by Laura Libricz
To be realeased in October 2014
Excerpts from the Journal of Sebald Tucher XI von Simmelsdorf und Sichardtshof
March 1626--This is the last page in my journal. This could well be a reflection of the amount of time I have left. This last chapter comes to a close and I am no longer guaranteed another one. With this entry I mark the end of a decade here at Sichardtshof. I have allowed the last ten years to race by light-heartedly. The fear that my life here is about to be violently and abruptly terminated haunts me with every echo of war that reaches my ears. Rumors of mercenary movement and of the villages they reduce to ash-piles are delivered with every message we receive from any fleeing source that passes through.
Simmering under the surface for years, the animosities between the Catholics and the Protestants has turned into an excuse to destroy much of the landscape here in the ununited German territories situated between France, Italy and Denmark. The obvious fact that the ruthless greed and charred egos of the princes and the warlords is fueling this fire tends to be overlooked as the underlying evil. And having no centralized government, the German cities and villages are left to not only fund this savage war, but they are also reduced to wring an existence from muddy, trampled, burned or ravished homelands, often destroyed by the troops that are supposedly freeing them.
And naturally, other stronger powers sense an opportunity to gorge themselves, taking everything, leaving us broken and scarred behind, if we are lucky to be alive. What better way to do this than with underpaid, starving, sick, desperate mercenary soldiers? In my opinion, we could be building ships, bridges, transportation for trade routes. But the rights to these channels, routes, means and ends are exactly what the powers are fighting about.
Now, after much deliberation and endless discussions with my mother, advisement from my uncle, I have come to the conclusion that I have no choice but to collect my wife and two boys from the walled city of Nuremberg and bring them here to Sichardtshof to live. But is country life the lesser of two evils?
I am willing to stay here and wait for the devil to come stake his claim. But the decision to bring my children here is difficult. In Nuremberg they are protected behind the city walls. There is enough money and ammunition and weapons to keep them safe. But others have this impression too, and the city steadily fills with all sorts: refugees seeking religious sanction, homeless who have lost everything because of the fighting, fortune seekers and undesirables who want to earn from others’ sufferings. And with the masses comes the plague. Rats, sickness, hunger, fever, dysentery. More dwellers of the city are dying from these problems as from the effects of the fighting. My opinion, it’s quite a waste of manpower.
Why not send the wife and the boys away to the parts of the countryside that remain unscathed? My Uncle Paul suggested to the wife that she may seek solace in a convent but even there young women find no refuge. Defiling God’s houses in search of booty is the normal course of things and the women are not safe there either. And then I still have the two boys.
Here at the Sichardtshof farm, my muse, my elation, my pearl in the Aisch River Valley, my paradise on earth, here we are free. But freedom comes with a high price. Troops are moving along the river valley in regular intervals. We have erected fences of spiked logs, we are armed and we have secured the animals as best we could. We’ve hidden our valuables—buried many things in the forest or in the fields. Much of our food is hidden or buried. I must say, honestly, and no one knows this except Uncle Paul, I am so badly in debt that there is no money to bribe the regiments to continue on their way and leave us in peace.
So, with having nothing to appease these brutes with, I am afraid these desperate soldiers will relive us of all our belongings, maybe take the men and myself as necessary manpower for their march, abuse our women into insanity, burn the buildings to the ground and then just kill us all to be done with it. So, my choice is not an easy one. Do I allow my wife and children to rot in the rancid city? Or do I subject them to their worst nightmares at the hands of roguish soldiers? I haven’t even mentioned the responsibility I have towards my loyal counterparts here on the farm.
Last of all, not to mention my responsibility to my one and only love, to the woman who owns my heart, my dearest Katarina.