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Of Faith and Facts

Chapter Text

 

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(Note: while this map is dated 1648, the general lay of the land outside of centeral Europe remained the same throughout the 30 Year's War. The Holy Roman Empire's borders changed monthly.)

 

1631, Brandenburg

The Kingdom of Sweden frowned as his beloved king continued his prayers, his large, powerful body stooped over by the weight of his grief and guilt. Gustav II Adolf was one of his greatest rulers, had done so much to make Sweden respected and feared. Part of what made his king so great was his religious piety and unshakable faith in the Protestant cause, that had lead Gustav to the Germanies to challenge the Catholic Powers.

But now Gustav’s piety was a weakness, his belief in his divine responsibility to protect bringing him guilt and shame. The king of Sweden had vowed to defend the city of Magdeburg, had promised to aid them when the General Tilly and his forces were at their gates. And he had failed to get there in time, to prevent the massacre that followed their surrender.

The greatest king Scandinavia had ever produced, the father of modern warfare, composer of hymns, leader of armies remained on his knees, praying for the souls he had promised to save and failed.

Words had never come easy to Sweden. In times like this they were even harder to find. He wished he could say something to bring peace to his king. Tell him that those German souls did not matter, tell him that war was always unkind to civilians, something to snap him out of it. But none of those things would bring any peace to Gustav’s soul.

Sweden approached his king silently, knelt down besides him and offered up his own prayers, less certain of the good it would do to any of the dead, but willing to try. For his king.

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Much later, when his king had finally risen to resume his duties, Sweden searched out his own source of comfort. The army camped out on Brandenburg territory was 20 thousand strong and none too organised, but generally soldiers from the same territory stuck together. It was easy enough to find the Fin part of the Swedish army.

Compared to some of the armies they had faced the Swedes were a ragged filthy mob, with no uniform to speak of and cleanliness forgotten in favour of ferociousness. The Fins were no exception, many still dressed in their Eastern European styles of caps and furs. Sweden had to wait until he heard Finland’s sweet voice coming from a truly repulsive hooded coat before he was certain he had found his ward.

Ruotsi.” Finland smiled happily as Sweden approached the fire he was cooking over. Around him his country men quietly left to find another fire, not comfortable around another Nation. Especially the Swedish one who ruled over them and their young Nation.

Finland did not appear to mind being abandoned as he offered Sweden a spoon of mush from the pot. Sweden sat down on a left behind rug and swallowed the mush politely, trying not to notice the taste. He had eaten worse. He gave Finland back the spoon and waved away the offer of more.

“I heard the king got bad news today.” Said Finland quietly, settling himself down with a bowl. “We could hear the furniture breaking from here.”

Sweden nodded his head, staring into the fire. “He blames himself… for Magdeburg.”

“But it was Pappenhein that lead the attack.” Pointed out Finland logically, “And Saxon’s prince that delayed the reinforcements.” He scowled into his bowl adorably. “And Bandenburg too.” Out of nowhere Finland whipped out a knife. “Give me one minute alone with him and I’ll end his indecision once and of all.” He stabbed into his pot violently, pulling it out with a piece of meat stabbed on the point. “He called me a savage to my face, thinks I can’t speak German.” He delicately nibbled on the meat. “He can’t speak a word of Swedish, let alone Suomi and I’m the savage?”

Sweden nodded again, letting Finland’s chatter wash over him. He had been against him coming with the Fin and Lapland forces to the German States, but was now glad he had the company. It looked to be a long and violent war his king was leading them into, and trips back home would be impossible. Finland was a balm to his tired heart in this blood soaked land.

He let his thoughts float back to Stockholm and the Baltic, his court and his young princess. A stray wish for a prince and a clear succession sprung to his mind but he pushed it back down. Gustav was healthy, there was time yet for him to have a son. First he would take a significant part of Germany for himself then finally challenge Denmark on equal footing. Once the insults of the Kalmar Union had been avenged, then Sweden would worry about an heir to his Empire.

“We will deal with them all.” Said Sweden firmly. One way or another Saxon and Brandenburg would be brought to heel and Tilly would be defeated. And then all of Germany would be his for the taking. And no one, not Denmark, not Poland or even Austria himself, would stop him.
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Six months later on the field of Breitenfeld Sweden made good on his promise. Gustav Adolf himself led the cavalry charge himself, Sweden and the king’s exasperated bodyguard right behind him. Forever and always this battle would be Gustav Adolf, Lion of the North’s defining battle, defeating the undefeatable Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly. The road to central Europe lay open to Sweden and the Catholic League quailed.

Sweden spared a moment to come out of his daydreams of power and land and admire the figure of Finland, blood spattered and wielding his knife, chasing after retreating Catholic forces, screaming his people’s favourite war cry. Such a lovely sight.
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Six months again past and King Gustav once more prepared to face down Tilly’s forces. The winter spent in Mainz, in sight of the Rhine had done nothing to cool the King’s ambition, even with strange rumours emerging from Thuringia and hysterical demands from the Princes of Saxon and Brandenburg that something be done about the usurpation of land by a group calling themselves ‘Americans’.

The rumours about this Grantville were varied and confusing. A town of warlocks and witches had appeared in a ring of fire, an act of God beyond their control. These ‘Americans’ had proceeded to chase off bandits and mercenaries, welcome all refugees and invite nearby cities to join their new ‘United States of Europe’. And they had revived the trading and merchant industry in Northern Germany, in the course of a winter. They claimed to have miraculous things to sell: fine metalwork, strange devices and toys made of a thing called plastic. And weapons, they had weapons that could turn the course of wars…

Yesterday King Gustav had met with representatives from Grantville, who claimed to be mere craftsmen and diplomats. Who offered munitions and money in exchange for an alliance.

Sweden stood with the delegation and watched his king with their new allies warily. Around him the rest of the Swedish army moved into position and Finland pouted at his side, sulking at the missed opportunity to scout ahead. These newcomers had made wild promises to his king yesterday. Now it was time to see how possible they were. Beowuld had his doubts about these ‘Americans’. A people claiming to come from the future, from the new world. He had been to Vinland himself and knew what the true people of ‘America’ looked like. It was all an obvious ploy, but to what end?

One of the American girls offered her strange gun to the King, who took it and looked through the telescope mounted on it. He seemed amazed at its clarity, his nearsightedness no longer a hindrance as he stared for long minutes at the battle lines being drawn before him. Then he got into an argument with the insolent girl and her claims of the gun’s range. No gun could shoot that far - five hundred yards – nor with any accuracy. The girl took back her gun, aimed it at Tilly’s army and…

The sound of the gun going off was nothing like Sweden had ever heard; the sight of Tilly’s officers being shot down, one by one, was like nothing he had ever dreamed of. Finland clutched at his coat, eyes wide and sulks forgotten. “Is it magic?”

The girl looked around at the sound of Finland’s unbroken voice. Her eyes widened at the sight of the two Nations, possibly the first time she had noticed either of them. Humans tended not to see any Nation but their own.

Her escort, a Scotsman employed with the Swedish army whispered to her, obviously explaining who they were. Then he seemed to argue with her, before hurrying after her as she approached the two.

“Oh wow.” The woman pointed a shaky finger at Finland” You, you’re-, oh wow.” Looked around, trying to see if anyone else understood what she seemed to be thinking. “You have to try my gun, now. I insist.”

Finland was much worse at understanding English than Sweden. Hesitantly he replied “No? I… with my knife,” said Finland cautiously, “Better fighting.”

“No no, you don’t understand.” The woman reached out to Finland’s shoulder, then looked at Sweden and took her hand back hurriedly. “You’re Finland. You have to know how to shot. Your country is world famous for marksmanship, the best there is. You guys fought off Russia for years.”

“Fight Russia?” Asked Finland, “All fight Russia, all win.”

“Yeah. But you… I” the woman huffed and threw up her hands. “Never mind. I’m just very honoured to meet you. Good-bye.”

“Good-bye,” Finland tugged at Sweden’s sleeve until he grunted his own salutations. Then she finally went away, Scotsman ushering her back to the rest of the delegates.

They stood in thoughtful silence for a while.

“She knew who I was.” Finland said finally in perfect Swedish, “She thought I was important enough to speak to.” He stopped for a moment, judging Sweden’s frowning face. “Why would she think I could speak English? Nobody believes I can speak German or French. Why English?”

Sweden did not like the turn the day had just taken. A few unpleasant thoughts about this alleged future had belatedly occurred to him and he suddenly did not want Finland anywhere near these strange people.

“If you hurry, you can join the bridge assault.”

“Really?” Without waiting for confirmation, Finland was already running towards the marsh and the group of Fins waiting the surge over the half built bridge and give Tilly an unpleasant shock.

Sweden watched him go with a frown, then turned back to the American group. Up until now he had not truly believed their wild claims of time travel, even with all the proof they had brought. But the girl’s words, about his Finland. He did not want to think about them or the feelings they evoked in him, at all. To know the future would be a great thing, but at what cost?

A day later, when Tilly was permanently defeated, in part due to the American’s engineers, and Southern Germany was open to his King, Sweden’s bad mood still remained.