BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 63

 

BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER – snippet 63:

 

 

.V.

 

Marine Training Ground,

 

Helen Island,

 

 Kingdom of Charis

 

            Golden-tongued bugles         sounded, and the five hundred men in the dark blue tunics and light blue breeches of the Royal Charisian Marines responded almost instantly. The compact battalion column split smoothly into its five component companies, each of which marched rapidly outward from the original column, then wheeled and formed neatly into a three-deep line.

 

            Orders rang out from bull-throated sergeants, rifle slings came off shoulders, cartridge boxes opened, and ramrods flashed in the sunlight. Barely five minutes after the first bugle call, the early afternoon came apart in flame and smoke as the battalion fired its first volley at the targets set up a hundred and fifty yards from its position. A second volley roared fifteen seconds later, and a third fifteen seconds after that. No non-Charisian musketeers in the world could have come remotely close to matching that rate of fire. A matchlock musket did extraordinarily well to fire one shot in a minute, far less the four rounds a minute the Marines were managing.

 

            And they weren't firing as rapidly as they could have. This was controlled, aimed volley fire, not maximum-rate.

 

            A total of six volleys cracked like thunder in just over seventy-five seconds, and the row of targets literally blew apart under the impact of three thousand half-inch rifle bullets. Very few of those bullets missed, and that, too, was something no other musketeers in the world could have matched.

 

            While the battalion was forming up and delivering its volleys, the four pieces of artillery which had been rolling along behind it on the newly designed two-wheel carriages and limbers had come up behind the firing line, Earl Lock Island noticed from where he stood on his hilltop observation post with Brigadier Clareyk. The six-legged hill dragons harnessed to the limbers clearly didn't care much for the sounds of massed rifle fire, but equally clearly, they'd grown more or less accustomed to it. However much they might dislike it, the big beasts — they were smaller than their jungle dragon counterparts, or even the carnivorous great dragons, but they were still the size of an Old Earth elephant — were remarkably steady as their drovers turned them to face back the way they'd come while the gun crews unlimbered.

 

            The guns were the new twelve-pounder field guns, not the much heavier siege artillery the earl had seen demonstrated several five-days ago. He hadn't yet seen the twelve-pounders in action, and as he reached down to rub the soft ears of the massive black-and-tan Rottweiler sitting alertly upright beside him, he watched with intense interest while the company forming the center of the Marine firing line marched briskly aside. The line opened smoothly, and the guns were wheeled up into position.

 

            The gunners weren't loading with round shot; they were loading with canister, and Lock Island winced at what he knew was coming. He hadn't actually seen "canister" used yet, but he'd had it described to him. Instead of the nine to twelve small projectiles customary for a stand of grapeshot in naval service, the canister rounds were thin-walled cylinders, each packed with twenty-seven inch-and-a-half shot. The tubes were designed to burst apart on firing, releasing their burdens of shot and turning the cannon into the world's largest shotguns. Not only that, but these were what Sir Ahlfryd Hyndryk, Baron Seamount, called "fixed rounds." The powder charge was already attached to the tube of canister, and the entire round could be rammed home with a single thrust.

 

            With the new ammunition Baron Seamount had designed (with, of course, a little help from Seijin Merlin, Lock Island reminded himself), the artillerists could load and fire with preposterous speed. Indeed, using the fixed rounds, they could load as quickly as the Marine riflemen who'd already shredded the waiting targets. Lock Island knew no one down there was moving as quickly as they possibly could. This was a training exercise — and demonstration — not actual combat. Which meant the officers and noncoms in charge of it weren't about to push their men hard enough to produce unnecessary casualties and injuries.

 

            And which also meant that the rate of fire being demonstrated was "only" four or five times the rate of fire anyone else could have managed.

 

            The guns were loaded now, he saw. Gun captains crouched behind them, peering over the simple but effective sights Seamount had devised and waving hand signals to their gun crews while the tubes were carefully aligned. Then they were waving the other gunners back, safely away from the weapons, while they took tension on the firing lanyards. One last look around to be sure everyone was clear, left hands raised in indication of readiness, and then the battery commander barked his order and the artillery bellowed with a flat, hard, concussive voice that dwarfed the sounds of rifle fire.

 

            Each of the guns spewed its lethal canister downrange in a spreading cloud. Lock Island could see splashes of dirt kicking up where the dispersing patterns "wasted" some of their shot short of the targets. It didn't matter, though. Where the rifle bullets had ripped the wood and canvas targets into tatters, the canister simply flattened them. Well, that wasn't quite fair, Lock Island decided, raising his spyglass and peering through it. The targets hadn't been flattened; they'd simply disintegrated.

 

            More bugles sounded, and the gunners stepped back from their weapons. The riflemen grounded the butts of their rifles, and whistles blew to signal the end of the fire exercise.

 

            "That," Lock Island said, turning to the Marine officer standing beside him, "was . . . impressive. Very impressive, Brigadier."

 

            "Thank you, My Lord," Brigadier Kynt Clareyk replied. "The men have worked hard. And not just because we've made them, either. They're impatient to show someone else what they can do, as well."

 

            Lock Island nodded. He had no doubt at all who "else" Clareyk's men wanted to demonstrate their prowess to. Or, rather, upon.

 

            "Soon, Brigadier. Soon," the high admiral promised. "You know better than most what the schedule looks like."

 

            "Yes, My Lord." Clareyk might have looked just a teeny bit embarrassed, but Lock Island wasn't prepared to bet any money on it. And if truth be told, no one had a better right to be impatient than Brigadier Clareyk. After all, he was the one who'd written the training manual for the Royal Charisian Marines' new infantry tactics. And he'd also been Seamount's primary assistant in devising the world's first true field artillery tactics and integrating them with the infantry. He'd been a mere major then, not a brigadier; there hadn't been any Charisian brigadiers at the time. In fact, there hadn't been any brigadiers anywhere. The rank was less than six months old, suggested by Seijin Merlin as the Marines' buildup began to hit its stride.

 

            Lieutenant Layn, Clareyk's second-in-command while he worked out the basic tactics for the new, longer-ranged, and far more accurate rifles, was now a major himself and in charge of the ongoing training program here on Helen Island.

 

            And, Lock Island thought, looking back at the men of Clareyk's second battalion as they formed smoothly back into column formation, Layn was doing just as good a job as Clareyk had.

 

            "Actually, High Admiral," another voice said, "I think we're probably going to need to consider moving our training operations. Or, perhaps, simply expanding them into other locations."

About Eric Flint

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17 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 63

  1. Jeff Smith says:

    Whoever guessed that there would be a chapter shift after Monday’s bombshell gets two points ;)

  2. John says:

    Hmm, I suppose a longer wait is required for further information on that interesting monastery and it’s members.

    AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGG!!!!!!

    To be expected, though.

    Regarding this Snippet.

    Sweet, the Charisians are training up land forces…..and with their superior weaponary, they will be much more dangerous than an equilivent number of the other countries troops.

  3. kar says:

    yatta yatta yatta…. Getting boring again… Its not like we didn’t see something similar to this in the first book…. It feels like the author’s dragging his heels… I mean the naval raids are already happening… If Charis can hit naval harbors at will.. it would have been a piece of cake already to drop a couple battalions of marines into a modest sea port town and take it. Then fortify the hell out of it and expand area of control using those few battalions with regular militia/military forces as reinforcements.. Of course, after one or two skirmishes im pretty sure Emerald would capitulate especially considering the info merins’ listening devices have been providing him from the leaders in Emerald. The authors seem to relish this slow movement.

  4. Summercat says:

    I personally think this is nifty. It moves from early 1500s combat to Civil War era. Wiggy. ^_^

    Yes, Charis is expanding and modernizing their infantry. In all honesty, it’s not going to do a whole lot of good. Charis CAN take a sea port, as Kar suggested in his post. They can’t do much more than that, however. Charis rules the sea, but can’t do much more than raid the coast. It comes down to manpower. A Charisian Empire cannot exist without a large Royal Army. …of course, I don’t think Nimue would want a Charisian Empire, although Cayleb seems to be heading that direction anyhow.

  5. MarkR says:

    “Sweet, the Charisians are training up land forces…..and with their superior weaponary, they will be much more dangerous than an equilivent number of the other countries troops.”

    Sure, which will help greatly in taking Tarot and Corisande, but as anybody has known since early in the first book, they’ll need Siddermark’s help in talking the huge main continent. Just think what that army could do with rifles and artillery.

    “The authors seem to relish this slow movement.”

    It’s easy for him to write. If he had to actually research and work out the interesting non-military parts, he’d have to slow the rate at which he churns out books. I’ve said it elsewhere: Weber writes the equivalent of junk food, or at best, fast food. It’s tasty going down but never as nutritious as the better authors.

  6. Lance says:

    That “chapter shift” was unfortunately all too expected Jeff… :) Talk about a cliff-hanger and we probably won’t come back to it for a week or two.

    Kar – At first I might have agreed with you. However I’m finding I’m liking the detail, the really getting to know the characters as well as some of the subtle games being played in the background. In a lot of ways, these books are like “Heirs of Empire” (very similar plotline); however in “Heirs…” a lot of this detail was skipped over. It makes for a better more “action/adventure” book as action is near non-stop. However, I know I found myself asking a lot of questions about the world in that book. Here…we’re getting that detail. I see this set of books as much political intrique as they are action/adventure.

  7. Yes, I am the fellow who predicted the chapter shift.

    Now I will try again. With the impending marriage, and Prince Nahrman changing sides, the Charisian position is far stronger than it was. It is interesting to ask if King Gorjah of Tarot will suddenly remember his treaties with Charis. With somewhat more expansion, perhaps another year, it is Corisande’s turn to be invaded. Zebediah may get taken first, because the local rules is less able and less than loyal. The ruler of Corisande will lose and be obliged to be deposed, and his highly impetuous son, I predict, will demonstrate how real men use cavalry to ride pike-free infantry into the ground. With fatal consequences, but not for the infantry. And now the extremely competent Princess Irys gets Corisande, perhaps with the ruler of Zebediah actually getting to rule his country.If they have not already turned sides, Tarot, several fairly barren lands, and the northern continent filled with corsairs follow. At this point, Charis controls more than a third of the land area and resources of the planet and will start having the benefits of modernization and a much higher standard of living, namely people come to you.

    At some point, the assault shuttle, the two hundred assault rifles, and the two million rounds of ammunition, plus fabricated modern armor like that provided to Michael Staynair, perhaps come into play, namely at some point the Council of Vicars perhaps gets to make an unplanned visit to Tellesberg to repent of their sins. That’s harder to predict. For starters, why is the mother church more heavily armored than most planetary defense HQs? Answer: So if heretics capture the city around it, the planetary bombardment system can correct the matter while leaving the church intact.

  8. Mike says:

    I disagree. “Heirs” was a better book precisely because back then Weber used to focus on the plot. These days people have proven that they are willing to buy more and more of his books as he indulges himself in stuff like this, so he does. But more words is rarely better.

    ” And which also meant that the rate of fire being demonstrated was “only” four or five times the rate of fire anyone else could have managed.”

    This could have come from any of Weber’s recent (ie. last 10 years) books. This kind of preening is a cancer in his novels. We get more and more and more of this sort of stuff, and less and less plot or character development.

    “Heirs” was a better book because, in one shorter book, he told an entire story AND created some memorable characters to inhabit it.

  9. Mike says:

    In fact, this whole snippet is what’s wrong with this book. As Allen Iverson might say, “I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about PRACTICE, not a battle, not a battle, not a battle, but we’re talking about PRACTICE. Not the battle that I go out there and die for and fight every battle like it’s my last but we’re talking about PRACTICE man. How silly is that?”

    I’m sure these characters also ate breakfast and brushed their teeth this morning too, but writing about it wouldn’t advance the story any more than writing about their firing range practice. But Weber thinks we need to be spoonfed all this information about volley fire and canister shot. I’m not sure why. With some authors I would just trust that there is a plot or character development reason for it that I don’t see yet, but with Weber I have come to believe that the reason is just that it interests him and so he chooses to write about it. Since people keep buying his books, I guess it works for him.

  10. Ken Valentine says:

    Deployment from field column into line would take well-trained troops no more than a minute and a half. From a march column (column of 8s) possibly as much as 2-1/2 minutes, probably only about 2 minutes. I’m assuming a marching pace of 100 steps per minute, 2-1/2 feet per step. These figures are typical for the Napoleonic wars–Russians and early Prussians somewhat slower, Austrians and British about on the money, French slightly faster.

    The canister rounds described are more like grapeshot used in 6-pounder or 12-pounder naval guns than Marlburian or Napoleonic field artillery canister, which typically consisted of up to 200 3/4-inch lead balls per load for a 12-pounder. If the artillery is engaging at a “mere” 150 yards, there’s no point in using inch-and-a-half shot since 3/4-inch musket balls are easily capable of carrying the distance with enough energy left over to wound/kill. Naval grapeshot has to penetrate the target ship’s bulwarks with enough energy left over to inflict casualties, and so uses the larger-diameter stuff. Switch the description to “150 3/4-inch musket balls” and the same weight of powder and canister will deliver over 150 balls per shot fired and will have the effect you’re describing.

  11. MarkR says:

    “At some point, the assault shuttle, the two hundred assault rifles, and the two million rounds of ammunition, plus fabricated modern armor like that provided to Michael Staynair, perhaps come into play, namely at some point the Council of Vicars perhaps gets to make an unplanned visit to Tellesberg to repent of their sins. That’s harder to predict. For starters, why is the mother church more heavily armored than most planetary defense HQs? Answer: So if heretics capture the city around it, the planetary bombardment system can correct the matter while leaving the church intact.”

    I’d say the assault shuttle and advanced weaponry might be intended to launch a surprise attack on the Temple just to avoid that sort of bombardment.

  12. JNees says:

    I most agree with Mike. This entire snippet is excessive, pointless, and could be disposed of in a couple of paragraphs. Dialogue is the slowest way to advance plot. DW has contracted Tom Clancy disease.

    J

  13. Yuri says:

    “Nobody asks simple questions .Where are the rest of the “archangels” ?
    It is obvious that after they completed temple, they went in to stasis.
    If longhorn and Bedard really were megalomaniacs only they had activation and deactivation codes for orbital platforms. Some sort of surveillance equipment
    Probably active and monitoring for key events ,technologies and ideas.
    With Merlin introducing so many changes , some of the triggers are going to be activated,
    No mater how careful he is. ”Archangels” going to wake up but remain handicapped by
    Inability to control orbital weapons . Both sides going to be supported by “divine powers” soon enough .It’s can only be resolve if both sides cooperate to destroy orbitals
    Or they going to be stuck forever. Betrayal longhorn side by someone on the inside is very probable.”

  14. John says:

    Yuri, did you read the first book?

    If memory serves, all the archangels were killed.

    I could be wrong.

  15. It appears that most of the archangels were killed. It is noted in book one that someone must have survived to build the temple.

    I have pointed out in several earlier snippets that it appears that Adoree Bedard not only was not killed but has walked on stage. Careful analysis of her age relative to that of Madam Angelika Phonda supports this, namely the same person must be rather younger than Madam Phonda and also has known her since she was 2, an interesting combination for a normal mortal.

  16. John says:

    It appears that I was incorrect.

    Should prove interesting if you are correct, George.

  17. Jeff Ehlers says:

    “In fact, this whole snippet is what’s wrong with this book. As Allen Iverson might say, “I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about PRACTICE, not a battle, not a battle, not a battle, but we’re talking about PRACTICE. Not the battle that I go out there and die for and fight every battle like it’s my last but we’re talking about PRACTICE man. How silly is that?” ”

    Better than having them suddenly appear with no explanation in the middle of a battle. Sure, we’d understand where they came from, but…

    And besides, look at how many actual battles were in Off Armageddon Reef? There was the fight where Merlin saved Cayleb, the one where he saved Grey Harbor, the kraken incident, and then nothing else until the various naval battles near the end of the book. So I wouldn’t start looking for that kind of excitement until later. Weber is obviously pacing himself pretty well here, and it makes sense in context too.

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