Article Category Archives: 1632 Content

Material from Eric Flint’s 1632 Universe

Fair or Foul, Part 3: Meteorological Observation Networks

In Flint, 1633, Chapter 14, Jesse tells Jim, “We need someone to organize a weather service. . . .” In Huff and Goodlett, “High Road to Venice” (GG19), set in 1634, Merton Smith of TransEuropean Airlines calls up the weather service and he has weather information from Rome and Bolzano (and it appears that at one point there were stations in Saxony and Brandenburg). By 1635, there is a weather observation network in part of Russia.

In parts 1 and 2, I discussed the meteorological instruments that can be made based on knowledge in Grantville. Now we’ll look at how those instruments can be integrated into an observation network in the new time line (NTL) created by the Ring of Fire (RoF) event in May, 1631.

This article will from time to time describe meteorological developments in the old time line (OTL). The historical perspective can help us understand how difficult it can be to win acceptance of new ideas and some of the obstacles our characters may encounter in trying to institute a weather observation and forecasting program.



Meteorological Knowledge in Grantville


None of the up-timers majored in meteorology, worked as meteorologists before RoF, or are identified in the grid as having amateur meteorology as a hobby.

Hence, formal educational exposure to meteorology is likely to be limited to a single course, taken as an elective. Meteorology, like astronomy, is a popular science distribution elective for non-science majors but such an elective is likely to be light on mathematics (see, e.g., Ahrens, Meteorology Today). Hopefully, one of more of the up-timer physicists took the more rigorous version for those majoring or minoring in meteorology. It is also possible that one or more of them, or of the chemical engineers, took fluid mechanics.

There are several up-timers with piloting experience in Grantville, and it is important to neither exaggerate nor discount their knowledge of meteorology. The logical starting point is, what would they have needed to know in order to receive a pilot’s license? In general, their study would cover the broad divisions of the atmosphere; the trends of pressure, temperature and density in the standard atmosphere, the relationship of pressure to altitude; the proper adjustment of (and causes of possible errors in) a barometric altimeter; Buy-Ballots law; cloud classification and (qualitatively) formation; measures of sky opacity; causes of turbulence; weather associated with lows, highs, and fronts; local wind and fog phenomena; and how to read a METAR weather bulletin, station plot, or synoptic chart. (PSA; Air Force Manual 11-203, Weather for Aircrews). But they don’t learn how to construct meteorological instruments, how to analyze observations and make a synoptic chart, or how to forecast (except in the most limited sense, as in recognizing the significance of towering cumulus or nimbostratus, or of a fall in pressure).

Naturally, in the course of flying, they will have an intimate opportunity to observe weather in action. An individual pilot with experience may of course have a very good feel for what the weather is going to do in their normal area of operation in the next few hours. But it is not knowledge that we can count on, and it is not knowledge that is easily transferable to others (or to distant places). The experience with aviation weather in the USA is only partially applicable to Europe (admittedly, ex-military pilots may have flown there).

The up-time pilots also received briefings from meteorologists, and there may have been some acquisition of some qualitative guidance (e.g., reference to omega blocking patterns) by osmosis. Again, relevancy depends in part on whether they flew in America or Europe.

For ship pilots it’s only a little different. Look at the weather chapters (34-37) in Bowditch 2002. Besides what we see for aircraft pilots, these talk about the Beaufort scale, about the safer and less safe sectors in a hurricane, and also about adjustments to weather observations. But they do not discuss forecasting, except in the limited sense that they mention the signs of an approaching hurricane (which I used in 1636: Seas of Fortune).

Looking at the pre-RoF holdings of Mannington libraries, the high school has Blanchard, From Raindrops to Volcanoes: Adventures with Sea Surface Meteorology; Dickinson, Exploring the Sky Day by Day; Neiburger, Understanding Our Atmospheric Environment; Chandler, The Air Around Us; Taylor, Weather and Climate; Reiter, Jet Streams; Berger, Can It Rain Cats and Dogs; Lane, The Elements Rage; and Sutton, Nature on the Rampage.  The public library has Allaby, A Chronology of Weather; Burroughs, Weather; and a few juvenile books on extreme weather.

Private library holdings are likely to be slim pickings; but it would not be surprising for a farmer to own a lay book on weather forecasting. My own library includes Laird, Weathercasting; Lee, Weather Wisdom; and Watts, Weather Handbook, and there are others of a similar vein.

The bottom line is that we are going to fall well short of what was considered adequate education and training for meteorological personnel (Draghici).

The odds are pretty good that the high school has at least basic weather station equipment: barometer, thermometer, sling psychrometer, rain gauge, weather vane and anemometer, and it might have continuously recording apparatus (mine did). An individual farmer might, too.  However, at present there are no personal weather stations in the Mannington area registered with Weather Underground; the closest are in Curtisville and Worthington.



Meteorological Instruments in Canon


In Fall, 1635, Peter Boglonovich’s weather station at “the Dacha” is equipped with a thermometer and a barometer (1636: The Kremlin Games, Chap. 65).

In December, 1635, the weather station at the USE’s Tetschen airfield has just a mercury thermometer and a crude barometer (Flint, 1636: The Saxon Uprising, Chap. 15).


The Meteorological Observer Network


While a single observer may make short term forecasts for his own location based on his or her own observations, multiday and regional forecasting requires a network of observers who can communicate their observations to analysts, who in turn communicate their “nowcasts” and forecasts to the public (or some particular segment thereof).

The network will be much more effective if there is standardization of the instruments, of observing methods (including observing time), and of reporting (terminology and encoding) of observations. This is to assure both a minimum level of accuracy, and consistency between reports from different locales or different observers. The speed and accuracy of communications are also important but will be discussed in a later section.

It is absolutely necessary that all observation reports include the date and time of observation. Synchronization of observations is tricky. In the 1850s Smithsonian network, observers were told to use “mean time” of their station. These could differ by several hours at the extreme western and eastern ends of the network. Standard time was initially created by railroads for the sake of timetables. In the USA, national observations weren’t simultaneous until the 1870s.


We can get some sense of how proposals for a meteorological network will be received in NTL by looking at how weather observations were made later in the OTL seventeenth century.

The first international meteorological network was created by the Medicis in 1654, and reached its peak level of participation in the period 1655-60. Observers in Florence, Vallambrosa, Pisa, Cutigliano, Bologna, Parma, Milan, Innsbruck, Warsaw, Osnabruck, and Paris participated at one time or another. The main stations were at Florence and Vallambrosa. The network was officially shut down in 1667 for political reasons—too close an association with Galileo—but the main stations continued operation until 1670.

The observers were monks (Benedictines or Jesuits) and followed a precise observational schedule (5-8 readings a day, covering both daytime and nighttime, but unevenly). The thermometers were “Little Florentine Thermometers” provided in duplicate by the network secretary, with one to be hung on a north-facing wall and the other on a south-facing wall. Observations were sent, daily or weekly depending on the distance, to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. (Given the communication delay, the network is perhaps best considered one for collecting climatological data.) The reports included the date, reading time, north and south thermometer readings, and “notes on the weather.”

In 1659-61, William Balle showed the Royal Society his weather diary, which used a tabular format to show the place, date and time of observation, daily temperature (“water glass”), pressure (“height of quicksilver”), and “weather” (e.g, “clear,” “gloomy”) (Vogel). In 1663, Robert Hooke read a paper (published in 1667) to the Royal Society, describing a proposal for a more elaborate tabular scheme for recording weather observations (Crewe). This had columns for recording the day and hour of the observation, the age and sign of the moon at noon, the direction and strength of the wind, the temperature, the humidity, the pressure, and “the faces or visible appearances of the sky, the notable effects, and general deductions to be made. . . .” (Egerton). Not only temperature and pressure, but also humidity and wind strength, were quantified. Hooke also proposed that weather observations be “made to a common standard” and collected internationally (Crewe).

While there were individuals who kept weather diaries in sixteenth-century Europe, they did not have tools to measure temperature, pressure, or wind strength. However, they could quantitatively report wind direction, as was done by, for example, Tycho Brahe and David Fabricius. One diarist who was still alive at the time of RoF was Karel starsi ze Zerotina (1564-1636) in Moravia (Pfister). In Britain, many of the weather diarists were physicians, clergymen, or landed gentry.

Some of these diarists made daily entries; others were more haphazard in their observing practices. For the meteorological network, we will need individuals willing to go out and take readings, even in harsh weather, on a daily basis.


For later networks, it is particularly interesting to note who organized (and paid for) the network and who the observers were, as this may provide some inspiration for our writers. The Meteorological Society of the Palatinate was organized by a politician-amateur meteorologist. It collected weather data thrice daily from 39 volunteers in eighteen countries, 1781-1792, but just for later study (Monmonier 18).

A network was established in New York State in 1825 by the Vice Chancellor of SUNY; it relied on observers in the 62 academies under state supervision, and these were given a standardized thermometer and rain gauge, and instructions for their use (39). The Board of Regents told them that they must submit meteorological observations before they could receive public funds (Fleming 19).

In 1837 the Franklin Institute successfully lobbied the Pennsylvania legislature for financial support for statewide meteorological observation. There was to be a set of instruments (barometer, two thermometers, and rain gauge) for each of the 52 counties, and a Philadelphia manufacturer agreed to supply them at $16/set. Standardization (the permissible deviation was 2%) proved difficult, as did shipping the instruments without suffering breakage. The Institute preferred to recruit, as an observer, “the principal of a College, Academy, or Lyceum.” (60).

In 1834, the US Navy ordered yard and ship surgeons—not captains—to keep thermometer and barometer records. The motivation was to investigate the effect of the weather on health (Fleming 61). In a similar vein, US army stations were ordered to keep weather journals in 1842 (70).

In the British network organized (1861) by the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade, the observers were telegraph clerks, who weren’t paid for observing, but did receive instructions and standard instruments. Observations were made 8 AM daily, except Sunday (Anderson 112). Telegraphy was the department’s biggest budget item (114).

The Smithsonian network (1847-70) had several hundred volunteer observers who took measurements thrice daily and mailed monthly reports to DC. They fell into three categories: those without instruments, those with just a thermometer, and those who also had at least a barometer (sometimes also a psychrometer and rain gauge). There was also a separate, sparser telegraphic network. A word to the wise: the mail network generated far more data than the clerical staff could process (40ff).

In 1851, 47% of the observers had scientific, technical, or educational backgrounds, while only 8% were farm workers. By 1870, the values were 16% and 37% respectively (Fleming 92). While the Smithsonian observers weren’t paid, they enjoyed several perks: they could obtain free scientific advice and were given greater access to government and Smithsonian publications (88).

The instruments were provided to telegraph offices and exploratory expeditions; others could sometimes get them on loan or at reduced cost. Some instruments were broken during transit, and there is an instance of a thermometer stolen by Indians (86). Not surprisingly, there were observers who didn’t follow observational instructions or filled their reports with “hieroglyphics” (83).

In 1870, the telegraphic weather service became a function of the Signal Office of the U.S. War Department (49). The original meteorological network model was centralized; all observations were reported to the central office, and it issued any forecasts. In the U.S., the Signal Corps authorized the NY district office to issue local forecasts in 1881. Thereafter, more district offices, and even local stations, prepared local forecasts, and some even produced daily weather maps for posting at public places (53).

The military wasn’t very responsive to the meteorological needs of the farming community and in 1891, the function was transferred to the newly created USDA Weather Bureau (Id.).


Ultimately, of course, it will be desirable to have some automated weather stations for remote or harsh locations. Christopher Wren (1632-1723) and Robert Hooke (1635-1703) together designed, and Hooke built, the first automated weather station, the “weather wise.” The first working model is from 1669, but they continued to tinker with it. This contraption “made recordings at the Royal Society with trip hammers that made marks on paper to record wind direction, wind speed, temperature, humidity and pressure. Not surprisingly, it spent more time being repaired or developed than actually working. . . .” (Crewe). I have not been able to document other pre-twentieth century automated weather stations.


Station Bulletins and Plots.  Currently, weather observations (bulletins) are reported in one of several standard international formats so they are concise and can be understood without linguistic skills (Stegman). WMO’s SYNOP bulletin format for a land station is twelve four- or five-character code groups, and for a ship 15-18 (plotmanual). There are also (to name a few) METAR (for airports), TEMP (for weather balloons), and most recently BUFR.

At the analysis center this information is first plotted on a very large weather map (or a set of smaller maps) so that all of the station information is visible. Several standardized “station plot” formats have been developed in which the numbers and accepted graphical symbols are arranged in a predetermined configuration (plotmanual; NWSSSP).

It’s not very likely that these formats are fully explained in Grantville literature, but some kind of system needs to be developed in the NTL and the ex-pilots probably know more about the historical formats than anyone else in town.



Observations Generally


In part 1 (Grantville Gazette 72) I discussed measurement of temperature, humidity, and precipitation, and in part 2 (Grantville Gazette 73), pressure and surface wind speed and direction. But there are other meteorological variables of interest.

The observer may and should also report on the appearance of the sky—the percentage covered by clouds, the types of clouds seen, and their apparent rate and direction of movement. The vocabulary of clouds was developed by Luke Howard (1772-1864), and there are definitely books in the Grantville public and school libraries that illustrate the cloud genera (e.g., “altocumulus”). They are less likely to drill down to the level of species (e.g., stratiformis vs. floccus) or variety (opacus, translucidus, etc.) (Pretor-Pinney) but it is doubtful that these minutiae will be useful from a forecasting standpoint.

Observation stations may be on land or on the water, and with the right equipment they can make upper air as well as near-surface observations. They also be manned or unmanned (automated).

Automated stations require recording instruments (meteorographs). All must connect the sensor so that a change in the meteorological variable causes a movement of the recording element. Often some sort of amplification is necessary. The recording element must in turn produce a record: e.g., by causing a pen to move across or intermittently press against paper, scraping a smoked or silvered surface with a stylus, or causing a spot of light (natural or artificial) to traverse photosensitive paper. Finally, the recording medium is mounted on a drum that is rotated at a uniform rate by clockwork (MiddletonMM 6ff). Generally speaking, meteorographs have to be periodically recalibrated against the corresponding meteorometers.

Automated stations can be expected to receive maintenance visits only occasionally, and are likely to be used primarily in harsh environments where it is difficult for a human to live, and thus must be engineered with robustness in mind.



Land Surface Station Observations


On land, both natural features and manmade structures can affect the readings obtained by meteorological instruments. Thermometers, wind vanes, anemometers, and precipitation gauges must be appropriately and consistently sited, as discussed in the prior two articles. Another point to be wary of is that wind direction is reported relative to true north by meteorological stations and relative to magnetic north at airfields (WMO2008, 5.1.2).

Air pressure varies with altitude, and local gravity (and thus the weight of a mercury column) with both altitude and latitude, so it is very important that all barometric pressure measurements be reduced to mean sea level pressure before they are reported to the central office. It should be noted that the altitude needs to be determined by non-barometric means, e.g., surveying with level, chain, and theodolite relative to some reference datum. (There are complications in long-distance surveying that are outside the purview of this article. )

An interesting question is, how do you get weather reports from inside enemy territory?

First of all, you can have a mobile weather station that travels with your forces. It can be manned or automated. Second, you could drop (by parachute) an automated weather station into enemy territory (and it could double as a radio beacon for air missions) (MiddletonMM 271).



Marine Surface Station Observations


Incorporation of marine observations from the North Atlantic into the network will be very advantageous for weather forecasting for Europe, because in the northern hemisphere, frontal systems tend to move from west to east.

Marine observations worldwide will be used for determining prevailing winds (strictly speaking, that’s climatology, not meteorology) as a function of season and location, which in turn will make it possible to find more efficient sailing routes.

In this period, ship captains usually kept logbooks in which weather observations were recorded. Indeed, some navies and merchants marine required that such logbooks be maintained and turned in at the end of the voyage.

Taking this a step further, Maury organized an international conference in 1853 at which the participating nations agreed that “cooperating merchantmen” would keep a standard log in which they would record the time, position, pressure, temperature, and wind direction and strength (Moore 206).

While merchant vessels and even warships can report weather observations as they progress across the ocean, it was found advantageous to station ships in one place to monitor the weather. The first such “weather ship” was deployed in 1938, and the last was withdrawn in 2010. Wikipedia has a map showing thirteen weather ship locations in the North Atlantic. Typically, they spent two-thirds of their time at sea.

I think it would be hard to justify a dedicated weather ship in the 1632 universe. However, if the ship would also be useful as a radio relay station, that might shift the economics in its favor, depending on the value of the radio communication link it supports. Or perhaps it could also double as a lightship, if stationed in shoal waters.

Historically, weather ships were replaced by weather buoys. These were first deployed by German U-boats during WW II. They may be moored or drifting. Naturally, they must be automatic in operation.


Unlike the land observer, the nautical observer will likely be asked to describe the sea conditions. It is helpful to determine the time interval between crests. To do so, you go up to the crow’s nest, pick a distinctive mark (foam patch, clump of seaweed, drifting object) one or two ship-lengths to windward, and count the number of wave crests that pass under the mark within a set time from the first wave crest (AM3/2 p185). Obviously, this assumes that the mark is still or moving only slowly.

Determining wave height is tricky. If you are accompanied by another ship, you can observe the height of a wave striking her, relative to distinctive parts of the ship’s structure. If your ship is alone, then you go amidships and judge the height of the trough and crest against your ship’s reference points.

It is desirable to take the sea temperature. Franklin mapped the Gulf Stream in 1770. Knowing whether you were in it or not could make a difference of two weeks at sea for a voyage up or down the East Coast (Moore 77). Later it was recognized that average sea temperatures in the tropical Atlantic were relevant to predicting the ferocity of the hurricane season.

One complication is that the apparent wind (what is felt by the sails, and also by the weathervane and anemometer) will differ from the true wind if the ship is moving. If you know the true course and ship speed then you can calculate the true wind from the apparent wind. However, that will require some navigational advances.

The nautical observer may try to estimate true wind direction “by noting the direction from which small wavelets, ripples, and sea spray are coming” and the true wind speed by observing the sea conditions and correlating them with the modern version of the Beaufort wind scale. (NAVEDTRA10363, p48).



Upper Air Observations


Clouds occur at different heights, and by studying how clouds move, you can determine whether the air at high altitude is moving in a different direction than the surface wind. Espy, in his Hints to Observers on Meteorology (1837), pointed out how cloud movements could be used to estimate upper air winds (Fleming 61). “In the late 1890s [Bigelow] used cloud data from 140 telegraphic stations to construct three-level wind maps describing for various weather types (e.g., “New England Winter High”) the movement of air at the surface as well as among both ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ clouds.” He was systematic, dividing the country into 96 squares (Monmonier 69).

Forecasters also like to know the upper air pressure distribution. The upper air patterns are simpler (less terrain perturbation) and thus easier to use in prognosis.

In theory, mountaintop observations can also be used to supplement data from nearby lowland stations. However, the mountain disturbs the atmosphere and thus the mountaintop data doesn’t give a true picture of the upper atmosphere overlying the lowland.

Direct aerial observations of upper air conditions may be taken by unmanned kite, balloon, or rocket, or by manned kite (uncommon!), balloon, aircraft, or airship. (Balloons include “kytoons”, essentially blimp-shaped balloons with rigid tail fins. These lift like a kite in a strong wind—MiddletonMM 229).


Unmanned Probes. With an unmanned conveyance, there is no one present to fix a glitch in the instruments or to take readings at intervals. Unmanned upper air observations became more useful once continuous multi-variable recording instruments (meteorographs) were developed.

Until the meteorograph could communicate from the air, the recovery of the data was delayed until the vehicle returned to earth and was located. Middleton comments in “thickly populated central Germany a loss was exceptional,” but that even in Ontario, nearly three-quarters of meteorographs were “eventually” recovered (MiddletonMM 230). (Elsewhere Middleton notes that the recovery could take days, weeks, or even years—243.) However, even when the meteorograph was padded and its descent retarded by parachute, it was often damaged, perhaps beyond repair. Hence, their designers had to balance the competing goals of lightness, accuracy, robustness, and inexpensiveness.

Several expedients resulted in more timely transmission of the sounding data. I have already mentioned in the earlier articles how some meteorological instruments could report their readings at a remote location. When this was accomplished by electrical means, the sensor could be in the aerial vehicle, and the readout on the ground, connected by a very long electrical wire. This was called a wiresonde.

The next important development was the radiosonde (1927), the combination of a meteorograph with a radio transmitter (Brettle; MiddletonMM 243). A battery is also required, to power the transmitter. The transmitters communicated the data by means of (1) time interval between pulses, (2) Morse code, (3) variable radio frequency, and (4) variable audio (modulating radio) frequency (244). I would think that amplitude modulation was also a possibility. Middleton recommends that the transmitter have a range of at least 100 miles.


Manned Probes. With manned vehicles, the problems are that the height of ascent is limited by oxygen supply, a greater lift force is needed to support the weight of the observer, and the return to earth must be gentle enough not to injure the latter.


Sounding Altitude. At what heights do we need weather observations? Heights are often expressed in terms of the pressures for the international standard atmosphere; the earth’s surface is a little over 1000 hPa. The ENIAC numerical weather model relied on measurements at 500 hPa, where frictional forces are negligible and half the air mass is below you; that’s 18,000 feet [the mean height of the 500 hPa pressure according to the International Standard Atmosphere, but the true height can vary]. “The [pressure] level best suited for determination of convergence and divergence is the 300-hPA level.” (ISA 30,000 feet) (NAVEDTRA 14010, 7). The most common of the lower atmosphere plots are for 850 mb (ISA 5,000 ft) and 700 mb (ISA 10,000 ft). These constant pressure (isobaric) maps are contour maps in which the contours are isoheights (lines of equal height).

It is also possible to generate constant height maps in which the contours are isobars. Pilots of course will be most interested in the constant height chart for whatever is their expected cruising altitude; aircraft often try to follow isobars. In 1903, Bigelow produced pressure maps for 3500 and 10,000 feet (Monmonier 71).


Altitude Measurement. A general problem for upper air observations is uncoupling pressure and height. The most common form of altimeter really measures barometric pressure. If we want to generate maps showing heights at a standard pressure, or pressures at a standard height, we need a non-barometric method of determining altitude.

If the observation platform is tethered, then in theory this can be done by trigonometry if we know the payed out length of line (thanks to markings on the line or counting turns on the windlass) and the angle of inclination of the line.

An optical rangefinder might be a possibility. In stadiametric rangefinding you sight on an object of known size and measure its angular width. In coincidence rangefinding the optics combine partial images from two sighting points at opposite ends of a base line and you determine the distance by bringing the images into coincidence. Stereoscopic rangefinders are similar, but there are two eyepieces instead of one. In any case, the aerial observer must have a well-defined object to sight on, preferably close to directly below the vehicle so you are measuring the vertical distance. Or the ground observer must sight on the aerial platform, but then you need to have a way to synchronize the altitude and pressure measurements.

Another approach (used historically on German airships, see Dick) is to drop an object and time its fall. This worked only over water, where the splash could be observed. Note that dropping anything is like dropping ballast and on a balloon or small airship may result in a significant height change, so take the readings before you make the drop. You also need an accurate timer.

All optical methods are of course dependent on atmospheric clarity and adequate lighting. Searchlights were used with the “splash” method at night.

The sonar altimeter measures the time it takes for a sound emitted by the observing platform to bounce off the earth and return. A primitive sonar altimeter, the Echolot, was used on the ZR3 in 1925 (Draper 6) and on the Graf Zeppelin. The sound source was “a gun, loaded with a blank cartridge, . . . fired downward through a sleeve in the control car.” On the Hindenburg, the sound source was a compressed air siren ( A whistle and megaphone have also been used.

The first sensor was a carbon powder microphone; the listener watched a metronomic timer and stopped it when he heard the sound (Draper 7). On the Graf Zeppelin, the sensor was “a bouncing type of light indicator” that would vibrate in response to the echo (Dick). The bouncing light was produced by a rotating mirror, and when a sound was received by a carbon microphone, the reed of an electromagnetic oscillograph was excited and moved a lens, deflecting the light (Draper 56). In a later version, the echo striking the microphone caused an electromagnet brake to stop the rotation (57).

It is possible to imagine a completely automated device that can be placed on an unmanned platform, and perhaps even records the transit time alongside the barometric pressure.

The sound must be sharp and shortly defined so that at low altitudes the echo is not confused with the generating sound. The echo must be louder than the vehicle noise; this is more of a problem for aircraft than airships or balloons. Absorption and spreading losses limit the sensible upper altitude (but the louder the sound source, the better). A typical upper limit is 800 feet for cruising airplanes, 1600 for gliding airplanes, and 2400 for airships (Draper 84). The accuracy of the timer limits the accuracy of the altitude, given the speed of sound, an altitude difference of one foot corresponds to about 1/600th second. (I don’t know whether the accuracy of the early sonic altimeters was sufficient to warrant considering the effect of the variable density of air on the speed of sound.)

The same echo timing principle appears in the modern radar altimeter, but that senses the echo of a radio wave, traveling at the speed of light, and thus requires much more sophisticated engineering. I will leave it to others to predict when this will appear in NTL. (Laser and GPS altimeters are even more remote prospects.)

Before leaving the subject of altitude measurement, I would comment that as long as the vehicle remains below cloud level, it is possible that its height could be measured from ground stations, by the combination of optical measurements and trigonometry. Two ground observers could be stationed at the ends of a much longer baseline than that possible on the vehicle, and thus the rangefinding would be more accurate.


Let’s examine more closely the various direct observation modes.


Unmanned Kites. In 1749, Alexander Wilson sent thermometers aloft on paper kites. “Each thermometer was bundled in strips of cloth to prevent the delicate instruments from breaking when they hit the ground. Each bundle had a slow burning fuse and a white ribbon attached. As the fuse burned through the string that bound the bundle to the kite, the white ribbons would surf the wind on a downward descent and signal to the experimenters.” (Robinson). In 1847, “a six-sided meteorological kite in 1847 [was developed] that allowed meteorologist to raise and lower weather instruments using a pulley system” (Id.).

For a time, kites were eclipsed by balloons, but it was found that tethered balloons were harder to control than kites, and free balloons might be carried so far away that their instruments weren’t recoverable. Moreover, kites were cheaper and could be flown in stronger winds (but not in a calm!).

Kite string was replaced with piano wire in 1887, and kite designs were modified for increased stability.  In 1894, a kite was used to lift a thermograph. By 1899, the Weather Bureau was able to send instruments up above 10,000 feet, with box kites attached to a main line at 2,000 foot intervals. The kite would be held at a specific altitude for 5-10 minutes to let the instruments stabilize. The line, up to 40,000 feet long, could be wound up by a steam-driven windlass, and a dynamometer was attached to the reel to measure the pull. In the early twentieth century, the Bureau had high-wind, moderate-wind (12-30 mph) and light-wind (8-10 mph) kites. There are illustrations of the Marvin-Hargrave kite (68-square foot lifting surface) and the two pound kite meteorograph in EB11/Meteorology.

In 1898, there were eighteen kite stations in America.The basic limitation of the kite was that its data wasn’t available until the kite was brought back to earth. Hence, it was finally replaced by balloons carrying radiosondes (see below) (Monmonier 74). In theory, of course, a kite could carry a sufficiently light radiosonde, but I haven’t found any historical instance of this. However, a wiresonde was used with a kite in 1917 (MiddletonMM 243).


Manned kites. Cody’s war kites were intended for military reconnaissance, and a Cody kite lifted a man to a height of 2600 feet, but I don’t know whether any kite was used to carry a meteorological observer.

Manned Balloons. In 1862, Glaisher took numerous meteorological instruments up in a 90,000-cubic foot balloon. (Moore 253). On his first ascent, up to almost 17,000 feet, he didn’t report any health issues, but on his third, he reached 29,000 feet and blacked out for a time. At 35,000 feet his companion managed to pull the valve cord. They descended rapidly (which is also dangerous) and made it back to ground (Moore 261ff). As information about ballooning diffuses out of Grantville, one can imagine that some down-timers will learn how to make a balloon without also becoming aware of the dangers of high altitude.

It is worth comparing these heights to those of the jet stream; the polar jets are at 30-39,000 feet, and the subtropical jets at 33-52,000 (Wikipedia). However, at 20,000 feet, Glaisher’s instruments began to malfunction.

Some manned balloon observers used a telegraph connection between the balloon gondola and the ground for communicating observations in near-real time.


Unmanned Balloons. There are basically two types of balloons used by meteorologists, pilot balloons (uninstrumented, but tracked) and sounding balloons (instrumented, and called radiosondes if they have radio transmitters).

Pilot Balloons. The use of pilot balloons was pioneered in 1909. The balloon movement was observed with a theodolite. Its disappearance into the cloud cover could be timed, giving an estimate of the cloud height, and the measurement of the balloon’s azimuth and angular altitude gave the wind direction and speed (Monmonier 74). There were about 75 pilot balloon stations covering the USA in 1933 (76).

The theodolite for land use is essentially a wide-angle telescope that can pivot on two axes and can measure horizontal and vertical angles. A special theodolite for shipboard use had a Cardan suspension to keep the instrument level, and was really a combination of a sextant and a conventional theodolite (Middleton 179).

If only one theodolite is used, the calculation of the direction and speed of movement of the pilot balloon is dependent on the accurate estimate of the rate of ascent (181), and this is the greatest source of uncertainty.

At first the balloon accelerates freely, but as its speed increases, air resistance becomes significant. The speed becomes constant when the drag force equals the buoyant force.

However, both forces also decrease slowly with the density of the atmosphere and thus with height, and not quite in lock step (since one is related to area and the other to volume). Hence, the rate of ascent is not quite constant. With some simplifying assumptions (note 4), the velocity is inversely proportional to the one-sixth power of the air density, which itself decreases exponentially with altitude in the troposphere (0-10 km) and more gradually in the stratosphere (20-50 km) (MiddletonMM 172; DennyWB; Yajima 2.100). Hence, the theoretical “equilibrium” ascent rate slowly increases. For a typical sounding balloon with a one-meter radius at ground level (Gallice), the expected rate for a hydrogen balloon is 5 meters/second, and is reached at an altitude of about 5-7 km. The rate increases to 5.5 m/s at about 20 km. (DennyWB).

However, there can be countervailing factors (see note 4), and in the tropopause, 11-20 km, the location of the jet stream, the ascent rate decreases (Gallice). For many years, the ascent rate was considered practically constant (MiddletonMB 172).

Two theodolites were used mostly in mountain regions (where vertical currents could be substantial), and they make that estimate unnecessary. The baseline must be adequate, say, one mile (186). Even so, the values are accurate to perhaps 2 degrees direction and 2.2 mph in speed at low altitude, and twice that at 5 km altitude.

Pilot balloons are preferably made of either natural rubber or neoprene. Natural rubber deteriorates as a result of exposure to sunlight, and neoprene doesn’t fare well in cold, so the former is preferred at night and the latter in daytime. By trial and error, it was found that the best colors were clear against a blue sky, red with broken clouds, and blue or black when overcast. For night flights, the balloon may be tracked by hanging a “Chinese lantern” (essentially a candle with a white tissue paper shade) 10-20 feet below the balloon (174). Larger balloons are easier to track visually, but more expensive.

A ceiling balloon is a small pilot balloon that is observed merely to determine when it disappears into the clouds and thus the height of the clouds. They are cheaper and therefore can be released at an airfield more frequently than a normal pilot balloon.

To obtain wind data from above the cloud base, pilot balloons could be equipped with a radio. Instead of using one or two theodolites, you would use one or two radio detection finders with highly directional antennas and a similar angle measuring capability.

Sounding Balloons. A “pilot balloon” provides information solely by being tracked from the ground. The next step beyond that is a “sounding balloon,” which carries at least one meteorograph. The Scott expedition launched (1911) meteorological balloons over Antarctica; these were one-cubic meter gutta percha balloons filled with hydrogen produced by adding calcium hydride to water. The recording (temperature, pressure) instrument weighed 70 grams, and was attached to the balloon by a device containing a slow fuse (15 minutes). The expiration of the fuse detached the device which dropped to the ground (without a parachute to slow it down) (Burton).

The development of compact, light, cheap transmitters and meteorographs led naturally to the evolution of sounding balloons equipped with radio transmitters (radiosondes); the radio then serves the dual purpose of permitting the ground station to determine the position and movement of the balloon, and of transmitting the meteorological data to the ground. It is advantageous to hang the radiosonde below the balloon—as much as 200 feet below—so heat absorbed by the balloon is not transferred to the radiosonde (Denny 100).

While unmanned, untethered balloons equipped with radiosondes are the backbone of the modern upper air sampling network, they are one-use devices (the balloons burst when ascending high enough) and radiosondes are expensive ($50 in 1960) (Edwards 217). In the modern USA, the recovery rate is about 20% (Denny 100).

Middleton suggested that one could design a “controlled altitude free balloon” that, like the Japanese “balloon bombs” sent against the Pacific Northwest in WW2, would have a pressure switch to drop ballast if the balloon descended too low and to valve gas if it ascended too high (196).



Balloons generally. While a sphere is the shape best able to withstand pressure, and has the smallest surface area for a given volume (thus minimizing initial weight/lift), it requires additional structure to suspend a heavy load, and when launched the balloon is only partially inflated and does not have its final spherical shape (increasing stress and drag). Therefore, in scientific ballooning, only small balloons with light payloads are spherical (Yajima 20). In contrast, a “natural shape” balloon maintains “the same type of shape from partial inflation through to full inflation” (21). Calculating the shape initially required a digital computer (22), but Grantville’s balloonist, Marlon Pridmore, probably has tables that establish the shape.

Zero pressure balloons (45ff) have a venting duct at the base and, after the balloon obtains full inflation, if there is further expansion some lifting gas will “overflow” (underflow) and escape by the vent, thus maintaining a “zero” (in practice perhaps 1%) pressure differential. This minimizes the stress on the envelope and thus permits use of very thin envelopes. However, venting reduces the lifting force and depending on temperature conditions may cause the balloon to descend. If it is desired to have a balloon remain aloft after sunset, one must consider that the temperature will drop, reducing buoyancy, and automatically drop ballast to compensate.

Super-pressure balloons (48ff) are closed (except for safety valves to forestall bursting) and once fully inflated, further ascent causes an increase in the pressure differential across the skin. While these balloons are capable of long duration flights, the problem was to develop a film strong enough to withstand a much greater pressure differential (perhaps 20% in the stratosphere) without greatly increasing the film weight (and thus the maximum altitude). One may also have dual-balloon systems (51ff) combining a small super-pressure balloon to control altitude (despite the day-night cycle) and a large zero-pressure balloon to lift the payload. These relax the weight constraint on the super-pressure balloon and would be feasible in NTL much sooner than a pure super-pressure system.

Balloons are usually characterized by weight instead of launch or burst diameter. The envelope of a ceiling balloon might weigh 10-30 grams; of a pilot balloon, 100 grams; and of a sounding balloon, 300-3000 grams. Small balloons may be made by dipping a mold into the latex emulsion, but larger balloons require putting the latex in a divided hollow mold and rotating it to achieve a uniform thickness (MiddletonMB 167).

The maximum altitude is set by buoyancy considerations and thus in part by the combined weight of the balloon and payload; the buoyant force decreases with altitude but the weight is constant. A balloon may fail to reach that altitude because it bursts prematurely. A partially-inflated balloon will expand as it rises. Folds in the envelope will disappear, and the envelope material itself will stretch and thin. If the balloon climbs faster than it can compensate for by volume change, it must either vent lift gas (“zero-pressure” balloon), or experience an increasing pressure difference between interior and exterior (“superpressure” balloon).

The stress on the envelope increases with the radius as the balloon expands, and the envelope’s ability to resist the stress is reduced as it thins. Modern natural rubber balloons of 300- to 1200-gram sizes burst at a film thickness of 3.3-3.5 microns. If the rubber density doesn’t change as the balloon stretches, the burst volume is directly proportional to the envelope weight1.5 and inversely to the minimum thickness1.5 (Yajima 155).

Larger balloons generally make faster ascents and have higher burst altitudes. A 300-gram balloon might have a diameter of 4.1 feet and a volume of 36 cubic feet at launch, and a burst diameter of 13 feet, bursting at 82,000 feet. For a 1200-gram balloon, figure 6 feet at launch, 28 feet at burst, and burst altitude of 109,000 feet (Kaymont Balloons). These burst altitudes are achieved with balloons made from pure latex (dust excluded!) and by very precise molding methods; in the 1630s we aren’t likely to do so well.

A typical scenario for a stratospheric balloon is 90 minutes from launch to burst, and then another 30 minutes for the parachute-borne payload to return to earth (McNamara).


Rockets. There is a model rocket club in Grantville. Rockets can be equipped with black powder “motors” and used to carry a radiosonde. A rocket can be prepared for launch faster than a large balloon can be inflated, and it will reach its ceiling much faster. It can also be used where you don’t want to handle hydrogen. It also can reach higher altitudes than a balloon could. But sounding rockets are much more expensive than a balloon of the same altitude capability (McNamara). Usually, rockets carry “dropsondes”—the weather is observed on the way down, via parachute, rather than on the way up. Weird tech note: in the 1950s the U.S. Navy developed balloon-launched rockets.


Airship and Aircraft. We can assume that the crew of the NTL aircraft and airships will be expected to make weather observations and radio the information to friendly ground stations.

Like ships, these vehicles will be observing the apparent and not the true wind. But airships, at least, can hover while they make weather observations.

Particularly with aircraft, we have to correct for aircraft speed. There is excess pressure at the nose and reduced pressure at the tail. There are corresponding adiabatic temperature changes. In addition, along the side there will be frictional heating. If the aircraft flies through a cloud, some of the heat will go to evaporating the liquid water present. The increased pressure and temperature lower the apparent relative humidity (MiddletonMM 236ff).

With both aircraft and airships, we will have to be careful where instruments are positioned so ship operations (e.g., heat from engines or burners) don’t perturb readings.

Sferics. Lightning causes static that can be heard on unused radio bands. Hence, as Popov (1894) demonstrated, a radio receiver can be used as a lightning detector.

Determining the distance and direction of the lightning strike is trickier. You can use several well-separated detectors and triangulate (with the observers synchronized so they know they are hearing the same strike).





Rossby said, “Communications are the alpha and omega of meteorology” (Fleming 96). In 1854, a storm heavily damaged the French-British naval forces off Balaclava. Le Verrier reconstructed the course of the storm, and realized that a telegraphed message would have given the naval commanders a day’s warning. This led to the institution of a daily telegraphed weather bulletin in France in 1858, and a similar system in Britain in 1860 (Monmonier 44).


Physical Delivery. Messengers, traveling by foot, horse, or rail, can deliver weather reports, making use of an established post horse or railroad station network. And let us not forget carrier pigeons, which were used quite effectively during the siege of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War.

Still, there are obvious limitations on the speed of communication. NTL early 1635 Russia has several weather stations, and Peter’s central station, at the Dacha, receives observational data from the others just once a week. The same messenger also carries his reports to Moscow, again just once a week (1636: The Kremlin Games, Chap. 65).


Optical Telegraph. In 1684, Hooke proposed communication by optical means; messages would be transmitted by displaying deal boards of various shapes and orientations (or lanterns at night), and received by viewing them in a telescope (Moore 26).

An actual optical telegraph network was built in France in 1793. It was from Paris to Lille, 230 kilometers long, with fifteen semaphore stations. The fifteen-foot-tall semaphore tower had two signaling arms, each of which could be placed in any of seven positions, and the post could be turned to any of four positions. The transmission rate was 1-3 symbols per minute, and one symbol could be transmitted the full length of the line in ten minutes. The first message reached Paris in less than half an hour. The network was expanded and “at the beginning of the 19th century, it was possible to wirelessly transmit a short message from Amsterdam to Venice in one hour’s time” (De Decker).

The advantages of the optical telegraph over the electrical telegraph is that there are no wires; hence we avoid the cost of the wires and their maintenance, not to mention the risk of communications being interrupted because hostile soldiers cut the wires or local farmers steal them to resell the copper. The disadvantage is that the optical telegraph cannot transmit in visibility-obscuring bad weather or (if it lacks light signals) at night.

It is conceivable that pyrotechnics or signal lamps would be used. See Cooper, “Life at Sea in the Old and New Time Lines, Part 4: Lights Across the Waters” (Grantville Gazette 71). I am not sure how visible they would be in bad weather, but of course the very powerful lights of a lighthouse are intended to be seen from several miles away, even under adverse conditions.


Electrical Telegraph. In 1843-44, Morse constructed a prototype 36- mile line from Washington to Baltimore (Moore 163). In 1848, in England, there was a brief experiment with collection of weather reports (wind, weather type) by electrical telegraph. At 9 AM, readings were taken at twenty-nine telegraph stations and telegraphed to Glaisher in London, who published them the following day in the Daily News (Moore 191).

Later that year, the Daily News decided that collection of weather data by telegraph was too expensive and in 1849 turned instead to railroad-borne mail (while we think of telegraph lines paralleling railroads, in England at the time, the railroad network was much more extensive). This time the station masters made the reports, and the railroads carried them for free (Moore 193).

By 1854, the telegraph coverage of England was much expanded, with less than 10% of the population living more than ten miles from a telegraph station (210). Readings were taken at 9 AM and by 10 AM telegrams were arriving at the meteorological office in London. By 11 AM, the morning reports were sent by messenger to The Times, the Shipping Gazette, Lloyd’s, etc (274).

In America, too, cooperation was sought from telegraph companies, and in 1858 the Smithsonian was receiving limited descriptions (weather type and wind direction) from thirty-two stations (Monmonier 41).

Note that high winds can bring down telegraph lines, and that geomagnetic storms can cause interference (as they did in 1859).

For the practicality of building NTL telegraphs, see Boatright, “So You Want to Do Telecommunications in 1633?” (Grantville Gazette 2).


Radio. Peter Boglonovich mutters to himself in fall 1635, “What’s the use of a weather station if it doesn’t have a radio?” (1636: The Kremlin Games, Chap. 65).

Radio weather reports are being received in Grantville as of March, 1635. In Offord, “The Vice President’s Plane is Down” (Grantville Gazette 26), the chief of police is told that the barometer is falling in Fulda and a “westerly front” is approaching Frankfurt am Main.

Insofar as the capabilities of NTL radios are concerned, see Boatright, “Radio in the 1632 Universe” (Grantville Gazette 1) and “Radio in 1632, Part 3” (Grantville Gazette 9); Carroll, “Marine Radio in the 1632 Universe” (Grantville Gazette 52).

What we won’t have. There are some observational tools that twentieth-century weather forecaster had that we simply will not have in the 1630s. These include ground radars (for wind profiling and rainfall detection) and satellites.



Weather reports. Besides communicating the weather observations to the analysts, the analysts must also communicate the forecasts to the consumers. If the information is confidential (e.g., for military or private economic purposes), it is likely to be encrypted, or communicated by more secure means (telegraph lines, heliographs or semaphore lines, or messengers), or both.

In 1848, the London Daily News began reporting what the past day’s weather had been in many English cities, based on telegraph- (later railroad-) borne reports (Monmonier 154).

In the U.S., naval stations began broadcasting abbreviated weather bulletins in 1914. However, the limitations of radiotelegraphy (broadcasts in Morse code) also limited the demand for the product. As radiotelegraphy was replaced by radiotelephony (voice broadcasts), the picture changed; in 1922, 98 stations in 35 states were voice broadcasting Weather Bureau reports and forecasts (Fleming 51).



Weather Maps. Weather maps are used both by meteorologists and consumers, but their interests differ. Meteorologists want to know pressure distributions, whereas consumers care more about precipitation and temperature. Both care about wind strength, but only meteorologists and sailors are concerned with wind direction. Meteorologists have to look initially at all reporting stations, whereas consumers just care about the weather where they live.

Edmund Halley plotted the trade winds in 1686 (Moore 141), but that’s climatology, not meteorology. Daily weather maps were proposed by Brandes in 1816, and he published a “geographic table” in 1826 (Monmonier 18ff). The first true weather map was that of Loomis (1843), and it was color coded to show the weather type (clear, cloudy, rainy, snowy, foggy) in different regions. There were arrows for wind direction, and dotted lines to show points of equal pressure (isobars) and temperature (isotherms) (Moore 145). However, it was not a contemporary report; it showed conditions from a year earlier. In 1851, Glaisher produced daily weather charts that were put on display at the Great Exhibition (Gribbins 257).

The first daily newspaper weather map (showing yesterday’s weather) was published in 1875. A “drill-pantograph” was used for “transferring lines from a hand-drawn weather map to a printing plate” (Monmonier 156). Newsworthiness was increased in 1876. when the morning papers began carrying maps based on the observations at 6 PM the evening before (157).

In 1909, 112 U.S. weather stations were printing their own weather maps, but 79 of them did so by mimeograph (164).

Determining how soon facsimile machines can be built is outside the purview of this article, but in 1877, Caselli’s pantelegraph was used to transmit a weather map across a 120-mile telegraph line (The Manufacturer and Builder, 9:88, 1977).



Choice of Observation Locations


Whether a station is placed at a particular location will depend on its economic and military importance, the sensitivity of the local economy and military operations to local weather conditions, the proximity of the location to the existing communications network (preferably radio stations, telegraph lines, and railroads, but roads and shipping lanes are also of interest) and to geographic features that facilitate communication (e.g., hilltops to emplace optical telegraphs or radio transmitters, salt water for ground wave radio), the relevance of weather experienced at that location to weather later experienced at more important locations (e.g., it is on a “storm track”) , and finally, politics (Is it in an area friendly to the government that is planning the station?).

For the USE, I figure that the backbone of the network will be weather stations associated with the railroad stations. A telegraph line parallels part, but not all, of the first railroad line. Other sections are served by radio. A railborne messeger can be the backup for either.

It takes time and money to construct railroad and wired telegraph lines, so to cover other parts of the USE, we must rely on radio or on optical telegraph. Magdeburg of course has radio, and by the end of 1635 or early 1636 I would expect radio transmitters to be erected at the major ports, such as Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bremen, Hamburg, Lubeck, Wismar, Rostock, and Stettin.  The provincial capitals and the towns with major universities are also likely to be part of the radio network, which will range as far east as Prague (and, further north, Riga).

Some sense for the disparate elements of the USE’s meteorological network may be gleaned from Carroll, “Time to Spare, Go by Air,” Grantville Gazette 28: “A military plane on a high altitude flight came on the air and started relaying weather reports from far-flung postal stations, ships, hams, and the very few airfields where there was someone who knew anything about weather.” Reports come in from the Netherlands, Nordhausen, Wolfsburg. Hannover, and further north. “Then Magdeburg Tower started transmitting reports from railroad telegraphers, which the air force co-pilot dutifully repeated. . . .” These observers were at Halle, Feuchtenthal, Eisleben, Aschersleben, and of course Magdeburg. This reveals that the Netherlands are part of the USE network, and the Trans European Airways stories show that the Venetian Republic, Tyrol, and Tuscany are cooperating, too.

As to the density of the USE network, well, it depends. Along the rail lines, probably every 25-50 miles; see Carsten, “Railroading in Germany” (Grantville Gazette 7). Further west, probably every 50-100 miles, depending on antenna height and station power. Further east, scattered stations 100-500 miles apart, communicating by sky wave.

It would be nice to know common storm tracks into Europe, and the location of the semipermanent weather features that affect European weather.

Van Bebber (1891) identified five tracks for low pressure centers over Europe:

I: from the Atlantic, northeastward across the northern British Isles to northern Scandinavia (Ia), and thence southeast (Ib), east (Ic), or northeast (Id)

II: from the North Atlantic eastward over central and south Scandinavia to northeastern Europe

III: from the North Atlantic south-east over southern Scandinavia to Central Eastern Europe

IV: from the middle Atlantic across the southern British Isles and southern Scandinavia (IVa) or northern central Europe (IVb) to northeastern Europe

V: from the middle Atlantic across France of the Bay of Biscay to northern Italy (Va) and then northeast (Vb) to Finland, east (Vc) to the Caspian, or southeast (Vd) to the Mediterranean.ßwetterlage

Weather diarists in individual towns may have some sense of the direction that storms come from, and it may be possible to piece together this information to postulate typical storm tracks, at least over the USE.

Stations in North America are probably not going to be especially useful for forecasting European weather. While weather systems do generally move from west to east, extratropical storms exiting North America tend to veer poleward, paralleling the eastern coast of Greenland and perhaps hitting Iceland (Wing).

The 2002 CD version of Encyclopaedia Britannica is based on the 1998 paper encyclopedia. The article on wind provides maps of world distribution of mean sea level pressure, and primary and secondary storm tracks, for January and July. Insofar as Europe is concerned, the July map shows storm tracks from Newfoundland to Iceland, from Iceland to southern Scandinavia, and from west of Ireland to northern England. The January map shows storm tracks from the Eastern US to Iceland, from southeast of Iceland to northern Scandinavia, from east of Scotland to the Baltic, and from southern England to Italy.

Obviously, that doesn’t show all possible storm tracks. Occasionally fronts come down from the pole, up from the south (dropping desert sand on cars) or over from the east. But there are up-timers who had a tour of duty in Germany or Belgium, and would have some relevant recollections of pan-European weather reports and forecasts on the news.

The EB2002 CD article on Europe briefly discusses the roles of the Icelandic Low, the Azores (and Bermuda) High, the (winter) Mediterranean Low, the Siberian High, and the Asiatic Low. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any reference to the North Atlantic Oscillation (relating to the teleconnection between the Icelandic Low and the Azores-Bermuda High) or the Polar Oscillation, which would have been useful for long-range forecasting. But perhaps the pilots in Grantville would have heard of them.

The British Isles would be a possible early warning line for storms approaching Germany from the west, but the political situation is problematic. Jack Carroll has suggested a station at Cape Clear (southern tip of Ireland). I would also look closely at the possibility of establishing stations in locations not closely monitored by the London authorities; e.g., the Aran Islands or the Isle of Man.

Stations in the Hebrides, the Shetland and Orkney Islands, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland would be very helpful in monitoring the approach of storms to Europe from the Northwest. Additionally, a station in Iceland would help monitor the strength of the Icelandic Low (one of the poles of the North Atlantic Oscillation), and a station on Svalbard or Jan Mayen Island would help to monitor the Polar Oscillation. All of these stations would necessarily be radio stations and would most likely be reporting at night by sky wave.

Some Europe-bound storm tracks do emanate from the Atlantic, 45-60oN, 45-30oW, and head toward England or Spain (Wing). We would be dependent on shipboard observations (and hopefully the ships will accurately report their locations).

It would be nice to get weather reports from the Azores, the second pole of the North Atlantic Oscillation. However, these are under Portuguese control. While the Azores were the last part of Portugal to accede to Spanish domination, the overt resistance ended before the Ring of Fire.

It is conceivable that weather reports from Cape Race, Newfoundland will be useful, as the jet stream often passes over it, and we would want to have a radio station there anyway.

What powers other than the USE will do is even more speculative, but they would have less access to vacuum tubes for building continuous wave radios. They may still build spark gap transmitters, but those have shorter ranges, and their broad spectrum means that they can’t be close to each other without causing interference.

Still, it is clear that France and even Spain and parts of Italy have radio “telegraphers” by 1636. See Hunt, “Prison Break” (Ring of Fire IV) and a number of passages in 1636: Cardinal Virtues. Russia, too: Flint, Goodlett, and Huff, 1636: The Kremlin Games.

The difference thus is one of degree; the non-USE radio networks are sparser. It is possible that they will be supplemented in some areas by optical telegraph or even post horse messengers.



In part 4, I will discuss what the options are for weather analysis and forecasting.


Letters From Gronow, Episode Five



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


22 May 1635




1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreamt last night. Was mostly about the plague, everyone around me was getting sick. Woke up just as I found it on me. Was glad to do that. Think it was Herr Poe’s story Masque of the Red Death that caused it this time. Although Herr Lovecraft may write more evilness in his characters, Herr Poe writes the scarier stories, I think.

Herr Schiller looked at me when I came in this morning and raised his eyebrows. I knew he was asking about my story, so I shook my head. He frowned and said I’d have to do better. I knew what he meant, but both Thomas and Martin were confused. Quiet day at work, otherwise.

Pinned the fourth letter up on the wall next to the others. Reread them all. I will sell a story to Herr Gronow.

Spent the rest of the evening rereading Portia in Tauris. Think I see what Herr Gronow talked about. Have to tell a good story. Have to make sense. Can’t just throw pretty things together. Have to build it right. Have to think about how to do that.

Meanwhile, will reread all four issues of Der Schwarze Kater. Need to learn from the masters.

Recited evening prayers, and so to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


25 May 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreamt about Portia again last night. Is weird when character in my story starts showing up in my dreams. She yells at me, too. Or at least, I think she yelled at me last night. Don’t remember very well, because Max showed up, too, and started telling me jokes even dumber than Pastor Gruber’s jokes. Got me laughing so much that Portia stomped her foot and left. Woke up after that. Wish I could remember some of the jokes. Pastor Gruber might like them. Stupid dreams.

Thomas was gone most of the day. His relative needed him again. Made for easy day. Spent a lot of it working with Martin showing him more about how to check the entries. Started showing him how to work with the contract files, and how to keep them organized. Catching on pretty good. I think I could trust him to work with them. Better him than Thomas.

Stopped at Syborg’s Books tonight. Herr Matthias was there, and greeted me. Asked me what I was doing, told him I was writing stories to submit to Der Schwarze Kater. He whistled at that and said good for me. He asked me how I was doing with it. Told him I hadn’t sold one to Herr Gronow yet, but with every try I learn something. Told him I needed some of the cheap paper to write the first copy of the next version on. He said to hang on, went in the back, and came back with a couple of what almost looked like soft-bound books like the magazine, only the binding was across the top rather than the side. He flipped the top cover up, and showed me all the pages inside were blank. Not white paper. Cheap stuff. Kind of grayish, actually. He gave them to me, told me they were a couple of samples that one of the papermaking firms had given them. Told me I could have them. Thanked him a lot. Saves me some money, which I need to do because the white paper for the final copy I give to Herr Gronow is so costly. Cash is low, so no wheat bread for a while. Barley instead.

After spending three evenings thinking about it and rereading the magazine issues, think I know what to do now with the story. Fourth rewrite. Think I can keep parts of what I wrote before, but need to join them together better. Tell a story, not just word paint pictures. Think I see how to do that.

Will start tomorrow.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


27 May 1635






1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreamt last night, I’m sure. Don’t remember any, and don’t remember waking up, but was very tired when I got up this morning, so must have. Almost didn’t go to church, but Lord’s Day, Lord’s work, so went. Bright sunny day, so more people there than has been usual. Enough there I couldn’t stand by my favorite pillar and lean against it. Music was good—loud, anyway, as everyone seemed to be glad to be there. Sang with a will. Reader was good with the reading. Homily wasn’t great, but at least no one went to sleep, and it was short. If it’s not going to be good, at least let it be short.

Spent the afternoon reading. Over half-way through The City of God. Admiration for St. Augustine as a writer continues to grow as my Latin improves. Then spent some time in Kings. Story of King Ahab and Naboth. King acted like spoiled child. Needed to be spanked. Wife murdered a man just so the king could have what he wanted. He was bad, she was worse. Is a piece of ground, any piece of ground, worth a man’s life? Is anything tangible worth a man’s life?

Spent the evening writing. Don’t have a title for the new version. Very slow going, as I’m having to think about not only what needs to happen in the story, but if and where the story I wrote before can be made or altered to fit in the new story. Almost at the point of having to think about every single word. If I’d known writing would be this much work, might not have chosen to go into it. (Bit of a joke, there . . . but only a bit.)

Got a page and a half done before the next to last of my candle stubs guttered out. Will have to get some more from Herr Schiller tomorrow.

Tired, but good tired.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


28 May 1635




1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreamt of The Pit and the Pendulum again. Funny how although Herr Lovecraft’s stories tend to ooze more evil, it is Herr Poe’s stories that seem to most haunt my dreams. Woke up at least twice, but when went back to sleep was back in the dream. Have to wonder what I could write that would affect a reader like that? Can’t use the pendulum . . . that’s already been done. But what could I use? Water? Think about it.

Cloudy today, cold west wind blowing. No rain, thank God, but still nasty weather.

Had big argument with Thomas today at work. Martin found more errors in his work from last week. He brought to me, I took to Herr Schiller. When Herr Schiller called him over to talk about it, it was like T was a gunpowder firework that exploded. He started shouting and cursing and accusing us—me more than Martin—of trying to falsify his work and get him in trouble when he’s doing things right, and we’re the ones who are getting it all wrong. He was standing there, hands clenched, face red, shouting at Herr S’s face. Suddenly realized that T has grown some, just like I have, and he is not a boy any more.

I tried to tell him that we didn’t, but he just turned on me and shouted a lot of the same things in my face. He ended by pushing a stack of contract files that I was reviewing off my desk and kicking them across the office, then picked up the ledger book Martin was working in off Martin’s desk and threw it on the floor hard.

Then he got scary. He stopped, pulled his jacket back into place, smoothed his hair, and said in a hard quiet tone that we’d be sorry we treated him so bad. Then he left.

Herr S looked weary, almost scared. Martin was definitely frightened. Me, not sure what I looked like, but my stomach hurt, and I felt like I was about to puke.

Herr S got down off his stool and told us to pick things up. He even helped us. Martin’s ledger book was scuffed and bent but not broken, which was good. The contract files had been scattered around, though, and it took all three of us quite a while to get all the pages back in the right files and in the right order. When we got done, Herr S got out his bottle of wine and gave each of us a small drink of it. Not sure if it was a reward or medicine, but it did help me calm down a little.

At the end of the day, after Martin left, Herr S put most of our candle stubs in a paper and wrapped them up, then handed them to me. Then he handed me my full day’s pay. When I told him he hadn’t taken out the money for the candle stubs, he told me to consider it a small bonus after the events of the day.

When I asked him what was going to happen next, Herr S just shook his head and said he didn’t know. Master Gröning had already told him he couldn’t discharge T again, and without that resort, and with the leverage that T’s relative seems to have, Herr S doesn’t think anything can be done. He said he’d try to protect Martin and me. Then he pushed me toward the door.

Really scared. T was really scary today.

Don’t want to leave. Might have to. But can I find another job if I do? One that pays as good as what Master G is paying?

Mind has been spinning in circles all night. No words, no writing, not able to think about the story for more than a fraction of a minute.

Recited evening prayers. Over and over again. Lost count of how many times. Need to go to bed, but mind is spinning so hard don’t think I can sleep.




From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


1 June 1635




1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


Dreamt last night. Was like The Cask of Amontillado. Thomas was in the place of Fortunato, and I was Montresor, laying the stones to seal him away. Scary how much I was enjoying listening to him scream in the dream. Just as scary that I enjoy the thought just as much when I’m awake.

Today was quiet at work. Thomas was there, but didn’t say or do much. In the middle of the morning, saw Martin just stop working for a long time. Just sat there, hands on his desk, pen in his fingers above the worksheet but not moving. Finally got down from my stool and walked over. He was looking at one of T’s work pages from earlier in the week. I nudged him. He looked up at me, then pointed to a number on the page with one of his left hand fingers.  I looked at the numbers leading up to it. It was wrong. Very wrong. So wrong I couldn’t figure out how T had got to it. Martin’s hand was shaking. Didn’t say anything, just took the page back to my desk, fixed it, then took it to Herr Schiller and pointed to what I did. He looked at it, looked at me, then looked back at the page. After a moment he nodded slowly, then gave the page back to me. Took it back to Martin, then went back to my desk. Don’t know if T saw. Don’t care.

Sure the up-timers have words that describe what I’ve been feeling this week. They have words for everything. I think pressure is best word. Feel like what happens when something blocks one of the river channels and the water builds and builds behind it, before it finally gives way.

Have discovered you can get used to anything, even pressure. After a while, guess you start feeling numb. Not scared, much, anyway. Actually was able to write some tonight. Only half a page, but more than I’ve done since Sunday.

Recited evening prayers. Three times. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


3 June 1635






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


Dreamt last night. Mostly quiet dreams, Woke up once, but wasn’t related to the dream. Foot got out from under the blanket and got cold. Silly foot. Kind of nice to have a quiet night.

Tired this morning. Didn’t want to go to church. Hard to make myself go, but that’s usually when I most need to go. Dry weather, sun was shining, kind of warm this morning, so lots of people there. Had to stand in the back. Music was kind of middle between good and awful. Still sang. Reading was good. Pastor Gruber gave the homily. Talked about turning the water into wine. That was a miracle. But what is so often overlooked was that Jesus not only turned it into wine, he turned it into good wine. Then he said that sometimes, when life hands us trouble, we need to remember that not only can Jesus help solve the trouble, he can turn it into good. That spoke to me. Needed to hear that. Day got a bit lighter after that.

Pastor Gruber asked me to lunch again today. Asked me what was going on. Told him about Thomas, asked him if I had to turn the other cheek. He thought about it, told me that most of Jesus’ teachings about that dealt with situations where we are being abused because of our beliefs. He said that here, because there was no faith at issue, only truth, I was free to defend myself, and that I had a duty to defend the weak, meaning Martin.

Walked away with a bit more peace in my spirit. On the way back to my room, saw something by the side of the road, half-covered by the gravel and the road dust. Picked it up . . . was a broken bolt. Big one, big around as one of my fingers, but broken off short. Less than the width of my palm. Put it in my pocket. Finished walking back to my room.

Spent most of the evening writing. Made good progress, I think. Still need a new title for the new story.

Still tired, but good tired.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


4 June 1635




1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreamt about Herr Poe again. Was writing away with one of the fancy metal nib pens like the really big and important offices have now. Very sloppy handwriting. He would never get past Herr Gronow like that.

Quiet day at work. Martin found three errors made by Thomas last Friday. Brought them to me, I fixed them and showed them to Herr Schiller, he looked at them and nodded, and I passed them back to Martin. T didn’t even look up. Hate the extra work it’s causing us, but I’ll put up with it just to have the peace.

Still no title for the new version of the story, even though it’s starting to take some kind of shape. Still kind of slow going, but I think the pieces are starting to knit together. I think the beginning is there now. Trying to fit the middle now. Story is getting a little darker along the way.

Looked back at the Poe and Lovecraft stories in the four issues. Can see what Herr Gronow means in Herr Poe’s stories. Can sort of see it in Herr Lovecraft’s stories. Herr Poe made better stories, I think now. Herr Lovecraft can paint a picture with his words that can make the hair bristle on your neck and give you goose flesh all over, but his stories just aren’t as good as stories as Herr Poe’s. Herr Poe shows better craftsmanship, if that word applies to writing. So, I need to reread his stories and study them harder.

Ended up copying another page tonight. Getting there.

Eating less. Saving money. May need it.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


6 June 1635




1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreams last night. Portia again. Don’t remember much other than she was looking into a big mirror hanging on the wall. Woke up, think that’s the title for the new story version: Portia’s Mirror. I think it will work.

Another quiet day at work. Martin didn’t find any errors in the pages he checked, which is good. Looked them over myself, quickly, didn’t see anything. When Herr Schiller looked at me and raised his eyebrows, I just nodded with a smile. He nodded back and went back to his own work. Martin’s getting pretty good at the regular tasks, and he’s learned the routine for maintaining the contracts pretty well. Not too sure the office needs three clerks. Except it’s more like two and a half clerks, actually. Thomas still isn’t producing more than about a half-day’s work, even when he doesn’t make errors.

Applied the new title to the work tonight. Decided to step back and adjust a couple of earlier passages to fit with the idea better. Took most of the evening to figure out what to do, but got it done. Think it will help pull other pieces together, too. More I think about it, more I like it.

Tired, but good tired.

Recited evening prayers. So now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


8 June 1635




1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Not sure I dreamt last night. Don’t remember any, woke up feeling pretty good. Not even a hint of Max.

It happened today. Thomas came in late, obviously hung over. Spent most of the morning wandering around the office. He’d sit at his desk for a little while, then get up and walk around for a while, then sit back down. Just before noon he walked by my desk while I was correcting some errors that Martin had found. He frowned and asked what I thought I was doing. Told him I was fixing his mistakes. He got red in the face and shouted that he did good work. I said only if you consider four mistakes in a single day’s work to be good work. He cursed at me and grabbed at the page I was correcting. It tore in two, and he threw his piece down on the floor and stomped on it. Then he picked up the ink well out of the holder in my desk and threw the ink all over the papers on the desk, which ended up splashing on me as well.

He started screaming at me, grabbed my shirt front and pulled me off my stool and hit me in the face. Still had my jacket on because I had gone out to sweep the front steps off and had gotten a bit chilled. North wind blowing today. My hands had gone to my jacket pockets when he started yelling for some reason. Right hand wrapped around the piece of broken bolt I’d found and made a fist. Brought my hands out, knocked his hand off my shirt. Was off-balance, but still hit him back. Right fist hit him in the nose, felt something crunch. He yelled more, and hit me in the ear. Brought right fist back, punched forward and caught him on the point of the chin. He went down, stayed down, moaning.

By then Herr Schiller was there and got between us. Told me to go sit at my desk. Climbed back on my stool and sat there. Was surprised that I was shaking. Wasn’t afraid. Mad. Herr S got T up off the floor, and handed him a scrap of rag to staunch the blood coming out of his nose. May have broken it. At that moment, was glad.

You’ll be sorry, T muttered. He was really woozy. I’ll make you all sorry. You’ll see. He stumbled out the door. Herr S looked at me and Martin, had sad look on face. Just told me to clean up and do what I could to fix things. Ended up having to totally recopy two pages, the one T tore and the one that most of the ink landed on. Took most of afternoon to fix. Martin copied the torn page, fixing the mistakes. I did the other page. Was able to wipe off enough of the fresh ink that I could see the original words and numbers underneath it. Glad I was able to clear it up then, though. If it had dried, wouldn’t have been able to do anything.

Late in the afternoon, after fixing the problems, just about the time I began to realize I was probably in trouble, Master Gröning came in, with another very well-dressed man and Thomas. T was smiling in a nasty way, so I knew it wasn’t going to be good. Master G said he couldn’t have clerks assaulting other clerks, and that I was discharged as of the end of the day. I was not to return. I tried to explain that I was defending myself from assault, but he just told me to be quiet or I’d have to leave right then and lose the day’s pay.

Just closed my mouth and watched as Master G took the other man’s arm, called him Master Schmidt, and said something about going to Walcha’s Coffee House. They left, with T trailing along behind them.

Surprised that I felt relieved. Knot in my stomach went away. Knew that I needed to find another job immediately, but just not having to face T every day almost made it worth it.

Did feel sad. Had worked for Herr S for a long time, didn’t want to leave. Especially like this.

Herr S and Martin looked much worse than I felt. Almost laughed. Herr S told me to finish anything on my desk and put things in order. That didn’t take long. Just sat there for a little while, until Herr S said it was time. Gave Martin a shoulder hug, told him to be careful. He sniffled, said he would, and left. Looked at Herr S and raised my eyebrows. He said he knew another office that needed a good clerk, and he was going to send Martin to them. Told me that he wasn’t happy about what was happening, but he was going to stick it out a little while longer, then go back to his home village with the money he had saved and buy into a tavern there. This was just making it easier for him to decide when to leave.

He gathered up all the candle stubs plus a couple of whole candles and several of the good right wing quill feathers, made a package of them, and told me to take them. Gave me my final day’s wages, and added ten dollars to it. When I tried to tell him it was too much, he said to let him worry about it. He held his hand out—first time he’s ever offered to shake hands with me—told me I was a good worker, and he was proud to have worked with me. He wished me good fortune, and then I walked out the door for the last time.

Know that this puts me in a hard place. But I still feel good about not having to go back. Weird, I guess.

Didn’t write any tonight. Just sat and thought, and read a little in Psalms and Proverbs.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


9 June 1635




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


Don’t recall any dreams from last night. Didn’t have any trouble going to sleep, either. Felt rested in the morning.

Went out and walked around western part of Greater Magdeburg this morning. Took a while. Bigger than I realized. Made note of places to approach for work. Will start Monday. Have enough money to live over a week without losing my room. Maybe two weeks, if I’m very frugal about food. Should find work before then.

Should be worried, I know. Should be scared. Should be afraid I’m going to die. Am not. Not sure why, just not. Oh, part of it is faith, for certain, that God will preserve. But part of it is confidence, I think. Might be foolish, but I believe I will find work soon.

So after walking all over this part of the city, stopped in at Syborg’s Books to rest my feet and see if they had anything new. Herr Matthias was there. He smiled, asked me how I was doing in reading St. Augustine, and laughed when I told him I was actually beginning to like it. Then he frowned and asked me what I was doing there at that hour of the day. Told him I had been discharged, and if he needed a bookkeeper or clerk, I was his man. If he didn’t, if he knew of anyone who did. I would appreciate hearing about them.

Herr Matthias shook his head, but said he would ask around.

Right then someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, and it was Herr Wulff, the attorney! I stepped back in surprise, and almost fell over the table I was against. He grabbed my arm and kept me on my feet until I could stand by myself. I apologized for being clumsy. He waved his hand and asked if he overheard right, that I was out of work. I must have looked funny, because he chuckled and said that was an up-time phrase. He meant, did I lose my job? I said yes. He asked me if I was the contracts clerk for Master Gröning. I said I used to be. He asked what happened, then waved his hand again and said to forget that. He pulled a card out of a pocket and handed it to me. Told me to come see him first thing Monday morning. Then he said, no wait, he was in court Monday, make it Tuesday morning. Could I make it that long? I said yes, he said good, he really wanted to see me then. He paid for the book he had in his hand, then left. I followed, kind of in a daze.

Not sure why he wants to see me. But it could be good.

Spent most of the afternoon and evening working on Portia’s Mirror. New story is going to be longer than the originals. Has to be. Putting beginning, middle, and end structure in place takes up room. Needs more words to build structure. Words are like bricks and blocks of stone. Need them. Think it’s over halfway to finish. Won’t know for sure until closer to end. Hard to tell right now. Feel good about it. Can’t trust that, though. Felt good about all the other versions, too, until Herr Gronow read them. So will keep pushing to make it as good as it can be before I take it to him again.

Church tomorrow. Looking forward to that.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


10 June 1635






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

Dreamt last night. Know I had more than one, but only thing I remember is one with Max. He didn’t say anything. Just smiled, hefted his big black rifle, and waved a hand in a motion like he was telling me to go forward. Didn’t wake up in night. Nothing disturbed me. Felt good when I finally woke up.

Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

Attended church. Another sunny day. Lots of people at St. Jacob’s Church this morning. Had to stand at the back. Music was good, lots of people singing, sang loudly myself. Enjoyed it. Reading was enjoyable—deacon had a strong voice. Pastor Gruber gave the homily. Was glad of that. Spoke on Joseph in Egypt, how he wasn’t treated justly, but that his faith and devotion to doing what was right brought him to a high place and high renown. Obvious that it fits with what happened with my job. Kind of think it fits with my writing, too. Good to hear, though. Kind of comforting, in a way.

Spent early afternoon reading St. Augustine. Getting close to the end. Not sure what I’ll do then.

Then read through Proverbs. Lots of good advice there.

Finally spent most of evening working on Portia’s Mirror. About done with middle of story. Will start end of story tomorrow or Tuesday.

Must start looking for work tomorrow.

Recited evening prayers. So now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


11 June 1635




1 rye roll 1 quartered pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 rye roll 1 quartered pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


Dreams last night for some reason involved a giant wolf. First it was chasing me, then I was riding it. Woke up twice in the night. Both times went back to same dream. Odd. Doesn’t usually work that way.

Went to Mama Schultz’s for breakfast. She said she hadn’t seen me buy rye before. Told her I don’t like it. Tastes bitter to me. But need to save my coins until I can find another job, so cheapest bread is all I can take. She frowned at me, told me to take two. Told her no, wasn’t going to take what I didn’t pay for. She kept frowning at me as she hefted her meat fork, but guess she saw I meant it. Told me to come in every day so she could see I was all right.

Put on my best and cleanest clothes. Walked around to some of the places I saw Saturday, asking if they needed a bookkeeper or clerk. Same answer everywhere. No, or maybe next week. Six or seven places, I think. Disappointing. Will continue tomorrow.

Took my shirt that Thomas got ink on to a laundress, asked her if it could be cleaned. She looked at it, scratched the stain, sniffed it, touched her tongue to it, said no, probably not. Lots of inks are just as good as dyes these days, she said. Offered me a pfennig for it, for the rag content, she said. Told her no. Not much of a shirt now, but I can wear it when I’m not working or at church and save my only other two shirts from the wear and mess.

Started working on the ending of Portia’s Mirror tonight. Feeling good about how it’s going. Have to keep reminding myself that that doesn’t mean anything. Only Herr Gronow’s judgment counts.

Set out Herr Wulff’s card on the table to remind me that I’m supposed to go see him in the morning. Wonder what he wants? Doesn’t matter. Someone like that calls, you go. Tried to brush off my clothes, make them look better.

Recited evening prayers. Now for bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


12 June 1635




1 rye roll 1 quartered pfennig

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


Dreamt of the wolf again last night. Wonder if it’s because I’m seeing Herr Wulff this morning. Funny, if so. Despite his name, he doesn’t look at all wolfish. Haven’t seen him act like one, either. But I haven’t seen much of him, so really don’t know what he’s like.

Mama Schultz tried to give me two rye rolls again this morning. Told her no. She frowned, but didn’t say more.

Knew that Herr Wulff said to see him first thing this morning, but doubted he meant to be there at daybreak. Waited until about an hour after dawn, then went and found the address on the card. Turns out his office is in the same building as Walcha’s Coffee House, on the floor above it. Found the door to the stairs, went up. Nice wide stairs. At least three people wide—maybe four, if they’re skinny like me.

Door to the office was locked, so nobody there yet. Started back down the stairs, only to see Herr Wulff just a couple of steps down, coming up. Stepped back, to let him and a younger man pass me to the short hallway. Herr Wulff took me by the arm and drew me to the office door as the other man stepped around us and unlocked the door. Herr Wulff had a large mug of steaming liquid in his other hand, which I guessed was coffee from the shop below.

Once we were inside the office, Herr Wulff released my arm and introduced me to the other man. He was named Christoph Heinichen, and Herr Wulff described him as aide, assistant, and lawyer-to-be, at which Christoph grinned. Then Herr Wulff took me into his inner office, telling Christoph that he wasn’t to be interrupted for at least an hour.

Herr Wulff closed the door, sat down behind his desk, and told me to sit in the chair in front of it. I hesitated. It was a fine chair, with embroidered cloth upholstery. Even though I had brushed my clothes, I was certain they still contained dirt, and I really didn’t want to mar such a fine work as that chair. Herr Wulff insisted that I sit, so I sat.

You lost your job, he said to me. Pretty blunt. But, he’s an attorney, so maybe that’s how they are. Tell me how that happened, he said. So I told him all about it. He sat quietly while I talked, elbows on his desk and hands laced together with his chin resting on top of them. His eyes were half-closed, like he was about to go to sleep, but I could see his nostrils flare every so often, as if he was smelling something really strong. When I mentioned Master Schmidt toward the end, his eyes opened wide and his mouth twisted, but he didn’t say anything until I was finished.

When I was done, Herr Wulff said he thought Master Gröning had more sense than that. I said what? He said, first, that he is wooing Georg Schmidt. I said I don’t think I’d heard his first name. Mayor Gericke’s half-brother, he said. Then he said Master Gröning had commissioned him to review some contracts that Schmidt had proposed, and they were filled with traps that would have hurt Master G, so he didn’t see why he was seeking to tie himself to Schmidt. Plus, he continued, Master G was an absolute idiot to let go of me for any reason, much less for the reasons he did. Then he asked how much I was earning. I told him twelve dollars a day, paid daily, with occasional extra payments if I did something really good. His eyes got wide, and his mouth almost dropped open, I swear. Then his jaw firmed, and he almost bellowed for Christoph.

When Christoph opened the door from the outer office, Herr W almost demanded to know if Master G’s payment for the last commission they had done had arrived. Christoph said that the draft had arrived last week, and the money had been paid yesterday, so all fees due had been paid. Herr W then gave a really thin-lipped smile—very hard, it was—and I think I saw what he would be like as an attorney. He told Christoph that he now had reason to doubt that Master G was going to be able to remain in business for very long, and that he would no longer accept commissions from the man. He then said something like but you don’t need to tell him why. Not sure why he said that. Christoph got a serious look on his face, nodded his head, and closed the door.

Herr W now turned back to me and laid his hands on the desk before him. He said he was going to offer me a job with him right then doing bookkeeping and contract file management just like I’d done for Master G, and he wasn’t going to insult me. He would start me at fifteen dollars a day, and in three months, after I had learned everything about his routines and his files, I would receive a raise in pay. A significant raise in pay, he said. Then he muttered something about chiseling cheapskates. Must be up-time words. Never heard them before.

I said I wanted to ask a question. He said go ahead. I asked if I took the job, would that be all I ever did? I knew I was going to take the job, but I wanted to see if there was something better that might come from it. He got a serious expression on his face, and said that actually, if I wanted to pursue it, he saw no reason why I might not learn enough law while working there to speed my way through school if I ever thought I wanted to be an attorney someday. I already had shown him that I knew more contract law than a lot of men with fancy brass plates on their doors.

My own eyes opened wide at that. Me . . . an attorney? Boy, would Mama be surprised at that! I took a deep breath, and told him I accepted his offer. He smiled a real smile, then bellowed for Christoph again. When the door opened, Herr W said meet our new bookkeeper and file clerk, Christoph. Prepare standard employment contract number 3 between Philip Fröhlich and Grubb, Wurmb and Wulff. Christoph grinned and ducked back into the outer office. He left the door open, and in a moment I heard a series of clacking noises, then a ratcheting sound. Christoph appeared in the door and carried a document over to Herr W, who read it carefully. He grunted at the end, then flipped open the cap to his inkwell, dipped one of those fancy metal nib pens into it, made a couple of notes on the page and signed it at the bottom. He spun the document around on the desk and offered me the pen. I read through the contract, which just said that I agreed to work for Grubb, Wurmb, and Wulff, a partnership, to do any work for which I was capable, and to keep all matters I learned about in the course of my employment there confidential. And it stated that my starting pay was fifteen dollars a day. I kind of shook my head at my good fortune, but I took the pen, dipped it, and carefully signed my name where his finger was pointing.

When I laid the pen back down on its rest, Herr W walked around the desk, reached out to take my hand and shake it. He shook my hand. Master G never shook my hand. Wow. He passed the contract to Christoph, who took it back into the outer office. Then he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out something that when he undid a clip and unfolded it turned out to be a lot of money. He peeled off four five-dollar bills and handed them to me. He told me that was my signing bonus—more up-time words, I guess—that I should go have a good meal, and be here tomorrow morning at 9 A.M.

With that, he ushered me to the front door. Moments later I was down on the street with my head spinning. Wandered around for a while, then ended up in Syborg’s Books, where Herr Matthias greeted me and told me he had been asking around about jobs but hadn’t found anything. Told him he didn’t need to bother as I start work tomorrow for Herr Wulff. He smiled and seemed really pleased by that. Spent most of the afternoon browsing through all the books in the store, talking to Herr Matthias about some of them. I may try some of them.

Had an early supper. Was hungry. Ate better than I have in a while, secure in knowledge that I can afford it again.

Spent the rest of the evening working on Portia’s Mirror. Everything flowed. Three pages of story told tonight. Getting close to end. Got the job just in time to start thinking about getting the good paper for the copy to give Herr Gronow.

Not really tired now, but need to try and sleep. Tomorrow will be busy day.

Recited evening prayers, twice, and now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


15 June 1635




1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


Dreams were mostly quiet last night. Max floated in and out, waved at me once. Don’t think I woke up. If I did, went right back to sleep and don’t remember it.

Mama Schultz smiled at me this morning when she saw what I was getting for breakfast. Almost dropped my roll. Wasn’t sure her face could bend that direction without cracking or breaking. Surprised me when it did. She put her meat fork down and reached over and patted me on the cheek, told me I was a good boy.

Third day at new job. Didn’t feel as lost as I did the first two days. Kind of know where things are, starting to understand how things are organized. Was actually able to do a few things without looking to Christoph first.

Like Christoph. Very good-natured, good at explaining, very patient. Likes to laugh. I think I’ll enjoy working with him.

According to C, Herr Wulff is good to work for. Gives good clear directions. Tolerates honest mistakes. On the other hand, has no tolerance for willful stupidity and is sudden death on dishonesty. Thought to myself that Thomas would never make it here, then.

C says Herr W demands a lot, but of himself most of all. Says he’s scary smart, and picks things up very fast, which is why it’s stupid to try and lie to him or mislead him. He never forgets anything and puts things together in ways no one expects. If I don’t know something for sure, just say so. He wants truth above all. I think I’ll like that in my master.

C did say that as long as Herr W is being loud and bouncing around like a child’s toy, things are okay. But if he gets still, and quiet, and his voice goes to a smooth even tone, those are storm warnings, we need to find cover, and God help me if I’m the cause. Still think I’ll like it here.

Really like the paper they use in the office. Really smooth, really white, and about the right size. Finally asked today if I could buy some. Christoph shrugged, said probably, went to ask Herr W, who came out of the back office and said I could, but wanted to know why. Told him I’m a writer and need some to finish a story I’m working on. His eyebrows raised, and he smiled, then told C to sell it to me for what he paid for it. So I brought home twelve pages of it. All I could afford today. Looking forward to writing the clean copy of Portia’s Mirror on it.

Which will begin really soon, because after tonight’s writing, I think I only have about one more night’s work, and the new story will be done.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


17 June 1635






1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 chunk cheese 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreamt last night. Max showed up early, talked for a long time. Don’t remember a lot of it, except I think he was talking about how much fun it is to be a guardian angel. Well, maybe not fun, but how much he enjoys it. Said something about doing what you love and loving what you do. Took me a moment to understand what he was saying. Not sure everyone would agree with it, but makes some sense to me. He told me some more old bad jokes and bad old jokes, too. Wish I could remember some of them.

Lord’s Day, Lord’s Work.

Church was pleasant. Not as many people as the last couple of Sundays, but still full enough that the singing of the music was good. Sang with a will. Reading was okay. Homily was a bit dull. Not by Pastor Gruber, unfortunately. Preacher got St. John the Baptist confused with St. John the Evangelist. Not the first time I’ve heard that. Happens with Saints Jacob, Jacob, and Jacob as well. I can understand how lay people can do that, but preachers and pastors are supposed to know. I mean, really.

After lunch, spent part of the afternoon reading The City of God. Almost done. Don’t know if I’ll start over again when I’m done, or if I’ll read another book by St. Augustine. Actually want to do both. Torn between seeing if I can make more sense of it the second time or if I want to read something new. We’ll see. Probably a few weeks from that decision.

Finished Portia’s Mirror tonight. Good. Ready to start the clean copy tomorrow. Have enough paper to get started, have quills and candles, have a fresh supply of ink. Ready to go.

Feeling good about that.

Recited evening prayers. So now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


21 June 1635




1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


Dreamt of water last night. River, I think. Seemed to be a current, anyway. No idea which river, though. Pretty big . . . bigger than the Elbe, anyway. Of course, I’ve never seen another river than the Elbe, so I couldn’t tell by looking at it what it was. And Max wasn’t there to ask. Just me. No Max, no Portia, nobody. Strange dream, I guess.

Work has been smooth. Routine, guess you could say. Herr Wulff sees a lot of people every day. Some of them he decides he can’t do anything for, so he turns them away. But the ones he decides to try and help, they get at least two folders set up—one for his work notes on whatever the situation is, and one for any agreement he sets up with them. A couple of people there was a third folder set up, but not sure why. Christoph set those up. Anyway, I set up the folders, file the papers, and put the folders where they need to go. Kind of like what I was doing for Master Gröning toward the end, only using the system C showed me, which is way better than what I had worked out for Master G.

Funny . . . Herr W isn’t very tall, and is not fat—trying to say he’s not a big man—but after you’re around him for a little bit you forget that. He seems as big or bigger than anyone else in the room.

He looked over my shoulder today as I was copying a statement, and said that my hand was good. First time anyone’s complimented my penmanship. Guess all the copies I’ve done for Herr Gronow have helped there, too.

Copying about a page per night, maybe a bit more. Not rushing it. Wanting it to be as clean as possible. Plus, this new paper is a little different than what I’ve used before, so making sure I know how it takes pen work and ink before I start trying to hurry with it. Anyway, several pages done, quarter done, maybe. Should have it done by the first of next month, or maybe a day or so later.

Reread parts of Der Schwarze Kater Issue 3 tonight. Not sure which issue I like best. They’re all good.

Recited evening prayers, and now for bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


27 June 1635




1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


Dreamt Herren Poe and Lovecraft were walking down Kristinstrasse in Magdeburg. Everyone they met knew who they were, even the pastor they passed, and everyone smiled and said hello. Then they turned into the Magdeburg Polizei headquarters and went in the front door. I kept walking, and after a while woke up. Have to wonder what that was about. Really curious about who they were going to see and what they were going to talk about. Stupid dreams.

Since the last couple of days were really busy, was nice that today was quiet. I mean, not so good because no new clients means not as much money, but it was nice to get caught up on the other papers and get them filed. Christoph is still showing me some new things almost every day. Lot more to think about here than at Master Gröning’s.

Speaking of Master G, ran into Martin after leaving work in the evening. He was on the other side of the street going the other way. Called out to him and crossed over. Almost got stepped on by a mule team. Drover had some not nice things to say about how stupid I was. Couldn’t argue with him. Was stupid to try to cross right in front of the mule team. Anyway, made it to other side, embarrassed, talked to Martin for a little bit. He said that Herr Schiller had gotten him another position at another office near where we were. He’s getting the same money, but having to work a little harder, but he said that was okay because the people were nice and fair and he’d have done anything to get away from Thomas. He said he almost wept when he left, because Herr Schiller looked so weary and alone. Told him what Herr S had told me about going back home and buying a share in a tavern. That perked him up a little. We agreed to try and meet like this every Wednesday just to keep in touch.

Making good progress on the final copy of Portia’s Mirror. Over halfway done. Two-thirds done, maybe. Won’t be long. Moving a little faster now that I’m more used to the paper. Did have to buy some more paper, though, but I knew I was going to have to do that.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


1 July 1635




1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


Dreamt that Herr Wulff turned into a wolf in the office. Funny thing was, he could still talk, so we kept on doing business. Just that he was sitting in the chair like a dog would, instead of like a person. Remember thinking in the dream that Christoph was sure taking it calmly. Woke up with a giggle after that.

Mama Schultz tried to get me to eat something different for breakfast. Told her I was tired of the winter apples and sauerkraut, and the new apples were just now starting to show up. She pointed her meat fork at me and told me to eat turnips and cabbage. I stuck my tongue out at her. She smiled a little bit. Second time I’ve made her smile. Need to figure out how to do that more often.

Frau Grubb, Herr W’s wife, came by the office right before lunch to go to lunch with Herr W at Walcha’s Coffee House. Herr W introduced us. Her name is Portia! I was so astounded by that. I must have looked stupid or something, because she laughed and asked me if I knew another Portia. Before I could think, I blurted out only in the story I was writing. Her eyebrows went up, and she got a surprised expression on her face. That’s when Herr W said yes, he’s a writer, didn’t I tell you that? She slapped him on his arm and said no. Then she looked back at me and asked me if I had anything published yet. I said no, but I’m submitting to a magazine, and with each submission I get closer. She said which magazine? I said Der Schwarze Kater. She got that surprised look on her face again, then grinned and said, Really? It was her favorite magazine.

Herr W broke out laughing, and said that we would obviously become close acquaintances, and no, she couldn’t spend all my afternoon talking about stories and writing. She slapped him on the arm again, then said to me, another time she wants to talk to me about stories, and did I know the writing of Stephen King? I said no. She smiled and said I would.

Then she tucked her arm in Herr W’s arm, and they went to lunch. I asked C if Frau G was always like that. He said yes, and sometimes even more so. She was a good match for Herr W because of that.

So, head was still spinning when I left work today. Herr W and wife are interesting people, but I think keeping up with them all the time could wear a person out.

Finished the final copy of Portia’s Mirror tonight. Looked everything over carefully, made sure I had the address for Herr W’s office down for my contact rather than Herr Gröning’s office. Wouldn’t want the response to go to the wrong place.

Will take it by tomorrow after work.

Recited evening prayers, so now for bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


2 July 1635




1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


Dreams were dark last night. Woke up twice. But don’t remember any of them.

Nervous all day. Good thing nothing new or unusual happened at work today. Not sure I would have been any good. Looked forward all day to getting Portia’s Mirror to Herr Gronow’s office.

End of day arrived, headed straight for his office. Door was closed as usual. Dropped the story through the slot like usual, with usual flash of panic, followed by usual prayer.

Stopped by Syborg’s Books on the way home, browsed a little bit. Georg was minding the store, talked to him a little bit.

Went home. Tried to read the issues of Der Schwarze Kater. Couldn’t connect. Tried to read St. Augustine. Couldn’t focus. Tried to read the Bible. Even that couldn’t focus me.

So said evening prayers . . .over and over again until I calmed down. Think maybe I can sleep now, so now to bed.

I hope.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


5 July 1635




1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs


Don’t remember any dreams at all, but woke up three times, so must have been something.

Was really hoping the messenger didn’t try to deliver yesterday. Didn’t realize we were going to be closed for the up-timer holiday of July 4th when I put the story in the slot, or I would have put a note with it. Need to remember that in the future.

Didn’t need to worry. He showed up late afternoon. Usual guy, guess Herr Gronow uses him for all that work. He stepped in the door, looked around, saw me, brought me the message, touched a finger to the brim of his cap, and left.

Herr Wulff had come to the door of the inner office. He looked at me with one raised eyebrow. I held up the message, told him I had submitted a story early in the week, and this was word from the publisher. I went to put it in my shirt, and Herr W told me to go ahead and open it. He wanted to know, too, so he could tell Portia. He was smiling as he said that. Felt weird, but I opened the message.



5 July 1635

Herr Philip Frölich

I see that your contact address has changed. I hope that represents an improvement in your situation and not a downturn.

Once again you have delivered a clean manuscript. Well-crafted, well-written as to your hand, nice paper. Congratulations. I believe this is the nicest manuscript I have ever seen, including my very own. I could almost be jealous.

You prove yourself to be an apt pupil, Herr Frölich. With each successive cycle of give and take, of offering and rebuttal, your work improves. I wish I could say that it has improved enough for me to buy this story, I really do.

Portia’s Mirror is far and away your best effort so far. The story has structure, and things happen, and the characters do things. These are all good. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. But it needs still more. You need to continue to improve your skills at describing things. It’s not enough to say that someone is horrified and show us their actions. You must describe the thing that is causing the fear. You must make the reader just as horrified of the thing as the character is. You made strides in this direction with Portia’s Mirror, but not enough. When you can make the hair on my neck stand up, you will have achieved it, and the readers will love to hate you for it.

Second, it’s not enough to have structure. If there is more than one character, there needs to be dialogue. In short, they need to talk to each other. And frankly, your dialogue in the story sounded as if it was written by a drunken Roman, trying to be serious and pompous. It wasn’t natural. When you write your stories, read them out loud, especially the dialogue. Your ear will tell you when something isn’t right.

Portia’s Mirror is a good title. I could probably publish that title. But see if you can find a better one. Your first story, when it’s finally published, needs to be memorable in every respect.

Yes, I begin to think that you will achieve your goal, and have a story published in Der Schwarze Kater. It is now with anticipation that I say when you correct the issues noted above, please resubmit your story.

Good day to you.


Johann Gronow

Editor and Publisher

Der Schwarze Kater


Air France

Somewhere in France, 1634


The first rays of dawn touched his face, awakening him gently to a new day. Two heads on the same pillow were all that were not tucked warmly under the woolen covers topping the tavern’s fine feather bed. His eyes still closed, Jacques slowly drifted his hand down the soft, smooth curve of her back. He came to a stop at the last curve of her waist. She breathed heavily, still asleep from the night’s exertions, barely stirring from the lightness of his touch.

“What is her name?” His mind raced. He had no idea. She faced away from him and all he could see was the tangle of dark hair which obscured her face.

With blurry eyes, he tried to focus on the cracks in the ceiling, imperfectly hidden by the recently applied whitewash. Clearing the cobwebs of sleep, he hoped her name would come to him. The familiar plaster of the post and beam walls of the fifty-year-old room offered no whispered clue. He looked at the basin and pitcher on the finely-crafted wash stand, then across the floor at their clothes, tossed randomly in the heat of passion the night before. None of this helped either.

He took a heavy breath and marveled again at such fine accommodations. As a former townsman, he was still unaccustomed to the kind of life he lived here at le Laboratoire, though it had been nearly six months since he had received the invitation to come and work at the facility, one of France’s closest-held secrets. That such fine accommodations were made available to those who worked here was testimony to the importance of their task—to perfect an aircraft design that would take France into the skies.

The floor of his room was clean, even if scratched and scuffed. Its wide wood planks extended from underneath the luxury of a Persian carpet. Elsewhere such carpets would have been displayed on the wall, but not now. The books at the Grantville library had shown them the luxury of such things and there wasn’t a noble in France that hadn’t thrown their carpets down on the floors to demonstrate their wealth and modernity, as shown in countless up-time books.

The upstairs bedrooms of the old tavern offered excellent beds. The recent redecorating had been welcome, indicating that the successes achieved so far at the Motor Vehicle Research Station had raised it even higher in the favor of Paris. His section of the Research Station was carefully named with intentional mystery to conceal its true purpose of achieving powered flight. They called it “le Laboratoire,” and this was the crown jewel of the Research Station’s efforts.

AS a result, the researchers and test pilots lived pampered lives. The furnishings were of the finest quality, the food elegant, the wines fit for nobility, and the girls . . . Ah, les filles—of the many things provided, the girls were the finest of all.

“What is her name?” he wondered again silently. “Should I ask? Or does it matter?”

After some consideration, he remembered his father’s advice about women: “Yes, it always matters.”

The least he could do was remember their names, but with so many, that was not an easy task. The party last night had been a grand affair, given in his honor as the newly-promoted First Pilot of le Laboratoire. He was proud of his role and pleased to be selected the first among the cadre that had assembled to test the skies. As the First Pilot, his name would be forever remembered and written in the annals of history. He was Jacques de Nonette, the one selected to fly the newest “aero machine” in the morning.

The researchers and pilots, after long debate, had decided that the correct term for such a machine was “aero machine.” The term airplane sounded too English and was not at all pleasing to the ear. Moreover, to call it an airplane might imply that they had copied the works of the others. They were building machines for the air—aero machines—and he was one of the lucky ones who had been chosen to fly them.

For pilots like Jacques, there was music, good wine, distilled spirits, and les filles—always les filles. They were all young, busty brunettes, and all so very willing as the tavern girls were hired to be. Les filles were a way of distracting the pilots at le Laboratoire from what they faced every time they flew, or more accurately, tried to fly. Also, they kept the men from sneaking off to town where, after a few drinks, they might give away the secrets of the Station. There were many who would pay dearly to know of the works and progress.

“What is her name?” he asked himself again. “Antoinette?” He paused, his brow furrowed in concentration. “Yes, Antoinette.”

Then he reconsidered—No. Antoinette was Tuesday. It must be Martine? Or was it Lucie? Juliette? After so many conquests, how could a man remember?

Despite all the girls and trysts of the past six months, the one conquest that mattered most to him had been the most elusive; to fly under power one of the new aero machines across the sky of the Research Station. Gliding they had achieved, but not yet powered flight. However, today was the day that it would all change. It felt like a new door had opened to a future where France could fly—and fight. They had fixed the last problems, though the flames from that last crash had nearly burned all the evidence of what had gone wrong. They must have done it correctly this time, he reasoned. Today, it was his turn, and he was confident that he would succeed.

He smiled. It would be a glorious day.

Then with a start he said out loud, “Mon Dieu! I’m supposed to be at the hanger at dawn.”

He nudged her gently, even if he was still uncertain of her name. She didn’t move. He nudged again, and then started to slide himself out of the bed slowly. Then, with a sudden flash, it came to him; this was Martine. He jostled her awake more urgently now, whispering, “Martine, Martine . . .”

Her eyes lazily opened, “Oui?

“Martine,” he spoke louder with more confidence, “I have to go fly now. Pray for me.” With a final push, he slid free of the bed and landed on the floor with a thud.

She rolled over to look at him, smiled, and nodded. He stood from the floor and stretched, then pulled on his linen overalls and shiny black flight boots. Turning quickly, he opened the glazed window, opaque with its wavy and bubbled glass, and gazed out beyond the village and across the fields of the Research Station to check if things were already stirring there. Spread before him in the soft morning sun were all the secrets of le Laboratoire. This was the place that would carry France to success in the air.

The flying field with its winter brown stubble, was wide and clear. It had once been a simple pasture but no longer. Now it was trimmed closely to ensure the tall grasses would not snag the landing skid of one of the aero machines gliders on landing.

Bare trees lined the edges of the field, their dense limbs shielding the winds. As well, they served as a screen to block the prying eyes of those who might seek to look in and know what was taking place on the field. A hill on the other side of the main field supported a long, black ramp that had been built to launch their aero machines. The bottom of the ramp was crafted much like one of the ski jumps that he had seen on screen at the electric theater in Grantville. The ramp was his own innovation, one of the things that he was most proud of from his time at the Research Station. It angled sharply skyward so as to launch the aero machine gliders into the air once they completed their run downhill to gain speed. They had done it many times with the gliders and now they hoped that the power of a gasoline engine would let them do more than glide once they had cleared the end of the ramp.

He considered the words of Le Compte, the man who had sponsored le Laboratoire, “With wings, no battle can be lost! No enemy can hide or move undetected! No message cannot get through! And think of it, Jacques, you will be one of the pilots to achieve it!”

The small corps of pilots stayed full time at the Research Station, which offered safety and security from discovery. Jacques had been there since returning from Grantville. There, at the library, he had quietly done his part of the research that France needed to learn how to fly. He and the others had made huge strides.

The others . . . He paused, remembering their faces. Among the first cadre of pilots who had traveled to Grantville, he was the last still alive. Grimly, he knew too that this was the reason that he was now First Pilot. The others ahead of him, perhaps better than him, had all died. He advanced to this position not by skill, knowledge, or talent, but by the simple fact of being the last survivor. All of the other pilots at the tavern were new faces, men who had not gone to Grantville in the early days. They picked up where the others left off, learning the lessons from each crash—and each death—in hopes of carrying forward and finally achieving flight. With sadness, one of the engineers at le Laboratoire had once confided to Jacques that they learned more from the crashes than from the successes. Jacques had vowed that they would learn nothing from him. He would never crash, so he told himself. And so far, he had been proven correct in his assumptions.

So far, he reminded himself. So far.

The losses they had suffered among the pilots were to be expected, of course. Still, it was not supposed to be like this. There weren’t supposed to have been this many losses. They began with the aero machine gliders. Step by step—or more properly, crash by crash—they had learned the ways of flight. The costs of those lessons were measured in empty chairs at the dinner table. Each time, however, a week or two would pass, and then the empty chairs would be filled with fresh, new, and always bright young faces. Each new pilot was full of confidence and immortality at the beginning. Each eager to learn and build on the preceding accomplishments. Each was a smiling face in his memory with a devil-may-care attitude that toasted the fates.

Those attitudes lasted until a friend or two was lost. Then each would come to recognize the peril of this business at le Laboratoire. The day they lost their closest friend usually marked when they would more earnestly take solace in the arms of les filles.

Yet it hadn’t been for naught, at least that was what Jacques kept telling himself. The lessons learned had been extraordinary. They had learned where the balance point should be along the wing. They understood how the controls should be wired. By trial and repeated error, they had learned what was too heavy to fly and how to lighten the fuselage and wings without losing too much strength. They had come to understand what wood to use and how to build a wing spar strong enough so it did not fold with catastrophic results.

Many men were buried beside the old red-yellow brick chapel that was across the street from the tavern. Their new tombstones were laid out in steady rows, almost as if to reassure those still living of their earnest work.

Suddenly he muttered out loud, “What will they write on my gravestone?”

Behind him, he heard movement on the bed as Martine sat up to listen. He glanced back and saw that she was regarding him with a seriousness he had not seen before. He winked, gave her a wry smile, and turned to look back across the flying field to the hangars beyond.

He fixed his mind on the upcoming flight—this was to be the first powered flight with an engine. Again, he repeated to himself that this day, today, would be His Day, the day that the name of the First Pilot, Jacques de Nonette, would be forever written into history. He smiled more broadly and turned to his armoire to retrieve his things.

First, he put on his best cap and adjusted its long white plume, his arm slowly curving back to ensure that it was straight and clear. This feather signified his rank among the pilots as the leader among their ranks—the First Pilot. Then he tightened his belt. He was the best of those still alive. Crash after crash, he had crawled from the wreckage, never seriously hurt. Flight after flight, he had landed successfully or at least walked away.

He had heard les filles whisper that he was blessed by God, that he was immortal. He didn’t trust that thought himself—not yet, at least—but he was thankful for the faith that somehow seemed to have propelled him to this point.

As he moved toward the door, he glanced back at Martine and caught a glimpse of her bright watchful eyes. She gazed at him over her pert turned-up, button nose. He hoped it wasn’t the final time he would see her face.

She had been resting her head on a hand, propped up on her elbow. He saw again that she was watching him carefully. He realized that perhaps it was true—les filles were there also to watch for signs of nervousness or weakness among the pilots. She had seen that first sign of weakness perhaps already when he had spoken accidentally aloud about his tombstone. If it was true, that they were reporting on all of the pilots to the commandant, then there was nothing he could do about that. He smiled at her and shrugged. He would give no further sign of the stress starting to build within him.

Making a show of it, he bowed low and said his adieux. She smiled and, as he walked out the door, she called after him, “Bonne chance! But remember next time I’m Claire. . . . I will tell Martine you’ve given her a very high compliment. . . .”

He laughed, shook his head, and closed the wooden door. Then he walked down the squeaky wooden stairs hoping he wasn’t too late for a quick déjeuner. There could be no better way to start the day. He hoped he could stomach a hunk of fresh baguette and knew the tavern would be well-stocked with rich, creamy butter. He hoped to take a slice of the fine aged cheese the kitchen often had at hand and an apple from the orchard just outside the village. That small, but impeccably-kept orchard had been attached to the horse farm before it became the Research Station.

He thought that with Claire, at least he had escaped one potentially disastrous challenge—not remembering her name—though that was only due to her forgiving him, after all. Anyway, he recognized with another shrug that he was not quite unscathed. Perhaps he would pay for that slip later. Anyway, a much greater challenge was ahead.

What he didn’t know was that the girl he left behind in his room was not overly offended that he had forgotten her name. The girls at the Research Station viewed the test pilots as their collective property. If any man got into the cockpit of a plane without having had his ashes recently hauled, it certainly was not their fault. Likewise, if you lived to walk into the tavern after “going up,” you knew before you could sit down you’d be dragged out of the common room for a proper hero’s welcome. Les filles took pride in their work, too, because they knew the importance of the effort.

Most of les filles had been brought down from Paris, where they had been in similar, though much less pleasant employment at one of the many brothels that the city offered. Most had been selected because of their beauty and little more. When they were selected, they hadn’t known to what purpose and had feared the worst. After being brought to the Research Station, however, they had come to know all too well that they were the lucky ones.

At the Research Station, unlike in the brothels, they were treated well. They were given the finest food, drink, and lodgings. They had the freedom to pick the men that were most to their liking. Nothing was forced on them. No money was charged. And they had developed a sisterhood that had one goal—to help achieve France’s first flights. They had each been told that when it was over, they would have a dowry for marriage. For them, the Research Station had been a dream ticket—to escape the slavery of the brothels and forget their past. Most were less educated and came from poor families. Some were destitute, orphaned, and without skills, except in the bedroom. But all had taken to the chance that was before them—as unlikely as it seemed, to escape a dark time in their lives and come to this, the Research Station, where all dreams came true—except for one dream which proved elusive, which was to fly.

Sadly too, they knew more than anyone at the Research Station, except perhaps the commandant and Jacques, the names of those who had died along the way. As a result, they became attached to those who survived the longest. Nobody had survived longer than Jacques. That les filles kept tabs on the pilots was suspected by the pilots, and it wasn’t incorrect. They did keep le Laboratoire‘s commandant appraised. If a pilot looked like they were about to break from the stress and risk, the girls would report it. The pilot would be given some time off, usually by assignment to work with the engineers for a few weeks, and then, when les filles thought he was ready, they would submit a follow-up report. It was a system that worked well and kept the morale of the pilots at the highest point. Despite the commandant’s original concern, none of the pilots had ever had to be grounded. A few weeks off here and there was all that was needed, despite the hazards that they had faced.

Downstairs in the tavern’s nearly empty great room, Jacques glanced at the back wall that contained rows of painted names and little sets of angel’s wings. At this early hour, there were only a couple of others at the tables. He shuddered inwardly, remembering the last smoking wreck at the base the hill. In that crash, he had found the charred remains of his good friend, still smoking and burned badly, twisted amidst the shattered boards and burned fabric. He had looked carefully, knowing that these were the charred remains of his best friend, Antoine.

Antoine had not deserved to die. The aero machine had launched upward into the air at the base of the ramp with the prototype engine mounted on the nose and the gasoline in the tank to ensure the right weight and balance. The flight was to have been a gliding test without the engine running. It was supposed to have been a short flight, straight ahead, and then a landing. Nothing to worry about, Antoine had said.

Jacques watched as Antoine had launched from the ramp. The aero machine was simply too heavy to fly. Worse yet, the balance was off, and the machine was nose-heavy. Instead of gliding to a smooth landing, the plane had arced down. With no way to pull out of the terminal dive, Antoine had simply ridden the aero machine downward into a terrible crash. He had probably realized that he was about to die in those last few seconds. The petrol on board had completed the catastrophe when it burst into flame. The fires had consumed everything, even melting the metal cylinders of the engine. The tank should have been full of water.

Jacques found himself fervently praying that Antoine’s death had come from the impact and not from the fire. Hastily, the engineers had built a new aero machine with a new engine. The balance issues were worked out now, hopefully. Jacques felt his chances of success were vastly better.

Antoine had missed a good party that night after the crash. The tradition was that if you didn’t make it back, the girls would throw a wake in your memory. It was a way of sending off the pilots to fly in heaven, to fly with the angels, as the saying went. The sadness of his passing hadn’t been felt just among the pilots, but also among les filles.

For Antoine, it had been Juliane, the girl who had last been with him and had perhaps loved him most. She took the lead at his party, but not without a fight to earn that right. Another girl had demanded to lead the wake. After a terrible spat that stopped just short of coming to blows, Juliane prevailed, winning out on the basis that she had spent last three nights with him. The others had nodded. There were rules to their world, dominated by nights with les pilotes. Three nights was the undisputed fact.

With great ceremony and tears, Juliane had added Antoine’s name along with a pair of bright pink angel’s wings to the others on the back wall of the common room. Hot-blooded pink was the traditional manly color for pilots now since, as everyone knew, pink was the color chosen for the first planes when they flew over Germany. As they painted wings on the wall, the other pilots looked on, feigning disinterest. Some looked quietly into their wine and beer.

Jacques, too, had viewed the party with a cold disinterest. To watch the painting of the pink wings on the wall was the best way he knew to honor his old friend, but he was afraid enough of showing fear that he chose to be almost heartless about it—at least on the outside. Quickly, he muttered to himself, “Fly with the angels, my friend.”

With the painting done, he emptied his wine and turned the glass bottom side up on the table. “C’est la guerre,” he had said out loud, remembering the line from a pilot’s biography that he had read at Grantville recounting the tales of flying in the future air war over France and England in 1940.

He wondered, too, did the Germans have a wall of pink wings and memories? Surely, they, too, were pressing ahead in the development of the next generation of aero machines there.

As he finished his breakfast, he vowed to himself, “I’ll be damned if they have such a party tonight.” There were already too many bright pink sets of wings painted on the back wall.

Suddenly, he felt Claire’s presence behind him. He turned and caught her smile. She leaned in to kiss his lips, a bit more hungrily than necessary.

Non, Claire,” he said making sure that this time he said her name with confidence. “You know I have a test flight now.”

She gave a fake pout.

“You’ll have to wait for me to get back.”

“But you might not be coming back,” she said softly. He detected a tone in her voice that she might be testing him, to see if he was showing too much stress to fly. Non, this would be His Day. He smiled and shook his head.

“Eh, what? And disappoint ma petite Claire?” He gave her a sound slap on the rump. Then he leaned up from his seat and kissed the top of her head. It was a good thing that whoever did the recruiting liked petite women.

She laughed, but then became serious. “If you make me draw your angel’s wings on the wall, I’ll never talk to you again.”



The Flight


Jacques stood in the dewy winter-brown grass atop the hill. It had taken some time to walk this far, and the camp below was alive with the morning’s activity. The top of the hill was quietly known among the pilots as the col de la mort, the hill of death. For a time, the commandant had tried to ban the name, saying it was bad for morale, but among the flyers, it had had the opposite effect.

From the hilltop, the launch ramp traced its downward path, with the pylons longer and shorter all the way down to smooth out the dips and undulations carved by nature into the slope. A massive dead weight drop dangled off the top of the tower just to the right side of the ramp. The falling weight helped fling the gliders into the air; a trick learned from a book they had found about the Wright Brothers and their flights in France in—Jacques strained to remember—yes, the date in the books at Grantville had been 1908.

The wooden ramp was painted with a flat black tar and turpentine mixture, giving it a somehow sinister look. The turpentine ensured that the tar soaked into the wood and the tar ensured that the ramp could handle rain and all types of weather without deteriorating. It had been built to last. France was in all the way—the research here would be successful, so the sponsors said, no matter how long it took.

Jacques stared across the field at the compound beyond. At the center was what had been a noble’s prized horse farm. The man had run afoul of Cardinal Richelieu and lost everything, even his life. The place was officially named the Motor Vehicle Research Station. However, everybody involved referred to it as the Horse Farm. A lot of work on many different projects was underway at the Research Station, but if you were a pilot, the place was simply called “le Laboratoire,” since the rest was, in their very vocal opinion, completely unimportant.

The fine manor house, where the deposed noble had lived when visiting his racing stables, did excellent service as the quarters for the Research Station’s senior officers and the commandant. The adjacent grand stables had been the first workshops for motor vehicle research and still housed the steam engine works, reflecting their place as the oldest project on the site. The steam-driven wagons were working very well, that is, as Jacques knew all too well, when they were working at all. It seemed to take longer to get their steam up than to just walk wherever you were going. Still, once the steam was up, they were as fast or faster than horses. Of course, sometimes they blew up.

Over the many months, the rest of the farm had been steadily expanded to meet the needs of ever more researchers and projects. The gas engine researchers had their own buildings, constructed in the traditional style. These were built by Danish workers impressed to the task and kept on hand for the next expansion, all the while hoping someday to make it back to Denmark. Jacques smiled, they were told that lie from time to time to keep them at work, but in truth, they had seen too much of what was going on to ever make it back. In the end, secret plans called for them to receive a free trip to America. Their work had been first-class, with post and beam buildings and stucco-finished walls that were quick to build and, most importantly, thick enough to protect the other buildings from the fires and explosions that resulted from the handling of hazardous fuels and oils. Explosions were not rare.

Most recently, a rubber division started up. Using landing skids on the aero machines wouldn’t do for proper take offs. What was fine for a glider, wasn’t suitable for a heavier plane. Proper tires were needed. The rubber division was housed in a new small building hastily erected near the stables.

The Danish workers had also constructed a behemoth dirigible hangar. It held the efforts to develop a lighter-than-air, powered dirigible, like the Zeppelin that one of the researchers had found in a book about the Great War of 1914. Jacques shrugged, wondering briefly if the dirigible would prove more capable of flight than any of the aero machines. Once the first dirigible launched, he felt sure a competition would likely develop, but for now, all was quiet on that front.

Despite the size of the dirigible hangar, the black ramp and catapult system on the col de la mort still dominated the airfield. Jacques had taken many glider flights from the top of the hill. They overcame the lack of rubber for wheels in a simple way—a landing skid at the bottom of the aero machine, which also kept the machine on the ramp between the rails.

Except for the fevered pace that had marked the construction of the buildings, to call the progress on the station’s key project slow was charitable.

As Jacques surveilled the scene, he was shocked to see that at the base of the hill, right beside the ramp, one of the working steam cars had been carelessly left parked. A wisp of smoke escaped from its forward stack, indicating that it was still hot and with steam. His brow furrowed, and he spat into the grass. This was unacceptable. At le Laboratoire, a superstition had arisen. Steam cars were a bad influence on aero machines. Earlier on, those injured in the numerous accidents were usually hurried from the field on the back of a waiting steam car. They were the fastest transport available when one was ready and waiting. Medical attention was provided at the research station’s hospital if you weren’t killed in the crash, and it was the very best available.

The use of steam cars for this ambulance service, however, gave rise to ugly rumors. As a result, it was decided that the cars were a bad influence on aero machines. Jacques, like many others, imagined the steam cars whispering, perhaps in the secret tongue of machines, that the idea was to move on the ground, rather than rise into the air.

The distrust of steam cars was rooted, too, in the natural rivalry that had developed between the different research teams. After a few deaths on the flight ramp, however, that had all changed. You could keep a black cat in the hangar, but you dared not let a steam car or any other mechanically-propelled vehicle anywhere near an aero machine on the day of a test flight. Many pilots would consider themselves fully justified refusing to get into a cockpit for at least twenty-four hours if a steam car crossed the grass field or approached the hangar on the day of a scheduled flight. Most of the pilots were so adamant about it that in more recent months, the ambulance service and fire brigades had returned to the use of six-horse carriages. Everyone agreed that it was pure superstition, but the pilots were a pampered lot. The commandant had ordered it, simply because this was the way they wanted it.

Anyway, aero machines, not steam cars, were the future and the new hallmark of the Research Station. The steam car researchers and drivers soon realized it was best to respect the superstition since any crash would be routinely blamed on the nearest steam car if one was in sight.

Yet one was parked at the bottom of the ramp—and it was the day of Jacques’ flight.

Jacques regarded the steam car coldly. He was not naturally superstitious, but this was different. This could be no casual mistake. He wondered who had parked it there and why? Surely, he surmised, someone was trying to send him a message.

After a deep breath, he crossed himself and decided to fly anyway. A message had been sent, and it had been received, loud and clear. He had no rivals among the other pilots. Those more experienced than him were either dead or injured and retired. Those who had filled the ranks all looked up to him as a survivor and professional. He spat. He recalled all too well that this wasn’t the first such message he had received. At least that was how he interpreted some of the strange events that he had seen over the months at the Research Station.

What plan was afoot? What rivalry? What quiet hatred was enough to seek to curse him to death? He pondered that silently as a ground crewman trudged up the col to his side.

Before the man made it halfway to the top, Jacques called down to him, “Get the steam car moved. We’ve got some flying to do.”

The man turned and looked back, then let out a short scream when he saw the car parked at the base of the ramp. Abruptly, he ran down and off to the buildings in the distance. He would have to fetch one of the steam car engineers to take the car away.

Jacques shook his head. There was no use in running, as it would be another half hour before they were ready to fly anyway. The bonfire pits that were used to generate guaranteed updraft for gliders were still cold. He thought about that for a moment and then remembered that nobody would be using the two-seat glider for pilot training today. Further, lighting fires beneath a petrol-burning aero machine wasn’t a good idea anyway.

He began the long climb up the col to the top, in preparation for the flight. He was glad that he carried only himself and pitied the poor engineers who often had to bring tool boxes, fuel, spare parts, and more. It was always a tiring climb, even so, and he did it on foot, as a usual tip of the hat to superstition. Every time he had climbed the col on foot, he had survived, so this wasn’t something he would change.

In the gliders, Jacques had flown many flights over the bonfire pits. Even if he had become quite expert at flight, he remembered how the previous First Pilot, Thibaut, who was “no longer flying,” came to his end. He had been testing a glider on which they had mounted a motor. The glider had come down in some trees, another disaster while testing the handling and balance with a motor fitted. After the test, the designers admitted that the engine was too heavy for mounting on a glider, and that either a lighter engine or a heavier aero machine would be needed. They had opted for the heavier aero machine, since it would be easier to fashion from wood and the common skills that they already had. Hence, the aero machine that he was to fly today had been built and, even if rushed, Jacques felt it was a good design.

As Jacques stood there, he spied a pair of oxen exiting the hangar. The newest aero machine was atop a cart and dragged behind. In front of that, a group of six men, all dressed in the gray tunics of the hangar crew, were attending the movement. Steadily, they hauled the aero machine across the field and up the col to the top of the ramp. Jacques watched it calmly, marveling at the beauty of the latest creation of the engineers. Rushed, he reminded himself, but it was a thing of beauty all the same.

The new aero machine was a linen-covered and wood-framed biplane powered by a newly-built rotary motor and fitted with Grantville’s latest design in spark plugs. The spark plug research team at the research station finally had something that they claimed would work even if they were the size of a child’s fist. For the French engineers working in le Laboratoire, reproducing twentieth-century spark plugs had proven to be impossibly difficult. Thus, after many trials and failures, the researchers had simply bought several from Grantville.

As all knew, metal works were the key in engine technologies. The iron for the latest engine had been laboriously hammered out by a blacksmith. The man usually made swords and knives, and his talents at that allowed him to develop a relatively light casing for the cylinders and the other moving parts. The forge burned only the finest oak charcoal. A bellows would heat the fires in the forge to white-hot flames. The metal was then carefully worked, hammered, shaped, and then dipped not in water but olive oil to temper the pieces to greater strength. They were almost impossibly lightweight, yet stronger than any metals made by anyone in all of France, so the blacksmith had told Jacques.

Even with all of the blacksmith’s expert efforts, the weight of the rotary engine was still too high when compared with up-time motors. They would make do, and Jacques recognized that this was a small step, but an important one.

If he could sustain a flight around the field before landing, they would have made a huge step forward in their quest to build France its first successful aero machine. After two crashes of prior aero machines with the engine mounted for gliding tests, the decision had been made to fly with the engine running. There would be no more tests with the engine mounted but not running.

Progress would have been faster if some of the other projects had come through as promised. Jacques heard there was a research station somewhere else trying to get a Bessemer converter to work and to turn iron into steel. When they met their goal, the need for the blacksmith’s best efforts in iron was at an end. Yet, like so many of the projects, they kept promising results “in a month.” Then another month or two would pass with little news and probably less progress.

As Jacques experienced first-hand, reading the information in the books only generally pointed the way to a workable solution. This applied to almost every project, not just the challenges of achieved powered flight. In the books, details were typically lacking, as if the readers already knew all the basics, which perhaps they would, though only at some time in the future. As a result, achieving the promise of the literature often proved seemingly impossible.

As Clausewitz said, “In war everything is simple. But the simple is very difficult.” This was a war, though it was a war of knowledge, to conquer not land, but the world of ideas. Along the way, Jacques considered, there were already many casualties.

Before climbing the col to the top of the ramp, Jacques had gone to the hangar to grab his flying helmet and a pair of goggles. He thought with a laugh that he must have cut quite a sharp figure at the top of the col, standing in his flight clothing, wearing his helmet with the goggles perched on top as the men worked their way across the field with the aero machine in tow behind the ox team. He was glad that none were close enough to see that he was winded from the long climb up—too much good living with les filles, he mused. He saw in the distance that the commandant had come out and, spotting him on the top of the col, waved. That would be reassuring, Jacques thought, knowing the commandant would see his early arrival at the col as a sign of calm and eagerness to fly.

The sound of birds chirping from the trees and bushes behind the hill was a good sign. It promised to be a good day for a flight. The wind was almost non-existent. A soft dampness clung to the grass under his feet. The winter was still upon them, but in the south of France, the temperatures were more reasonable. His breath still made a slight fog, even though it wasn’t that cold. That too was good—he didn’t understand why, but whenever he flew the gliders, he seemed to go longer on colder mornings. The reasons for this were probably buried in some book on aerodynamics that was yet to be found in Grantville.

The biplane, towed by the pair of oxen, had arrived at the bottom of the col and started making its way steadily upward. Despite its two wings, this new model was lighter than the monoplane that took Thibaut to his death. Still, it was heavier than even the two-seat gliders Jacques had flown. Those he considered safe because, so long as a wing or tail didn’t break, you could bring the gliders to nearly walking speed on touchdown. Even if you made a mistake, you usually walked away from the wreck. This new aero machine would be much heavier. He knew that would mean that he would have to fly faster at touchdown to get the necessary lift from the wings.

As well, the landing skid would slow the gliders quickly once the glider had touched down. As the skid dug in after landing, quite a few had dropped a wing, which stuck to the ground, spinning the whole thing around. Most of the time when that happened, the pilot simply got out of the broken glider and walked away. With the new aero machine, the heavier weight would also mean that if a wing touched, it would likely sheer off, rather than spin the machine around.

The heavier biplane design was still the right choice for the challenge ahead. Having two wings was the choice of the builders because they had caught wind of the romantic nature of the French escadrilles of the Great War—as the books about the World War I called the squadrons. They quickly worked out that having two wings made a big difference in the amount of lift produced. In a salute to the escadrilles, someone had painted a stork on the side of the fuselage just behind the cockpit. Appropriately, the new plane was called la Cigogne—the Stork.

Finally, the aero machine reached the top of the ramp, pulled along steadily by the ox team. Quickly, the six men on the ground crew maneuvered it to the ramp and put the nose into the launch sling. Like they did with the gliders, the sling would pull the aero machine down the ramp, accelerating it to flying speed. It was always an exciting start.

Jacques walked briskly around the biplane as the ground crew waited for him in silence. Nearby a small group of the designers who had walked up the hill were huddled together. They eyed him suspiciously. He paid them no heed; they would have to trust his abilities as a pilot, just as he had to trust their abilities as designers. It was an unfair bargain—while they trusted him with their creation, he trusted them with his life. Silently, he vowed that he would bring their aero machine back to the ground safely.

One of them, Vincent Sauvage, the head designer on the project, called over to him, “Don’t get fancy, Jacques.”

Jacques shrugged and smiled. Words were unnecessary. Whatever could be done was done from their side. It was time to fly.

If things didn’t work out, then after the crash, the designers seemed to always blame the pilots first, all the more if the poor man had died. Only later, when they identified the real cause would the designers and engineers quietly go about making the adjustments and improvements to ensure that it didn’t happen again. Never was an apology offered, and none would have been accepted on behalf of the dead anyway, but everyone knew the real story of what was going on.

Resting both his hands on the top of the fuselage, Jacques spread his feet. He put his head down intending to make a prayer, but the tension of the linen stretched over the frame caught him short. The feeling was good—very good. Instead of praying, he focused on the stitching; it was excellent. No expense was spared.

Vincent seemed unsatisfied with his silence and walked over. Once close by, he said in a quieter voice, “Just get it up and then get it back down. Treat it like one of the gliders, just like you did in the wind tunnel. The motor running on the nose won’t affect the way it flies, except that you will have more acceleration, and you should fly longer.”

Jacques nodded. He took a breath and climbed up and into the cockpit. Words weren’t necessary now. This time, Vincent took the silence as an affirmation. He had his answer or the closest thing he would get to one.

As Jacques sat in the cockpit, he recognized that the biplane had a character about it that was different. It was sleek, not boxy or jury-rigged like some of the gliders and monoplanes that he had flown. This one was more carefully built, despite the rush with which it had been constructed. He breathed in the smell of her—aero machines were “her” because that was what was in the literature. He felt somehow that la Cigogne would not fail him. His main task was to be sure that he did not fail her.

In a final gesture, he crossed himself, blew into his hand, quietly whispered to himself the prayer he had read in one of the aviation books in Grantville—”God, don’t let me fuck up.”

He strapped himself into the wicker seat and felt securely nestled into the narrow fuselage. The aeroplane smelled like fresh linen and newly-cut wood. Behind that scent was a darker, almost acidic smell coming from the rotary motor. He recognized the rare and sweet scent of gasoline and oil. La Cigogne was a serious machine meant for flight, not display. This was not a machine built for brief “hops” as one took from the glider ramp. With this, he felt that he could really fly. How far would she go?

He pulled down and adjusted his goggles. Reaching under the instrument panel, he disconnected the ground wire, something he had done more than a dozen times on the test stands. This meant that the spark would be live to the cylinders of the engine. He nodded and twirled his finger in a gesture he had read about in the books—start her up.

Bernard, one of the ground crew, stepped forward and threw the prop with a heavy pull. The rotary engine spun easily along with the prop and caught right away. This was a good sign.

La Cigogne wants to fly,” he yelled to the chief designer.

Vincent nodded and yelled something back, but the words were drowned out by the noise of the motor. Then Vincent crossed himself as if with a prayer in response. Then a fleeting smile crossed the man’s lips.

Jacques waved everyone away so he could run up the engine, his attention entirely focused on the sound. The slightest noise might signal a flaw, some malfunction, or a bad spark plug.

With the engine spinning under power, Jacques played with the spark advance and the gas supply for a moment, hoping to warm it up without starting to foul the spark plugs. The engine didn’t have a throttle but rather depended on the spark advance, which he could ground or disconnect, blipping the engine to life or letting it spin. The rotary engine was a marvel, a design that had the whole engine and propeller spinning together while the central crankshaft was bolted, unmoving, to the firewall directly in front of the cockpit.

The petrol and oil fed into the engine by gravity from overhead tanks, a small one for the oil and a larger one for the petrol. Valves gave him control at the twist of a pair of knobs. The spark advance could give power as needed—on or off. If left on, the engine ran full out, if off, it spun freely without ignition. It was all or nothing. Whether it was running or not, the fuel and the oil steadily fed into the cylinders. Thus, if you left it off and spinning for too long, the petrol would spew backward out of the exhaust ports and, if the engine backfired, it might ignite. This was a known risk and one that was easily solved, just leave the engine on at full power and, as soon as you went to land, be sure to also shut off the fuel valve.

There wasn’t much power anyway, Jacques reasoned, so it probably didn’t matter whether it ran at full power or not.

The fuel flow was a strange thing, however, since starving the engine of fuel didn’t give it less power unless you made it so lean that it would cut out. Rather, the engine would run faster and quickly heat up. Then it would begin to backfire. This too would throw flames out that might ignite the unburnt fuel and oil that had been spat from the rotary as it spun. More than one test bench had been set aflame exactly in that way. Similarly, too much fuel would not only cool the engine but also result in a lot of runoff and fouling of the spark plugs. The excess, unburnt fuel spattered back onto the aero machine and pilot, making for an equally dangerous situation if a fire ignited. The key challenge was for the pilot to adjust the fuel flow to the right setting, neither too hot nor too cold, without backfiring or excessive spatter.

The oil feed was easier. Jacques knew enough to just turn it on all the way. The oil would flow into the engine, and whatever excess was there would just spatter out into the airstream. If a pilot tried to save oil by dialing it back, he ran the risk of putting too little into the engine, which could result in serious problems and damage. He recognized that too much oil would also foul the spark plugs, but while he had no solution Jacques believed that the petrol caused the fouling most of the time. The engineers still debated the matter. Sadly, none of the books at Grantville addressed the issue, and they were all left to theorize as to what was actually happening when the engine stopped. Each time, all they could find was that the spark plugs had fouled, though whether from the petrol or the oil was a matter of conjecture.

Jacques moved quickly, remembering the last time an engine had clogged plugs while on the test bench. It had been left running too long. He would not make that mistake, and he hurried to prepare for the launch. Satisfied with the sound, he signaled that he was ready.

He held the spark advance switch down, keeping the ground wire disconnected. The engine had a roar to it that sounded like life itself. Then he held up one hand with his fist clenched as the signal to prepare to launch, and then he opened his hand. With that, the launch weight dropped on cue.

As with the gliders, the aero machine jerked forward on the ramp and began its race downhill. The noise, the wind, the blast of the propeller, and the smell of oil together were invigorating. He breathed deeply and steadied himself to face the risks of flight. His own talents were beyond doubt, but would the engine work? Would the airframe have some undiscovered flaw? Would the controls be properly balanced or improperly rigged? Would the center of gravity be too far off, forward or back?

Faster and faster, la Cigogne sped up down the ramp, each hop on the wooden planking steadily jarring the aero machine as it crashed its way back and forth in the ever-widening gap between the rails. A misaligned wooden board on the ramp caused the biplane to take a bone-jarring bounce, but this was something he was used to. He held firmly to the controls and when he reached the bottom of the ramp, he felt that he was fast enough to fly. The engine was a steady roar of power. The upturn violently heaved the biplane into the air and, in an instant, Jacques was surprised by the feeling on the controls. La Cigogne was still not fast enough to fly.

The biplane staggered along in the air for a few seconds. Jacques had enough experience to know what to do; he had experienced the same thing several times before in one of the heavier gliders. Calmly, he pushed the control stick forward rather than pulling it back. In doing so, he pointed the nose farther down the hill. It seemed counter-intuitive, but it was the only way to get enough speed to fly. If he pulled back, the aero machine would slow even further and, like a stricken bird, would fall out of the sky.

With the stick forward, he added speed from the rapid descent and soon felt that he could pull back on the stick to level it out. It was a close call, the plane mere inches from the top of the grassy slope that still descended toward the flat field ahead. He gently adjusted his flight with a steadily increasing pull on the stick. Despite his best efforts, the landing skid lightly touched, but still the aero machine lifted upward again. With the power from the engine and the remaining downhill slope at the base of the col, and with this bounce, he felt that he could hold it up longer.

He was gaining precious speed. He leveled off as the aero machine settled back down toward the grass. He was now over the flat part of the field, racing toward the buildings and hangar in the distance. The skid skimmed across the top of the grass but did not touch. With a start, he realized that he was accelerating from the power of the engine!

Steadily, the controls felt lighter. A few seconds later, he had enough speed to start a slow climb. The engine was working and the balance of the aero machine was doing its job. He found that he had to hold some back pressure on the control stick, a sign that the balance point was slightly too far forward—he could have guessed that given the weight of the engine—but this was something he could work with. Weirdly, the continuous pressure he had to apply, pulling back on the stick, made it feel as if he was pulling the aero machine into the air himself with his own hands. Calmly, he put both hands on the stick and held it steady.

Jacques knew from his gliding flights that even the slightest bank meant that he would lose altitude. He held tightly to the stick, making sure that the nose did not rise too high above the horizon line. If it did, he would cross into the danger zone. He didn’t understand the principles involved, but there were demons in the air, as he had learned. The worst demon was named the Stall.

The literature he had read referred to such things as the Stall, which he had learned meant that when the nose was too high, the air over the wings would break up, and the magic of lift would suddenly fail. Just what the Stall was remained a mystery, but whatever it was, it was one demon that remained invisible to the eye. These air demons must be hiding in the winds, ready to ambush an unsuspecting pilot, so Jacques reasoned. The cost of inattentiveness would be a crash.

He shook off the thought of the worst demons and pressed on, banishing superstition from his mind. The morning air felt crisp on his cheeks as it blew past his face in the slipstream of la Cigogne, giving no clue to a lurking danger. A new confidence built in him. La Cigogne was now higher, and he gently pushed the stick forward, trading the precious little altitude he had gained for yet more speed. He urged the engine on.

As he neared the grass again, he pulled back again on the control stick to climb and allow the engine to slowly carry the biplane even higher. The speed was good now—faster than the fastest gallop of a horse, faster even than a steam car. AHHH, banish that thought! He threw off the superstition yet another time. He cursed to himself. Think not of steam cars, you fool!

He could see the tops of the trees at the end of the field, a first signal that he was going to make it. He knew from his many glider flights that when you saw the tops of the trees from above, you were doing well. Many a pilot had been forced into a short landing just before the treetops had come into view. With altitude, there were many options.

He hoped his engine would continue so strongly. Even the best engines, however, would steadily accumulate sludge until the cylinders started to lose power. Just how quickly that happened depended on the ever-varying quality of the fuel mixture.

Unsure if he would continue to hold altitude enough to clear the buildings ahead, Jacques started a turn, pushing the stick to the right to bank the biplane. The rotary engine’s spin took the nose over quickly—almost too quickly—and he was forced to recover with a jerk on the control stick. This was something he had expected from his experience in ground runs, though he hadn’t thought it would be so pronounced. The spinning engine created a gyro effect, making it difficult to turn to the left but easy to turn to the right.

At this speed, based on the feeling of the stick, he had the sense that if he let go, the plane would twist down and to the right into an immediate crash that would flip it upside-down. There was no control balance, and so the new biplane had to be flown with a firm grip at all times. Do not let go of the stick, he realized, as la Cigogne has teeth after all.

He let the biplane pull around in a wide one hundred eighty-degree turn that took it onto a course parallel and back toward the col. His turn had lost altitude and was skimming along just over the highest leaves and branches. This was a most dangerous sport, but he had reversed his course and was now coming back toward the col, but off to the side, over the trees that lined the edge of the field.

He could be caught over the trees if the engine suddenly faltered. He resisted the temptation to ease the biplane toward the field, knowing that he would lose altitude and come down into the branches. Gingerly, he pulled back on the stick and started to gain more altitude.

He would have to make one more turn to land. For that, he would need yet more altitude. As he bored on straight ahead, he saw that if he didn’t start the turn, he would ram into the col head on. He wasn’t high enough yet to bank into a turn, however. Then he remembered how, at the base of the col, there was a gap in the tree line. He craned his head forward to look for it. If he timed his turn just right, he would be back over the field, still too close to the col itself to land normally, but he could set it down and make it out. The aero machine might be damaged, but it would be a flight to celebrate. Fleetingly, he thought that maybe he could bring it in to a successful landing. Critically, the gap in the trees was the only way to avoid a crash, but he had no choice but to turn once more. It was either flying directly into the face of the col or descending into the trees that were whipping past just below his landing skid—unless he could find the gap and use it well.

As the seconds ticked by, the aero machine gained altitude slightly over treetop level. With this, he knew he could make it if the engine held out. He listened intently to the sound of its roaring cylinders. His imagination filled in noises that weren’t there. Yet it ran smoothly, only oddly skipping from time to time as the spark didn’t light with the action of the cylinders. He knew the signs of a foul—one cylinder would begin to miss and then another—and it wasn’t happening yet. With every second, he knew that likelihood grew.

It seemed as if it had been the right development path, to distill petroleum fuels rather than try to purchase them, which would have brought a dependency on some outside source. However, the results were far from ideal. The fuels were not clean-burning nor reliably distilled. Despite their best efforts, a residue always built up and fouled the spark plugs, often in short order. With no spark, there was no explosion in the cylinders and thus, no power.

He reached the end of the trees at the base of the hill. With a deft flip to the side and a slight tug, he leaned the control stick to cut a final turn back over the field, this time more expertly using the engine’s gyro effect to pull the aero machine around. Once again, the spinning rotary engine did its job. Still, the gyroscopic effect pulled the bank into a more acute angle than he had planned and the machine lost most of its remaining altitude. The spinning cylinders had pulled the protesting biplane all the way around a full 90 degrees—a proper turn! He had done it! He leveled the wings, just inches above the ground, running parallel to the base of the col. The flight was going perfectly, against all odds.

The field ahead was clear and the launch ramp, which ended just above the base of the col, would not hinder his flight. Only a landing stood between him and a major celebration ahead. He reached up and shut off the fuel flow and then set it down. It had been a perfect flight after all, he thought.

Then he saw it.

The steam car, the one that earlier he told the crew to move, was finally being repositioned away from the base of the launch ramp. In his rush to launch he had forgotten about it. Paying no heed to the flight, the steam engineers had arrived and had started it up to move it back to their hangars. The timing was terrible.

The little steam car bounced its way down the col until it was nearly directly ahead, then weirdly, it turned to drive directly toward him. It seemed that the driver was looking down at the temperature and pressure gauges on the dashboard, rather than ahead across what should have been an empty field—empty except for one aero machine.

Jacques considered whether he could attempt a quick landing before he reached the steam car. He quickly discarded the idea. He was still too fast. If he attempted that, he would certainly crash. As low as he was, if he attempted a turn, he would catch a wing and cartwheel the aero machine across the field. There were no other options—he would have to fly over it. However, la Cigogne didn’t seem to want to climb anymore. He had to get enough altitude to fly over it—so he would descend the last few feet to gain speed, and then pitch up sharply at the last instant. Maybe, if he did it just right, he could clear the steam car’s smokestack and push the nose over to land immediately beyond.

Almost as if in response to some whispered curse from the approaching steam car, his rotary motor issued a loud bang. A puff of black smoke followed, then a wisp of white. He was almost to the steam car—probably within earshot of the damn language these machines seemed to speak to one another!

He felt his power drop off even as he was hauling back on the control stick to arc the nose upward. He reached for the fuel valve and gave it a hard twist to increase the fuel flow. He hoped to cool the spark plugs with the richer mixture—that might just keep the engine running long enough.

It was exactly the wrong thing to have done.

A leaner mixture of fuel and air would have been better. For those precious seconds, the engine would have run hotter and burned off the sludge accumulating on the spark plugs before giving up the ghost for good.

Nonetheless, for a half second, the richer mixture did have a positive effect, as the added oil caused his engine to smooth out, though the extra fuel began to spray out from the spinning cylinders onto the aero machine and into the air in all directions.

There was more to the engine problem than just the fouled spark plugs—something in the crankcase had started to break and come apart. With the pressures of five cylinders ramming it around and the weight of the rotary engine itself as a flywheel of sorts, the stresses on the iron were beyond the skills of the blacksmith.

Merde, he cursed.

Would the engine hold long enough to get over the car? Responding to his pull on the stick and by momentum alone, the aero machine lifted skyward to crest over the steam car, the lower wing taking off the smokestack near the top. Without its full engine power, Jacques felt that la Cigogne was no longer as light and graceful in his hands as it had been. A new vibration suddenly shook the whole machine. Jacques knew the signs. One of the engine’s five cylinders had completely fouled and missed on each stroke.

His rudder pedals felt suddenly mushy and loose under his feet. The nose of the aero machine was pointed too high, and la Cigogne seemed to be hanging there, pointing to the skies high above. He had the feeling of balancing the plane on a knife edge. He could feel his wing stalling and knew that he would soon be heading downward. The stick began to shake in his hand. The Demon of the Stall had arrived.

Suddenly, the nose skewed to the right even if la Cigogne stayed pointed skyward. Would the machine flip over to the right? No, Jacques reasoned, he didn’t have the height for that. As it was, he had just barely cleared the steam car. He rammed the stick forward as the steam car flashed the rest of the way underneath. La Cigogne clambered for its final few feet of altitude.

He had seen a glider once suffer a Stall Demon with the nose high and then fall off on a wing into an upside-down spin. There was no surviving that.

What was supposed to have been a brief flight straight ahead, shutting down and landing, had turned into him pressing his luck. He had made a unthinking mistake, seduced by the feeling of flight that la Cigogne had given him. In his mind’s eye, he knew that he could have simply cut power and landed soon after take off, before making his first turn. He hadn’t even thought of it, so consumed was he by the feeling that the aero machine had given him as it skimmed along and climbed under its own power.

That feeing had been something new and different, to accelerate and climb, rather than settle as he slowed and descended as always was the case in a glider. When the engine had produced enough power to fly, he had simply gone with it. Then, he had had to turn to stay over the field, but that had carried him over the trees instead. Step by step, he had signed his own crash certificate by making decisions, unthinkingly and without even a tiny shred of reflection.

One thing had led to another, and suddenly Jacques realized that he would be lucky just to survive.



The Crash


The driver saw him just then. Jacques caught a glimpse of the startled look as his face turned up from the dashboard at his aero machine as he passed overhead.

He cleared the top of the man’s head by mere inches. The falling smokestack from the steam car, however, did not. It crashed directly on top of the driver.

Jacques didn’t have time to look back at the damage done. He let the stick edge forward slightly, hoping to avoid the Stall. If he could bring the nose down, then even trading a few feet for speed would give him advantage enough to land.

His attempt at control, however, seemed to be an empty hope. The nose of the aero machine was still pointed upward too steeply. Without enough forward speed, the controls gave little effect to the direction la Cigogne seemed to have chosen for itself. All Jacques could see forward was the blue of the sky. The aero machine seemed to be hanging in the air, almost as if stopped in place.

Despite having pushed the stick forward, the nose didn’t fall at all. The aero machine simply hung there pointed upward as Jacques struggled with the rudder pedals, mashing them side to side to keep it from rolling off on its wing. Incredibly, he held it there almost motionless, the nose pointed upward and the tail hanging off the ground.

For an instant, Jacques thought that he could just let it slide backward into the ground to a safe landing. His hopes, however, were dashed when one of the exhaust pipes on the engine tore away. A sharp explosion belched fire from within the engine itself out the left side of the aero machine. A cloud of white smoke kicked from the open ports as the cylinder rings burned out—the sweep of the propeller drove it backward and past him so he could still see, but to all those watching, it seemed as if la Cigogne suddenly was hidden in a cloud of white smoke.

The aero machine’s forward speed was completely exhausted. The engine seemed to claw at the air with the last gasp of remaining power. The spinning of the rotary engine had enough momentum to keep the propeller turning, but it also meant that the gyroscopic effect took hold and the machine twisted hard to the right, flipping sideways. Jacques rammed the left rudder pedal to the bottom of the cockpit, nearly breaking it off its post. It had no effect. What felt like minutes to Jacques of hanging in the air had been mere seconds.

The nose pulled down and to the right. Despite throwing the control stick all the way to the left, he couldn’t stop the aero machine from twisting its way down. With no airspeed, the ailerons were useless. With a sickening shriek, the engine seized just as the nose dropped suddenly toward the ground.

Jacques’ final scream—”Merde!“—could be heard in the instant between when the engine stopped and the aero machine crashed to earth. As Jacques had predicted, the spinning rotary engine pulled the aero machine onto its side and attempted to flip the plane into the ground. With more altitude, he would have hit upside-down. From this height, mere meters off the grass, the aero machine only managed to twist sideways into a ninety-degree bank before hitting the ground.

The propeller and engine hit first, flinging the tail sideways over the top. Strapped in tightly, Jacques, who might have benefitted from being thrown clear, was instead tossed like a rag doll in the seat. His face smashed into the front lining of the cockpit rail, knocking him unconscious.

Both right wings tore off, bending backward against the cables and spars between the wings.

The fuselage ripped into two parts, severing the engine off at the firewall.

Luckily, the hot engine and propeller had impacted into the dirt of the field and stuck fast. The rest of the fuselage cartwheeled past and came to rest on its side, the left pair of wings still attached. The rest of the fuselage, on its side, slid forward across the grass with what little momentum it had generated from being flipped sideways into the ground. The fuel and oil tanks atop the center part of the wing were torn partly free, and the piping sprayed the remaining precious fuel out onto the grass. There wasn’t much, thankfully, as the aero machine had only had enough fuel on board for a few minutes of run-up and flight and most of that had been used up.

Finally, the remains of la Cigogne skidded to a stop in a shower of dirt, grass, and small rocks.





The smell of fuel brought Jacques back to consciousness. Where was he? For precious seconds, he couldn’t remember what he was doing. Then he recognized a part of the broken upper wing and the wooden struts in front of the cockpit. He was in the new biplane. He glanced around. He had crashed. He was jammed in the cockpit, held fast by the seat belt. The smell of fuel was overpowering.

He had to get out; if the spreading petrol vapors got as far as the hot engine, the gasoline could catch fire. The side of his head hurt. He could hear the sound of the steam car nearby, rapidly approaching, though not at a high pitch. He reached down into his right boot and pulled out a knife, one of the few things that he always brought along when he flew.

With a quick cut, he slit the seat belt harness. He was free. He tried to pull himself up and out with his left hand but couldn’t move it. He dropped the knife and dragged himself clear with his right arm, pulling his body out of the fuselage. He grabbed at the dirt and pulled himself steadily away from the wreck, one fistful of dirt at a time.

He could hear the clanging of the airfield’s six-horse fire wagon running hell for leather across the grass from the hangar toward him. The steam car hurtled past and started to drive up the col. Smoke belched from its boiler, the stack having been torn away. The driver was missing from the seat, perhaps knocked out of the car when the smokestack had come down.

Meter by meter, Jacques dragged and pulled himself away from the wreck.

Then the wreckage ignited. To protect himself, Jacques covered his face with his right arm. It was good enough. His leather flying suit blocked much of the heat. With the flames so close by, he continued scrabbling along, now in a panic. La Cigogne was no more—all that effort, all that research, all of the hours spent building it, were lost. And what had they learned from the effort? Almost nothing, he realized, except . . .

As the fire wagon pulled up to the flaming wreck, it was clear that there was no saving the biplane. Yet Jacques was there, and the crew ran to him.

He kicked himself mentally. How could he have messed it up so badly? Merde, merde, merde, MERDE!

There was no use replaying the events, but he knew he would do it a hundred times before nightfall. Ultimately, what could he have done differently? It seemed comical to even think of it. He suddenly felt like an idiot. He was the best of the pilots and he would likely be grounded, maybe even permanently.

Merde, merde, merde . . .

He pulled himself up to a sitting position and felt that his left arm had gone numb and limp. Was it broken? He felt at it. There were no sharp pains. No broken bones. The pains were all dull. Was it just the shock from the impact that had left it temporarily numb? Could he already feel it recovering?

Suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, the fire wagon team’s medical officer was beside him, checking him over for injuries. Jacques waved him away and tried to stand. It was no good —he lost his balance and settled back to the ground. He would have to take his time, but at least he would avoid the surgeons, with all that that might entail. Surgeons were dangerous. At least the medical officer was decent enough to offer him a skin of water, which Jacques gratefully accepted.

As he calmed himself, one of the fire crew unharnessed the lead horse and rode back toward the hangar. No doubt the man would be summoning a recovery crew to pull the engine from the flaming wreck to hopefully save it. He didn’t have the heart to tell them that the engine was already destroyed, a casualty of its own operation. Already the fires were burning lower. Most of the remaining fuel and much of the wood and fabric were gone. They would probably let it burn out. Nothing was recoverable, anyway.

He resigned himself to trust his body to the fire wagon crew. They picked him up and loaded him onto the back of the wagon. At least he wouldn’t be taken in on the back of the steam car, he mused, as he remembered the look on the driver’s face just before he cleared it. As he glanced around, he realized that beside him, unmoving, was the body of the steam car’s driver with a badly burned face, and a split in his skull was leaking cooked brains from the impact of the smokestack.

Over the sound of the horses, he heard the voice of one of the designers saying from atop the hill, “He was landing it, perfectly, but the steam car rammed him—I saw it myself!”

Then he was on the way, his numb body atop the fire wagon as the five remaining horses pulled steadily back to the hangar. It had been a bad day, on balance, and it seemed hard to think that anything else could yet happen. The steam car driver had had the worst of it, though Jacques felt it hard to feel bad for the man, even if the man had died for his sins. What kind of idiot drives without looking where he was going?

He knew that his many mistakes had somehow been missed by those who had watched. They were blaming his crash all on the steam car. Those who had watched the flight knew, as he did too, that if not for the steam car, he would have landed it perfectly right at the base of the col.

He couldn’t help but smile. He remembered something else he had read in the books at Grantville: Any landing you could walk away from was a good landing. He knew, too, that les filles would be waiting to nurse him back to health.



That Evening


The party that night was loud and rowdy and lasted until dawn. He had flown and lived to walk away. No pink paint and wings stencil would be needed, at least not yet.

The commandant had come to the tavern to give a speech, in which he stated that from this point forward, all steam cars would be banished forever from the flying fields. Further, he vowed to go to Paris and demand they move the steam car research to another station. “This,” he had said with great solemnity, “is the final straw!”

Jacques let the steam cars take the blame for the accident, though he knew in his heart that he shared much of it. He consoled himself in knowing that, as he expected, les filles were indeed very happy to see him again. They were making their feelings very clear and just as dawn broke, two of them—Claire and Martine together—volunteered to help him upstairs to get to bed.

At least he remembered both their names. . . .

The next day, Jacque woke with a splitting headache and a groan. Claire snuggled into his right side with her head pillowed on his shoulder and arm. He sought to brush the hair from her face to kiss her awake. He tried to move his left arm, and it brought a loud yelp of sharp pain. It remained numb and painful.

“I was right!” Claire said. “You are hurt. We must take you to the surgeon.”

“Nonsense,” Jacques told the pouting face just inches from his own.

Martine looked up from the shared pillow to his left and lifted the covers. “Your arm is badly bruised and swollen. Claire is right. You must see the surgeon.”

“But . . .”

“No buts, lover boy.” Martine cut off his protest. “We will feed you breakfast, but after that, you are going to the infirmary.”

After a short meal, Jacques was hustled over for some overdue medical care. The surgeon took one look at his left arm and nodded. “Lift it over your head for me, please.”

Jacque tried and yelped. Then he gritted his teeth and slowly tried again. When his elbow was shoulder high tears streamed down his face, and the doctor said, “Enough. Let us put the arm in a sling and look at it again in a month. I suspect it could be three months before you have full use of it again.”

The commandant’s response to the news that his best pilot was grounded was to send one of his better researchers back to Grantville to make proper use of his down time. He would need a nurse, so Claire was assigned to travel with him.



A Return to Grantville


Odette Moillon chatted with Claire in the large upstairs private dining room at the Thuringen Gardens, the third Thursday of the month being the date set aside for French Night. The Gardens did a solid business in dinners and drinks to the various expatriate groups that accumulated in Grantville. It helped to fill the private dining rooms on weekdays. People came to use their mother tongue, talk about home, and network problems and needs.

“So, what brings you and your husband to Grantville?” Odette asked one of the questions most frequently asked of new arrivals. The two women could pass for cousins or even sisters. Both were petite brunettes with high cheekbones and straight noses.

Claire hid a smile. They were traveling under the masquerade of being married. They both were getting their contracted salaries and an allowance for travel.

“We came to see what the doctors here made of Jacques’ problem with his left arm.”

“Oh, I would have guessed that you were here to gather information for a business party back home. The government spies are always single men. They never come in mixed pairs.”

“We are not government spies,” Claire answered sharply.

“Well, if you aren’t, then don’t give any reason for being here other than import-export or research because with any other reason people will assume you are spies. Come to think of it, don’t give any other reason even if you are spies. Well, you can claim you’re fleeing persecution or legal problems, but you’re attending the Calvinist church, so it isn’t persecution, at least not yet. And hiding out isn’t something one admits to.”

“Are there a lot of spies?” Claire asked.

“At least three different French groups right now. Richelieu’s people are still here for now, though we are all wondering how much longer their funding will last. The new king has people here. And then the third group might be spies or might just be thieves; we’re not sure. So far the police haven’t been able to nail them, as the locals put it. But whether they are spies or just thieves, everyone is sure they’re involved in mischief. They just can’t prove it. But none of them come around for French Night. They try to act like they’re invisible, but everybody knows who they are.”

“We’re here to find out some mechanical information and buy some supplies for my husband’s employer. But we thought we should be quiet about that.”

“Oh, there’s no need for that, Claire. They encourage foreign researchers.”

“What brought your family here?”

“We came to Germany on an annual buying trip for paintings. For years we bought good quality paintings in Germany for next to nothing and stocked a gallery in Paris to supplement what the family painted. But because of Grantville, the prices have shot up through the roof, and instead, we’ve started importing cheap paintings from Paris to sell here. We’re sending home flip books and a sparkling white wine that is selling very well back home. And then my sister Louysa is selling everything she paints in the oldest of the local galleries, and so far, they have been hanging what we import on consignment. My husband Pierre is studying photography. What sort of thing will you be buying for your husband’s business?”

“Spark plugs,” Claire replied without thinking.

“So, someone back home is working on gasoline engines?”

Claire blanched, realizing that she had just given away something important.

“If he’s buying spark plugs there isn’t really anything else to do with them. But the good news is no one cares. He can buy them new at the hardware store now since someone started a shop making them. Are you doing research, too?”

“No, I don’t read,” Clair replied, thankful that the subject had changed.

“What are you doing with your days while he’s in the library?”

Claire sighed. “Not much. That’s why I’m here. I spend a lot of my time at the market in the park talking to vendors to work on the English that I’m still learning.”

“Well if you can talk to the vendors, you can wait tables. You need to talk to Melle. Maybe she can help you get a job where she works.” Odette turned and called out to a red-headed lass, “Melle! Hey, Melle! Come here and meet Claire.”



At the Library


One morning someone dropped a book on the table where Jacques was reading. Jacques looked up. A short, dark-haired Italian met his gaze and said in passable French. “I’m finished taking notes. You need to look at the section with the book marker. It’s got some good details on planes with the engine behind the pilot. That helps with the balance if you’re using a heavier underpowered motor. You don’t have all that weight in the nose.”

Jacques turned pale.

“What? You didn’t think anybody was noticing which books you were working your way through or that you were here once before a couple of years ago?” the man continued calmly, his eyes flashing a slight inquisitiveness that Jacques felt was none too welcome.

Jacques said quietly, “I was hoping no one noticed.”

“Oh, you’ve been noticed alright. Trust me. You’re French, so they’re keeping an eye on you to make sure all you are doing is research.”

“What else would I be doing?”

“You might be part of the group that is shipping stolen property, back to France.”

“Someone’s doing that?”

Oui, at least until they can prove it.” The Italian extended his hand. “Guido Rossi.”

Jacques stood and shook hands.

“I think,” Guido said, “you will find the article about turning the motor around to push from behind instead of pulling from the nose interesting. I ask nothing in return for my help, really, except that if you turn up anything you think is new or interesting, I would appreciate it if you called on me.”



The Grantville Police Station


“How’s that new Frenchman shaping up?” the young detective asked.

“So far he looks clean,” replied the older of the two, though the older man was a police sergeant and technically junior. “He brought his wife along, so he doesn’t fit the profile, and he spends all day every day in the library. He did get drunk one night, and the two of them snuck out to the airfield where he added a name to the list of dead pilots. But other than that, he seems legit. Everything he has had sent back to France are just things that he has bought and paid for. He used the regular commercial mail. As a matter of fact, he’s spending so much time in the library, I feel sorry for his wife.”

“Don’t worry about that,” commented the young detective, “I made sure someone mentioned French Night to her. I’m waiting to hear back. If she comes, we’ll find out more.”


WWJD Is The Wrong Question

Early June, 1637, Grantville


Mouthful of dirt, seasoned with blood.

“Owwwwww . . .” Alyse Glazer blinked, trying to remember the last time she’d fallen off a horse. The horse in question stumbled, dodging something Alyse couldn’t see, and grazed a steel-shod hoof along Alyse’s ribs. The bay filly kept going, but Alyse lost her breath again. Shoving against the fairgrounds livestock arena’s hoof-chewed ground to stand up sent what felt like hot irons through Alyse’s ribs; pain flowed up so fast and hard it felt like lightning torching open a South Texas summer thunderstorm.

Sobrina mia querida,” Uncle Matteo’s voice, as warm a lilt in Tex-Mex Spanish as it had been the day she turned thirteen and fell off the first horse he’d given her a leg up on, murmured in her memory. “Coger el caballo  . . . catch the horse, volver a la montura . . . get back in the saddle. Otherwise the horse will know you can be thrown, and you’ll be afraid he’ll do it again. Don’t let him get the better of you.”

One more time, she pushed against the ground to rise, failing. Alyse slid down, breathing out, right shoulder just not working. “Ayudame, por favor.

If the apprentice couriers heard her raspy almost-whisper, they didn’t appear to understand the words. Hurt, though . . . that, they could savvy clearly enough. Well, here and now how easy a fall off a horse could cripple or even kill a rider wouldn’t be exotic knowledge, Alyse thought. But she’d fallen in front of a baker’s dozen folks supposed to learn what Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño called working miracles with horses. Yesterday she and Rafael de Treviño had taken turns giving standard demonstrations without incident, showing their new apprentices tricks of the trade. Today she’d been supposed to demonstrate brush-country cattle-working skills. But now . . . the teacher couldn’t even stand back up after falling off a horse. That rankled more: she’d fallen, not been thrown. The blaze-faced bay hadn’t bucked. The filly hadn’t even shied.

Una ambulancia,” she tried again. Puzzled faces stared at her. Half the class clustered around, offering to lift her to her feet. “¡Traiga Luis, por favor—andale!

The smallest, blondest boy in class looked dawned-on, turned, and sprinted toward the fairgrounds office. At least he knew who to look for and where to start, she thought. Bueno.

“See what spoiling animals gets you!” a voice said somewhere behind her. Gerhard Rutger, always arguing how much better brute force worked. The stocky twenty-something with the half-sneer habitually fixed on his bearded face added, “Teacher.”

He said it like that wanna-be tough guy’d said “Bitch,” a universe ago, right after Alyse’s Appaloosa fell over the rope he’d jerked across a warm-up alley before the barrel-race quarter-finals her junior year. Once Alyse knew for sure that Sport hadn’t been hurt in the fall, she’d come unwound. She’d just kept planting the hijo de puta back down face-first into the dirt and muck in the pen-alley until he ran out of get-back-up that day. Well before that, his friends had quit calling her, or the spotted horse she’d ridden, names.

“You need to do that again,” Tio Matteo’s ghostly presence suggested from somewhere in her memory, “with this chotacabras, Rutger.”

But she couldn’t. For one thing, she wasn’t seventeen any more. That fight had cost her a much-coveted rodeo scholarship when the one hundred fifty dollar fine kept her from entering any events in the last half of the semester. Alyse never had considered that price too high for keeping stupid adolescent boys from putting Sport in danger, though.

For another thing, her uncle Matteo didn’t live in this universe, even all the way around the world in South Texas. Alyse missed that life more every day, stuck in the middle of the Thirty Years War, trying to keep a roof overhead and food on the table. Sometimes, she felt more like she managed her successes in spite of, rather than with help from, the husband whose new job in West Virginia had brought them to Grantville the summer before the Ring fell.

Matteo’s presence faded as her breathing came back to normal. Alyse pushed against the ground again, intending to scramble to her feet, and pain whited out her mind. She gave up trying to stand up.

“I told you—’ Rutger started to sneer.

Cállate!” That hadn’t been the right thing to say. Here and now a woman had to speak German, or some dialect of it, to be understood. Nobody spoke the quick-liquid border Spanish she’d grown up with or wanted to bother learning it. Alyse felt exactly the same way about Early Modern German; she heard nothing but its misbegotten flavors every day, here and now. Biting off a yelp, she pushed her other elbow into the dirt. Her ribs hurt like fire. Her shoulder . . . just didn’t work.

“Teacher,” Rutger repeated, his voice almost gloating. “These horses are spoiled. They need beating to break their bad habits!”

Alyse froze. If he mistreated the badly frightened filly she’d fallen off of now . . .”No!”

Sturdy youngsters coalesced around their fractious classmate. Another voice—one she’d known for just over a year now—sliced through the chatter, in proper Catalan. “¿Qué ha pasado? What’s happened?”

Me caí de la caballa,” Alyse answered in raspy Tex-Mex. “I fell off.”

¿Se cayo porque?” Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño—her not-so-silent partner in the courier service business—pelted from the office, vaulting the rail fence.

“What made you fall?” Right behind him, nearly under tow by the blond boy, came Luis Ybarra.

Rafael de Treviño stopped two strides away, swept down to lift something, and one-handed her heavy stock saddle, raising it to eye-level. “¡La cincha saltó y Alyse Glazer cayó de la caballa!

That explained how the horse’s quick half-spin separated Alyse, along with the saddle, from its back. Her head and body hurt so much, Alyse could hardly think. Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño, however, had no such impediments. “¿Por qué rompió? Está dañado. Alguien lo cortó.”

“Señor Rafael de Treviño says,” a voice sang out in Amideutsch, “Miz Glaser fell because her saddle is damaged. Someone cut her cinch.” Now Luis knelt at Alyse’s shoulder, cradling her head against his knee with what remained of his right arm. “Aly—Miz Glazer, are you hurt?”

Alyse licked her lips—a mistake, as the salty taste of bloody cow-pen dirt filled her mouth all over again—and tried to answer. All her words still came in Spanish. “I think I broke my collarbone, and the filly busted my ribs when I couldn’t get out of the way.”

“Can you tell me in English?” Luis hovered, eyebrows drawn together into one heavy line straight above a bright-liquid dark-hazel eye, faintly-freckled nose and a fist-sized black eye patch.

“No.” Alyse gave up all pretense. “I can’t remember the words . . . ”

“All right. I heard you.”

He spoke Tex-Mex as easily as Amideutsch, or English, for that matter. Alyse had come to love Luis like the baby brother she’d never had in the three years since he’d turned up in the hospital, a Wartburg survivor with no more notion of how to go home than money to get there on, still recovering from having lost his eye and hand and half his forearm to napalm. He’d only remembered having one name: Luis. He wanted to make prosthetics for his fellow survivors, so he taught himself to read English and German and started on Latin. Without him her houseful of very young children probably would have starved, because they’d have tied her too closely to hearth and crib for her to work. Without what she’d earned and bartered, she could not have kept them fed and housed and clothed during the years her husband served in the war or, after that, a fledgling government far from Grantville. Without Luis, she knew, none of this could have been possible.

“Now tell me,” he said, “where you hurt.”

Alyse sucked back breath. “All over,” she answered in Spanish. “Call an ambulance? Please?”

Black-haired Luis Ybarra straightened, gathering the apprentices via gimlet gaze. “Bobby, go back to the office. Dial nine-one-one. Tell the operator we need an ambulance and police at the fairgrounds in the working pens. Run!”

Roberto “Bobby” Cardonez—the same small blond boy—didn’t wait to nod; he leapt from where he’d been crouched at Alyse’s knees and landed sprinting. “Yes, Luis!”

Alyse caught her boarder’s sleeve. “Listen, Luis—this isn’t that filly’s fault. I don’t know how, and I can’t prove anything, but I’m sure Rutger’s to blame.”

“Don’t let it worry you,” Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño nodded brusquely. “Luis, we’ll handle this. Just take care of our Alyse.” Rafael de Treviño had a muscular wiriness, like Luis, and a face full of fury. He had, also like Luis, a deep abiding affection for Alyse—not the love he felt for his wife or daughters, but respect, and a strong sense of kinship born of long hard hours’ work together. “We have all the time in the world to see justice finds this criminal—and we’ll see it. I swear on my oath as Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño.”

Luis shook his head, turning to the apprentices. He added in rapid-fire Amideutsch, “Don’t let Rutger fool you, boys. He’s not to be trusted.”

Rafael de Treviño switched to Amideutsch too. “Leave that horse alone, Augustus! Give her room to calm down. You and Odell . . .” He addressed the biggest two apprentices after Rutger. “. . . hold your classmate, there. He must not handle that horse or this saddle, and he must not leave. Understand?”

“I told you . . . ” Rutger began blusteringly.

“No,” Alyse interrupted clearly, “No me dices. No eres jefe aquí!

Luis growled, staring over Alyse’s head toward the damaged saddle. Meanwhile, Alyse’s partner led the circle closing in on Rutger. He backed away, step after step, until the rails of the pens stopped him. The circle tightened.

Alyse swallowed tears of relief, holding still as she could manage. A wail of sirens and a thunder of diesels arrived: Grantville’s Fire Department had sent an ambulance. A quarter-mile or so behind came the police.



Six weeks later


“You’re kidding,” Powell Glazer said. “First you disobey me, then expect me not just to pay your hospital bills but to give my blessing to a harebrained vigilante search? You can’t even prove the horses were stolen, let alone who took them!”

“I’m not. The only other person who saw what happened this morning is Luis,” Alyse answered. “I’m a partner in the school, in the business. The horses are as much mine as the hospital bills. My responsibility—you told me that yourself.”

“Call the police,” Powell snapped, “It’s their job.”

“I could,” she lifted her eyes. “But the law’s got more chores than it’s got hands to work on already.”

“You’ve nearly been killed for this foolish notion that a woman can do a man’s work,” Powell went on, face growing redder as his anger built. “This isn’t Texas. We’re not in 2000. Your responsibilities are right there in our house, with the children.”

“Doc Adams says I’m as good as I ever was,” Alyse nearly spat back. “Cracked my collarbone, and hit my head, and took a couple days before I got a good hold of everyday lingo back. Doesn’t change what needs doing or who’s handy for doing it, Powell.”

“You have small children—” His voice broke.

“The kids are used to Luis looking after them while I’m working,” she said, utterly unfazed. “If anything comes up Luis can’t handle, he can call Claudette . . . if you don’t want to be bothered.”

Pastor’s wife Claudette Green looked uneasy. Alyse knew husbands and wives usually asked Al Green to counsel them, but Alyse had developed a trust in Claudette during Powell’s long absences.

In a gentle voice, Claudette intervened from a spiritual angle. “The question’s not just about the horses. It’s not even about whose job it should be to find them and get them back. The question’s what example you’re setting. Ask yourself, Alyse: What would Jesus do?”

Alyse stood, straight-backed, shoulders set, eyes ablaze. “Back home,” she said in a very quiet voice, “I could give you chapter and verse. But here and now, there’s a better question.”

Claudette raised her eyebrows. “What question?”

“What would Adam Cartwright do?”

Powell said hotly, “A character in a television show? That show wasn’t even about Texas! You can’t seriously believe a character in a TV show is a better role model than Christ.”

“Who?” Claudette asked, visibly startled by Powell’s sudden reaction.

Alyse leaned on her bootheels. “My patience has limits.”

“You’re long past mine!” Powell snapped. “Your homesick-for-Texas nonsense has no place in this world. Texas isn’t what you remember. It never will be in this universe. You can’t go back there, no matter how much you wish you could. Wishing for what you can’t have is just childish, Alyse. You’re not a child any more. You’re supposed to respect my wishes.”

Alyse set her jaw, clenched her fists against her hips, and . . . said nothing, turning her back to him. Every line of her body shouted outrage.

Claudette tried to broker peace once more. “You’re right, Powell. She is supposed to respect your wishes. But you’re supposed to respect her work, too. She’s been everything Proverbs teaches us a godly wife should be. She had to keep herself and your children out of the poorhouse somehow. This home she’s made, these friends and partnerships she’s built, are worthwhile. They’re also not yours to brush off as though they don’t matter.”

“The Bible says . . .” he started, as if to impose his manly authority on both women.

“That a husband should cherish his wife as Christ cherishes the church,” Claudette answered firmly, paraphrasing a verse Alyse had reminded her of during one of their earlier conversations.

Disbelief warred with outrage across Powell Glazer’s ordinarily very handsome face. “That the husband is the head of the house, as Christ is the head of the church,” he answered icily, several seconds later. “The woman owes him obedience.”

Alyse shrugged. “Yes, provided he behaves as a proper husband ought to.”

His blue eyes turned cold as ice. “What are you accusing me of?”

“No one’s accusing you, Powell. But what does your conscience say?”

Glazer unfolded from the chair he’d straddled backwards and took a long step toward Alyse, raising his left hand as though to deliver a slap in response to her disrespect. What took over then Alyse would never know, but she spun inside his blow and blocked it on her forearm. Claudette caught Powell’s other hand, now clenched into a fist, in both of hers.

“This is not what you want to do, Powell,” she said. “This is not how a godly man treats his wife.”

He shook the pastor’s wife off roughly, blue eyes colder still as he glared at Alyse, still standing inside his reach. “This is not how a godly wife behaves.”

Claudette reached for the telephone. Alyse planted herself between the furious man and her best friend.

“Yes, this is Claudette Green. I need the police. We’re in the Mountaintop Institute office. There’s been an assault, and it looks like there might be another one any minute.” Glazer spun on his heel and strode out, slamming the door. Claudette went on, “Powell Glazer. He went tearing out of here like his hair’s on fire. No, not like Bryant Holloway. I called so it wouldn’t get that far,” Claudette told someone over the phone.

Alyse watched, one eyebrow raised, as Claudette set the instrument back in its cradle. The pastor’s wife sighed. “Well, that’s torn it, girl.”

Alyse quirked a half-smile, then nodded. “It about has.”

“So who is Adam Cartwright?” Claudette asked.

“Oh,” Alyse said. “Didn’t you ever watch Bonanza?”

“Didn’t that show come on Sunday nights?”

Alyse righted the chair Powell had left overturned. She sat down with a nod. “But I remember it from after school, out on the ranch with Mom’s family. That was where we lived after Dad’s plane disappeared, somewhere between Vandenberg and Eielson.”

Claudette reached out toward her. “I didn’t know . . .”

“I was in fifth grade,” Alyse said. “Got pulled out of class for the principal to tell me.”

“That must have been a shock.”

“Not as much as the ranch turned out to be.” Alyse’s eyes got a faraway look, remembering. “Tio Matteo took us to town one Saturday a month, on payday. We listened to church, the cattle markets, and sometimes music on his radio. We brought our TV with us, but the stations were all a long way off, and it took awhile before we got an antenna. Once we had it up, we’d do homework listening to Big Valley or Wagon Train.”

Claudette raised her eyebrows. “So why Adam Cartwright, particularly?”

“The closest station put Bonanza on, starting from the beginning,” Alyse said. “I’d always liked Nick Barkley and Flint McCullough. But that year I noticed . . . Adam Cartwright was the best-looking man in the whole wide world.”

Claudette nodded, saying nothing.

Alyse slanted a half-embarrassed look up from under her eyebrows at her friend. “All of the cowboys on TV could ride, and fight, and shoot; but Adam . . . read, a lot. He didn’t always have to fight somebody to solve problems. He could explain things and build things. He played guitar, and he could sing like an angel, and he could ride any horse ever foaled, and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.”

Claudette looked puzzled. “What on earth made you think that way? I mean, you weren’t a boy.”

“Girls always die at the end,” Alyse said.

Claudette shared a rueful grin with her, and then both of them looked a little sad before the pastor’s wife agreed, “I wouldn’t want to die at the end, either.”

Alyse sighed. “Always looked like guys had way more interesting things to do. So that’s what I wanted to learn. I guess havin’ my uncles think a little curly-haired girl looked cute on a man-size horse or lending a hand during the spring work spoiled me. By the time I’d outgrown lookin’ cute, I’d turned out to be a good enough barrel racer to try for a college scholarship.”

“So you lived on a working ranch, growing up.” The pastor’s wife looked thoughtful. “Who taught you to fight? I saw what you did, when Powell went to slap you. Somebody taught you that.”

“Sally McQuade was my best friend in grade school. Her dad taught us both, so the boys couldn’t beat us up on the playground. Taught us how to shoot, too, the year before we lost my Dad and had to move.” The Texan shook her head. “I’m not a competition-grade shooter like Marshal Archie Mitchell is or Sally and her dad were, but I learned on Smith and Wesson revolvers and Colt-made rifles. Your muscles remember.”

“Not mine!” Never having had to learn any such thing, Claudette rapped her knuckles on the table. “Come to think of it, that’s not all I don’t know—if you want Greta to take those weekly shipments of tamales to the farmer’s market, you’d better fix some and put in the freezer.”

“There’s six batches in the big freezer in the kitchen, and Greta knows to check with you if they run out.” Alyse rolled her shoulders and stood up as a police car pulled into the parking lot. “I put up a couple pints of pico de gallo while I was making sauce for the tamales. If you need more before I get back, Luis can show you the recipes. He makes pretty good biscuits. The hens are laying, too. All the sausage I’ve got left is venison, though.”

“We’ve got enough canned goods for a few weeks, if you’re gone that long. I’ll make sure the kids get by.”

“I appreciate this, Claudette,” the Texan said. “Honest.”

The pastor’s wife tilted her head, studying her friend. “So, what would Adam Cartwright do?”

“What’s right,” Alyse answered. “Same as I aim to. Maybe not what Jesus would. I’ll answer for that, too.” She glanced at the front door. A uniformed man’s knock vied with the ring of her bootheels as she headed out through the back. “I better get started.”


Nearly three weeks later, Claudette’s phone rang one late afternoon. “Just wanted to let you know I got home,” Alyse Glazer’s voice said when the pastor’s wife picked up. “I guess what’ll come next’ll be some sort of trial. Seein’ nobody died, and I got the horses he stole back, I guess they’ll try him in Judge Maurice Tito’s court.”



Mid-September, Magdeburg Courthouse


“And please tell the court, who are you?”

“Luis Ybarra,” he answered firmly.

“Luis Ybarra,” the questioner, a man named John Bradshaw, repeated. “Tell the court what you do and where you live, please.”

“A student at Grantville Technical and a boarder with Alyse Ballantine Glazer.” That, Luis thought, ought to cover it. Nobody needed to know who he had been, after all, before. “I work as a secretary to the Federal Express delivery company.”


Alyse had offered him that name—her Tio Matteo’s—upon discovering he remembered but one of his own, early in his new life, while he recovered from the Wartburg, after being brought to Grantville as either a prisoner of war or a casualty; Luis hadn’t really sorted out the differences before he’d met her at the Refugee Center. She’d been introduced as someone who knew Spanish but wasn’t a soldier and not connected with the disastrous Wartburg overnight siege. For a boy rising fourteen, that night had been more than terrifying enough. What happened afterward . . . he didn’t want to fall down that rabbit-hole here and now, in a courtroom with people watching his face as he answered their questions.

“Ybarra.” He spelled it.

“Where are you from?”


“Ybarra is not a name in the Grantville records,” the questioner—a youngish fellow with a strangely lilting voice—said. “So where are you from, Sir? You must have traveled here from somewhere?”

Traveled here? In a wagon, with half-a-dozen others, survivors judged fit to spend days and nights hauled behind a . . . tractor? . . . from the still-smoking ruins of a massacre lit with Greek fire . . .  Oh, he’d traveled here, all right. Luis nodded.

“I was an escudero aprendizaje at Cadiz . . . It wasn’t home.” He looked up into the eyes of the man behind the palisaded desk above him. “The maestre de campo . . . set very high standards.”

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen,” he replied firmly. “I think.” The man asking questions looked at him, momentarily—was that expression pitying? Luis straightened just a bit in the wooden chair. “I’ve lived here four years. I graduated high school last May.”

“You are a war veteran?” The questioner asked that in a different tone.  “Were you a soldier?”

“Apprentice to a sergeant in a tercio. We were in a battle, and after the battle we retreated to a fortress on top of a cliff. We . . . were burned out of that place.  I tried to pull the man whose apprentice I was away from that fire . . . They told me he died . . .” The room held silent; a tear ran down Luis’ cheek, beneath his suddenly-glittering brown eye. “I spent some time in the hospital and a few days at the Refugee Center. Miz Glazer hired me from there.”

The man behind the palisaded desk thumped a wooden mallet on a wooden pad. “Fifteen minutes recess,” he said calmly. “Señor Ybarra, when we come back, there will be a few more questions for you. But those questions will be about the day Miz Glazer was injured. Do you think you will be able to answer those questions all right?”



“Lord, Judge, I had no idea . . .”

“You couldn’t’ve, John,” Judge Maurice Tito affirmed solemnly. “It’s so different here—we drafted kids when I’m from, but they were at least eighteen. Here . . . what, a twelve-year-old? Or younger, maybe? And what in the name of righteousness is an apprentice escudero?”

A shrug and headshake. “He’s clearly got some serious post-traumatic stress there, and I purely did not mean to bring that up in court.”

“What’s done can’t be undone. Keep to the day Alyse Glazer got hurt, when we go back in. Do you have her deposition, by the way?”

“I do. It’s recorded in her own voice, too, though we didn’t have a camcorder, just a tape recorder, when we talked to her.”

“That’ll do, but I’ll want a transcript for the record,” Judge Tito said quietly.

“Well, I can introduce that. We made one with the tape, you know.”

“Standard practice. Okay. We’ve got seven minutes left. I’ll see you back in court.” He sighed, looking across the desk in his private office. “I wish that fool had let us get him a defense attorney.”

“Laura Koudsi was the next name on the roster, and he refused to have a woman speak for him,” the attorney answered mildly. “I understand he’s been a fairly hostile prisoner.”

“From what I heard,” His Honor responded, heading for the private restroom adjoining his judicial sanctuary, “that’s an understatement.”


“I was watching the children and catching up on paperwork. Bobby came in saying . . . Miz Glazer . . . had asked for me, because there’d been an accident.” Luis sat nearly as still in the witness chair as if he’d been carved out of granite. “Bobby said she was hurt.”

“Who is Bobby?”

Luis raised his left hand, indicating a small figure in the audience. “Roberto Cardonez. He is apprenticed with us.”

Bobby Cardonez stood up, nodded at Luis, and sat back down. Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño patted the boy’s shoulder from the seat beside him.

“What did he tell you, that day?”

“To come quickly, Miz Glazer needed me.”

“And you went where?”

“With him.” Luis’ voice held sadness. “I never thought to use the phone and call more help. When we got to the working pens, A—Miz Glazer had to ask for that herself.”

“She was able to speak?”


“She sounded to you as though she were in her right mind?”

“Oh, yes. Hurt, and she spoke Spanish only, but nothing had disrupted her thinking. She—and Señor Treviño—were talking pretty clearly. Someone had damaged the cinch on her saddle.”

“What was the significance of the damaged saddle?”

Luis sent a look at Gerhard Rutger that should have melted the defendant in his seat. “Señor Treviño showed us how the cinch had been cut partway through. Alyse’s saddle is very distinctive. She uses it every day when she rides the demonstrations.”

“That’s all the questions I have for this witness.”

“Herr Rutger, have you any cross examination?”

The big blond with the ragged beard stood and spat on the floor. “No. He lies.”

Luis’ hand clenched into a fist. “I do not lie. That apprentice does not respect Miz Glazer. He fights the other students and handles horses too roughly. He is . . . a bully.”

“Your Honor,” Bradshaw said.

“Señor Ybarra,” the man behind the tall desk spoke quietly. “Thank you for your testimony. You’re free to leave the witness box.”

Luis looked up at him. “I have more to say about Rutger. We know . . .”

Rutger leapt to his feet, advancing on the witness box. “Lies! Because I do not spoil stupid animals or give in to the whims of whining children! I do not listen to a silly woman pretending she knows about men’s work! Because I am a man and I act like a man, you resent me!”

“Order in the court! Bailiff—!”

But before the bailiff could intervene Rutger had smashed a fist at Ybarra, hard enough to rock the young man back in the witness chair. Luis moved like a cat, drawing himself onto the chair seat in a crouch before kicking both feet out over the witness box rail. The heels of his Texas-style boots met Rutger’s forehead with a crack like a bat sending a ball four hundred feet over the center field fence into the stands. Instead of throwing the second punch he’d had drawn back, Rutger fell away from the kick, landing on the floor with a thud.

Luis alit outside the box, light as a cat leaping down. He looked at the much larger young man on the floor and spoke so softly the judge, the nearest person, had to strain to hear. His words were neither Italian, Spanish, French, nor Latin, as far as the judge could tell.

“I think his neck is broken, Judge,” Bradshaw said, kneeling beside Rutger on the floor. As Luis braced himself against the witness-box railing, Bradshaw went on, “It’s clearly self-defense, too. The defendant was about to hit the witness again.”

“I think you’re right.” The judge looked at the rigid-backed refugee braced at the railing. “Señor Ybarra,” he said. “We all saw what happened. This is purely self-defense. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the court thanks you for your service. You are dismissed.”

Luis looked up. “Thank you, Your Honor.”

Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño stood. “May I have a moment of the court’s attention?”

“A moment,” the judge allowed. “You have something more for this case?”

“No,” Rafael de Treviño answered. “I think it a separate matter, but Rutger often bragged he would show everyone how stupid and weak Americans are. We found the knife he used to cut the cinch, causing the fall that put Alyse in the hospital.”

“Then,” Luis said, “he ran away, stealing some of the school’s horses.”

“That’s the more you wanted to tell the jury?”

Luis nodded. Stepping up beside him with another nod, Rafael de Treviño put an arm around the younger man’s shoulders, then looked up at the judge.

“If not for Alyse . . . our business could not go on. But we cannot pay her hospital bills. Our company is new and small. The bills are ruinous.” He drew a deep breath. “This was no accident, and while Gerhard Rutger may be beyond reach now, the source of his funds is not. I know who sent him to us and paid his expenses.”

“I understand,” the lawyer called Bradshaw stated. “This court will have a suit to dissolve the Glazer marriage on the docket in a few days, as well.”

Rafael de Treviño gave a purely Spanish shrug. “That also is part of why we seek damages against Rutger’s estate. I don’t see my partner, Alyse Ballantine, able to afford the hospital bills. Once the marriage is dissolved, Mister Glazer certainly will not assist with such debts.”

“I’ll take your concerns under advisement, but I am inclined to agree with you.” The judge glanced at the two men standing, now, with their elbows on the edge of his desk’s palisade. “Costs of the injuries should be borne by the party acting to cause them. Absent direct relief, by that party’s estate.”

“Can you get copies of the information to the court, Señor Treviño?” asked the lawyer. “I’ll be happy to represent your company if you want. I think it’ll be open-and-shut liability for injuries caused.”

“Lord save us lawsuit complications, yes,” muttered the judge, then hammered the gavel onto its target. “We are adjourned.”


The Men From M.A.R.S.: The Martians Are Coming

March, 1636


The droplet formed at the bottom of the clump of snow still tenuously attached to the leaves of the bush Captain Wilhelm Finck of the USE Marines 1st Reconnaissance Company was hiding under. Slowly it grew, until it reached critical size and fell.

Wilhelm flinched as the near freezing drop of water landed on his neck and started its journey down his back. He glanced at his wristwatch. Sunrise wasn’t that far off. “Come on,” he muttered.

“What was that, Captain?” Sergeant Christoph Fels asked from the nearby bush he was hiding under.

“Nothing,” Wilhelm muttered. “I’m just getting impatient.”

“Fabricius and Dinckeler were the right choice, Captain,” Christoph said in a reassuring voice.

Wilhelm had to agree with that. Lance Corporals Johann Fabricius and Albrecht Dinckeler were the two best men he had when it came to skulking in the shadows. “I’m worried about what they might do,” he said. “I should have sent you or Corporal Müller to supervise them.”

“We agreed that any more than two men would significantly increase the risk of discovery, Captain.”

Wilhelm sighed. “But maybe those two shouldn’t have been Fabricius and Dinckeler, Sergeant.”

That was a truth so evident that Sergeant Fels didn’t bother replying.

Moments later they heard faint rustling that didn’t fit with the gentle breeze they could feel. Wilhelm gripped the lead-pellet filled flat sap he was holding tightly and prepared to use it.

“Captain?” Johann Fabricius called in a loud whisper.

Wilhelm relaxed. “Over here,” he called.

“Mission accomplished,” Albrecht “Al” Dinckeler said.

“Did anyone spot you?” Christoph asked.

“Not even a dog, Sarge,” Johann said.

“Good.” It was good because it meant Dinckeler and Fabricius hadn’t needed to use their saps on anyone. He’d been prepared to accept the consequences if they’d done so, but it was much better that they’d managed to get in and out without being discovered. “Let’s rejoin Böhm and Müller and get out of here before anyone notices what you’ve done,” Wilhelm said.

It took nearly half an hour to stealthily make their way to the Schrote where Corporals Stephan Böhm and Nikolaus “Nik” Müller were waiting with the canoes they’d used to insert themselves via the narrow and shallow waterway. The creek had been a tight fit for the two-man canoes, but that was good. Surely no one would think to check such a small waterway for escaping intruders. Once back with the canoes it took them less than twenty minutes to make their way down the Schrote to the River Elbe, where Sergeant Melchior Dietrich was waiting for them with a motor boat.



A couple of days later, USE Marine Corps HQ, Magdeburg


Wilhelm stepped into Colonel Friedrich von Brockenholz’ office and saluted. “Captain Finck reporting, sir.”

“Take a seat, Captain,” Friedrich said, gesturing towards a group of chairs.

Wilhelm removed his cap, selected a chair, and brought it closer to Colonel Brockenholz’ desk before sitting down. “You wanted to see me, Sir.”

Friedrich nodded. He rifled through some papers on his desk; selected one, and slid it across to Wilhelm. “A couple of nights ago a person or persons unknown sneaked into the Army camp to the northwest of Magdeburg and painted that symbol on the commander’s house. Colonel Joachim Bassewitz is most upset.” He looked pointedly at Wilhelm. “Would you happen to know anything about it?”

Wilhelm glanced at the paper. He looked up. “A Volvo symbol?” he suggested, referring to the grill symbol he’d seen on a couple of up-time automobiles.

Friedrich rolled his eyes. “There is no need to be facetious, Captain.”

“The symbol for iron?”

Friedrich shook his head. “Try again.”

“The male gender symbol?” Wilhelm said.

Friedrich nodded. “And why is that symbol used to indicate males?” he asked.

Wilhelm was trapped. There was no way he could avoid saying it now. “Because it is the symbol for the god Mars,” he said.

“There is one other rendering of the symbol that comes to mind,” Friedrich said. He looked pointedly at the Marine Advanced Reconnaissance School qualification badge on Wilhelm’s blouse. “The jig is up, Wilhelm. I know your men were responsible.”

“They’re bored,” Wilhelm said defensively.

“And to alleviate their boredom you decided to break into an army base and paint your unit symbol on the front of the commander’s house?”

Wilhelm shrugged. He hadn’t actually told Fabricius and Dinckeler where to paint the symbol, just that it should be noticeable, and that they weren’t to get caught doing it. “If their security had been any good my men wouldn’t have been able get close enough to tag Colonel Bassewitz’ quarters, Sir.”

“Yes, there is that. Which is why, even as we speak, the men detailed to guard Colonel Bassewitz’ quarters are busy whitewashing the whole building.” Friedrich paused to smile at Wilhelm. “I’m sure they’ll learn their lesson, but rumors have reached the admiral that those same guards will be marching on Magdeburg as soon as they finish, looking for retribution. As such, it has been suggested that it might be better if you were to remove your unit from Magdeburg until the dust settles.”

“We can take care of ourselves,” Wilhelm said.

“I know you can,” Friedrich said. “That’s what I’m worried about. That is why Admiral Simpson and I have graciously offered General Stearns the services of the USE Marines 1st Reconnaissance Company for the war down in Bavaria.”

Wilhelm’s eyes lit up. “They want us to scout for river crossings?” he asked, excitement entering his voice.

“Yes. You and your men might finally get to demonstrate their value. I want you to take your unit to Regensburg, where you will report to General Stearns of the 3rd Division.”

“Can we have Sergeant Dietrich and his motorboat, Sir?”

Friedrich smiled. “I assume he was a party to your recent escapade?” He shook his head slowly. “I’m sure it would be useful for you to have Sergeant Dietrich and his bass boat down in Regensburg, but I can’t authorize it. Not when I consider how much losing George Watson’s Outlaw cost the government.”

George Watson’s Outlaw motorboat had been lost in the battle of Wismar when Eddie Cantrell, Larry Wild, and Bjorn Svedberg had plowed into the Johannes Ingvardt. Neither vessel had survived when the anti-ship rockets the Outlaw had been carrying exploded on impact. The government had been forced to pay him nearly three million dollars in compensation for losing his priceless up-time-built speedboat. “We wouldn’t be using it in combat, Sir,” Wilhelm said, trying to differentiate the risk to the Bass boat from what had happened to George Watson’s Outlaw. “We’ll only be using it as a delivery and recovery vehicle.”

“I’m sure that is your intention,” Friedrich said. “However, even assuming the railways can transport the boat from Magdeburg to Bamberg without damaging anything, do you really think the teamsters will be able to carry it the hundred miles between Bamberg and Regensburg at this time of year without breaking her, possibly irreparably?”

Wilhelm winced. The colonel had him there. Teamsters were notorious for just how careless they could be with fragile goods at the best of times, and traveling between Bamberg and Regensburg in early April was not the best of times. Not only was the road not much more than an improved goat track, but firstly the SoTF National Guard, and more recently the 3rd Division, had marched over it. It was probably a sea of mud right now. “No, Sir,” he conceded.

“Right. So, unless Sergeant Dietrich and his boat can grow wings, you’ll just have to make do with your collapsible kayaks.”

“Yes, Sir,” Wilhelm muttered. The kayaks were quite good. They could be packed into two bags about five feet long and a foot square weighing about fifty pounds each, and could be assembled or disassembled in under ten minutes. However, they were limited to the speed two men could paddle them. Sergeant Dietrich’s bass boat was capable of nearly sixty miles per hour, or twenty to thirty times the speed—not that they’d tried towing the kayaks regularly at more than twenty-five miles per hour, but having Sergeant Dietrich and his bass boat would have meant rescue wasn’t far away if they ran into trouble.

“Right. Dismissed, and do the Marines proud, Captain.”

Wilhelm got to his feet, put his cap back on, and saluted Colonel Brockenholz. “We’ll do our best, Sir.”

“I know you will, Captain Finck.”



A couple of days later, Magdeburg Naval Base


“All right, who’s first?” Sergeant Leonhard Fechser called out from his position behind the counter of the Marine Armory.

Wilhelm got to his feet and walked over to the counter. “Finck, Wilhelm, Captain, number M14132,” he announced as he laid his ID card down on the counter.

Leonhard compared the photo on the ID card with Wilhelm. Then he checked his logbook before selecting a rifle from the rack behind him. He checked that it was unloaded, and with the action open, laid it on the counter. “One lever-action rifle, butt number two hundred thirty-two,” he called out as he wrote the number in his book. He then placed ten boxes of ammunition on the counter. “Two hundred rounds .40-72.” Again, after calling out the item he wrote it up in his book. He then turned the book around and slid it towards Wilhelm. “Please sign that you have taken possession of your rifle and an issue of ammunition.”

Wilhelm checked the weapon. It was his usual rifle, and it was in the same excellent condition as it’d been when he last returned it to the armory. He then checked the boxes of ammunition. All the spaces were full, so there were two hundred rounds. However, two hundred rounds weren’t going to go very far if they got caught up in a firefight down in Bavaria. He said as much.

Leonhard shrugged apologetically. “I’ll get a couple of reloading kits and see that they catch up with you. But I’m afraid you’re going to have to police your brass.”

Wilhelm glared at Leonhard. He knew it wasn’t the storeman’s fault, but he was fed up with the penny pinching they had to go through to keep the unit going. “We’re going into combat,” he said. “We can’t afford to waste time worrying about policing our brass.”

“I can let you have half a dozen brass catchers, sir.”

Wilhelm turned up the power of his glare. None of them liked the brass catchers. They’d used them in training and found them to be a complete pain. They got in the way when they needed to recharge the magazine, altered the balance of the rifle, and once they contained more than a couple of empty cases, they made silent movement next to impossible. He sighed. They were also the only way they were going to be able to save their brass if they got caught up in a firefight. “I’ll take them,” he said.

Leonhard laid a brass catcher on the counter. “If you’ll just sign for everything, Sir.”

Wilhelm released a pent-up breath and dutifully signed his name against each item of equipment he’d just drawn.

“Who’s next?” Leonard called as Wilhelm walked back to where he’d left his pack and webbing.

Wilhelm was distributing his ammunition in various pouches of his webbing when a Navy messenger entered. “Herr Captain Finck?” he asked the room.

“Here,” Wilhelm said.

The youth approached Wilhelm, started to salute, only to stop half-way when he realized Wilhelm wasn’t wearing a hat and thus didn’t need to be saluted. A tide of red hit his face as he stood to attention. “Orders from Colonel von Brockenholz, Sir,” he said, offering Wilhelm a sealed letter. “You are to immediately make your way to the railroad station and board the train to Grantville, which is currently being held for you.”

“They’re holding the train for us?” Johann Fabricius asked from the bench where he had just signed for his rifle, ammunition, and brass catcher.

Wilhelm held up a hand for silence while he quickly skimmed through the contents of Colonel von Brockenholz’ letter. “That’s what it says.” He held up a travel warrant. “And this confirms it.”

“We haven’t finished drawing our equipment, Captain,” Sergeant Christoph Fels said.

Wilhelm glanced around. A couple of his men still hadn’t been issued their weapons and ammunition. “We’ll limit ourselves to a tactical loadout and Sergeant Fechser can send the rest of our equipment on after us.”

“But who is going to sign for it?” Leonhard protested. “Someone has to sign for it before it can leave the storeroom,”

Wilhelm released a frustrated breath. “Give me a blank form to sign.”

Leonhard dug out a form and handed it to Wilhelm. “This is very irregular, Sir.”

“Tell me about it,” Wilhelm muttered as he signed the blank form and handed it back to Leonhard.

Leonhard stared at the form. “But what do I send you?” he asked.

Wilhelm shrugged. “Just send us everything in our unit store.”

Leonhard’s brows shot up. “Everything?”

“Yes,” Wilhelm said. “We don’t have time to worry about details. Send us everything. We’ll sort it out in Regensburg.”

“Everything it is,” Leonhard said, writing the word clearly in the space provided for what was being signed for. “You do realize that you have accepted liability for everything?” he asked.

“Just do it, and finish issuing our weapons and ammunition so we can catch the train before the passengers start a revolt over the delay.”

Leonhard did as he was told and Wilhelm led his men at a dogtrot to the railroad station where they were hustled aboard. They hadn’t even taken their seats before the train started moving.

“Who’s for a game of cards?” Al Dinckeler asked as he pulled a deck out from his battledress breast pocket.



Ten days later, Regensburg


The 1st Marine Reconnaissance Company returned to their lodgings in Regensburg after yet another training exercise to find a welcome sight waiting for them. Wilhelm didn’t exactly run up to Sergeant Leonhard Fechser and hug him, but it he was sorely tempted. “Sergeant Fechser, it’s so good to see you at last.”

Leonhard saluted Wilhelm. “It took a while to pack everything, Sir,”‘ he said.

Wilhelm pointedly looked around. “Speaking of which . . .”

“It’s over there,” Leonhard said jerking his head in the direction of a warehouse.

“You brought everything?” Wilhelm asked.

“You said to bring everything, Sir.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” Wilhelm hastened to placate the storeman. “I was just wondering if everything included the men’s PT kit?”

Leonhard emitted a loud sigh. “Everything includes the men’s physical training kit, Sir.”

Wilhelm smiled. “Perfect.” He turned to Sergeant Fels. “Get the men changed and take them for a run.”

“Will you be joining us, Sir?” Johann Fabricius asked.

Wilhelm sighed dramatically. “I’d really like to join you.” That remark was met with varying signs of disbelief. “However, as the officer responsible for our equipment, I have to check that everything I signed for has been delivered.” He turned to Leonhard. “Isn’t that correct, Sergeant?”

“Oh, yes, definitely, Captain Finck,” Leonhard said, nodding his head vigorously. “Everything has to be checked off.”

Wilhelm turned back to Johann. “It’s a hard job, Fabricius, but someone’s got to do it.”

“You’re all heart, Captain,” Christoph said.

“What do I have to do to become an officer?” Johann muttered.

That brought a smile to Wilhelm’s eyes. Johann Fabricius was always on the lookout for a cushy billet that paid more while expecting less. He remained by the door to the warehouse as Leonhard led his men to the packs that contained their PT gear. He was still standing there when they filed past, dressed for their run. “Enjoy yourselves,” he said. There was a smug smile on his face as he turned towards Leonhard. “Let’s get the paperwork started.”

“So you can join your men on their run?” Leonhard asked.

“Don’t be silly,” Wilhelm replied.



Twenty minutes later


Sergeant Christoph Fels was happily leading the rest of the company across the stone bridge that spanned the Danube River when he realized he couldn’t hear the footfalls of the other runners. He glanced back over his shoulder. “What the!” he muttered at the sight of four Marines leaning against the bridge’s stone parapet. He turned and strode menacingly towards them. “Who told you lot that you could stop running?” he demanded.

“We saw that,” Corporal Nik Müller said pointing into the distance.

“You saw what?” Christoph asked as he turned his attention to the direction Nik was pointing. “Oh!” he said when he saw the enormous balloon hanging over an island in the river. “What the heck is it?”

“It’s a Swordfish-class hot air dirigible,” Stephan Böhm said. “I saw a couple of them when I was doing the advanced medic course in Grantville.”

“Could we get a closer look, Sarge?” Johann Fabricius asked.

Christoph thought about it for a moment. There was a stairway and drawbridge separating them from the island, but that would give them easy access. The island, being mostly grass fields, also offered a better running surface than the cobbles they’d been running on. “Follow me,” he called as he headed for the guard house overlooking the stairs to the island.


Mary Tanner Barancek was tempted to sulk as she waved at the departing Pelican. She should have been aboard, but Stefano Franchetti had insisted that she stay behind while his cousin Giovanni flew as his co-pilot. He’d spouted some rubbish about power-to-weight ratios, completely ignoring the fact that a lot of Giovanni’s weight was the belly hanging over his belt. She spun round and stalked away, looking for something to kick. Unfortunately, the people who’d prepared the farmland as an airfield had done too good a job clearing away any stones.

It was in this less than sunny mood that she sighted a group of men running towards her. They weren’t actually running. It was more like they were jogging, in formation. That, as well as the pale blue t-shirts and shorts they were wearing, told her they were probably military.

There was a large symbol in a darker color emblazoned on their t-shirts. Mary stared at them through squinted eyes as she tried to identify it. Then she smiled. How like men to emblazon that symbol on their t-shirts. She walked towards them. “Who are you guys?” she called out.

Christoph and the others halted. “We’re the men from MARS,” he said indicating the astronomical symbol on his t-shirt.

“Really?” Mary’s mood was brightening up rapidly.

“It represents the shield and spear of Mars, the god of war,” Johann Fabricius said. “We’re graduates from the Schule der fortgeschrittenen Aufklärung für Seesoldaten.

As an American, Mary knew all about creating cool sounding acronyms from an organization’s name but this one had her stumped. “How do you get Mars from that?” she asked.

“From the English,” Nik Müller said. “The Marine Advanced Reconnaissance School.”

Mary grinned. “That is so ‘finding a cool acronym and making up a name to fit it’,” she said. “Did an American pick the name?”

“Yes,” Al Dinckeler said, “but you have to agree, it’s a cool name.”

Mary continued to stare at the guys. She was remembering some news stories. “Are you the guys that did the parachute display at the opening of Arts Week in Magdeburg last year?” she asked.

They nodded. “That was us,” Christoph confirmed.

“So are you guys planning on parachuting from the Pelican?” Mary asked. She waved in the general direction of the departing airship.

“That thing has enough payload to carry all of us and our equipment?” an incredulous Christoph demanded.


Regensburg had turned out to only be a brief stop on the long journey to join General Stearns and the 3rd Division. They’d stayed there long enough to collect and sort out all the equipment Sergeant Fechser had brought with him and settle him into his own little storeroom before setting out for Mainburg.

They covered the thirty-odd miles in a little over ten hours—a little slower than would normally be expected, but they were carrying an extra fifty pounds each in the form of their collapsed two-man kayaks. However, the rapidness of their transit was wasted. No one was expecting them, not even General Stearns, who was of course too busy to be disturbed.

“Hurry up and wait,” Johann Fabricius muttered as they were led to an obscure corner of the 3rd Division’s camp. “Effing typical,” he added with heat.

“Now that’s settled, I think we should make ourselves comfortable. Have a brew and something to eat. And then we can all go for a run.” Wilhelm smiled at them. “Won’t that be nice?”

The chorus of agreement was a little forced and lacked enthusiasm



Next day


The 1st Marine Reconnaissance Company were warming up gently before going on their morning run when an army runner ran up to them.

“Captain Finck?” the runner asked.

Wilhelm stepped forward. “That’ll be me.”

The runner saluted. “General Stearns would like to see you, Sir.”

“Now?” Johann Fabricius protested.

“I’m sure the general won’t mind if you take a few minutes to change, Sir,” the runner said.

Wilhelm turned to his company. “I’m sorry, men, but it seems General Stearns wants to see me.”

The snorts of derision from his loyal followers brought a smile to Wilhelm’s face. “I would accompany you on the run if I could, but one doesn’t keep a general waiting.” He turned to Christoph. “Take them away, Sergeant.”


The first thing Wilhelm noticed when he was shown into General Stearns’ HQ tent was the trestle tables set up in the middle of the space. There were a number of officers grouped around the tables. One of them he easily identified from various photographs he’d seen as General Mike Stearns, otherwise known as the Prince of Germany. He was, Wilhelm was pleased to note, no bigger than one would expect an up-timer to be. He stepped in and stood to attention. “Captain Wilhelm Finck of the 1st Marine Reconnaissance Company reporting, Sir.”

“At ease, Captain,” Mike said. “Please come over here,” he added, gesturing to the table. “You’re probably wondering why I requested your presence?”

Wilhelm smiled. “With Ingolstadt falling to the SoTF National Guard, I assume you are planning a move against Munich, Sir. And with several rivers blocking the 3rd Division’s path, I’m hoping that you want my unit to reconnoiter for suitable crossing places.” He smiled at the surprised looks he was getting from some of the army officers gathered around the general. It seemed they hadn’t expected such thinking from a Marine.

“That is correct,” Mike said. “We need to locate suitable crossing points on the Amper River.” He planted a finger on an area of the map. “How soon can you get your men down there?”

Wilhelm leaned forward for a better look. The map was similar to the one he and his men had been examining for the last week or so, only larger scale. “That’s about fifty miles as the crow flies. If it was friendly territory we could march there in a couple of days, but as it is potentially hostile country, it could take four or five days just to get there.” That didn’t go down well with his audience, but then, he hadn’t expected it to. “It would mean we’d have to carry over a week’s rations, which would slow us down some more.” He smiled at the general. “There is a faster way for us to get into position,” he said.

“Yes?” Mike asked.

“We could parachute in,” Wilhelm said. That elicited a few shocked intakes of breath from the army officers. He grinned at them before leaning over the map and pointing to a spot on the map where he thought his team could land and disappear into the trees before a Bavarian cavalry unit could arrive to look for them. “I think this location would be possible, although we’d have to overfly it first to make sure it isn’t too heavily wooded.”

Mike leaned closer to examine where Wilhelm was pointing. “You need a Jupiter, am I right?”

Wilhelm shook his head. “Not necessarily, sir. A Jupiter is the only airplane big enough for a parachute drop by more than one or two men. But we could do it from the Pelican.”

Mike frowned. “That thing would be visible for miles. There’s no way to use it for a mission that needs to be surreptitious.”

What the general was saying was essentially correct. The Pelican was something like One hundred fifty feet long and fifty feet wide at her widest point. However, there were ways to make even something that size almost invisible. “It depends on the time of day, sir. If we make the drop very early in the morning, there will be enough light for us to see but the airships won’t be very visible from the ground—and we certainly won’t be, falling over the side. If any Bavarian soldier does spot the airship they’ll simply think it’s on a reconnaissance mission.”

Wilhelm watched the emotions flash across the general’s face. He hoped General Stearns would go for the parachute drop. It would be a grand demonstration of one of his company’s unique capabilities, making the future of his unit a little more secure. It might even result in them getting the resources to expand the training cadre of six men into a real company.

“All right, Captain. We’ll make the drop. How soon can you be ready?”

Wilhelm shrugged nonchalantly, working hard to conceal his excitement. “That really depends more on when the Pelican can be placed at our disposal than it does on us, Sir. Me and my men can be ready by tomorrow morning.”

“Tell Franchetti—no, tell Major Simpson to tell Franchetti—to give you top priority.”

“Top priority.” They were such sweet words to Wilhelm’s ears. “When we find a good place to cross the river, Sir, what do you want us to do?” he asked. “Return or stay in place?” He so hoped the order would be to stay in place. The longer they stayed in the field the more chances there would be to prove themselves.

“Stay in place—if you can do so without being spotted. But don’t take any unnecessary risks, Captain. There’ll only be a handful of you and even allowing for your weaponry you’ll be overwhelmed by any sizeable enemy force.”

Wilhelm suppressed the urge to tell General Stearns that they were trained to do their job without being spotted. Instead he just acknowledged the order. “Yes, Sir. Shall I be off, then?”

“Yes. Good luck, Captain.”

Wilhelm was out of General Stearns’ HQ tent in a flash, and if he didn’t run—that would only overexcite and maybe panic anyone seeing him running—he certainly returned to his unit’s temporary accommodations at a very fast walk. He took a glance at his watch and smiled. He’d have time for a cup of tea before the rest of the unit got back from their run.


Wilhelm wasn’t a completely hard-hearted monster, and besides in such a small unit everyone had to chip in, so by the time Sergeant Fels led the rest of the unit back to the tent after their run he had a brew and enough food for everyone almost ready to serve up.

“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” Wilhelm said by way of greeting.

“What’s happening tomorrow then?” Johann Fabricius asked as he grabbed his mess kit.

“We parachute from the Pelican behind Bavarian lines so we can find a suitable crossing point for the 3rd Division’s advance on Munich,” Wilhelm answered before taking a sip of his tea.

“Seriously?” Christoph demanded his eye lit with excitement.

“Seriously,” Wilhelm confirmed. “Right now, Major Simpson should be passing on General Stearns’ orders to the Pelican’s pilot.

“We’d be doing a HALO jump . . . no.” Wilhelm paused to consider what to call the proposed jump. He doubted that the Pelican, being a hot air airship, could get high enough with a cargo of six fully-equipped Marine parachutists for it to count as a high altitude-low opening jump. “Make that a LALO jump at first light tomorrow morning.”

“How low will we be opening?” Johann asked.

Wilhelm shrugged. “I’m thinking we’ll need to open as low as we dare if we want to avoid being spotted.”

“So, it’ll be a bit of a waste of time taking the reserve chutes,” Al Dinckeler suggested.

Wilhelm thought about that. The reserve chutes were there for a reason, but it did take time to cut away a failed main canopy and deploy a reserve chute. And, given how low he was thinking they should deploy their main canopies, time was likely to be something they wouldn’t have a lot of if they had any problems during the jump. Still, having the reserve chute, even if you are unlikely to have time to deploy it, did give some degree of reassurance to a man. “It’ll be up to the individual whether or not he wants to carry a reserve chute.”

“It’ll be twenty pounds we don’t have to carry around once we land,” Johann said.

Wilhelm totally agreed with Johann, but he wasn’t prepared to order a man to jump without a reserve chute. “As I said, it will be up to the individual to choose whether or not he wants to carry a reserve chute.” He ran his eye over his men. They all had their mess tins full and were eating. “You’re all welcome to continue eating while I brief you,” he said as he opened up his map.


5:15 AM the next morning


The sun was still below the horizon as the Pelican drifted with the breeze. Three thousand feet below them Captain Wilhelm Finck could see the silvery ribbon of the River Amper. “Fabricius, do you have a lock in on the landing zone?” he asked the team scout.

Johann Fabricius lowered the pair of borrowed binoculars he’d been using. “Yes, Sir.”

“Can we get there from here?” Wilhelm asked.

Johann chewed on his lips for a few seconds, glanced down at the river, then back at Wilhelm. “I’d like another five to ten minutes drifting, Sir.”

Wilhelm glanced eastward, towards the lightening sky. Then he looked up at the enormous balloon that held the Pelican aloft. The moment the sun peaked over the horizon its rays would strike the gas bag like a spotlight. “We don’t have that much time,” he said. “Pick an alternative.”

Johann glanced eastward, then back at the ground below. He’d been aware that they might not get in range of their preferred landing zone before the sun got too high, so while he’d been searching for that landing zone he’d been checking out possible alternatives, so it didn’t take long to find one that should be within range. “I’ve got one,” he said.

“Then we go now,” Wilhelm said. He turned to the rest of his team and the two pilots. “Places,” he said.

The six Marines waddled over to their places on the railing, then, with Wilhelm calling out their numbers, each man dropped off the airship and plummeted groundward.


Giovanni looked over the edge of the airship’s gondola. Below him he could make out four of the six men who’d jumped from the airship against the ground below. “Where did they find those guys?” he asked his cousin.

“Mary said they were from Mars.”

“Ah!” Giovanni nodded in understanding. “Foreigners.” He glanced over the side of the airship once more. Below him he saw the parachute canopies open one after the other until there were six little rectangles of silk gently floating to the ground. He shook his head in disbelief at what he was seeing. “I didn’t think they could be Germans. Not even they are that foolish.”



Quelles Misérables


March, 1634


Armand-Jean du Plessis, priest, bishop, Cardinal-Duke of Richelieu and of Fronsac, and chief minister to His Most Christian Majesty, King Louis of France, thirteenth of that name, stood at the window and gazed at the gardeners at their work in the early afternoon. He watched as they plied their craft with spades and trowels and snips. He admired their skill and focus, and from time to time he was even a bit jealous. There were days where the thought of having honest dirt on his hands and the smell of honest manure in his nostrils appealed to him more than the spiritual reek of the court. But then, there was no one who could do his work as well as him, so if he didn’t do it, things would become even worse. Although he was beginning to have hopes of young Mazarini.

“Your Eminence.”

Richelieu looked back over his shoulder to where Servien stood inside the door.  He raised his eyebrows.

“There . . . is a visitor, Eminence.”

Richelieu considered his intendant. If he didn’t know better, he’d have thought that Servien was . . . uncertain. And that was a condition he had seldom seen in his intendant in all their years together.

“Has this visitor a name, Servien?”

“He is one Abbé Jehan Mercier, Eminence.”

A low-ranking cleric. Perhaps he was wanting to speak to the cardinal rather than the chief minister. That might be refreshing.

“Is he one of our informers?”


Richelieu frowned. “Who did he bribe to get this far?”

“He, ah, carries an introduction from your niece.”

“From Marie-Madeleine?”

“Yes, Eminence.”

Well, that put a different light on things. If the Marquise de Combalet sent a lower-ranked cleric to see her uncle, it behooved him to meet the man. And it explained why Servien was handling the matter instead of a porter or guard.

“Then you had best admit him, Servien. We would not want the marquise unhappy with us.”

“Indeed, Eminence.”

Servien withdrew, then moments later ushered a short round figure into the room. Abbé Mercier was dressed in what was apparently his best priestly garments, but they were somewhat on the fusty and shabby side. Richelieu was almost prepared to dismiss the man as a waste of his time, but for two things: the marquise was not a fool, and the abbé’s eyes were both bright and focused.

Richelieu held out his ring. The abbé bent with a certain aplomb to kiss it, then straightened with a slight smile on his face. Richelieu was a bit intrigued and waved a hand at the chair placed before his desk.

“Please, Abbé Jehan, be seated. Servien, see to refreshment, please.” Servien beckoned to a servant. As Richelieu rounded the desk, he heard the servant offering coffee, tea, mocha, and wine. Richelieu settled into his chair as Servien took a stance against a side wall, close enough to be available to Richelieu if needed, yet far enough away to not be part of the conversation.

“Perhaps a little wine,” the abbé said in a high-pitched breathy tenor as he took his seat. Moments later, he was holding a Venetian glass of a red to rival the claret contained within it. Richelieu picked up the cup of mocha that had appeared at his elbow and took a sip. Perfect mocha in the American style. He took a larger sip, then set the cup down.

“How do you know the Marquise de Combalet, Abbé Jehan?”

A large smile appeared on the priest’s face, transforming the roundness of it to almost beam like the sun. “I minister at and through a hospice located outside Paris, mostly for poor folk who are dying, usually of consumption. The marquise learned of the work and has become one of our largest supporters. She has, upon occasion, invited me to her salons.”


Richelieu gave a slight nod. His niece was given to works of charity, and it would be just like her to invite someone like this priest and set him in the middle of her usual salon set. On the other hand, that was another indication that there was more to Abbé Jehan than one might assume. She would not expose someone she valued to the eyes, ears, and tongues of the salons unless she was certain he could hold his own.

“So do you seek the face of the cardinal or the chief minister, Abbé Jehan?”

An expression of almost sadness crossed the priest’s face. “Perhaps both, Your Eminence.”

Richelieu made a “continue” gesture with one hand as he picked up his cup again with the other. Abbé Jehan drained the wine from his glass, then held it in both hands and leaned forward slightly.

“Your Eminence, I am concerned about the spiritual welfare of Paris, and indeed, all of France.”

That took Richelieu a bit aback. That was not what he would have expected from a man cultivated by his niece.

“In what manner?”

Mercier took a deep breath, and began, “For some time, Eminence, I have been aware of—not a flood—a current, shall we say—of works of literature that have been making their way into France from Grantville. Some of them are translations of works written mostly in English, but more than a few are works written originally in French. Or what passes for French in the up-time. And these have begun to attract attention, even notoriety.”

“Dumas,” Richelieu murmured.

The priest made a moue, then continued with, “Yes, yes, everyone is reading Dumas. And it’s not his work I’m most concerned with. Despite his licentiousness, the man supports— supported—whatever the correct phraseology should be—the proper order of things. The divinely ordained order, if you will.

“And of course, there are the adventures of Asterix the Gaul, copied from the up-time books and sent this way.” Mercier shrugged. “They are, of course, overtly pagan, but I deem them no threat. As lampoons, they have their uses, and I confess that something that sticks a thumb in the eye of the Romans as often as these stories do warms my heart a bit. They will provide no more harm than Plato or Aristotle.”

The priest held up a hand with the index finger standing alone.

“But, there is another, one whose work is becoming more widely available, whose work concerns me: Monsieur Victor Hugo.”

Richelieu raised his eyebrows and settled back in his chair, holding his cup in both hands. The abbé leaned forward a little more.

“This man apparently lived at much the same time as Dumas, yet his works were very different. His most well-known work, Les Miserables, has been discovered by some enterprising soul mining the archives of Grantville, and an effort has begun to replicate the work today and disseminate it among the people of France, in particular the people of Paris, from what I can determine. It focuses on the lives of downtrodden poor and folk who were unfortunates in a time of rebellion and strife, when the very warp and weft of Paris and France were in danger of being pulled asunder.

“If Hugo were another Dumas, or even a fabulist such as Jules Verne, I would have little concern over him or the effect of his work. But the man was no such thing. From his writings, he appears to have been at the very least a subversive republican, if not an outright anarchist. Yet he was such a writer that he can reach into the minds and hearts of men and set them aflame. Even now, every couple of weeks or so a new signature of the reproduction of Les Miserables appears, and with each appearance the circle of readers widens and deepens. Even amongst my little flock, I hear rumblings of discontent being stirred by the ladle of those pages, and I fear that they are but the merest hint of what is simmering on the fires of the times.” Mercier’s voice had grown louder and more impassioned as he spoke. He made an obvious effort to sit back and take a deep breath.

Richelieu judged that the man was seriously concerned about the matter. This was not just something he was using as an entrée to the higher levels of the court. In another man, that would have been a very likely consideration, but the abbé, despite his apparent sharpness of wit, didn’t seem to be maneuvering that direction.

The cardinal took a sip of his cooling mocha, then cradled the cup in his hands. “So, again, do you come to me as cardinal or as chief minister? What recommendations do you bring?”

“I come to you in whatever manner you stand as guardian of the spirituality of the people of France,” the priest responded with some passion. “I urge you to do what must be done to protect the souls of France from the pernicious influence of the writing of Victor Hugo. I urge you to suppress his work, to declare it unworthy of France. At the very least, I ask that you be aware of it, and have your eyes and ears follow it, lest it become a source of active unrest in the corpus of France.”

Richelieu stared over the rim of his cup at the abbé as he finished his mocha. He set the empty cup down on his desk, clasped his hands before his midriff, and focused a long gaze on the priest, who was staring back at him earnestly, apparently having spent his passion.

“As it happens,” Richelieu said at length, “we are aware of the matter you have raised. It is a matter of some concern, this wholesale importation of unauthorized works that bids to upset the normal channels of our ancien régime. So, you may take some comfort from that.”

The expression of relief that spread over Mercier’s face gave an almost palpable air within the room. The smile that appeared seemed to take a few years off of his appearance, leaving Richelieu to wonder if he had overestimated the man’s age.

“Thank you, Your Eminence,” the abbé, his tone reflecting a certain amount of both humility and gratitude. “I had hoped that my concerns were not new to you, but it is good to know that you are well-informed and already have the matter in hand.”

“Indeed,” Richelieu said. “Those who are printing these scurrilous publications cannot make a move that we are not aware of. We are simply watching to see who has become entangled in their nets.”

“Ah,” Mercier said, with a bit of a knowing nod. “Well, since that is the case, I will apologize for having bothered you with my petty concerns and take my leave. God’s blessing on you, Your Eminence.” He rose as he spoke, and Servien materialized to take the wine glass from him.

“It is of no matter, Abbé Jehan,” Richelieu responded. “And do, if you see or hear anything that bears on the matter, give us word of it. Or as much as you can without breaking the seal of the confessional, of course.”

“As you direct, Your Eminence,” the abbé responded. He gave a final bow, and allowed Servien to usher him from the room.

Richelieu chuckled when Servien slipped back into the room. “Ah, if he only knew, eh, Servien?”

“Indeed, Eminence,” the intendant responded with a small smile.

“Wait until he encounters Voltaire and Camus,” the cardinal said. Another chuckle followed. “Make note of him, Servien. He might prove to be useful.”

Servien placed a folder on the desk. “The latest report at last, Eminence.”

“Ah?” Richelieu placed a possessive hand on top of the folder. “And why was this late, Servien?”

“The local distributor said that it was delayed by some officious guard at one of the city gates.”

“Make a note of that as well, Servien.”

“Yes, Eminence.”

And with that, Servien slipped out of the room while Richelieu opened the folder. “Now, let’s see what Jean Valjean and Monsieur Thénardier have to say this week.” He bent over the folder and began to read.


Blood Brothers

Winter, 1635

Near Modern-Day Rhode Island


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ring? What ring?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The twang of a bowstring being released followed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will go and kill Raging Wolf myself.”

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

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

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

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

“Give me your knife!”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Letters From Gronow, Episode 4



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


25 March 1635






1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 cup sauerkraut 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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

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

Will sell something to Herr Gronow someday.

Recited evening prayers. And now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

28 March 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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

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

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

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


30 March 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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


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



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


1 April 1635






1 cup sauerkraut 2 quartered pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

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

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

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

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

Oh, no dreams last night.

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



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


3 April 1635




1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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

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

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


6 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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


From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


9 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 cup sauerkraut 2 quartered pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


12 April 1635




1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


15 April 1635






1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

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

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

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

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

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

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


17 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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

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

Nothing good will come of this.

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

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



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


18 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


20 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

Still nervous about this.

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

Tired, but good tired.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


22 April 1635






1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

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

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

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

Tired at the end of the day.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


24 April 1635




1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recited evening prayers. Three times. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


26 April 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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

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

Recited evening prayers, ready for bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


29 April 1635






1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

2 mugs beer 2 pfennigs


1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

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

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

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

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

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

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


2 May 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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

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

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

Recited evening prayers. Three times. Now to bed.


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



From Der Schwarze Kater, Volume 4


Black Tomcat Magazine Submissions


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the personal property of the publisher upon receipt, and will not be returned, regardless of ultimate decision about publication. Allow for six months of mail and processing time before querying as to the publication decision.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


4 May 1635




1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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

Wish I had thought of it.

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



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


6 May 1635






1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs


1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Lord’s Day, Lord’s work.

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

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

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

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

Recited evening prayers. Three times. Now to bed.



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


16 May 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

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

Worried about that all evening.

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

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



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


19 May 1635




1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


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

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

Still have not heard from Herr Gronow.

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

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



From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich


21 May 1635




1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 1 pfennig


Dreams, but nothing I recall. Stupid dreams.

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

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




21 May 1635


Herr Philip Fröhlich


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good day to you.


Johann Gronow

Editor and Publisher

Der Schwarze Kater

1636: Land Radio Communication in Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Overview, for the non-technically inclined reader


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

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

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

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

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

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


Where we stand


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

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

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


Supporting technical information


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

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


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

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

dBm: decibels relative to 1 milliwatt

1 W=+30 dBm


Fixed versus mobile stations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Signal types and technologies


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Suitable frequency bands for land communication


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Propagation modes


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

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

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

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

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


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


Ground wave mode


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

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

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

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

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


Free space propagation mode


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

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

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


Diffraction mode


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

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


Reflection mode


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


Sky wave mode


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

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

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


Power levels


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

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

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

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


Signals and noise


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


500 kHz5 MHz15 MHz


Basic land antennas


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ground wave communication ranges


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

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

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

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

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


Value, Units500 kHz5 MHz15 MHz
Pnoise, dBm-68-90-116
Preqd, dBm-52-74-100
Ereqd, dB µV/m+18+18+0.4
Ereqd-G, dB µV/m+10+10-7.6
D1KW, km3507380
D100W, km2504555
D25W, km2003344
D5W, km1552231
D250mW, km8010.516


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

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


Pseudo free space communication ranges


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

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



Dfree=free space path distance in miles

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

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

In kilometers and meters, that would be


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

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

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

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

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

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

As with the ground wave case at 15 MHz:

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

In the following table

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

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


ft (m)
mi (km)
mi (km)
mi (km)
mi (km)
6 (1.83)6.9 (11.1)-124.8-116.30.04210.6 (17)20.5 (33)28 (45)
25 (7.62)10.5 (17)-129.5-1210.12612 (19.3)23.5 (37.8)32 (51.5)
50 (15.2)13.5 (21.7)-130-121.50.14115 (24.1)28.5 (45.9)38 (61.2)
100 (30.5)17.6 (28.3)-128-119.50.08920.5 (33)37 (59.6)47 (75.7)
200 (61)23.5 (37.88)-129.5-1210.12627 (43.5)45 (72.5)57 (91.8)
400 (122)31.7 (51.1)-130-121.50.14135.5 (57.2)57 (91.8)70 (113)
800 (244)43.5 (70)-130.5-1220.15947 (75.7)71 (114)90 (145)
1600 (488)60 (96.6)-132.5-1240.25160 (96.6)86 (138)105 (169)


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

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

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

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


FeatureAltitude MSL
ft (m)
mi (km)

above 50 m
Approximate location
North German plain, typical80-250 (25-75)Most regions north of Grantville
Brocken3747 (1142)89 (144)118 km SW of Magdeburg

243 km S of Hamburg

132 km N of Grantville

Großer Beerberg3222 (982)82 (132)37 km W of Grantville

85 km N of Bamberg

140 km N of Nürnberg

216 km N of Ingolstadt

Aircraft at 5000 ft5000 (1524)101 (164)
Aircraft at 14000 ft
max altitude without oxygen
14000 (4267)170 (274)



Diffraction losses


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

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

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

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


Diffraction Angle
50 m Obstruction Distance
15 MHz Diffraction Loss
Transmitter Power Multiplier


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

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




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


Sky wave


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

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

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

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


Spark communication capabilities


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

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

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

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

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

But all other things may very well not be equal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

Department of the Navy, Naval Electronic Systems Command. Naval Shore Electronics Criteria: VLF, LF, and MF Communication Systems. Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1972. FSN 0280-901-1000 through -08.pdf

Payne, Craig. Principles of Naval Weapon Systems. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2006. USBN 1-59114-658-5

British Broadcasting Corporation, Research Department. “Low-frequency sky-wave propagation to distances of about 2000 km”, Report No. 1971/8.

Maritime Radio Historical Society. “Reports from NMO”

Wikipedia “Antenna (radio)”

Wikipedia “T-antenna”


A Printer’s Dream


September, 1633


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




May, 1634


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

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

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

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

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




June, 1634


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Near Arnheim

July, 1634


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

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

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




July, 1634


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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