You’ve Got To Be Kidding!

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As Colonel Nils Ekstrom worked his way through the various reports sent to Lübeck from Torstensson's adjutants, he spotted an oddity.

Thorsten Engler, that sergeant the princess wanted made a count, had captured both the French cavalry commander and the French army commander!

"Oh, splendid! That's one problem solved at least!  Bring me a map," he commanded his nearest aide, one Major Dag Rödvinge.  "Nutschel.  That's about where the capture was made."

"What's this about, Nils?" asked Frank Jackson, having just come in.

Ekstrom explained about Thorsten Engler, Caroline Platzer, and how princess Kristina had come to name Engler the Count of Narnia.  Ekstrom concluded with, "We'll just inform the villagers that the emperor—their emperor now—has decided to rename their village to honor the great victory."

"Rename it what?" asked Frank Jackson.

"Narnia, of course.  That gives us a fallback position—that is the American term, yes?—in the not unlikely event the emperor capitulates to his daughter."

"You've got to be kidding."

YGtbK-krstnThe fish-eyed look Ekstrom sent Jackson's way would have done credit to the holds of a fleet of Baltic fishing vessels returning to port.  "You have met Princess Kristina, I believe."

"Good point.  Yeah, I have met her.  Narnia, huh?  Well . . . as long as they don't spell it in Fraktur."

Adapted from 1634: The Baltic War, page 610.

****

As Ekstrom and Jackson conversed, Major Dag Rödvinge considered the odds.

I'm not the only one here, he thought.  Not counting the Colonel and Frank Jackson, there's Viggo, Loke, Svante, and Tor. They're all close by, and they heard the conversation just as well as I did, so there's absolutely no reason to—

"Rödvinge!" called Colonel Ekstrom.

—Run! finished Dag, his eyes closing in dismay.

Rapidly disciplining his face to show only utmost readiness, Major Rödvinge turned to his doom.

"Yes, Colonel?"

"You heard Jackson and me talking, so I don't need to repeat myself.  Write up a proclamation for the emperor to announce and, once the Navy has defeated the Danes, take charge of this Nutschel business and get it settled to everybody's satisfaction."

"Yes Colonel, I'll work it out right away" said Rödvinge, making a quick note on a nearby sheet of paper.

And I'll also arrange the Second Coming of Christ thought Rödvinge as he scribbled.  To everybody's satisfaction, of course!

****

Thirty minutes later Dag Rödvinge was in deep conversation with Lübeck Mayor Dieterich Matthesen in the latter's council office.

Seated within a deep leather chair, Mayor Matthessen stared at Rödvinge across an ornate desk.

"You've got to be kidding!"

Rödvinge looked him straight in the eyes.

"No I am not.  The emperor wants Nutschel's name changed to Narnia, and he wants it done yesterday.   That's not exaggeration, by the way!"

Matthessen leaned forward.

"This is ridiculous!  This high-handed conduct is . . . it's  . . . I could believe it of that Saxon twerp John George or that fool Charles in England, but Gustav Adolf?  Has he gone mad?  And besides, what is a Narnia anyway?  And why should Nutschel change its name to that anyway?"

"Mayor Matthesen—Dieterich—listen to me.  Please.  I beg you, let me explain.   And this will go much faster if you don't ask questions until I'm finished.  Yes, that's high-handed, but believe me, it's better that way, it really is.  What is going on is this.  There's a flying artillery sergeant called Thorsten Engler—"

****

". . . and that's why Nutschel has to be changed to Narnia," finished Rödvinge.

Silence.  Then, from Matthesen—

"Major—Dag—let me see if I understand this.  Because Princess Kristina on a whim named a man the Count of Narnia, which is a fantasy land in a series of up-timer children's books, now the village of Nutschel has to be renamed Narnia?  Do I have that right?"

"Essentially, yes."

Matthessen stared at Rödvinge for several long seconds.

"Do you have any idea how silly that is, Dag? That grown men, supposedly intelligent grown men, will indulge a willful seven-year-old girl's wish?"

"That willful seven-year-old girl is the daughter and heir of Emperor Gustav Adolf II of the USE and the King of Sweden, Dieterich.  Your emperor, my king, Dieterich.  He dotes upon his daughter as a father should, and besides, this Thorsten Engler did capture the highest-ranking members of the French army, so as silly as it may be, on this Princess Kristina gets her wish, and anyway—"

"And anyway it is rather sweet, I suppose," finished Matthesen.  "How otherwise sane and supposedly mature men of high consequence and grave bearing make themselves into the willingly indulgent slaves of a headstrong little girl!"

Relieved at Matthesen's unexpected good humor, Rödvinge smiled.  "It is a wonder to see.  And not just Kristina, mind.  Little girls do make grown men go soft in the head and the heart in the best way possible."

"That they do, Dag, that they do.  Even when you know they're doing it to you.  Which I suppose is how I shall try to make the CoC see this.  And the village council.  And the people of Nutschel.  Because otherwise—this really is high-handed, you know.  It's not even that it's so bad, but the way in which it is being done!  This really is being done bass-ackwards, you know."

"Bass-ackwards?  Amideutsch, right?  And yes, I agree.  The thing is, nobody knows anything.  Which I deny ever saying, but it's the truth.  The USE has just begun, after being first the NUS and the CPE; they're working it out as they go along.  I'll see if there are any copies of those Narnia books in Lübeck, if not the Air Force can ship some in.  Not just for you and me, but for the people of Narnia.  That should help.  Anyway, once the proclamation is made Nutschel becomes Narnia, the princess gets her wish, and that's the end of it."

Oh my friend, thought Matthesen, as they walked together out of his office.  I'd tell you, but enjoy this respite while you can.

I hope you get a countship out of this, you'll deserve it!  

****

Two days later the official proclamation went up on the Nutschel St. Jacob's church door.

It would have been only a day later, but no copies of the Narnia books had been available in Lübeck, and Rödvinge had successfully argued introducing the books into Nutschel at the same time as the proclamation "would help settle matters, at least when people are busy reading the books they're not wondering what this Narnia is all about."

Ekstrom having agreed, a special delivery had been made from the bookshops of Magdeburg to Wismar to Lübeck by the Air Force.  Colonel Jesse Woods did grumble about "not being a mobile library, damn it!" but supervised it personally—"if we have to do it let's get it done right."

(A few days after the flight somebody painted a winged horse and the name "Fledge" on the nose of the Gustav plane that flew the books in.  Nobody ever admitted responsibility, but the nose art stayed.)

The proclamation, as expected of one on behalf of both the Lion of the North and Aslan the Lion of Narnia, was impressive.

In bold, large, print it announced:

 

WHEREAS

In May 1634 the joint forces of the Kingdom of Sweden and the United States of Europe under the commands of General Lennart Torstensson did Ably and Admirably Rout the French Invaders,

WHEREAS

Sergeant Thorsten Engler of Colonel Straley's Flying Artillery Did Capture at Great Personal Risk Count Jean Baptiste Budes Guébriant, Cavalry Commander of the French,

WHEREAS

Sergeant Thorsten Engler Did Again at Great Personal Risk Capture Charles de Valois, Duke of Angoulême, Commander-in-Chief of the French forces,

THEREFORE

In Recognition of his Bravery, Courage and Service Sergeant Thorsten Engler is Raised in Rank and Distinction to

Imperial Count Of Narnia

Furthermore

By Virtue of the Capture of Charles de Valois, Duke of Angoulême,  having occurred in the vicinity of The Village of Nutschel, the aforementioned village is

HENCEFORTH

Recognized and Renamed as

The Village of Narnia

Proclaimed This Day By Order of

Gustavus II Adolphus

King of Sweden,

High King of the Union of Kalmar,

Emperor of the United States of Europe.

****

Along with the official proclamation on the church door of St. Jacob's were smaller proclamations, handed out to every passer-by and church-goer.  The copies of the Chronicles of Narnia flown in to Lübeck the day before proved greatly popular among the Nutschels, once it was realized these books were free.

Rödvinge's reason to delay the proclamation proved perceptive; the villagers were interested in the books, in the free books, in the free books from up-time, in the free books from up-time that were among the favorites of Princess Kristina Vasa herself!

What interested a princess greatly interested the villagers. Conversations centered around the books.

"Narnia?  What sort of a name is Narnia?"

"Aslan?  The Lion?  All right, with Gustav Adolf the Lion of the North now Narnia makes sense."

"No it doesn't!  Why change Nutschel to Narnia when it was at Ahrensbök that the real victory was won?"

"Children's stories?  This is all because of children's stories?"

"They're not exactly children's stories, are they?  The books themselves talk of Christian imagery."

"Witch?  Witch! Heresy!"

"Shut up, you idiot.  The witch doesn't live, read the book!"

"Dawn Treader?  What a poetic name! Dear—"

"All right, but still, for a fishing punt?"

"Magician's Nephew?  Magician! Her—"

"Shut up, you idiot!"

"Can you build me a wardrobe?  One like in the books."

"All right, but you do know it won't actually take you to—"

"Of course not, I meant one that looks like the one.  Although maybe a secret compartment or two?  Don't tell me where they are, I want to find out on my own."

"Aslan is Christ?  Christ as an animal?  Blasph—"

"Do I have to say it?"

"Who do you like the most?"

"Well, don't tell anyone, but—Eustace."

"Him?  He's scum!"

"I know he starts off that way, but he changes into a hero, and I like that."

"That's it, horse!  You've rolled in the mud once too often, from now on your name is Puddleglum!"

"You can't name your kitten Aslan!"

"Why not?"

"Because I named my kitten Aslan first!"

****

Those were the initial conversations about the books.  The ones people had while they were still reading the free books, still distracted by the free up-time books Princess Kristina herself read.

Then came the real conversations.  The ones Matthesen had known would come and hadn't yet wanted Rödvinge to worry about.

"You know, these stories are all very well and good, and I guess Narnia is a pretty good name, but—"

"Yeah, but now what?  Who do I pay my rent to now?"

"Can I still run my tavern out of my house?"

"I have the leases on a farm west of here, at least I did, but now I don't know."

"What's this count of ours like anyway?"

"So who's in charge now?  Is it this count or Lübeck?"

"I liked it before, I knew who did what and who to go see when I had a problem.  Now—"

"Will this new count let me stay as the schoolteacher?  And if he does, who pays my salary?"

"A new broom sweeps clean, I hear."

"Yeah, but this new broom isn't doing anything."

"Hasn't even come round to see us."

"At least before we knew what was what."

"I admit the French weren't here too long to do much damage, but they did do some.  Who do we see about getting repairs done?"

"What about the woodlot there?  It's common property, you know that!"

"I knew that, but now I don't know, I don't want to be in trouble for gathering firewood."

"This is just not right.  Somebody needs to do something.  Maybe write to Lübeck and ask what's going on."

"Yeah, I'm going to do that.  I mean, I don't know if I should, I don't know what this Engler guy is like, but he can't leave us like this, he has obligations!"

"That's right he does!"

****

The letters came first.  Then the people.

The people, like the letters, were mostly respectful.  Stating facts tactfully and requesting information, advice and aid with modesty and grace.

Those who weren't either wrote letters anonymously or requested others make their case for them.

The anonymous letters found use in the Rathaus jakes.

Some of the requests made it to Lübeck.  Others were forgotten on the way.

What Mayor Dieterich Matthessen and Senior Rathaus clerk Leo Anslinger could handle they did.

What they couldn't, they set aside for Rödvinge.

After all, he had been put in charge of Nutschel/Narnia.

Fortunately for Rödvinge, Matthessen and Anslinger waited to inform him of ongoing matters in Narnia only as long as it took for those matters to become a mild curiosity instead of an overwhelming necessity.


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