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Chapter 62

Almost mesmerized, Eddie stared at the distant ironclad that was bringing itself around to bring its big ten-inch guns to bear on Copenhagen Castle. The two pivot-mounted guns had been trained around to the port broadside from their normal fore and aft positions, so he got an excellent view of three of them. And judging from their elevation, Eddie had a pretty shrewd notion that their target was the castle's single most prominent feature: the Blue Tower.

The same Blue Tower, unfortunately, that contained Eddie himself—locked into a room on one of the upper floors.

That was the USS Constitution, to make things perfect—Simpson's own flagship. Even at the distance, Eddie could recognize the admiral's flag.

No, it'd be the SSIM Constitution, now. He'd learned that from Ulrik.

He would have been positive as to the ship's identity, even if it hadn't been for the admiral's flag. It was hard to distinguish the ironclads at a distance because they'd all been built according to the same design. They were certainly too far away for him to read the lettering on the hulls. Still, each ship tended to have slight variations of its own, and as much time as he'd spent working on them those variations had become as familiar to him as the features of different people's faces.

He could see the national colors they were flying, too, which was the new flag adopted by the United States of Europe after it was formed—by which time Eddie himself was a Danish prisoner of war—not the flag he'd been familiar with. That had been the flag of the New United States, which was an adaptation of the up-time flag of the USA. A different pattern for the stars, but the same familiar red and white stripes. Since the Confederated Principalities of Europe had been a loose confederation rather than having the federal structure of the USE, the CPE's Navy had actually been the NUS Navy. Just on loan, so to speak. The CPE had never had a flag of its own.

Eddie had never seen the USE flag up close, and Ulrik's depiction of its design had been rather vague. From this distance, it looked remarkably like a Confederate battle flag from the American Civil War. At least, it clearly had the same stars and bars design, even if Eddie couldn't really make out the stars that well. But the color scheme was quite different. The USE's colors were the traditional German red, black and gold, not the red, white and blue of American custom—whether Union or Confederate. And the black crossed bars on this new flag were considerably thinner than the blue crossed bars of the Confederate flag. The end result was that, from a distance, the USE flag mostly just looked like a big red flag.

Swell, thought Eddie. Might as well just call it a bloody flag and be done with it, far as I'm concerned. Within less than a minute, he was about to get a personal introduction to the phenomenon known as "friendly fire." Most likely, a very brief introduction. Even if none of the shells struck his chamber directly, he knew that it wouldn't take that many rounds from those huge guns to bring down the whole Blue Tower in a heap of rubble. With Eddie Cantrell's poor squished skinny little carcass somewhere in the middle of it, oozing blood and—best not dwell on that—at least maybe they'd be able to identity the remains from the scraps of red hair still sticking to this or that shredded piece of—

Oh, yuck.

But, since Eddie couldn't see anywhere he could hide that would make any difference, he decided to stay at the window. What the hell. Might as well enjoy a good show, short and unfortunately truncated as it would be, on his way out.

He heard something behind him and turned. To his surprise, the door was being unlocked. A small hope flared up. Could the guards have decided to take him out?

But the person who came through the door was not one of the palace guards, it was Anne Cathrine.

"Hurry, Eddie!" she hissed, waving at him. "We don't have much time."

Eddie wasn't about to argue the point. He didn't quite race for the door—not with a pegleg—but came damn close. If he survived all this, maybe he'd look into setting up a Special Olympics. He'd probably be a cinch for the gold medal in the 100 Meter Stump.

"You aren't kidding we don't have much time," he said, as he got to the door. "Won't be more than—"

Anne Cathrine was already hustling him down the corridor, her shoulder under one of his arms, carrying him as much as he was moving himself. Under other circumstances, he might have been irritated and he'd certainly have been embarrassed, but he wasn't going to worry about that now. The simple fact was that, as strong as she was, Anne Cathrine was getting him down that corridor faster than he'd have managed on his own.

"The guards only agreed to leave for twenty minutes," she hissed. "The greedy swine. Hurry!"

And, of course, the feel of that young and incredibly vigorous and healthy and very female body pressed so closely to him was half-scrambling his brains. As he had before, for what now seemed a million times, he tried to remind himself sternly that the girl was only fifteen. No cradle robber he, damnation.

Alas, his mind—as it had the same million times before—refused to cooperate.

Her birthday's August 10th, so she's actually fifteen and three-quarters years old, which is a lot closer to sixteen, and sixteen ain't so bad when you really start thinking about it—sweet sixteen, remember?—not to mention that it's the age of consent in West Virginia and even if it weren't, a quick car ride across the state line from where Grantville used to be puts you in either Pennsylvania or Ohio where it's also sixteen and in a real pinch Jimmy Andersen once told me he'd heard it was only fifteen or maybe even fourteen in South Carolina although he thought you had to get parental permission for that to apply and fat chance of that even leaving aside the fact that Papà in this case is the king of fucking Denmark and just because it wasn't all that long ago that the hypocritical Norse bastards were ravishing Irish virgins didn't mean they took the same attitude when it was THEIR virgin daughters involved—

By now, they'd reached one of the servants' narrow staircases and were working their way down to the next floor. An incredible explosion above them wiped Eddie's feverish reveries right out of his mind. He was almost relieved.

The whole staircase shook—and it was mostly stone. Fortunately, no rubble came down.


"What was that?" cried out Anne Cathrine, stopping for a moment and staring back up the stairs.

"That," said Eddie grimly, "was the first of what will be as many ten-inch explosive shells as my boss Admiral Simpson thinks it takes to turn this place into rubble. Let's get moving again, king's daughter."

She stared at him. "Your admiral is shooting at the Blue Tower?"

"Sure is. Please, Anne Cathrine, we have to get moving. This whole thing's going to come down. Trust me, it will. Even up-time construction couldn't stand up to what's coming."

She did as he bade her, moving even more quickly than before. It was pure Valkyrie now, with not even a trace of her former—none too elaborate, damn the girl—attempts to salve Eddie's pride whenever she helped him along. For all practical purposes, she'd more or less picked him up and had him half-slung over her hip—

Imminent death and destruction be damned, that hip kicked all his reveries back into full gear. How could one teenage girl so completely demolish an adult man's hold on reality?

—and was practically bounding down the stairs, her mane of red-gold hair coming loose and starting to spill over half of Eddie's face.

Okay, fine. He was only a twenty-year old adult man, not some kinda codger, and even the girl's hair was gorgeous. Still and all!

She reached the landing and kept going down the next flight of stairs. Another incredible concussion rattled the whole structure. There was no way, with the slow rate of fire of the big ten-inch guns, that the Constitution could have fired a second broadside that quickly. Which meant that Simpson must have ordered another ironclad to start firing on the castle.

"My father will be furious!" she yelped. "Your admiral will be in a lot of trouble!"

Eddie giggled. Literally giggled. He couldn't help himself.

"And what's so funny?" she demanded. Not, however, breaking any strides to do so, thank God.

"Ah, nothing," said Eddie. There was no point trying to explain. Not now, for sure. Like every royal Eddie had met except Prince Ulrik—not that he'd met all that many—there was one side to Anne Cathrine that just plain lived in a fantasy world. For the most part, the girl was level-headed and practical. More so than any of her sisters that Eddie had met, and certainly more so than her mother Kirsten Munk, from all reports. Anne Cathrine not only had the constitution of a Danish dairy maid, she actually did know how to milk a cow.

Still, being raised in a royal family was bound to distort your sense of reality, unless you had the rare faculty that Ulrik possessed of being very clear-sighted and very ruthless with your own preconceptions. It was difficult to understand that the map was not the territory. Surrounded by the trappings of power, those became confused with the reality that lay beneath those trappings. Even to the point where a royal father's temper still seemed more powerful and potent than the ten-inch explosive shells that were bringing his capital city down around him.

So be it. Eddie didn't mind, actually. Why should he? Most of the teenage girls he'd known back up-time had been at least as prone to confusing fantasy with reality. Even if, in their case, the confusion was between a credit card and the money that had to pay the bills, instead of a confusion between castles and debris.

It wasn't a perfect world—and never had been, for a skinny and socially inept red-headed kid raised in a trailer park, even when he still had two feet. The fact was, Anne Cathrine just plain bowled him over. The only thing that really bothered him was that he just couldn't see any way to make a real romantic relationship between them work, even assuming she was willing. And the fact that she did seem to be willing just made it all the worse.

Her age wasn't even the problem. Eddie would wait, and be glad to do so. But you don't "wait" for a princess to get older, because it doesn't matter how old she gets. She'll always be a princess—fine; "king's daughter." Big fricking difference, when you're still a one-footed chump of a junior naval officer with no title to your name beyond "Lieutenant"—a dime a dozen, that title was, in this world even more than the one up-time—and no fancy family connections—no family left at all, actually—and the only influential human being you had any close connection to—

Oh, the icing on the cake!

—was the same admiral who was blowing Daddy's Place to smithereens.

Who ordered this?!


The one and only thing that kept Eddie and Anne Cathrine alive was the simple fact that, powerful as they were, those ten-inch guns took a long time to reload. So, they'd reached the bottom floor and were already out the door into the courtyard where a coach was waiting for them when the second broadside from the Constitution started finally collapsing the Blue Tower. Not completely, not yet—but looking back hurriedly Eddie could see that the top two stories had come down already and what remained beneath was looking very, very shaky. He also saw the cloud of dust and debris that blew out of the doorway they'd just emerged from, and knew that the interior staircase must have been brought down. If they'd been just a few seconds later getting out of there, they'd have been crushed.

"In," Anne Cathrine hissed, more or less tossing Eddie into the carriage. She clambered in behind him, then had to stretch to close the door. The coach driver had already had the team of horses moving before she'd gotten all the way in, and the door had been flung wide open.

"Idiot!" she muttered. Eddie, on the other hand, thought the driver was a genius. He leaned his head out the window and looked back. From the looks of it, the Blue Tower would be coming down on its own, soon enough, even if the ironclads didn't fire any more rounds. It was already on fire, of course. The explosive material in those ten-inch shells was simply black powder. They weren't designed to be incendiary rounds, as such. But firing into a castle full of flammable materials, it hardly made any practical difference.

Anne Cathrine's head came into the window right next to his, her cheek pressed against his cheek and the rest of her in a full-body press against his back and the back of his legs.

"Oh!" she gasped, staring up wide-eyed. "Papà will have a fit. Your admiral will be lucky if he keeps his head!"

Eddie would have giggled again, except his whole throat was constricted. He felt like a one-man hormone factory. A very, very big factory—and the only boss in charge seemed to have the intelligence of a rabbit. A tiny little scrap of a brain with only enough room in it for one thought, and that one as primitive as it gets.

And then, what little scrap remained shrank down to maybe four functioning neurons. Anne Cathrine pulled him out of the window and closed the curtains. "You musn't be seen," she murmured. Right into his ear, because her cheek was pressed more closely still. So was her full-body press, except within seconds it wasn't pressed against his back.

"You musn't be seen," she repeated, still murmuring. "The driver and two coachmen probably know who you are, but they've been very well paid. Still, the less they see, the less they have to remember to lie about."

Then, she giggled. "Too bad it's not a very long trip." She was nuzzling his ear, now. "But we'll have lots of time when we get there."

Eddie tried to rally. His cortex did, anyway. The rest of his nervous system seemed to be on autonomous mode, with his hands moving here and there of their own volition. It didn't help that everywhere they roamed, Anne Cathrine's body came to meet them.

"Where are we going?" he croaked.

"Frederiksborg Palace. Ulrik and I figured out a good place to hide you. Good thing we did, too."

Eddie croaked a little laugh. "Yeah, I'd say so. Or I'd be hamburger a la Tower."

"Oh, yes." She kissed him. "We were pretty sure Papà would be angry. So we had to hide you from him, for a while. Or he might take it out on you."

She kissed him again. "He certainly would now, unless your admiral surrendered so Papà could cut his head off instead."

The third kiss was long and slow. As were all the ones that followed. They didn't speak again until the coach finally came to a stop.

Regretfully, Anne Cathrine pulled away and opened the trunk that served as the bench across from theirs. She came out with some nondescript-looking garments.

"Put these on, quickly. We will pretend you are a servant who came with me."

That was a ploy so threadbare it almost seemed pointless. Mere servants did not ride in coaches with king's daughters. Certainly not male ones, with all the curtains drawn.

But Eddie didn't argue the point. First, because his brain was still not functioning that well and, second, because its level of functioning declined still further when he realized that Anne Cathrine had every intention—unabashed, almost gleeful; did the girl have any sense of shame at all?—of watching him get undressed.

Fortunately, since the curtains were still drawn, it was fairly dark inside the coach. But Eddie was still red-faced by the time he finished changing his clothes.

"You are so cute!" she said, then reached with her hand to pinch his cheek, and then brought him close enough for a quick kiss. "But, come! Place the old clothes in the trunk and close the lid. We must hurry!"

And out she went. As soon as she reached the ground, she drew herself up in a decent imitation of a haughty princess—well, imitation of a haughty one, since she was a princess—and began striding away. Completely ignoring Eddie—as, indeed, a royal scion would completely ignore a servant who was supposed to know what to do when his royal mistress hared off somewhere.

Hurriedly, he stuffed his old clothing into the trunk and got out of the carriage. A bit awkwardly, because of the pegleg, but easily enough. With months of experience, Eddie had learned how to get about fairly well.

Still, by the time he reached the ground, Anne Cathrine was already halfway to the nearest building. Eddie barely noticed the coach setting off again, as he peered around curiously.

The coach had let them out in a part of the extensive palace grounds he wasn't familiar with. From what he could tell, they were on the southernmost of the three islands in the lake that made up the palace grounds, and he'd always been kept in the big royal palace on the northern island.

Anne Cathrine was striding toward two round towers that looked much older than the part of Frederiksborg Castle he knew. Almost, if not quite, medieval construction.

But she didn't enter them. Just before she got there, she began to head around what looked like big stables. And smelled like it, for that matter. She stopped abruptly, half-turned, and gave Eddie a very disapproving look. Not a personal look, though, just the sort of generic princess-or-noblewoman's glare at a sluggish servant who wasn't keeping up.

Eddie could take a hint. He started hobbling toward her as fast as he could. He had to be a little careful, because a lot of the courtyard he was crossing was cobblestoned and he'd learned the hard way that peglegs with narrow tips did not do well on such paving. On the other hand, he wasn't at all tempted to go off to the side and walk through the unpaved surfaces, since those left no doubt at all that they were in horse-stable territory.

Just before he caught up with her, Anne Cathrine started striding off again. But she'd waited long enough so that Eddie could follow her. Once she got around the corner, she headed straight for a big and very new-looking building, which had both a small entrance door and, quite a bit further down, a set of double-doors that were even bigger than you'd find in a stable. As if something very large had to be periodically taken in or out of the edifice.

She went through the small door, however, still as haughtily as she'd been walking since she got out of the carriage. She didn't glance back once to see if the menial servant was still following. Obviously, he would be, since that's what servants did.

The door closed behind her. Muttering under his breath—very unkind words on the subject of snotty princesses—Eddie followed through.

The moment he got inside, all unkind thoughts about snotty princesses vanished immediately. Anne Cathrine was back to the full-body press business, complete with long and lingering kiss. Eddie forgave her all her sins and any she might accumulate in at least the next five lives.

"Come," she finally said. "Baldur dismissed all the workmen, for a week, but someone might still come in. We must hide."

Taking him by the hand, she led him through what Eddie quickly realized was some sort of peculiar workshop. Not any sort of workshop he'd ever seen before, though, except . . . 

About halfway through, he finally realized what it was. Greg Ferrara had set up something like this in Grantville, right after the Ring of Fire. Call it the Early Modern Era's version of a Manhattan Project. Two and two came together soon thereafter, and Eddie knew this was the place where Baldur Norddahl—who still had no business, in a sane world, being a cross between Harald the Bloody-Handed and Herr Professor Doktor Doktor Über-Weaponsgeek—undertook his fiendish experiments in military hardware.

Anne Cathrine was heading toward some sort of very peculiar wooden contraption against the far wall of the workshop. Big contraption, too.

It was the wood that threw Eddie off, until he was almost in front of it. At which point he realized he was looking at a submarine.

A real live, no-kidding, submarine. Not completed, obviously—he could see where the holes for whatever propulsion device would drive it were still empty—but the hull seemed finished.

A wooden submarine? The idea seemed completely outlandish, but . . . 

Now that he was reminded, Eddie had read somewhere—a long time ago, long before the Ring of Fire, when he'd still been in his oceanographer phase—that somebody had built a wooden submarine once, way back in the nineteenth century. A Spaniard, if he remembered right, who'd intended the thing to be used for commercial diving operations. Pearls, or maybe coral, he couldn't remember. The submarine had worked, too, although it had eventually been scrapped because the commercial enterprise hadn't worked out.

There was a small opening on the side, low enough that only a step stool was needed to pass through. Anne Cathrine was already doing so, stooping to get in. Once she was inside, her smiling face looked back. "Come in, Eddie! This is where we will hide. No one will think of it."

In for a penny, in for a pound. As he worked his way through the opening, which was a very tight fit—probably something Baldur eventually intended for a ballast mechanism, or possibly a big observation port—Eddie realized with genuine shock that the submarine had been designed with a double hull—exactly the way submarines would wind up being designed, centuries in the future.

"Baldur Norddahl is a freak of nature," he muttered. "A man like that has no business being this smart."

The much bigger shock, though, came after he got inside. He'd gauged the overall size of the submarine at somewhere around forty feet long and ten feet in diameter. With the double-walled design, of course, the interior was much smaller—about twenty-five to thirty feet long, and not much over six feet in diameter in the very center. Eddie could just manage to stand up straight with a bit of clearance, although he'd have to stoop if he moved more than seven or eight feet toward the bow or the stern.

The hull was tapered, too, and even had a streamlined bulb-nose design that was probably a little fatter than it should be but not much. Given that Norddahl had been working from scratch with nothing more than maybe some photos to guide him and having to work with wood instead of metal, the only thing that really registered was how incredibly well designed it was. If Baldur could figure out a workable propulsion system, he'd probably be able to build a truly functional submarine. It was certainly way, way good enough, to move Norddahl to the very top of the shoot-this-mad-genius-now-before-he-goes-any-further list.

But all that Eddie simply half-noted in passing. The real shock came from the interior furnishings, which he could see quite clearly because Anne Cathrine was lighting two lamps inside the submarine.

Whatever propulsive mechanism Baldur might have intended was unknowable, because the interior had been stripped clean—if there had ever been anything to begin with—and replaced with . . . 

With . . . 

The only thing Eddie could think of was a set from a movie. The King and I, maybe. Or . . . 

Anne Cathrine was now lolling back on a pile of very expensive looking cushions and blankets. Lolling, as in lying on one hip and giving him a look that was at least two decades too sultry. Fifteen going on Scheherazade.

Or the set from A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, maybe, although he wasn't sure if they'd ever made a movie of that book. He'd read it, though.

She waved her hand, way more languidly than any girl her age ought to be able to, at a small stack of baskets toward the bow. "There is plenty of food. Breads, cheeses, delicacies. Plenty of wine, too. We may have to hide here for days, before we can be sure my father's temper will have subsided."

Some part of Eddie's brain—a tiny little cluster of neurons somewhere in the left cortex making a valiant last stand, but even now being overwhelmed by the thalamic hordes—was trying to gibber something on the subject of fathers and their tempers in general, and royal fathers and royal tempers in particular—but they were soon slaughtered mercilessly.

"Come here, Eddie," she said. "Now."


"Enough," said Christian IV, finally slumping into one of the silver chairs in the Long Hall. He gave his son Ulrik a haggard look. "So, you were right. Those guns are incredible. And our own fire simply bounces from the damned things."

Ulrik placed a hand on his father's big shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "The terms will not be bad, Father. I'm quite sure of that."

"Union of Kalmar," the king muttered. "A Swedish union."

Ulrik started to say something, but closed his mouth. Now was not the time to discuss with his father the opinion that Ulrik had come to develop on the subject. Partly as the simple result of being the vanquished party—but much more as a result of long months of thinking of this possibility ahead of time.

It was odd, really, the way Christian IV loved modern gadgetry and doted on having a splendid library, given that the king himself didn't like to read. But his son did, and Ulrik had spent many hours in the Winter Room studying the up-time encyclopedia.

It hadn't taken him long to come to a simple conclusion. The century they were in, the seventeenth century, was the heyday of Scandinavia, historically speaking. From here—well, perhaps a half century more—it would all be a downward slide. Disunited and divided, Scandinavians were simply too few in number to play a major role in world affairs. They'd only managed it in this century due to happenstance. But starting in the next, Scandinavia would be lucky if it was simply ignored by its more populous and powerful neighbors to the south.

France and Britain would dominate Denmark in the nineteenth century, and Germany would conquer it outright in the next. Norway, too. Sweden only stayed independent by being meek and mild.

To hell with it, as Eddie would say. A re-united Scandinavia seemed like a far better prospect to a young Danish prince, even if its initial master spoke Swedish. Languages evolve also, after all—he had only to look at the new dialect of German that was sweeping over central Europe to see the proof of it.

"Would you take my surrender to Simpson yourself, Ulrik?" asked the king, his tone—for a wonder—mild and meek. "I think that might work best."

"Yes, father, of course."


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