At least Samyl Cahkrayn, the Duke of Fern and the first councilor of Dohlar, seemed to understand that Thirsk and the handful of other surviving (and disgraced) senior officers of Duke Malikai's shattered fleet were a valuable resource. He appeared to be trying to protect them, at any rate. And without a protector that highly placed, Thirsk probably would have already suffered the full consequences of the king's "extreme displeasure." Of course, it was always possible the real reason Fern was preserving Thirsk was as a potential sacrifice against a greater need. If the Group of Four ended up claiming a sacrificial victim for the failure of Vicar Allayn's oh-so-brilliant naval campaign plan, it would be hard to come up with a better one than the senior surviving admiral from the resultant fiasco.


            "I'm afraid you're right where Thorast is concerned," Hahlynd admitted unhappily.


            "Of course I am." Thirsk snorted. "If it's not all my fault, then it has to be his brother-in-law's, after all."


            "That's certainly part of it," Hahlynd agreed. "But the way you keep pushing where the new building program's concerned isn't helping any."


            "No?" Thirsk looked at him for a moment, then shrugged. "You're probably right, but that doesn't change the fact that the 'new building program' isn't going to help much against Charis, either. We don't need another galley fleet, Pawal. In fact, that's the last thing we need!"


            Hahlynd started to say something, then changed his mind, and Thirsk snorted again.


            Apparently, no one was particularly interested in his own reports on what had happened off Armageddon Reef. In his fairer moments, he tried to remind himself that the people reading those reports had to wonder whether he was telling the truth, or simply trying to cover his own arse. After all, it would make his own failure look far more excusable if he'd found himself confronting some sort of deadly new warship design and not simply an enemy commander who'd turned out to be more competent than he was. But the truth had a nasty habit of biting people who refused to confront it, and Thirsk was glumly certain his navy was going to get bitten all over again.


            "This is just plain stupid, Pawal. Galleys?" He shook his head. "You've just been telling me what one of their schooners did to a galleon armed with the most effective broadside we could give it. Can't anyone understand that galleys have just become totally outclassed?"


            "At least the new designs are going to be more seaworthy." Hahlynd sounded remarkably like someone searching for a silver lining, Thirsk thought.


            "I'll grant that," he said after a moment, "and, to be fair, that's nothing to sneeze at."


            His eyes turned bleak and hard as he remembered his own fleet's endless voyage to its final catastrophic meeting with the Royal Charisian Navy. The Dohlaran Navy's galleys had been designed for in-shore waters, not for the sort of blue-water crossing which had been demanded of them. They'd been shorter than most of the heavier Charisian galleys, and their drafts had been much shallower, even for their size. As a result, they'd displaced little more than a half or a third as much as a Charisian galley. That had made them much faster and more maneuverable under oars, of course . . . as long as their bottoms were reasonably clean. But it also left them far less stable under sail (which meant they could carry less of it), and far more vulnerable to even average conditions on the open sea. Which meant that except under oars (which meant anywhere outside coastal waters) they were actually slower and less maneuverable. The Charisians' galleys weren't really designed to move under oars at all, except in calms or to maneuver once combat was actually joined. They were designed primarily as sailing vessels with oars to provide auxiliary power — to give them additional speed under sail, to help them accelerate, to get them around onto a new tack more rapidly. In calm conditions, they were at a serious maneuvering disadvantage; in typical blue-water conditions, the advantage flipped entirely to their side.


            Duke Malikai's flagship, King Rahnyld, had been the biggest ship in the entire Dohlaran Navy. She'd been almost as long as Baron White Ford's Tarotisian flagship, and stood far higher out of the water . . . yet her displacement, huge for the Dohlaran Navy, had been little more than half that of White Ford's flagship. Even White Ford's ship had been lighter and shallower draft than the majority of the Royal Charisian Navy's galleys, and the Charisian galleons were deeper draft, still. Which not only made them even more seaworthy but created ideal platforms for the new Charisian-style artillery. Speed and maneuverability under oars, like high fighting castles, had proved useless in combat against the galleons' far heavier broadsides and greater seaworthiness. For that matter, Thirsk was positive that at least a dozen, and probably more, of the ships Malikai had lost had foundered primarily because they simply had no business making an ocean crossing. So if the new designs were at least a little more seaworthy, so much the better.


            Unfortunately, that only means they'll stay afloat long enough for the Charisians to turn them all into driftwood.


            "It's nothing to sneeze at," he repeated, "but it's not enough, either. Remember, we aren't the only fleet Cayleb smashed."


            "No, we're not. But as far as I know, we still don't have any reliable reports about what happened to Black Water and Earl Mahndyr."


            Thirsk grunted. That was true enough, unfortunately.


            "You're right," he said. "And I suppose it says something for the Group of Four's decisiveness, at any rate, that they've already arranged their new building program . . . even if it is the wrong program. It's too bad they didn't wait to read the reports first, though."


            The existence of the Church's semaphore system had allowed the Group of Four to issue the various kingdoms' and empires' orders with a speed no purely secular realm could have matched. It was an advantage which had served the Church (and the Group of Four) well over the years, as Thirsk was well aware. In this case, though, that speed was actually working against them. They'd launched what had to be the biggest single shipbuilding program in the history of the world . . . and they were building the wrong ships. God only knew how much money and, even more importantly, time and skilled labor they'd already squandered buying ships which were going to be worse than useless under the new conditions of sea warfare. The fact was that the Church could probably afford the financial consequences, but if the "Knights of the Temple Lands" persisted in ignoring Thirsk's own reports, they were going to get an unholy number of other people's seamen and marines slaughtered by the Royal Charisian Navy.


            And I can't convince a single one of them to even read my damned reports, the earl thought despairingly. Being "proved right" in the end is going to be damned cold comfort.


            "Well, Pawal," he said finally, "all we can do is try our best. I know it seems unlikely, but if I keep shouting loud enough, long enough, maybe someone will actually end up listening to me. I'm sure something more unlikely must have happened somewhere in the world since the Creation."


            Hahlynd chuckled dutifully at Thirsk's feeble joke, but the earl himself didn't feel at all like laughing.


            There are times, he thought, when it's really, really hard to go on believing God is on our side.


            Of course, that was a thought he dared not express even to Hahlynd. In fact, it was one he would have preferred not expressing even to himself.



About Eric Flint

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29 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 81

  1. Alistair says:

    Well it’s hard to believe how stupid the mainlanders are, they really are setting themselves up for failure. But I guess it is realistic given there commitment both in doctrine and in culture to keep the status quo so I guess good marks go to David Weber who is portraying the mainlanders as even being far more traditionalist in there approach than the Havenite Navy blind spots to the new LACs that were shown in small numbers before “buttercup.”

    At any rate once the “new” (to Safehold) exploding shells/grenades get off the drawing board and on to the production line the difference between them will be 2 generations not 1 a very difficult gap to close, even if they are outnumbered 6-8 to 1.

  2. E says:

    This has got to be the funniest chapter so far.

    Every prediction I had about the competency of Charis’ enemies seems to have been thrown out the window as far as Dohlar is concerned. I wholeheartedly expect now that Charis will get away unscathed with every military expedition they make against the Church-sponsored navies.

    I wouldn’t doubt that if Thirsk wishes to have a galleon navy, he’ll have find the means for encouraging private investments, possibly with the Duke of Fern’s help. That, or he could apply for that job in Tarot and bring his family.

    The only thing that could top this as far as irony goes would be if Charis (through its navy or privateers) showed up at Dohlar and pounded the shipyards flat.

  3. Kim says:

    Their religious system works against change. That was one of the ‘charges’ against Charis, along with being rich and small. Change is heresy. Heresy is punished by the Inquisition and death. It will take a few more disasterous defeats until the Group of 4 decide many of the changes from Charis aren’t heretical.

  4. Maria says:

    That would be ironic, true, but if Charis is smart, they’ll let Dohlar and the Group of Four continue down this blind alley, waisitng time and resources, as long as possible. At leat until the Battle or Forisande – very likely the first all-galleon sea battle in Safehold history – hits them between the eyes. By then, Charis and Chisholm will be even farther ahead, as Allstair pointed out.

  5. JNees says:

    “Never underestimate the power of stupidity.” RA Heinlein

    Any military historian will tell you that this is exactly what is usually done when a large country is defeated by a small country. Rather than adapt to the new, they blame their execution of the old concepts. Look, for example, at the first year of the Civil War.


  6. E says:

    Given the advantages of Charisian arms, the only tactic they’d need on sea once the explosive rounds make their debut will be to broadside a target and move on. If the enemy truly wants to make something of their blunder, they’d go in for a rush on Charis’ mainland (from Tarot would be the best origin). The Merlin factor causes such a tactic to be obsolete, although given the area of patrol which Charis must maintain now, such a rush would probably work if the enemy once again outnumbered Charis 6-1. With a thinly stretched fleet, and given Charis’ limitations in production, the best defensive tactics for Charis is to maintain a system of light scouts which can retrieve larger forces if an enemy fleet is discovered (again, Merlin factor makes this obsolete, but for the ignorant there should be some excuse as to how Cayleb gets to make the right orders at the right time) having larger fleets “coincidentally” moving in the direction of enemy fleets would make the communication times shorter.

    Looking back on the Civil War, I’d say that the efficiency of transportation in Charis is comparable in terms of sea power, but lacking in the kindof steady transportation that steam vessels provided. Once Merlin gets around to introducing clipper ships, the speed of sail-based transportation should reach its peak before becoming obsolete to later methods.

  7. There is something incoming that arose on earth, but Merlin may not know about it or the advantages it gives: steel masts. The last sailing ships–WW1 period, hauled nitrates from Chile–had as many as five masts, steel. The ultimate limit was reached by the passenger liner Great Eastern, which had screw propeller, paddle wheels (they accounted for most of the thrust), and seven masts, one wooden to mount the compass.

  8. kar says:

    Cayleb should have just imprisoned Thirsk as a “pirate” captain. Considering he’s probably the more intelligent of the remaining enemy admirals, I think it would have been a better idea. Better yet afterwards, they could have let out propaganda about how Thirsk or his associates leaked information to spies from Charis. It would have thrown Dohlar into more of a frenzy. In truth Thrisk was operating under conditions of piracy. There was no offically declared war. Personally, I would have hung him on the masts of the remains of one of his ships in the harbor in Armageddon Reef. Also I would have killed off as many of those sailors after the final battle in the first book by sending in some marines. Hard to rebuild a navy without some experienced sailors. It would have done to Dohlar, what Manticore did to Haven over and over: kill off experienced personnel. Too bad, Charis couldn’t buy out some spies to set off fires in the Church backed naval yards. I mean, a few napalm bombs would burn most of the places down easily. Hell, Merlin could take a joy ride on his shuttle thingy dropping off some “presents”. Considering, most of the shipyards are really far away from the Temple lands, it shouldn’t be a problem. I just don’t get what Weber is thinking. His limitations on usage of high tech is so bendable, that Merlin could technically wipe out an entire fleet himself if he wanted to. I mean, a few sticks of dynamite attached to the keels of she ships anchored in the harbors overnight would send most of the enemy fleets to the bottom of the ocean.

  9. kar says:

    What is more frustrating is the sheer stupidity on the part of Merlin. I mean, he could be busy assassinating half the competent advisors that exist within the enemy powers outside the temple lands. I mean, think about thrisk, Corisande’s king, and whoever else getting the chop before major battles. But nooo… that would be too easy and not too dramatic. That’s what i find a little annoying about this series. There are too many chances to kill of the enemies, but the author doesn’t want to do it for no reason at all. I mean, Haarald had to die because the commander of the enemy fleet wasn’t killed off when it would have been soo easy. Easy as climbing through the window at night and slitting the guy’s throat. Overall, the author seems to enjoy setting up a plot where the good guys have overwhelming odds in their favor in addition to 50 other arrows that could be used if the first one fails, while the enemies busily prove themselves below normal human stupidity. At leat in the honorverse, Haven gained some brains by the last book. The series is only three books long.

  10. Richard Young says:

    A better example would be the Spanish Armada. Phillip II did not take advice, all of his comanders were “proper” noblemen rather than seamen, and he did not learn from his mistakes.

  11. John says:

    If Merlin went around bombing/blowingup/burning stuff, and/or assassinating various persons, eventually some persons would start wondering how Charis has such a “inhumanally” good intel/special ops setup.

    Also, it was my impression that Merlin does not necessarly wish to kill off all the best minds. After all, his goals are not to cause Charis to become a world empire, but to (eventually) bring Safehold and/or other worlds colonized from Safehold up to the level at which it can challange the Gababa (or however you spell those genocidal creatures name).
    Now, this might mean Charis becoming a world empire (or at least first among equals in a group of countries), but it might also mean some other country being in charge. If that were the case, killing off/bombing that countries people/ships/etc. might make it a bit hard to become a trusted advisor among them. The same goes for forming alliances between countries…..

  12. E says:

    Merlin is not trying to establish Charisian dominance of the world. He’s trying to provoke the other nations into innovating and undermining the Church that maintains the context of willful ignorance as the norm for the human race. Leaving competent people like Thirsk around means that Merlin doesn’t have to waste his time killing people in cold blood (he has never actually murdered anyone) and he accomplishes his mission of fostering innovation. Leaving characters like Thirsk alive also has the added benefit of fostering discontent in incompetent nations like Dohlar.

  13. E says:

    Also, Weber announced three books in the series. Given his style and pace in producing books, the actual end of the series may well be many more books off. There was no stated end, therefore we shouldn’t assume the Safehold Series will be three books short.

  14. I had heard four books, not three. Three appears too short to move to, e.g., a cold war between Charisia and the mainland.

  15. Adam says:

    Plus, Merlin still has bigger problems to worry about, like the kinetic bombardment system. His true enemy is the Church, and even if by now its fairly obvious that the Council of Four can’t reactivate the bombardment, there might be a computer system like OWL lying in wait if Merlin acts too obviously.

  16. laclongquan says:

    So blood thirsty, kar? So… Oscar Saint-Just !!!

    ONE: It’s easy to say “kill off experienced personnel” but that’s the unwanted effect of a long, long losing war with technology disparity. Here is just a sea battle.Prolong, yes, but not a war yet. And you forget that the Charisian Navy isnt a space one, just salt-water. It’s not easy or desirable in sea battles to “massacre”. And they didnt kill the war prisoners afterward because they are not monsters, but just soldiers following certain rules of war. Violate those only when you HAVE TO. At that time they didnt have to, so they didnt violate them. Beside, a massacre like that got told generations after generations. Hells! people still talked about the bloody trenched war of WWI

    TWO: Assassinate a few ‘players’? stealthily dynamited some vessels? Do that and win the war? Please! As if Winning a war is that easy. Oscar Saint-Just tried that plenty of time and where did that leave him? a cold grave and a shot in the face.

    THREE: And you missed the point entirely. Merlin is not here to help a country win a war, or unite the world. Merlin is here to push the entire society of the whole planet into a different track, to help them develop their own scientific thinking and reasonings. The uiltimate goal is to reach the star with a strong, very strong space navy to defend, to rescue and to revenge. For that kind of goal, all of his actions are very efficient and goal-oriented. Read again his actions and his roles in the developing the new designs, new machines and new ships. He’s more like an aid-de-camp help others go along their own way with accelerated results, not a chief designer or even a designer himself. He NEED more people thinking scientifically.


  17. E says:

    I had thought that in previous snippets, we had already discussed Merlin’s goals to death. It would be appreciable if in the future people were to be mindful that Merlin is using the military war as a front in a greater campaign to assault the mental hold that the Church holds on Safehold.

  18. laclongquan says:

    Sorry! The comment on assassination and “kill off enemy personnel” set me off.

    About Merlin’s goal discussion… well, what can I say? I really havent read all the comments on all the snippets >_

  19. adis says:

    About new ships… clippers, schooners, galleons…
    Perhaps for scouts, he’ll have someone come up with outrigger canoes that evolve into large catamarans… which would rival Interstate speeds…

  20. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    trying to guess where exactly he’ll go is kind of useless, since we can’t be certain. nice to think about, but I’d prefer to think about different areas he’ll be teaching in. Faster, stronger, better ships are almost definite. New weapons? Probably even more than we’ve seen thus far. I’m interested in how he’ll keep attacking the Church, like he was getting ready to do with Newton’s work.

  21. G says:

    Several obvious choices:

    Precision shop standards of measurement
    The screw lathe
    Machine tools

    Of course, some people would suggest interchangeable parts–which Whitney actually did not have for muskets, except in his Congressional Demo with “selected” muskets–meaning that Merlin could introduce
    The Dog and Pony Show for Upper Managers
    That’s such a powerful secret weapon that the other side should be helped to steal it.

  22. las says:

    In an inteview with Weber ( he so much as said that this is an open ended series …

  23. kar says:

    New technology is great and all, but everyone seems to think killing off some important players is a bad idea. I think that in itself is stupid. Fine, lets preserve some of the intellectuals, but overall getting rid of the competent enemies saves lives, especially charisian lives. For better or for worse, there IS a CHARISIAN EMPIRE, Merlin is A CHARISIAN ADVISOR, CHARIS IS STILL OUTNUMBERED, and THE ENEMY HAS A WHOLE LOT MORE MONEY. Forcing the Church to put more money into rebuilding their fleets (causing more taxes), putting more money into counter espionage, and to push more external control over indivdiual kingdoms will cause more resentment in those kingdoms. Imagine the inquistion. Places like the Republic of siddarmark and some of the larger kingdoms left will start getting irritated. Also, personally a Charisian controlled empire over half a world is whole lot better than a few kingdoms spending a few centuries fighting among themselves. Additionally about the trust thing, lets see… the church, Emerald, and Corisande have already tried to assasinate Cayleb and his father. The enemies have already burned down the royal college and god knows what else. One quick cleanup of a good number of the main “bad”
    guys will not only stun the enemy but also force them to reorganize into some semblance of order. For those who call me blood thristy, remember this isn’t a civilized war. This war is like the war in the mid 1600’s or worse. The church soldiers won’t be having tea on your walls after they take the Charisian cities. Mostly likely it’ll be rape, pillage, and kill. Stopping that by killing off their competent commanders and leaders is a whole lot better trade off. For better or for worse, Merlin isn’t just fighting for humanity or whatever, he is CHARISIAN. He chose that role, and whether the author wants to accept it or not, Merlin’s adivice on technology and strategy has already made him a Charisian leader. As for breaking control of the church’s hold on the world, it has pretty much happened. The church can preach about Charisian devils and what not for whatever, but if the church’s forces get torn up every single time, guess what’ll happen. Sooner or later, even the most iditiotic person is going to realize.. maybe the church is wrong… maybe “god” is not ont he side of the church… etc. Politics is not the only way to break the church’s hold. Hard evidence, defeat, rumors, and a large list of dead church soldiers can have the same effect. You may argue about martyrs and blah blah blah, but sooner or later most common people will rather burn their church’s down rather than send their children off to die especially if they find out from propaganda that the enemy population is living a whole lot better that you are.

  24. Summercat says:

    Kar, you’ve missed the point. Merlin has already won.

    No matter what occurs now, no matter if Charis falls or not – The Church is doomed. You now have TWO secular realms (Charis/Chisolm) have broken away from the Church’s control, with a third (Emerald) considering it (Although this isn’t known.)

    And there hasn’t been a divine retribution.

    You have serious, well-respected people like Thirsk beginning to question the Church. You have had an entire crowd of people at the Temple witness the former leader of the Church in Charis proclaim that Charis was innocent of all wrongdoing, even if it committed him to great pains before his death.

    And who knows what groups other than the Brethern of Saint Zhernau live across Safehold?

    The technologies Merlin has unvieled will spread across the world like wildfire. Arabic numerals would already be spreading, as would full fledged naval vessels. And that’s just for getting people started.

    The Church’s hold on Safehold is doomed. All Merlin is fighting for is a chance for it to go down now, rather than later; that Safehold enter it’s future KNOWING what will happen next.

  25. kar says:

    That argument has one problem. The church may be doomed, but the fate of Charis has yet to be determined. Merlin’s character isn’t only a scheming machiavelli, he’s also a Gustavus Adolphus. He cares for his adopted country as much as he does for the fate of humanity. He’s gotten too emotionally entangled with Cayleb and the Charisians. To be honest, I find some of my arguments weak as well, but as for the core of it, I still think that Merlin’s character has reached a point where he is no longer just fighting for humanity as a whole. In the end, I think his loyalty is majorly divided between whats good for the world as opposed to what’s good for charis. The only reason we haven’t seen an open showing of this problem is because so far Charis has gone in the general direction of what’s good for the world. The interesting part will come when Merlin has to work with the Republic of Siddarmark. He can’t stay a neutral player among the so called allies of the future because of his emotional connections and technological innovations. He may be a PICA, but he is human in the end and only he has access to the technology.

  26. E says:

    It is understandable that Merlin can hold an emotional attachment to Charis. Knowing what Charis will become because of his actions, he will probably use Charis as the vehicle for his grand designs for generations to come. But at some point the Charis he knew will become something else entirely, whether through the vices of its leadership or the dissolving of its cultural identity as more of the world falls under Charis’ (and Merlin’s) sphere of influence. The fact that the occurrence of the latter will take generations means that Merlin can expand his caring to humanity as a whole once humanity as a whole knows the truth.

    Merlin has already said before that his duty would last beyond the life of his persona, and beyond the life of Charis. Nations may die in peace as well as war.

  27. laclongquan says:

    Pax Romana, amen!

    In the end empires rise and fall despite what anyone wish! The only thing you can do is make that fall impermanent, or not too destructively. Think about the fall of Roman Empire: the whole Western Civilization fallen into Dark Age for hundreds of years. Think about the fall of Han Empire(3rd cent): the whole China continent fallen into chaos and disunity until the time of Tang (7th cent).

    Talking about empire make me nostalgia

  28. Jeff Ehlers says:

    Kar, the thing is that Merlin is only one person, and is totally irreplaceable. If he dies, it wouldn’t stop what’s happening, but it would cause a lot of problems down the road (especially in combating the Ghaba later on).

    Besides, running around and assassinating everyone on the other side with some competence would turn Merlin into a tyrant who is just as bad as the Church. “Oh, they don’t agree with what I believe? Off with their heads!” A campaign of terror such as that wouldn’t serve any purpose except to intimidate Charis’s enemies, and it would make it far harder to reconcile things later on.

  29. John R. Johnson says:


    I entered your website through the Baen Bar link. I got your homepage and every time I try to go somewhere else, i.e. Forthcoming, Photos, Contact, Eric & Lucille, etc. I get a page cannot be found notice. The only way I got this to leave this message was to go to a snippet and leave the message at the bottom of the page.

    John Johnson

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