The clouds of the evening before had turned into a solid, dark gray overcast. Rain slashed down from the wet charcoal heavens, beating on the roof of Tellesberg Palace, rushing down gutters and downspouts, gurgling down the drainage channels beside the capital's roads. Commerce in Tellesberg never stopped, of course. Even during the recent war against the Group of Four's catspaws, the purely local shipping of Howell Bay had kept a fair amount of freight moving and the ships to carry it busy. Now that the oceans of the entire world were once again open to Charisian galleons, the waterfront's activity had resumed its normal frenetic level. Even while rain pounded down, lightning flashed, and thunder rumbled, the heavy freight wagons — most drawn by dragons, although here and there a smaller wagon drawn by horses or mules moved down the smaller, narrower streets — continued to flow.


            Prince Nahrmahn was impressed. As he stood at the open window of the small, private council chamber looking out into the rain, he saw the visual evidence of the prosperity and industry which made the Kingdom of Charis so much more dangerous a foe than the simple size of its population might have suggested.


            The door opened behind him, and he turned from the window as Bynzhamyn Raice, Baron Wave Thunder, entered the chamber.


            "Your Highness," King — no, Nahrmahn corrected himself, Emperor — Cayleb's senior spy said with a bow.


            "My Lord," Nahrmahn replied with something much closer to a nod than a bow.


            "First, I'd like to thank you for making the time available to meet with me," Wave Thunder continued as the two of them walked to the smallish but beautifully polished conference table at the center of the chamber.


            "I suspect His Majesty would probably have insisted if I'd proven difficult, My Lord." Nahrmahn chuckled. "I'm quite familiar with the process of . . . 'debriefing,' I believe Baron Shandyr calls it. And in all fairness, His Majesty was quite polite about 'suggesting' I sit down for a short chat with you. Obviously, if there's anything I can tell you, I'm at His Majesty's service and yours."


            "Actually, Your Highness," Wave Thunder said, waiting until Nahrmahn had seated himself and then settling into a chair of his own on the opposite side of the table, "you may be surprised about the actual purpose of our 'short chat.' To be honest, His Majesty — and I — are less interested in the information you may possess, than in the additional insight you may be able to offer into our analysis of the information we already have."


            "Indeed?" Nahrmahn raised both eyebrows, and it was Wave Thunder's turn to chuckle.


            "Indeed," he confirmed, while a fresh, closer peal of thunder crashed overhead. "In fact, to be perfectly blunt, Your Highness, one of the secondary purposes of this meeting is to acquaint you with the intelligence capabilities we already possess."


            "Ah, I see." Nahrmahn smiled thinly. "As a pointed reminder of Cayleb's ability to . . . monitor my own activities, I presume."


            "To some extent," Wave Thunder agreed imperturbably, and his own smile was a bit broader than Nahrmahn's had been. "I hope you won't mind my saying that, despite a few initial reservations of my own, it's something of a relief to be able to discuss this with someone who understands how these things are done, Your Highness."


            "I'll take that as a compliment, My Lord — provisionally, at least."


            "Believe it or not, that was how it was intended."


            The baron opened the briefcase he'd brought with him and extracted a fairly thick stack of folders. He laid them on the table in front of him, then cocked his head at Nahrmahn.


            "I realize Baron Shandyr hasn't had much luck reestablishing your own spy networks here in Charis, Your Highness," he said. "I also know you've been quite patient with him, despite your own obvious frustration, and that his operations have continued with their normal high rate of success outside Charis."


            Nahrmahn's eyebrows rose again at the frankness in Wave Thunder's calm voice. The baron saw his expression and shook his bald head.


            "There's a reason he's been so unsuccessful here in Charis, and it has nothing to do with his competence or how hard he's tried. As you yourself are aware, Your Highness, the only way a secret can truly be kept is if it isn't told to anyone. I believe that's a practice with which you're quite familiar, just as you're also aware it can occasionally be frustrating to your subordinates. For example, Earl Pine Hollow was quite surprised some months ago to discover you'd already been in contact with King Gorjah's first councilor."


            This time Nahrmahn's eyebrows lowered suddenly, and he frowned.


            "There are two reasons I used that particular example," Wave Thunder continued calmly. "First, because it demonstrates the extent to which we've penetrated Emerald, and how long ago we managed to do it. Second, because it demonstrates that you're familiar with the idea of what we call here in Charis 'the need to know.' It's one of our fundamental policies that information is kept in individual compartments, and that only those who 'need to know' something in order to do their jobs are made privy to that information. It indicates not distrust on our part, although, as you yourself are aware, a certain degree of distrust is a necessary precaution, but rather the protection of critical information by limiting its spread."


            "You're right, My Lord," Nahrmahn said slowly, still frowning, although it was a frown of thoughtfulness now, not one of astonishment. "I am familiar with the need to keep things close, although I've never used that description of the logic. 'Need to know.'" He seemed to roll the words on his tongue, tasting them as he repeated them, and then nodded slowly. "I have to say it's an appropriate turn of phrase, though."


            "I'm glad you understand, Your Highness." Wave Thunder sat back in his chair. "One of those 'need to know' things is precisely how our spies go about gathering much of the information and knowledge which comes to us here. Frankly, we have great respect for your ability as an analyst, and we intend to make the best use of it we can. However, as often as not — and, to be honest, probably more often than not — you may never know how the information we're asking you to analyze came into our possession in the first place."


            "I trust you'll forgive me for pointing this out, Baron, but quite frequently the source of a piece of information has enormous bearing on its reliability, and that, in turn, has obvious implications for its analysis."


            "Your Highness," Wave Thunder smiled even more broadly, "it truly is a pleasure to discuss these matters with someone who understands the niceties of the spymaster's art. However, one of the reasons I brought these," he tapped the stack of folders, "is to give you a demonstration of how reliable our spies are."


            "In what way, if I may ask?" Nahrmahn inquired when the Charisian paused.


            "Pick a day — any day you wish — from the third five-day of May," Wave Thunder invited.


            Nahrmahn blinked at him, then shrugged.


            "Very well," he said. "I pick Thursday."


            "Very good, Your Highness." Wave Thunder sorted through the folders until he found the one he wanted. He separated it from the others, then laid it carefully on the table in front of him and opened it.


            "On Thursday, May the fourteenth," he said, looking down at the notes before him, "you summoned Commodore Zhaztro and Earl Pine Hollow to Eraystor Palace. You met in the Blue Salon, where you discussed the recent capture of the Church dispatch boat carrying dispatches from Bishop Executor Thomys to Bishop Executor Wyllys. Commodore Zhaztro informed you that there was no way to guarantee the safe passage of even Church dispatch boats into Eraystor Bay in the face of our blockade. He suggested, however, that not even our navy could blockade every minor port, and that it would be possible for Church couriers to use those secondary ports. You pointed out that the Bishop Executor felt using such minor ports would be undignified, but you also instructed the Commodore to draw up a list of them for future use, after which you dismissed him and had a most interesting conversation with the Earl. In the course of that conversation you shared with him your own analysis of the confrontation between Charis and the Group of Four and your belief that things would get far worse before they get better."


            Wave Thunder glanced up from his notes. Despite decades of experience at self-discipline and self-control, Nahrmahn's jaw had dropped as the Charisian spymaster continued his deliberate, devastatingly accurate summarization of the meeting at which only three men had been present.


            "I would make two points at this moment, Your Highness," the baron said calmly. "First, it was in fact your words to Earl Pine Hollow, and several other, similar conversations with him, which played a not insignificant part in the terms which Emperor Cayleb was prepared to offer Emerald. And, secondly, if you're thinking either Commodore Zhaztro or Earl Pine Hollow must have betrayed your confidence for us to have this information, let me turn to a later point in that same day."


            He turned pages unhurriedly until he found the one he wanted, then cleared his throat.


            "Later that same evening," he resumed, "you had a private meeting with Baron Shandyr. At that meeting, you touched once again, if less strongly, upon the same analysis of the Church's position you had shared with Earl Pine Hollow earlier. You also pointed out to the Baron — as, indeed, you had pointed out to the Earl earlier — that the Group of Four's entire plan had been as stupid as it was arrogant. And you pointed out that Prince Hektor was unlikely to risk his own security to come to Emerald's aid. In fact , your exact words were 'Why should that bastard risk one pimple on his precious arse for us?' After which — " the baron looked up at Nahrmahn once again "– you instructed the Baron to review his arrangements for passing the execution order, if you'll pardon the choice of words, to the assassins you have in place in Manchyr."

About Eric Flint

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33 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 122

  1. Nervous says:

    So close to purchasing the book, and yet so far…

    How far will he go in this demonstration, and how much will he reveal about it’s source? They’re having the conversation due to Nahrmahn’s intelligence, among other things. The type and precision of the information that’s been revealed simply isn’t possible in his worldview. Either that view gets expanded or he must assume divine or infernal aid.

  2. Maria says:

    Well, everyone’s been anticipating this but I’m not sure I like the way it’s unfolding. Unless Merlin walks into the room in the next snippet and says “I see visions”, what’s to prevent Nahrmahn from being convinced that Charis is indeed in league with demons? And if Merlin does fess up, what’s the point of ‘need to know’?

  3. Tim says:

    Talk about turning your world upside down :-)

  4. RobertHuntingdon says:

    I have my doubts that it won’t blow up in their faces eventually, but in the short run turning Narhmahn into a CIA-cubbyhole-type analyst who doesn’t know names or methods but knows the data is (or sometimes is not) reliable seems like a great way to get started using his talents to the benefit of the Empire.

    And of course we have no reason yet to believe that Weber doesn’t eventually *want* it to blow up in their faces…


  5. Gil says:

    Less Than 10 Days…

  6. Alistair says:

    Well we now know about the assains

  7. Jeff Ehlers says:

    They don’t have to say who’s giving them all this devastatingly accurate intel. They just have to show that it’s happening, and maybe explain the concept of a voice recorder.

  8. kari says:

    Well, he already said that he wouldn’t reveal the source of it, so he won’t mention Merlin. I hope we get a detail of Narhman’s thoughts on what is being revealed. There’s also the promise to the brotherhood. I’m looking forward to the next snippet to see the rest of the scene.

  9. Alistair says:

    Nahman will be loyal so in that sense it won’t blow up but the more people who know the more likely it will get out to the church.

  10. Summercat says:

    Ninjas. It’s the only answer.

  11. wyrm says:

    Again, two messages delivered in a single action.

    Message one “We’ve got marvellous information sources. Your intelligent analysis will be much appreciated”
    Message two (unspoken) “Forget about trying to act against Cayleb. We know so much about you, I could even repeat your pillow talk”

  12. Maxim says:

    There is certain danger in revealing that much to Nahrmahn but if you look at the conversation Nahrmahn had with his wife, Cayleb and Merlin can be fairly certain that Nahrmahn will not betray them, so I think the risk is justified, especially if you think on the benefits to have a clever person in the information loop.

  13. EM says:

    Part of this could just be a briefing on intel capabilities and a willingness (need) to share the take if not methods. This could also be a lead-in to a briefing on radio communications. Audio, audio/visual or written (fax) methods are all possible, as is something obscure like a SNARC acting as messenger ninja (“Leave the envelope in this cabinet . . .”). The latter may happen whatever else is implemented to act as a semi-plausible backup for Nahrmahn and their majesties to use in public when regular couriers are too slow.

    My guess is that Cayleb will offer Nahrmahn something like a Palantir with others being sent to critical places (Lock Island, Cherayth) in the keeping of trusted senior nobles. Even if Cayleb and Sharleyan don’t hand them out themselves they’ll know who to trust.

  14. Maggie says:

    “Need to Know” is not just a concept that Nahrmahn can understand, it’s one his past actions indicate that he can EMBRACE. He’ll be curious as billy-ho, but I think he’ll be more interested in getting into play (Gee, can your intel get me this…)than pouting over not knowing the source of the info.
    I’m not really worried about Nahrman having some type of metaphysical meltdown. He seems to be willing to keep God In His Heaven and leave mortals to see that All’s Right With The World.
    Third message: “Not only do we know everything, not only do we value you for your unique abilities, We CAN and WILL protect you and yours because we know everything and value your abilities.
    Just my take.

  15. Peter says:

    I think that Third Message of Maggie’s is spot-on, and Nahrman will pick up on it, too. That’s got to be at the back of his mind all the time now; “what happens to my family?”

  16. karidrgn says:

    No briefing on tech – way too soon and then there’s that ‘need to know’ clause to back them up. Narhman will be curious and probably baffled on how they get that much detail but he will accept the limitations on what they tell him.

    In fact, I bet that Wave Thunder still only knows the ‘Merlin has visions’ part, so they wouldn’t tell Narhman what they’ve not told Wave Thunder.

    Another message could be “if you hear any one outside of the loop suspecting we have better than usual intel and what they think it is, let us know – we have a leak”

  17. E says:

    God is in his heaven, all is right with the world… Good old Eva…

    Anyways, I believe Nahrman will try out a different game of “what can I learn” at the same time he gets to play upgrade in Emerald once the new technology hits. There’s no doubt that he will eventually be given the true history along with a briefing on Merlin’s capabilities. Frankly I think this meeting is supposed to whet his appetite and make him want to help the Empire, if only for the sake of intellect and curiosity.

    Anyone who’s ever written their own obituary can get a sense of the finite nature of self and the importance of family, while I believe that Nahrman’s concerns for his family are well placed, a solid reassurance (from Merlin, if not Cayleb) should be logically acceptable to him considering he’s thrown in his kingdom against 2/3rds of the planet and 80% of the planet’s population, 90% of the planet’s available industry, and whatever religious fanatics may lurk in the Empire.
    Good odds, in my honest opinion, since the rest of the planet’s leaders seem mildly to completely incompetent at the top and frustrated down the chain.

    For some reason I imagine the leader of Siddarmark as resembling Lord Havelock Vetinari…

  18. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Chuckle Chuckle

    I had to find out who Lord Havelock Vetinari was. While I think DW would enjoy the joke, I doubt that the Lord Protector is anything like Lord Havelock Vetinari. [Wink]

  19. jmbm says:

    It seems Nahrman will cooperate with Charis. And now, what’s next in this book ?. Does Charis invade Corisande ?. Do the “Temple loyalists” attempt a coup in Chisholm ?. Perhaps that will happen in the next book ?.

  20. Maria says:

    The things I learn reading snippets. I looked up Lord Havelock Vetinari, too. Do you suppose it’s a coincidence that assassins in Webers’s Orfressa series are called Dog Brothers? No, I didn’t think so, either. :-)

  21. cedarcreekreader says:

    I suspect we’ve already enjoyed the dramatic climax of the second book, “Tell me, Merlin.. are you Shan Wei’s second arrow?” The rest should be moving pieces into position as natural consequences of what and who have been set in motion. I think the next Big Thing may the discovery of the Group of 4’s method of activating the kinetic weapons and that sounds like a book three opener.

  22. Mike says:

    Are you just speculating about the Go4 activating the kinetic strike weapon? It’s definitely violating Chekhov’s rule if that is never used and/or disarmed. But my guess is that it is intended more to be a justification for why Merlin has to play by the rules than it is to be an important plot point.

    It’s been mentioned often enough, however, that some sort of solution to it has to be found. My guess is that we will see a repeat of “Heirs” and that there will be some way Merlin can shut it down that is only accessible from deep inside the heart of the temple.

  23. LordNecros says:

    The kinetic weapons system controls, as they are, are almost certainly inside the temple. Its the only place on Safehold with the power to run the installation.
    I do not, however, believe the Church has access to them.
    An actual, recognizable (to us) control room would scream of Shan-Wei to anyone who saw it.
    An “Altar to the Archangel Langhorne”, where the clerics would “pray” for Rakurai is possible, though I deem it unlikely. Admittedly, the Archangels created extremely detailed maps which they left in the people of Safehold’s possession. There could, for instance be an extremely overblown map of the world, which using something like the Staff of Schueler, could be used to direct the Rakurai.
    However, the reason I’m most doubtful of the clerics being in control of it is simply that it requires the -Church- to detect the violations of the Proscriptions. Its far, far easier for orbital installations (or drones, which we’ve yet to see) to detect that sort of thing, then for ordinary men who’ve never even seen that sort of thing before.

    On the topic of the Prince, and just how much he needs to know…
    Archbishop Maikel is a Charisian. Cayleb is a charisian. Nahrman is not. Emerald is not as progressive as Charis, nor does it have the Brotherhood.
    If someone like -Wave Thunder- hasn’t been briefed on this sort of thing, I can’t imagine why Cayleb would feel that Nahrman should be.
    He may be one of the most powerful figures in the new Empire, but as they say, need to know.
    Reference Harry Truman being briefed on the Manhattan Project only after he took the office of President. Something that Top Secret isn’t shared with anyone who doesn’t absolutely need to know. Need.
    Its not a matter of whether or not it would be beneficial to have Wave Thunder, or Nahrman, or Sharleyan briefed on Merlin’s abilities, but rather whether its essential to the mission, be it getting Charis through this war, or in Merlin’s case, bringing Safehold into understanding of the history of humanity.
    Cayleb had a need to know what Merlin is. To be able to trust him, and utilize him fully, he had to know. Maikel, as the man trying to overthrow the Church’s control of the minds of Safehold, needed to know, not only to fully utilize him, but so that he could also understand just what Merlin’s motive is.
    The Brotherhood, stewards of the knowledge of humanity’s true past, a) aren’t going to compromise the source and b) have a duty in controlling that knowledge and deciding when and where that knowledge is spread.
    Anyone else? They don’t need to know.
    Nahrman isn’t going to be ordering Merlin around, Cayleb is. All Nahrman has to do is analyze the data.
    Same goes for Wave Thunder.
    Sharleyan, who will likely be spending a great deal of time with Cayleb may at some point get briefed, if only because the only way to avoid it would be to ask her to leave every time Merlin needed to talk to Cayleb. Admittedly, Emperors and their Empresses do spend time apart, but Weber has thus far constructed Cayleb and Sharleyan as the young, lovey-dovey, mutually dependant types. They just don’t like to spend a great deal of time outside each others company.
    So if Sharleyan does get briefed on Merlin beyond the, “I’m a Seijin, and have mystic visions” smokescreen, it’ll only be a matter of it being too difficult to conceal it from her.

  24. Mike says:

    Langhorn obviously had some way to control the kinetic strikes, because he launched one.

  25. Jerry says:

    Yes, but the control was almost certainly on the Hasdrubal which was destroyed with Langhorne and his top leaders before the temple was built. After all, the command ship was his “office”.

  26. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    agreed. I’ve always doubted the things would launch. if they hit Cayleb’s land, then he’s lost. He angered God, get away from him. If it hits temple lands, then it just gives added belief to the religion that they’re trying to shut down.

    The Queen will be briefed. Emerald will get an inside scoop about visions at the very least, since they will want his mind for fast action stuff that can’t be explained by a “really really fast pidgin, okay?”

  27. jurikuhn says:

    Is it true, that the snippets make already 70% of the book?

  28. cedarcreekreader says:

    “Briefed in” or not, Nahrman is capable of figuring out that there is a huge blind spot in Charisian surveillance– “What, you can quote Hektor and me word for word and you can’t tell who Clyntan invited for lunch?”

    And without the Group having control of WMD’s, it’s so unequal a contest that with the technological advantage Merlin has provided, there’d be only a boring storyline to follow. All the books and series give the Bad Guys “equalizers”, from Havenites and Mesans to Dog Boys in Old Soldiers.

  29. At some point, Nahrman wonders if anyone in his whole kingdom was loyal to him. Then they quote his internal monologue, talking out loud to himself, while taking a shower.

    Sharleyan needs at least the minimal briefing, because if something happens to Cayleb she is ‘Her Imperial Majesty”. and there is an immediate risk that she will send away her late husband’s bodyguards, immediately, without talking to them, as being too painful a reminder of her loss. OR something equally unpleasant to the plot..

  30. Grant says:

    I don’t see any way the church could have control of the orbital kinetics, for the simple reason that they would have used them by now if they could. If they knew that they could call down a strike from God to smite their enemies just by asking for it does anyone really think there is a chance in hell they wouldn’t have used that capability at some point in the last several hundred years? One little gesture and the entire planet sees God backing your authority, and they just leave it collecting dust for centuries… and when they go after Charis they rely on other people’s conventional navies to do it instead of having them struck down from above?

    And what if it’s the church leadership that 1000 years down the road are the ones responsible for letting people start developing advanced technology? What good would it do then to put them in the command and control loop for the platforms? Langhorn and crew would have no way to tell what political group of people the platforms would be needed against centuries later.

    No way. The platforms running on automatics to target any anomalous energy signatures within certain parameters, etc… is the only thing that makes any sense.

  31. Mike says:

    It’s already been said, many times, that the platforms are running on automatics. That’s a given.

    The question is whether or not there is any sort of control available. And I would argue there must be. Otherwise, what is Merlin going to be able to do? He’s already proven to himself that he can’t take out the system directly. He has to find a control. The only likely place for such a control is in the temple. We already know there is some large powered installation there.

    It’s been assumed that no one in the Church knows the true story, but it was also assumed that no one in Charis knew the true story either. Except it turns out that some of them did. Maybe some people in the Church do know the true story after all? Not necessarily the Go4, but someone.

  32. kari says:

    It could be a good reason behind Clynton’s fanaticism. And I do see one way for the church to have control of the orbitals – for a single event. What happens if an army surrounds the church in Zion?

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