The news about the Danish attack on Wismar had reached Jena just as Johannes was about to leave. As he rode through the misty drizzle into Grantville the following evening, the usual hustle and bustle of the town was subdued. People stood talking quietly in small groups instead of hurrying in all directions, and even the Thuringen Gardens was almost silent in the hazy twilight.
Johannes returned the borrowed horse to the stable behind the Heinzerlings' house and went to knock on the door to the main house. He was renting two rooms in one of the converted outbuildings, but although he was wet, sore and tired after the long ride, it seemed better to hear the news as soon as possible.
After telling Johannes about the battle, and the death of the young men, in his usual profane version of the German language, Father Heinzerling mentioned that Don Francisco had sent a message asking for Johannes to come visit at his earliest convenience, so—after sending a longing thought to his waiting bed—Johannes went off again.
"You asked to see me, Don Francisco?" Johannes had found the young Jew still in his office.
"Ah! Yes. Please sit down, Father Johannes. I understand you are acquainted with Prince Ulrik of Denmark?"
"Yes. Has there been trouble? I've heard about the battle."
"Denmark is now officially at war with the CPE—or the United States of Europe as I understand that it will soon be named. The town was most upset about the death of Hans Richter and the young American officers. Prince Ulrik's identity is not publicly known, of course, but he did not conceal that he was Danish. A visiting Danish nobleman. Some of the town's more unruly elements, although they did not dare to threaten an armed man who could be expected to have a fair amount of skill at close-in fighting, attacked his servants while they were working in the stables, unarmed. They beat one of them rather badly before the police arrived."
"And the prince?"
Don Francisco's smile didn't quite reach his eyes. "The prince is safe, although he found the attack on Lars unexpectedly upsetting. He wishes to talk with you before making a decision. Prince Ulrik is a cavalry officer by profession. His primary loyalty must be expected to be to his royal father, King Christian of Denmark. Even so, King Gustavus Adolphus has sent a message asking for his young relative to give parole and travel to him with an escort of Swedish soldiers. But as I said, the prince wished to talk with you first."
* * *
Prince Ulrik was standing with his back to the room, gazing out the window at the lights from the town flickering in the darkness, when Johannes entered. After a brief glance over his shoulder, the young man returned to his view.
Johannes considered a formal greeting, but decided to just stand and wait.
"Do you remember who wrote that democracy was just another word for the rule of the mob?" Prince Ulrik's voice was devoid of emotion, as if he were inquiring about a minor philosophical point of no particular importance.
"No, but I think he was British."
"That . . . That sounds likely." Prince Ulrik took a deep breath. "Any ideas why they attacked my servants?"
"It could be because they consider a servant as important as a prince. Still, the attackers did not know that you were a prince and, thanks to the prudence of the Grantville police, still do not know it. They only knew that you are the subject of what they call an 'enemy nation.' So I consider it more likely that they simply were so cowardly that they preferred to attack the unarmed. The men attacking your servants would hardly be considered upstanding citizens. Surely you've seen soldiers run amok and turn into a mob after a battle?"
"Yes." Prince Ulrik sighed and leaned his head against the window. "I suppose it was foolish of me to expect the Americans to be more civilized than that."
"People are people, and when they are hurt, they bite. I suppose being civilized is really just a question of having the self control to bite only those who hurt you, rather than whoever is near."
"I have read several pamphlets from a group called the Committee of Correspondence. Do you think they are behind this?"
"No. The committee might include the most radical and revolutionary of both Germans and Americans, but they are not stupid and they are not ruled by their emotions. This attack on you had to be based entirely on emotions."
"The American books do not tell why I was assassinated in the American world—or by whom."
"No." Johannes smiled. "But since you were in Saxon service, I'd say you should seek the reason in that court. Or rather that you should stay away from it."
"The corruption there makes me sick! All my mother's family . . . And the drunkenness in my father's . . ." Prince Ulrik fell silent for a moment. "I never said that, Father Johannes."
"Sub rosa, Prince Ulrik. And that you are Protestant does not change that for me." Johannes smiled again as Prince Ulrik turned. "None of us get to choose our relatives, and the command to honor our parents does not mean we must approve of everything they do; only that we should take their best qualities and copy them in ourselves." Johannes filled the fine glass on the table with wine and pushed it towards the prince, who drank and sat down.
"The quality was actually better at the Grange." Prince Ulrik sighed and leaned his head back against the wall, the sparkle returning to his eyes. "My father takes his duties as king very seriously, and has done his best to see that my brothers and I do the same. But my father isn't Denmark, and while I could never go to war against him, I also no longer feel any obligation to fight in his service."
"If you could follow your heart, what would you do?"
"Go to Schwerin. My father saw to it that I was made the Lutheran prince-bishop of Schwerin, and while I only held the office briefly, that is where I feel I belong. It's been conquered by Gustavus Adolphus, and while His Majesty naturally takes care of all his subjects, I am deeply concerned about the people of Schwerin. They have suffered much, and really need the stability of a permanent leadership."
"And if you went to the king of Sweden and gave parole, as he has requested, would he entrust you with the administration of Schwerin?"
"Probably. Chancellor Oxenstierna has hinted at such a possibility." Prince Ulrik sat for a while sipping his wine and looking towards the dark window. "The problem really comes down to the fact that the person I admire the most and want to resemble is at war with all the rest of my family. And so it seems I must either choose one or the other. Betray my family or betray myself."
"Or turn your back—at least partly—upon both. A separate peace, I believe the Americans call it." At Johannes' words, Prince Ulrik turned abruptly towards him.
"What are you talking about? Changing my name and setting myself up as an incognito mercenary captain?"
"Not unless you feel that is the right thing for you to do." Johannes smiled. "Schwerin, I suspect, would be adequately neutral. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about things like obligations and honor, faith and betrayal. I cannot claim to have found the absolute truth, but it seems to me that logic, reason, and the things you ought to do can only take you so far. Sooner or later you get to the point where all that can guide you is your heart and your faith." Johannes looked down on his hands, rubbing them to ease the stiffness caused by holding the reins all day. "I've felt caught between my church wanting me to do what I felt was wrong and the Americans wanting me to embrace ideas that I could only partly support. So, I'm partly turning my back upon both and refusing to work for either. I'll aid the Americans only as far as I feel comfortable with, while the Church may hold my heart but not the use of my skills. I'll take my life into my own hands, work my painting as I choose, and try to right what I see as wrong."
"Are you advising me to do something similar?"
"Only mentioning the possibility of choosing a third option, when the two obvious ones leave you paralyzed and incapable of action. If Schwerin feels like the place you belong, for now at least, this might be God's way of telling you where he wants you to go. If your loyalty toward your father keeps you from giving King Gustavus Adolphus the oaths that would let you return there as prince-bishop . . . ?" Johannes shrugged. "It might still be the right place for you to be as a traveling Danish nobleman. And if your admiration for King Gustavus makes you reluctant to take action against him on your father's behalf? Then place your faith in God, and trust your heart to guide you."
Prince Ulrik's lips quirked. "Perhaps, as was done so expediently in Rudolstadt last spring, I should adopt the words of a writer of times between now and then. 'Trust not in princes. They are but mortal. Earth born they are and soon decay.' I'll think about this." He rose and went to stand by the window again. "My thanks for your time and counsel, Father Johannes."
Two weeks later Johannes once again looked up from a table filled with maps to see Don Francisco standing in the door to the school room.
"You left a message for me, Father Johannes?"
"Only to see you at your convenience, Don Francisco. There is no hurry."
"I wasn't doing anything that couldn't wait. I take it you are curious about Prince Ulrik?"
"If you have news, I am of course interested." Johannes smiled. "But I also expect the prince to find his own destiny without any help from me."
"I see. Well, the prince has reached Magdeburg without mishaps, and is presently negotiating with Chancellor Oxenstierna concerning Schwerin. Rumor has it that the prince and Prime Minister Stearns yelled at each other for a while. The prime minister felt that Prince Ulrik might be of more use as a diplomatic bridge—a negotiator—than as a bishop. But an agreement is expected." Don Francisco sat down at the table and looked inquiringly at Johannes. "But what did you want to see me about?"
"I've been considering your suggestion, Don Francisco. I'll be leaving for Cologne at the end of April, to accept a commission from the Hatzfeldt family."
"I see. Any particular reason for you to accept this particular commission?" Don Francisco looked down on the map of Kronach.
"Several reasons: some personal, some artistic, and some I'm sure would interest you."
Francisco looked at Johannes. "Any connection with your visits to the Grantville Hotel these past few weeks?"
"Yes. I've been 'playing cloak and dagger' as the Americans call it, with a Herr Otto Tweimal from Würzburg. A greasy little creep working for Bishop Franz von Hatzfeldt." Johannes smiled wryly. "He made me an offer I could not refuse."
"I've heard of him."
"Archbishop Ferdinand of Cologne's cousin, Maria Maximilane von Wartenburg, is to take up residence in the Hatzfeldt's newly acquired house in Cologne, along with most of the distaff part of the Hatzfeldt family. The property is several old houses—all of which are worn and drab—so officially I'm hired to paint murals for the ladies and advise on the restoration and decorations. Nice job and well paid. Unofficially, Hatzfeldt wants me to tell him about the Americans in return for a pardon—signed by Archbishop Ferdinand—for my behavior at Magdeburg. Herr Tweimal didn't actually mention negotiating with the Americans or King Gustavus, but also didn't hide that the bishop wants his bishopric back."
"Hmm! And Archbishop Ferdinand?"
"It was indicated that the archbishop was not to know that anything more than painting was going on."
"Bishop Hatzfeldt is an old patron of yours, Father Johannes. Do you believe he is planning a double deal behind the archbishop's back?"
Johannes shrugged. "Could be. When I met Franz von Hatzfeldt, he was a full member of the episcopal chapter administration of Bamberg as well as Würzburg. He had proved himself an excellent diplomat in negotiations with Tilly, and had slowly gained more and more influence until he was elected bishop of Würzburg just a few months before the Protestant conquest of that diocese. I'd say he is a most pragmatic man, ambitious, but very tolerant of other faiths. He definitely does care about his subjects—may actually be worrying about them—and takes his responsibilities very seriously. He'll be coming to Cologne from time to time, to see his family and to follow my progress with the house."
"I'm invited to live in the Hatzfeldt family's house there, but must of course leave it from time to time. I plan to buy materials from the merchant Beauville, but must also make arrangements with other traders and craftsmen."
"Herr Beauville is well known to me." Don Francisco smiled. "Before the collapse in the woad trade, my family dealt with him from time to time. This would be a good time to reestablish the connection. I expect this to make for a steady correspondence between Beauville and myself, and I would be most interested in any letters you'd care to send that way. But you mentioned a personal aspect to this offer?"
"Yes, but it's just that—personal."
Don Francisco didn't seem offended by the rudeness, just smiled a little and said softly, "I might be able to help, Father Johannes."
Johannes sat for a while playing with his pen. "Does the name Paul Moreau mean anything to you?"
"No, I'm afraid not."
"A fellow painter. His mother was a friend of my mother. He got into trouble with the Church. Shortly before Magdeburg, I found out that not only had he been tortured by the Inquisition, but it was also absolutely certain that the charges were—or at least the evidence against him was—false. I didn't do anything at the time but this may offer me a chance to do something to help him. At least find out what happened."
"Father Johannes, you have been hiding from the Inquisition for almost two years, and now you plan to challenge them?"
"Hiding from the Inquisition or hiding from myself?"
Don Francisco shook his head. "Perhaps I should now ask you: do you fear God and do you fear the Devil?"