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Authors: David Carrico

1635: Music and Murder

BOOK: 1635: Music and Murder
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1635: Music and Murder


David Carrico

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

eISBN: 978-1-62579-214-3

Copyright © 2013 by David Carrico

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

Electronic version by Baen Books

Publication History

Earlier versions of the stories in this volume appeared as follows:

The Sound of Music
Grantville Gazette
volume 3

Heavy Metal Music
Grantville Gazette
volume 4

Suite for Four Hands
Grantville Gazette
volume 5

None So Blind
Grantville Gazette
volume 10

Grantville Gazette
volumes 15, 16, 17, and 18

Grantville Gazette
volumes 19 and 20

Grantville Gazette
volume 21

Grantville Gazette
volume 22

(All of the above are available at

The following stories also appeared in Grantville Gazette and Ring of Fire anthologies edited by Eric Flint and published by Baen Books:

The Sound of Music
Grantville Gazette III

Heavy Metal Music
Grantville Gazette IV

None So Blind
Grantville Gazette V

Suite for Four Hands
Grantville Gazette VI

Command Performance
Ring of Fire II

The Sound of Sweet Strings
Ring of Fire III

David can be found on the internet at


To my wife Ruth, who really didn't know what she was getting into when she married me. I mean, who'd want to marry a writer?

And with great thanks to Eric Flint, for letting me (and so many others) play in his sandbox.



Imagine this:

You’re walking down a hallway, and you hear very loud heavy metal music pouring out of a door that’s just ahead of you. When you get to the door, you peer around the doorframe and see Johann Sebastian Bach duct-taped to a chair, planted in front of a pair of very large stereo speakers*, long white wig flapping in the breeze from the speakers as he’s sonically force-fed Metallica at 110 decibels at a range of three feet.

That vision was the initial stimulus for the stories in this volume. It dropped into my mind when I closed the covers of the hard copy edition of the first Grantville Gazette and idly wondered about what changes music might go through as a result of the Ring of Fire.

Three hundred and sixty-nine years of musical development and changes get dropped in the lap of the musicians of 1631 all at once: classical, gospel, jazz, blues, country, folk, rock, blue-grass, rap, hip-hop . . . You name it, it came back with Grantville.

These stories are about how a handful of those down-time musicians reacted.


*JBL L200’s, to be specific.

The Sound of Music

Franz Sylwester, one-time violinist in the chapel of the archbishop of Mainz

To Friedrich Braun, journeyman instrument crafter for Master Hans Riebeck, in Mainz

On the nineteenth day of January in the year of our Lord 1633

Greetings, my friend,

I am sure by now that you have despaired of hearing from your prodigal, but I promised you that when I found a place I would write to you. By the grace of God I now have that place, and so I keep my word.

Before I proceed further, I must confess to you. I am well aware that I was somewhat less than gracious to you and Anna in those dark days after that snake Heydrich smashed my hand. Please mark down the things that I said then to the physical pain of my wound and to the spiritual pain of knowing that I could never play again.

The pen paused as images flashed through his mind: sitting in the tavern that night, arguing with Rupert Heydrich as to who was the better player, goading Rupert and smiling as the rising choleric tide stained the other man's face—the sudden eruption of the fight behind him, being caught in the brawl and knocked to the floor—scrambling to escape the flow of the struggle—the sudden panic as someone stepped on his arm and pinned it to the floor—the explosion of agony as the boot heel smashed into his left hand, and again, and again, and again—the serpent's voice hissing in his ear, taunting him as he curled sobbing around his wounded hand.

"Was there no investigation, no judgment made?" she murmured in his ear.

"No," he said, "it happened in the middle of the brawl, and no one would come forward to support my story."

There was a pause, then came, "Do you miss it?"

"I will always miss it," he said quietly, "but as my friend Isaac says, 'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.' Where God has taken one gift away, he has given several in return."

I am well aware that I am alive solely because of Anna's tending me during the fever, keeping the wound rot from claiming me. I am also well aware that I am alive twice over because of the gift of silver that you and Master Hans added to the pittance the Kappellmeister gave me when he turned me out. That gift kept body and soul together until I arrived at my current place.

I am also very ashamed of my churlish words to you when I shook the dust of Mainz from my feet as I set out on my wanderjahr.

Another pause, another flood of memories: burning with fever and biting his lip bloody to keep from crying out as Anna tended his broken hand; the weak-chinned, slovenly
confronting him in his room—"I have no room for a one-handed violinist. You must leave these quarters by the end of the week. Here are your final wages."—the hand slamming down on the table, and lifting to reveal two silver pieces and eight coppers—Heydrich smirking in the background; bickering with his friends as they tried to restrain him from leaving, finally shaking their hands off his arms and snarling, "I will not stay in the same place as Heydrich, and if you loved me, you would not either! If you will stay, then stay, but leave me go!"

"A little rude, were you?" brought him back to the present.

"Aye . . . and with no cause, for they loved me well. I only hope they still do."

I had not traveled many days until I had repented of them, and I am heartily glad to now apologize and ask your forgiveness.

I had no destination in mind when I left you, and so I drifted aimlessly from place to place. I quickly learned that just as there is no future for a one-handed violinist, there is actually little that a one-handed man can do to earn his bread. No Adel or wealthy burgher will hire a man to tutor his children who was crippled in a tavern brawl. The clerks we used to patronize need two working hands. The mercenary companies will not take a one-handed man. Even the common laborers we used to sneer at require two strong hands to wield mattock and spade.

I took up with a couple of traveling players for a few days, who advised me strongly not to sing, as my voice would make even a crow sound melodious! I seem to remember Anna uttering a similar sentiment once, although she was smiling when she said it. They were not.

They also lifted my ignorance and lowered my arrogance when I attempted to become a drummer by showing me that that art is more complex than it looks—and that even a novice drummer requires two good hands to learn his skills.

As each day passed in succession, the Lord taught me humility, until finally, after weeks of such tutoring I left my pride, my arrogance, lying in the dust of the road. Then it was that the Lord opened a door for me. I was sitting in a low tavern near a crossroads, not even in a town or village, nursing the only beer I could afford to buy. I was trying to stave off the moment when I would go out into the night to find a haystack or barn to sleep in, when I heard a peddler wishing that he could tell his sister in Hamburg that he was well, so she would not worry so. A conversation ensued, with the result that I wrote a letter for him and he bought me another flagon of beer and gave me a copper besides. As days passed, I served as scribe to more people who were unable to write well—soldiers, peddlers, laborers—anyone who could buy the paper and ink and would give me a coin or two to put their words into a form that could cross the miles. And I was glad to do so.

It is perhaps an irony that these people that I used to ridicule turned out to be mostly good folk—rough around the edges, often; more than a little crude, absolutely; perhaps not strictly honest by the prince-bishop's laws, but mostly honorable by their lights. And even the biggest rogue that I met was likeable. I certainly never met anyone who compared to Heydrich for malice.

The coins I earned as a scribe eked out the silver you had given me as I drifted south and west through Thuringia, but the work was erratic and my resources kept dwindling. When I arrived at Grantville, there were few coins in my pocket.

I had heard rumors of Grantville while I was on the road, but I passed them off as typical gossip exaggerations. You have probably heard the same rumors, and knowing you, you are even more skeptical than I was. Believe them. To paraphrase the closing words of The Gospel of Saint John, there are not enough books in the world to contain the wonders of the place.

"Laying it on a bit thick, aren't you?"

"Perhaps." He smiled, still focused on the paper. "Friedrich will shake his head at how credulous I have become, and Anna will be scandalized at the sacrilege."

The guards on the approaches to the town decided I was harmless and let me pass. My English was less practiced than I remembered, or perhaps their dialect was different, but I still understood when they directed me to the grandest tavern I have ever seen, perhaps the grandest the world has ever seen, the Thuringen Gardens. It is huge, and bustles both night and day. It was near sunset when I went there, hoping to find scribal work. I was very hungry, so the first thing I did was order the cheapest food they had. They brought me something called a sandwich, which turned out to be a slab of ham and a slab of cheese between two slices of bread, spiced to the point of burning with ground mustard sauce. A curious thing, but one you get used to so quickly that within moments it seemed natural to have a mug in one hand and this sandwich in the other, even my crippled claw, alternating bites and sips.

After I finished eating the fine meal, which had cost most of my remaining coins, I looked around for those whom I could approach for scribing work. The more I looked, the more my heart dropped in my chest, for nowhere did I see those who would at times use my services. Everyone in sight was clean and well dressed, well fed and content. As the serving maid went by I asked her if there was another tavern in town, one for the common laborers. She laughed and said that this bunch was as common as they came. It was most odd, Friedrich, that she was clad in trousers in public.

I knew nothing of Grantville then, but at that moment I wondered what I had wandered into. If, as it seemed, there were no poor, no one that would hire my scribing, how would I feed myself? In the depths of my depression, I nursed my beer, wondering what I would do now, when suddenly a loud voice penetrated my head. And I do mean penetrated.

Memory rolled as the pen recorded.

"All right, it's Saturday night here at the Gardens, and tonight we have some entertainment. Preeeee-senting the world's greatest rock-and-roll, blues, and country-and-western band, give it up for Mountaintop!"

The man who had been talking stepped away from the tall skinny pole with the knob at the top, and another man bearing a most outlandish-looking device stepped up to it and said, "Thanks for the intro. Of course, we're the ONLY rock-and-roll, blues, and country-and-western band in the world. Anyway, we're going to kick it off tonight with a song made popular by Elton John."

There were five young men on this platform, surrounded by cabinets and very strange devices. Three of them were holding things that in some very faint way could be likened to lutes or Spanish guitarras, and they were gyrating and gesturing with them. One of them was pounding on a strange flat cabinet with his hands. The last one was sitting surrounded by a group of drums of different sizes and Turkish cymbals on poles, beating them all rapidly with sticks.

Friedrich, do you remember when we sat in the tavern and listened to that Swiss traveler talk about being in the Alps and seeing an avalanche pour down a mountainside toward him? That is what I felt like. They produced the most awful cacophony I have ever heard, a veritable avalanche of sound. Even now I hesitate to call it music.

If I concentrated, I could hear individual musical notes and tones, but it sounded like no music I had ever heard. It was definitely polyphony—there were more than one voice present—but there was no contrapuntal flow, no interweaving of parts. I could hear moments of tertiary harmony, but they were overwhelmed by seconds, fourths and sevenths. It was harsh, it was discordant, it seemed like what an anthem from the infernal regions would sound like.


"What are you laughing at?" he asked.

"Rock and roll, the music from hell. Remind me to explain that to you later."

Then one of the men started trying to sing, but it seemed to me that he was more shouting. The only thing I could understand was "Saturday night's all right for fighting." I thought surely I misunderstood, that they would not be inciting a riot.

"I don't know . . . with those boys, that's entirely possible."


This went on for what seemed like eternity, but I have been assured was less than four minutes. It was more than loud. It was so rhythmic and percussive it was like some obscene martial music. I felt it physically as much as I heard it.

Remember your worst morning after a night spent drinking. Remember how your head felt. Now, double that feeling. Double it again. That approaches how I felt—as if my entire being was throbbing with the pulse of the universe. And then suddenly—blessed stillness—for a moment, anyway, until everyone else in the tavern stood to their feet and began clapping and yelling and cheering and whistling.

I sat stunned. Shocked. Appalled. Soon the crowd quieted and the men began making noise again. Unable to move, I listened to several more bouts of chaos. Eventually, I made the astounding discovery I could become used to even this.

At last they ceased, and began moving their cabinets and drums and cymbals from the platform. The tavern returned to tavernish sounds—many conversations, some laughter, but no chaos. I began to think again about trying to find people for whom I could scribe, but before I could stir, a young woman sat down across the table from me.

"Finally, we're getting to the good stuff."

"And we will get done with it sooner if you will quit interrupting me."

Memory began to scroll again.

"Hey, are you all right?" Blue eyes stared at him in concern. He blinked several times, opened and closed his mouth without speaking, again, and finally said, "I think so."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," stronger this time.

"Okay, you just looked pretty dazed for a while there."

"I . . . yes, I was." Pause. "What was that?"

She smiled, and said "What was what?"

"The . . . what those men . . . that noise."

"Oh, you mean the rock music?

"Music?" Heads turned around them at the volume of that word.

"You're new here, aren't you?" Confused, he nodded. "Yes, it is music. You know about where we're from?" Another nod. "It's very popular music from our time . . . up-time, we call it now."

"If that is what music will become, may God spare me from it."

She chuckled, then said, "With that attitude, you must be a musician. Do you sing or play?"

Without thinking, he said, "Violin," then closed his eyes in pain.

"Can I see it? Your violin?"

Eyes still closed, he raised his crippled hand from his lap and laid it on the table.

"Oh, my God," he heard her say softly. Steeling himself, he opened his eyes, expecting to see horror and pity, and was almost unmanned when he saw an incredible empathy—she not only knew his pain, she shared it with him. "It looks recent. Some kind of accident?"

"No. A jealous rival."

The anger that flared in her face surprised him. Eyes narrowed to mere slits, she hissed, "That's just evil."

He shrugged. "I cannot disagree, but it is done."

"No wonder you looked so lost when you walked in. You've lost your cornerstone, haven't you?"

"Perhaps, perhaps not," he said slowly, then gave a small smile, "but I believe I must admit to a kinship with Job. I rely on the Lord, but I do have some questions I would like to ask Him." She laughed, and he was lost in the silver skirling of her voice.

"I'm Marla Linder. What's your name, wandering musician?"

"Franz. Franz Sylwester, from Mainz." He recovered enough of his manners to stand and give her a bow, hand over heart.

BOOK: 1635: Music and Murder
13.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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