King Cayleb II sat on his throne as his "guest" was escorted into the throne room by a pair of extraordinarily alert royal guardsmen. The guardsmen's bootheels sounded loudly, firmly on the blue-swirled, lapis-like Charisian marble of the vast room's polished floor, but the Earl of Pine Hollow's lighter court shoes made almost no sound at all.


            It was the first time Cayleb had ever actually laid eyes on Pine Hollow. What he saw was a typical Emeraldian, physically indistinguishable from any number of Charisians, but wearing a padded-shoulder tunic of a distinctly non-Charisian cut. The padding made his shoulders appear broader, but the truth was that the earl was broad-shouldered enough by nature to require no artificial assistance.  Pine Hollow wore a heavy gold chain around his neck, token of his status as Emerald's first councilor. His eyes were as brown as Cayleb's own, and despite his exalted rank, his hair was still dark. In fact, he looked considerably younger than Cayleb had expected. Pine Hollow was more than fifteen years older than Cayleb himself, but he looked no older than Father Paityr Wylsynn. Well, perhaps a little older, but nowhere near grizzled enough to be the first councilor of a reigning prince.


            Who may or may not be a "reigning prince" much longer, Cayleb reminded himself grimly.


            Pine Hollow approached the throne and stopped, without prompting, at exactly the right distance. He managed to look remarkably calm as he delivered a deep, respectful bow. Whatever he looked like, though, Cayleb knew he couldn't possibly be as unworried as he managed to project, and the king put a checkmark on the positive side of the mental list he was making about his visitor.


            Cayleb was in no tearing rush to get down to business, for more than one reason. One was that making Pine Hollow wait was more likely to shape any ensuing conversation in the direction Cayleb wanted it to take. A second, and less noble one, was that Cayleb took an undeniable pleasure in underscoring the relative balance of power between Charis and the prince who had attempted to have Cayleb himself assassinated. And a third had to do with another visitor whose arrival Cayleb anticipated in the next several days.


            The throne room itself was a high-ceilinged, airy chamber. Ceiling fans, powered by a small waterwheel in the palace basement, rotated smoothly, keeping the tropical air moving, and the thick, heat-shedding walls were pierced by deep-set windows which looked out across a courtyard Cayleb's deceased mother had spent several years landscaping. The entire palace represented an intermediate stage in royal architecture. Its grounds were encircled by thick, well-designed curtain walls of stone, augmented at regular intervals by bastioned towers, but those walls predated the days of artillery, and the grounds inside them had been designed and landscaped as a place to live, not the interior of a grim, gray fortress. One day, Merlin had told him — one day soon, as a matter of fact — those heavy walls would be a thing of the past. Against the artillery which would be coming soon, old-fashioned walls like the one around Tellesberg Palace would become little more than annoyances to any serious attacker.


            Cayleb twitched his mind back from the side path it had gone traipsing down and rested his elbows on the arms of his throne, steepling his fingers across his chest as he'd seen his father do so many times in the same throne room. The father whose death was at least partly the responsibility of the man in front of him and the prince that man served.


            "Well," the king said at last into the throne room's waiting quiet, "I hardly expected to see you here, My Lord. Or not, at least, as an envoy."


            That statement bore only a passing relationship to the truth, given that  Merlin's "visions" had warned Cayleb well over three five-days ago that Pine Hollow would be arriving. In fact, Cayleb knew Nahrmahn's instructions to Pine Hollow as well as the Emeraldian earl knew them himself. Not that he had any intention of allowing Pine Hollow to guess that.


            After all, it would hardly do to start giving the Inquisition genuine grounds to believe I'm dabbling in black sorcery and other forbidden arts, he thought dryly. Why, if I did that, Mother Church might decide she didn't like me anymore.


            Pine Hollow, he noticed, had winced very slightly at his last seven words. That was good.


            "Now that you're here," Cayleb continued after a brief, pregnant pause designed to underline those very words, "I suppose we should hear what you have to say."


            "Your Majesty," Pine Hollow's voice was commendably steady, under the circumstances, "I feel confident you must at least suspect the reason for this rather dramatic, unannounced visit."


            "Given the fact that you arrived in an official vessel, I don't imagine you're here to transfer your personal allegiance from Prince Nahrmahn to Charis," Cayleb said dryly.


            "No, I'm not, Your Majesty." Pine Hollow met Cayleb's eyes very levelly, and the youthful monarch felt a stir of respect as he saw the steadiness in those eyes. They were, in their own way, a rebuke of his own levity.


            "No, I don't believe you are," Cayleb acknowledged in a rather more serious tone. "In fact, given the present military balance between this Kingdom and your master's princedom — and its allies, of course — I can really think of only one thing which might have brought you here. And that, My Lord, is to discuss what sort of terms Prince Nahrmahn thinks he might be able to obtain."


            "In a general sense, that's certainly accurate, Your Majesty." Pine Hollow inclined his head in a brief bow of acknowledgment.


            "In that case, I might point out that he doesn't have a great deal with which to bargain," Cayleb said. "I truly mean no disrespect — the ships of your navy fought with courage and determination at Darcos Sound — but your princedom is defenseless before us. We've taken your offshore fortifications where and as we chose. Your major ports are under strict blockade, and as I believe we've demonstrated, we're capable of landing raiding parties to burn out any of the smaller ports where Commodore Zhaztro might be attempting to fit out his privateers. And we can land an army any time we choose, at any place we choose."


            Pine Hollow's eyes had flickered with surprise as Cayleb mentioned Zhaztro by name. Obviously the depth of Cayleb's knowledge about events inside Emerald had come as a less than pleasant revelation to him.


            Oh, if you only knew, My Lord, Cayleb thought sardonically.


            "All of that may be true, Your Majesty," the Emeraldian earl said after moment. Then he shook his head. "No," he said, "let's be honest. It is true. Yet it's also true that however inevitable your victory over my Prince may be in the end, obtaining it may prove expensive. Not simply in terms of lost life and treasure, but also in terms of lost time. Despite your current advantages, which my Prince has instructed me to tell you he fully recognizes, you have a great many enemies, and no friends. No open friends, at least. Prince Nahrmahn has no doubt you've been continuing and even accelerating your military buildup. At the same time, however, he's well aware — as you must be — that your various enemies are engaged in exactly the same process. If you find yourself forced to spend valuable time conquering Emerald by force of arms, you may find the time you've lost doing so has allowed your more inherently formidable foes time to prepare for the next, inevitable stage in your conflict."


            "Allowing, for the moment, the aptness of your analysis, My Lord," Cayleb said with an unpleasant smile, "the consequences will still be . . . less pleasant for the House of Baytz than for Charis."


            "A point, I assure you, of which my Prince is well aware, Your Majesty."


About Eric Flint

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23 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 83

  1. kari says:

    I think this is going to be a fun scene.

  2. John says:

    Two days until more information……


  3. Adam says:

    I wonder if he’s going to slap Pine Hollow with the Chisolm alliance. Nahrmahn can’t know about it, and it is going to completely realign the power in the hemisphere.

  4. John says:

    After checking the map of Safehold in Off Armageddon Reef, I note that Emerald is located directly between Chisholm and Charis. NE of Charis and SW of Chisholm. Even if for some reason they do not form some sort of alliance with Emerald, Chisholm/Charis would still more or less have it pinned between them. Lucky timing on Emerald’s part with the envoy….if it pans out.

    I’ve been wondering if at some point secret bases of some kind could be set up on Armageddon Reef by Charis. After all, no one else will be doing so, and even a completely barren land is still land. Granted, it would require constant shipments of goods, unless it can be somehow replanted….and assuming it isn’t somehow poisioned or still has those Sats targeting it, waiting for movement.

  5. E says:

    Nahrmahn already spotted the boat that Charis forced Chisholm into when Charisian ships spared the latter’s ships. The next snippet will involve some bandying about over who knows what about Charis’ needs, for friends and other things, followed by a stunning revelation that Sharleyan will be more than a friend and is, in fact, arriving with a kingdom in tow as dowry.

    It would seem that Merlin is just a Captain of the Guard for his purposes at the moment.

    Armageddon Reef under the effects of the KE system has not been described beyond its cratering. We could assume things based on meteor strikes recorded on Earth but in terms of arability and other functional uses, it remains unknown as to how useful the region will be. Politically, it would be suicide for Charis to use the region openly. As to the KE system, if they were looking for movement then the wyvern’s would have set it off every 10 minutes. The previous strikes were done by order, and it is likely that concurrent strikes will be looking for massed signatures of some sort.

  6. Alistair says:

    Well said E i concur

    Such a small snippet! just as i thought we will see the conversation be drip fed over the week

  7. Jon says:

    The alliance between Christholm will become very apparent when whoever arrives from that state in the next few days, and i’m sure its going to put the Emerald envoy in a tight situation from which to attempt to negotiate from.
    I have to agree with John though, two more days… >.

  8. Wyrm says:

    Poor Pine Hollow. He’s going to be left to stew for several days, until Sharleyan’s ship arrives.

    As I commented on the last snippet, Cayleb’s going to hit him with the marriage to Sharleyan. The only question is whether he will be given a room with a view of Tellesburg Harbour, so he can see her ship arriving, or whether he will be summoned into the royal presence and find himself bowing to two thrones.

    Does Cayleb want Pine Hollow to come to terms with the new reality before receiving his ultimatum?

  9. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    I think that may wait for the ship to arrive, but, really, why wait to tell Pine Hollow that? Pine Hollow is already ready to get down to the bargening, and Cayleb knows that. He also knows all of Pine Hollow’s points, and has had quite sometime to prepare. It might be wiser to wait, but the new queen might not know the whole deal, so the negotiations may be more difficult if she’s on that ship. Then again, that assumes that she doesn’t know about the entire situation, something that I doubt very much

  10. Justin says:

    Well I think from the comment above that the person Cayleb is expecting is Queen Sharleyan. As for establishing bases on Armageddon Reef. To what point would Charis want to do so? A few small bases to serve as a garrison for a port? I don’t think they would do so with an eye towards settling the land. I think the scars of what happened there would not make any one happy with the idea of setting up a homestead on the land. Just look how freaked out the defeated admiral was about being left at Armageddon Reef. He thought his men might try to fight it out even though most would get killed trying to capture a ship and run rather then be left on the island.

  11. Wan says:

    I do think that Cayleb is waiting for Queen Sharleyan or her envoy to arrive, partly to hit Pine Hollow with the alliance between Charis and Chisholm, mostly to prove to Queen Sharleyan that Cayleb and her will be co-rulers of the new kingdom.

  12. E says:

    To elaborate on the point I made about political suicide, settling in Armageddon Reef sets the grounds for the church to claim Charis as being heretical. Charis has performed a grand military defeat against the will of the church, but in terms of hearts and minds, the Church still rules even in Charis. If Charis were to perform any blunder that would enable the Church to polarize the world against them at the fundamental level of thought, then Charis would well and truly be screwed as far as convincing other nations to ally with it.

    To analogize, Charis has just beaten the Church with a pretty huge stick, and to the watchers (other nations, people) this is acceptable because the fundamentals of their faith is not being attacked. But if Charis were to go all out and attack the belief system, then those watchers are going to become angry.

    Right now, Charis has to use the Church’s own doctrine against it so that the power of the church in peoples’ heads will wane. At a later time when people are more freely thinking, the sword of revelation can be used to finish the blow. For that, Charis must do what Merlin did and step very carefully as far as demonstrating their resolve.

  13. Mike says:

    With respect to whether Caleb waits to tell Pine Hollow about the wedding or not: The news is already fairly public in Charis – it would be unlikely for Pine Hollow not to find out over the next few days unless he were thrown into a deep dungeon and I doubt that will happen.

  14. Brom says:

    First, a state of war still exists between Charis and Emerald, so Pine Hollow will not be wandering around freely. Cayleb will be controlling Pine Hollow’s activities, letting only trusted servitors and guards come into contact, so keeping the news re Sharleyan from PH would not be a stretch. You can bet Merlin is keeping a close eye, so if PH does find out, Cayleb would know.

    Anyone else imagining a scene where Sharleyan arrives without fanfare, is whisked to the palace, walks into a meeting of Cayleb & Pine Hollow still wearing travel-stained garb, sits down next to Cayleb, “Sorry I’m late, we ran into weather in the Throat. What have I missed?”


  15. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    not me. Do remember neither of them have seen each other accept through pictures. and they have no idea about the other except how they ruled thus far (yes, Meriln has been probably helping Cayleb, but thats not the same). So any causal scene like that will have to wait until some other point in time.

    and the queen might not be on the ship at all. Granted, its the most likely answer, but it could be Caylebs first concellor returning with a Chisholm deligation.

  16. Jerry says:

    Such a scene would be a dramatic one. But, my reading of Cayleb and what he hopes to accomplish with Prince Nahrmahn leads me to expect an immediate disclosure of the new expanded State. Cayleb will clearly be negotiating from even more strength with that known to Pine Hollow. And for the future, if Cayleb does what I think/hope he will, then his charity, honesty and forgiveness to Emerald would so much clearer. Nahrmahn has been developed as an extremely sharp individual who would likely work even harder for the new Charisholme (or whatever) knowing how very much he is being given. Cayleb would win a big one having his full support going forward.

    Regardless, the developments will be interesting.

  17. E says:

    I suppose that at this time, the concept of the embassy will be reintroduced to humanity.

  18. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    I don’t understand E, please elaborate. why would that happen now?

  19. E says:

    Charis is about to unify three landmasses and must then manage three landmasses under one monarchy (if the monarchy of Emerald is to be dissolved). Councilors from each nation will be needed to attend to the needs of their respective lands, but these councilors will need their own experts and their experts will need their own specialists. An embassy would serve to house such people, although given the sovereign nature of the future Charis-Chisholm (+Emerald?) merger, it may be that such experts and advisers can simply be housed within the capitals. Having your government move around many times a year would certainly make for a logistical and security nightmare in the long run, so at some point the future State of Emerald would probably be favored to build a new capital given its centralized location, if Emerald does not remain independent that is. Looking at a map of Safehold, the island north of Emerald looks like it would be secure enough for a new capital to be built, it’s pretty much between Charis and Chisholm and it’s not linked to Emerald directly. The only issue would be that food would pretty much be entirely supplied and little of it farmed with such a small landmass.

    Also looking at a map of Safehold, I think the Church would be wise to carve out a couple of canals in Northwatch province to assist Dohlar and Harchong in accessing Charis.

  20. Wyrm says:

    It’s probable that Grey Harbor went to Chisholm with Merlin’s “Intelligence reports”, so after Sharleyan accepted the marriage proposal she will have been briefed with everything that is “safe” to reveal.

    On E’s point about the new “capital”, I suspect there will be a distinction between the capital and the seat of government (as happens in The Netherlands between Amsterdam and den Haag) With a strong monarchy, the capital could be wherever the Royal couple are in residence. The seat of government would not need to follow. Also, assuming that long travel times will persist for several generations, we may see a ‘state’ government in each part of the realm, and a separate “Empire” government in a neutral location elsewhere. Possibly Zebediah, or one of the small islands between Zebediah and Emerald, assuming that the League of Corisande follows Emerald into the Empire (though probably less peaceably!)

  21. E says:

    If we assume the efficient management of all state affairs in the Empire, reducing the role of the King in the Empire to one of military and economic (the latter in a general sense) leader, then the simplified nature of government would make for a manageable situation as far as having your government move every few months goes. Assuming this minimum, the only reason it will work to any great degree will probably be because it requires many lower-level leaders to emerge from amongst the populous of the nations in the Empire. Mayoral, Governor, and Parliamentary positions are probably going to expand in terms of power as management of the the lands are increasingly held by qualified persons as opposed to nobles. Considering China’s systems of qualifying for positions in government, there will eventually be some stratification as wealthier members are the ones who will afford being able to learn what is needed for such exams (should the Empire instigate regular qualitative appointment) but mandated schooling will also allow the poorer in society access to government jobs by sheer numbers. Inevitably, qualitative government will set up a mindset that will increase the power of Parliament and the Prime Minister over that of the King, although we can’t tell what cultural factors may affect the role of monarchs in Safehold. For now, we can assume that Cayleb and successive generations of Empire monarchs will remain in full military power, but it will be interesting when six books from now we can look back on the monarchy of Charis and remember when the kings weren’t figureheads.

    Musings completed for this snippet. I feel deflated.

  22. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    If the next snippet doesn’t continue this conversation, I think I’ll scream

  23. E says:

    We’ll find out in an hour.

    If your head explodes, can I have your stuff?

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