Alyk Lizardherd said the single word with quiet intensity as the Charisian brig — and they were close enough now to see the national banner which confirmed that she was Charisian — sliced through the water in surging bursts of white foam. He had to admire the other captain’s ship handling, but that was just a bit difficult to remember when he saw the seven opened gunports grinning in his direction. He’d never — yet — had the opportunity to examine one of the new Charisian guns, but he knew what he was seeing as the squat, short-barreled weapons were trundled forward. His catamounts threw three-pound shot; if those were what he was certain they were, they’d be throwing at least eighteen-pound shot. Wind Hoof was considerably larger than the Charisian brig, but not enough bigger to be able to survive that sort of imbalance in firepower!

“Sir?” Hairaym said tautly, and Lizardherd looked at him.
“I don’t think they look particularly concerned about firing on a Desnarian ship, do you, Gorjah?”
“No, Sir, I don’t,” Hairaym said after a moment, yet even as he spoke, his eyes shifted forward to where Lieutenant Aivyrs and his ten Temple Guardsmen stood waiting on the main deck.
“Yes, that is a problem,” Lizardherd agreed very softly. Hairaym’s eyes darted back to him, and the captain smiled thinly. “If we don’t strike our colors and heave to, those guns over there are going to turn us all into kraken bait, and pretty damned quickly. Or, for that matter, I’m sure they’ve got enough manpower over there to take us by boarding, assuming they somehow know enough about the cargo we’re carrying to worry about sinking us with a careless cannon shot. But Lieutenant Aivyrs is going to insist that we not strike our colors and heave to, and I’m sure his men will follow his lead if — and when — he cuts down the first man to lay a finger on a flag halyard. Not to mention the fact that if we were so careless as to lose the Church’s money by surrendering to a heretical Charisian ‘pirate,’ his report would undoubtedly have . . . unfortunate consequences. ”
“Yes, Sir,” Hairaym acknowledged in an even quieter voice.
“Trapped between the dragon and the deep blue sea,” Lizardherd murmured. No one could possibly have heard him through the noise of a sailing ship at sea, but Hairaym had been with him for a long time. He knew what his skipper was thinking, and he looked acutely unhappy.
Well, he can look as unhappy as he likes, Lizardherd thought waspishly. He’s going to look pretty frigging unhappy when we go to the bottom of the Markovian, too!
“Tell the Bosun I need to speak to him,” he said out loud, holding Hairaym’s eyes with his own. “I believe he’s up forward handing out the muskets.”
For just a moment, Hairaym appeared not even to breathe. Then he inhaled deeply, squared his shoulders, and nodded.
“Yes, Sir. I’ll see to it.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Well, I don’t see any signs of sanity breaking out over there yet, Fytzhyw thought. Unless of course it’s just that they’re all stone blind and don’t even realize we’re here!
He grimaced and raised his speaking trumpet.
“Master Chermyn!”
“Aye, Sir?” Tobys Chermyn shouted back from the foredeck.
“Clear away the pivot gun! It seems we need to attract these people’s attention!”
“Aye, aye, Sir!”
* * * * * * * * * *
Lizardherd stood by the aftercastle rail, gazing steadily — one might almost have said fixedly — at the Charisian brig. He’d discussed his plans for defending the ship with the Bosun, who’d been with him considerably longer even than Hairaym, and the Bosun had moved all twelve of Wind Hoof’s matchlock-armed seamen into the waist of the ship, more conveniently located to Lieutenant Aivyrs.
The brig had a single longer gun forward. It looked as if it were mounted on some sort of turntable. Although Lizardherd had never heard of anything like it, he could see the advantages of such a mounting, and he concentrated on it rather than risk glancing towards the Guardsmen. Any time now . . . .
* * * * * * * * * *
Loyal Son’s pivot-mounted fourteen-pounder crashed, spitting its round shot across the gray-green waves. It landed well clear of the Desnarian galleon, exactly as warning shots were supposed to do, but its message was crystal clear, and Fytzhyw watched the other ship intensely. If that ship’s master had an ounce of sense, that Church pennant would be coming down any instant. Unfortunately, Fytzhyw had already spotted at least a handful of Temple Guardsmen on the galleon’s deck. They weren’t going to take kindly to the notion of surrender. On the other hand, their presence suggested that this was, indeed, the ship for which he’d been waiting. And whether they were likely to surrender or not, he still had the responsibility to at least give them the opportunity. Personally, he’d just as soon have handed each of those Guardsmen a round shot and kicked him over the side, but rules were rules. And, he conceded almost unwillingly, following the rules was one way a man could keep himself from waking up and discovering he’d become someone he didn’t very much like. On the other hand —
He stiffened suddenly. Loyal Son was upwind of the Desnarian, but the popping sound of what was unmistakably musket fire reached him anyway, and his eyes narrowed. Exactly what did that idiot over there think he was going to do with muskets — especially matchlock muskets — at this sort of range? It was the stupidest thing he could have —
Symyn Fytzhyw’s thoughts broke off again as the Church pennant came fluttering down from the other ship’s masthead.
* * * * * * * * * *
“Heave to,” Alyk Lizardherd commanded, and turned away once more as Hairaym passed the order.
One problem solved, he thought with a sort of lunatic detachment. Of course, it does leave me with a few others.
He glanced — briefly — at the eleven bodies sprawled across Wind Hoof’s deck. He regretted that. Lieutenant Aivyrs had seemed a nice enough young man, if a trifle overly earnest, but he hadn’t been picked for his present assignment because of any weakness of faith. Even though he must have realized as clearly as Lizardherd did that nothing they might do could possibly affect the ultimate outcome of the Charisians’ attack, he would have insisted on fighting. And when he did that, a lot of Lizardherd’s crewmen — all of whom had been with him one hell of a lot longer than Aivyrs had — would have gotten themselves killed uselessly. So might one Alyk Lizardherd, although, to his own surprise, that possibility had played a relatively minor role in his final decision.
Somehow, I don’t think the Inquisition is going to accept the theory that the Charisian marksmen concentrated on shooting down just the Guardsman, he reflected sardonically. Especially not when all of the bullets seem to have miraculously struck them from behind. And when you add that to all the money we’ve got onboard, they’re bound to consider the possibility that it was an inside job. Maybe even that we never met up with any Charisian thieves at all.
It irritated him that, in fact, it wasn’t an inside job. If he was going to be suspected of making off with the Church’s money, then he would have preferred at least to actually be guilty!
Well, he’d just have to see. Fortunately, he himself had no immediate family waiting for his return, and most of his seamen were unmarried. So was Hairaym, for that matter. He could always ask if the Charisians would be interested in acquiring one slightly used Desnarian galleon. They might even be willing to part with enough of Wind Hoof’s cargo to allow the crew of the galleon in question to begin new lives under new names somewhere far, far away from the Desnarian Empire.
Or, we might be able to get them to agree to let us take to the boats long enough for them to put a couple of broadsides — hopefully nonfatal broadsides — into the ship. Then anyone who wanted to go home could sail her back, while those of us more interested in seeing the world shipped along with the Charisians. That should provide enough other “buried at sea” fatalities to keep anyone from commenting on the fluke of Charisian accuracy that hit only Guardsmen.
He shrugged. There was only one way to find out what sort of arrangement might be possible, and he raised his leather speaking trumpet.
“Ahoy, there!” he bellowed across the tumbled waste of water. “We’re ready to receive a boat!”

About Eric Flint

Author and Editor
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36 Responses to BY HERESIES DISTRESSED — snippet 38

  1. robert says:

    Sometimes it seems that the Church hasn’t got any loyal followers outside the Temple who are willing to die for it. Well, we shall soon (3+ weeks) see how events in Charis unfold. Maybe there are some.

  2. evilauthor says:

    Actually, I was expecting Lizardherd to start a new career as a “Charisian” privateer. I’m still half expecting it.

  3. Bret Hooper says:

    Well, so Captain Lizardherd has displayed excellent sense. No battle! The next snippet will doubtless tell us which option will be settled on.


  4. robert says:

    @2 He needs to rearm with the new weapons and refit with “modern” sailing rig. Then he’s set.

  5. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Looks like we have to give congrats to Maggie for coming the closest to predicting what would happen next.


  6. E says:

    Good job Maggie!

    Maybe Charis will give these practical sailors som asylum while deporting the ones who wish to go home.

  7. Maggie says:

    Who knows Maybe I was just channelling my inner Desnairan! I think the Chekhov’s Sword in this snippet may be some stray intel resulting in an Empire/ Desnair accord. Thoughts anyone?

  8. Peter Z says:

    @4 No way, Robert. He is better off working with Fytzhyw rigged as is. He can troll enemy ports under an assumed name for more Church cargo. Heck he could low ball the charter bids and still make out (pardon) like a bandit. He can also gather intel about other galleons headed out with choice cargo. Remember the comment about Church officials not trusting cargo skippers who rerig. Wind Hoof will still be a high sided tub with a new rig. All in all Fytzhyw would be a fool not to offer him a spot in his operation. Not as a captain right off, but after a few more captures why not?


  9. Peter Z says:

    @7 We may get more a fleshed out idea about the average Desnairan or even e better view of how Desnair works in the whole scheme of Safehold. I still think the main point about this scene is just another snippet about the G4’s fraying control over everyday life on Safehold.


  10. JN says:

    I am reminded of the end of “Kelly’s Heroes”, where the German in the Tiger tank blew out the door of the bank.


  11. Exo says:

    Love that movie!

    And I’m inclined to agree with Peter. I think that Fytzhyw will use Lizardherd as his inside man on Church shipping, and then split the profits when they make the capture.

    I don’t think that Lizardherd will represent Desnair as a whole, but I do agree with Peter (again) that his conversations and this whole storyline will give us a much better understanding of Desnair and it’s day to day workings on Safehold and with the Church.

    I’m kinda feeling a 17th Century Spain feel from them. Got an Empire, shipping gold, on the surface good with the Church, but do things their own way at home……

  12. Peter Z says:

    Isn’t it about time we visit with Hektor?


  13. Robert Krawitz says:

    @11, for this to work Lizardherd is going to have to troll enemy ports where nobody knows him (no cosmetic surgery, remember)…and hope that nobody else is in port who knows him…or that he’s a really, really fast talker. If he comes back hale and hearty with a crew, with all of the church guard gone, even the most dim-witted will get suspicious. And as dim-witted as the church bureaucracy may be in some ways, they don’t lack for suspicious instincts.

    My guess is that Charis will find more use for his intel on what’s going on. On the scale of privateers, Loyal Son seems more like a detached naval vessel than a brigand and will have more interest than some might in getting useful information back home. It’s always possible that Fytzhyw will put a prize crew aboard (no sense in trusting the Desnairians too much) and at least for a while run the two ships as a unit.

    For this particular gambit to continue to work, Charis is going to have to treat captured crews very well and have that fact well known…and any privateers who don’t play ball will have to be severely punished by Charis to make it abundantly clear that it really is policy that those who surrender reap the rewards. I imagine Merlin has planted some of his toys to make sure of that. If a privateer crew does turn rogue and gets nailed in a hurry, the obvious conclusion to draw will be that Charis has some actual naval agents embedded aboard its privateers to keep things in line. That won’t hurt anybody’s reputation.

  14. E says:

    Wonder what would happen if a merchantman loaded with the Church’s gold appeared off Charisian waters and requested asylum…

    For that matter I wonder what would happen if Charisian privateers decided that Hsung Wu’s passage would be a great place to hunt.

  15. Maggie says:

    #14 E:

    I can hear the oarsmen in the galleons now:

    Pull with your oars!
    Freedom is yours!
    Strike for the shores of Charis!

    Over the sea!
    Hearty and free!
    G4 we’re out to harrass!

    Here we go,
    for we know
    that we row
    for our new home!

    (with apologies to Erich Korngold)

  16. E says:

    Row indeed. Not enough sail to sail safely.
    But if anyone is stealing Church gold to head for Charis I’d assume they’re out to retire early instead of fight for hte other side. Church might even sneak in a few spies that way.

  17. robert says:

    @14 “…if Charisian privateers decided that Hsung Wu’s passage would be a great place to hunt.” Except in winter. If they can hunt there without too much risk, I expect they soon will. That alone could cause Clinton to have a stroke.

    @7 Remember that Desnair is building the Church fleet. Will it be allowed to sail even though Charis is busy wrecking the efforts to build it? Will there be a great naval battle again in the next book (“Yet saints their watch are keeping”–nah!)?
    Insofar as intel is concerned, with Merlin’s snooping who needs very much human intel? For ships at sea, yes, otherwise, no.
    I agree that Lizardherd (such a name-where does DW get them?) is probably too well known to go nosing around for prey. Put a Charisian flag on his ship, send it to ferry supplies and reinforcements to assist in the coming battle with Hektor. I believe that that battle, its strategy and outcomes, and the issues that Sharly will be dealing with in Tellesburg are the most interesting aspects of this book. In short, we ain’t seen (read) nothin’ yet.

  18. robert says:

    @15 Indeed, apologies are in order. For penance go to:
    and read the turgid description of the score you shamefully misquoted.

  19. Dan says:

    My wife bought me a Kindal and it is going to be very hard not to buy this book in print when it comes out:-)

  20. Peter Z says:

    @13&17, The assumption is that Lizardherd is cruising his normal routes. I suspect that he is not. The Tarotisian galleons that would have cruised these tradelanes are now gone. New ships would have had to fill this void. Had he been a regular hauler for the Church between Fallos and Desnair, he would have been taken quite some time ago. So, familiar faces are disappearing fast as the privateers wreak their havoc. All the suspicion in the world can’t make reliable and recognized skippers appear out of thin air for Church factors. The Church need to ship supplies will overwhelm fiscal or operational prudence, because waiting for perfectly reliable skippers to show means nothing gets shipped. Church factors will have to rely on sending more guards per chartered ship to keep relatively unknown skippers honest.

    So, there is quite a good chance that Lizardherd or another reliable member of his crew is not so well known. In that case trolling for cargo or scouting out potential targets is the best use of their services.


  21. Karina says:

    From my understanding, the caribean priates recruited mostly from the ships they took. So, I think that they may take the captain’s last idea – damage the ship and turn her over to those who want to return home while the others ship with them.

  22. AG says:

    @19: You wrote “Church factors will have to rely on sending more guards per chartered ship to keep relatively unknown skippers honest.”

    How many guards can they actually put on the ships? A merchant ship usually has a crew and a cargo. It also needs space for food and fresh water, otherwise the crew will starve. Adding more people means adding more food and water. It also takes away room for cargo. And if the guards are there to keep an eye on the crew, they are unlikely to be helping the crew with the ordinary shipboard work, so they are mostly useless weight.

    So, the ship owners will lose money because they have less cargo to sell, unless they can find less bulky cargo that is valuable enough to make up for the difference in amounts. Or the Church will have to pay the difference.

    And some cargoes, like timber, will be very difficult to make less bulky and heavy to carry.

  23. E says:

    Yeah but some crewmen are going to make a little profit reporting what actually happened, and the Captain and the shooters will probably need to skip town fast or assume new names if they don’t want to get lynched.

  24. Peter S says:

    I like the way this points up how the Church’s corruption has frayed its loyalty. Lizardherd (cf ‘shepherd’, only herding lizards instead of sheep)knew all about the graft in the Church facor’s offices, and the casual way he though about it implies that this is widestead knowledge in his line of work. That has to have had a widesperad corrupting influence too. I suspect that the people most loyal to the church fall at the opposite ends of economic relationships to it. On the one hand, peasants and others who only pay fixed tithes and otherwise see nothing of the Church’s economic activity. On the other, people directly paid by the church and intellectually bound to it by their jobs – they have a stake in deluding themselves or rationalizing the problem away. Almost everybody in between has some degree of knowledge about the churche’s underlying corruption problem and probably is cynical in proportion to that knowledge. Especially the money managers and those who work most directly with them.

  25. robert says:

    @7 Chekhov’s Cannon?

  26. Peter Z says:

    @22 AG, I know its not a solution shippers would favor. My point was that its a solution Church factors will gravitate to as they try to manage the needs of the war effort for shipping and the growing amount of distrust for increasingly unknown skippers (as the better known ones lose their ships and can no longer sail the trade lanes). What does it matter to Church factors if merchants make a livable profit? The primary concerns are to execute their superior’s orders and make a decent amount of kickbacks along the way.

    You know, between the decreased profitablity on successful trips (as wages increase to attract common seamen to sail on Church chartered ships as well as the attendant security costs)and the growing risk of losing a ship, will there be enough shippers willing to work for the G4 to actually build this galley fleet? Perhaps not.


  27. robert says:

    @26 Peter, Sharly loves your reasoning. It validates her strategy.

  28. Maggie says:

    @18 & @25: Penance accepted, Robert. Haven’t had such a thrilling read since I tried to sit down and analyse the Goldberg Variations for Music History. In one sitting. Couldn’t talk coherently for 3 days.

    Maybe Chekhov’s Cannon Mount.

  29. Richard says:

    First, I think Maggie read the ARC. The last one I saw on EBAY sold for about for about $70.00.

    Second, about the treatment of captured enemy seamen, it was motioned in BSRA that Caleb is paying head money for all healthy ones turned in. That will help to insure decent treatment for those captured.

  30. robert says:

    @29 If Maggie read the ARC then why would she bother with this torture? It is almost as bad as analyzing the Goldberg Variations in one sitting.

    And what ARC? I did not see anything on ebay.

    TOR/Mcmillan does paper and audio CDs ($44 from Amazon) only. No ebooks, eARCs, webscriptions, etc.

  31. Richard says:

    I picked one up about a month ago. I like reading the comments on here

  32. Maggie says:

    @29 Nope, did not read ARC. I didn’t know there WAS an ARC. In any case I’m too cheap to buy one. I’ve got my copy of the hardback ordered from SF Book Club and I’m counting the days…

  33. robert says:

    @31 So, Richard. Are we right? No, no, don’t tell.

  34. Bewildered says:

    @29 I should re-read BSRA I cannot recall the head money. Is that for just the head or the neck up? ;)

  35. Richard says:

    It was near the end of the book when they capture the church convoy and the privateer captain thinks he would have let the sailors on the enemy galleys drawn if it wasn’t for the head money. He thanks god that Caleb is a better man than he is so he doesn’t have to have that on his conscience.

  36. robert says:

    @35 Actually it was a Delfarahkian convoy with one church galley tagging along with a big buncha gold in it. The privateers were sailing under Charisian Empire orders so he had to let the military galleys go once they were disabled and out of the fight, rather than sinking them. I do not think there was head money, just Caleb’s orders. At least, once the gold was discovered they forgot everything else.

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