Ring of FireEric Flint

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Between the ArmiesAndrew Dennis 1It was a bright cold January afternoon in Avignon. An unassuming, long-haired, round-faced man in a clerical soutane sat at a desk in a high chamber of the Palais du Pape. He had the window open, for the cool breeze. Outside, the winter sun cast a light like crisp white wine on the Dom des Rochers and glittered on the Loire.Monsignor Giulio Mazarini, Canon of St. John Lateran, Secretary to the Legate of Avignon—the Legate, Cardinal Barberini, was in Rome to the minor inconvenience of Mazarini's career—had found a quiet spot to look over the latest intelligences. He did not need to—he was between achievements, becalmed. The canonship was a sinecure he had held for some time, and his real work was diplomacy.He had done, false modesty aside, good work for His Holiness and his Spanish allies—better to say, masters—in the Mantuan matter, even if others had sniffed at the self-aggrandizing behavior of a junior diplomat not thirty years old. Let them. If that battle had not been stopped before it began, the treaty negotiations would have become impossible, and even the botched peace that French mission to the Emperor had secured would have failed. He had even risen from negotiating with Richelieu with credit: shaken hands with the man and come away with all his fingers. In truth, Mazarini had a high professional and personal estimate of His Eminence. Despite Mazarini's best efforts, the cardinal had taken the Pignerol valley as his price to keep French troops out of Mantua. A lesser man would not have had that much to show from bargaining with Mazarini. He had even found Richelieu pleasant and affable.Mazarini had been rewarded for his work and now sought to anticipate his patron's next command. Hence his present diversion with the reports from the rest of Europe. Since the Swedish successes of the previous autumn, the main source of political and diplomatic information in Germany, the Society of Jesus and its devotion to regular reporting, had dwindled.But not dried up. Information still came out. The reverses of the Catholic League made for intriguing reading—Tilly defeated, the Swedes looting Bavaria. Add to that the appearance of this new polity, claiming to be from the future, among the multifarious Germanies. Even Mazarini could hardly find that news dull, whatever its credibility. From the future, indeed. There was certainly no shortage of lunatics in the Germanies—it seemed the Bohemian disease was a contagion.Then, the latest from Caussin at Paris. The despatch of Servien—Chretien, not the Marquis de Sable by that name whom Mazarini had known in Mantua—to Vienna and Brussels by way of Thuringia, that was all too credible. A moment's thought to order the implications in his mind, and—He opened the door to his chamber and bellowed down the stairwell. "Heinzerling! Get me a map of the Palatinate—no, maps of the whole Rhine. And get your fat German backside up here!" He shouted in French, the language the two had best in common other than Latin.Shortly, from the stairwell, came Heinzerling's heavy footsteps. Although little worse than most parish priests, he was below the standards Jesuits expected even of an army chaplain. Either the Society of Jesus had some deeper use for him in mind or had simply ignored his raucous behavior and not dismissed him from the Society. The latter was more likely. The last five years' frenetic re-Catholicization of the Germanies had seen the barrel scraped for priests.Even so, nowhere was desperate enough to put Heinzerling in charge of a parish. Heinzerling had had to join the chaplaincy of Tilly's army. He had left that post carrying messages three months before and not been in any hurry to go back. For the time being Mazarini had appropriated him as aide-de-camp.A disaster as a priest, he was one of life's better sergeants. Mazarini had learned the use of the breed as a cavalry captain in the Valtelline War. That Heinzerling was fluent in a dozen languages was certainly no disadvantage. "Put that foul thing out and come here," said Mazarini, when Heinzerling shouldered the door aside and rolled in with a bundle of maps under his arm and his ever-present pipe clenched between his teeth, a habit he had picked up from English mercenaries in the Imperial army. "What do you know of Mainz?""I was born near there, why?""If you wanted to cut the Spanish Road from there, how would you do it?"Unlike most soldiers, Heinzerling had some grasp of strategy. "Up the Mosel, or there're probably a couple of routes across country. More expensive, but quicker than besieging every damned fort from Koblenz to Trier.""You think the Swede will do that?" Mazarini stared at the map, trying to squeeze more information out of it by sheer pressure of staring."If Wallenstein lets him, ja.""So the Spanish have to—" Mazarini let it trail off. The implications for the Spanish if they lost their road up the middle of Europe were obvious from a single glance at the map."Ja, and they—why are we discussing this?""Don't tell me you don't read these reports before I do." Mazarini grinned to take some of the sting from his words. He had a simple arrangement with Heinzerling with regard to his duties to the Society: he could send reports to Satan himself provided he was an efficient aide. Besides, Mazarini had himself only narrowly avoided being talked into the Society which had educated him."Well, this Thuringia business, with Richelieu's man, is that it?""Exactly. We'll make an intriguer of you yet. Here, roll that out." The map showed the Germanies in more detail than he needed, and he had to hunt about a bit for the points he wanted. Mazarini stabbed his thumb, finally, at Leipzig. "Here, this is where the Swede knocked Tilly back on his heels.""More, mein' ich. Tilly's not just knocked back, the old teufel is finished. Spent. I was there.""Fine, whatever. But now the Swede is here." Mazarini drew his thumb south a little and west to the Rhine. "Mainz. Where, as you observe, he's right for an attack on the Spanish Road in the spring.""Where he's right to get kicked off before a year is out if he does. Tilly's gone, fucked, but Wallenstein's not going to be so easy. The Swede's been running himself ragged for three years all over the Germanies. Before that, Prussia. Wallenstein's going to come roaring up the Donau, unbuttoning his britches as he goes to be ready to fuck the Swede.""Quite. Now, in all this," Mazarini said, "why is Richelieu sending this other Servien to Thuringia, and not to Mainz? Mainz is the logical place if he wants to subsidize the Swede.""These newcomers, it seems to me. They are definitely supporting the Swede?""Now you're getting it. They've got a regiment of the Swede's horse on hand, which I think counts for more than this nonsense about where they're from.""You believe he'll take the opportunity?""Yes. Or, he will if Louis lets him. He will have the Swede supported on the Rhine, enough to hold off Wallenstein and still get a force up the Mosel. Spain will throw everything they have into saving their precious road. And this time there will be no way to stop it all with a convenient knife in the right set of ribs.""They could—" Heinzerling paused. "No, you're right. No one the Spaniards can knife to stop the armies marching. It will all get a lot worse, nicht wahr?""A lot worse. Especially if Richelieu gets Spain mired in Germany and makes mischief elsewhere." Mazarini scowled at the map, as if willing Gustavus Adolphus away from the Spanish Road. That road had been instituted in days when the English were resolute in their heresy, rather than kissing Spanish diplomatic ass and leaving their shipping alone, inasmuch as a nation of inveterate pirates could bring themselves to do that. The road was the land route from Spanish-held Genoa to Flanders, a hard road and an expensive one. Poner un pica en Flandes, they said, for anything difficult and expensive to just short of impossible. "Don't know why Spain doesn't just abandon the Road. They haven't used it in ten years," said Heinzerling."That hasn't stopped them fighting for it. You forget, I was in the Valtelline for the last bloodletting. And the Mantuan business, for which that fathead de Nevers and his alleged inheritance was no more than a pretext. We kept that from a worse fight only by the Grace of God." Mazarini made a face. "Worse fight. Hah! Plague and fever and nearly three years of butchery." He trailed off, remembering some of the things he had had to ride past in cavalier finery. He had stuck resolutely to his clerical dress after that.Heinzerling prodded, seeing his boss about to grow maudlin. "So what do we do?""Try to stop my good work being undone by Spaniard hotheads, that's what we do." Mazarini scratched his chin, although he had already thought it through. "We have to get into this before worse happens. Go, start packing, my German friend, you're going to be taking a trip home soon."Heinzerling left and Mazarini turned his mind's eye to Thuringia and the problem of making contacts in this Grantville. Anywhere else, and the notables would be known to someone. A discreet question or two and the Church's formidable network of gossips would see that the information got to him. So, instead, to first principles: if you want to know something about a parish, ask the priest. He began to rummage through the reports. The one that named the church in Grantville was among the earliest—the doctrinal lay of the land had been the first priority of the spies, given what it usually told about a local ruler in the Holy Roman Empire.When Mazarini saw the name that church had borne when the town first appeared, he gaped for a moment. When he saw the spies' comment that it was clearly a heretic establishment as there was no such saint, he positively bellowed with laughter, slapping the desk in his mirth.Heinzerling put his head back around the door as Mazarini was recovering, some minutes later. "Ein problem?" he asked."No, quite the reverse. I think there is more to the story about Thuringia than I was prepared to credit. You remember who we had in here last week? Who you had to 'escort' out of the Palais?""That arschloch down from Paris?""The very same." Mazarini turned the report around on his desk. "Here, look here."Heinzerling looked down at the paper, his lips moving a moment. When he looked up, he was grinning. "Ja. Definitely from a far and strange time. Of course there is no such saint, he isn't dead. Yet. More is the pity.""Oh, it makes too much sense not to be true." Mazarini choked while his belly shook again with laughter. "Saint Vincent de Paul. Oh, he should be, he should be. What do the French say of their priests? The shortest way to hell?""Is to be ordained a priest, ja.""Quite so, and de Paul is trying to teach them their letters and to stay out of the whorehouses. The patience of a saint!"Heinzerling's grin widened. "Would you mind that I tell him?" He was fighting to control his face, trying to reconcile the expostulating little man he had marched out of the Palais by the scruff of his soutane with the image of a plaster saint. With his name on the front of a church, yet.Mazarini choked again, and then roared with another burst of laughter. "No," he said when he recovered, "In the name of God and all his Angels and Saints, including Saint Fucking Vincent, no. The wretched mendicant will simply increase his demands to match his new status. No, Heinzerling, you're going to Thuringia. And I want reports on everything, you hear me? Everything."2Six months before, two newlyweds had walked out of Saint Vincent's, Grantville, after the novelty of a Methodist wedding service conducted in a Catholic church."Just got to change, then I'm ready when you are, Larry." The Reverend Simon Jones came back into the church from waving off the happy couple. "I intend to scandalize my flock by buying a beer for a romish idolater."That was assuming Jones' congregation hadn't completely accustomed themselves to their pastor keeping company with a Roman priest, or that they were upset by his having borrowed St. Vincent's in order to have room for the guests at the wedding.Mazzare grinned. "I looked it up. You've got more than a century to get drunk and chase the girls before Wesley comes to put you straight.""Ah, touché." Only the day before Jones had twitted Mazzare about papal infallibility being anachronistic in 1631. While Jones was changing in the sacristy, Mazzare cleared the more egregious litter from the church. The sacristy, the priest's green-room beside the sanctuary, concentrated the smells of the church: candles, floorwax, furniture polish and a hint of incense, the distinctive smell of Catholic churches everywhere. The midsummer sun struck down through the geometric stained glass. Too art deco for a church, not enough for a cocktail bar, Mazzare had once said of it.Jones raised an eyebrow at the double handful Mazzare dropped into the wastebasket. "Couldn't that have waited for tomorrow?" he asked."I've got eight o'clock mass tomorrow morning. Mrs. Flannery, God bless her, comes in half an hour early to dust things. I doubt I could face her if"—Mazzare bent, and reached into the basket—"she found this."He held up the offending object: one of Grantville's fine collection of now-anachronistic beer bottles.Mazzare grinned, dropped the bottle back into the basket. "Bad enough I allow Protestants in here, without I allow drunken, littering Protestants in. And she'll say all that without opening her mouth. That woman can glare.""Ah, now that was probably one of your own papists seeking to discredit the Methodist confession. Another romish plot."Mazzare laughed. "I do wonder why I bother having anyone clean this place, you know. The amount of time I spend tidying up so I can face the ladies in question—""And well done for facing Irene Flannery at all.""I'm sure she loves you too—I might as well do it myself.""Have you considered a witch-hunt? They're all the rage these days," Jones said, holding open the door.Mazzare stopped, frowned. "Now, don't even joke about that. We're right in the height of it here and now.""Only, what, fifty, sixty years before Salem?" Jones nodded. He'd been doing some reading as well."About. One of yours, that.""Eh?""Sorry. Protestant. Although in your case you can say 'before my time.' Come to that, does Methodism have any atrocities to its credit?""Other than three-hour sermons?""You know what I mean. It's the season for them hereabouts. Magdeburg." Mazzare paused, shuddered, went on. "The Inquisition. Forced conversions. Thuringia's Protestant this week.""I heard. Still a fair few Catholics, though.""Yes, but am I one of them?""Whoa there, big fella. This sounds serious." Jones felt a sudden start of alarm at the expression on Mazzare's face. He let the door swing shut."It is." Mazzare sighed. He leaned on the tall vestment chest with both hands. The summer sun was high. Through the stained glass, it lit the top of the vestments chest in a rainbow dapple almost too bright to look at. Mazzare stared into the glow for a moment."Troubles. And then some. Yes." He turned, leaned back against the heavy chest of drawers and folded his arms before he carried on. "No, it's—well, lots of things. You've seen the name out front?""Yes, what of—I see. He's still alive, isn't he? And this is only one of many shocks, I take it?""Well, it's the easiest one, just a little work with a paintbrush. That, and having to dust off my Latin to say mass in, and oh, how the old guard are loving that.""I can imagine. Some of that Gregorian stuff is easy on the ear.""Whatever." Mazzare waved aside the aesthetic merits of the Tridentine mass. "Simon, I didn't sign on for this. Here, the shop manual for this place, you've seen it before.""Sure." Jones had seen the heavy, leather-bound volume Mazzare had picked up. It contained the liturgy for every conceivable service, office, benediction and mass that could be performed in a Catholic church. Jones had been particularly taken with the engagingly mediaeval Novena of Saint Blaise.Mazzare let the book fall back to the table it had been on. "Heresy, every word of it, in this day and age. Just for the language it's in. I've got a catechism, the '92 one, that could get me executed, just for the suggestion that Protestants might be Christians too. That's what I signed on for, vowed to obey. Here and now, though, the orders are different. Damned if I do, damned if I don't."Jones glared. "You snapped at me for lawyering?" he said. That had been Mazzare's response to Jones' last attempt to jolly him out of his gloom. "Look, Larry, if the pope's not infallible—If there's—well, what I mean to say is that what you've got there"—he jabbed a finger at the missal—"is the best the Catholic Church knew how to be up to, what, '98? The turn of the millennium in your own case. So take it forward. Look, the Inquisition won't get called in to Grantville if anyone around here can help it. They're in for the bum's rush if they turn up anyway. Just keep your corner of the Church of Rome as clean as you can.""Can I do that?" Mazzare's tone said that he didn't believe it. "What do we do, Simon? Sit on our asses and pretend the word of God isn't being used as toilet paper everywhere more than three miles from this spot? What does that do to our parishioners, when some asshole, pardon my mouth, preaches a damn crusade because we're setting a bad example? Or do we just join in the lunacy?"There was a silence between them for long moments, broken only by the refined tick of the sacristy clock. Jones said nothing."It's a tough one, Simon," said Mazzare into the silence. Jones offered a face that, had he ever played poker, would have been a winner. Eloquence, polished before his own congregation, deserted him for a moment. What to say? Then it came. He pointed at a spot on the wall, where the only answer to his friend's worries was hanging.Mazzare understood, laughed ruefully. "But," he said, "as the Irishman said, if you want to get there, you don't want to start from here."Jones shrugged. "We've time to think. Come on, you old papist, there's a better use for the day."Together they went out to find the party. The real trick would have been avoiding it.3The months passed, and Mazzare and Jones settled into something that was not routine. There were too many changes and shocks for that. But it was at least an accommodation with the life of twenty-first-century clerics transplanted to the seventeenth. They did not speak again of Mazzare's troubles, for the day-to-day hard work of pastoral responsibility for congregations that doubled and redoubled was enough to take the load off either priest's mind, just as five minutes of real stomach cramps will cure any amount of heartache.It was February of 1632 before the issue arose again. The Reverend Jones answered the telephone late in the evening. "I've had a letter, Simon." The voice was Mazzare's, abrupt as usual. He spent most of his time exhausted these days. "Letter, Larry? Who from?" Jones had been half-asleep himself when the phone had rung."You remember we were talking about what'd happen when the hierarchy heard about me? I think the other shoe's dropping.""Oh. What does it say? And who in particular is it from?" Jones sat up straighter in his chair."Guy name of Mazarini. He's a papal diplomat at Avignon.""In France?" It was the best Jones could do. Mazzare was assuming he knew more than he did."Not for a while. Avignon's a papal state, this guy works for the head of it.""Sounds heavy.""Might be. Why don't you come over, we can have a chat while I think what to do."Jones begged off until morning, when he made his way to Mazzare's presbytery in the quiet hours of the late winter dawn. Mazzare was already up and waiting."Someone I want you to meet, as well," he said, by way of greeting. "Father Augustus Heinzerling."The priest in question was a short, wide, brawny-looking man, his shoulder-length hair and prize-fighter face clashing with his clerical dress. He nodded to Jones. "Ein Ehre, Herr Jones." He said it "Tschones.""Pleased to meet you, too," said Jones, glancing across at Mazzare, whose face was impassive. "You come from Avignon?"It turned out Heinzerling's English was reasonable, if German-accented and scented with cheap tobacco. "I am come presently from Avignon. I have the honor to be from Germany in my origins.""I guessed," said Jones."Father Heinzerling is here in violation of King Gustavus' prohibition on Jesuits, it seems." Mazzare's mouth twisted, wry. "But we have freedom of religion here, so I think we needn't turn him in just yet. He brought Monsignor Mazarini's message for me. Here, before we go any further. I've written out a translation."Jones took the two sheets of paper, one a heavy, ragged-edged sheet with wax seals and pale brown ink and the other feint-ruled with Mazzare's neat handwriting. Neither version was a long document."Doesn't say much, does he?" said Jones when he had finished reading. "Would be honored to make your acquaintance, interested in discussing matters theological. There's more?"Mazzare grinned, although there was no humor in it. "Tell him, Father Heinzerling.""The monsignor is a diplomat. He hath seen implications in Grantville"—he gave it the French pronunciation—"and Sweden. He would have correspondence with Grantville in the hope of a present peace.""You'll raise this with Rebecca?" Jones looked to Mazzare for that.Mazzare nodded. That was a given. "There's more, though, Simon. Tell him, Father."Heinzerling nodded. "Richelieu has sent his man Servien to Wien and thence to Grantville. Thereafter to Bruxelles. The monsignor believes his Eminence seeks to do Spain a mischief by provoking more general war in the Germanies."Jones nodded. "Definitely one for Rebecca. Larry, I think your hopes of tidying up your hierarchical headaches are still faint.""Maybe," said Mazzare, "on the other hand, Mazarini works for the pope. Something might come of it, after all."4"Your Eminence." Mazarini began to kneel, feeling slightly silly doing so for a cardinal younger than himself."Come, Giulio, we are in private. My esteemed uncles may have fine ideas about the dignity of cardinals, but I am not so grand. Come, sit by me. Come." Cardinal Antonio Barberini the Younger might disavow his grandeur of station but, like the rest of his family, he had done well out of his uncle's securing of the Vatican.Mazarini took the chair he was waved to. An easy conversational gambit—"How is the cardinal finding Avignon?""Now that I am here? As ever I did. Charming. Rustic. Alas, French. Come, Giulio, you have not sought a private audience to inquire after my health and pleasure, eh? Out with it, Giulio, out with it."Mazarini smiled. "The cardinal finds me transparent."Barberini snorted. "Not only this cardinal. I was met at the border by one of Richelieu's intendants." The warmth had gone from Barberini's face."Your Eminence?" Mazarini made himself ask the question, although he knew what was coming."If you think our esteemed brother in Christ at Paris does not see and hear everything in this town you are not the man who was recommended to me."Mazarini nodded. "I was waiting for a response.""From Richelieu? You have it. His Eminence is displeased. Speaking for Rome, so is His Holiness. Speaking for his Holiness, perhaps helping pry apart France and Spain is no bad thing. Speaking for my dear uncle Maffeo, it would be good work but your timing is execrable."Mazarini slumped in his chair. "Such was not my intention. I had thought France and Spain were about to be at each other's throats again."Barberini smiled again. "Come, events make fools of us all, sooner or later.""As they have of Richelieu." Mazarini grinned. "He would have had more for France by doing nothing.""Or by helping the Swede." Barberini's moustaches twitched as he said that, as if he smelt something vile.Mazarini nodded. "Although there he—he is helping the Swede?" He frowned.It was Barberini's turn to grin. "No, I doubt it. I read your appreciation, good work, good work. Come, Richelieu is not so stupid as to think he can sway the Swede now the Swede has the Jew money, no?"Mazarini sucked at his moustache for a moment. "I am pleased the cardinal finds my work useful. Has His Holiness any further directions as to my actions in Thuringia?"Barberini pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed, deeply. "I cannot speak in detail, you understand? Uncle Maffeo may have raised me to the purple but he still expects me to be his little nephew. I think you should take care. When I left Rome my uncle was considering two million in subsidy to Wallenstein. Just, you understand, to balance the Swede. Olivares' lapdogs were snarling as usual about our lack of enthusiasm for the Habsburg cause. And the French army has yet to stir out of its winter quarters. Much could happen before springtime.""So I may continue making preparations to open formal discussions later in the year?"Barberini chuckled. "No, if you would be a peacemaker, you must wait for war. Best to wait for the die to be cast before you work your charms in the Germanies."Mazarini felt his jawline grow numb with the effort of maintaining his face. He kept his voice slow and careful, his manner that of the patient, polite uomogalanto. "And while the cardinal awaits the development of the implications, how free a rein is Wallenstein to have to rape his way across the Germanies? How many converts for the Lutherans will satisfy the cardinal? How far past the right time to act does the cardinal wish me to wait?""As long as it takes!" Barberini slapped the arm of his chair. "As long as it fucking takes! Do you not see what Richelieu wants? Do you not? As soon as the Church moves to stop France, Louis of France becomes another Henry of England. How many do we lose then, Monsignor?" Barberini sighed. "Please, forgive me. I set a poor example, no?"Mazarini waved the apology aside. "I provoked the cardinal. But, please, Richelieu threatens apostasy?""Come, does Richelieu ever threaten? Overtly, I mean? You know the man, Giulio. You know him, how he talks. How he can hardly control Louis at times, as if Caussin doesn't have that fool on a tight leash."Mazarini raised an eyebrow. "We're counting on Caussin now? That prig?" He also had doubts that the popular opinion of Louis of France as a blithering, purblind, easily led idiot were entirely accurate."He is a good and pious man, else Richelieu would not have appointed him the king's confessor." Barberini waved a finger of admonition as he spoke and grinned at his own joke."The cardinal may joke, but Caussin is a good and pious and above all loyal man. That is his trouble. Richelieu does take some of his duties seriously, and the king's conscience is one of them.""Yes," Barberini waved aside the minor matter of a monarch's conscience, "but we digress. We dare not prevail upon France lest they turn Protestant. We dare not prevail upon Spain lest they work a mischief on the church in the guise of their own piety. May god forbid a church run by Olivares and his lot, eh?"Mazarini held his tongue with the first—insolent—reply that came to him. "We dare not," he said finally, "dare not.""Basta! Don't be such a fool, Giulio. What we dare not is set the Church against what the two largest Catholic powers want. One of which is Spain, which runs the church in its territories how it damned well pleases.""And the Catholics in Germany? Is it necessary to kill them to save them for the Church and the House of Habsburg?"It was Barberini's turn to be silent while Mazarini glared at him.Mazarini cracked first and sighed, deeply. "So I am called to my obedience. So be it. I will say I could do more—""I don't doubt it. Come, if it were only Uncle Maffeo and I perhaps you might be allowed to try, eh? For now, there were too many . . ." Barberini's forced bonhomie trailed off. "No, I mislike it, too. But do nothing, Giulio. To intermeddle and fail before the war begins, eh? You see?""So the possibility of embarrassment must take second place to the certainty of bloodletting?"Barberini frowned. "I share your disappointment. But we are both bound to obedience."Mazarini hung his head. "I know," he sighed. "I have a man in Thuringia. On his way back, more than likely.""I know. Your messenger. Do not send him back with any message."Mazarini looked the cardinal full in the face. "I understand."* * *The Rhone flowed slow and even, the litter of Avignon only thinly scattered in it. "Obedience," he said, and spat. The spittle drifted down to vanish, blown by the wind under the arch of the bridge.The thin winter sun, not yet tinged with the warmth of spring, scattered and danced on the wavelets around the river boats. He mimicked Barberini's pompous tone. "Come, Giulio, you patronizing little bastard." He spat again.He hawked up one more, this time for the House of Habsburg, and dropped a good one into a boat as it emerged under the Pont St. Benezet. Snickering like a naughty boy, he stepped back from the parapet. Ah, if it was all that simple. Do the thing and escape notice after. The fat fool. And his—back to the parapet for another gob of malice into the river—dignity! "Monsignor?" The voice was German-accented. "Monsignor Mazarini?""Ah, Heinzerling. There I was, convinced my life was being written by Cervantes from his assured place in Hell, and you arrive to be my Sancho Panza.""Monsignor?" Heinzerling was frowning."Did the paltry contribution of Spain to world literature pass you by, Father?""No, Monsignor, but—"Mazarini waved it aside. "How was Grantville?"Heinzerling grinned. "All the reports had and more. The priest there, Father Mazzare, invites you to visit him, and their dignitaries would welcome discussions provided there is no expectation of conclusion. I have here for you a letter from the priest Mazzare, a note of the words I had with the Jewess I spoke to who is in their council of government, notes of what I saw in the town, everything." He pulled out a small packet of papers, on which the rings of ale mugs were visible. No doubt there would be fowl-grease and tobacco-scorches where he had composed the notes in taverns on the ride back. Mazarini gestured for the paper. "I shall look forward to reading this. Father Heinzerling, does the priest at Grantville need a curate? Can he afford one?""He is alone, yes. He seems rich enough to hire a curate, too. Why?""Because you did not meet me here, Father Heinzerling.""But Deacon Bazin said you'd be—""Never mind that little turd. If he asks, I wasn't here. No, you go back to this Grantville, make yourself at home. Get a living of this priest who thinks de Paul is dead, and wait for word. While you're waiting, get letters to me in Rome, where I'm going, eh? You have the address of my usual correspondent there, yes?""Yes, but—""I cannot go to Grantville. I need a pair of eyes and ears there, and someone who will keep me informed. You're going back of your own free will because you missed me here, yes? I left word—I'll see Bazin later to leave it—that you were to follow me to Rome, but like the thickheaded German oaf you are you went back to this town of wonders in Germany, with that woman you think no one knows you keep, yes?""Ja—"Mazarini waved to shut him up. "You've come out, missed me here and gone and got drunk, all right? That's the excuse you've used every other time you've been at home with the woman, yes?"Heinzerling grinned. "Your spies are good.""You have a lot to live up to, eh?"

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