Rock Point turned and looked back out the stern windows at the pall of smoke swelling above Ferayd. More than a third of the city’s buildings had helped to feed that looming mushroom shape, but Rock Point had allowed Lakyr’s surrendered troops to demolish a semicircular fire break around the portion of Ferayd he’d been ordered to destroy. Emperor Cayleb’s instructions had specified that not a building was to be left standing within a two-mile radius of the Ferayd waterfront, and Rock Point had carried out his orders with precision.

And also, Lakyr admitted unwillingly, with compassion. He’d permitted civilians whose homes had lain within the decreed radius of destruction to take away their most prized possessions — assuming they were sufficiently portable — before the torch had been applied. And the Charisian admiral had permitted no excesses on the part of his troops. Which, given what had happened to the Charisian merchant crews who’d been slaughtered here in Ferayd when Vicar Zhaspahr had ordered their ships seized, was far better than anything for which Lakyr had dared to hope.
Of course, he thought, regarding Rock Point steadily, there’s still that interesting little question about exactly what Rock Point’s orders concerning the commander of the garrison who did the slaughtering might be.
“I’m sure most of your citizens will be happy to see the last of us,” Rock Point continued. “I’d like to think that with the passage of time, they’ll realize we at least tried to kill as few of them as possible. However, there was no way we could allow what happened here to pass unanswered.”
“I suppose not, My Lord,” Lakyr admitted, and braced himself. The admiral’s last sentence suggested he was about to discover precisely what Charis had in mind for the officer whose troops had committed to the atrocity which had brought Rock Point to Ferayd.
“The real reason I invited you aboard Destroyer, Sir Vyk,” Rock Point said, almost as if he had read the Delferahkan’s mind, “was to deliver my Emperor’s message to your king. This –” he gestured with one hand at the smoke-choked this invisible to the stern windows “– is a part of that message, of course, but it’s scarcely all of it.”
He paused, waiting, and Lakyr’s nostrils flared.
“And the rest of it is, My Lord?” he asked finally, obedient to the admiral’s expectant silence.
“And the rest of it is, Sir Vyk, that we know who actually ordered the seizure of our ships. We know whose agents . . . oversaw that seizure. Neither my Emperor, nor Charis, is prepared to hold Delferahk blameless over the murder of so many Charisian subjects, hence this.” He waved at the rising smoke once more. “Should more of our subjects be murdered elsewhere, be assured Emperor Cayleb will respond equally forcefully there, as well. Nor will there be any peace between any who attack Charis, or Charisians, at the orders and behest of corrupt men like Clyntahn and the rest of the Group of Four. But our true quarrel lies with the men in Zion who choose to pervert and poison God’s own Church. And that, Sir Vyk, is the real reason I asked you aboard. To tell you that although my Emperor must hold you, as any military commander, ultimately responsible for the actions of the men under your command, he understands that what happened here in Ferayd was neither of your seeking, nor what you intended. Which is why you will be returned ashore after our business this morning is concluded to deliver a written message from Emperor Cayleb to King Zhames.”
“Indeed, My Lord?” Lakyr couldn’t quite keep the surprise — and the relief — out of his voice, and Rock Point snorted in amusement.
“No doubt I would have anticipated a rather more . . . unpleasant outcome of this interview if I’d been in your shoes,” he said. But then his expression hardened. “I’m afraid, however, that the unpleasantness isn’t quite over yet. Come with me, Sir Vyk.”
Lakyr’s nerves had tightened once again at Rock Point’s ominous warning. He wanted to ask the Charisian admiral what he’d meant, but he strongly suspected that he would find out altogether too quickly, anyway, and so he followed Rock Point out of the cabin without speaking.
The admiral ascended the steep ladders to the upper deck with surprising nimbleness, despite his wooden leg. No doubt he’d had plenty of practice, Lakyr thought, following him up. But then the commander of Ferayd’s defeated garrison found himself standing once again upon the spar deck, and any thought about Rock Point’s agility disappeared abruptly.
While the two of them had been below, in Rock Point’s cabin, Destroyer’s crew had been rigging halters from the ship’s yardarms. There were six of them, one dangling from either end of the lowest yard on each of the ship’s three masts.
As Lakyr watched in stunned disbelief, deep-throated drums began to rumble like distant thunder echoing across mountain peaks. Bare feet pattered and boots clattered and thudded as seamen and Marines poured onto their ships’ upper decks in answer to that rolling summons, and then six men in priest’s cassocks badged with the purple sword and flame of the Order of Schueler were dragged across the deck towards the waiting nooses.
“My Lord –!” Lakyr began, but Rock Point waved his right hand. The gesture was sharp, abrupt, the first truly angry thing Lakyr had seen out of the Charisian, and it decapitated his nascent protest as cleanly as any sword.
“No, Sir Vyk,” Rock Point said harshly. “This is the rest of my Emperor’s message — not just to King Zhames, but to those bastards in Zion. We know who provoked this massacre, and we know who ordered it knowing his minions would do precisely what they in fact did. And those who murder Charisian subjects will answer to Charisian justice . . . whoever they may be.”
Lakyr swallowed hard, feeling the sweat suddenly beading his hairline.
I never even dreamed of this, he thought. It never even crossed my mind! Those men are priests — consecrated priests, servants of Mother Church! They can’t just —
But the Charisians not only could, they were actually doing it. And despite his horror at the impiety of what was happening, a part of Sir Vyk Lakyr discovered that he couldn’t blame them for it.
He saw Father Styvyn Graivyr, Bishop Ernyst Jynkyns’ intendant, the Office of Inquisition’s senior priest in Ferayd, among the prisoners. Graivyr looked stunned, white-faced . . . horrified. His hands were bound behind him, as were those of the other five inquisitors with him, and his shoulders twisted as his wrists fought against their bonds. He seemed almost unaware of his struggle against the cords as his eyes clung to the waiting noose, and he moved like a man trapped in the bowels of a nightmare.
He never dreamed it might come to this, either, Lakyr realized, and yet another emotion flickered through him. He was still too stunned himself to think clearly, but if he hadn’t been, he might have been shocked to realize that at least part of what he was feeling was . . . satisfaction.
Graivyr wasn’t the only inquisitor who seemed unable to believe, even now, that this could possibly be happening to them. One of them resisted far more frantically than Graivyr, flinging himself against the iron grip of the stonefaced Marines dragging him towards the waiting rope, babbling protests. And as Lakyr stared at the unbelievable events unfolding before him, he heard the rumble of other drums coming from other ships.
He wrenched his eyes away from Destroyer’s deck, and his face tightened as he saw more ropes hanging from other ships’ yardarms. He didn’t try to count them. His shocked mind probably wouldn’t have been up to the task, anyway.

About Eric Flint

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59 Responses to BY HERESIES DISTRESSED — snippet 5

  1. Phillies says:

    I believe Weber has previously made statements about OWL. He has certainly indicated that OWL is extremely literal minded and will miss things that it has not been told. I think it is plausible that OWL will tell Merlin about the Charisian prisoners after they have been guests at a Zion auto de fe in which there are already no survivors. After all, words like ‘invade’ were never used.

  2. E says:

    Why Charis has already won:

    Looking at the strategic goal of the Church, it has always maintained its favoritism of nations like Harchong or Desnair because it’s long term goal is to disrupt Siddarmark and render that “superpower” irrelevent and dependent on the Church. Charis, in OAR was always just a backwater whose short-term significance was as a dependent of Siddarmark’s economy and the trade/political interplay each offered. In fact, Charis is still a backwater compared to the Church’s interests in the mainland continents (just like the US was up until WWII and the Lend-Lease act with Britain) but the major blow to the Church’s secular power is entirely composed of what Charis did in BSRA and not the military victories at all. By political maneuvering and uniting with Emerald and Chisholm, the Empire of Charis is essentially a bigger entity than the fractured nations under the Church can handle.

    To understand this type of political strata, one should look at the relationship of the world to the US. When 9/11/01 passed and the smoke cleared, the actions of the US in invading Afghanistan were not the stabilizing actions one might imagine – more so with the invasion of Iraq – but rather a destabilizing action which has essentially pitted the world of Islamic politics against itself with every state with an Islamic population arguing over how things should be done with each other and the US. While the perception is that the US is wasting its time in the region, it can already be said that the US has won the war on radical Islam by denying Al Qaeda’s long-term goal to them forever: the unification of the region under a caliph government. The US might have lost a hundred thousand troops to the region and still won because the region would never organize at a level to challenge the true strength of the US, its economy. And what a lot of people don’t realize is this: The United States economy depends on the fact that the US owns the world’s seagoing trade. No vessel on any ocean moves without the allowance of the United States Navy. And while it is not as pervasive on Safehold as it is now on modern Earth, the important thing about this moment in Safehold’s history is that it is essentially rigging the playing field in Charis’ favor.

    By consolidating successfully, Charis has matched the power of what a developed nation like Siddarmark has and by focusing on its navy, is securing a multifunctional tool that no army could match in terms of versatility and projection. Siezing Corisande at this point is not merely a wrapping-up of the region’s conflict, but it also denies Charis’ main competitor – the developed nations of the Churchlands – access to the the last remaining friendly and developed portage in the eastern ocean. The reason for the field being rigged in Charis’ favor at this point is thus: the Empire of Charis doesn’t need a large army in the same way that the US doesn’t, it cannot be invaded without a navy. From the point in OAR when every opposing navy was wiped out, Charis essentially cleared a path for itself to keep its power by only having to destabilize its opponents. Like the US allying with Maoist China to contain the USSR, the Charisians are likely to pull the same move with Siddarmark to contain the Church. If the Church can be forced into a focused land battle in Siddarmark (even if Siddarmark is crushed) Charis wins by the sheer stint of not only having the only navy worth a damn but by also entrenching the only culture that wants such a navy. Naval culture is just as important as a navy in that China could materially create a navy to hold the Pacific (heck, Japan did it without having natural resources of their own) but can’t pull it off because they are too focused on being China for and in China, not in the world. Likewise with the Church, seeing as they consider the mainland to be most worth looking after and are focused on stability.

    Given the little time left until the next snippet, I will repost this for readers when snippet 6 is released.

  3. Jeff Ehlers says:

    Mike, I still think you’re underestimating the difficulties Merlin would have and overestimating OWL’s capabilities when it comes to routinely recording semaphore traffic. But there’s another point to consider here.

    Granted, OWL could in theory record everything that happened at every one of the semaphore towers all over the planet, and maybe even decode and record the messages in a more useful format so that Merlin can browse through them at his leisure. However, that’s making a dangerous assumption; namely, that Merlin knows how to do it or that he can do it. You have to remember, Nimue was an officer on a starship, so chances are she didn’t have much, if any, background in surveillance or espionage.

    The NSA has had decades to set up their surveillance methodology, and they have lots of people who can specialize in the nitty-gritty technical details of how to make it work. Merlin doesn’t have any of that infrastructure, and he has nobody to help him figure things out (such as the way he’s helping Charis out). All he has is OWL, who is essentially an idiot savant right now. To put it another way, he knows the broad outlines of what needs to be done, but he’s missing most of the fine print which actually explains it.


    E, top-notch analysis. I would disagree that Charis’s victory is guaranteed (that they have already won), because nothing is certain in war. But right now, they’re definitely in a good enough position that they would have to have a lot of things go wrong all at once to do much damage to them.

    Something else that you might want to add on is the fact that the Church’s primary strategy for containing Charis is the fact that they can effectively force the mainland nations to cut off much of Charis’s trade with them. But much is not all, and furthermore, Charis now has Chisholm, Emerald and (shortly) Corisande to provide a significant amount of internal trade to help make up for the shortfall of trade from the mainland nations.

  4. E says:

    Actually, the ability of the Church to restrict mainland trade with Charis I considered a non-factor. If they don’t get some form of sea-based shipping, they will collapse internally and lose anyways, so it’s only a matter of time until they pull some kind of cease-fire in order to re-arm themselves and restablize seagoing trade. That or they’d have to pour much more money into roadbuilding.

    If Charis maintains coastal trade with the mainland, it is likely that societal rifts will form over the simple location of wealth in the Mainland kingdoms. As evidenced with imperialism in China, coastal cities with access to foreign wealth encouraged and even wanted foreign control (and separation from China’s central government) because it simply meant more resources and wealth for them. Where Weber was smart was in establishing Charis as a manufacturing nation which processed raw materials into goods for sale in other nations because (as seen on Earth) traditionally established empires often end up being net exporters of raw material; places like Harchong focus extensively on generating food and cotton (slave population to feed) but leave the manufacturing to places like Charis for items like sailcloth. The problem with these nations (even Siddarmark) is not that they can’t make the manufacturing capabilities like Charis has, it’s that they don’t have the impetus to make them because of corrupt and inefficient beureacracy and the “who you know” factor that arises. Places where slave labor exists might be able to grind out some kind of progress but it would be just that, a grind. The only reasonable place to assume some measure of forward-mindedness might be the Desnarian Empire because it has territorial interests against Siddarmark and would have already been enhancing its war footing before the Charisian war.

    As far as internal trade within the Charisian empire goes, it would suffer from its own problems because the economy wouldn’t balance well enough without direct government allocation of funds to needy areas; and any government action or inaction would encourage internal rifts if the Church as an enemy became a non-factor. But internal strife from such trade would likely occur over 50 years given the slow pace at which trade occurs on Safehold. Now, if Safehold had a population, technology, and economy like Earth does right now, they’d be swimming in corpses or congressional paperwork within 10 years.

    As to OWL, OWL is a computer, and while he might have some heuristic programming, he is essentially a very complex change-sorting machine in that he can swap out coins by size (like identifying keywords) but doesn’t know the value of anything that he sorts.

  5. “…Charis now has Chisholm, Emerald…Corisande”

    In addition, the western tropical islands (Gorath’s realm) are a target in the short time, the Raven land corsairs may or may not be worth the trouble, and there are two mostly unsettled lands, the one that got blasted from orbit and the one called iirc empty. Furthermore, the land NW of Chisholm seems to be lightly settled. That is a third of the planet, give or take.

    Total peace does not help the church, either, because soon the standard of living in the empire is going to starting rising swiftly, and that will start being a draw for escaping people, e.g., Harchong slaves.

  6. Jeff Ehlers says:

    I guess that’s true, E. The point I was making was that the Group of Four’s plan pretty much relied on Charis’s economy collapsing fairly quickly (certainly within a year or two), so that they could restart their own seagoing trade without making too huge of a dent in things. But with the position Charis is in (incorporating the nearby countries into the Empire, raiding seagoing trade, etc), it would take decades for that to happen, as you said.

    There’s no way the Church could possibly keep an effective blockade up for even ten years, let alone fifty. And that completely ignores what will happen to the Church if Charis hangs around for that long. I would say that they have five years at the outside, even with a Holy War, before their political position becomes completely untenable. And honestly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see things fall apart on them much sooner than that.

  7. John says:

    give us more

  8. RobertHuntingdon says:

    E, you may be right that I am understating the complexity at least to some degree… but I thought I remembered something in OAR about an “alternate” night-based system at some point… but maybe I was misremembering.

    Jeff, E already explained to some degree… and I did say he was hand-waving “some”… just not as much as you seem to think. Merlin COULD probably manage to do the interceptions and decoding (in theory). No matter how good the NSA’s computers are they probably can’t touch the raw processor power of a few pounds of molycircs. On the other hand, there’s no way in hell he could actually sift through that and catch everything. He already can’t catch everything just on the SNARCs that he is using. The NSA has a staff of thousands and decades of experience at this. He has neither.

    Back to E again… Your idea that the Charisian empire would find major internal disruption from lack of supplies or production capacity might be true as to cotton and grain (after all, they imported a ton of that from Siddarmark before) but I suspect those are far easier to replace than you seem to think. Would it cause some problems in the short term? Probably. But I’d be absolutely shocked if Charis didn’t have some sort of “strategic reserve” of critical materials that they import. How big was it? No way to know. But I’d bet it’s big enough to help them ride out a short-term disruption. Furthermore, I note with interest that Chisholm was NOT mentioned as a major importer from Siddarmark. Does that mean they didn’t import? Not necessarily. But it could, and if so, then Chisholm could very well become a major internal replacement supplier of those critical needs. We also don’t know what the major products of Corisande or Tarot or Emerald are either. Given Prince Narhmahn’s comments to Earl Pine Hollow early in BSRA about Cayleb and Sharleyan controlling “all the resources they’ll need for their economies… or their military power”, I have to assume that between Emerald, Corisande, and Chisholm there are a fair number of cotton and grain fields and some rather large stands of warship-quality forests.

    So they might have some disruption, but I have a VERY hard time expecting it to be something that doesn’t both come and go very quickly. The short-term disruption would probably be in that they either have to pull from strategic reserve or frantically prepare new fields to increase their internal production. But all things considered I doubt it would last long. Cayleb (and the rest of his advisers) have to realize this is a possibility and they will have some sort of strategic plan for combating the problem when it arises. And the idea of it taking 50 years? No way. Archbishop Erayk took about six weeks to get all the way from Zion to Tellesberg. And that wasn’t exactly a very straight shot. The turnaround time for a shipment from Tellesberg to Siddar was probably barely two months round-trip, maybe even less in favorable conditions. And that was BEFORE the advent of the schooner rig. No if there are going to be disruptions they will be felt quickly, but they will also have been expected and will be dealt with quickly as well.


  9. MarkR says:

    “and that will start being a draw for escaping people, e.g., Harchong slaves.”

    If I was Cayleb, when the Church foments smuggling by official closing the ports, I’d give bonuses to the smugglers that brought back immigrants in order to raise the Empire’s population quickly. Bigger bonuses for skilled immigrants.

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