The Hussar’s Duty, Guest Post by Griffin Brady

Poland’s most valiant winged hussar is called to fight in a campaign ripe for disaster. But he must also protect those he loves from jackals waiting to pounce. How does he choose between duty and devotion when death is on the line?

When Sultan Osman II sends Poland’s envoy packing, the Commonwealth must prepare for war against one of the largest armies the Ottomans have ever assembled. Tasked with repelling the invasion is Grand Hetman of the Crown Stanisław Żółkiewski, and he knows who to turn to: Jacek Dąbrowski, the Commonwealth’s most valiant Polish winged hussar.

Jacek has been idle far too long, and the call to arms is a siren’s song he can’t resist. But he has built a life far from the battlefield with his wife, Oliwia, and their children. If he pursues his quest for glory, who will safeguard them?

Oliwia knows her husband is restless. In fact, she’s been sending Jacek on cross-country errands for years in the hopes of quelling his lust for battle. When she realizes her efforts are futile, she resolves herself to letting him go—after hatching a scheme to accompany him.

Honor. Obligation. Devotion. These forces push and pull Jacek in different directions. His country needs him, but so does his family. Where does his duty lie? His choice will cause catastrophic ripples no matter which path he follows … and could very well bring the loss of his loved ones or his life.

Will the cost of defending king and country prove too steep for this warrior?

This is a standalone continuation in The Winged Warrior Series.

The Ottoman invasion

As with most geopolitical matters, the relationship between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire was a twining, highly complex affair. Conflict had been festering between one of Europe’s largest nations and the mighty Ottomans since the 15th century when the Empire flexed its muscle and began pushing north, turning Poland’s southern neighbors—Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia—into their vassals. The Commonwealth viewed itself as the “Bulwark of Christendom” and pushed back. The conflict between the two powers would wax and wane until the very end of the 17th century, with many wars fought during that span.

The Hussar’s Duty is set in 1620, toward the end of the Moldavian Magnate Wars, which were a particularly heated time of turmoil in the Ottoman-Commonwealth conflict. This period was one of constant warfare, lasting from the late sixteenth century into the early seventeenth century.

In addition to the Ottoman Empire’s encroachment, other factors exacerbated the growing tension between the two powers. The Commonwealth’s lands were constantly being plundered and its citizens captured and enslaved by the Crimean Tatars, who were vassals of the Ottoman Empire. The Tatars, whose economy was based on this slave trade, then turned around and sold the captives in Muslim slave markets to the Ottomans who had an insatiable appetite for the fair-skinned people.

Conversely, the Zaporozhian Cossacks, loosely under Commonwealth rule, acted as pirates on the Black Sea, foraying into the Ottoman Empire’s dominion. Not only did they take and pillage Ottoman vessels, they invaded and plundered settlements along the Black Sea coast. In one especially audacious raid, they set fire to an outlying suburb of Constantinople.

Whether each power tried and gave up on reining in their respective troublemakers or whether they never gave it much effort in the first place, a semi-permanent war zone along the borderlands developed. In this hotbed, magnates from the Commonwealth interfered in Moldavia’s affairs in order to extend the Commonwealth’s influence, which naturally didn’t resonate with the Ottoman Empire. Poland and the Ottoman Empire would tussle over which ruler would occupy Wallachia’s throne—each seeking a ruler of its own choosing—while powerful Polish magnates would lead their private armies into battle against Moldavia and the Ottoman Empire.

The Magnate Wars came to a head during the Battle of Cecora in 1620, when Commonwealth troops pressed into Moldavia to fight the Ottomans over Moldavia’s then ruler, who had defected to the Poles’ side. That battle ended in a devastating defeat for the Commonwealth and spilled over into the Battle of Chocim one year later. Here the Ottoman imperial army invaded Poland’s southern border and was stopped by the Commonwealth army. The conclusion of the battle also brought the Moldavian Magnate Wars to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Chocim in October, 1621. But this truce hardly ended the strife between the two nations. The theatre merely shifted.

While the Ottoman Empire’s holdings were vast, its ambitions were vaster still. In the mid-seventeenth century, after decades of war with Russia and Sweden, the Commonwealth’s power was slipping. Then came a period known as “The Deluge,” which began with a Cossack uprising in 1648 and further depleted the Commonwealth’s resources. Its population alone was reduced by a third during the Deluge, and its best military commanders and units were wiped out in the Battle of Batoh in 1652 at the hands of the Cossacks. The Commonwealth had fought and lost to a combined force of Cossacks and Tatars. After the battle ended, the Cossacks bought the captives from the Tatars and massacred some five thousand over the course of several days, including most all of the Polish winged hussars.

For so long, the Commonwealth had presented a barrier to the Ottoman Empire’s European objectives. When it was diminished, The Ottoman Empire saw its chance to conquer Europe and so began its last push north.

The first of a series of battles known as the Great Turkish War would begin with the siege of Vienna in 1683, where the Ottoman army was poised to defeat the forces of the Holy Roman Empire and its allies. The Ottoman Empire’s goal was to establish itself in Vienna, and from there spread out into the rest of Europe. The plan nearly worked. But for the Polish King Jan III Sobieski and his contingent of winged hussars, Vienna would have likely fallen. The cavalry, as they say, came riding in just in time, driving out and demolishing the Ottoman army.

The Great Turkish War would continue to rage until the Battle of Zenta, fought in September, 1697, when Habsburg imperial forces decimated the Ottoman troops. With this final crushing blow, the Ottoman Empire agreed to sign the Treaty of Karlowitz in January 1699, thus ending the Great Turkish War and the Ottomans’ aspirations to invade and control all of Europe. From that time forward, the Ottoman Empire would replace an aggressive military approach with a more defensive one.

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Meet Griffin Brady

Griffin Brady is an award-winning historical fiction author with a keen interest in the Polish Winged Hussars of the 16th and 17th centuries. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Her debut novel, The Heart of a Hussar, was a finalist for the 2021 Chaucer Early Historical Fiction Award and a 2021 Discovered Diamond.

The proud mother three grown sons, she lives in Colorado with her husband. She is also an award-winning bestselling romance author who writes under the pen name G.K. Brady.

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