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"I can see Kleinjena!" Helene said. "We are home!"
Heinz smiled. He was happy his wife was excited, but they had been gone almost two years. He wasn't sure what kind of reception they'd receive. Everyone in Kleinjena had scattered in May of 1631 when Tilly's soldiers swept through after the sack of Magdeburg.
"Herr Kraft!" Peter's son Hans spotted them as soon as they got close. "Papa! Papa! Herr Kraft is back!" He raced off to find his father.
"Well, so much for arriving quietly," Heinz said.
"Our families will be happy to see us," Helene told him.
Heinz was not entirely sure about that. "Yours will. Let's go see them first."
"Helene!" Her sister Maria spotted them. "Mutti! Helene is home!" She ran up to them and embraced Helene, being careful not to crush the baby Helene had in a sling.
"Maria, this is your nephew Markus Heinrich."
"He is so adorable!" Maria squealed. "You're so big!" she told the baby.
By then her mother had come out of the house.
"Helene! You brought my grandson!"
Heinz smirked. He understood how this worked.
After cooing over her grandson, Frau Eichlerin gave them a look. "You will be staying with us, of course."
"Come inside, come inside. Simon, go get your father."
Helene and Maria's younger brother raced off.
"Let me prepare some food. How was your trip?"
"It was slow, but Markus had a good time," Helene said.
"None. The roads are safe."
Helene's father Tobias Olbricht arrived a few minutes later.
"Helene! Heinrich!" He embraced both of them. A few minutes later he looked up from playing with baby Markus. "You have come back to stay?"
"Gut. We need you here."
Heinz nodded. "I think we have enough to buy into the village. If there are any openings," he added quickly.
"Ja, there are openings. Six houses are still empty. The Langs and the Bayers did not come back." Helene's father seemed about to say more when they all heard a shout outside.
"That is Berles, wondering where I am. Give me a few minutes to get him talking about how we are not preparing the field correctly, and you can go see your family in peace, Heinrich."
The Krafts' house was right on the main road while the Olbrichts' was on the major side street on the southern edge of the village.
Heinz’s mother was equally delighted to see her grandson. "You are the most precious little baby," she repeated at least twice in a sing-song voice.
But after cooing over the baby some more, she asked, “Are you staying? You should have come back when the Olbrichts did. Your place is here.”
“Ja, we would like to stay. We were only halfway through our program in Grantville when the Olbrichts returned, and Helene was seven months pregnant. The roads are even safer now that Tilly and Wallenstein have been defeated."
She sniffed. "The Olbrichts should have fled to Leipzig with us instead of running all the way to Grantville. Then you could have come back last year. Some people did not return until after planting, so the crops were barely half what they should have been. The same will happen this year, too, because after the rent and the tithes and eating enough to stay alive through the winter, we do not have enough seed to plant every field.”
Heinz shrugged off the homemade backpack he was wearing. “That is okay. I have brought seed.”
“But not grain—vegetables.”
The door swung open. Heinz's father Markus entered.
"Heinrich! You are back!"
"Are you staying?"
"Ja. I was just telling Mother—we brought seeds." He lifted the backpack.
"What kind of seeds?"
Later that evening, a number of families visited to welcome Heinz and Helene home and see Markus for the first time. Before too long, the house was full, and the men drifted over to Johann and Margareta Bause's house.
Kleinjena was too small to have a dedicated inn, but Johann had a large front room that served as the village tavern, and his wife kept an extra room. It was seldom used. The few travelers who came through the Unstrut Valley could almost all make the journey from Naumburg northwest to Freyburg in a single day. But it didn't matter because the Bauses made the best beer in Kleinjena.
Johann clapped Heinz on the back. “Glad to see you back, Heinz! We did not think anyone else was coming back.”
Heinz frowned. “We may be the last ones. I posted messages at the refugee housing in Grantville looking for anyone from the Saaletal between Kösen and Weissenfels. The only family from this area I know of still in Grantville is Willi Buschmann's family from Rossbach.”
“Willi is a hard worker. Not coming back will hurt Rossbach,” said Stefan Berles.
Heinz understood the veiled challenge immediately. Stefan's father August was a village councilman, and if he decided that Heinz had let the village down by not coming back last year, he could make things very difficult. But as it happened, Heinz had the perfect counter.
“He is,” Heinz agreed. “He got a job in one of the machine shops in Grantville, working for a man named Ollie Reardon. When Reardon and a German named Struve started making rifles, Willi moved over to that company. His wife cooks for an up-time family. Their children are in school. Willi told me they earn enough to send money home to Rossbach. And they are staying because Willi will be a supervisor soon.”
“Really?” Peter Hofmann asked. “So why are you not doing the same?”
From someone like Berles, that would have been insulting. But Markus Kraft had taught Peter how to farm, and when a young Heinz had asked too many questions, his father Markus had sent him to bother Peter. Heinz, in turn, was a great favorite of Peter's son Hans who had so quickly broadcast his return a few hours ago. Peter would know that Heinz had a good reason for not doing the same as Willi Buschmann. Still, Heinz knew a lot rested on how he answered this question.
"Willi cannot do that job here unless someone builds a machine shop or a gunsmithy in Rossbach. I learned a job in Grantville that I could bring back.”
“They call it master gardener.”
Peter closed his eyes and shook his head. “They have a guild for farmers?”
“No. Meister does not mean the same thing to them. They taught me how to grow vegetables from when they came from. There is not enough room in the Grantville area, so they are sending their seeds across the Germanies with people who know how to grow them. We have some.”
“What kind of seed?”
“We do not have enough animals to need more potatoes,” Stefan cut in.
“No, these are not for animals. They are what the up-timers call a cash crop. They will actually pay us to grow potatoes as long as we cut them up and replant them to grow even more potatoes next year. Three in four must be replanted.”
“Why do they want so many?” Heinz's friend Wilhelm asked.
"Ewwww! I thought they were rich. Why do they need to eat fodder?"
"By the time they are from, people knew many ways to make potatoes taste good," Heinz explained.
"So they are from the future?" Wilhelm asked.
That started a long discussion. Peter asked question after question until men started going home. Then he leaned back and smiled.
"The up-timers have buildings called greenhouses. That is a building that is mostly windows where they can grow plants in the winter. The master gardener we learned from had a room on the side of her house with a lot of windows. Not a true greenhouse, but we grew some herbs and spices then. We also went to school."
Johann laughed. "I can see you in a room with all the kinder."
"The classes Helene and I took were what the up-timers call adult education. We learned some English. We can read better in German, too. And we can write and do figures."
"Why bother?" Hans asked.
"As you said, you cannot farm in winter." Heinz leaned forward. "Johann, you need to write and do figures to run this place."
"Ja, a little."
"I think I am going to need to be able to figure if the new seeds grow as well as they did in Grantville."
"You are that confident?"
"Ja. Johann, during the winters I also worked at the Freedom Arches."
Johann's eyes widened. "That is where the Committees of Correspondence gather. They are dangerous. The duke has banned them in Saxony."
Heinz grinned. "That they are. The Freedom Arches started out as an up-time tavern. There were thousands of them when the up-timers come from, all with the same name and all serving the same food. Hamburgers—that is, beef on rolls—and sliced potatoes. Johann, Helene and I met an up-timer who did not live in Grantville but was caught in the Ring of Fire only because she had gone to the Freedom Arches for sliced potatoes."
"You think you can sell potatoes as food?"
"Not yet. We need to build up the supply first. But, Johann, we can flavor sausages so that they taste like they came from distant lands, like Italy. We have recipes from Grantville."
"That will be fun. But we cannot sell them in Naumburg," Johann reminded him. "The butchers' guild will not allow it."
"We do not have to sell them in Naumburg," Heinz explained. "Is there still a rush on market days to get to Naumburg, only to wait at the gates until you are allowed in?"
"The first in line is the first to set up and begin selling in the marketplace. We can leave Kleinjena sooner if we can eat breakfast as we go. And we can sell flavored sausages to people from other villages while we are all in the line."
Johann nodded slowly. "You might have something there."
Heinz smiled. "We would like to talk to the gemeinde about buying a share in the village."
The dickering started immediately.
"Tomorrow night, after dinner," Gerd Werner finally stated. He was another village councilman.
Heinz nodded his thanks.
Markus Heinrich woke them early the next morning. Heinrich took the opportunity to talk to his wife privately.
"Do you still want to do this?" Heinz asked.
"Oh, yes, Heinz. Everyone is as I remember." Helene frowned briefly. "Exactly as I remember."
"We will just have to convince them we can be very productive citizens," Heinz said. "Or, ah, very productive villagers. Citizenship is going to take longer to explain." He pulled something out of the pack. "Do you want it?"
"You keep it."
Heinz carefully tucked the cap and ball revolver into the holster in the back of his pants.
Throughout the rest of that day and all of the next, Heinz found himself being pulled aside by this man or that man. The women of Kleinjena were doing the same to Helene. He did not mind; it was how things were done in the village. By the time the gemeinde actually met, almost everyone would know where almost everyone else stood.
Heinz and Helene made a point of arriving early so that they could secure seats at one of the tables that was brought into the church for meetings. Pastor Christoph Laurentius prayed, and then Gerd Werner opened the meeting.
"Heinz Kraft and Helene Olbrichtin wish to buy into the village. We all know there are six empty houses. In three of those cases, the lehen-holder and the former tenants have come to a mutual agreement, and the houses stand ready for whoever contracts with the lehen-holder. Upon the recommendation of the gemeinde, of course. You all know Heinz and Helene. . . ."
As was traditional in Kleinjena, Heinz's father rose to speak. He gave Heinrich a factual endorsement without building him up too much. He barely mentioned Helene. And that was about what Heinz had expected. Helene's father spoke next. He praised both Helene and Heinz extensively. No surprise there, either. Peter and Wilhelm spoke up in favor. Then August Berles spoke against them.
Heinz watched August intently, jotting down each point. Finally August accused him of ostentation for pretending he was a clerk.
"He comes to us putting on airs and bearing nothing but magic seeds," he sneered.
Johann Bause rose quickly and spoke strongly in favor of Heinz and Helene, mentioning the up-time seeds, their education, and Heinz's idea of developing a product they could sell to people from other villages.
Joachim Müller rose to his feet. He had been Kleinjena's miller for a long time, but his sons did most of the grinding now. But he was still shrewd.
"I like this young man's idea," he stated. "You all know we are allowed to sell weekly in Naumburg and pay a heavy fee to do so. It would be good to have something we can sell to the other villages."
"In less than a week they will be putting sausages on rolls! That is not hard to do."
"But ours will taste better," Heinz stated. "We have recipes for different sausages from all over Germany and even from Italy. And so will you."
"The other villages will figure it out," Gabriel Wenck rasped.
"It is possible," Heinz admitted. "But, Herr Wenck, has anyone ever figured out exactly what your wife puts in her stew?"
At least half of those present laughed. Ursula Liebertin was one of the best cooks in the village and guarded her recipes zealously. When the laughter died down, several men muttered for the vote.
But then August Berles himself rose to his feet. "We do not even know if these young people are legally married."
Heinz handed Gerd Werner an envelope. "That is from Pastor Decker in Schwarzburg."
"Banns . . . duly married . . . . It looks in order to me," Werner agreed. He handed it to Pastor Laurentius.
"Ja, this is official."
"How would you pay for your lease?" Berles asked.
Heinz handed over another page. "This is what the up-timers think the seeds are worth. The first column is their dollars. The second column is silver."
"And what else can you contribute?"
"You have seen us work," Heinz stated. "If you agree we should grow new crops we can sell in Naumburg, I will help keep the books. That is why I went to the school. And we have some silver."
There were a few more objections raised, but they were all minor. The gemeinde endorsed Heinrich for the standard lease—ninety-nine years or three generations. Now it was up to the lehen-holder, but with empty houses and the gemeinde's endorsement, that was almost a foregone conclusion.
The geraniums went in right away. When those sprouted in May, they planted onions, potatoes, and rhubarb. Next tomatoes, asparagus, basil, parsley, dill and marigolds were planted together because Heinz and Helene's master gardener had explained that those plants helped each other.
Finally they planted the peas, beans, carrots, celery, radishes, peppers, cucumbers, cabbage, and zucchini as they had time. The up-time seeds were new and exciting but planted alongside large amounts of dependable grain and kale.
There was enough rain that summer, but not too much. The harvest was good—not great, but solid. Most of the up-time seeds produced respectable crops. The zucchini was outstanding. The asparagus and rhubarb grew well, but couldn't be harvested for another year. The tomatoes struggled. Heinz was disappointed; he had plans for them. But the garlic and basil had grown well and along with the marigolds, they protected what tomatoes did grow. Only a few crops failed completely.
The only thing that marred the season was the realization that the local grapevines were dying. That was bad enough in Kleinjena, but it was a huge concern in Freyburg and in the nearby villages of Nissmitz and Grossjena. Still, it seemed like 1633 might be the year that everything got back to normal. Then came word of the Battle of Wismar Bay.
Tuesday, October 11, 1633
The Saxon Camp outside Magdeburg
"If you try to enter Magdeburg, we will fire into you. Now get out of here. Quickly!" Three days later, the Swedish officer's curt ultimatum still rankled. The fact that General von Arnim had had no choice but to comply rankled even more. It had been blatantly obvious that General Lennart Torstensson's Swedish army could have blown von Arnim's Saxons right off the road if they chose to.
"I say we attack the Swedes!" Captain Philip von Danner was young and brash.
Hans Friedrich von Hessler tried to ignore him. He was only twenty-two himself but had actually faced battle. True, von Danner said he was an experienced soldier. But von Hessler was all but certain that "von Danner" was an assumed name, and he was no more convinced that the man was a veteran than he was of the adel.
Hans Friedrich's family might not be more than middling Neideradel, but they were nobles—which made an already dangerous situation far, far worse. Most of the family's estates were in Saxony, and his father Hans Heinrich the elder had appealed a financial dispute to Duke John George not all that many years ago. However, his father was also a vocal supporter of Gustav II Adolf, "the Lion of the North," who was emperor of the Confederated Principalities of Europe. The CPE had just become the United States of Europe, and Duke John George's Saxony was leaving.
That was complete idiocy, in Hans Friedrich's opinion. John George might be his duke, but he was trying to play off Gustav against the Holy Roman Empire. Gustav was not the sort of man who would tolerate his supposed allies not supporting him, especially now that the League of Ostend had attacked. Moreover, John George's electorship in the Holy Roman Empire mattered a lot less now that Gustav's armies and his up-time allies held what used to be the middle of the empire.