Earl of Thirsk's Townhouse,


City of Gorath,


Kingdom of Dohlar


            "So how well did it work?" Lywys Gardynyr, the Earl of Thirsk, asked his guest.


            "That depends," that guest replied now.


            Admiral Pawal Hahlynd had the unenviable task of commanding the ships assigned to protect the Kingdom of Dohlar's commerce in Hankey Sound and the approaches to Gorath Bay. Once upon a time, that had been a simple, even boring task. These days, it had become anything but.


            "Depends on what, Pawal?" Thirsk asked as patiently as he could.


            "Depends on how many of your 'trap ships' we have to trade for Charisian pirates," Hahlynd said sourly.


            "That bad, was it?"


            "Bad enough," Hahlynd agreed. Then he shook himself and inhaled deeply. "Actually, I think Maigee would have taken him in the end, if another of those damned schooners hadn't turned up. Against two of them, though –"


            The admiral shrugged, his expression grim, and Thirsk nodded. He wasn't actually very surprised by the outcome, especially given the fact that the Charisians were smart enough to stay concentrated where they could support one another.


            Not exactly what you expected out of "pirates," was it, Pawal? he thought sourly, then scolded himself almost instantly. Hahlynd might not have fully grasped what Thirsk had told him about the new Charisian guns or the deadly discipline of their captains and crews, but at least he'd bothered to listen. And not simply to listen, either. He'd actually put some of Thirsk's suggestions and recommendations into effect.


            And he damned well deserved to have it work out to better, the earl told himself.


            "From the sound of things," Hahlynd continued, "Maigee probably managed to kill or wound at least two-thirds of the first ship's crew. And he obviously pounded the shit out of its hull." The admiral showed his teeth in a grin that was more than half snarl. "That's the only reason I can think of for a pirate to burn his own ship, at any rate."


            Thirsk nodded again, this time with a bit more enthusiasm. If the Charisians had actually burned one of their ships, this far from home, then Hahlynd's estimate of the damage Thirsk's "trap ship" had managed to inflict had to be reasonably accurate. And while there were seldom enough officers of the caliber of this Maigee of Hahlynd's around — especially after the battles of Rock Point and Crag Reach, he thought bitterly — a one-for-one trade was probably the very best Dohlar could reasonably hope for.


            He considered pointing out to Hahlynd that Charisian privateers were a far cry from the occasional Harchongese or Trellheim-based piratical scum the other admiral normally had to deal with. For all intents and purposes, the privateers who had decimated Dohlar's and Tarot's commerce off the east coast of Howard, and who were now ranging all the way to the western coast of the mainland, were auxiliary cruisers of the Royal Charisian Navy.


            Thirsk was quite certain King Cayleb and Admiral Lock Island were inventively cursing the diversion of trained manpower from their navy to the privateers, but they couldn't have been surprised by it. Privateering paid better, after all . . . as long as there were enemy merchant ships upon which to prey, at least. Despite the loss of trained men to their crews, though, Thirsk somehow doubted private shipowners would have been able to get their hands on any of the new Charisian artillery pieces without at least the Royal Navy's tacit agreement. Which, given the privateers' record of success to date, had to be one of Cayleb's better investments. And, in the end, a lot of those diverted seamen would probably end back up in naval service. Privateering might pay well while it lasted, but Thirsk wasn't particularly optimistic about how much longer the Charisians would be able to find merchant ships to pounce upon.


            That's one way to send the privateers home, I suppose, he thought bitterly, gazing out of the townhouse window at the beautiful blue sweep of Gorath Bay. Once they've completely wiped out our merchant fleet, there won't be any reason for them to stay around, will there?


            "I hate to say it," he said out loud, never turning away from the view as he put his thoughts into words, "but trading one of our galleons for one of their privateers is probably as good as it's going to get."


            "Well it's not good enough," Hahlynd growled. "And not just because Thorast is blaming me for it, either!"


            "I know, Pawal," Thirsk replied. "I know."


            And he did know. In fact, Hahlynd was one of the relatively few senior officers of the Royal Dohlaran Navy who were more concerned about finding the best way to deal with the radically new threats the navy faced than with covering their own precious arses.


            Well, one of the relatively few senior officers still serving, at least, the earl corrected himself.


            "They've got to give you a command again, Lywys," Hahlynd said, almost as if he'd been reading Thirsk's mind. Not, the earl conceded, that it would have taken a genius to figure out what he was thinking. "Surely they have to realize they can't afford to leave you sitting ashore like a spare anchor!"


            "Don't bet on it," he said sourly, and turned to face his guest fully. "Given the way Thorast and the King blame me for what happened off Armageddon Reef, I suppose I'm lucky they settled for just beaching me."


            Hahlynd looked as if he would have preferred to argue. Unfortunately, King Rahnyld had been more interested in finding and punishing a scapegoat than he had in profiting from his best sea commander's experience against the Charisian Navy. And it was Thirsk's additional ill fortune that the Duke of Thorast, the closest thing Dohlar had to a navy minister — and that navy's senior officer, to boot — was married to the sister of  Duke Malikai, the incomparably incompetent (and thankfully deceased) "grand-admiral" who'd gotten most of the Dohlaran navy chopped up for kraken bait despite Thirsk's best efforts to save him from his own disastrous bungling. Thorast was scarcely likely to admit Malikai's culpability, especially with someone else available to take the blame. Under the circumstances, Thirsk had actually seriously considered the invitation from Baron White Ford to stay on in Tarot as the second-in-command of the Tarotisian Navy.


            If it hadn't been for his family, he probably would have, he admitted to himself now. His wife had been dead for years, but all three of his daughters had husbands and children of their own. Not only would he have missed them almost more than life itself, but he'd been far from certain the king wouldn't have punished them for their father and grandfather's "failure" if Thirsk himself had been beyond his reach.


            "They can't leave you cooling your heels here for long," Hahlynd argued. "You're the best and most experienced fleet commander we've got!"


            "And I'm also the bone they're prepared to throw to Vicar Allayn and the 'Knights of the Temple Lands' if it comes down to it," Thirsk pointed out rather more calmly than he actually felt.


            "Surely it won't come to that."


            Thirsk would have felt better if Hahlynd had been able to put a little more confidence into his tone.


            "I hope not." The earl turned back to the window, clasping his hands behind him as he wished his life could be as calm as those distant waters looked from here. "I'm not thoroughly convinced of that, though."


            "You know," Hahlynd said a bit diffidently, "it would probably help if you'd, well . . . "


            "Keep my mouth shut? Stop stepping on their toes?" Thirsk's mouth curled sardonically. "Unfortunately, Pawal, I have my own responsibilities. And not just to the King."


            "I know that. It's one reason I've been over here taking your advice, trying to pick your brain for ideas. But the truth is that every time you open your mouth, you only piss off the King. And as for Thorast –!"


            Hahlynd rolled his eyes and shook his head, and Thirsk laughed sourly.


            "I can't think of anything — short of a death rattle, at least — that Thorast wants to hear out of me," he said.


            In fact, he added silently to himself, if it weren't for Fern, I think Thorast would have preferred court-martialing me and hanging me in front of Parliament as a warning to all those other "cowardly slackers" — like the ones who obviously helped me betray his brother-in-law through our own incompetence and cowardice — he's so sure are out there somewhere.


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21 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 80

  1. John says:


    I wonder if we will see some defections or takeovers arise, if this sort of feeling is somewhat wide-spread.

  2. E says:

    Military coups look to be in the works. I wonder who the leaders of said coups will end up supporting…

  3. Jon says:

    This would give Charis a valuable potential ally close to the Temple Lands.

  4. Greg says:

    In fact, he added silently to himself, if it weren’t for Fern, I think Thorast would have preferred court-martialing me

    Who’s “Fern”?

  5. Justin says:

    No not going to happen. Defection very unlikely. I see Thrisk as a good guy who happens to work for the other side. Kind of like Theisman.

  6. Paul Howard says:

    While some sort of Coup is possible, I doubt that Dohlar will become an ally (in the near future) of Charis. Harchong is right next door to Dohlar and Harchong is a strong ally of the Church. We already saw that Dohlar had let Harchong Merchant Ships pass through ‘their’ waters without trouble.

    IMO the Leadership of a possible Coup would claim that they over-threw King Rahnyld because the King wasn’t doing a good enough job against Charis.

  7. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    If Thirsk takes control, then Charis might actually begin having some serious problems. Charis is good with naval tactics because the leaders are seamen. the Kings of the other nations aren’t. If Thirsk gets serious control then something might actually start happening

  8. E says:

    It is unlikely that Thirsk will revolt, but general discontent amongst competent officers will provoke some kind of action. A general strike by all naval personnel would probably get a few heads lobbed off in less flexible countries, and by all indications Dohlar is about as flexible as a rock. I can bet Thirsk might just leave and take his experience elsewhere, or go into private enterprise.

    Emerald seems to be the only non-good guy country with some reasonable competence as far as its military goes, but their backs are to the wall. Dohlar is currently being funded in its naval enterprises by the Church, so the problem of not having a navy won’t be there for long, but if those who know how to get a competent navy are not used then it won’t count for much, especially when faced against disciplined Charisian sailors. Some means of exhuming the cannons from the wrecks might put Dohlar close to par as far as cannon technology goes (with a few months for reconverting industry) but it seems likely that the old “land battle at sea” mentality might still manifest itself in their tactical doctrine. Most likely, Dohlar would be best off sacrificing its control of its seas until it gets its navy up and running.

    Frankly, Charisian privateers might very well run out of ships to attack by then. Piracy 2.0 would be if the privateers were to start seizing colonial lands and islands away from enemy nations.

  9. E says:

    Fern would be the Duke of Fern.

  10. kari says:

    It would be interesting to read what info is trickling down to the average person in those kingdoms. Especially the slaves in the big nations. A slave revolt would be helpful such as a couple of big ones that the Romans had to put down. I’ve also wondered what art, literature and music was permitted to be ‘remembered’ if any and will Merlin introduce some of that as well. Shakespeare for starters etc.

  11. Mike says:

    I see that my prediction was correct. We never did come back to that battle — we only heard what the result ended up being.

  12. E says:

    My predictions were correct too, about the whole setting the ship(s) on fire.
    Now, back to the future.

    Shakespeare would certainly stir things up, and Merlin has yet to wage cultural wars through the theater. However, Shakespeare would have to come heavily modified since there are references and contexts no Safeholdian would understand, not to mention the fact that Shakespearian English is still an older form of English and may not be entirely understood.

    Given the top-heavy nature of Safehold society, art and such would be something available to only the wealthy and the church. From the relative advancement of Charis’ industrial status pre-Merlin, I would guess that a growing middle class is in the works that will have the resources to afford such things as theaters and exhibitions.

    As to slave rebellions, Merlin could probably touch off a few with a handful of agents, but slave rebellions are more likely to occur if Charis invades slaveholding nations and presents itself as liberators. So far, the Harchong Empire seems to be the only one stated as practicing outright slavery, but the serf systems of other nations are virtual equivalents. What Charis/Chisholm needs as proof of their sincerity in that matter is a Constitution that clearly states the rights of its own citizens (more opportunities for Merlin to pinch the good lines).

    At some point, I’m going to have to start referring to Charis/Chisholm as “the Empire.”

    Still waiting on that theme song.

  13. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    Aye. And if the Charisians have the ability to get their cannons from ship to ship, then I doubt they’re lieing at the bottom of the sea. So I expect little change in cannon upgrades until Blackwater’s info to Hecktor is relayed everywhere

  14. E says:

    Ship to ship transfers for things like cannons would require pulleys and other systems that would not be good to carry around, especially since privateers are about combat. A salvage vessel or fishing boat would have such equipment ready, but a ship of combat would not. Given the nature of the sea battle, the Charisian ship being boarded, the second ship coming around to finish the enemy, and the damage to the Charisian ship, it is unlikely that every cannon could have been removed quickly if at all.

    Since no windfall of new cannons or plans to acquire them have been stated, we can assume nothing for now until additional details of the afterbattle are released or cease to become relevant.

  15. E says:

    I wonder how the tactics of the privateers will match their new situation with Dohlar’s traps. They could fire before grappling, using chain shot to disable enemy sails, although the problem of prize collection then becomes an issue. Since the privateers don’t seem to have shipbuilding facilities, they will probably have to start using their prizes as pirate ships.

    Given the recent loss in crew, reallocation of existing members would be safer than trying to recruit new members; Dohlar might have agents ready to infiltrate the privateers in whatever region the privateers operate out of.

    If I were Thirsk, I’d recommend some method of tracking the privateers (Maybe with small sailboats)to be used, and then blockade their port with every ship I could lay hands on.

    Naturally, the big issue is finding the privateers in the first place… and there’s also getting caught.

  16. adis says:

    require pulleys and other systems that would not be good to carry around, especially since privateers are about combat.

    I would disagree. These are privateers, they would absolutely require ways to move heavy cargo around on the open seas, since that’s how they make their money, by taking enemy shipping and the cargo they carry. They are not warships, they are armed merchantmen, with lots of cargo capacity, same as a pirate ship, or treasure galleon.

  17. E says:

    While it is true that the weight of cannon on each ship is better to disable, not destroy, enemy ships the privateers that we know are operating off Dohlar are using (since burning Blade) three schooners and one galleon.

    My argument wasn’t that the privateers did not have such systems, it was that they would be less than competent to have such things laying about on a ship meant for combat and fast sailing since one would have to be stationary to use heavy cargo lift systems. I should have clarified what I meant by “carry around.”

    The galleon would have the necessary space for cargo transfer but the schooners would not. Most piracy would consist of seizing enemy vessels (relatively) whole and taking them to a safe port where they could be sold or converted for their piracy needs. We know that the former is what has been done so far:

    “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.”

  18. The required pulleys and rope come with the ship. There are any number of reasons why you might want to move heavy objects like cannon or anchors, and so you carry the rope and blocks and such not. Besides, a virtue of period ships is that almost everything on board except the cannon and guns can if need be be improvised. The more substantial question on salvage was whether Blade was likely to sink before the cannon could be rescued, and whether the second ship could carry the extra weight, not to mention that other things needed doing. I expect that the Q-ship was sunk with all hands.

  19. E says:

    I wonder if at some point the governor of Shwei might take it into his head to betray the privateers for their technology and sell it to Dohlar or Harchong for more money.

  20. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    Maybe if they start losing, but not right now. one always tries to back the team that doesn’t actively think of killing you

  21. The Governor of Shwei — Harchong appears to have a Chinese Imperial civil service, corrupt but expected to be competent — may well decide that if he betrays the pirates the huge profits his merchants are making hauling for Dohlar may come to an end. The huge profits are not in the text, but appear to be an accurate inference. Also, it seems likely that the pirates put one ship at a time into port.

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