Lock Island turned to the short, almost pudgy looking officer standing on his other side. Baron Seamount had lost the first two fingers of his left hand to an accidental explosion years before, but the mishap hadn't dimmed his passion for loud explosions one bit. Nor had it affected his sharp, incisive intelligence. Some people had been fooled by Seamount's relatively unprepossessing appearance, but Lock Island knew exactly how capable the brain behind that . . . unimpressive façade really was. And how valuable.


             Although Seamount had been promoted from captain to commodore, Lock Island still felt vaguely guilty. By rights, Seamount should have had his own admiral's command streamer by now, given all he'd done for Charis. And he would have had that streamer, too . . . except for one minor problem. Despite his undeniable brilliance, despite the fact that it was his brain which had devised the basis for the new naval tactics and, with Brigadier Clareyk's able assistance, the new infantry and artillery tactics, as well, Seamount hadn't been to sea in a command capacity in almost twenty years. He'd have been hopelessly out of place actually commanding a fleet, or even a squadron. Besides, he was far too valuable where he was for Lock Island to even consider exposing him to enemy fire.


            Fortunately, Seamount — who claimed he could get seasick taking a bath — appeared quite content. He got to play with fascinating new toys, especially over the past couple of years, and he was too busy stretching his brain to worry about whether his sleeve bore the single embroidered kraken of a commodore or the two gold krakens of an admiral.


            "I take it that you're thinking in terms of expansion because we're running out of room here on Helen," the high admiral said now, and Seamount nodded.


            "Yes, Sir. The real problem is that we don't have a great deal of flat room here on Helen. In some ways, that's good. As the Brigadier here pointed out to me months ago, we can't count on having nice, flat, spacious terrain when we actually have to fight, so it's not going to hurt us a bit to figure out how to fight in cramped terrain. And the security aspect here is very good. Nobody's going to see anything we don't want them to see. But the truth is, with the larger formations, it's hard to find the space to let them practice tactical evolutions. Too much of this island is vertical, Sir."


            "That, believe me, is a point of which I'm well — one might almost say painfully well — aware," Lock Island said dryly. "Keelhaul, here," he gave the huge dog's massive head an affectionately gentle cuff, "actually likes coming up here. I suppose he doesn't have sufficient opportunity for exercise at sea."


            Baron Seamount managed not to roll his eyes, although Lock Island suspected that the commodore was sorely tempted to do just that. The high admiral's dog's tendency to race madly up and down the decks of his flagship was legendary. Fortunately, Keelhaul — despite the dubious humor of his name — was as affectionate as he was . . .  energetic. Not a minor consideration in a dog which weighed the better part of a hundred and forty pounds. Lock Island put Keelhaul's boisterousness down to his Labrador retriever grandmother; certain less charitably inclined souls put it down to the high admiral's influence. Wherever it came from, though, Keelhaul actually looked forward to their trips up the mountain. And he was calmer and less worried by the sounds of gunfire than most humans. Certainly it bothered him far less than it did the artillery's draft dragons. Which shouldn't really have been so surprising, Lock Island thought, given the amount of gunnery practice he got to listen to whenever they were at sea.


            However Keelhaul felt about it, however, the high admiral's feelings were far more mixed. Fascinating as he always found Seamount's demonstrations, he and horses had not been intimate companions since he first went to sea far too many years ago. Unfortunately, his posterior had made the reacquaintance of both saddles and saddle sores as he trundled up and down the steep, winding road from King's Harbor to the Marines' training ground.


            "The Commodore has a point, My Lord," Clareyk put in respectfully. "About the biggest formation we can really work with here is a battalion. We can squeeze two of them into the available space if we push a little, but we're really cramped when we do that. There's no way we could put both my regiments into the field as a single force given the space constraints here."


            Lock Island nodded. Each of the new regiments consisted of two battalions, and each brigade was made up of two regiments, so Clareyk's total command had a total strength of just over twelve hundred men, counting officers, corpsmen, buglers, and runners. His actual strength on active operations would have been even higher than that, once other attached specialists were added in, and Clareyk and Seamount were right about the space limitations. That had never been a problem before, since about the largest Marine formation in pre-Merlin days had been a single battalion. Now, though, they weren't simply training Marine detachments for the Navy's ships; they were building an honest-to-God army. The first true army in Charis' history.


            For the moment, that army still belonged to Lock Island, but he had no doubt a time was coming, probably in the not-too-distant future, when a Royal Army would have to be split off from the traditional Marines. There were simply aspects of what armies had to do that sea officers like himself had never been trained to do.


            Maybe so, he thought with just an edge of grimness. But the job's still mine for now, so I suppose I'd better get off my saddle sore, horse-bitten arse — figuratively speaking, of course — and figure out how to do this right.


            "I believe you, Brigadier. I believe you both. And General Chermyn and I have already been giving some thought to the problem. For right now, though, I'm still more concerned about the security aspects. As you say, we can keep things under wraps out here on Helen a lot better than we could anywhere else. Once we've actually committed the troops to action, when 'the cat's out of the bag,' as Merlin put it the other day — and, no, I don't know where he got the expression from — that's not going to be such a concern."


            "We understand, Sir," Seamount said. Then the roundish little commodore grinned suddenly. "Of course, we're still going to have a few things we want to maintain security about, even then."


            "Ahlfryd," Lock Island said severely, turning a speculative gaze upon his subordinate, "are you up to something . . . again?"


            "Well . . . ."


            "You are up to something." Lock Island cocked his head and folded his arms. "I suppose you'd better go ahead and tell me about it now. And how much I'm going to have to tell Baron Ironhill this idea's going to cost."


            "Actually, I don't know that it's going to be all that expensive, Sir." Seamount's tone was almost wheedling, but his eyes gleamed.


            "Of course you don't. You don't have to talk to Ironhll about these little matters," Lock Island said severely. "So try to look a little less like a boy caught with his hand in his mother's cookie jar and just go ahead and tell me."


            "Yes, Sir."


            Seamount rubbed his chin with his mangled left hand. Lock Island was thoroughly familiar with that "sorting out my thoughts" gesture, and he waited patiently. Then the commodore cleared his throat.


            "The thing is, Sir," he began, "that I had this . . . conversation with Seijin Merlin the last time he and the King were out here watching an exercise."


            "What sort of conversation?" Lock Island asked just a tad warily. "Conversations" with Merlin Athrawes had a distinct tendency, he'd discovered, to go off in some very peculiar directions.


            "Well, we were watching some of the twelve-pounder crews training, and it occurred to me that with the new rifles, even the twelve-pounders don't really have a significant range advantage over infantry."


            "They don't?" Lock Island blinked in surprise. "I thought you told me they had a maximum range of almost sixteen hundred yards!"


            "Yes, Sir, they do — with round shot, which is the least effective round against an infantry target. Canister range is substantially shorter than that, though. And, Sir, with all due respect, finding clear ranges sixteen hundred yards long is going to be more problematic in a land battle than it is at sea. At sea, we don't really have to worry about things like ridgelines, trees, and ravines."


            "I see." Lock Island nodded again, this time more slowly as he remembered his own thought of only minutes before. Another one of those things sea officers don't know about from personal experience, I see.


About Eric Flint

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24 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 64

  1. kar says:

    yatta yatta yatta… I swear this is getting annoying. The author is repeating the same info that was started in the first book. I mean, they started training in the first book. By now, at least a few detachments of the battalions should already be deployed against Emerald. Like I said, establish a beach head at a port/town in Emerald and fortify the town in 30 years war style defenses. Once Emerald deploys its field army, use the new tech weapons in a forced battle. End of deal. Additionally, where is the secret discussions with siddarmark. I mean… come on… it’s obvious… the Republic is probably the only great land ally Charis could have. Additionally the Republic’s pike formations are a perfect starting ground for infantry line of battle tactics. So far, there has been no “secret” plots with them… this is annoying. I hope this isn’t like a “calm” before the next storm type book with just endless technical explanations. A moderate amount is ok, but who cares if the dog’s grandmother was a lab…. sheesh.

  2. Michael says:

    No I disagree- I know it doesn’t move the plot along but knowing that Lock Island cares for his dog and feels guilty about not being able to promote Baron Seamount makes him seem a much more decent human being. This character building hooks us into the story more by making us care about what happens to the character. Like the Wheel of Time series, there seems scope for oceans of plot(s) and I believe time should be taken for this type of ‘back lot’ character building. Then when the marriage happens and Charis is ready for the invasion of Emerald, Lock Island and Seamount can be another thread of the story- possibly as you said linking onwards to an alliance and/or transfer of technology to the Siddarmark Republic for the middle or end-phase of this world war.

  3. MarkR says:

    What you have to understand is that for Weber, it’s all about him. His fun, his money. You readers are on your own. As long as people keep actually spending money on this stuff, you’ll never see any improvement.

    I may read snippets and I may get his books out of the library, but I will no longer spend a cent until he stops milking his series to get as much money as he can get at the expense of his readers enjoyment.

  4. Tim says:

    I agree, i was really looking forward to this sequel, but it is sure dragging and wandering all over the place. I’m sure he has a vision of where this book is going, but he is taking a circuitous route. At this pace, i’ll be a sleep by the end of the book and won’t even notice book 3.

  5. Ken Valentine says:

    Numbers are inconsistent between this snippet and snippet 63. In #63, a marine battalion was 500 men. That would make a regiment about 1,000 men and a 2-regiment brigade 2,000 men exclusive of attachments. Artillery crews for 12-pounders would be 12-16 men per tube including limber drivers. If a brigade has two four-gun batteries attached (a little high for the Napoleonic period), it would have total complement of about 2200-2300 men, not 1200 as stated in this snippet.

    Frankly, 12-pounders are a bit too heavy for brigade-level batteries. 6- or 8-gun batteries of 4- or 6-pounders would be better, with a 6- or 8-gun battery of 12-pounders added when multiple brigades take the field together (possibly as an “official” division). Presumably Charis expects to use the army they’re developing to invade someone, and that means they’re going to have to land troops and guns via a beach or minor port somewhere–lighter artillery is much easier to get ashore than the heavy stuff when you don’t have dockyard cranes and stone wharfs available.

  6. Roy P says:

    An Army, especially one with new weapons and tactics to work out, just doesn’t spring up from the ground. It takes time to do things. If you really think about it, they have been working on all of this while all of the other things have been going on, in the first book. And as that book dealt more with the naval aspects of the current problems/conflicts, doesn’t mean that all of this other wasn’t taking place. In this case, we are seeing the end product of months of recruiting, basic training, equipping and working out of tactics and logistics. All very boring stuff, stuff that would put me to sleep. BUT, we are given and interesting glimpse into the more or less final product and given hints as to more things to come, much more interesting and gives life to something that is this complex, when the full story will finally be told.

    And besides, if you don’t like reading it, then don’t read it and go somewhere else and don’t spoil it for the rest of us. I would rather pay for a well thought out and presented story than one that is slapped together and is short and to the point. Especially, when both are around the same price. In some respects, I get more for my money, this way, i.e. number of words per penny.

    Keep up the good work David. I hope that this series will be able to explore the possibly of some future weapons tech, that the TFN didn’t originally have, that are brought about by basic connections from things that are happening in the early years of the “recovery”. You never know were some ideas will lead, especially if that approach was never explored during Earth’s tech growth past.

  7. Grant says:

    Some of those commenting above seem, in my opinion, to be letting the manner in which these snippets are being released influence their judgment of the pacing of the book. If they had the full text in front of them I suspect that the 45 seconds or so that it took to make it through this oh-so-painfully tedious section since the last scene with Merlin wouldn’t be causing them nearly the mental anguish they seem to be expressing here. We’re all anxious to see what the heck is going on with Merlin and that little bomb that was dropped two snippets back, and the days between one collection of paragraphs becoming available and the next certainly makes it seem to drag on while waiting to get back to it, but get a little perspective. It’s been a couple pages for cripes sake. And these little departures from the main Merlin storyline do actually serve a purpose beyond just indulging in descriptions of using shiny new toys to blow stuff up in impressive fashion. It’s pretty clear they’re about to pull a new innovation out of Merlin’s bag of tricks to equip the infantry with, and if he wants to do that set against the backdrop of how effective the ones they’ve previously introduced have *already* made those troops then that just serves to emphasize the steady sequential progress being made on augmenting the military capabilities of our heroes here.

    As for this being a “calm before the storm” type of book. Let’s see… we’ve already seen Charis and Chisholm set up to ally through marriage, Narmahn’s allegiance beginning to turn, and a secret underground society within the church which knows things about real history they definitely shouldn’t know making contact with Merlin, just to hit *some* of the high points… and Charis is clearly positioning for the move against Emerald already and it’s not like we’re anywhere near the final chapters are we? By my rough estimate, if Schism is of similar length to Armageddon, we’re hardly 20% of the way through at this point. And the only way you could consider anything happening in that first 20% or so “the calm” is if you only count descriptions of direct pitched battles fought with the enemy’s armies as qualifying as stormy.

  8. Tim says:

    I stand chastised and apologetic… Grant… you are absolutely correct and thank you for putting it into perspective. Given your estimate of being only 20% into the story, then the storey line is moving right right along. If I the entire book in front of me, I probably would stay all night reading it :-). I certainly do appreciate being able to read the snippets. And I do look forward to spending an entire day reading the final version.

  9. Virgil says:

    I actually find all of this interesting. Oh, they are about to come up with the idea of gatling or volley guns most likly the volley gun. Without cartridge the volley gun is the most likly as the block, plank or whatever can act like a gaint cartridge you load it then place in the rear of the multiple barrel gun to fire.

  10. George Phillies says:

    I propose that there will be no move against Emerald because it is changing sides first. The first move will be against Tarot or Corisande, at a guess the former because it is closer and weaker, and because Chisholm needs time to come up to speed.

    Now, what neat new weapon did get invented here, for cheap? At a guess, it is a rifled naval artillery piece, using a shell of modern shape, which is aerodynamically vastly more effective than a sphere. Also, the implication is that the rate of fire of naval artillery, thanks to the fully assembled shell, is about to be increased again.

    Speaking for myself, I like the character development.

    The break from the Merlin conversation is one proposes that the authors are inserting cliffhangers into the text to make the readers see what will happen next. The Turtledove magic WW2 series over did this, but his other series are more restrained.

  11. JNees says:

    Pacing is one thing. After all Herman Melville gave up a chunk of “Moby Dick” to a detailed description of whaling, whih did not advance any part of his plot. But this kind of posed interaction seems almost cardboard in construction. In the last two snippets, what have we learned? That two regiments of ground troops are training up, and the firepower and range advantages they will have over their foes. Some minor character advancement has been done, and, I suspect, that was contrived to stage the gunnery excersize.

    We have certainly seen this before in this book, and series. Often in fact. Some form of fleshing out does need to be done. However, this is a ham handed way to accomplish it. We might as well include headers reading, Meanwhile, back at the ranch.”


  12. Brom O'Berin says:

    I’m not sure that the neat new weapon is a rifled naval cannon, although I’m sure those are in store in the future. I’m guessing something quicker and easier to adapt to their current field artillery, like chainshot, which will be very effective against infantry formations and also have a greater effective range than canister, closer to the range of roundshot.

    I’m not really familiar with field artilley, so someone who is could correct me, but I believe that the greatest benefit of rifled artillery will come with the era of indirect fire barrages, vice the relative short-ranged direct fire that is all the current Safehold forces are capable of.


  13. Paul says:

    JNees & assorted critics: That’s what editors are for. Or heck, MWW might do another proofing and trim things like this quite a bit. We can’t know.

    What we can know is that this is not the final, as will be published, draft. So save your criticism for the final product, not something that was the shape of things…six months ago.

    If there’s “Wheel of Time-itus” in the final product, your criticism will be valid. Right now you’re just looking like a fool with his head up the gift-horse’s throat.

  14. Mike says:

    “Like the Wheel Of Time series…” is a phrase that should put glee into the heart of any publisher and fear into the heart of anybody who likes quality over quantity.

    Who cares that he likes his dog? In fact, who doesn’t like their dog? Every dog owner I know likes their dog. What does it add telling us this? If he beats his dog and uses it for pit fighting — now that’s an unusual charater trait.

    As I said in the last snippit comment section, Weber used to do this better. He used to right tighter books, which focused on his skills. Let’s face it, Weber just isn’t very good at writing conversations. They all come out like debating society transcripts. Even intimate conversations between lovers end up sounding like data dumps to the reader.

    As his average book length has increased, the story content has gotten more and more diluted. I used to buy his books. Then I switched to just checking them out from the library. I’m on the verge of not reading them at all any more.

    And I guess those of you who don’t want to hear any negative comments will be pleased if that happens, but until then, the “well don’t read it if you don’t like it” advice can also apply to my comments.

  15. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    I agree with George on this one. Emerald is getting ready to surrender. No doubting that. I think they’ll be going after Corisande myself, mostly because Cayleb really doesn’t like him. Tarot is closer, but probably less of a threat

  16. alibaba says:

    Hmm… new weapon…
    if range is not an advantage of the 12’ver, get rid of it, since it’s heavy. Build volley guns or gatling guns instead…

  17. Yuri says:

    It is really annoying .With Weber ”Good guys” always have initiative, better technology,
    better commanders, perfect intelligence .The only advantage evil have is numbers.
    I wish real life worked like that. Take Nazis, bunch of vicious evil bustards ,but they new how to fight .

  18. George Phillies says:

    As an alternative to a shell gun or rifling on the 12 pounder, at moderately greater expense it is a small step form a unit-loaded round to the British Napoleonic secret weapon that actually worked, namely shrapnel: the timed fuse on the back of the shell was ignited by firing, not by loading a shell with lit fuse as seen in the Lord Kalvan series. I agree that chain is an interesting possibility, but do not recall it being used effectively on land: unless the plane of rotation is very horizontal, you have to aim high or one ball will strike the ground surface, disrupting the flight.

    I agree that Tarot is far weaker than Corisande, not to mention that instead of invading Corisande the alliance might invade Zebediah and install the Duke as a Prince of a nominally somewhat independent state. However, Tarot is closer, and is a sea power that if it recovered might be able to ferry an army from one of the mainland empires onto Charis. At the moment, Charis has near-total control of the sea, but concentrating against Charis would weaken this control.

    On yet another hand, at this point Chisholm has naval superiority over Corisande, has some sort of an army not lost at sea, and rather than sitting on her backside the Queen of Chisholm might start trimming away at Corisande without being polite about waiting.

  19. Yuri,

    I agree on your point. For my space opera novel, I quite deliberately gave the side you saw the advantage of numbers but a very serious technical inferiority.


  20. E says:

    My predictions for the upcoming weapons developments are as follows:

    Incendiary anti-ship rounds, possibly shaped.
    Explosive anti-infantry rounds.
    Puckle Guns (Basically the equivalent of belt-fed Gatlings that have more primitive cartridges and a slower rate of fire).
    Specialized infantry. (Explosives experts, engineers, etc.)
    Basic bulletproof vestments (using composite materials available on Charis like that bamboo analogue’s fibers)

    Artillery tactics that work beyond visual range, angle of fire, trajectory analysis, etc… And flag/lamp signals to boot (Merlin can introduce Morse Code).

    As to the Order of Saint Zherneau, I believe that Merlin is about to find a means of introducing a cultural revolution by proxy of the brotherhood, like his technological proxies.

  21. E says:

    Also, Merlin might also teach the good old boys about how guerrilla tactics work to destroy even the most orderly armies. Specialized infantry can be used at first for the new tactics with expansions into squad tactics and multi-operational tactics later (though multi-operational tactics occur primarily with an air force helping an army/navy, I believe that artillery boats would provide a suitable reason for expanding the tactical capabilities of the standard army squad.)

    Also I forgot to mention in the tech development section:

    Smoke warfare
    Better grenades (stick grenades maybe)
    and dehydrated rations (hurray… :( )

  22. E says:

    The thing that seems to strike me about this series is the inherent professionalism displayed by each member of Merlin’s Cadre. The fact that each of them is doing their jobs and are acting on perceived areas of improvement with barely any qualms is generating a case of “too-perfect” development. I mean, they should at least begin to demand more answers from Merlin regardless of risking his departure because he clearly does not wish to depart. It’s getting to where the progress of the stories is somewhat distressing: 2 years in 1.2 books? How long will it take to get to “modern” levels much less advance into space? My bet is that Weber will end up having to time-gap his novels, having Merlin disappear, leaving St. Zherneaus in charge?, for a time while he sleeps it off (maybe he can return as Nimue next time). Heck, Weber might even let someone else take the puppetmaster reins, like a trainee of Merlin’s in another kingdom.

    What I want to know is 1: Will weber take shortcuts or see the detailed stories through? 2: Does Nimue ever get to come back? and 3: Where’s Elvis?

  23. M says:

    Complain, complain, complain. If you don’t like it, let it be. Some stuff is hard to read as snippets. I’ve had to stop reading the mainline 163x novels in snippet form, because the universe has grown too complex to enjoy in tiny bits. I find it more enjoyable to wait for the novels, or to read the previews in big gulps over at fifthimperium. I’m new to Weber, so he has yet to try my patience. If he irritates you, then move on, like many have done with Turtledove, and each of us has done with particular authors. Sheesh.

  24. Summercat says:

    I have to disagree with E. I’m thinking that the Safehold series will end when the Church’s hold on Safehold is truely and well broken, with the true history of Safehold propogating across the planet.

    I doubt that this trilogy will advance into space and fight the Gbaba. Even with a higher starting-point once the Safeholdians get up to where the Terran Federation were, technologyically, it would take a long time for Safehold to build a space navy capable of taking on the Galactic Bad-Ass Biker Association. Maybe decades, more than likely centuries.

    Which would be a topic of a second series, something along ‘A Crisis Of Faith’, which would lead to a civil war in a nascent Safehold Confederation between hard-line conservatives (Those who believe in the Gbaba and that they must be stopped, but not ready yet, must keep strong power and control) and radical liberals (Who do not believe in the Gbaba and want to remove all the controls and stops the conservatives have put in.)

    The interesting bit is where Nimue Alban would place herself – possibly with a small group of progressives, who want to relax SOME of the restrictions and that should they meet the Gbaba, they’ll be able to win in the end (Slightly weaker than Earth was in Apocalypse Troll), but the Gbaba do exist. The only problem is that these moderates are definatly the minority, and I doubt that ‘Merlin’ would make an appearance, else completly fudge up the Safeholdian cultural psyche any further…

    …well, that’s how I’d set it up.

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