gently rubbing the baby’s cheek. “Long life, little one.” Then he hugged the girl, shook hands with the man, and headed down the hill.

“I feel such sorrow for him, Kirsten whispered.

“He feels the pain, but will let no one know it is there,” Henri commented.

They looked to each other. “We cannot leave him in such pain,” Kirsten said.


His next stop was at the home of Bobby Hollering. Cassandra hugged him with their young son in her arms, which as an almost five-year-old, he protested at the top of his lungs. “Hush Bobby Hay, or you’ll get swatted.”

The child kept complaining loudly.

Hartmann knelt down, eyes even with the struggling boy until he had the child’s attention. “Stop that,” he said sharply. The boy shut up, and Hartmann continued in a tone of voice that can only be called You-Will-Obey. “Now I have some business to conduct with your father, and I see no reason I should have to shout because you want to scream. So we will make a contract, you and I. You will sit silent and obedient until my business is done, and afterward if you have behaved, and your parents agree, you can see this—” He lifted his shoulder to make the sheathed rifle bounce. “—in action.”

The boy considered and his wriggling stopped, then he tapped his mother’s arm. “I accept, Sergeant. Would you please put me down, Mama?” Cassie gave a bemused smile as she set him down. “May I escort you to my father, Sergeant?”

“Lead the way.”

As they headed toward the entrance to the garage, Cassie shook her head and chuckled. “I expected him to tan little Bobby Hay’s hide! It’s a pity his wife died—he would have made one hell of a father.”


“Hello, Richard.” Bobby Hollering leaped to his feet and shook his hand. Then he looked at his son standing quiet. “And that ain’t usual. Why did you stop caterwauling?”

“I had a discussion with the boy.” Hartmann looked down. “And he agreed to behave, at least as long as I am here.” The boy’s head bounced a nod like a bobble-headed doll.

“Pity you don’t live in town. You could start a military school, and he would be your first student. So, let me see her.”

Hartmann opened the flap on the doeskin case and drew out the rifle he had gotten as a birthday gift. Bobby took it, opened the breech and looked down the barrel. “What does she fire?”

“Fifty-two caliber, four hundred forty grain bullet, with a powder charge of eighty grains.”

“Workable. Though back in 1997 when they tested the Sharps rifle they found out that the heavier five hundred and fifty worked better for long range.” He went to a box against the wall. “I bought a Creedmoor Vernier sight for a friend in Fairmont. Of course, he got left up-time.” The gunsmith, like a wizard of legend, ignored him as he marked the stock of the rifle, drilled two holes, and anchored the long-range sight. “Looks like they just copied the Buffalo rifle cartridge. Sharps made a cartridge that could take up to one hundred grains. Means we can too. But no loads from them, right?” Hartmann nodded. “I have a reloading kit made up for the rifle. So that is not a problem.” He worked silently. An up-timer had commented once, “Never meddle in the affairs of a wizard,” and Hartmann understood it now.

Bobby Hollering turned around. “Now the rubber hits the road. We can shoot using their top load of eighty grains of powder. You will have to use it in combat to figure the difference with one hundred grains. That needs a decent range. I have permission from the city council, so I have a section of the ring wall as a backstop.” He looked down at his son, who was bouncing on his toes like someone preparing for a race. “Got something to say, squirt?”

“Sergeant Hartmann said I could see the rifle shooting!”

He looked at the boy, then at Hartmann. “Well, Richard? Bobbie Hay don’t lie unless it’s something he really wants.”

Hartmann smiled. “I did say that he could watch, with your permission.”

“Then get your winter gear, Boy! We’re goin’ into the snow!” The boy squealed with glee, running into the house. Bobby watched him. “You made his day, Richard.”

Hartmann watched him as well. “Can you load one round light so he can shoot it without being hurt?”

Bobby looked at him, then grinned. “Hand me one of yours. I’ll reload it afterward.” By the time the boy returned, the special cartridge was in his father’s pocket. The trio headed out to Bobby’s shooting range. There were targets from a hundred yards up to five hundred.

To someone who was not an aficionado, it was as interesting as watching paint dry. Hartmann would fire a round, Hollering would comment either up or down, check the wind, and give directions left or right. Hartmann would adjust the sight and fire again. Then Hollering would say, “Good enough,” and Hartmann would make a note of where the sight was set. They did it at every range from two hundred yards out to five hundred. After the third or fourth shot, Bobby Hay just paced back and forth grumbling.

Bobby Hollering nodded. “It’s all good, now.” He leaned away from the spotting scope, then glanced at his son. “Want to let him shoot one?”

Hartmann didn’t answer the man. “Robert.” He lifted the rifle and waggled it. “Want to fire it once?”

“Can I?”

“It’s may I?” Hollering corrected, and the boy repeated obediently.

Hartmann had the boy kneel, using the sandbag rest. He lowered the long range sight; the round was only twenty grains of powder, less than half of the original Sharps rifle. He patiently walked the boy through it—rifle tight against the shoulder, aligning the sights, breathing, being gentle, and squeezing the trigger-

The gun fired. The bullet hit the one hundred yard target about two inches low, punctuated by Bobby Hay grumbling, “Owie!” over and over.

“Good enough for a first shot. I can teach you to improve that.”

“Now?” The boy was rubbing his shoulder, but had eyes seeing a future where he was as good a shot.

Hartmann chuckled, hefting the boy up into the air. “When you get older, perhaps” He poked the boy in the stomach causing him to giggle. “First, you need to get some more meat on your bones. A stiff wind would blow you away.”

“Airplane!” The boy cried.

Hartmann looked to the gunsmith, who told him how to do it. So for five minutes, he held the cheerfully screaming boy by one arm and leg, spinning in a circle.


“I don’t believe it.” Cassie said, putting her arms around Bobby from the back as they watched Hartmann splitting wood and Bobby Hay grabbing the pieces to carry to the stacked cordwood. “Most of the time I think Bobby Hay just puts up with people. But you should have seen it—him in the middle of one of his tantrums, and Hartmann just knelt down, gave him that sergeant look, used that sergeant voice of his and the boy just shut up.”

“No threats?”

“He didn’t have to. After all, he was here for the sight and staying until just after Christmas, and that meant shooting. He just offered that if Bobby Hay behaved, he might get to take a shot. It seems he just treats a kid like a half-trained recruit and talks to them as if they were adults.” She looked wistful. “It’s a pity about his wife. He’d be a wonderful father.”

“Well, we do have the Christmas party.” Bobby looked down at her stiffened arms. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh, my God. The presents!” She charged inside as Hartmann and the boy came up on the porch, setting down the last of the wood. Before Bobby could try to stop him, Hartmann was inside.

Cassie was digging frantically in the presents under the tree. She had grabbed out two, turned, and saw him watching her curiously. She looked at them, then dropped to her knees, crying silently.

“Cassandra? What is wrong?”

She looked at him, and if anything the waterworks went into overtime. The three men just looked at her. “Bobby Hay.”

“Yes, Sergeant?”

“Get your mother a handkerchief.”

The boy ran off, returning with the item.

“I’m sorry, Richard.”

“About what?”

She held the gifts up helplessly. “I don’t buy Christmas presents at the end of the year like a lot of people. I see something I think they will like and pick it up.” She hiccuped, looking at him sadly. “I saw something m-Marta would have liked right after she left to join you, so I bought it. When I heard she was pregnant, I went over to the Bowers home, and Mary Sue knitted some things for . . .” She dropped the brightly wrapped packages and held her face in her hands as she cried.

Hartmann knelt, facing her. “And you thought I would be offended.” He took out the pipe Marta had sent literally from the grave. “But she sent me a birthday present. Why should you doing this bother me?”

“But you don’t keep poking at a wound!” She looked up as if seeing if he understood, then down again in her misery. “How can you heal from losing the woman you love, and the baby you never got to see if we won’t let you?”

Hartmann lifted her chin. “She is with me now.” He touched the bowl where Marta’s face still smiled at him. “She is part of me and will be, always.”

Cassie threw her arms around his neck and cried for his loss.


The family decided to go to the annual Christmas party, and while he didn’t feel in a holiday spirit, Hartmann went with them. The room was buzzing, and the most recent Santa was passing out presents. Unlike the second such event, the people understood better what the up-timers meant, so there were dolls, toy trucks carved out of wood, even large ones that looked like the APCs.

Cassie had spent several minutes huddled with some of the women. He shook his head. Would he have to put up with being the prize bull here as well?

Hartmann stood in the corner, watching the festivities as they cleared a space for dancing. The first song was something called the Tennessee Waltz.

Someone approached. One of the up-time women, he couldn’t remember her name.

“Don’t you dance, Sergeant?”

ALHfhFdns1“Never learned how except for some folk dances when I was a child.” He motioned toward the waltzing couples. “But nothing like that.”

“And without a wife, you really have no partner.” She grinned, taking his hand. “Come on, there’s one dance that anyone can do. I will just do what she would have done if she were here.”

Bemused, he allowed her to pull him into the dance floor. She set his hands on her waist, resting her hands on his shoulders. Then she began to move, and he followed. It didn’t look like anything he had ever seen. “We call it elevator dancing.”

“Ah, you do it only on the elevators like they have at the Higgins?”

She chuckled. “No, it’s because you’re moving, but not going anywhere.” She paused, looking over her shoulder. “Damn.”


“Up-time when you want to dance with someone, but they are with a partner, you tap the one dancing to let them know you want to cut in.” She glared at the woman, then stepped aside. The other woman moved in, setting Hartmann’s hands on her more ample hips, and the dance continued.

This woman had barely gotten comfortable when she also flinched. Hartmann shook his head, eyes closed. “Ladies, if there is a slow dance, I will dance. But give each woman one dance unmolested, agreed?”

It seemed that the ‘get the poor sergeant married again’ bug had hit Grantville. All of the women he danced with had met him, and some had expressed attraction, but their actions were more to get him back in the habit of dealing with women. Except for fast songs (some of which he asked for once he found that they took requests) or when he went out to have a smoke or to join the men drinking, he spent the night dancing.


Christmas morning dawned over gently falling snow. Hartmann came down to find Bobby Hay waiting impatiently. “Why have you not attacked your objective?” he asked.

“We have rules for Christmas morning.” Bobby Hay shook his head making the face that said they had rules for everything. “Mama and Papa like to sleep in when they can. So the first rule is I have to wait until an adult is here. The second rule—” As he said that, a sudden strident ringing interrupted. “Papa forgot the alarm again!”

There was a sudden silence, and Bobby Hollering came down in his pajamas and slippers as he pulled on his robe. He yawned and waved absently at them on his way toward the kitchen.


Bobby looked back. “Thought you’d be up already.” He glanced at Hartmann. “You didn’t ask the sergeant for permission?”

“I was explaining the Christmas rules to him when the alarm went off.” The boy marched over to the tree, picking up a box, which he brought to Hartmann. “The second rule, everyone gets to open one present before you open any more.” Hartmann watched the obedient boy walk over and choose a present to hand to his father when he came out of the kitchen with a pot of tea and cups. He looked at the stairs plaintively, then went and got only one of his, which he attacked like a dieter faced with an unprotected cheesecake.

Hartmann opened his rather heavy one carefully and opened the box inside it. There was an up-time made powder flask with three narrow screw-on tubes, a box of primers, and a reloading kit.

“Made that up for you. The tubes—” He took the longest one, screwing it into the fitting on the flask, then with his thumb sealing it, flipped his wrist while pressing the spring valve at the bottom. He released it, turned it upright, and displayed the powder in the tube. “Automatically measures the right amount. Smallest one is for your pistol; largest for the load you’re using now. Added the fifty grain one in case you want to try it at ninety or a hundred; just use the forty with the fifty, or a double fifty. Try it in action then decide.” He pushed the valve, and the powder whispered back down into the flask.

The men sat quietly, talking. The boy hopped what looked like a Brillo doll around for the better part of an hour before Cassie came down. Before long the floor was covered in scattered paper, and as Cassie went to make breakfast, Bobby Hay obediently cleared away the mess.

Since he had orders, the next morning Hartmann packed the gifts, including the unopened ones, hugged Cassie, shook the hands of both men, and walked into the still falling snow. Bobby Hay watched him until he was out of sight.



Late December 1634


The snow was still falling when he arrived back in Magdeburg. Hartmann carried the bag and the rifle to his quarters, where he put down the weapon, took out the two presents, and walked to the graveyard. He poured libations, then carefully opened the one marked for the child. There was a knitted woolen blanket, a pair of booties, and a gown, all green. He smiled gently, then laid them on top of the grave. Then he opened Marta’s gift.

He looked at the royal blue angora wool shawl, letting it flow through his hands before wrapping it around the stone. “Merry Christmas, my love.”

He sat there for a long time, picturing a Christmas tree, Marta looking at her present, setting it around her shoulders then throwing herself into his arms. He missed her so much. Finally, he stood, walking back to the camp.

He spoke with the sentry for a moment, trading holiday greetings.

“Sergeant Hartmann!”

He glanced over at the heavyset woman walking toward him. For a moment, he wasn’t sure; then he recognized Brigadier Dortmunder’s wife. She came up and hand him an envelope. “My husband is having a party for the new year, just a few men he respects. You are invited to attend.”

He wanted to groan. Not again! “Frau—”

“No excuses! You will be there!” She turned and bustled off.

Hartmann looked at the envelope, then at the sentry. “Do you know where the brigadier is?”


“Just tell me.” Once he knew, he walked toward the division headquarters. At the moment, he felt like a boy trying to get one parent to contradict the other.

The brigadier looked up.”Sergeant?” Hartmann saluted, then held out the envelope.

Dortmunder looked at it, then sighed. “Sergeant, I spoke to my wife about you. She decided that such a brave man should have a better selection of eligible women than the merchants of this city can offer. So she arranged a brigade party for the new year, and you are one of the guests of honor.” He grimaced in disgust. “As is every unmarried officer.”

“Permission to speak freely, Sir?” The officer nodded. “I would rather not go to this party, Sir.”

“You and I both. I did not meet your wife, but mine could teach the emperor lessons in stubbornness.” The older man sighed. “We will have to survive the evening as we may.”

Hartmann left the office in a deep depression. Would they never leave him alone? He heard someone calling him, and looked over his shoulder. Luftmann, who had taken Becker’s place as wachtmeister was coming from the side.

“Sergeant! I was not sure you would be home in time. My family wanted to invite you to a new year’s party to meet—” The man stopped talking when Hartmann raised his hand in a gesture for silence.

“If they wished to introduce me to an unmarried woman, I am no longer amused.”

For a long moment, Luftmann merely looked at him. “Sergeant, my sister who is seven, wished to meet you. I have told her so much about you she almost considers you our older brother. She wished to meet you. I will tell them.”

Hartmann looked at the man for a long moment as a sudden thought came to him. If he did this, perhaps the women would stop bothering him. “I will go to your family home tonight instead. I wish to talk to this girl and your parents about my problem.”




New Year’s Eve, 1634


ALHfhFlndlrSo at eight in the evening, the party began. Every wife of the officers of the Wolverine, the Black Boar, and the newly-formed Gray Wolf Regiments had brought women they felt would be suitable as possible wives for Hartmann and the five unmarried officers.

Those other unfortunates had already arrived and were jostled into proximity when the majordomo announced in an amused tone, “Sergeant Richard Hartmann and Frau Gerta Luftmann!”

The brigadier’s wife turned. The man no doubt had picked up some street beggar or harlot to make this a laughing stock. She spun, and her jaw dropped. Her husband began coughing to hide his urge to laugh.

Hartmann stood paused at the door to be introduced. Beside him stood a young girl, straight and tall, dressed in a nice middle-class dress, with her hand on the sergeant’s arm. They walked in the sudden silence, and the girl was obviously both elated and terrified. But she walked with him.

Conversations began again, but Hartmann ignored the crowd as he led the girl through, pausing to introduce her to his officers. He reached Colonel Ludendorf, who was grinning. “Colonel, may I introduce Gerta Luftmann?”

“Ah, your new wachtmeister‘s younger sister no doubt.”

The girl curtsied prettily.

“Yes. She wished to meet me, and since this was when her parents had invited me, I felt it was not fair to her to refuse.”

Ludendorf introduced his wife and daughter to the young girl who acknowledged each just as gravely. “Aloyse, Veronica, perhaps you could escort the young miss to the punchbowl. I wish to talk with the sergeant for a moment.”

The women took the girl in tow, leading her away.

“Now you have let the fox loose in the henhouse, Richard.”

Hartmann shrugged. “Until I am over Marta’s death, I see no need to look for another wife, Sir.”

Ludendorf looked around at all of the women glaring daggers at his subordinate. “You know there is supposed to be dancing. How will you handle that?”

“I only know one dance, what the up-timers call an elevator dance. Anyone who wishes to dance with me will have to learn it,” Hartmann said with a perfectly straight face.

“We will see how that works out. Some women will try to teach you.”


Henrietta Friedlund stormed toward the buffet, snatching up a plate. She had seen the sergeant from a distance several times and had been attracted to him. But he had been hard to approach, and never seemed to wish to go anywhere she could encounter him more openly. Honestly, it was as if he had no use for women at all!

She had just accepted a glass of wine when she heard a voice saying, “I met his wife a few times before her death.”

“You did? Please, tell us about her.”

Henrietta turned slightly and saw the girl Hartmann had brought, seated with Ludendorf’s wife and daughter. She was the center of half a dozen women, all of whom she knew had set their sights on the man. If being the focus of so many eyes bothered Gerta, you would not have been able to tell from her expression.

“My brother was one of the men of his unit who were always curious about the sergeant. They wondered why he lived in one of the inns rather than at the base. So they followed him one evening. They found that he had paid for the uniforms for the Wolverine camp followers out of his own pocket.”

“On a sergeant’s pay?”

“Oh he actually has quite a bit of money.”

The women leaned forward.

“When he was living in Grantville, his wife bought pipe tobacco there, and they have been selling it for over a year now. Anyway, my brother was impressed. His wife was staying there.” She sipped in the sudden awkward silence. “So Eric would go there. I asked, and he brought me, too. That was when I met Marta, but I did not meet the sergeant himself until yesterday.” She started to stand to fill her cup, but a servant silently handed her a full one.

“I liked her. She was gentle and polite. She treated the men like family, and me like a sister. When they marched, I was afraid for my brother. She comforted me, even though I knew she feared for her Richard as much. She told me we were all in God’s hands, and what must be would be.

“Then she died.”

The girl looked down. Every woman in the now much-expanded silence could hear the tears in her voice as she continued without raising her head.

“Eric told me they were at Segeburg right before Ahrensbök when Richard was told. How something seemed to have died inside him. But he had his duty to his men. He could not come home until they did. So he stayed, and the brave charge?” She looked up. “It was a man wanting to die to join his love. When he charged, his men could not let him die alone. They loved him—they loved her that much.” She began to cry again. “He still loves her. He visits her grave every day to talk to her as if he were just a man coming home from work. Some people in Grantville had bought presents for her and the baby before her death, and he draped the shawl they had given her over the stone. And the baby clothes, the blanket . . .” Veronica hugged the girl as she cried.

Henrietta looked at the small plate, then set it down. She looked at the other women, all with varying looks of embarrassment. We are like carrion crows over a battlefield, dropping on one corpse and trying the eyeballs. She looked at the sergeant, so composed, dealing with the officers who had surrounded him almost like a palisade to protect him. He deserves the time to heal. And by God, I for one will make sure he does.

While she didn’t know it, every one of those women had come to the same conclusion.

The dancing began, but Hartmann was left alone as he led her onto the floor. Other dancers gave them a wide berth so everyone could watch. She did dance that odd elevator dance with him, her eyes shining as if she were the guest of honor, and the chastened women watched the sad man doing his duty yet again.

Aloyse walked out as the first dance ended. “Richard, may I introduce Henrietta Friedlund of Quidlenburg? Henrietta, this is Richard Hartmann, the senior sergeant of the Wolverines.” They bowed to each other.

Henrietta knelt. “May I have your partner for one dance, my dear?”

Gerta looked to Hartmann. “Yes. But he has promised to dance with me again.”

Aloyse led her back to her seat.

“You are from Bohemia?” Hartmann nodded. “Some of us have been taking lessons in up-time dances at the Imperial School of Ballet here in Magdeburg. One dance we learned is an Austrian dance called the Ländler.”

“I do not know it.”

“Then with the permission of your partner, we will watch before we dance.” They stood side by side. As with most things introduced by the up-timers, some of the people embraced the dances, especially the waltz. After watching them dance it twice, Hartmann allowed himself to be brought onto the floor as they began another. Slowly, with a lot of confusion on his part, they were able to go through the dance. At one point, his face grew sad. She moved closer over their crossed arms; hands pressed together. “I do not mind if you see your wife in my place. She cannot be here, so imagine it is her,” she whispered.

Through the rest of the evening, Hartmann alternated, dancing with Gerta, then with another woman. In each case, they all admonished him that they were there to allow him the dream that it was Marta in their place. The one thing he noticed was that unlike the up-time Christmas party, no one broke in to take a dance away from another. By the fourth dance with an adult partner, they were able to teach him the interlocking arms portion of the Ländler, and everyone stood watching as he danced it with Gerta. They giggled when the arm gestures caused a lot of additional shifting because he was so much taller. When the girl began to nod off because of the late hour, Hartmann took his leave, carrying the sleeping girl.


Hartmann walked through the night with the girl wrapped in his greatcoat. It was snowing again, and he thought of what had happened. He paused at the sound of bells.

“What is it?”

He looked at the drowsy girl in his arms.

“It is the new year,” he told her.

The girl looked around, then leaned up to kiss him gently on the cheek. “Happy New Year, Richard.” Then she wrapped her arms around his neck and went back to sleep.

Hartmann looked at her with a gentle smile. For a moment, it was Marta he held, who had kissed him, and offered that greeting. Then he continued walking.



Even Monsters Die

Even Monsters Die banner

Early Spring, 1635


Natalie pulled on her boots and grabbed her backpack off the bed. The weather had been mostly wet and grey as spring slowly replaced winter, so she hoped the puddle-filled streets would be enough of an excuse to be wearing boots instead of her normal sneakers. If Mom even notices.

She shoved her textbooks a little further under the edge of her bed with her foot, then stepped out into the hall. “Hey, Mom. I’m headed for school. I’ll see you this afternoon.” She headed for the door, trying not to look like she was in a rush. Trying not to look guilty.

“Wait a minute, Natalie.” Mom poked her head out of the kitchen. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

Natalie paused, fidgeting. “Uh . . .”

“Lunch,” Mom said with a smile. She came down the hallway with the lunchbox.

“Oh. Right.” Natalie took it from her with a nod. “Thanks, Mom.”

“You’re in a hurry this morning.” Mom paused, looking at her more closely. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah. Fine. Just . . . there might be a pop quiz this morning.” It wasn’t a lie. There might be a pop quiz, but even if there was Natalie didn’t plan to be there.

Mom nodded. “All right. I’m sure you’ll do fine.” She gave Natalie a quick hug. “Go on, then. And be careful. There’s still ice in some places.”

“Right, Mom.” Natalie waved as she hurried down the steps toward the street. “See you this afternoon.”

She waited until she reached the street corner before she stopped to unzip her backpack and stuff the lunchbox inside. There was already other food in the bag where her school books would normally be. She zipped it back up, glanced over her shoulder to make sure Mom wasn’t still watching her from the house, then turned left at the corner and headed for the edge of Grantville instead of continuing up the street toward the school.

There were some other folks out, but none of them paid any attention as Natalie hurried past. Not even the other kids headed to school seemed to notice she was headed in the wrong direction. She wasn’t even sure they noticed her at all. One advantage to having no friends. No one really cared where she was going.

She tucked her thumbs through the straps on her backpack, pulling it more snugly against her back so it wouldn’t jostle as she walked, and hurried on.

By the time she reached the edge of town and the big tree by the crossroad, she was breathing hard—cheeks and nose prickling from walking in the chilly morning.

“Red? Henrietta?” Natalie paused, wondering if the other girl had already left without her. “Henrietta?” she called again.

“It’s about time you showed up.” Henrietta stepped out from behind the tree. She was wearing a plain gray cloak, her red hair hidden under a white cap with frayed ribbons that tied loosely under her chin. A sack containing what looked to be her Monster Society costume rested in the grass beside the tree.

Natalie blinked, barely recognizing her without the trademark crimson cloak she wore when they were campaigning. “Hey. Didn’t see you there.”

“I was just about to give up on you.” Henrietta crossed her arms over her chest.

“Yeah. Sorry. Mom wanted to chat right before I left.” Natalie shook her head. “Thanks for waiting. I’m not sure I know where . . . Konrad lives.”

Henrietta nodded. “We should probably get started. It’s a bit of a walk and you said you have to get back by the afternoon.”

“Yeah. By the time school gets out. Otherwise my mom’ll start to worry.” Natalie fell into step beside her longer-legged friend.

“You sure it’s okay for you to . . . skip? I thought that school was important to you.” Henrietta looked at her, part frown and part curious.

“Yes. But I’ve been doing all the extra credit for the past week so it’s not like I’m falling behind or anything.”

“Extra credit?”

Belated, Natalie remembered that Henrietta didn’t go to school—not even the old-fashioned school in the down-timer village. “They send home work each day. A kind of review of what we’ve studied so we can practice at home. There are always a few extra questions that we don’t have to do unless we did bad on a test or missed a day or something.”

“Oh.” Henrietta nodded.

They walked a little further, squeezing over to the muddy verge of the road as a man with a cart passed them going the opposite direction.

Natalie stuffed her hands in her coat pockets. “Are you okay?”

“What?” Henrietta looked at her with a frown.

“You just look worried. It is okay that we’re going to visit . . . Konrad?”

“Yeah.” She made a face. “You say his name funny.”

“Just not used to it. But I figure his mom might not like me calling him Ray.” She grinned. “John called me Scully in front of my mom and her face . . .” She puckered her mouth up in an imitation.

“Yeah.” Henrietta nodded. “Sure.”

“You don’t sound—”

EMDvllg“When I saw John last week he said Konrad was pretty sick, but he should be better soon. But I overheard a couple of folks in the village talking and they seemed to think . . . he was still really sick.” She looked at Natalie, and she looked more than worried.

Natalie swallowed hard. She looks scared. “John would have told us if it were something serious, right?” She put her hand on Henrietta’s shoulder awkwardly. “I’m sure they were just gossiping. My dad says anytime a down-timer has a cold for more than a couple of days everyone starts wondering if it’s the plague.”

“Yeah. I guess.” Henrietta twitched her cloak closer, folding her arms up in it.

“It’s not the plague, right?”

“If it were, everyone would know.” She started walking again, and Natalie hurried after her.

Her backpack was getting heavy, and she wondered if maybe she should have left some of the stuff behind. She’d figured Ray . . . Konrad would like the cookies, but seeing that Henrietta hadn’t brought anything except a sack which looked to have her costume in it, she wondered if maybe she should have left the food at home. Maybe down-timers didn’t give each other gifts while they were sick. Maybe she doesn’t have anything to give.

Natalie hitched at the straps and took an extra couple of steps so they were walking side by side again. “Is it much further?”

“Just around that bend.” Henrietta pointed ahead to a curve in the muddy road.

“Okay. Hold on a second.” Natalie pulled her backpack around and unzipped the front pocket. Inside was a card she had drawn. It had taken a few tries, but the front had a drawing of Konrad in full Monster Society gear on it.

Henrietta peered over her shoulder. “That’s pretty good,” she said grudgingly.

Natalie blushed. “Thanks. I know it doesn’t look too much like Konrad, but . . .”

“No. It’s good. He’ll love it.” She slipped her arm through Natalie’s. “Come on.”

Konrad’s house sat back a little way from the road, a rutted path that was mostly mud and puddles leading in between the bare-limbed trees. There was smoke drifting from the chimney, but the house itself seemed oddly quiet. Grantville had brought with it a new era of prosperity for the lands around it but there were always, always, those who fell through the cracks, even in the good times. The house was little more than a hut compared to the houses that lined the streets of Grantville. Natalie felt ashamed that she had never been here before. How many times had Konrad, in character as Ray, visited hers? Maybe if she had known just how poor Konrad’s family was before now she could have asked her parents if they could have helped them somehow. Konrad was always so happy and giving though. It was hard to imagine he lived in a place like this. Natalie promised herself that she would talk with her parents about Konrad and his family when she got home. Surely, there had to be something they could do for them.

Natalie and Henrietta both stopped at the edge of the yard, uncertain.

The door of the house opened, and John stepped out, a basin of cloudy water in his hands. He tossed it out along the side of the house and then stood for a moment staring up at the empty trees.

Natalie clutched the handmade card, the paper crumpling in her fingers. Something is wrong.

John looked exhausted with deep shadows on his face, almost as though someone had blackened his eyes. And his face was pale and drawn, like he hadn’t been outside in days.

Henrietta pulled her arm free of Natalie’s and strode forward. “John.”

He flinched and moved toward her hurriedly. “What are you doing here?” The muscle in his jaw trembled as he saw Natalie was there too. “You shouldn’t have come here.”

“We wanted to see Ray. I mean K-Konrad.” Natalie stumbled over his name more than usual.

“He’s still sick. You should go.” He glanced over his shoulder toward the house.

Henrietta stood her ground. “You told me he would be getting better by now.”

“Well, he’s not and you need to go.” John grabbed her by the arm, trying to turn her away from the house.

She knocked his hand away. “Tell me what’s wrong, John. What’s wrong with Konrad?”

In the house someone screamed though it sounded muffled somehow. It was a raw and agonized sound that rose up and then abruptly stopped, but Natalie recognized the voice anyway. “Ray.” She clapped her hand over her mouth as tears welled up.

“John.” Henrietta grabbed him by the shoulders, shaking him. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

The door of the house opened again and a woman stepped outside. She looked even more worn than John, her eyes bloodshot and pale cheeks streaked with tears. “John?”

“I’m coming.” He looked at Natalie. “Please. Go home.”

But Henrietta pushed past him. “Agnes. Tell me what’s happened to Konrad.”

Agnes swayed, looking up at her in confusion. Then her eyes flickered with recognition. “Henrietta, isn’t it?” She smoothed a wisp of hair back from her face automatically.

“Agnes. What’s wrong with Konrad?”

The older woman glanced at John and her mouth twisted as though she tasted something bitter. “You haven’t told them?”

John shook his head. His hands dangled limply by his side and Natalie thought she’d never seen him look so old.

“Told us what? Haven’t told us what, Agnes?” Henrietta was yelling.

“It’s lockjaw,” Agnes said. “Konrad won’t . . . he’s not . . .” Tears slid down her face, but her voice remained steady. Wooden. “It’s almost over.”

Henrietta turned and glared at John. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

He lifted his hands, helpless. “What would I have said? That he was as good as dead? I thought it would be better . . .”

She shook her head. “No. No.” She caught her dress in her hand and ran back down the path.

Natalie jumped as a horrible noise of pain drifted out of the house again.

John’s shoulders sagged and he went back inside without a word. Without looking at her. For a moment, Natalie wondered if she should follow him, but she knew she couldn’t.

Agnes stood by the door, swaying a little and looking at Natalie. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought John had told you.”

Natalie shook her head and stepped closer. “No. I . . . uh.” She was still clutching the card in her hand. She smoothed the wrinkles out of it and held it out. “I made that for Konrad. I didn’t know . . .” She rubbed her face on her sleeve. “I’m so sorry.” Then she dropped the card and ran after Henrietta.


The inside of the house was warm, but sour with sweat. John huddled on the stool next to the bed, wishing he could throw the shutters open and let clean air blow through. He closed his eyes, imagining wind sweeping away the darkness, the stink. Wind pouring over and through the house and taking Konrad’s sickness with it.

But when he opened his eyes nothing had changed. His friend still lay in the bed, dying.

Konrad’s entire body arched up off the bed as another convulsion twisted and shook him. The same terrible scream building in his throat, then cutting off abruptly as he strained for breath as his own muscles tightened to the point his bones creaked under the strain.

John clung to his hand. “Hold on, Ray. It’ll pass. Just hold on, mate.”

After what seemed like hours, Konrad went limp, sagging back against the sweat-drenched sheets.

John wet a cloth in the basin and wiped a dribble of saliva from Konrad’s mouth. “Easy, Ray. Just rest for a minute.”

The door opened, and Agnes came inside, shutting the door quickly to keep the cold spring air outside lest it trigger another spasm. She came and sat on the other side of the bed, a muddy piece of paper in her hand. “Some more of your friends came by, Konrad. They brought you . . . this.” She held the card up uncertainly.

Konrad’s eyes, blurry with fever, trembled, but John wasn’t sure his friend was aware of much.

Agnes smoothed the quilt over her son. The sickness had melted away his rolls of fat as he had lost the ability to eat, as the fever had consumed him, leaving him gaunt and even more fragile. She set the card on the shelf above the bed. “It’s all right. I’ll just put it there and you can look at it when you . . . when you’re feeling better.” At first John had thought Agnes had said those things because she didn’t want to admit what they all knew—Konrad was dying. She always said When you are better. She’d even promised, when he had first lost the ability to open his mouth, that she would try and make him a proper costume once he was well. All your friends will be jealous, she’d said. John had wanted to shake her, to yell at her and remind her that Konrad would not be Ray ever again. That soon he wouldn’t even be Konrad.

Then he’d realized the things she said were not for her own benefit. The lines around her mouth, the redness of her eyes, the way her shoulders sagged every time she looked at her son wasting away in her bed, all of them told John that she talked of getting better because it was the only way she knew to comfort Konrad. And he knew, when she held her son’s hand and prayed through the night, she was no longer praying he would get better, but that he would be released from his agony soon.

“John,” Agnes said in almost a whisper.

John looked over at her, not knowing what to expect.

“I just wanted to say thank you for all you’ve done for my son,” Agnes explained. “Your Monster Society . . . It’ s everything to Konrad. I didn’t realize just how much it meant to him until . . .”

Suddenly, Konrad shuddered, another spasm forcing him into the brutal arch—only touching the bed with his heels and head. But this time he made no sound other than the guttural wheeze of the breath slowly being forced from his body, he just clutched John’s hand—fingers squeezing tighter and tighter.

John winced, but held on. “Easy, mate. It’ll pass.” He’d said the same thing, over and over again, in the past few days. Anything to try and fill the silence. He was usually good at talking, good at filling in the silent spaces when things were awkward, but now, even he was at a loss for words. Ray’s hand went limp and John knew, even before he looked up and saw his friend’s eyes staring into nothing, that he was gone.

Agnes began to sob, the first time John had seen her cry in front of Ray. Only now she was just crying beside him.

John stood up and went outside, unable to stand the heat and the smell inside the house. Unable to watch Ray’s mother weeping for her dead son. With Konrad gone, he felt like an intruder in Agnes’ home. He had done all he could for them, and it hadn’t been enough.

He wanted to smash something, to tear the whole house down with his hands as if maybe, once the house was gone, the rest of it would be, too. But he couldn’t and there was nothing in the muddy little yard to break, nothing to bear the brunt of the grief threatening to turn him inside out.

John doubled over and vomited, mostly bile and spit.

It was not fair. Ray was too young to die. Especially like this. Stabbing his hand on a bit of rusted metal while they had been prepping their last game. Not fair. Ray should have been hanging out with Red—the Monster Society’s round little ghost hunter and the big, tough warrior having stumbled on something more than their first strained friendship.

But Ray was dead and Red . . .

John straightened up and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. He knew he should have told her and Natalie the truth, but he’d thought it would be easier on them not to have to share in the grief of watching Ray wither away in the unforgiving grip of lockjaw. Now he realized all he’d done was deny them the opportunity to say good-bye.

The door of the house opened, and Agnes emerged. She was wearing her cloak, face pale but unnervingly calm. “I have to go and make arrangements for the burial,” she said. “Will you sit with him while I’m gone?”

He didn’t want to but how could he refuse? John nodded. “Of course, Mother Agnes.”

“Good. He shouldn’t be alone.” For a moment her lips trembled, fresh tears welling up, but she brushed those away with her fingertips and squared her shoulder. “I’ll be back in a few hours.”

John went back into the house slowly. Ray was tucked under the quilt, his hair combed neatly across his forehead. Almost as though he were sleeping.

John sat down beside the bed. Glanced over his shoulder, but he was alone. Agnes would be walking into the village to find the priest and hire gravediggers.

He reached out and touched Ray’s cheek, but it was already growing cool. Not fair. He rubbed his fingers through his hair, wishing again for magic that would have kept all this from happening. He paused. Magic. It had always been pretend when they campaigned, but maybe . . .

John leaned close to the bed. “I’m going to find a way to make this right, Ray. You hear me? I’m going to fix this.”

The candles on the table flickered, nearly guttering out before the flames stretched up tall and straight. He wanted so badly to believe the flicker was more than just a random coincidence.

John sat back in his chair with a sigh. I’m going to fix this.


The sun was almost gone from the sky by the time Henrietta made it home. She had left Natalie hours earlier, wandering about the woods alone, trying to process what the two of them had discovered at Konrad’s house. Henrietta had heard Natalie calling after her as she ran but ignored her. The pain had been so sharp then that she had just wanted to be alone. She felt guilt over leaving Natalie like that especially since she had lied to Natalie about how long the walk to Konrad’s house would take. There was little chance of Natalie making it home in time for her parents’ liking even though they lived near the edge of Grantville. Henrietta had just wanted to see Konrad so badly but had lacked the courage to go alone. She hoped Natalie was okay. Natalie was an up-timer, after all. But, Natalie was smart, though, and tough, Henrietta reminded herself.

Henrietta knew she would never see Konrad again. Fresh tears stung her eyes as she remembered the night he had gone on and on about kissing her. She cursed herself for not doing it then while she had the chance. Now, she never would. All the moments they could have shared had been stolen from them and by what? Bad luck? The devil? Was she being punished by God for being a part of the Monster Society? She knew very well how the church felt about the Society even if it hadn’t taken any action against them . . . yet.

In a fit of rage, she threw the sack containing her costume onto the ground. She left it there as she went and got a shovel. When she returned, she attacked the dirt with its blade like a demon-possessed maniac. Covered in sweat, her gray cloak smeared with dirt, and her white cap gone from her head, she stood staring at the hole she had dug.

The shovel slid from her grasp as she sunk to her knees. She reached out and pulled the sack containing her costume over to her. “Goodbye, Konrad,” she whispered as she stuffed the sack into the hole and then stood again. She buried her costume deep and her pain deeper as she finally, shovel in hand, headed for her house.


EMDprstThe funeral was a small one. As soon as it ended, Natalie made a dash to catch Henrietta before she left. Henrietta saw her coming but made no move to stop. Natalie wasn’t going to let her get away though. She outpaced Henrietta and put herself directly in the larger girl’s path.

“Henrietta . . .” Natalie started and then realized she didn’t really know what to say. “I just . . . I’m sorry.”

“I don’t want your pity, Natalie. Konrad is gone and nothing you can say will change that,” Henrietta told her.

“You don’t have to be alone Henrietta,” Natalie said.

“I’m not alone. I have my family. Now please get out of my way.”

“John and I miss you,” Natalie pleaded. “The Monster Society needs you.”

“The Monster Society died with Konrad, and you know it, Natalie. It’s time we all grew up and put those kind of games behind us,” Henrietta told her. “I’m going home, Natalie. I suggest you do the same and get out of my way before you force me into doing something we both will regret.”

Natalie looked into Henrietta’s eyes and saw that she meant what she said. Stepping aside, Natalie watched Henrietta leave, holding back her tears. If Henrietta wanted to be left alone, in truth, there was nothing she could do about it.

“We’ll be around if you change your mind!” Natalie called after her. “You’re a part of our family, too!”

Henrietta didn’t even look back at her. She just kept on walking until she disappeared into the trees and Natalie lost sight of her. Natalie clenched her hands at her sides, so tight that her knuckles went white and her nails dug into the flesh of her palms.

Natalie had to remind herself that however much she was hurting that Henrietta had to be hurting more. Henrietta had known Konrad a good deal longer than she had and they were both down-timers. On top of that, Natalie had watched how the two of them had seemed to be drawing closer to each other after the last movie night at her house. She had hoped that Henrietta and Konrad would find the same happiness she and John had without all the drama that came from John being John.

The dark clouds overhead opened up. A heavy rain began to fall in waves that splashed down over her.  Natalie felt John slip his trench coat over her shoulders without saying a word. She hadn’t seen him coming and wondered if he had seen what had happened between her and Henrietta.

She turned to stare into his eyes. All that was in them was pain.

“I’m sorry,” John said after a moment. “I should have told you. I should have told you both. I just didn’t want . . .”

“Ssshhh,” she pulled him into a hug, clinging to him.

John gently wormed his way out of her embrace. “I love you, Natalie,” he said. “But this isn’t over.”

“What?” Natalie asked, both confused and stunned by John’s statement. “What do you mean it’s not over?”

“You’ll see, love,” John tried to shoot her his trademark grin but it broke apart on his lips. “It can’t end like this.”

With that John darted away, disappearing through the rain into the woods.

“But it already has,” Natalie sobbed, standing alone with John’s trench coat on her shoulders and fresh tears mixing with the rain that ran over the curves of her cheeks.


NESS: Krystalnacht on the Schwarza Express

NESS Krystalnacht on the Schwarza Express banner

Tuesday, June 19, 1635

West Virginia County

Astrid Schäubin puttered around her room, straightening everything. She tugged at the solid but inexpensive table beside her bed, trying to square it up. It creaked across the wooden floorboards.

“Astrid, are you still up?” Her brother Hjalmar leaned around the corner of the doorway.


“Why? We have to be up early.”

Astrid sighed. “I do not know.” She looked at her pack. “I have everything ready. Pistol, gun belt, neckerchief, hat, four days of clothes even though we should return Friday morning.”

“Is everything okay with Georg?”

Astrid smiled. “Georg is fine. We had a nice dinner.”


Now she was a little annoyed. “Hjalmar, when have you ever known Georg Meisner not to be a perfect gentleman?”

Hjalmar’s head bobbled in acknowledgment of her point. “So what is it then? Lukas getting shot?”

“Well, ja, sure. This is my third Saxon Run since those bandits tried to hijack the train. And Krystalnacht.”

“That is not anywhere near here,” her brother pointed out.

“I know. But I have a bad feeling.”

Hjalmar frowned. “So do not take chances and do not wander off.”

Astrid threw her pillow at him. “I said I had a bad feeling, not that I had forgotten everything you and Neustatter ever taught me.”

Hjalmar handed back the pillow he’d caught. “Maybe you noticed something you have not figured out yet. Sleep on it.”

“Maybe. Thanks, Hjalmar.”

Hjalmar went back to his and Ditmar’s room. Astrid tucked her .22 under her pillow, doused the lamp, and went to bed.



Wednesday, June 20, 1635

Schwarza Junction

Astrid hadn’t slept particularly well. Nor had she been able to put her finger on what was bothering her about this mission. All her fellow NESS security consultants looked alert but comfortable.

“I am looking for Neustatter’s European Security Services!” a man in an SoTF blue uniform called out in Amideutsch. He had a cloth armband with the letters MP around his right sleeve.

“You found us,” Neustatter answered in the same language.

“Sergeant Johann Sandhagen, SoTF National Guard, military police.”

“Edgar Neustatter.” They shook hands. “Hjalmar Schaub here runs Team Two for me. Karl Recker, Otto Brenner, Jacob Bracht. Astrid Schäubin—she is Hjalmar’s sister—will be running Team Three. Me. Phillip Pfeffer. Wolfram Kuntz. Wolfram is our medic, certified EMT.”

Sandhagen shook hands all around. “Good to meet y’all. How many of these have you done? This is only my second one.”

“We are on a schedule with the other security contractors and mercenaries,” Neustatter told him. “Every seventh trip. This is NESS’s fourth Saxon Run and my third personally, not counting the attempted hijacking.”

Sandhagen nodded. “So y’all were on the train that was hit?”

Ja. Astrid, Wolfram, Phillip, Lukas Heidenfelder, and I,” Neustatter confirmed. “Lukas is still in the hospital.”

“How is he?”

“He will pull through,” Neustatter said.

Astrid knew that was what the doctors said, but she was still worried.


Neustatter nodded his appreciation. “How do you want do this? A team in each railroad car?”

Ja, that is good. How did you train for this? You have done more of these than I have.”

“I watched Murder on the Orient Express last night.”

The MP looked shocked.

“Relax. I have also seen Breakheart Pass.”


Astrid listened to the clickety-clack of the wheels on the rails while she watched the left side as the train rolled north to Jena. The cars were about half-full, which she understood to be average for recent weekday runs—although that was still down a bit compared to before last month’s attack. So far the ride was uneventful. Which is not surprising, Astrid reminded herself. It’s always uneventful south of Jena.

But as the train slowed to a stop alongside the platform in Jena, Phillip called out from the back stairs, “Neustatter! Squad of men approaching the platform!”

Astrid quickly reached for her pistol. Neustatter’s was already out. But then her boss called out, “Their weapons are shouldered. And they have tickets.”

The approaching men sorted themselves into a file, and the first one swung aboard. He caught sight of Neustatter’s pistol right away. Astrid saw his hand tighten on his rifle sling, but he had the presence of mind not to make a sudden move.

“Who are you?”

“Neustatter’s European Security Services. Train guard on this run. And you?”

“The Yellow Circle Regiment.” Astrid noted that emblem on his coat.

“In civilian clothes?”

“We are specially trained to operate behind the lines.”

Astrid had to strain to hear Neustatter’s response, even from three feet away.

“No, you are not. Who are you?”

Equally quietly, the man replied, “CoCs. We are returning to Magdeburg.”

“Yellow Circle because you are defending the Jews.”

Ja, preemptive attack.”

“What I said. Like Esther, ja?”

The CoC soldier cracked a smile. “We have ten rifles. Let us work together.”

Neustatter nodded and called forward. “Sergeant? Five in each car? I will show you where the Saxons tried to hijack the train when we get there.”


When the train pulled into Naumburg Station, most of the passengers disembarked. Some made a beeline for the restrooms, others for the food cart.

Neustatter indicated the food cart. “Sergeant Sandhagen, you should come with us. Good food, good information.”

NESSKotSEkshrWhen they got to the front of the line, Neustatter said, “Nine of the kosher sausages on buns, Herr Kraft.”

“Good to see you again, Neustatter. The Saxon cities east of the river caused some trouble earlier this week, but all is quiet today.” Kraft used some English idioms and word order, but retained der, die, and das and inflected the German nouns if not the occasional English one. He nodded toward a pair of men with green armbands. “We Saale Levies have two of the oversized squads we call heaps near Weissenfels, with a radio. They checked in this morning, as did Camps Terror and Destruction.”

“Good enough for me,” Neustatter declared.

Sergeant Sandhagen raised an eyebrow, as if to say, “This is an extremely well-informed sausage dealer.”

Astrid indicated the jars of pickles and relishes along the side of the food cart. “I have seen these in Grantville.”

Kraft smiled. “We hope to have more varieties after this year’s harvest. Safe run.”

“All aboard!”


The train picked up speed out of the station and clattered across the Unstrut River bridge. The engineer gave a long blast on the horn as they passed Camp Terror. Astrid saw SoTF National Guardsmen on the corner watchtowers waving. She watched the ridgeline to the left carefully as the train negotiated the S-curve and headed north toward Eulau and the site of the attempted hijacking.

“Neustatter, it looks like the Saale Levies have almost finished that watchtower on the ridge, but the second floor is crooked.”

Neustatter crossed to her side of the train and studied it. He whistled. “It is turned forty-five-degrees from the walls of the first story to remove all the blind spots.”

The train sped past the site of the ambush and continued north with a steady clickety-clack. A couple passengers boarded at Weissenfels, and the train rumbled on toward Merseburg.

Neustatter crossed to Astrid’s side of the train again. “We are approaching Camp Destruction. Tell me what you see.”

The engineer honked the horn again, and the soldiers in the watchtowers waved. The steady clickety-clack on the rails continued as the train continued on toward Merseburg.

“They are alert,” Astrid observed, keeping her voice down as Neustatter had. “Those two new buildings look almost finished.”

“I have never seen anyone at work on them. Nor have Hjalmar nor Ditmar.”

“Yet progress is steady.”

“Makes you wonder who does the work, and when, does it not?” Neustatter asked.

Astrid mulled that over until Merseburg came into sight. No one sees the work being done. So they stop work when trains go by, and get out of sight. No reason for von Hessler’s Saale Levies to do that. No reason for the SoTF National Guard—Oh!

“I figured it out, Neustatter.”

Neustatter nodded. Astrid figured half of that was approval for keeping her mouth shut about who it was.

The Weissenfels passengers disembarked at Merseburg, a couple other passengers boarded, and the train rumbled on toward Halle.

One of the CoC men came over. “I heard your men call this the Saxon Run,” he said. “Does that mean you get off in Halle?”

Nein,” Neustatter told him. “Trouble is less likely beyond Halle, but a determined opponent could still cause some. We ride all the way to Magdeburg.”

“As do we,” the CoC man said.

“I thought the CoCs were generally moving outward from Magdeburg,” Neustatter observed.

“We finished our assignment. They want us back in Magdeburg. We were not in time to make it to Güstrow, but if anything else like that happens . . .”

Astrid managed not to cringe at the matter-of-fact way he said it. Krystalnacht had started a couple weeks ago. The Committees of Correspondence attacked anti-Semites and witch hunters—the sort of people responsible for the deaths of Mayor Dreeson, Enoch Wiley, Buster Beasley, and far too many police officers in Grantville. In Mecklenburg Province, the nobles had attacked the CoCs—but then CoC reinforcements shattered the nobles’ army at the Battle of Güstrow.

A couple passengers boarded at Schkopau, and a few minutes later, the train pulled into the station at Halle. Most of the passengers disembarked; there was a half-hour stopover, and Halle’s station had restrooms.

“You and Wolfram first,” Neustatter told Astrid.

Wolfram was already back at the train when she returned—the line for the women’s restroom had been a bit slower.

“Miss Schäubin, you are in charge.” Neustatter informed her. “Hjalmar and I will see if Sergeant Hudson is on duty.”

“Understood, boss,” she replied.

A few minutes later, she saw Neustatter, Hjalmar, and two CoC men come out of the railroad station. Makes sense. They must want news, too.

“All aboard!”

The clickety-clack of the wheels increased as the train picked up speed.


The train pulled into Magdeburg Central at dusk.

“That was uneventful,” Sergeant Sandhagen remarked.

“That is how we like them,” Neustatter agreed.

“We need to report in. Good working with you,” the CoC leader said. “You might have a drink at Green Horse Tavern and see if Frau Linder is singing. She is an up-timer, very popular with the Committees.”

Neustatter nodded his thanks.

“Safe journey.”

Neustatter nodded. “To you, as well.” He watched as the CoC men set out toward the walled part of the city.

“You are concerned,” Astrid observed. “Krystalnacht?”

“I do not doubt that the anti-Semites and witch hunters had it coming. But such a large operation depends heavily on its small unit commanders . . . It is very easy for something to go wrong. People make mistakes, after all.” He sighed. “Shall we go find this Green Horse Tavern?”

Green Horse Tavern was crowded, but the NESS teams found a table in the back. They spent the next couple hours listening to Marla Linder and her fellow musicians play what they called Irish music.

When Marla finished singing “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” Neustatter turned to Astrid. “It sounds like the Irish had a hard time of it in the up-time but persevered. I should have a researcher look into whether there is anything we can adopt for NESS.”

Astrid shook her head. “If so, you will find at least one John Wayne movie about it.”


Thursday, June 21, 1635


The NESS teams slept late. It was mid-day before they all assembled and wandered about Magdeburg in search of food.

Astrid found herself checking her surroundings frequently.

“Nervous?” Hjalmar asked.

“The city feels different.”

“You are correct,” Neustatter said. “But tell me how you know. What do you see?”

Astrid watched people for a few minutes. “Many are glancing around. Some are hurrying with their heads down.”


A few minutes later, Hjalmar asked, “Are we going back to Green Horse Tavern, Neustatter? We have passed at least three places where we could eat.”

“You may eat anywhere you wish. I am going to Syborg’s Book Store,” Neustatter said. “There’s an inn with good food a couple blocks north of it.”

Hjalmar rolled his eyes.

Astrid just smiled. She wanted to see the inside of this bookstore. She’d heard about it from the men often enough.

Half an hour later, she was still smiling in amusement as Neustatter and Herr Syborg carried on an animated discussion of westerns in Amideutsch. Syborg had sent his son and the sales clerk off to lunch a while ago.

“You must see the latest from Haas and Seitz,” Matthias Syborg urged him. “The characters are masterfully done.”

“I agree Haas and Seitz write great characters,” Neustatter acknowledged, “but I do not think they get the geography right. The American West didn’t have villages every couple miles. Not in the up-time movies, anyway.”

Naturally that led into a discussion of those movies. Astrid half-listened to Syborg’s quick, chopped-off Amideutsch and Neustatter’s adopted drawl as she wandered around the bookstore. She felt crowded as she maneuvered around three other patrons. The whole shop would easily fit inside the Calvert High School library, so why did it seem to have so many books? Train your power of observation. The voice in her head sounded just like Neustatter. So she followed orders.

One shelf in each stack had a book open, propped up on a little wooden lectern, with a stack of the new magazines to either side. That meant fewer books per shelf, and it also meant the shelves had to be spaced further apart than at Calvert High, so there were fewer shelves per stack. And the bottom two shelves had literal stacks of books. She bent down to check. Yes, they were more copies of the titles on the upper shelves. Astrid looked around and realized that the bookstore had no back room. The bottom two shelves were inventory storage. That meant nobody had to get down on the floor to read book titles. She counted the books on one shelf, the number of shelves in a stack, and the number of stacks in the store. No, there were not nearly as many books as it seemed.

Neustatter and the proprietor were still talking, so Astrid kept browsing. A lot of the non-fiction was reprints of up-time books, mostly technical subjects and histories. But some were newly written by down-timers. Most had Dewey numbers printed right on the spine.

The fiction was grouped by genre. Astrid skipped the romance. She’d get recommendations. That would save her no end of frustration trying to figure out whether a given book was the up-time “in love” style, the down-time family alliance style, or a mix of clashing expectations. She’d read one of those that was quite good and a few that were bad enough that she’d moved along to mysteries. She liked those where she had a reasonable chance of figuring out the culprit.

Astrid looked up when she heard the door open. A young woman maneuvered a teenage boy into the bookstore, then quickly pulled the door closed behind her. Astrid kept a book in front of her as if she were fascinated by how the dowager freifrau was narrowing down who could have killed the church sexton. But really she was assessing the new arrivals. The young woman looked like she was in her mid-twenties, about her own age. She was expensively dressed and carried herself confidently. More confidently than I would expect of a burgher’s daughter. Probably of the adel. But she looks worried. The teenaged boy wore similarly fine clothes, a sword, and a stubborn expression.

“Welcome,” Syborg said. “May I help you find a book?”

Nein,” the boy said.

Ja, bitte,” the woman said at the same time.

“What kind of book are you looking for?”

Astrid watched her falter for a couple seconds and realized the woman hadn’t really come in for a book. But she recovered quickly and said, “An adventure.” With a nod toward the young man, even.

“What sort of adventure?” the proprietor asked. “Foreign lands? Science fiction?”

“Science fiction?” The woman pronounced it carefully. “What is that?”

“A genre popularized by the up-timers. The stories feature much technology, often in space.”

“That is boring.” Whether it was the dismissive tone or the casual flip of his hand, Astrid was suddenly seized by an urge to smack him a new attitude.

“What about a Western, then?”

“What is that?” The boy’s lip curled dismissively.

“They are set in North America, in the up-time.”

“Pfffffffttt. Stupid stories.”

“Do you even know what you are calling stupid?” Neustatter rumbled. He stepped up in front of the boy. “I study westerns carefully, the real thing and the stories. They help me understand the up-timers, and because of it my men and I make a better living as security consultants.”

“Ha! You are nothing but a mercenary! I am an imperial knight! Stand aside, or—”

“Or what?” Neustatter interrupted.

Astrid tossed the book on a random shelf, took three quick steps, and yanked the woman aside.

NESSKotSEm1At the same time, the young man’s hand flashed to his sword. It was halfway out when Neustatter staggered him with a quick left jab to the chin. To his credit, he actually managed to finish drawing the sword while flailing wildly to recover his balance—and found himself staring down the barrel of the M1911 .45 that had streaked out of Neustatter’s holster.

“I think you need to study the Westerns, too.” Neustatter’s voice was calm. “You are good. If you can control your noble temper, you will be better.” Without turning his head, he asked, “Herr Syborg, do you have the novelization of Rio Bravo?”

The proprietor swallowed. “Ja, ja, I think so. Right over there.”

Astrid was closest. She passed a copy to Neustatter.

“Add it to my bill, bitte,” Neustatter told him. He handed the book to the young man. “For you.”

The woman—by now Astrid was assuming she was his older sister—curtseyed, thanked them graciously, and swept the boy out of the shop.

Neustatter grinned as he holstered his pistol. “I don’t know as I’ve seen someone elegantly hustle before.”

“Neustatter—” Astrid began.

Neustatter shrugged with both hands palm up. “He drew on me. And he got out of it with a punch in the mouth and a book. I think it went okay.”

Matthias Syborg burst into laughter and clapped Neustatter on the shoulder.


After she and Neustatter eventually got some lunch, Astrid wandered around Magdeburg with the others for a bit. Then they returned to their rooms, and Astrid lay down for a nap. She wanted to be as well-rested as possible before she stayed up all night on the train. Around five, the NESS agents assembled for dinner in the inn’s main room before making their way to the train station. Sergeant Sandhagen was already there.

“How were the barracks?” Neustatter asked.

“Tense. New prime minister, Krystalnacht, upcoming war. Wars, maybe.”

“We noticed the same thing,” Neustatter stated. “What do we know about tonight’s train?”

“It is the regular overnight express to Schwarza Junction. Semi-express, actually, with stops at Halle, Naumburg Station, and Jena. Steam engine and three passenger cars.”

“Three?” Neustatter asked quickly.

“Two sleepers and a regular car. They added the third a couple hours ago. A lot of people want to go to Grantville.”

“It is a safe place.”

“Exactly. Three men to each car. I will be in the middle one.”

As far as Astrid could tell, Neustatter didn’t even hesitate. “Hjalmar, your team has the first car, but I need Karl in the second one.”

Astrid’s brother nodded. “You want me up front with the rifle and Jakob watching my back. Otto in the rear.”

“Exactly. Karl, you are the rifleman in the second car. Sergeant Sandhagen is in charge. Phillip, you will be in the back of that car. I will be in the front of the third car. Wolfram, you have a rifle. Astrid, watch his back.”

One rifle in each car, Astrid noted. We will be stretched thin . . .

“I know we will be thin.” Neustatter seemed to read her thoughts. “Stay alert. And do not get comfortable on the stairs. The sleeping compartments block line of sight, so make sure you are up in the aisle frequently. Open the doors between cars if you need to pass a message.”

The NESS agents fanned out to their respective cars. Neustatter took his station at the front of the third car. Astrid started to follow Wolfram to the back, but Neustatter signaled her to wait.

“Miss Schäubin, please look into purchasing more long arms. I want at least one more with your team, two if we can. And one more with Hjalmar’s team.”

“I will see if NESS can afford what is available,” Astrid agreed. “Maybe SRGs.”

“What I would really like is a Winchester.”

“I think only the Hibernian Battalion can afford those.”

The train soon began filling up. Astrid noted some of those boarding were checking large amounts of baggage. When they boarded, she could see they were richly dressed. Adel or at least well-to-do, she thought. Are they that afraid? The Crown Loyalists won the election, and Krystalnacht has done very little in Magdeburg itself. No real reason to flee.

She noted that in some cases, servants were preparing compartments for nobles or burghers in the first two cars and then coming back to the third car themselves. To sleep sitting up. And they won’t be able to go help their masters while the train is moving. Smarter to buy the servants tickets for a second compartment.

“All aboard!”

Astrid checked her side of the train. “Two more!” she called out. “Running!”

She had just realized that the first figure was a woman, running in full skirts when she caught sight of a whole group of figures.

“Neustatter! Pursuit! No polizei in sight!”

She heard Neustatter throw open the door to the next car as the train’s brakes released. The figure was within twenty yards now, and— It was the woman and the boy from Syborg’s Book Store!

Astrid stood on the bottom step with one hand outstretched and the other firmly around the hand rail. The woman caught her hand as the train began to move. She hurried up the stairs. The boy ignored Astrid’s hand. She grabbed him instead and hauled him aboard.

The sound of boots on the stairs behind her told her one of the pursuers had made it aboard. She turned to see two more pursuers leap aboard and quickly backed up the aisle. Everything was happening at once: the woman was pulling her brother up the aisle, passengers were turning around, one woman screamed, and the fourth and fifth pursuers were rapidly outpaced by the train. But most of Astrid’s attention was on the first one. He was reaching for a weapon. Threats. Her pistol was out and rising, left hand coming up to meet it . . .

“Freeze!” Neustatter barked.

The man froze mid-draw, so Astrid froze in a two-handed stance. She saw that Wolfram, on the back left steps, had his rifle leveled at the other two, both of whom had rifles. Neustatter’s voice had come from the front right, so he’d have a line of fire over the heads of the seated passengers.

The second pursuer spoke in the clipped Amideutsch of Magdeburg.

“We arrest them in the name of the Committees of Correspondence.”

Astrid stared in shock. But Neustatter just snorted. “I did not realize the Committees have police powers.”

“It is best you step out of our way.”

Nein, it is best you explain yourselves. Now.” Neustatter delivered the last word with a certain menace.

“If you interfere, we will report it to Gunther Achterhof.”

That’s definitely a threat, Astrid realized.

“Do not make me explain to Gunther why I had to put three of his men in the ground,” Neustatter responded.

So is that.

The first man’s hand tightened on whatever he had half-drawn.

“Uh-huh,” Astrid told him. “Let go of it. Or I will shoot you.” Clients—the train and passengers.

The second man held his left hand up. “Put it away, Gebhard.” He faced Neustatter. “Your guns are going to get heavy.”

Astrid took a couple steps backwards toward the front the car. She remembered two women seated together on the left side.

Frauen, slide over, bitte,” she requested without turning her head. She knelt on the seat, resting her pistol on the back of the seat. “I can stay here a really long time. So explain yourselves.”

The second pursuer glanced upward and sighed. “Fine,” he snapped. “These are the children of Heinrich von Kardorff. He was a ritter in Westphalia.”

“We got him,” the first man said.

“They killed Father,” the boy said. His hand slid toward his sword.

“Don’t move,” Neustatter growled. “I’m Neustatter. My teams are train guards on this run. Kid, I assume you are now Ritter von Kardorff.”

“I am.”

“And I assume this is Frau von Kardorff, your sister.”


“Ah, so you are mad at her, too,” Neustatter observed. “Westphalia. That explains your very proper Plattdeutsch. And over there we have Gebhard in front, the CoC team leader—what is your name?”

“Klaus Eggers. And that is Hans behind me.”

“What are you waiting for?” a man seated on the right side next to a window demanded. “Shoot them!”

“For being CoCs? That would be right unneighborly,” Neustatter drawled.

“Take care, old man!” Gebhard threatened. “You could be next.”

A man on the right side of the train stood up. “There are more of us than there are of you,” he said in Hochdeutsch.

“Sit down,” Neustatter told him.

“I will not be spoken—”

“I will speak to you any way I choose,” Neustatter told him.

Astrid couldn’t see him; he was toward the front of the car, and she was halfway back, facing the rear. She wasn’t about to look away from where she aimed her pistol.

“I am not going to listen to a peasant.”

“That is mighty big talk from a burgher in front of so many neideradel,” Neustatter observed. “They think the same of you as you think of peasants.”

Klaus laughed harshly. “The adel took their privileges under a supposed agreement to protect everyone else. But here is a burgher standing up to you while the adel remains seated.”

“But as the Constitution says, we are all citizens here,” Neustatter countered. “I know the Committees believe that. So tell me about von Kardorff and his children.”

Gebhard spat on the floor. “Von Kardorff was the worst kind of scum. Oppressing his villagers. Crooked deals, cheating on contracts, taking advantage of the young women . . .”

“But that is not why we killed him,” Klaus interrupted. “Only two things put someone on the target lists: anti-Semitism and witch hunting. Von Kardorff was guilty of both.”

“Go on.”

“He was typical of the adel, living above his means, taking advantage of the labor of the villagers,” Klaus growled. “But even that was not enough money. He borrowed heavily from Jews, then made false accusations against them when they tried to collect.”

“Give me money or I will arrange an accident—a legal one,” Neustatter summarized.

Ja, you understand.” Klaus was really getting warmed up now. “He used accusations of witchcraft the same way. That is how he took advantage of the young women in the village. Sleep with him or be accused of witchcraft. Or mother or grandmother accused of witchcraft. He had four Jews and three women killed. That we know of.”

Ritter von Kardorff, Miss von Kardorff, do you have anything to say?” Neustatter asked.

“What is ‘Miss‘?” the woman demanded. “I wish to know if I am being insulted.”

“You should be more worried about being killed,” Gebhard stated.

“Shut up,” Astrid told him. “Frau von Kardorff, ‘miss’ is how up-timers address unmarried women. Neustatter calls me miss whenever I call him herr.”

Frau von Kardorff laughed once. “He is no herr. Even the burgher saw he is nothing but a . . .”

“Citizen.” Astrid spoke loudly since she still wasn’t going to turn her head to address Frau von Kardorff.

“Bah!” Frau von Kardorff burst out. “What good is being a citizen when the city watch stood aside for the CoC? Is ‘citizen’ limited to them?”

“Normally there’s no reason for the polizei to stop the CoCs,” Astrid stated, still not facing her.  “Again, we are all citizens. Which part of that do you not understand?”

“How dare you turn your back to me!”

“Frau von Kardorff!” Neustatter snapped. “Step back. If you strike Miss Schäubin, I will shoot you myself.”

“You will have to shoot me first!” the young ritter declared.

Ja, I would,” Neustatter said. “Since my team are the ones keeping the CoC from killing you and your sister, maybe she should not be raising her hand against us.”

For a few seconds, Astrid heard nothing but the clickety-clack of the train on the tracks. Then Neustatter said, “Sehr gut.” Evidently Miss von Kardorff had enough self-control to stand down.

“Now, Miss von Kardorff, do you have anything to say about the CoCs’ charges?”

Astrid heard nothing for several seconds. She is either furious or ashamed.

“Our father was not a pleasant man,” she finally said.

Hearing her very controlled tone, Astrid realized it was shame.

“I cannot speak to the particulars,” Miss von Kardorff stated, “beyond hearing him complain about the Jews.”

“An anti-Semite then,” Gebhard stated. “So let us shoot them.”

“Suppose first you explain how Ritter von Kardorff’s children are involved?” Neustatter requested.

“They are his children!” Gebhard blurted out.

Ja, I just said that. But how are they involved?”

“If we do not kill them, they will rule over the village. The same things will keep happening.”

Nein, they will not,” the boy stated.

“We are not going to take that chance,” Gebhard countered.

Astrid heard a train car door squeak open. She realized it was the door to the next car ahead. Someone had made the somewhat dangerous crossing between cars while the train was underway. Then she heard Karl’s voice.

“Where do you want me, Neustatter?”

“Middle of the aisle,” came Neustatter’s voice. Once Karl was evidently in position, Neustatter called, “Wolfram, order arms!”

“Clever,” Eggers allowed. “Hans, you cover the one at our backs while I cover the new one. And be alert when the train pulls into Halle. He will have more men in the first two cars.”

After the discussion continued for a while, Neustatter signaled Wolfram. His rifle came back up, and Karl crossed back to the second car. Klaus and Hans took the opportunity to rest their rifles, one at a time.

Astrid’s legs were starting to cramp by the time she heard Karl return.

“We are five minutes from Halle,” he announced. “Sergeant Sandhagen is aware of what is happening back here.”

Eggers turned his head and told Hans something, speaking too quietly for her to hear.

“The train will stop at Halle just long enough for passengers to disembark and board,” Neustatter reminded them all. “You will not have time to bring the local CoC to the station.”

“You will not have time to summon reinforcements, either,” Eggers countered.

“True,” Neustatter allowed.

Half-true, Astrid thought. She had already figured out why Karl had been gone so long. Of course, the CoC men didn’t know that Karl had been assigned to the front of the second car, not to the back . . .

“Since we seem to have a stalemate, I suggest we all find more comfortable seating arrangements,” Neustatter suggested. “If we ask all the passengers to move to the right side, Ritter and Miss von Kardorff can sit in the front on the left. You men can sit in the back, and Miss Schäubin and I will sit in the middle.”

Astrid listened to the clickety-clack of the train as Eggers thought that over for a full minute. “Okay, but we will take the front and put the reactionaries in the back.”

“Makes no difference to me,” Neustatter stated.

But it does, Astrid thought. Now they will be the ones facing backwards in their seats.

Und we will lock the door to the next car,” Eggers added.

Ah, so he saw that part.

“Fine. I will keep Wolfram on the back stairs. Got to have a rear guard. Which side do you want him on?”

Clever, Neustatter. Clever. Astrid wasn’t sure if there even was a right answer.

“Left,” Eggers said after another minute. “Most of the stations are on the left.”

“What about us?” the burgher who had stood up earlier asked.

“I regret that our conversation will probably keep most of you awake,” Neustatter answered. “But at least you will be out of the line of fire.”



Friday, June 22, 1635


It was after midnight when the southbound Schwarza Express was shunted off onto the second line and rolled into Halle Station. At the same time, the northbound Magdeburg Express pulled away from the station on the main line.

“Halle Station! Anyone disembarking?”

“You could all leave the train here,” the burgher suggested.

“Train guards,” Neustatter said. “We cannot leave.”

“I am not getting off the train,” Miss von Kardorff declared.

“Then we stay, too,” Eggers said.

Several passengers left the third car, including the vocal burgher. Two or three people looked like they intended to board but were quickly pulled aside by those leaving the train. Only one man boarded. He found a seat in the back. Neustatter just shook his head.

“I see no reason to involve the stationmaster,” Neustatter said. “If all the rest of you would please move to the right side of the car? And Wolfram, if you would step down and let the Committeemen pass?”

“Hans, you first,” Klaus directed. “And the reactionaries move down the aisle to the back.”

Hans left by the rear door and reentered at the front of the car. Klaus followed, and finally Gebhard, so that at least one of them was always in a position to cover the von Kardorffs.

“You suckered me!” Neustatter declared when he saw that Gebhard had finally been able to draw his pistol while outside the train.

Ja, I did,” Eggers acknowledged. He locked the door to the next car as the conductor’s cry of “All aboard!” rang out from somewhere forward. Just as he sat down looking fairly satisfied, Sergeant Johann Sandhagen came up the car’s front steps. He held a lantern in each hand.

“I am not armed. But once we cross into Thuringia-Franconia, you are my problem. So I ought to be back here.”

“There is a soldier on the train!” It was the first thing Astrid had heard CoC Hans say.

Ja,” Neustatter answered. “One military police liaison per train. Surely you knew this?”

Surely they did not, Astrid realized as the train started to move.

Sandhagen replaced the lantern hanging at the front of the car, slipped past the CoC men to replace the lantern in the back, and then found an empty seat in the middle on the left side. Neustatter dropped into the seat ahead of him and moved all the way across to the window, his pistol still up, momentarily in a one-handed grip. Astrid took the one behind the sergeant, grateful to finally be sitting down properly. She sat next to the aisle, gun hand casually resting on the back of Sandhagen’s seat.

She heard Wolfram tell the von Kardorffs, “Your turn to sit down. Two seats up from the back, bitte. I have recent experience with hand-to-hand fighting on a train, and I must insist on an empty seat between us.”

Dank schön, Wolfram. Just what I need to be thinking about—Lucas getting shot in the ambush last month. Especially when we roll right past the spot, in the dark, with a swordsman behind me . . . Oh! Astrid realized something.

“Did you speak with the stationmaster, sergeant?” Klaus Eggers demanded.

Nein. If I wanted to force an end to this, I would have had him hold the train while I summoned help from the camp outside the town. But I did not.”

Astrid saw an expression cross Egger’s face. Evidently Neustatter did, too.

“You boys are not AWOL, are you? Those are SRGs.” Neustatter’s voice was casual. He held up his left hand when Hans started. “Not my watch. I got out of soldiering. Mostly.”

“So we are back to Ritter von Kardorff’s children,” Klaus Eggers stated. He was speaking even more quickly.

Trying to lead us away from that comment about being AWOL, Astrid figured.

“We cannot let them live,” Gebhard said.

“Why?” Neustatter asked. “Are they anti-Semites? Or witch hunters?”


“Probably is not good enough. Everyone has heard of the Committees of Correspondence lists. Either they are on the list, or they are not. Show us,” Neustatter challenged.

Again there was a pause in the conversation, with the clickety-clack of the train the only noise.

One of the passengers finally broke the silence. “Obviously they are not on your list. Sergeant, I insist these men be arrested at the next stop! And these incompetent guards replaced!”

Mein Herr, so far these guards have kept anyone from getting hurt,” Sandhagen pointed out.

“If you will not, I will! I know men in the new prime minister’s government!”

Klaus Eggers shifted to cover the man with his rifle. “You are neideradel!”

“Sure sounds like it,” Neustatter agreed. “Astrid, you have a better angle on him. Wolfram, you cover the von Kardorffs. I have Gebhard and Silent Hans.”

“Neustatter,” Eggers warned.

“What? I have one gun on you and your men instead of two. Stop complaining.”

“If you have contacts in Prime Minister Wettin’s government . . .” Miss von Kardorff began.

Klaus Eggers interrupted her. “That will mean nothing in the SoTF.”

“Are you of the adel?” the boy demanded. “And you have been sitting here silent the entire time?”

“He does not want to get involved,” Klaus told him. “You are not worth it to him. That is how the adel is.”

“You would let them take us?” The boy’s voice rose.

“Of course he would! He is a coward like the rest of them!”

The newly-discovered noble reached for something.

“Freeze!” Neustatter barked. “Either drop that in the aisle or very slowly come over here and sit down next to Sergeant Sandhagen.”

“I will not!”

“Wolfram, cover the CoCs.” Neustatter lunged across the aisle and pistol-whipped the noble. With his left hand he stripped the dirk out of the noble’s hand while his right—pistol still in hand—snaked under the man’s arm and around the back of his neck. Neustatter hauled the man out into the aisle by brute force and deposited him next to Sandhagen.

“Astrid, shoot him in the back of the head if he tries anything. Wolfram, you have the von Kardorffs.”

“Impressive,” Eggers allowed.

“The rest of us all seem willing to talk,” Neustatter noted.

“I will . . . I will . . . You will hang for this!” The noble started to lunge to his feet, but Sergeant Sandhagen grabbed him by the bicep and shoulder and drove him back into the seat.

“Let us kill him, too,” Gebhard proposed.

He is driven, almost unhinged, Astrid thought. Why?

“Astrid?” Neustatter asked.

Ja, boss?”

“We are in Saxon County now, are we not? If someone was killed on a train, who do you think would get to the murderer first, Colonel von Hessler or the Saxon Ghost?”

Astrid thought about it. “I say von Hessler.”


“He has the Levies spread out along the river. Which means they are right along the railroad, too. He would hear anything very quickly.”

“The Ghost finds out everything in Saxon County,” Neustatter countered.

Klaus gave them a very skeptical look.

Astrid rushed her next question a bit. “What do you think would happen?”

Von Hessler would probably just shoot them,” Neustatter said. “The Ghost? Who knows? I heard he hanged Saxon officers last year.”

“He is not real,” Eggers stated.

“Sure he is. We met him last month—and the troop of dragoons that rides with him. Miss Schäubin? Five bucks on the Saxon Ghost.”

“Five bucks on Colonel von Hessler,” Astrid agreed.


“What is it, Wolfram?”

“I saw a light when the train came around the bend. We are coming up on Schkopau.”

Dank dir,” Sergeant Sandhagen said. “This is the Saxon Run. Von Hessler and the Saxon Ghost are not the only ones out there. The SoTF thinks members of the Saxon adel were behind the attack on the train last month. So I need you to point your guns away from each other and cover the doors.”

“The sergeant is correct,” Neustatter stated. He got up and moved backward down the aisle, pistol pointed straight up. “Wolfram, keep the left. I have the right. Ritter von Kardorff, I am going to trust you to not draw your sword. Eggers, one of you can watch the nobles, but the other two need to cover the forward doors.”

“This is a trick!” Gebhard exclaimed.

“No trick,” Neustatter said. “We need to be on the alert all the way to Camburg.”

“I will watch the reactionaries,” Gebhard declared.


“If it is a trick, Neustatter, you would be the decoy.” Klaus spoke slowly. “So I will watch the door on the right.”

“Fine.” Neustatter said it like he didn’t care.

He probably doesn’t, Astrid thought. Oh, yes.Herr von Adel, remember I am right behind you,” she said aloud.

Facing outward toward a possible external threat put a damper on conversation as the Schwarza Express passed Merseburg, Camp Devastation, and Weissenfels. Sergeant Sandhagen got up and shuttered the lanterns.

After a few minutes, Astrid’s night vision came back. “Coming up on Eulau,” she observed. “Just beyond is where the train got attacked last month. Watch the ridgeline.”

“I see a torch!” Klaus called out.

“That is von Hessler’s watchtower,” Neustatter told him.

“What is next?” Klaus asked.

“Camp Terror. It will be on the right. Then we cross the bridge over the Unstrut and stop at Naumburg Station.”

“What is this camp?” Ritter von Kardorff asked.

“It was a railroad construction camp,” Astrid heard Neustatter tell him. “Then the USE regiments built it up when they marched through in ’33. Now it has a garrison of SoTF National Guard and Saale Levies.”

“And the name?”

“A joke made by a Saxon soldier, but the Levies kept it.”

Miss von Kardorff suddenly recoiled from the window. “There is nothing out there!”

Astrid had felt the clickety-clack of the train change. “We are on the bridge, up over the river.”

“This is unnatural,” the woman declared.

The sound changed again.

“We are back on land,” Astrid offered, still not turning her head. She heard Miss von Kardorff sigh in relief.

“I see lights,” Klaus announced.

“Naumburg Station.”

A few of the passengers stirred as the train coasted up to the platform. Astrid heard one quietly asking another, “Shall we find an inn here and finish the journey tomorrow, on a safe train?”

Nein. This is Saxon County. It is no safer for us than this train.”

Astrid was pretty sure he was wrong, but saw no reason to butt into their conversation.

The conductor came up the steps. “We are going to add a fourth car here,” he announced. “Once it is hooked up, I will ask all of you passengers to move to that car.” He leaned back out the door and waved.

The train was moving before anyone could protest. It rolled a little way from the station and stopped again.

“What is happening?” Gebhard demanded. “Neustatter, you planned this!”

“I have been right here with you, Gebhard. How would I have done it?”

Gebhard’s aim shifted from the von Kardorffs to Neustatter. “Who else could have?”

“That is a good question,” Klaus Eggers agreed. He turned away from the door. “How does this extra railroad car happen to be here?”

“It is for emergencies,” the conductor told him. “Camp Destruction was raided a year ago in the spring. There were no trains nearby to transport troops. Since then there is always an engine and an extra car either here or at Halle.”

As if to punctuate his words, another train rumbled. Then there was a heavy thud against the back of the car.

“They are hooking up the fourth car now.”

No kidding, Astrid thought.

“The engineer and I know what is going on back here,” the conductor informed them. “We are not stupid. You must work this out among yourselves, but we must move our passengers to safety.”

“That makes sense to me,” Sergeant Sandhagen declared.

Someone banged on the rear door. Neustatter unlocked and opened it.

A beefy man dressed in brown stood there. He had a green cloth tied around his upper right arm. “We are ready for your passengers,” he said.

“Who are you?” Klaus Eggers demanded.

Ich bin Peter Hofmann. I am a farmer in Kleinjena, a mile up the road. But I am in the Saale Levies, too.” He pointed at the green cloth around his arm and continued in the same almost-Hochdeutsch that wasn’t quite the same as the Grantville Amideutsch they’d heard from Heinz Kraft yesterday. “Colonel von Hessler ordered me to take five men and protect the train to Grantville, then come back in the morning. He said to stay out of whatever was going on, just keep the train safe from outside attack.”

“I do not believe you,” Gebhard stated.

“This is part . . . what do they call it? Krystalnacht, is it not? Not our problem,” Hofmann stated.

“Weak sisters,” Eggers snarled.

Hofmann matched him glare for glare. “There are no witch hunters in the Unstruttal. Since last fall, Jews live in our village—a minyan or something like that. I think it means ‘a whole bunch’ in Jewish. We do not mind if men from the Yellow Circle Regiment march through or ride the trains. More and more men and women work in shops and factories along the rivers. Most of them belong to unions. We are you.” He pointed right at Eggers. “War with Saxony is coming. Do not start anything right here on the border. Not unless you intend to stay and help finish it.”

Hofmann’s tirade silenced everyone.

“Guess I owe you five bucks, Miss Schäubin,” Neustatter spoke into the silence. “Well, Herr Eggers, I agree to Hofmann’s terms if you do.”

Astrid could practically see the man thinking.

“We are now behind schedule,” the conductor announced.

“We cannot have that.”

The conductor gave a firm nod. He’d evidently missed Eggers’ sarcasm. “Since it is all settled, I will move the passengers now.”

“Go ahead,” Eggers agreed.

The passengers quickly gathered up whatever they had brought with them and moved to the fourth car.

Gebhard pointed at the noble Astrid was still covering. “He stays.”

“Why?” Neustatter asked.

“Because he is one of them,” Gebhard stated.

“He was not going to help until you forced the issue. He appealed to Sergeant Sandhagen and was not going to defend the von Kardorffs. How does that set him against you?”

“He spoke against us!”

“I speak against you, too. Gebhard, you are a dummkopf. Free speech.”

Gebhard swore at Neustatter.

“And the horse you rode in on,” Neustatter returned.

“Silence!” Klaus Eggers ordered. “Get the noble out of here!”

“Your call,” Sergeant Sandhagen said. “Herr, this way.”

The noble shied away as he passed Neustatter.

“Now you come back here and sit down, Sergeant,” Eggers instructed. “I do not want you planning anything against us.”

“Fine.” Sandhagen looked at Hofmann. “Neustatter has another team in the first two cars. Try to work together if anything happens.”

Hofmann nodded. “Good luck.”

They shut and locked their respective doors as the train began to move.

As the clickety-clacks came closer and closer together, Gebhard said, “We cannot make an example of the reactionaries without witnesses.”

Neustatter glanced away from his door. “Do you seriously want to kidnap an audience?”

Eggers smacked Gebhard in the back of the head. “Nein.

“Next item. You need to convince me that the von Kardorffs are legitimate targets,” Neustatter stated.

“We told you. The father—”

“But they are not on your list, are they?” Neustatter’s tone was harsh. “What makes you think you can kill them?”

“We have to cut out the rot,” Gebhard answered. “Like father, like child.”

“You are just like them,” Astrid blurted out. “They know of one lazy villager, and treat us all like that. You know of one rapist and murderer and treat them all like that. But the Constitution forbids corruption of blood. I thought the Committees followed the Constitution.”

She had the satisfaction of watching Klaus’s mouth open and close a couple times. And Silent Hans flushed.

“They are . . . Not . . . On . . . Your . . . List,” Neustatter stated. “You are not allowed.”

“Do not presume to tell the Committees what we can and cannot do,” Eggers snapped. He turned away from his door as well. “We are past the camp and approaching Jena. That is the Committees’ territory. You have no one else you can call upon.”

“Do not be too sure,” Neustatter told him. “But since we are not in Jena yet, what do you have to say about Miss Schäubin’s point from the Constitution?”

“The anti-Semites and the witch hunters are not going to follow the Constitution, so neither are we,” Gebhard stated. Now weapons came up all around.

“Herr Eggers, that does not explain why you seek to kill people not on your list. Something else is going on here, and I want to know what,” Neustatter demanded. “Right now.”

Astrid noted that Eggers and Gebhard exchanged looks while Silent Hans looked uncomfortable. Gebhard finally spoke up.

“One of the women that von Kardorff had killed was the grandmother of a CoC member.”

“So this is private justice.”

“He is not on this mission. Someone has to see to it.”

“You are committed to this,” Neustatter observed. “Against orders. Why?”

“My grandfather was killed by the adel.”

“I see,” Neustatter said. “This CoC man whose grandmother von Kardorff killed—would he happen to be on the team going after the adel who killed your grandfather?”

Astrid saw Gebhard’s eyes widen and knew Neustatter had scored a hit.

“How do you know that?” Gebhard blurted out.

“Because Sergeant Hudson made me sit through Strangers on a Train,” Neustatter said.

Astrid couldn’t help it. She started laughing.

“You find this funny?” Eggers demanded.

“That Neustatter figured it out from an up-time movie?” she asked. “Ja, I do.”

“So why are you permitting it, Klaus?” Neustatter asked. “Do you approve? No, I see you do not.” He paused and thought. “Does he have something on you? No. You are not a man to blackmail. Honorable . . . He saved your life, did he not? During Krystalnacht? Or before?”

For the second time, Astrid saw the CoC men’s eyes widen in surprise.

“First week of Krystalnacht.” Eggers’ voice was gruff. “A man not on our list shot at me after I let him go.”

“Ah. So Gebhard’s belief that none of the adel can be trusted rings true. Dank schön, Herr Eggers. Now I understand.”

“We are going to take them off the train here in Jena,” Eggers stated as the train began to slow down. “Stand up!”

Astrid heard the young Ritter von Kardorff stand. Then she heard the hiss of a blade being drawn. Gebhard came down the aisle, pistol raised. She stepped in front of him.

“Gebhard!” Klaus warned.

“Stand aside!” a deep voice called out on the platform.  “CoC!”

Gebhard smiled menacingly.

Another voice shouted. “National Guard! Herr Engineer, keep that train moving!”

The train began to roll.

Klaus Eggers glared at Neustatter, his rifle coming up again. “You cheated!”

“I and most of my men are National Guard,” Neustatter told him. “That includes Miss Schäubin’s brother. So if you shoot her, Gebhard, I am going to let Hjalmar kill you. Personal vengeance cuts both ways.”

“Gebhard, step back,” Eggers directed.

Nein. It is time to end this.”

“Stop!” Von Kardorff tried to pass Astrid. She stepped in front of him. The boy half-sighed, half-growled in frustration. “Do you think I am so stupid that I would take vengeance on my village for your crimes?”

“Of course that is what they think,” his sister spat out. “They do not think of us as people. Not one of them knows anything about us except what lands we own!”

Eggers began to argue, but she spoke over him. “What are our names?” she demanded.

“Von Kardorff.”

“Our names. Not our lands.”

After an awkward silence, Neustatter said, “It is clear they do not know your names.”

“Nor do you.”

“That is true. I have been too busy saving your life.”

She sniffed.

“Neustatter,” Eggers said, “you do understand that we cannot let the boy rule over the village, do you not?”

“You could educate him instead of killing him,” Neustatter pointed out.

“Not much chance of that in a village.”

“Maybe the CoC should open a school.”

“I am not going to a school,” von Kardorff declared.

“Why not?” Astrid asked. “I take classes in Grantville. English, civics, finance.”

“The best education is in Grantville,” Neustatter agreed. “Herr Eggers, if you want him to rule the village well, those classes will be a good start.”

“I do not trust him or his sister. They will go back to the village.”

“Listen to you,” Miss von Kardorff interrupted. “The village. We are not of the hochadel. We own a village. We know everyone there.”

“And who does all the work administering it?” Gebhard asked.

“Herr Reimers oversaw most of it for Father,” von Kardorff stated.

“And will he oversee most of it for you?” Astrid asked.

“Of course.”

“Perfect,” Neustatter said. “You can attend school in Grantville and learn to rule well. Reimers can continue overseeing the village.”

“I told you we own a village,” Miss von Kardorff reminded everyone. “One small village. One hundred sixty-two tenants, only one hundred twenty-seven of them ours. We cannot afford to live in Grantville.”

Klaus Eggers laughed. “Get a job.”

“A job?” Astrid wished the young ritter hadn’t shouted from right behind her ear. He sounded outraged. “That is dishonorable.”

“So find an honorable one,” she told him.

“The only honorable occupation for a ritter is to be a soldier,” he stated.

“Or some other job where you carry a weapon,” Neustatter said slowly. “Kid, I got an idea. How about you come work for me while you are taking classes?”

Nein!” Gebhard shouted.

“Neustatter, you are wahnsinnig,” Eggers told him.

“Why not?” Neustatter asked. “How old are you?”


“You have kept your cool as well as anyone could expect from a sixteen-year-old,” Neustatter told him.

“I will not leave my brother alone,” Miss Kardorff stated. “What would you do with me?”

“Do you intend to help your brother govern the village?” Neustatter.

“Yes, of course—until I marry.”

“Then you should take classes, too.”

“Will you give me a job, too? Hand me a sword?” The questions were definitely sarcastic.

“Miss Schäubin?”

Astrid was still looking at Gebhard. She rolled her eyes, because she knew what was coming. “Ja, Neustatter?”

“You handle NESS’s finances and are a security consultant. Do you want to train her?”

“Sure, why not? But, Neustatter, you can forget about buying any Winchesters if you are going to add two more staff. Maybe not even SRGs.”

“The Committees must have some guarantees,” Eggers began.

Three more staff, Miss Schäubin,” Neustatter corrected.

“I am not working for you!” Gebhard declared.

“And I am not inclined to take you,” Neustatter agreed. “Besides, Gebhard, you are concerned about the villagers. Why not go there and help them? You promised your comrade you would make things right, did you not?”

Klaus Eggers laughed. “So why do you say three, Neustatter?” After the briefest of pauses, he said, “Nein! Not me!”

“Why not?” Neustatter asked. “The Committees seek assurances that Ritter von Kardorff will learn to govern well. Who else would the CoCs send? Gebhard made a promise about the village. Hans . . . you plan to return to your volunteer regiment before the war starts, do you not?”

Ja,” Hans confirmed. “I am going back. This had to be done, but our assignment is over, except for these two.”

“The Committees are strong in the cities and larger towns,” Neustatter pointed out. “Not so much in farming villages. Let Gebhard work with the village. Klaus, you can figure out what ritter and freiherren should learn from the up-timers. I could use another rifleman. You could use some contact with the Grantville Committee of Correspondence. You can keep an eye on von Kardorff here, and he can keep an eye on you.”

“I do not approve of this,” von Kardorff proclaimed.

“Nor do I,” Klaus Eggers concurred.

“So it is settled, then,” Neustatter stated.

“I think we need to discuss this further,” Eggers protested.

“It is dawn,” Neustatter stated. “We will arrive at Schwarza Junction in a few minutes. I think we need to have everything settled by then.”

“You will pay us enough to live in Grantville?” Miss von Kardorff asked.

NESSKotSEapt“In an apartment building,” Astrid clarified. “Not a schloss.” She described the apartment she shared with her brother and her cousin.

“You must let my brother call it his grand tour,” she demanded.

Klaus sighed. “Fine. What do I care?”

“Klaus?” Gebhard asked.

“I think we should do it, Gebhard,” Klaus told him.

“You are a CoC team leader.”

“Neustatter has outmaneuvered me since we jumped on this train,” Klaus admitted. “Perhaps I should learn from him. And you could help Johann’s family.”

Gebhard finally stepped back. “I want regular contact with the Committees,” he said. “And with you, to make sure they do what they say.” He pointed at the von Kardorffs.


Hans spoke up again. “You. Wolfram. Let us order arms.”

Weapons were slung, holstered, and sheathed while the clickety-clack on the rails lessened. Secure the area, Astrid thought, happy to mentally check off Neustatter’s third principle, even if it had taken all night to accomplish.

As the Schwarza Express pulled into the station, Astrid saw four Mounted Constables waiting on the platform. As they all filed out of the third car, one of the constables stepped forward, hand on his holster. “What’s the problem?” he asked in Amideutsch.

“No problem, Officer,” Neustatter said. “Just train guards going to breakfast after the overnight.”

“That’s a big group of train guards,” the constable stated.

Neustatter pointed at Hjalmar, Jakob, and Phillip disembarking from the first two cars. “Team Two.” Hofmann and his Levies poured out of the fourth car. “Some reinforcements from Colonel von Hessler, up in West Saxony.” Neustatter’s gesture took in his own group. “Team Three—and my new hires.” He pointed at Hans. “One soldier on leave.” At Gebhard. “And a CoC village liaison.”

“So no trouble?”

“No trouble. From Magdeburg, with love, you might say.”

Astrid wasn’t sure if the constable believed Neustatter or not, but he made no effort to stop them when Neustatter asked, “Breakfast in Grantville? I’m buying.”

As the group moved off the platform, Otto Brenner inserted himself next to Neustatter.

“Everything okay, boss?” he asked.

Ja,” Neustatter told him. “Everything is fine.”

He is one of yours?” Eggers demanded. “He sat right there from Halle to Naumburg Station, and we never had him covered!”

Gebhard looks a little pale, Astrid observed.

Ja,” Neustatter said. He looked to Astrid’s brother. “Hjalmar, I assume you are the one who got off the train at Halle and arranged for Hofmann’s men and the extra car at Naumburg Station?”

“I just got a message to Sergeant Hudson,” Hjalmar said. “He set up the rest.”

Ja, I definitely need to work for you,” Eggers told Neustatter, “and learn your tricks.”

Astrid knew Neustatter was grinning. But her brother’s embrace kept her from seeing it. She did hear what Neustatter said next.

“You need to get a message to that other CoC team and call off their private vengeance. And probably let your other two men know what happened—the ones who missed the train.”


“All right,” Neustatter declared. “I need to know my employees’ names.”

Ich bin Friedrich,” the ritter said. “Just like Gebhard.”

“You may call me Miss von Kardorff,” his sister told Neustatter. “It would be improper of you to use my given name. I will be Miss von Kardorff, whom you encountered during Krystalnacht.”

“That is quite a long title,” Neustatter noted. “Longer than the whole village, as you describe it.”

“There are up-time women named Crystal,” Astrid offered. “If I am going to train you as a security consultant, you could use that name.”

“Lots of agents have code names,” Neustatter agreed. “Let us find a tram.”

Miss von Kardorff lagged behind the others. “A code name?” she asked Astrid.

Ja.” Astrid explained.

“Very well. I will be Krystal von Kardorff for now.”

Astrid started to follow them toward the tram.

“Miss Schäubin?”

She turned. Neustatter still had his pistol out. He held it out, but pointed safely away.

“Holster it for me, please. I can still shoot. Just cannot let go.”

Astrid pried the weapon out of his fingers, checked the safety, and holstered it for him.

“That whole train ride is a long time to almost get shot,” she observed.

Ja. A few hours at gunpoint gets tiring,” Neustatter allowed. “I do not want you to get hurt, but we take risks to protect others.”

“I know,” Astrid told him. “You are getting warm broth with breakfast, and you are going to hold onto it until your fingers uncramp.”

“Exactly what I was thinking,” Neustatter agreed.


A Szekler in a Kilt


Gyulafehérvár, Transylvania

January 15, 1634


Later they said it all had happened because of the good looks of copper-haired Mary.

Pretty she was and kind, as a daughter of a Saxon innkeeper should be. The generous way she cast her eyes from below her light copper hair was attracting the thirsty folks to this place better than the much-diluted Solymos wine from Transylvania’s famous vineyards.

The evening had fallen early, and only a few gloomy guests were sitting around the drinking room where Mary had just spread fresh straw on the floor. It was a small tavern near the town’s wall edge where poverty colored the streets with dirt but her father kept the floor clean all the same. The girl was wiping the tables and dreamily peering through the window into the swirling snowflakes that had imprisoned the city in a cold grip.

There was a loud bump as the door opened, and two dark shadows were silhouetted against the snow-bound street, letting in a draft of cold wind and sleet. The two figures merrily thumped the mud and ice off their boots and their hearty laughter betrayed the fact that they were far from sober.

It could be seen from their clothes and lofty airs that they were gentlemen, not often seen in a lowly place like this. The first man looked like a German in his fine thick cloak and broad-brimmed hat that sported a golden ostrich feather. He carefully shook the snow off the brim and turned his long face decorated by a goatee beard toward his companion. In badly-accented Hungarian he said, “My friend Selim, this is the tavern that sells wine to Turks like you. . . and she is my extra ‘treat’. . .” and he nodded and grinned at the young maid with visible lust.

The tall man he addressed had finished brushing the snow from his expensive fur coat and undid its gilded straps. When he removed his fox fur hat, it was clear he was a Turk as his head was almost fully shaven, with a long tuft of hair left on the top that came down to his shoulder. His long black moustache also fell in Eastern fashion down almost to his chest. He darted his quick small eyes to his partner and grumbled something incomprehensible.

At that time it was not a small thing to see a Muslim drunk in public. In the prince’s town it was even forbidden to sell wine to the Turkish traders or the envoys of the Padisah, so as to not offend them.

Beside his thirst for wine, the fact that Selim used the Hungarian language was a telling sign that he was a renegade, a pribék as the Hungarians degradingly spoke of those who traded their faith and fortune in exchange for a better faith and fortune. Knaves and traitors, they were cast out even from Transylvania, not just from the borderland of Royal Hungary. When caught, they were mercilessly and painfully put to death. In King Ferdinand’s country anyone, even a peasant, had right to kill them in broad daylight.

However, he was at ease and strutted confidently to an empty table where he dropped his heavy outer garments carelessly onto it. His green velvet kafthan and bejeweled fingers showed off his high position in the service of a Turkish envoy. Turkish delegations were not uncommon in the town of Gyulafehérvár or “Erdel Belgradi” as they called it.

“You, my beauty, just give me some wine and two goblets.” The German fished a coin from his purse and flipped it at her. “And take this double thaler for your smiles.”

Both grinned as they watched the girl trying to catch the silver coin. It eventually fell before their legs, and Mary had to scramble to find it among the straw.

When they were settled and wine was served, he offered a full goblet to the Turk, raising his voice as he spoke clearly enough for the entire room to hear.

asiakmrd“Take this delicious drink of sherbet and taste it, Selim, be my guest! Let us drink first to the health of your Padisah Murad and then, to the health of Emperor Ferdinand, long live them both.”

The Turk drained the goblet and equally loudly replied. “Ha! The sherbet you bought, Hans, has turned into the burning liquid of the houris in paradise when you spelled the name of the great Sultan Murad. Give me more of this magical sherbet, Hans, my true friend, may Allah be praised for his miracles.”

The few Saxon and Hungarian customers of the inn could see that the Muslim envoy was not committing a crime against his faith since he was offered sherbet. Yet, the Hungarians spat and turned away their heads. Some swords were rattled angrily when the renegade made his toast, but though every sane able-bodied man wore a sword in these times of danger, drawing a blade on each other was banned by Prince Rákóczi.

The dark-faced Turk and Hans continued chatting and drinking merrily until they spotted the only person in the tavern who paid no attention to them.

The strange man—rather a lad—was leaning above a big sheet of unfolded paper. He pulled out a pair of small spectacles and balanced them on his nose, folding the paper outward so that those who cared and could read English could read its title: The Grantville Times.

“Look what we have here, Selim. He is your countryman, isn’t he?”

“Nay, his skull is shaven in the stupid Hungarian fashion. Faithless giaur dogs don’t grow a decent long mop of hair to praise the Prophet, rather they leave an inch-wide ridge that grows from the forehead to the nip of their neck. Look, his blond mustache is waxed horizontally and not descending over his chest. He is a Hungarian pig, worse than that, he is a Szekler, I know this because of his grey coat, trimmed with those black braided fasteners.

“And now you think yourself very smart, my jolly friend, but you need to look more closely at him. As a clerk of a diplomat who had travelled much with my noble Lord, Maximilian Hoffe, I’ve encountered many weirder folks than you. You may have missed his blue and green maidenly skirt. This man right here is a Scot, no doubt about that.”

They continued arguing the pros and cons and seemed to enjoy themselves enormously. Finally, they put out some gold coins to wager who was right and decided to investigate further.

Hans stood up, goblet in hand, tasted it and made a sour face, spitting and spilling the content all around him, as he shouted at the barmaid.

“What sort of wine is this that you poison us with, you Saxon witch?”

His words had hardly left his mouth when dozens of red wine drops rained down on the white pages the lad was studying.

Instantly a very angry cry emerged from the lad followed by a long and complex Hungarian curse. This proved the Szekler origin of the young man.


Selim pondered to himself that decent European folks stabbed each other for less and softly caressed his Persian scimitar’s grip.

Clearly his German ally had no strong command of the Hungarian language for he was yet to be convinced, poking his sheathed rapier under the boy’s plaid kilt and lifting it.

“And who do we have here…? A boy or a little girl perhaps? A nasty girl, with a rather bad tongue? Selim, what is under the skirt . . . ? A Protestant Scottish arse or a pretty Szekler male-whore’s member . . .?”

Selim had no time to warn his stupid companion that he had better not mess with a Szekler for everything happened in a blur.

A fist landed and a nose was bloodied. Chairs were kicked out and a basket-hilted sword was drawn on the German, who staggered back, wiping his face.

“Eat my sword, you peasant dog!” Hans shrieked and his long rapier slipped out quicker than one would expect, seeing how drunk the German was.

Selim hurled himself between the two and roared at the red-faced young man who was ready to stab Hans on the spot.

“Come out into the snow, and let me take your blood for insulting the Sublime Padisah, you coward Szekler or whatever you might be!”

The three men rushed out of the inn, along with the onlookers who trampled the snow outside and drew a circle around them.

Even the barmaid ran out with them, putting a warm shawl around her shoulders. She gripped an older guest, a strong Saxon in a butchers’ apron and pleaded with him to help.


“Uncle Michael, please do something, we don’t need the trouble we will get from the city guard if they kill the lad!”

He nodded at her in agreement and shouted out in German.

“You all slow down, damn it. Can’t attack two on one—there are rules to dueling.”

“You must fight one on one and only until first blood. Saber against saber or rapier against rapier.”

“I am the first,” the sobering Hans replied in German.
“Give this peasant’s offspring a proper sword.” He waited until someone offered an old rapier to the boy who put his Scottish sword aside.

The lad was steaming with rage and hefted the rapier, trying out its grip and balance. Saying nothing, he just stepped into the circle. he wore only his Szekler coat above his blue and green kilt.

He made the sign of the cross but gave no sound. Instead, he took up a low guard with his rapier and leaned forward.

Hans fleetingly wondered how this lowly creature seemed to have a knowledge of Fencing Master Meyer’s art of the rapier . . . at least as far as his guards were concerned.

He then dismissed this as nonsense and carelessly dashed at him with his well-practiced master thrust that aimed at the neck but usually pierced the liver.

Not this time.

The strong thrust wasn’t parried but was allowed past the defending blade. The momentum carried Hans forward, past the young man’s left side and while struggling to steady himself on the slippery ground he felt a burning pain from behind. Then a kick that sent him sprawling on all fours.

“Remember, your German lordship, when you try to sit again that it was a Scot who made a second hole in your arse . . .” he heard the young lad cry out, and his words were accompanied by the loud laughter of the onlookers.


Selim was watching the fight solemnly and quickly assessed the boy’s martial skills. He shrugged and exclaimed, “Bismallah! Let Allah’s will be done.”

The Turk was a man well into his thirties, and he not only knew the Szeklers’ way with the saber, but he had also learned from the best Turkish masters of Istanbul and so knew much more than what the janissary schools would teach to an ordinary soldier. Besides, he trusted the thin chainmail shirt that was hiding under his kafthan.

asiaksbrThe lad had already been given a broad-bladed Hungarian saber, a wicked cavalry weapon that, unlike rapiers, was usually used from horseback. Yet, each saber-wielding nation had their own way of fighting on foot. Szeklers were no different. . . Moreover, these ancient mountain folk preserved their age-old martial traditions that went back to the shadowy past—when all Hungarians were still Huns, using a runic alphabet and curved bows.

Selim knew all about this and the Szeklers’ impulsive and hotheaded nature.

“Come, giaur dog, dare to attack the servant of the Padisha’s envoy . . .” he said. They began the saber-dance anew; circling around each other to have a feel of their distance, while taking up the rhythms of war.

“Let dogs lick up your blood . . .” He kept talking as he watched the darkening face of his opponent, “Your mother was a whore who serviced a thousand mercenaries, wasn’t she?”

A loud cry. A flash of light and a metallic clash, was followed by an excited murmur.

“Easy, my son . . . perhaps I am your real father . . . you might kill me!”

The boy’s eyes shone like the prongs of pitchforks and he was gritting his teeth. Now they entered the second circle, drawing nearer to each other. Three rapid steps and one quick strike and parry. Circling on. It was just a game, for the moment.

The elegantly curved Persian blade turned aside the heavier sword with little effort yet all the while the Szekler was pressing Selim fiercely.

Now the Turk feigned a surprised face, as if he had slipped on the snow, and revealed an opening under his right armpit. The Szekler’s saber took the offered opportunity and the lad’s eyes shone triumphantly when the sword’s edge cut into the green kafthan.

However, the rigid blade did not tear apart the Turk’s ribs and lungs as expected. Instead, the sound of steel on steel rang in the street. The young man was confused and paralyzed for a moment and in the next instant the grinning Turk sliced at the boy’s head, but not with a killing intent. He wanted to humiliate the lad first. Perhaps killing, too—but later.

Blood flooded the Szekler’s head but he just shook the gore from his eyes. Instead of falling into a retreat he struck back as if nothing had cut his skull.

Selim wasn’t expecting such a fast riposte, so he was caught unguarded and now his head was also bleeding. Angry, he wanted to finish the boy off.

It was a duel to death now, and both of them knew it. The onlookers tried to separate them but when Selim threateningly swung his scimitar towards them, they shrank back in terror.


There was no laughter anymore, and no one noticed the slender figure who ran away through the falling snow, her copper hair flying behind. Now she wanted to call the city guard before it was too late.

The fighters renewed their circling, but there were no more games. Blades flew rapidly back and forth, sometimes parried but sometimes not. Selim’s kafthan was in tatters and the chainmail glittered through the gaps. The lad was entirely covered in red and was already stumbling from the loss of blood.

Usually saber duelists did away with each other by repeatedly wounding their opponents so as to weaken them—the constant jumping and moving literally pumped the blood out of the body during the few minutes while the fights lasted. The very same was taking place here and now, and all foresaw the outcome.

Selim didn’t hurry to finish with the boy. He deliberately chose targets and struck with a deadly precision.

“You wretch,” he said. “You disgraceful puppy. You underling. Take this for the Padishah. You swine. You wine-drinker. This for the True Faith. And this for Hans, you nameless . . . ”

The lad feebly dealt with every second blow and then just stood, gazing forward.

“I am a Szekler and a Scot,” he said. “My name is Bálint. Bálint Felföldi. You may kill me, but you will remain the pribék of your own land.” With that he spat at Selim’s eyes. With hatred and spittle clouding his vision, Selim raised his arm high to deliver the final blow. Shadows and torchlights were moving and voices cried around him when his slim scimitar savagely sliced downward.

Two halberds fell from the sky, blocking the deadly strike. Arms grabbed his kafthan and pulled the Turk back, while a shaft of a spear tripped him from behind. Suddenly Selim’s sight was blocked by helmeted heads and angry voices filled the air as he lay in the befouled snow.

The city guards had arrived.



Gyulafehérvár, capital of Transylvania

January 23, 1634


“His name is Bálint Felföldi, he is a petty nobleman from Szeklerland,” said Péter Alvinczi, the preeminent Calvinist leader in the country and advisor to Prince Rákóczi. Alvinczi was making his report to the Prince’s chief spymaster, Gáspár Bojthi, in his office within Prince Rákóczi’s palace.

The walls of the spacious and elegantly appointed room were decorated with paintings, and the grim faces of ironclad heroes were all peering down at the two men. The one who was tall and aesthetically thin was dressed in grey robes; the other, shorter and heavier, wore a dark red embroidered cassock known as a dolman.

Alvinczi went on, “His late father was, indeed, a Highlander, a lieutenant, and a piper, too. Yes, a follower of the Stuarts, a staunch Papist.” Breaking from his dry recital of the facts, he inserted a passionate opinion of his own. “Our wrathful God is punishing our poor country, using the Turks’ hand, for the sins of Catholics like this one!” But at a stern look from Gáspár, he reverted back to stating the requested facts.

“Yes, your Lordship, the English word highlander translates as Felföldi in Hungarian. This man’s father served with the Scottish mercenaries who distinguished themselves defending Lippa and Temesvár castles in 1595. There were a hundred and fifty of them. A pity that only thirty of them survived the sieges, good soldiers they were. Later those few survivors mingled with the Szeklers. General Mikó knows more about them since he is the Szeklers’ leader. Bálint’s father was ennobled for his valiant deeds in 1611 by Prince Báthory. So it would not be wise to hang him. Beheading is more befitting to his position.”

“Reverend Alvinczi, would you give away the life of this poor lad so lightly?” asked the spymaster, with a tired sigh. He knew of Peter Alvinczi’s burning hatred against the Catholics and privately despised him. Alvinczi, the chief Calvinist pastor of the city of Kassa was infamous for having eagerly assisted in the execution of three Jesuits in Prince Bethlen’s time.

Spymaster Gaspar had too many troubles since the sudden arrival of the small American town of Grantville almost three years before, and he really wanted this pastor out of his hair.

According to the Americans’ encyclopedias, Alvinczi should die this very year, he thought to himself, but the bony man in his audience room looked very healthy and thirsty for more blood.

“Sir Gáspár,” he protested, “he is a rogue. Would you risk the principality’s fragile reputation for the sake of a criminal?”

“Certainly you don’t want to give him to the Turks, do you, Reverend Alvinczi? Their ambassador wants to have him impaled. On the other hand, the Holy Roman Emperor’s envoy, being a Christian, would simply send him to the gallows.”

“Then, it seems we need a proper trial.” Alvinczi sniffed. “We shouldn’t waste more time with this issue when we have a large amount of information to evaluate. Sir, our enemy is devouring Europe with those devilish ideas and devices before our very eyes. We have no time for toying around,” he snorted.

“There will be no trial, I say,” Sir Gáspár said decisively. “Reverend Alvinczi, do you know the details of the incident at that tavern?”

The pastor made a dismissive gesture with his hand.

“A hotheaded young drunk insulted the men in service of the Turkish and the Austrian ambassadors and dared to wound them with his sword, violating the ban on duels at the same time.”

“Clearly you don’t know that they asked for trouble? That the Turk was a pribék?”

“Sir Gáspár, you should know best that we also use informers who sell secrets for money . . .”

“The Turk was drinking wine and violated the rules by doing so…”

“Sir, he says it was his friend who bought it, and he was offered the drink as a sherbet. There are witnesses to it. He says it must have been the barmaid who turned it into wine by using witchcraft. You should rather put her to the question about that, though . . .”

“Reverend,” Sir Gáspár frowned “it seems after all that you know more about the details than one would have thought. Do you also know what the lad was doing before their argument?”

When there was no answer, Sir Gáspár pulled out a sizable sheet of paper and presented it.

“He was reading The Grantville Times, the newspaper that is being printed and distributed by those people who have turned the world upside-down.”

The thin man of faith was quick with his reply.

“Now I see, Sir Gáspár, why you don’t want a trial. You have caught an agent! Very well, we don’t need to give him up, we can have our ways with him to make him speak.”

This was too much for Sir Gáspár Bojthi. His head felt the tension building up in him. He jumped up from behind his richly carved desk and snatched up the newspaper on it. Then he held the broadsheet in front of the sour-faced reverend’s nose.

“Read it! Read it out loud!” His hand was shaking.

Alvinczi went pale and said nothing.

“Can’t you read it, damn it? No? But he can! Tell Professor Pál Keresztúri Biró to put the lad on our payroll immediately as a teacher of English and interpreter. He is assigned to work on the materials Count Csáky had sent from Grantville. The lad is not to leave the palace and must swear the same oath as the rest of the scribes. And I make you personally responsible for his well-being as well as for his quick recovery from his injuries. Now be off with you.” With a wave of his hand, Sir Gaspar dismissed the pastor from his presence and his thoughts.



Gyulafehérvár, Transylvania

February 12, 1634


It was late night when Bálint sank down on his knees before going to bed in a small servants’ room in the southern wing of the palace. Finishing his prayers, he carefully eased himself to the mattress, placing his aching limbs to rest. The stitches held but his wounds were burning . . . all eleven of them.

Had Mary not run after him when he was taken away, he would have perished in the dungeon of the city hall. She had sewn him up the best she could and seemed to have shed a tear for each drop of his blood. When she left in the morning, she had appeared unsure if he would make it. Yet, it was her silver that bought him fresh clothes and drier cell. She sent around the city barber-surgeon to visit him twice a day to replace the bandages, and every morning there was a new basket of food filled with bread and cheese, the good Saxon sausages, and the heavy red wine of Eger. He saw her no more—but she was in his prayers every evening. She was a fixed point where his exhausted mind could gain some rest after the days when his head was spinning and full with hundreds of new words and pictures.


Some ten days after the duel, a visitor appeared in front of his bed—no less a personage than Chief-Pastor Péter Alvinczi.

Bálint recognized him at once from a picture that had been circulated on a pamphlet that had portrayed Alvinczi as the executioner of the martyrs of Kassa, the three Jesuit priests who had died for refusing to recant their faith. Now that the minister has moved to Transylvania, he was close to the staunchly Protestant prince’s ears and was one of his most influential advisors.

There had been pity in the reverend’s eyes as he looked Bálint over.

“My poor son, God has visited you for your crimes. Your enemies want your life badly.”

Bálint had already guessed this much but he was utterly puzzled why the man should care. Silently he kept looking at his visitor, becoming more alarmed as the priest continued.

“How fortunate you are, however, that I happened to hear about you. I might well be convinced that you were innocently accused and perhaps then, I could help you. Just perhaps.”

“What am I to do to make you believe, Reverend?” Bálint asked as he looked up at him. “I was provoked to engage in an unfair duel where my opponent had chainmail hidden under his robes.” The pastor puffed his cheeks and made a pious face.

“I know you are still an idolator and haven’t come to know our Lord. If I saw your willingness to repent your sins and embrace the new and clear faith in fear of the wrathful God, I’d be possibly inspired to save a true man’s life.”

Since Szeklers speak little and Scots talk just as much, Bálint pursed his lips and said nothing.

“Do you know, my poor son, that the Turkish envoys’ servants are already looking for the place where they can impale you? The Austrians are also readying the gallows-tree for you. Only God can save you now.”

“Reverend, tell me please . . . is it true that the third Jesuit you murdered finished his life after being left for three days in a cesspit? What was his name? Will I have a trial, unlike them?”

The thin man leapt to his feet as if bitten by a snake.

“You, you will be sorry for this—very, very sorry,” he said. Alvinczi left the cell in a fury.

Bálint sighed and thought of his late father and smiled. “He would have liked this jest,” he said aloud, to no one in particular. “I might tell the old bugger soon, in person, while drinking his favourite ale.” And he hoped sincerely that there was beer in heaven.


The next morning he was not surprised when two blue-clad Hajdus, the uniformed palace guards of the prince of Transylvania, came for him.

“Is the hangman Turkish or German?” he asked.

“Why should it matter?” The first soldier shrugged. “You Szeklers are very funny folks. Rather tell me—can you walk or should we give you a hand?”

Bálint snorted at the question and mused aloud. “Once a man was being taken to Hell by the Devil, he met his pal on the way who felt sorry for him. But the Devil pointed out that it would be really sad if the friend was made to carry them both all the way to Hell. So why should I complain?”

After taking a moment to catch his breath, Bálint struggled into a standing position and left the cell on his unsteady feet.

To his great surprise, outside he was gently helped into a sedan-chair and the guards carried him to the huge palace that had been newly built by Prince Gábor Bethlen.

It was not for nothing that the previous Prince of Transylvania had been called the man who had turned his realm into a prosperous Fairy Garden in an age when half of Europe was busy killing their neighbours or their own people who happened to be of a different faith.

The palace had been built in the late Renaissance fashion, its four wings enclosing an elegant square surrounded by a circular gallery in the Italian style. A baroque fountain, now covered for winter, adorned the centre with four stone benches around it. The rest of the square was divided by a labyrinth of neatly trimmed evergreen hedges that opened up to small courtyards where green wooden benches awaited the noble guests and residents when the weather was mild.

Bálint was led to the southern wing where he soon learned that he was not to leave the palace without permission and was never to venture to the northern wing as that was reserved for his Highness, György Rákóczi I, his lady wife, and his two sons.

Bálint was looking around in awe while he was ushered into a reception hall where a clever-looking, bald man dressed in simple grey robes with a delicate lace collar had just finished the briefing of a large group of scribes . . . all but one of whom hurried away to their duties.

“Good morning to you,” the man said pleasantly. “Please come with me to the library on the second floor. Later, you will be shown your room on the third floor where the rest of the lads have their lodgings.” Gesturing to the young man who remained at his side as he walked, he continued. “This is Johannes, a very bright apprentice of Herr Professor Alsted. He will supply you with all the necessary things you need. But forgive me, my name is Pál Bíró of Keresztúr, but please just call me Professor Bíró . . .”

Darting eyes were assessing him, making Bálint acutely aware of the sorry state of his bristling skull which was neither properly shaved in normal Szekler fashion, nor fully grown out in the manner of the palace servants. Bálint could find no words for a moment—for he had been addressed in English.

“Professor Bíró . . . I am honored to make your acquaintance instead of a hooded figure in black,” he responded, also in English. “I am called Bálint the Highlander or Felföldi, and I am gladly in your service unless you wish to convert me.”

“Very well.” Bíró nodded approvingly. “You can really speak the tongue, I see. No, I don’t need your soul but your brain. You have had the good fortune to meet Reverend Alvinczi, haven’t you?”

“I think he might have not felt it so.”

“So I heard, so I heard,” Bíró said as he shook his head sadly. He was also a Protestant pastor, as Bálint was to learn later, but in his teachings he focused on the individual’s personal experience of a loving God and was not liked by Reverend Alvinczi for it. He had studied in England so his position in court had greatly appreciated since the appearance of Grantville.

“I am hopeful that you will join our community of scholars. Our rules here are simple and clear enough. Johannes will tell you the details. As much as I know of you, you like reading and stand against injustice,and you don’t abandon your faith,” he added. “So far, so good. I promise to introduce you to the greatest intellectual challenge a Scot or a Szekler might face. To tell you the truth, we need your language skills quite badly, but if you are afraid to join us, you are to be given a horse and a saddle so you can go back to General Mikó and continue to serve—as an honest Szekler would.”

“Sir,” Bálint said hesitantly, “Professor Biró . . . what about my duel?”

“What duel? I know nothing of the sort. Just go ahead, and Johannes will take care of you. Report back to me in the evening, Bálint.”

With that, Biró squeezed his hand where it was not bandaged and strode off, leaving Bálint staring after him.He started when his sleeve was tugged and looked around to find the young scholar still at his side.

“Come with me, friend,” he said in Hungarian. “I am Johannes Deák but call me Jancsi. Did you really cut the Turk’s head off and throw it before the legs of that beauty called Mary? Is her hair reaching down to her ankles as they say? We have prepared you a snug little room upstairs, and I wager you have had not had breakfast yet.”


The scribes lived on the third floor, two to a small room, but their daily routine kept them busy at various places of the building. Bálint listened eagerly to Jancsi’s chatter while systematically devouring the flavorful bacon and white bread. The youngster had black hair and matching eyes that sparkled with intelligence and good humor as he related the information Balint needed to know along with a good amount of palace gossip.

Jancsi’s master was Professor Heinrich Alsted, the theologist-philosopher from Germany. Renowned for his encyclopedic works, he had come to Transylvania in Prince Bethlen’s time. He was accompanied by two of his German colleagues, Heinrich Bisterfeld and Ludwig Piscator. Initially, their task had been to collate all the information gathered from Germany, and their scribes tried to summarise it in Hungarian. Now they had the task of researching the American “up-timers”.

Like Jancsi, these scribes were students who had studied in Wittenberg or in the Netherlands and had a strong command of either German or Dutch. Their numbers were ever increasing—currently there were more than one hundred twenty of them, not counting the servants and the palace guards, but there was still a great need for more teachers of English.

asiakhdjEvery Friday Reverend Alviczi called them together to summarize their weekly work. Jancsi grinned as he talked about it, but he said that Bálint would see the thing for himself in due time. Jancsi also told him about the pretty serving maids who lived and worked in the western wing, and if anybody needed anything, the chief-butler arranged it without a question. Scribes were not allowed to leave the palace, except when they visited their churches on Sundays and even then they were guarded by the hajdus. No weapon was permitted, except during the regular fencing lessons.

Jancsi also made his dislike of Reverend Alvinczi clear as he let Bálint know that the reverend had a network of informers reporting on all behavior that undermined discipline. He dropped his voice to a whisper to tell of lads who just happened to disappear all of a sudden. It was said they were taken to Déva castle where dangerous “laboratories” had been set up and “field experiments” were being conducted.

He admitted he found the work hard. Sometimes whole sections of texts made no sense, and there were dozens of new terms and words appearing every day.

“Sometimes I feel hurled into the depths of a well made by demons,” he said. “It is one thing to hear about the Americans from the future but touching their objects gives all of us goose pimples. The up-timers’ pen that was issued to me to work with is a smooth, flexible, and transparent stick that writes by itself, without having to mess with ink and constant dipping. And there are small pictures called photographs that open a window to peep into another universe.” Jancsi was slowly shaking his head as he poured some wine for his friend. “I prefer the books, above all. With their small type and thin pages and the wonders they talk about. These books and newspapers that we are given to translate and read aloud fly us to a land of fairies and impossible miracles. I warn you, there are hundreds of words and terms that make understanding very hard, and sometimes we can only guess what they mean.”

“Is the reverend so hostile with all new ideas?” Bálint asked when Jancsi had paused to take a breath.

Jancsi nodded. “Why, it is not for nothing we call him the ‘Old Vampire.’ Unfortunately, Reverend Alvinczi seems to have a ready explanation for everything. During his weekly summaries he puffs his cheeks, like this, and spends the first hour by cooling down the more enthusiastic researchers. He thinks there are many of us who have been dangerously infected by the new ideas and fantastic scientific facts we are learning. He goes into great detail as to how these concepts will be put to use by hostile and evil envoys of Satan to create horrible devices to destroy the true believers in the wars of the future.”

“What does he conclude?” Bálint asked as he finished the last morsels before him and looked around for more wine . . . in vain.

Jancsi made a sour face and began imitating the pastor again.

“—’Why, don’t the up-timers themselves admit that they were our enemies in both terrible world wars? Didn’t President Wilson’s intervention turn the balance of the Great War against us? Without the Americans’ intrusion, Hungary would have become the leading power of the continent . . . maybe even of the world! Think on that! Which country suffered the greatest injustice after that first World War? We have just learned that in the future three-quarters of our country will be torn off and given to riffraff, upstart, never-heard-of countries like Romania or Yugoslavia . . . and let us not speak of that creature called Czechoslovakia.”

Bálint couldn’t help laughing.

“You say Ceczho . . . sclovo . . . or what? You are pulling my leg!”

But Jancsi could not abandon his role as teacher and he continued.

“In the second great war they just repeated this crime and after twenty years of that they were still our enemies. Count Csáky recently put his life in danger to bring us a few pages from one of their encyclopedias. Brothers, the Americans considered Hungary was their deadly enemy just because we were ‘Communist.’—” Jancsi was rolling his eyes as he spoke.

Bálint was afraid his wounds would tear again because of his laughter.

“But—” Jancsi held one finger up in the air as he continued his narration. “—who might Communists be other than humble Protestant folks who shared their possessions in their communa as it was done by the first Christians before the Catholics corrupted the holy religion? The Americans admit that their presidents and bankers are all shape-shifters!”

Bálint’s eyes widened at this revelation.

“They are lizards, the demons from hell!” Now Jancsi gave out small whining sounds to indicate Alvinczi’s terror and said, “If somebody catches a glimpse of their terrible true nature, he is instantly eaten up alive. So don’t let yourself be misled by their glittering object and lies. Besides, they are openly trafficking with the Turks to get coffee!”

“Jancsi, stop it please. And send for the barber!” replied Bálint, choking.



Gyulafehérvár, Transylvania

March 22, 1634


Bálint’s wounds were nicely healed by the time the fields were all dressed in green. He was fidgeting like a badger in the thorn-bush and was just grumbling about everything in the palace. His hair had grown out and both it and his moustache were trimmed short. He had a new kilt obtained from the palace tailor after he’d given a careful explanation of how his clan tartan should be woven.

When he began to attend the nearest Catholic church, accompanied by two of the palace guards, he was pleased to find copper-haired Mary in the congregation, and they exchanged warm smiles. The next day he begged a special dispensation from Spymaster Böjthy so that he could have his Sunday afternoons free as well. From then on he and Mary spent their Sunday mornings attending Mass and the afternoons in her father’s tavern.

Some other afternoons, Bálint gave his friends fencing lessons in the palace’s wide corridors or in the yard if the weather was good. It was on one such occasion he met Achmed.

As Bálint was explaining a particular stroke to Jancsi and two other scribes he became aware of a stocky man in a kafthan with a small silk turban on his head. Seeing Turks in the palace was not unusual for quite a few of them served there as musicians, scribes, or cooks but Bálint became annoyed when the Turk began shaking his head.

“What’s wrong with this saber-turning?” he asked him, putting his limited Turkish to use.

“Young man,” came the answer with a friendly smile. “It is a nice drill for the parade ground but such a stroke can be outsmarted with ease.”

“Then show me how you do it . . .”

As soon as the soft-looking, plump Turk was offered a saber the tip began flying about his opponent’s head like a butterfly, and Bálint found himself disarmed in a heartbeat.

A deep and sincere friendship developed from that first fencing lesson. Bálint was happy to pick up more Turkish while they were discussing many interesting things they had in common. Every Sunday they met, sometimes practiced a bit or just talked.

It turned out that Achmed was a musician and had seen many battlefields for the Turks never fought without music. Bálint’s father had been a piper and taught the skill to his son. Achmed brought out his Turkish clarinet, and they played for each other. Bálint also knew the Szekler flute and showed him all the Scottish and Szekler tunes he could play.

Achmed had been a war prisoner of Prince Bethlen. Some years ago he had been freed for his musical skills, and he had decided to stay on and serve the prince of his own free will. Bálint slowly realised that not all the Turks were evil—at least not those ones who were not the subjects of the Ottoman Empire.


Gyulafehérvár, Transylvania

March 23, 1634


Professor Bíró and Spymaster Gáspár Bojthy silently regarded the tall young man before them. Bálint was not offered a seat since both gentlemen were pacing the length of Sir Gáspár’s elegantly appointed reception room.

The professor’s voice finally broke the silence. “Tell us freely. What do you think of the intentions of these folks called up-timers, according to your observations?”

“Pray, make it short,” added Sir Gáspár.

Bálint took a deep breath and looked into their eyes.

“I entirely disagree with Reverend Alvinczi. These Americans may have come from the future but they did not ask for it. Therefore making them our enemies is the greatest wrong that can be done against both our nations. They could be powerful allies, and with their assistance we could chase the Ottomans out and build up a stronger state than even King Matthias’ had been. With their scientific knowledge there would be neither poverty nor epidemic anymore. Their ideas would be certainly welcome compared to how Reverend Alvinczi views the world.”

Professor Bíró was nodding his bald head in agreement but Spymaster Gáspár seemed to have some doubts. So far, Reverend Alvinczi had refused to send anyone to Grantville after Count Csáky had returned, but perhaps Sir Gáspár believed the time was now right. Finally, after another long pause, he gave the instructions to Bálint Felföldi as if he was talking to a soldier:

“You are to go to Grantville, accompanied by Johannes, the apprentice of Professor Alsted. He has stronger German skills and he speaks Dutch, too. You must observe how these American people live and worship, spending enough time with them before you contact and greet them officially, on behalf of Prince Rákóczi. Tell them we are not friends with the Austrians, and the Turks are our enemies. We seek peace and trade, first. Their ambassadors are welcome. You can show them the way. Here are your credentials and traveling letters. Take this ring. Use it to seal all the reports you send.

“Your contact in the Netherlands is Gábor Haller. He has had a well-built intelligence network from the time of Prince Bethlen. You are to accept orders or instructions if you see the sign of the same ring or the ring itself. Your contact in Vienna is Cardinal Péter Pázmány. Again just show him your ring and he will provide you with everything you may ask for.

“In short, make your best attempt to prove to the up-timers that the Principality of Transylvania is a strong power in the civilized part of Europe and has plentiful resources. Tell them that our land has remained untouched by those terrible wars that have laid waste to half the continent. Moreover, we offer asylum to religious refugees fleeing England and Switzerland because we have given shelter to everyone since our first Prince Johannes Sigismund introduced the freedom of religions in 1568. Since the time of Prince Gábor Bethlen even the Jews are free to trade and live unmolested without having to wear the signs of Solomon.

“Now go, Bálint Felföldi, with God’s blessing but take this gold for your expenses. You are to leave tomorrow at dawn along with Scribe Johannes and you may choose two good horses from the Prince’s stables. Questions?”

“Sir Gáspár, there is someone to whom I have to say farewell if it is granted.”

“Go, young man,” he said with a wink, “but no more trouble with that girl or we will reintroduce the laws for punishing witchcraft . . . five hundred years after King Kalman the Bookish abolished them!”


The Long Road Home, Part 2


Hartmann escorted the shaken Kirsten to the MP tents, telling her to wait while he went inside. However, things looked to be getting worse.

“Murder?” Hartmann asked in a chilly voice.

“Yes.” Captain Hess from the MP Company told him from his seat at his desk. “You know the way things go in a situation like this. What happened at first glance is one of our camp followers murdered her accomplice, one of the French sutlers now working for the army, in the act of robbing you.”

“Accomplice?” Hartmann demanded.

“Thieves falling out, sergeant. You have seen it before” Hess commented without looking up from the papers on his desk.

Hartmann ground his teeth. “With all due respect, Sir, the girl has been in my tent for almost a week now. If she had wanted to steal from me, she would have done it before.”

“Perhaps you haven’t satisfied her,” Hess said, taken aback at the fury in the sergeant’s eyes.

Hartmann took a deep breath, reining in his fury. “Sir, she is a child stolen from her father. Tortured into compliance, raped and impregnated. The only ‘satisfaction’ she would wish from me was my support, and I gave her that. Anything more would have been adding further insult to her injury.”

Hess stood motioning to the guard behind the sergeant. “We will continue to investigate, sergeant. My men will take her for questioning—” There was a scream from outside, and Hartmann plunged from the tent with the officer running to keep up.

Two of the MPs held Kirsten by her arms. She was pulling against them and screaming as she tried to fight free. The one on her left snarled as one of her feet kicked him in the shin and would have slapped her if Hartmann hadn’t caught his hand.

“Strike her and by God, I will take your arm off at the shoulder!” Then he caught Kirsten’s head between his hands, talking soothingly even as she kicked him several times. Finally, she calmed down, looking at him in terror as she whimpered.

Hess looked at the girl, then at Hartmann. “I am sorry, Sergeant, but she must be placed in our custody until the investigation is complete. We will not harm her.”

“I understand, sir.” Hartmann held the sobbing girl to his chest. “I do not think she does. But I will try to explain.”

Kirsten gasped, then her eyes widened, and she gave a whispered “Oh” as water suddenly fell on the ground between her feet. Hartmann took one look. He had been there when both his sister and younger brother had been born, so he knew what that meant.

“The bitch pissed herself!” One of the MPs commented sarcastically, then landed on his back as Hartmann spun and punched him.

He caught the girl as she started to fall, lifting her in his arms. The other was cocking his rifle but met Hartmann’s cold eyes. “She is giving birth! By God, if you shoot you had best kill me!”

Hartmann ran, the guard running after him as he shouted to clear the way. The medic in the hospital had time to see him coming, “We need the midwife here now!”


Frakes watched the sergeant run to the hospital the girl in his arms. No one in Hartmann’s company would be surprised by his actions. “Right, back to it.” He soaked the barrel brush in the smelly fluid the up-timers said was not the same, but was still called Windex, then took the rifle from Kraus. “You are finished when the brush and cleaning patch come from the barrel clean.” He looked up idly at the cart parked on the edge of the camp. Wasn’t that the one the dead man had parked? “Keep at it.”

The NCO reached the cart just as a sutler came from the other side to climb in. “What do you think you are doing?” The man yelped and ran away. Frakes looked at the load. Odd, it looked like the man had packed to leave camp. No crime in that, though it was standard procedure to escort sutlers who were leaving the army camp permanently. At the rear of the cart was a trunk that had been left unlocked, looking as if it had recently been dug up and he flipped up the lid.

For a long moment, he merely stared at the glass jars before him; then he lifted one from the padding. “Mein Gott . . . Kraus!”

Wachtmeister?” The soldier was turning the brush as he pulled it from the barrel.

“Run over to the MP compound. Tell them I need an officer and some witnesses.”


“Back when I lived in Frankfurt, I used to work as a scribe and later investigator for the Watch. When a crime scene was very confused, I would draw the scene and record the evidence.” At the man’s blank look, he sighed. “Just tell them I have found evidence of a crime.”


Kirsten was gasping in pain as the midwife worked. Richard had tried to leave, but her hand had locked down like a clamp on his. The medic had taken one look and decided this was not in his job description, so had made himself useful by making sure the midwife had plenty of hot water and clean cloth.

Frau Stein was all business. “You are having the baby early, girl. But a lot of first-time mothers do. Just be calm and we will see it through.” She looked at Hartmann, who looked back at her with an edge of panic in his eyes. “And you, Sergeant, do not just stand there like a statue. Talk to her.”

Hartmann nodded jerkily, then looked back at Kirsten. “It will be all right,” he said, immediately feeling like an idiot.

“Richard, it hurts,” Kirsten screamed when the first contraction hit.

“The up-timers say you must control your breathing, little one. Screaming only frightens you more,” the midwife told her. “Now when the contraction stops, begin breathing deeply. Slow deep breaths. As the next hits, breathe in rapid panting breaths. Like a dog on a hot day. Most of all, find something to concentrate on. Talk to your man, watch his face. Focus everything outside your body on him.”

She looked up at Hartmann. “I am sorry, Richard.”

“Sorry for what?”

“For putting you through this. Your wife died this way, and—”

“You will not think of dying,” he snapped. “You will live, the child will live. I will have it no other way.”

“Still—” She flinched.

“Breathe! Rapid panting, do it!” he ordered.

She began to pant, eyes locked on his face.

The tent flap flew back, and Poirot burst in. “Mon amour, mon cœur! Je suis là pour toi!” He rushed past the midwife, taking the other hand, his whispered endearments continuing.

Hartmann felt her hand loosen, and saw the man wince as the clamp locked on him instead. “Kirsten, tell him what the midwife said about the breathing.” She relaxed from the second contraction and repeated the instructions. Once she had, her face focused on the Frenchman rather than him.

Hartmann stepped back, leaving the tent. Then he found himself praying. “We have not spoken much; I do not even know if you hear me anymore. But please, if you have cursed me, do not kill this girl!” He paused in his walk back toward the MP tent when he heard a disturbance. Half a dozen prisoners were pushing and shoving each other.

Great; he was in the mood to hurt someone. Hartmann stalked toward the fight as the first punch was thrown. He paused, handing his wheel-lock and knives to the guard just standing there and stepped inside the circle of men watching.

He caught the man who had been knocked down, lifted him to his feet, and slammed his head into the man’s face, breaking his nose and dropping him back to the ground. He back-kicked another man in the crotch, and the man who had been throwing a punch at this victim had his fist skate over the wounded man’s head to hit Hartmann in the mouth.

He stood stunned as Hartmann smiled. Then Hartmann caught his arm, pulling the man into him and slamming his other hand up into his armpit hard enough to dislocate it. Then he hit him with the edge of his fist, dislocating his jaw.

The other three backed away, stunned. Hartmann looked at each face. “Becker!” When the man pushed his way in, Hartmann motioned. “Translate!” He stood, ready to fight, catching the eyes of not only the other combatants but the crowd as well. “The next time I see this happening, I will deal with it.”

One of the men mumbled, and Hartmann looked to Becker. “He said there are still three of them and only one of you.”

Hartmann smiled, looking more like a wolf baring his fangs at the man who dropped his fists and backed again. “Three to one? Looks like a fair fight to me. Still interested?”

One of the French spectators caught the man who had spoken. “C’est le sergent fou qui a brisé le Tercio. Si un millier d’hommes ne pouvaient arrêter son charge, quelle chance avez-vous trois?

tlrhp2crcjuAnother commented, “C’est un carcajou en forme humaine!


The younger man was grinning. “They are reminding these three of what you did on the field, Sergeant. Said ‘if a thousand men couldn’t stop his charge, what chance do just you three have?’ ” He spoke rapidly, and the three men raised their hands as if to say there would be no more problems.

“Good.” Hartmann pointed at the men groaning on the ground. “Take these to the hospital. Becker, have your squad guard them until they have been treated. And I know the rest of you have things to do!” He stormed off.

“What was that last?” Luftmann asked.

“He said the sergeant is a wolverine in human form.”

Luftmann watched the sergeant out of sight. “An animal who does not care what he fights because he intends to win.” He grinned. “We have to tell the men.”


Hartmann glanced at the cart parked in front of the tent beside the MP headquarters, and at the men unpacking it. A couple of pale men were sitting to the side of the tent, with the smell of vomit. He dismissed them from his mind; not his problem. The guard opened the flap for him. “I was told to send you in, Sergeant.”

“—I became curious when I saw the chest looked like it had been unearthed recently.” Frakes was reporting to Hess, who sat at his desk, a large whiskey in his hand.

“Ah, Sergeant. We have been waiting for you,” Hess drained the glass as if it were water and poured another glass, motioning toward Frakes without standing. “Show him.”

The wachtmeister opened the filthy chest, gently lifting out a jar. Hartmann took it. For a long moment, he wasn’t sure what he was seeing. Then he realized it was a woman’s face floating in liquid. By shifting it, he saw it was just the skin of the face and hair peeled from her skull. A label had been pasted then varnished on it; number six. Reverently he set it down and looked again. There were a dozen of the jars. At the front, a polished wooden box had been used to brace them, and Frakes opened it. There were several knives and long thin needles.

Hess pointed at the box. “I asked one of the up-timer medics if he knew what those are. He told me the knives are what are used at autopsies, and the needles are what are called acupuncture needles used in Eastern medicine.” Then he looked to Frakes. “You preserved the evidence very well, wachtmeister.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Frakes began removing the jars from the chest, revealing what looked like a flower press atop some folders. One was a journal, and the young man opened it. “The monster recorded their names and everything he did to them. But this journal refers to another earlier journal, probably still in the chest. He would let the faces sit in the alcohol for a year, then tanned them.” He flipped through the pages. “There are other names, possibly accomplices . . . my God.” He went back to the jars, lifting one that had fluid but nothing else marked number 12. Then he held the book out to Hartmann. The sergeant looked at the page. Nombre de douze KIRSTEN JANSEN.

“Well, you can let the girl know she is not to be charged. This man of yours, I could use him in my unit.”

“How would that be for you, Frakes?” Hartmann asked.

“I did this kind of work before I joined the Army, Sergeant. This does not bother me.” He waved at the jars as he opened a folder with tanned human faces. “I feel right about catching such monsters. Killing people who are only my enemy frightened me more.”

“Have him transferred.”

Frakes stood, putting out his hand. “Thank you, Sergeant.”


tlrhp2hsptlHartmann returned to the hospital tent. Kirsten looked bedraggled as she again stopped panting to take deep breaths. “Richard, I wish you to act as the father this one time.”

He was confused. “Father?”

“The breath of life.” She stiffened, back to the panting breathing. As the midwife told her to push, the girl looked at him. “Please.”

The midwife reached up then her free hand came up with a knife. One deft movement, then she held up the baby girl. “Sergeant?”

Hartmann reached out. The child was so small. Then he lifted the baby to his face. “From those who have come before you, I pass on the breath of life.” Then he breathed gently into the small mouth. The baby coughed, then began to cry.

“Frau Jansen, you have a daughter.” Frau Stein told her.

Hartmann passed the baby to Kirsten, who looked at her with wonder. She looked at Poirot, then at Hartmann. “May I use your wife’s name, Richard?”

“She would be honored.”

Kirsten touched the baby’s face.“You who have been so close to my heart for so long. Welcome to the world, Marta.”


He paced the line of sentries as he always did. After a time, Hartmann had merely stopped correcting all of those who congratulated him on the birth of his daughter. The child was not his; the real father had gotten what he deserved in this world and was surely getting it in the next. Richard paused, pulling out the pouch of tobacco, but it was empty. He had spent his lunch dealing with the MP officer, then his dinner with the girl as the baby had been born, so he had forgotten to get the fresh pouch from his bag. He started to turn, but something caught his eye.

There was someone standing inside the prisoner’s area, watching him. In the fading light, he recognized the cavalryman he had slapped. “Is it now the time?” he asked.

“For us to talk, yes.” Francesco stepped forward. “After this morning, I wanted to face and kill you. But these last hours, I have learned much about you. You struck me not as an insult to me, but because I have injured someone you protect. Your men and the women of your camp followers speak of you as if you were their father, and you treated me as if I were a man hurting your child. You are a brave man who will let no slight pass, and I, I am ashamed that I am nothing like you. I am in the wrong in this. And I cannot call myself a man if I cannot admit that to the one I insulted.”

He bowed deeply. “I ask that you accept my apology. How might I make this right?”

Richard looked at the man, only a few years younger than himself, then replied gently. “You did not have to apologize to me. But Bridget and Maggie deserve one.” He took out the pouch again, then remembered that he had just checked it.

Permisso.” Francesco held out a small pouch. “Tobacco from the Virginia colony. And if you will, I have a bottle of grappa to drink in honor of the child.”

Hartmann filled his pipe silently. “When you apologize, you do not hold back.” He motioned and paced down to the closest sentry. He passed the wheel-lock on his hip to the man. “Watch this for me, Kraus.”


Bridget looked up from where she was serving the morning porridge. Someone was standing back from the line, not pushing as the others were. Oh, him. “An’ what would ye be wanting, you cur?” She snapped, ladling out the next serving and handing it to the prisoner in front of her.

“To speak to your mother and yourself when you have the time.”

“Ma! He’s back again! An’ wishes to talk this time!”

Maggie looked up, then charged toward the serving line like a destrier. “Off with ye!” She waved as if shooing away a dog. “We’ll have none of ye here!”

The Italian didn’t move. “Please, Signora, I came to speak to you and your daughter. In private if we may.”

She huffed, then turned. “Gerta! Come over and take Bridget’s place!” She turned back, pointing a minatory finger. “An’ this time I have me filleting knife, so be warned.”

She led him back a few feet from the serving line. Then she turned, crossing her arms. “Speak an’ be damned.”

“When I spoke to your sergeant, I gave him such words, but he said I must give them to you. First, I speak to you, Bridget. My words to you were unkind, and throwing the stew in your face was uncalled for. I have no excuse and ask that you forgive my actions.” He motioned to her blistered face. “I do hope you will not be scarred by this. If you are, I pledge that I will pay recompense freely. Such an attractive young woman should not bear scars from the actions of a fool such as myself.

“Signora Maggie, pushing you to the ground was an insult you should not have borne. I ask you also to forgive me. If you cannot, I will accept this.”

Maggie watched him for a long moment. “The words are sweet, and I do accept. I wish to withdraw my comment. Ye’ dinna look like a catamite to me, but I was angry. I will forgive, but never forget. Merely do as a good man might from this point on.”

Bridget took the man by his arm. “Come, you have not yet eaten, this I know.” She went to the line, then down it, returning to him with a bowl of porridge, savories already added, and a slab of meat atop a slice of bread. “Now be off with you! I have work to do!”

He smiled, bowing, then left. Bridget watched him out of sight, then flinched when a horny thumb poked her in the ribs. Her mother was standing there, grinning. “Back to work. He will be back for luncheon an’ dinner!”

Bridget smiled at her mother, but her eyes grew dreamy. He had said she was pretty!


Jean-Claude Crozier shook his head as he awoke. He had far too much to drink the night before. Finally, Roquelaire was dead. The man had been killed three days before by one of the putains de camp allemand. A poetic death considering what he would do to her if they had only known.

The night before he was killed, the Frenchman had come and told him of the Book. That when Crozier had helped him with the one putains de camp during the siege, he had recorded it all. Every cut, every burn.

He regretted it now, more because the Frenchman had added that one day he would need something; money, sanctuary, perhaps a ship to another port? And when Crozier had delivered, the pages would be given to him, with proof there were no more to be burned. What would his brother a minor noble of Loire say? That his younger brother had become aroused at the pain inflicted on some village slut? But nothing had come of the death. Perhaps they had not found the book.

When he had been captured at Nutschel, he had paid for a courier to have his ransom request delivered. As soon as it arrived, he would fly from here, never take service again to anyone where the lunatics of the USE would be fought!

There was a noise outside his tent, then one of the enemy soldiers pulled the flap open. “Jean-Claude Crozier? Come with me please.”

“One moment, please.” His things had been returned, so he opened the trunk getting out a doublet. “What is this about.”

“Brigette Svendsen.” The man replied.


Now the bland face became disgusted. “Honestly, you helped torture an innocent woman to death and did not even bother to find out her name? God in Heaven. Get your ass out here or officer or no, I will have you bound and dragged!”

He would have to work fast, hope they did not send too many to take him into custody. He walked forward, and as he came even with the man, drew the soldier’s bayonet, and thrust it up into the man’s heart. He drew the man’s sword as he fell.


Hartman and his company had been assigned to help one of the up-timers, Allan Lydick. The man was an engineer who had been sent to design the new slips for the Navy the Swedes envisioned. But he had a degree in what they called civil engineering, and as the month waned, he had been sent to see what needed to be done to improve the road to where the prisoners were being kept.

Lydick had been unworried about the prisoners less than a hundred yards away. He had taken his rifle from a scabbard on the saddle, and was letting Hartmann look at it as the men were marking trees to cut down and widen the road.

tlrhp2rmngtn“It’s an old Remington rolling block my grandfather gave me. They were made right after our Civil War, round eighteen sixty-seven, so it takes black powder cartridges pretty well.” There was a shot in the camp, and Hartmann’s head snapped up.


There had been two more guards, but they must have assumed a gentleman would merely let himself be arrested. Crozier slashed, and the first went down with his throat sliced open. He thrust the second through the heart. He caught up the rifle the first man dropped and picked the closest mounted sentry as his target. The ball punched the man from his horse, and Crozier ran to the horse, mounting as shouting began.


Hartmann heard the shouting. Now more shooting came from the camp, and one man on a horse rode frantically toward the trees over three hundred yards away. His mind raced. If the rider had broken south, he would have had Hartmann’s men to deal with, and even an unloaded rifle could trip a horse. So he had broken instead to the north. Further to run—the nearest city was Keil, and the horse would founder in an hour or so.

But his men had their rifles stacked. He would be out of sight before anyone could load. Hartmann reopened the action. “Cartridge, please, Herr Lydick?”

“What?” The man looked at Hartmann’s open hand for a moment, then stripped a round off his belt. Hartmann looked down, loaded the rifle, then closed the breech.


He was free! If he made the trees. They would need the cavalry to follow, and Crozier was a past master of scouting, so he knew where and how to hide. There was no way they could—


Hartmann aimed. The sights were better than those of the SRGs, but not as good as the twenty-twos he had used to teach his men. He tracked the rider smoothly. The shot came as a surprise, as it should.

For a second, Lydick thought he had missed. But there was suddenly a cloud of red from the rider, and he grabbed his lower back. Then he began to slide to the right, the free hand now pinwheeling as he tried to regain his balance. That ended when his face smacked into one of the first trees, and he was plucked from the saddle to sprawl as the horse raced on.

Hartmann opened the breech, bending to pick up the expended brass. “Hamner!”

“Sergeant?” The man ran over to him.

“Take some men. If he is alive, take him to the hospital. If he is not, bring back the body.”

“Yes, Sergeant.” Hamner looked at the rifle. “That was an amazing shot!” Then he ran shouting for men to come with him.

Hartmann handed it back. “A very accurate weapon.”

Lydick looked at it. He had a good eye and judged the range to be over three hundred yards. “Your man was right, Sergeant. An outstanding shot.”

“Do not tell my men, but I was aiming at the horse.” Hartmann didn’t understand when Lydick first laughed, then began humming the theme from The Magnificent Seven.

As Hartmann assigned men to cut down the trees, Lydick considered. He paced off the distance, and then walked back, looking at the self-deprecating sergeant. Four hundred ten yards.



June, 1634


Kirsten looked up from where Marta was nursing, her smile brightening her face. “Richard!”

She started to stand, but he gently pushed her back down. “She has had no problems yet?”

“I have an entire list of things to watch for in the coming months.” Kirsten looked down, her face softening.

Hartmann motioned toward the tent. The girl had moved in with the Frenchmen, so she had not been around the last few weeks. “Is Monsieur de Gomberville in?”

As he asked the little author stepped out. “Ah, have I not told you more than once to call me Marin, Sergeant?”

“As many times as I have told you to call me Richard,” Hartmann chided.

“And what may I do for you?”

“It is what I may do for you. The general has decided that as someone merely witnessing the battle, you and your man are free to go.” Hartmann drew a folder from his tunic, holding it out. “This is your letter of safe passage throughout the USE.”

Formidable! And does this extend to that town Grantville? I have in my mind been writing Polyxandre yet again. Instead of nine centuries in the past, almost four hundred years into the future! And I have people from that time who can describe it to me!”

“Anywhere you wish to go.” He paused, then drew out an envelope. “If you do go that way, could you deliver this to Frau Kaufmann of Zum Barmherzigen Samariter in Magdeburg? It is just asking where my wife has been buried so I may visit the grave.”

“It shall be done!” Marin said. Then he took Hartmann’s hand. “I will also send you a copy of my book when it is published. I have added a gentle yet ferocious man to it!”

Hartmann smiled, a gentler smile than was his wont. “What you can do is see how far the railroad has gone. A machine that goes as fast as a horse and tows cars behind it. I know they had started to build it from both ends, so part of the way on either end might be in use.” He then drew out a small pouch. “Kirsten, this is what I was paid for two of my wheel-locks. For Marta.”

“Richard, you did not have to do this!”

“She will need money later in life. I would have done the same if my wife and child had lived.”


Hartmann looked at the new regimental flag. In the upper left-hand corner was the same marking of Third Regiment merely done as if drawn in blood. But now it was covered by an embroidered picture.

A wolverine, crouched, glaring outward. Beneath his bloody snarling mouth and paws was the foreleg of a bear almost twice his size that had been ripped off and below it a motto; Aequo pugna speciem mihi. He tried to work it mentally out. While he spoke enough Latin for Mass, he was unequal to the task. Down the first rank, Becker was giggling. “Becker!”


“Obviously, you know what it says. Perhaps you can enlighten us?”

“The motto is, ‘It looks like a fair fight to me.'”

“I see I am going to have to work on curbing your enthusiasm. Men, you know the drill. Except for Feldwebel Jäger, fall out and assume your posts.” As they ran off, he motioned to the young man. “You are taking Martin’s place, Fritz. Now here begins your sergeant’s education . . .”


Nothing worries an officer or sergeant more than boredom among the troops. The French troops had little or nothing to do, and it led to fights or arguments just about every day., By the end of the first month, a couple of brawls had needed breaking up.

Even the USE troops were beginning to feel it. But then their sergeants cleared a section of the line outside the POW camp and drew white lines in powdered chalk. Now two teams of a dozen men gathered, and someone was throwing a white ball toward a man with an odd glove. There was a cracking sound, and the prisoners looked toward it. “Pass auf!” A USE soldier was pointing up. “Der ball!’

Phillipe Carron looked around, then followed the pointing finger. A round thing was coming toward him, and he stood stunned. Suddenly a hand came between him and the object, and he ducked as the hand swung through where his head had been.

The man who caught it was cursing, throwing the ball into the air, and shaking his hand. Then there was a shout, and several of the men motioned to throw it back. With nothing better to do, several hundred prisoners gathered to watch.

“It looks a bit like rounders,” commented Evan Drake, one of the English mercenaries. He explained the game and the differences; the stakes (called the castles) used in the English game had been replaced with flat pads which one of the opposing teams guarded but were not allowed to impede the runners. The men running to the castles were allowed to return to the castle they had left, instead of being forced to run on, and the opposing team had to touch the man with the ball or pass it to the castle he was headed for instead of hitting him with it, which the man who had caught that one ball commented was a good thing. One of the USE troops who spoke English explained the differences as Drake translated, such as the men running the wrong way according to the Englishman.

“So let me see if this is correct,” Drake said. “Instead of throwing so you can be sure of striking the ball, the thrower—”


“—he is used to hold water or wine? All right, the pitcher throws, attempting to entice the striker—”


“Now he is bread?” Drake shook his head. “The batter swings when he thinks he can strike the ball. But what is this ‘strike, foul, and ball’ that imbecile keeps shouting?”

More explanations followed, along with comments about the man called the ‘umpire,’ not the imbecile, though the guard mentioned a lot of players or fans would disagree.

“So they count any that are inside this so-called ‘strike zone’ that he cannot hit and any swing that misses as a strike, yes? Any that fly outside the two lines,” he motioned toward the foul lines, “as foul, but only two fouls can count as strikes, yes?” The guard nodded. “So what is this ‘ball’ they keep shouting?”

More explanations.

“Ah, so if he gets three of these strikes, he is out, and if he gets four of these balls he gets to walk to the first . . . base, is it?” As he asked, the batter flinched as he was hit by the ball. He screamed furiously, charging onto the field, bat in hand. The pitcher waited only a second before running away. “Ah, and if the pitcher hits the batter, he is allowed to beat him with the bat?”

Yet more explanations.

“And all of you play this . . . baseball?”

“Those who don’t play soccer, yes.”


“What the up-timers sometimes call European football instead. Every battalion has at least one team. Sometimes they have both baseball and soccer teams.”

“European? Have they a different form in their time for the new world? Why do you not play it instead?”

“You have never seen Tom Simpson.” The guard raised his hand to show someone at least a head taller than himself, then spread his arms half again his own shoulder’s width. “He is that big, so I am told, and in their time was not considered big enough to play professionally.”

Carron looked around. “So when can we play?”


“Satan’s fart!” Maggie looked up at the exclamation. Freda, her primary assistant, had just pried open a sealed cask of salt beef, suddenly backpedaled, then fell to her knees, vomiting. The senior camp follower of the Wolverine Regiment ran toward her, then skidded to a stop at the stench. “Claudette!” She shouted at the most recent addition, the other girl who had come with the French. “Get one of the sergeants!”


Hartmann walked close enough to smell it. He’d put up with worse, but only on battlefields where they had too many dead to bury. He walked over to where the camp followers had gathered upwind. Maggie was as pale as milk, but she was also furious. “How can we feed ye with such filth?”

“When did the barrel come in?” Maggie motioned toward Freda. She was just as pale; her face the color of curdled milk.

“Last week.”

“From where?” Hartmann asked. She waved to the road east.

Their supplies came from three directions. A lot of it was carried by barges along the Elbe, by the Tacrail line from there to Segeberg, then by wagon to the encampment. There was a lot of supplies coming by wagon from the Stecknitz canal by barge from Lübeck, but the lion’s share came directly from the port town by road. Hartmann nodded. “Check everything that has come in,” he turned on his heel, “and find out who brought and sold it.”


Captain Volker looked up, his mood souring. Sergeant Hartmann was walking toward his tent. He caught up the papers in what the up-timers called an inbox. Maybe if he were busy. “If I might have a word, Sir?”

Volker sighed. “What do you want, Sergeant?”

Hartmann drew a list from his pocket. “We have fifteen tainted casks of supplies— primarily meat, though there are also four that were flour or sauerkraut in the Third Regiment alone. They were sent from Lübeck. We need to discover which suppliers sent them.”

“Ask the sutlers. I do not have time . . .” Volker’s voice died at the look on Hartmann’s face.

“I came to you, Sir, because you are in charge of disbursing the supplies we are sent. This can be done one of two ways,” Hartmann said in a conversational tone. “You can assist me in discovering who is trying to poison the men here. Or I can go to my colonel and report you are unwilling to assist me. In that case, the brigadier will be notified, and his men will have this discussion with you instead of keeping it unofficial.

“Ours was not the only regiment receiving them, and other men like myself are speaking to their supply officers. I would suggest that to save your career, you should help me.”


Hartmann marched toward the tent of his regimental commander. Ludendorf looked up. “Ah, Sergeant. How did your investigation go?”

“Seven sutlers delivered the tainted supplies. Three were still in the camp, and we have talked with them. Only one officer here had signed off on the required inspection, and the MP detachment has taken him into custody. A chandler in Lübeck supplied all of the barrels.”

Ludendorf nodded. “They will deal with him.”

“His brother is one of the city councilors.”

Ludendorf shook his head. “Aren’t they always?”

“Sir, back when we were mercenaries, we would forage. We cannot do that now.”

“I know it. The idea of ‘Hearts and Minds’ the up-timers brought with them has helped appease the local people. But if we are forced to forage to survive . . .”

Both considered the option distastefully. It was the standard procedure of almost all of the armies, and only the fact that the USE and Swedes had not pillaged had convinced the villagers that these soldiers were different. The Emperor’s army was being supplied through Kiel now, so they were unaffected. But almost thirty thousand men are trapped here with tainted food.

“There is no help for it.”

“Sir, we have some villagers shipping their surplus food here rather than to market already. Over half of the horse meat we gave to them has come back smoked and at more than reasonable prices,” Hartmann shrugged, “I for one would rather we did not ruin that feeling of camaraderie.”

Ludendorf gave him a small smile. “You have a suggestion?” Then he waved his hands. “I do not want to know, Sergeant. If I did, I would probably have to report it—meaning, even more paperwork.”

Hartmann saluted. “I knew you would understand, Sir.”


The people of Lübeck had gotten used to having the sutlers assigned to the USE divisions come in to buy goods for the troops and prisoners thirteen miles away.

Oddly enough, there had been no carts or wagons for the last two days, so no one was surprised when they came in a caravan but the company of soldiers escorting them was unusual. The men marched in two lines on either side of the wagons and carts, all of which appeared to be full of barrels. They stopped briefly. The leader went into the rathaus, only to come right back out. A few of the people noticed that almost half of the soldiers appeared to have sergeants’ stripes and none of them were officers. The caravan stopped outside one of the chandlers on the waterfront at the sign KOSTER UND KOSTER.

The man who had marched at the fore of the right-hand column walked around the front of the wagons, looking at the new extension of the building going up to one side. “Sergeant Logan, you know what to do!”

A sergeant stepped out of the middle of the left column, “Right, you know what to do, men!” He and two dozen men broke into squads and went down the alleys on either side of the building.

The leader took out a pocket watch and waited a full minute before putting it away, then marched up and pounded on the office door. A slim, well-dressed man peeked out. “I want to see Herman Koster this very minute, please.”

“I am sorry, Sergeant, Herr Koster went to see his brother, about something.” His tone became smarmy. “You know, the city council member?”

“I had heard,” Hartmann replied. A shout came from behind the building, then the sounds of a scuffle and a scream. Three of the men sent to watch the back came from the rear of the building, dragging a man in rich clothing. “Oh, there he is,” Hartmann commented brightly. Then he gave the man a smile. “Oh, and we know how many bullies he has to ‘discourage’ complaints. I give a fair warning. If one of them so much as steps out of this building, we will kill him. You come with me, now.”

Hartmann walked over to the man who was screaming for the city guard. In fact, two dozen of them had arrived to face leveled rifles with bayonets.

“You filth! I will have your stripes for this!” He looked at the men closer to the center of town. “Guardsmen! Send someone for my brother!”

“Oh be quiet.” The man’s jaw snapped shut. While the words were polite, the look on Hartmann’s face was anything but. “I am going to have my men unload these transports one by one, and your man—” He motioned to the clerk. “—will record what is in it, and he will direct your warehousemen to move them aside. Then he will have barrels fresh from your warehouse brought out to replace them.”

“Where is Colonel Krämer? If he wants to buy new supplies, he should be here!”

“Colonel Krämer has been arrested for sabotaging the war effort and peculation. That means simply that he was taking bribes to accept rotten food from you. If he is very, very lucky, they will only hang him. But if he is unlucky, the officers will turn him over to the men for however long he lives, after they make him eat every ounce from one of these tainted barrels. As for the supplies, did I say we were going to buy these replacements?” Hartmann shook his head. “You, out of the goodness of your heart, are going to accept these tainted barrels and replace them free of charge.”

Koster stiffened, trying to stand alone. “I will do nothing of the sort! The supplies are better than you deserve!”

Hartmann crooked his finger, and one of the barrels on the first wagon was manhandled down, then rolled over in front of the supplier. On the headers and several times along the sides, the barrel was branded CONDEMNED.

“Ah, beef, just what a soldier needs to keep himself healthy.”

Hartmann motioned, and the header was removed. Since they had known what was going to happen, all of the soldiers had taken a deep breath, so the ungodly stench did not affect them. But the wind was fresh from the sea, and a lot of people who had come to watch were driven back.

Koster had caught the full smell and began to vomit involuntarily. Hartmann stepped around, catching the sagging man, clapping his hand over his mouth. The brine that filled the barrel was white with decomposition and the meat above the liquid was host to not some, but a veritable swarm of maggots. Hartmann bent him over the barrel, his eyes an inch from it. “Then perhaps it is good enough for you as well?”

Hartmann removed his hand and shoved the man down face first into the filth. He held the flailing man down for less than a minute, then pulled him up. Koster fell to his knees, vomiting until nothing but bile came up.


Hartmann looked up. Koster’s brother Friedrich had come and brought the city council with him. Every one of them had handkerchiefs against their mouths.

“Bring them all, Sergeant Schindler.” He waved upwind. “But place them there if you please.” He motioned to the barrel. “Seal that up.”

The Council came down the dock, passed the barrel, and stopped, gasping for breath.

“What are you doing, Sergeant?” Freiderich Koster demanded.

“It is what is called an object lesson, Herr Koster. Your brother has seen fit to try to poison the army that is fighting to defend you, and we wished him to understand that we are not pleased with it.”

“Then your officers should have come to complain!”

“This way there will be no misunderstanding.” He waved at the cold-faced soldiers now testing the air before breathing. ”This way the ones most affected by such actions will have their say. I have already informed the Swedes.”

Hartmann turned to the man soaked in rancid brine. “Now, Herr Koster, you will accept this filth back and replace every barrel with the proper contents. As those barrels are brought out, one of my men will personally inspect it, opening the barrel and tasting the contents at need. If your man tries to hand us one more tainted barrel, I will seal you in it. If there are any more complaints, the men who do so will join you.” He turned back to the city council. “Are we all quite clear on this?”

“What is your name?” Councilman Koster demanded. “I want all of their names!”

Hartmann advanced on the councilman, stopping before him. “My name is Sergeant Richard Hartmann of the Wolverine Regiment. These men,” he waved at those behind him, “were not all of us upset with this man’s actions. These merely volunteered to come and witness this ‘discussion.’ If I had brought everyone, counting prisoners who have been affected by this, we would have ten regiments standing here.

” ‘An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please.’ ” Hartmann leaned close enough for the politician to smell his breath, the last line clear enough for the councilors to hear, ” ’An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool—you bet that Tommy sees!” He turned. “Schindler! Begin the exchange!”





Hartmann snapped to attention before the colonel’s desk. “You sent for me, Sir?”

Ludendorf walked around the desk. “The city council of Lübeck has filed a very angry complaint against you with General Torstensson.”

“I understand, Sir.”

“I have been ordered to punish you as he directs.” Hartmann merely stood, still at attention. “Put out your right hand, Sergeant.” Hartmann looked at him curiously, then extended the hand.

Ludendorf slapped it sharply. “Do not do that again. Dismissed.”

Hartmann turned about-face.

“Oh, and Hartmann,” The sergeant stopped. “he added, ‘unless necessary.’ Dismissed.”


As the June heat hit, several factors arrived. They came from the USE itself, Sweden, and allies of the emperor like Essen and Bohemia. Others came from individual USE provinces; Hesse-Kassel premier among them, and they all came for the same reason.

tlrhp2frnchffcrsThe prisoners were informed that these factors were hiring to fill out their regiments, and any who wished could apply. By month’s end, the men being guarded dropped to only about nine thousand. Over five thousand of whom belonged to regiments raised by surviving French officers.

There was still no word about ransoms to be paid for the officers.

It was rumored that some of the USE regiments would be sent south to the Bavarian border, but there was no definitive word yet.


“Colonel, thank you for joining me.” Colonel Ludendorf said, shaking hands with Colonel Georges Duvalier of the French artillery. They had served together briefly about five years earlier, and since they knew each other, both had been assigned the duty of prisoner relations. Ludendorf’s aide poured the wine, left the bottle on the desk, and withdrew. “We have been having problems with the ransoms to be paid.”

“My family has not the money, as you know.”

“Yes. Every officer and a number of the cavalry who do have a family with money has sent their personal requests home as well. However, as I have said, there have been problems.”

Duvalier sipped his wine. “Enumerate them if you please.”

“All of our generals on the southern borders have had lists sent to them of officers held by us. They have been instructed to notify us when possible if and when a ransom will be paid. However, some of the higher ranking officer’s families have been visited by messengers from either Cardinal Richelieu or Monsieur Gaston. Sometimes by messengers from both. Your government is split on what should be done.”

Duvalier snorted. “Let me guess; Richelieu is willing to allow his favorites to be ransomed, but not those he disfavors. And as for Gaston, he is telling them his agents will allow only those he favors, am I correct?”

“If only it were that simple.” Ludendorf rolled the cup in his hands. “Some of them have been instructed to ransom the officers, but not the men of their regiments.”

Duvalier stared at him in amazement. “Those regiments would be the ones raised by the nobles in question, yes?” He named a couple of names. Ludendorf nodded. “I fought with such a regiment in the Mantuan War. The men who were captured by the Spanish were ransomed by the commander himself!”

“Our command has thought of a reason. Perhaps you might be able to say whether it makes any sense to you. They believe it is to strain the infrastructure of this region by forcing them to feed over nine thousand useless mouths.”

“What of the ones who are not French?”

“With them, we have an option. We cannot merely have them go wherever they wish. They would be unarmed, and obviously enemy troops so that the villagers would deal with them.” Both understood what that meant; an unarmed soldier with little or no money would end up dead. If they were lucky, without being tortured.

“Tell me, Marcus.”

“With about half of the prisoners now gone, we can have the others begin on repairing and upgrading the roads. Here.” Ludendorf stood up, walked to a cabinet, and pulled out a map. He unrolled it, setting a dagger on one corner, his goblet on another. Duvalier did the same with his belt knife and the inkwell. Ludendorf touched the map, pointing out the locations, “Ahrensbök to Lübeck, Ahrensbök to what is now called Narnia, Segeberg, and finally to Hamburg. By improving these roads up to what the up-timers would call partially improved, transport of food can be sped up.”

“That would take a year or more. And what about the villages and towns? I am sure this region has the merchants and the people pay for such work.”

“It will not take that long, in truth. The up-timers have introduced what are called Fresno Scrapers along with specialized equipment such as rollers to tamp and camber the road surfaces, and they assign three hundred men to each of what they call road crews. A well-trained crew can complete a mile a month. If we assign six hundred men to each mile, we believe they can do each mile in less than three weeks. The men will still be guarded of course, but there is something good out of this for them.

“First, any who are willing to work will be paid the wages those villagers would have gotten. They can either save this up, or spend it on other things we have not been able to supply to the enlisted men—wine, stronger alcohol, or tobacco.” Ludendorf’s finger bounced along the lines between the locations mentioned. “As each mile is completed, the crews will be leap-frogged to the next section that has not yet been improved. So six crews between here and Lübeck should be done with that road before the first of September.

“The longest section is here, between Segeberg and Hamburg. Forty miles. Crews that complete the shorter legs will be sent south to that road. Over a third of the men will be assigned to the road to Hamburg, the rest divided between the shorter segments.

“As each road is completed, the crews on it will be given a choice. They can take their pay and return home, or stay and finish the roads that need to be completed. But once they have finished, either way, they are free men with coin in their purse to buy passage home.”

Ludendorf picked up his goblet. “We have already notified the remaining mercenaries of our decision. However, I cannot use that method with your fellow Frenchmen without the approval of your officers.”

“So you wish me to put this to the general. What if they refuse?”

“Any or all of your men may refuse. However, remember all they might wish to buy that we will not supply. Your officers can buy their tobacco and liquor. Some of your sergeants can. But can the lowest pikeman afford it? Plus by being closer to where the food is coming in, their supplies will be dropped off sooner, meaning they will be getting food that is fresher.

“And as you well know, as long as they can not fight, soldiers get bored. This will make sure the devil has as few idle hands as possible.” Ludendorf refilled both goblets. “Just speak with him, Georges. It is all I would ask.”



Ten miles south of Segeberg



Hartmann deployed his men on guard, saluted the officer in charge of the relieved unit, and turned to watch. The biggest problem with building the roads had been the required materials; the entire region between Ahrensbök and the sea had almost no rock at all. Tons of gravel, sand, and rock had to be shipped in, and the only advantage for this section of road had been the TacRail line that had not yet been removed.

The French under Colonel Duvalier worked like demons! They had been completing a mile of road every seventeen days, and as he watched, the trailing crew marched through, bringing their equipment along in the middle of the formation.

He paced along, watching the men working. He saw one face he had not anticipated. “Luftmann, get that man for me.”

The soldier went down to a man using a prybar to jam a boulder into an opening. The man nodded, waved to Hartmann, then as soon as the stone was in the proper position, handed the bar to another to climb up to stand with the sergeant.

“Why, Francesco, I thought noblemen did no work, only languidly waved their hands and said, ‘do it’ to the peasants.”

“I have watched Colonel Duvalier get down into the roadbed often enough, Richard. Can I say I am better because of my birth? And I have seen you do the same often enough.”

“Men follow leaders because they respect them.” Hartmann took out his tobacco pouch and handed it to the Italian, who filled his pipe.

“As I have learned, Richard.” Francesco looked at the package. “Balkan tobacco? A tobacco named as what a sergeant likes best?”

For a long moment, Hartmann merely puffed. “It is a company my late wife started. Since a lot of men in Grantville and the SoTF know me at least by rumor, she felt it would sell well.”

“And has it?”

“I only read the reports they send me every month. Something like ten thousand ounces have been sold, so I am told. And five varieties now, from Macedonian to Virginian.” Hartmann blew a smoke ring.

“Here now, ye will not be lollygagging when there’s work to be done!” They turned to look at Bridget, who had a ladle in one hand and a half empty bucket in the other. “If I see you standing abo’ like a laird again, Franz, I’ll feed you wash water and rags for dinner!”

“Behave woman! I was asked by your sergeant to come up here, and he is the one who let me fill my pipe.”

“None of your sass, youngster!” Maggie came up with her daughter, trading the partial bucket for a full one, “and remember, daughter; ye canna complain of others not working when you waste time flapping your gums at them!”

“Yes, mother.” Bridget gave the two men a woebegone expression before trudging on.

“A hard taskmistress. And I didn’t even get any water!” A moment later the partial bucket of water struck Francesco from behind. He glared at the cackling woman as she walked back to the approaching water bowser.

“One thing, Franz?”

“Oh, I have put in for a commission with the USE. Franz Broglie von Revello-Turin.” He looked each way. “And if I am unlucky enough, that harridan will be my mother-in-law.”

“As if I’d have ye, ye blatherskite!” Bridget shouted.

“Be silent, woman!” Franz shouted back. “I had best get back to work, or I will never hear the end of it.”



Five miles from Hamburg

Early September, 1634


With every other road completed, it had come down to this last stretch. To the sides of the road, men marched toward Hamburg and the ships home. It had become a race, the six hundred men on each crew swollen to over a thousand each. Hartmann watched as the roller moved over the road again. As soon as it was done, it would move to the next section. He heard a horseman coming up and saluted Ludendorf.

Colonel Duvalier rode up on a horse from the direction of Hamburg. He looked upon the road and the crew watching the roller. “We have reached the gate, Marcus. Once this section is done, we can go home.”

“You could have gone weeks ago, Georges.”

Duvalier shook his head. “These are all Frenchmen. My men in everything but name. We promised you good work, and I promised them I would not go home until we were done.”

A horn sounded, then another. The men paused, then began to cheer. It was done. “You are a man of your word, Georges.” Ludendorf moved closer, and the two men clasped hands. “May we never face each other in battle again, my friend.”

Au revoir, Marcus. Bonne chance.”



“March your men back to camp and tell the battalion officers to meet at my tent. We are going home.”





15 September 1634

The Wolverine Regiment, the last of the First Division to return home from Ahrensbök, marched into camp at dusk. Hartmann dismissed his men, then walked into the growing city. Frau Kaufmann looked up from the soldiers she was serving, signaled her daughter to take over, and walked over to hug him. “Richard, I am so sorry.”

“It was God’s will, Margareta.” His voice was soft, and she looked up. Never had she seen someone so disconsolate. “Where is she buried?”

“Since she was your wife, they allowed her to be buried in the cemetery at the base.”

“The baby?”

“In the same grave so that they would go to God together.” Her words meant as comfort caused him to flinch.

“Thank you for all you did for her.” He turned and walked out.


The grave had a simple stone slab with Marta’s name on it, birth and death marked below it with BELOVED WIFE AND SON OF SERGEANT RICHARD HARTMANN. He walked up, touching the stone gently, then knelt beside it to lay his hands on the cold ground. Then began to pray for his honored dead for the first time in years.