"I rather thought he might be." Cayleb leaned back, crossing his legs, and cocked his head as he contemplated Pine Hollow.


            "On the other hand, I must admit I'm intrigued," he said. "Whatever else Prince Nahrmahn may be, I don't believe he's deaf, blind, or stupid. Nor do I believe there's much possibility that he's unaware of who was behind his marching orders, whatever the 'Knights of the Temple Lands' might choose to pretend. Consequently, I must assume he's as well aware as we are here in Charis of who our true enemy is. Which leads me to wonder just why he might be willing to bring the wrath of the Grand Inquisitor and the Group of Four down upon his own head by daring to so much as send us an official envoy."


            He eyed Pine Hollow speculatively, and the Emeraldian shrugged.


            "Your Majesty, I might say that when a man has to choose between dealing with the kraken in his bathtub and the doomwhale out beyond the harbor breakwater, he tends to focus on the kraken, first. That, in point of fact, is a thought which has borne upon my Prince's thinking at this particular time. But it isn't the only consideration which brought him to send me to you. I carry with me correspondence directly from him, setting out for your consideration his own analysis of the situation. I believe you'd find it interesting reading."


            "I'm sure I would." Cayleb smiled thinly. "May I also assume that this correspondence of his touches upon the terms he might hope to obtain?"


            "It does, Your Majesty." Pine Hollow bowed again, then straightened. "Moreover, it will inform you that I've been appointed his official plenipotentiary. Within the limits established by my binding instructions from him, I am authorized to negotiate with you in his name, and to accept any agreement which we might reach within those limitations."


            "'Agreement which we might reach,'" Cayleb repeated softly. Then he straightened in his throne, bringing his hands down as he planted his forearms firmly on its armrests and leaned forward.


            "Understand me in this much, My Lord Pine Hollow," he said quietly. "I realize your prince was constrained against his own desires to participate in the recent attack upon my Kingdom. But I also realize that his reasons for deeming that attack . . . unwise had nothing at all to do with any deep-seated love for the Kingdom of Charis. I don't believe — and never have believed — that he would have taken any joy or pleasure in the wholesale massacres, destruction, and arson the Group of Four proposed to visit upon my people, but neither do I believe he would have been dismayed by the destruction and partitioning of this Kingdom. In short, My Lord, whatever the reasons for his enmity, Prince Nahrmahn has amply declared himself the foe of Charis in times past. Now that he finds his foot firmly in the snare, he may also find himself wishing for some sort of . . . accommodation with my Kingdom and my House. Well, I won't say at the outset that any such accommodation is impossible. But I will say this. Any accommodation we may reach will be reached upon my terms, not his. And you may rest assured that any terms I will be willing to contemplate will preclude his ever again posing a threat to my people, to my Kingdom, and to my family. Do you understand that?"


            "Of course I do, Your Majesty," Pine Hollow replied, his voice equally quiet. "Were I sitting in that throne while you stood here, in front of me, my position would be exactly the same as yours. My Prince understands that as well as I do, I assure you."


            "In that case, there may be some point to your mission, after all, My Lord," Cayleb said, sitting back once more. "At any rate, I'm prepared to listen to whatever Prince Nahrmahn may have to say. If I find his proposals less than fully acceptable, there will always be time to return to the decision of the field of battle. And, to be quite honest, your point — and his — about the value of time in Charis' current situation has a certain validity."


            Pine Hollow inclined his head without speaking, and Cayleb smiled.


            "But that consideration lies in the future, My Lord. I have other pressing matters I must deal with today, and I intend to read your prince's correspondence very carefully, digest it thoroughly, before you and I speak about its contents. In the meantime, I've had a comfortable suite prepared for you in Queen Marytha's Tower. I trust you'll find it adequate to your needs, and you are, of course, welcome to install any of your own servants you may deem necessary to see to your requirements."


            "I thank you, Your Majesty."


            "Despite all that's already happened, My Lord, there's no reason we can't be civilized about these things." Cayleb's smile turned a bit warmer and more genuine. "And whatever else may be true, you came here trusting in the hospitality and protection of my House. Under the circumstances, it behooves me to demonstrate that trust wasn't misplaced, doesn't it?"


            "Since you've chosen to speak so frankly, Your Majesty," Pine Hollow replied with what might have been a shadow of an answering smile, "I'll admit that that thought — and that hope — have passed through my mind more than once since my galleon entered Charisian waters."


            "Well, rest assured that you'll receive all of the courtesy due to any envoy, despite any . . . unusual aspects of the reason for your journey here to Tellesberg."


            "Thank you, Your Majesty."


            "In this much, at least, you're quite welcome," Cayleb said, then waved one hand at the man standing to the right of his throne in the black and gold of the Charisian Royal Guard. "Captain Athrawes will escort you to your chamber, My Lord, and see to it that the tower's guard force is informed of your status and prepared to meet any of your reasonable needs."




About Eric Flint

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23 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 84

  1. Jon says:

    BLAH snippet…

  2. Alistair says:

    Buying some time… till the ship arrives

  3. rickthomaskorea says:

    Buying some time, yes, but how nice it should have felt to rub it in.

  4. Gil says:

    So the quiet little bombshell is layed with the presence of Merlin to escort the Earl to his rooms….. I am sure the Earl will have no privacy except in his own thoughts during his stay. DW is having way too much fun!!!!

  5. E says:

    Merlin doesn’t need to escort him to spy. He’s going to have a conversation with him.
    Kindof like that episode of Scrubs when all the janitor said to J.D. was “You’re stupid.” something that Merlin will say to Pine Hollow will eat at him.

  6. adis says:

    Hmm invasion craft… if Merlin could suggest the giant Zheng He Chinese Treasure junks… perfect troop carriers, and unsinkable (well… as unsinkable as an armored aircraft supercarrier). the multi water tight compartmentilization would allow you to have water filled compartments next to the sea to absorb cannonballs, and allows counterflooding to prevent listing…

  7. Maxim says:

    I don’t think troop carriers would be that useful at the moment, because Charis has not yet a army to speak of.

  8. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    Way too far ahead. Merlin will be nudging Pine Hollow to keep him off balance. See what can be gathered by the SNARCs when Pine Hollow thinks he’s alone.

    All in all, Ithink Cayleb gave him a better reception then he probably warrented. Emerald once trying to assisnate Cayleb in all.

  9. Wyrm says:

    As I commented on the last snippet, Cayleb’s going to hit him with the marriage to Sharleyan.

    As I said, Pine Hollow’s been left to stew for a few days. Does the suite in Queen Marytha’s Tower have a view of Tellesburg Harbour, or is it facing landwards? Will Pine Hollow see Sharleyan’s ship arriving, and allowed to come to terms with the alliance, or will he be summoned into the royal presence and find himself bowing to two thrones?

    I also wonder whether the “my Kingdom and my House” is *very* carefully chosen wording, bearing in mind the imminent marriage.

  10. Paul Howard says:

    Just a guess on what’s in Prince Nahrmahn’s letter or what’s *not* in his letter. He’ll have requests concerning the well being of Emerald and his family, but won’t make requests concerning his personal well being.

  11. Wyrm says:

    Pure speculation, but …

    might Calyeb spare Nahrmahn’s life but exile him for Emerald … then add him to Cayleb’s court as an advisor? Without doubt, Nahrmahn’s clever but ambitious. Remove him from his power base in Emerald, put a SNARC on permanent “Nahrmahn watch” in case he backslides, and you might convert him into a very good advisor for the Empire, while easing the incorporation of Emerald.

  12. JNees says:

    I agree. The calm before the storm. The question is exactly how Merlin will proposition him, and to what end. The theatre of the wedding is a backdrop, but the substance is in the proposal. Merlin has something in mind for Emerald which will appeal to Nahrmahn’s intelligence and cunning.


  13. E says:

    Friday shall tell. My bet is a hallway conversation scene.

  14. Of course, everyone in the conversation knows “Captain Athrawes” is the seijin who saved Caleb. Sending Pine Hollow off with him sends some message.

  15. E says:

    That message being “ha ha.”

  16. Paul Howard says:

    “That message being “ha ha.” ”

    Nope, Merlin would be too polite for that. Now, if Hektor got dragged into Cayleb’s presence, then Merlin might say something about him being the person who helped reveal Hektor’s spies.

  17. Duncan Macdonald says:

    I wonder if in this book (or the next) there might be a marriage between Master Midshipman Aplyn-Ahrmahk and Princess Mahrya?

    As far as keeping Nahrmahn honest, as well as a permanent SNARC bug – replace his bodyguards with Charisian Marines.

  18. E says:

    The “ha ha” message would be on the part of Cayleb, entrusting the man who protected him from assassins to protect Emerald’s representative. The words “guard force” very subtly indicate that Pine Hollow will be a prisoner for some time if negotiations sour. Maybe a tour of Charis’ military drills might inspire negotiations to turn in the Empire’s favor; tours would certainly spend time while Sharleyan arrives.

    Perhaps Merlin can persuade Pine Hollow to consider which side is actually going to win by arguing to the Empire’s strengths and the other nations’… incompetencies. There really isn’t much we can do but wait till Friday. There are few new implications in this snippet. Maybe Merlin will be reading the correspondences from Nahrmahn over Cayleb’s shoulder as he walks Pine Hollow to his suite.

  19. Paul Howard says:

    I got the impression that Cayleb and Merlin already know what’s in the letter. They may be showing Pine Hollow the courteous of allowing him to rest from his trip before getting down to hard bargining.

  20. E says:

    True. That is probable. In that case, this isn’t card counting, it’s knowing every card as it’s dealt and betting appropriately. I wish the snippet were longer so I’d have more to say about it but frankly it’s not and I don’t. It’s frustrating having to wait two days so I’ll promptly return to awaiting the release of Spore for now.

  21. Brian Busse says:

    I don’t think that these comments take into account that Pine Hollow’s last discussion with the Prince was almost certainly snooped and that Merlin and Cayleb must have a good impression of what’s going on in the Prince’s mind. We’ve heard Nahmahn express genuine concern for his subjects and no mention of an interest in running away with the family jewels while he buy’s time for his putative allies with Emerald blood. Remember what Charis’ and Merlin’s long term goals are. Nahrmahn/Emerald as an willing ally is better than Nahrmahn/Emerald as a grudging conquest. They’re going to put on the Queen Sharleyan show for Pine Hollow/Nahrmahn and then give them the choice between brocolli and hemlock. The brocolli might not be steak, but it’s good for them and a lot better than the alternative. They’re not going to try and raise Nahrmahn/Pine Hollow/Emerald’s anxiety level any more than is necessary to force a reassesment of what their self interest is. Think what such an example will do when they force the same options on on the next “victim” who has to chose whether to dance with Cayleb or Hektor/G4.

  22. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    been waiting for that too.

    If I were Pine Hollow, I’d consider it a very clear warning to have Merlin with me.

    and if He does see the ship come in, then he’ll probably assume its a delegation to discuss the rather obvious treaty or perhaps the first concellors return. only once its docked and its obvious whose on there will he have to worry and then true negotiations begin.

    And I agree that Emerald’s terms will plead for the family but not himself.

  23. Ben H says:

    On the point of “my Kingdom and my House” I believe it to be nothing more then a reflection that Cayleb was attacked corporately by the fleets, and personally, by would be assassins. It is not a reflection on his pending marriage.

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