Vienna’s Last Jihad, Guest Post by C. Wayne Dawson

Brash and brilliant, twenty year old Mathis Zieglar, Professor of Languages, faces an agonizing choice: should he fight the Turks who take his family hostage and move to destroy Vienna? Or should he betray his army to save his kin? Vienna’s Last Jihad is an historical novel set against the 1683 siege of Vienna.

Europe is balanced on a knife’s edge while Mathis, the man who holds its fate in his hands, struggles against powerful enemies: Father Sistini, a Jesuit who brands him a heretic and drags Mathis’ fiancée off to the Inquisition; a xenophobic city mob, who wants him dead for protecting a Hungarian soldier; but most dangerous of all, Captain Tyrek, a Muslim chieftain who will kill Mathis’ family unless he spies against his own army. One by one, Tyrek’s agents murder Mathis’ closest associates in an attempt to isolate him. As 138,000 Turks grind down Vienna’s 11,000 defenders with no relief in sight, Mathis’ only chance to save family and country is to use his ability to speak Tartar and the knack he learned as a child to leap, whirl like an unwinding mainspring, and strike.

Siege of Vienna (Wikipedia)

In June, 1683, Father Sistini, the Jesuit Rector at the University of Vienna warns Professor Mathis Zieglar to recant his belief in Copernicus’ concept of a sun-centered universe or face charges of heresy. The priest increases the pressure by dragging Magda Fleischer, Mathis’ betrothed, into the Inquisition, where Mathis must find a way to help her escape torture.

Meanwhile, Mathis interrogates Turkish prisoners and confirms an Ottoman army is on its way to annihilate Vienna. Tyrek, a Tartar chieftain, captures Mathis and tells him he must spy for the Turks against his country or Tyrek will massacre the village where Mathis’ family lives.

History records in July of 1683, the people of Vienna shuddered as 138,000 Muslim Turks encircled their city, marching to booming drums and shrill horns. The only thing that stood between the city’s 100,000 inhabitants and disaster was a skeletal force of 11,000 soldiers. If they failed to hold the enemy, what remained of Europe would face the threat of jihad.

Based on Mustafa’s past behavior, Vienna’s defenders were under no illusion what awaited them should they surrender. Before arriving at Vienna, Mustafa’s army had stormed the city of Hainburg and massacred 8,000. 

Kara Mustafa (Wikipedia)

Several weeks later, the Muslims approached the town of Perchtoldsdorf, promising clemency to any who surrendered. After the population complied, 4,000 were slaughtered.  In just two months, Mustafa’s rampage depopulated eastern Austria, resulting in the disappearance of 100,000 people. Those escaping death were dragged off into slavery.

Kara Mustafa, the Muslim commander, boasted he would “stable his horses in St. Peters.”  But first, he would capture Vienna, because afterward “all the Christians would obey them.”

If Mustafa’s goals were carried out, Rome would inevitably find itself in mortal danger. The Pope would have to flee abroad or face imprisonment. As in other Christian cities, a Turkish takeover meant Rome’s ancient churches would be converted into mosques.

Vienna’s Last Jihad will draw you into Mathis and Magda’s conflict with the Inquisition and put you in the midst of Vienna’s historic life and death struggle with the Ottoman siege.

Excerpt: June 20, 1683

Mathis Zieglar paced between the limestone pillar and the shaded side of the lecture hall, clasping and releasing his hands as he strode back and forth. A summons from the Jesuits meant they were going to either honor or threaten him.

He paused a moment to gaze over the vibrant orange tiles of Vienna’s rooftops. Beneath them, laughter floated upward from young men leaving class. Despite the peacefulness of the scene, his stomach knotted. Instead of holding this senseless meeting, the priests should busy themselves by pulling the students aside and warning them that the largest Muslim army in eighty-seven years was marching toward the Holy Roman Empire.

A latch at the far end of the colonnade clicked and a door opened to reveal a black robed Jesuit. The hem of his garment hung so close to the floor that Mathis couldn’t see the man’s feet. The figure seemed to float toward him like a flashing ghost, appearing dark and bright as it passed through shade and sunlight.

Does he bring me ill or welcome news? Mathis asked himself, squinting to make sure he had the right man. “Grüss Gott, Reverend Father Schneidermann.”

“And to you,” the priest replied, licking his lips nervously. “The council is ready, Doctor Zieglar.”

Mathis followed his escort into a room filled by four men sitting on each side of a cherry table. The rector of the College of the Jesuits, Father Sistini, rose to his feet at the far end, followed by the others. His eyes glowed like a blacksmith’s forge above expressionless, sphinx-like lips.

“The peace of Christ be upon you,” Sistini said, his greeting echoed by the others.

Mathis nodded. “The peace of Christ be upon you.”

They all sat, Mathis took the chair at the end facing the rector. The men on Mathis’ left were dressed in dark secular academic gowns. Those on his right wore narrow white cloths draped over black cassocks; the stoles were emblazoned at the bottom with a solar disk containing IHS—the Jesuit emblem. He pressed his fingernails into his palms. Some he knew were friends, others were strangers.

Sistini cleared his throat. “The purpose of this meeting is to review your progress toward tenure, Doctor Zieglar, and to see if you should continue another year. There is no denying your accomplishments. At age nineteen, you mastered the requirements for a professorship. These are things rarely achieved by one so young.”

Once again, Mathis nodded. “Thank you.”

A faint smile crept over the rector’s lips. “We are pleased to tentatively endorse your appointment to the School of Oriental Languages and Koranic Law. All that remains is for us to determine the correctness of your spiritual beliefs. After all, if the ability to teach Turkish were the only qualification, we would hire a Mohammedan.”

A ripple of menacing laughter on the clerical side of the table tightened Mathis’ chest. What kind of meeting was this?

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Meet C. Wayne Dawson

Novelist, C. Wayne Dawson, writes for The Williamson County Sun and has written for History Magazine, Focus On Georgetown, and SAFVIC Law Enforcement Newsletter.

In 2012, he founded Central Texas Authors, a collaborative literary group.

He was an Adjunct Professor of History for ten years at Mt. San Antonio College where he created the Chautauqua program. There, he enlisted scholars, government officials and activists to discuss and debate social policy before the student body and the media.

In 2009, the students of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society honored him with the Glaux Mentor Teacher Award for bringing the Chautauqua program to Mt. SAC.

He currently lives in Georgetown, TX with his wife and two dogs.

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