August, Year of God 892






Schooner Blade and galleon Guardian,


off Lizard Island,


Hankey Sound


            "All right, Mr. Nethaul! Stand by the forward gun!"


            "Aye, aye, Sir!"


            Hairym Nethaul waved acknowledgment from his post on the schooner Blade's foredeck as the fleet, flush-decked privateer swept down upon its intended prey. Captain Ekohls Raynair, Blade's master and half-owner, stood by the wheel, brown eyes narrowly intent as he simultaneously watched the wind, the set of his sails, and the Dohlaran galleon upon which he had set his sights.


            "Let her fall off a quarter-point," he growled, and the helmsman nodded.


            "Aye, Cap'n," he replied, shifting his well-masticated wad of chewleaf to the other side of his mouth, and Raynair chuckled. It would have been hard to imagine anything less navy-style than the discipline aboard Blade, but it got the job done. He and his schooner were seven thousand miles from Charis as the wyvern flew, and better than three times that far as they'd actually sailed. That was a long, long way, but Raynair didn't care. It had taken almost three months to make the trip, even for a fast ship like Blade and her three consorts, and he didn't care about that, either.


            No, what Ekohls Raynair cared about was that he and his consortium partners had been right all along. It seemed abundantly clear that no one in Dohlar had entertained the least suspicion that Charisian privateers would operate so far afield. The four schooners — Blade, Ax, Cutlass, and Dirk — had cut a swath through the totally unwary Dohlaran merchant marine for almost a month now, and the expedition's books were looking very, very good.


            How nice of King Rahnyld to invest all that time and effort in making us rich, Raynair thought as his ship went slicing through the water like the very blade for which she was named. Of course, this wasn't exactly what he had in mind. But if you're stupid enough to go swimming with krakens, then you're lucky if all that happens is you get back a bloody stump.


            Rahnyld IV's ambitions to build a merchant marine from scratch were no doubt laudable, from a Dohlaran viewpoint. Raynair didn't see it that way. His father and one of his uncles had been the master and first mate (and joint owners) of a Charisian merchant ship which had come calling in the Gulf of Dohlar twelve years before and run afoul of a Dohlaran war galley in the approaches to Silkiah Bay. They hadn't even been headed for a Dohlaran port — their cargo had been bound for a spice merchant in the Grand Duchy of Silkiah — but that hadn't mattered.


            King Rahnyld had decided that the Gulf of Dohlar, Hankey Sound, and Silkiah Bay ought to be closed waters. He'd started out by levying tolls on anyone passing east of the Dohlar Bank and its cluster of islands. Then he'd started pushing his area of operations further west. Eventually, he'd extended his "protected area" as far as Whale Island, over a thousand miles from his own coastline. Claiming to exert some sort of police power over a stretch of saltwater that vast was not only unheard of, it was ridiculous. Charis, for example, like virtually every other maritime power on the planet, hewed to the older rule which held that a nation could claim sovereignty only over waters in which it could — and did — exercise an effective control. That didn't mean just extorting money out of passing merchant ships, either. It meant dealing with pirates, preventing acts of war by other naval powers, buoying and marking navigational hazards, updating charts, and generally making the children behave. Which, in turn, meant, for all practical purposes, that territorial waters were those which lay within long cannon shot of its coastline, which was generally agreed to be about three miles. Actually, even the three-mile limit was being overly generous, as everyone understood perfectly, well. And it was worth noting that somehow ships of the Harchong Empire had ended up exempt from King Rahnyld's "passage fees."


            Ahbnair and Wyllym Raynair hadn't seen any reason why they should pour their hard-earned golden marks into Rahnyld's pockets, either. Especially since it was obvious the entire "passage fee" demand was intended solely to bar non-Dohlaran merchant ships from the waters Rahnyld IV regarded as "his."


            No one in Charis knew exactly what had happened that afternoon in the waters between Hankey Sound and Silkiah Bay. The one thing they did know was that the galleon Raynair's Pride had been fired into, boarded, and then sunk by the Dohlaran Navy. Neither Ekohls' father, nor his uncle, had survived the experience, and only two of their crewmen had ever made it home again.


            There was a reason Ekohls Raynair had been less surprised than most when Rahnyld allied himself so eagerly with Hektor of Corisande, despite the fact that Dohlar and Corisande were damned nearly on opposite sides of the world from one another. And, the truth be told, it wasn't just the profit which had attracted Blade and her consorts to Dohlaran waters, either.


            He looked back across at the lumbering Dohlaran galleon. He could see why it was operating in the Gulf. One look at real blue water would probably have frightened the clumsy, high-sided, lubberly joke's crew to death. Fortunately, whatever the Church — or, for that matter, Rahnyld of Dohlar — might think about Charis, the imperial governor of Shwei Province appeared to understand that Charisian marks spent just as well as anyone else's. At the moment, he was doing quite well for himself, in a quiet sort of way, by allowing Raynair and his partners to dispose of prize ships and seized cargoes to Harchongese merchants at Yu-Shai, on Shwei Bay. How long that would last was anyone's guess, but for the moment at least, Raynair didn't have to worry about getting his captures all the way home to Charis.


            This particular galleon seemed more stubborn than most, Raynair reflected. Her master was continuing mulishly on his course rather than accepting the inevitable. He'd clapped on all the sail he had — which wasn't all that impressive to someone who'd seen the sail plans of Charisian galleons — and he was plodding along as if he actually thought he could evade the sleek, low-slung schooner.


            Well, he's about to find out better, Raynair thought.


* * * * * * * * * *


            "Keep that damned fool's head below the bulwarks!" Captain Graygair Maigee snarled.


            The offending soldier ducked hastily back into concealment, and Maigee grunted in irate satisfaction. Then he turned his attention back to the Charisian vessel bearing down upon Guardian.


            Funny, he thought. This all seemed like a much better idea when they were explaining it to me back in Gorath Bay. Now I'm wondering what idiot thought it up. Of course, if anybody in the damned Navy actually knew his arse from his elbow, we wouldn't have landed in this mess in the first place!


            "Do you think he'll fire into us, or put a shot across our bows, Sir?" Airah Synklyr, his first officer, asked quietly.


            "How the hell do I know?" Maigee responded grumpily. It was a good question, though, he had to admit. "We'll find out when we find out, I suppose," he added.


            Which, unless I miss my guess, is going to happen very soon now.


* * * * * * * * * *


About Eric Flint

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25 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 73

  1. Summercat says:

    Ah, a new snippet. And whomever it was that called the ‘Age of Piracy’, you get a cookie.

    Looks like we’re going to see a bunch of Charisians get some of their own medicene. Mew.

  2. E says:

    Not entirely what I had in mind, but at least I have a cookie. I was thinking along the lines of something more resource intensive for capturing Charisian vessels.

    A cookie to whoever can tell me where this line came from “You say you’re nasty pirates, scheming, theiving, babblish whackers. From what I’ve seen I tell you you’re not pirates you’re just slackers…”

    I suppose this will be one of the many sparks that causes Church doctrine to implode, once Dohlar starts using innovations and figuring out how then the Church will end up supporting change by proxy until they get their own shipyards up.
    Charis still has a huge lead so it shouldn’t be so much of a problem where the navy is concerned, especially since Merlin will know withing days whether or not Dohlar is laying down frames for galleons. If the new grenade rounds that seem inevitable are coming, then it is likely that the PT boat concept, with small schooners and the like, will account for most of the new death toll if ever the Charisian fleet is outnumbered again. Then again, once Charis-Chisholm gets rolling it’s likely that they will enjoy a numbers advantage for a long time yet. And of course, Charis can afford to prune back its enemies for now, especially since they seem to have a good system for amphibious raiding worked out.

  3. MarkR says:

    Meanwhile back among the adult concerns of industrial production, I have to say that Weber has been maddeningly vague concerning the Proscriptions. Here’s the whole entry from the glossary of OAR:

    Proscriptions of Jwo-Jeng — the definition of allowable technology under the doctrine of the Church of God Awaiting. Essentially, the Proscriptions limit allowable technology to that which is powered by wind, water, or muscle. The Proscriptions are subject to interpretation, generally by the Order of Schueler, which generally errs on the side of conservatism.

    Applicable sentences on page 106:
    If any of Langhorne’s sycophants had studied history the way Shan-wei had, he suspected, the Writ would have incorporated far more stringent controls on things like the use of water power. But they appeared to have overlooked the fact that Old Earth’s Industrial Revolution had begun with waterwheels, not steam engines, and Charis’ “manufactories” were well on the road towards the same destination.

    Nothing about directly powered by wind, water or muscle as some comment said.

    How would one word the Proscriptions to avoid the use of heated water vapor, aka steam? All vapors not created in cooking are the property of God and must be allowed to rise free into the heavens? The cooking part is necessary to allow people to put lids on their pots.

    I can’t believe Langhorne and sycophants would not explicitly proscribe steam power particularly with that sentence on 106, but one could argue that steam power is water power without an explicit proscription.

    But as I’ve said before, water power could be made much more sophisticated, almost an adequate replacement for electricity in climates were it can be kept from ever freezing in the pipes. It has never gotten as sophisticated as it could here because electricity came along in time, but it would be possible to directly run water to water motors at every work area in a factory just like we run electrical power.

    Would that I thought Weber has thought of this and actually make it part of the story, but the pages in OAR and here so far have had a tiny percentage devoted to anything concerning the actual hard work of industrial technological development. It’s been almost all military, spycraft and diplomacy. Disappointing in a story that is about raising humanity back to space faring technology.

  4. Stever says:

    I think there is something different about this “merchant” ship. Since when does a “merchant” carry soldiers? And the captain mentions the Navy got them into this fix….
    Q-ship maybe? May not be the easy pickings the pivateer thinks he has.
    Can’t wait to see.

  5. E says:

    The problem with proscribing specific items such as steam power is that if you give any indication that other methods of power exist then you open up a lot of questions and research, something that the Church was set up to stop. You can’t say “Don’t use steam to power stuff” because people will ask “How can I use steam to power stuff?.” By giving examples of what people could use it limits the mind to thinking along those lines. Steam power might very well be the highest level of sophistication that Langhorn anticipated but by basically proscribing electricity in leaving it out of the acceptable then there will be no development into technologies that produce the kinds of emissions that would draw the Hbaba.

    As to banning steam power, you have already found out how it would be banned: “The Proscriptions are subject to interpretation, generally by the Order of Schueler, which generally errs on the side of conservatism.”
    Authorities don’t have to rely on facts to get things banned or to enforce their point of view. If you look at what Merlin is trying to do, he is trying to dispel the notion that the authority of the Church gives them the right to be right regardless of facts.

  6. Aaron Van Dessel says:


    back to this snippet. Dohlar is going to do what?? Board them? Attack the Charisians when they try to board? I see death looming on the future

  7. E says:

    I believe that the obvious answer is that Dohlar will capture this ship.
    The ship can’t hope to get close to the Blade on its own power so I believe they will wait until they are boarded and then use overwhelming numbers to capture the ship; it’s a tactic that was used mostly by pirate hunters in the latter half of the 1600s at the close of the age of piracy, when peace was breaking out.
    If they had brought more than one ship they would have risked Blade deciding to disengage and if they came strait at the Blade then they might simply be fired upon instead of taken in as a potential prize.
    The only issue now is how the three consorts will react to the capture of Blade.

    Given Dohlar’s prior naval history in Off Armageddon Reef, it is likely that they will face competence and doctrine issues for many years even if they attain a “modern” fleet.
    Apart from the ship itself, the biggest asset that would be on board the Blade would have to be her rutter (book of landings, secret ports, and bases) and flag signaling codex, although given the numerical superiority of Arabic numerals and the fact that the enemy nations don’t know anything but Roman numerals yet, they might find whatever information they gain will be hard to read.

    It’s part of Merlin’s plan that eventually Charis’ enemies will capture Charisian technology. Heck, in terms of Emerald and Corisande, they already have stolen designs and are modifying their industrial base to match Charis’. That will be very convenient when Charis takes over.

    BTW, I would appreciate feedback if you wish to comment on the nature or demeanor of my postings.

  8. Whether the Dohlarians get to board depends on whether the Charisians actually close or not.

    Compelling a surrender and sending over a prize crew–which incidentally is a non-trivial strain on manpower very quickly, unless you escort your prizes to Harchong–in a cutter might be viewed as simpler and safer. There is no reason to board as done between warships at all, other than plot interest, when the alternative is to use superior maneuverability and speed to cross the opponents stern repeatedly and shoot them out.

    Telling the merchant crew that they will get a cut of the prize money, even a modest one, including a cut of the value of the cargo, would do a great deal to motivate people to surrender with vigor.

    On the other hand, Charisian advances in firepower are so large that the Dohlarian boarding action might give a really bloody battle.

    Assuming, of course, that Merlin has not noted the Dohlarian tactic and prepared a counter.

  9. E says:

    The issue is not Merlin at the moment, but Captain Raynair.
    Assuming he decides to fire a warning shot and close, he will then have to board the ship in order to relay his orders to the capture. (Captured vessels often retained a lot of their crew so that they could be piloted wherever the captor wanted.) As soon as he closes and grapples, that would be when the ambush occurs. From that point he has the following options:

    Surrender (if he boarded the enemy ship personally).
    Die (ditto)
    Sacrifice whoever he sent over (if he did not go himself)
    ^ Following this he can order a close broadside into the enemy ship and then cut and run.
    ^ He can cut and run then bring about Blade for the cannon melee.
    He also has the option to signal his fleet at any instance before closing, but that becomes less likely if the ambush occurs in favor of the enemy.

    His final option is of course to set fire to one or both ships.

    Solus in hostes ruit.

  10. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    yeah. both ships could go down. Thats what I would expect.

  11. E says:

    I wonder if Eric Flint or David Weber actually read this stuff. I mean, who wouldn’t want the all-powerful feeling associated with knowing that everyone is thinking about what you are going to do while you know it.

  12. Summercat says:

    E –

    As for the vagueness of the proscriptions:

    They were written at the time that Langhorne thought he would have a thousand years of direct interaction with Safeholdians. Well, not a thousand years, but certainly a very long time! Possibly enough to imprint directly on 6th or 7th generation colonists, though.

    Also, Langhorn and Bedard were possibly arrogant enough to think that their society would stay in statis for all of time. Then again, there is always the Raikuri, still in orbit. Should there be an energy source large enough to trigger it, a literal strike from the heavens would put people back on the right path!

    And we don’t know what would trigger it. But I think that both Alexandrians and Churchmice are both part of the original Mission Planning Board’s plans. That’s why they chose Langhorn over Havel for Director, and that’s why they sent Commodore Pei. They couldn’t have forseen the details, but I’m willing to bet that they were depending on Langhorn making a fertile and safe field for the new crop of humanity to grow, and then having Shan-wei sow the seeds that would later, after both original instigators passed on, grow into something that’d pound the Gbaba to dust.

    The ‘original mission plan’ that Alexandria followed would have been a farce; the Planning Board would have counted on Langhorn and Bedard to do what they actually did, which would keep humanity safe, for certain. But then they counted on Shan-wei to make plans so that eventually, Langhorn’s work would become undone…

  13. E says:

    Recall that Langhorn suborned the board of directors with his own people so that he could impose his will. Langhorn’s will was to impede humanity’s technical development forever AND to rule like some sort of god. The original board of directors was formed under the concept of working in unity to secure mankind’s survival. To believe that they could anticipate highly specific conflicts in advance is ludicrous. The original mission plan called for records to be kept on the Hbaba with the memory modifications in place so as to create a society where people are both willing and able to use manual methods to survive. The change to the parameters was the duping of the volunteers to believe that Langhorn and crew were angels.

    Shan Wei had to rely on sympathizers to create Alexandria and, most likely, to seed her survivors as well. If Shan Wei herself actually survived… that would be something. In all likelihood, the power signatures under the church are going to be survivors from Langhorn’s team who are in stasis, which begs the question of who Merlin is going to have to deal with when they come out of stasis (It wouldn’t surprise me if the timer was set to 1000 Safehold years). It seems certain from Zherneau’s letter that most of Langhorn’s inner circle died, but without specific names it’s just as likely that Bedard survived. The worst thing might be some mid-level peon who suddenly became the highest ranking sycophant.

    Back on the boating subject, it wouldn’t matter that Merlin devised a counter-strategy to traps like Dohlar’s current one. For one, he couldn’t get it to Raynair in time without questions.For two, such strategies can usually be intuitively developed regardless of planning. For three, if someone doesn’t get their ass kicked it’s going to be pretty boring in the next snippet. For five, Raynair might get to demonstrate the advantage of bayonets. For six, my pizza is done so I will leave off here and have lunch.

  14. Aaron Van Dessel says:


    We know from the first book that at least one mid-ranking person survived the blast, since he rewrote the Writ to put in the battle of the Angels.

    I’ve never actually given credit to the PICA idea for any of the original crew mostly for 2 reasons. 1) PICA have a 10-day blow out unless tampered with and 2) If they did tamper with it, why keep the PICA asleep so long? I can see Langhourne having one so when he is geting old he can still rule for all eternity, but he’s dead. and no PICA came. Why?

    Of course a stasis sleep could work. I’d wonder why our guys didn’t know about it htough. unless it was consructed after. I’m betting on some type of computer mainframe fro the system that causes the major energy readings myself

  15. E says:

    The mainframe is a good explanation, it accounts for the KE Satellites and its AI could be programmed with the personality of anyone… even Langhorn.

    The deal with why “our guys” don’t know about it is firstly: David Weber does not write from the third person omnipotent point of view. Secondly: Langhorn and company can just as easily have made their own secret plans; look at how surprised Pei was when he found out about the KE satellites.

    I doubt that Langhorn’s group came up with their own PICA idea, most likely there will be multiple members with technology on par with Merlin’s and some advantages he doesn’t have (like that lightning rod thing mentioned at the beginning of Off Armageddon Reef).

    Merlin, of course, retains the advantage of the full anti-gerone facility, several hundred assault rifles, ATVs, and coordinating directly with OWL…

    Speaking of OWL, his limited responses are starting to seem suspicious… I mean, if he is supposed to develop a personality but isn’t…

    Nimue’s cave was discovered by Langhorn’s cohorts and they are using OWL as their proxy to discover the extent of preserved true history so as to wipe out every trace of the truth… with Merlin as their puppet. But… nah, that’s too evil for Weber to do something like that.

  16. MarkR says:

    I sometimes wonder what book some of you are reading, the theories are so wild.

    I brought up the Proscriptions because the longer Charis can stay within them by the lights of any thinking Safeholdian, the harder they make the Church’s position. Unless I’ve completely misread the early snippets, the Council of Vicars isn’t going to save the Gang of Four’s asses by bringing the Church officially into the fray, even with the challenge from the Church of Charis, unless Charis clearly violates the Proscriptions. It would undermine what credibly the CoGA still has for them to officially condemn Charis after already allowing the Knights of the Temple Lands to attack without Church sanction. It’s one of the reasons the order is still keeping secret their knowledge that CoGA is a fraud. Open heresy hampers Charis’ attempts to win more allies.

    By the way, it’s Gbaba and Langhorne.

  17. Summercat says:

    E –

    When I talk about the Mission Planners, I’m talking back on Earth, when they chose Langhorne over Halverson (OAR, Hardcover, page 29).

  18. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    Remember the group of four have already found ways to make Charis look heritical. Cayleb helped along the way with his damning speech against them. Mother Church will get into this fight eventually.

    an AI with one of their personalities would be … scary. And Merlin has doubted OWL’s capabilities from the beggining

  19. “Merlin has not noted the Dohlarian tactic and prepared a counter”

    as in

    “Captain, that merchant ship ahead of us–its sails have caught on fire. Their crew is abandoning ship. ”

    “My, they have a lot of crew.”

    “Sir, those are Dohlarian soldiers.”

    “Come hard to port! Come hard to port!”

  20. E says:

    Ah. I was thinking about the people running the mission.

    As to my wild theories… anything is possible until the script gets out.
    The fact that OWL hasn’t gotten any more intuitive or gained a personality after two years interaction with Merlin leads me to believe that the problems with OWL will eventually become important. It could just be that OWL has to overcome almost 900 years of waiting and talking to himself or something.

    The Council of 4 apparently have quite a lot of power compared to the rest of their “peers”, it could be that they have enough information on corrupt members of the Church to require that if they are removed many more will be dragged down with them, something that will definitely destroy the credibility of the church and increase the power of secular governments, and something that the Church does not want to do. The Church might still be able to directly influence the general populous to a great extent but their hold on governments will slip unless they find some means to either recover their power or destroy the power of governments.

    Next snippet should be up any hour now so we’ll finally see what happens to Raynair.

  21. Gil says:

    You know Mr W has definately set up incompetencies here, aparently the army is running this naval operation, otherwise the boarding party would be below decks where they could not be seen from sentry posted in the rigging of the Charis privateer. Methinks, the good Captain Raynar will be briefly suprised and then blow the Dohlarian vessal out of the water.

  22. Dylan Tullos says:

    The privateer is doomed, because its captain thinks that there is no way that Dohlar, which is a very long way away, would guard against privateers. The Charisian Navy is probably suffering from “victory disease”, and someone in Dohlar anticipated this happening and prepared a trap to make Charis pay cash for any merchants they captured.

    Langhorne and Bedard are absolutely dead for two reasons. First, Shan-wei’s husband detonated a vest-pocket nuke in a meeting with them. He was not going to kill himself without taking out at least the two most important members of the “Archangels”. Secondly, if either of them was alive, Charis would be glass.

  23. Summercat says:

    Any hour now… You’ve cursed us! Tis EASTER!

  24. E says:

    Funny fact:

    Easter is a holiday that originally celebrated the goddess Eoster, the planting of eggs and the rabbits is directly related to this pagan form of worship and has nothing to do with Jesus although conspiracy theorists like to point out that if you sort of squint and turn your head at a crucifix, then twist the crucifix to one side, and use your imagination, it could vaguely be seen as a bunny.

    Funniness aside, aren’t authors always at work? When your job is in your own head, where can one go to avoid work?

  25. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    away from your computer?

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