One of the new Charisian innovations had been the introduction of the heliograph, using reflected sunlight to transmit messages in what another world in another time would have called “Morse code.” Another had been the construction of specifically designed landing craft. They came in two sizes, with the larger capable of landing field artillery or up to a hundred men at a time, while the smaller (and faster) version could land only forty, Although both designs were capable — theoretically, at least — of making extended independent passages under sail, the shallow draft and flat bottoms designed to make over-the-beach landings possible also made them less than ideal blue-water vessels at the best of times. Sir Dustyn Olyvyr had improved things at least a bit by providing them with retractable leeboards, but the smaller ones (almost half the total) had made the voyage from Charis as deck cargo, and the captains responsible for getting them to Corisande had not been delighted by their assignment.

At the moment, Cayleb’s sympathy for their unhappiness was limited, to say the least. The deck cargo landing craft had been swayed out the day before to join their bigger, rather more weather worn sisters who’d made the passage the hard way, and while Dairos’ defenders’ attention was glued to the galleons systematically reducing the harbor’s seaward defenses to wreckage, Clareyk and Haimyn had busied themselves putting their two Marine brigades ashore just out of sight of the town’s fortifications. They had only four batteries of field guns, and no siege artillery at all, to support them, but four thousand rifle-armed Marines wouldn’t need a lot of artillery support.

“Someone ask Father Clyfyrd to join us. I think it’s time to send another note ashore.” The emperor showed his teeth in a tight smile. “I realize Baron Dairwyn wasn’t especially impressed by his brother-in-law’s letters. Frankly, I wouldn’t have been impressed by anything from Grand Duke Zebediah, either. But the beating his batteries have taken ought to be enough to incline him to see reason even without having Clareyk and Haimyn ashore behind him.”

“It seems likely, at any rate, Your Majesty,” Captain Gyrard agreed.

“It better,” Cayleb said in a harder, somehow darker voice. “If we have to storm his town, it’s going to get ugly. I realize our men are better disciplined than most, but even Siddarmarkian pikemen’s discipline can slip if they take heavy casualties. Especially if they take them storming a position everyone on both side knows couldn’t hold out against them in the end. Besides, even if our people behave themselves perfectly, there are civilians — lots of them, including women and children — in Dairos.”

“Were you thinking of making that point to the Baron in your note, Your Majesty?” Merlin asked, and Cayleb barked a laugh at his bodyguard’s painstakingly neutral tone.

“As a matter of fact, yes. But tactfully, Merlin — tactfully. I wasn’t thinking of handling this the same way I handled Earl Thirsk, if that’s the point you were delicately raising. Observe.”

Father Clyfyrd had arrived, portable writing desk in hand, while Cayleb was speaking. The emperor watched his secretary setting up the desk and pulling out a pad of notepaper. The brisk breeze blowing across the deck caught at the edges of the pad’s sheets, ruffling them exuberantly, and Cayleb quirked an eyebrow at Laimhyn as the priest grabbed the pad, set it on the desk, and jabbed a pair of pushpins through the bottom corners of the top sheet to tame its gyrations.

“Would it be easier on you if we went below, Clyfyrd?” the emperor asked then with grave courtesy . . . and careful timing.

“No, thank you, Your Majesty.” Laimhyn’s deadpan expression would have done credit to any trained stage actor, and he shook his head courteously. “By the strangest turn of fate I appear to have just this instant finished tacking down the notepaper. A peculiar coincidence of timing, I’m certain.”

“Goodness,” Cayleb said demurely. “That is astonishing, isn’t it?”

A sniff, barely audible over the sound of wind humming through Empress of Charis’ rigging, might have escaped from Laimhyn. Then again, it might have been only the onlookers’ imagination.

“Truly,” Cayleb said, his expression much more serious, “are you ready, Clyfyrd?”

“Of course, Your Majesty,” Laimhyn replied, his tone equally serious, and dipped his pen in the desk’s inkwell.

“Make sure it’s properly addressed,” Cayleb told him. “Use some of that correspondence of Zebediah’s to be sure we get the details straight. And I’ll rely on you to choose a properly polite salutation.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Very well.”

The emperor cleared his throat, then began.

“My Lord, your men have fought with a gallantry and determination which deserves only praise and honor, but their position is now hopeless. Your defensive batteries are destroyed or too badly damaged to effectively defend themselves any longer, and my infantry is now ashore in strength and will shortly be prepared to assault your landward defenses. Men who have shown such bravery in action deserve better than to be killed when their position has become obviously untenable, and Dairos is a city, not a fortress citadel. I am confident that neither of us desires to find civilians — especially women and children — caught in battle in the middle of their own town, amid their own homes, churches, and shops. In order to avoid additional and ultimately profitless loss of life, both military and civilian, I once again urge you to surrender your position. I will guarantee civil order, the safety of your civilian population, and the preservation of private property in so far as the exigencies of war allow, and men who have fought as valiantly and steadfastly as your men have this day deserve, and will receive, honorable and correct treatment under the laws of warfare.”

He paused, as if considering adding something else, then shrugged.

“Read that back, please, Clyfyrd.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.” The priest read the entire brief message aloud, and Cayleb nodded.

“I think that should just about do it. Make a clean copy for my signature. And let’s be certain it’s properly sealed, as well as addressed. I don’t want the Baron thinking we dashed it off hastily, now do I?”

“No, Your Majesty.”

Laimhyn bowed to the emperor, and this time he did retire to the shelter of Cayleb’s day cabin to produce the formal note on Cayleb’s personal stationery, complete with the properly correct and ornate calligraphy.

“There,” Cayleb told Merlin. “You see? No crude threats. Just one reasonable man sending a note to another reasonable man.”

“Much smoother than your conversation with Thirsk, Your Majesty,” Merlin agreed respectfully. “I especially liked the bit at the end when you didn’t say ‘or else.'”

“Yes, I thought that was well done myself,” Cayleb said with a smile.

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28 Responses to BY HERESIES DISTRESSED — Snippet 43

  1. Alistair says:

    What are the chance he will bite?

    Also couldn’t he just withdraw inland? leaving his home town for now to join up with main force?

  2. Bret Hooper says:

    So Dairos falls, but now comes the hard part–dislodging Hektor. Fun ahead, and probably not enough snippets left to complete it, but in two more weeks and a day or two, the whole bookshould arrive from Amazon.


  3. RobertHuntingdon says:

    OK… so they have devised landing boats. A rather nice trick, even if I doubt it was absolutely *required* it obviously comes in a bit handy as well. And we now have proof that at least some of the invasion force is carrying rifles. I still stand by my opinion that they all do, of course, but at least we know for sure some do.

    But I did note the glaring note that the landing force has “no siege artillery”. I have to then wonder whether Cayleb neglected to bring any at all (highly unlikely) or if those are simply too much weight/size/mass/whatever to try to transfer around between boats at sea so they can only be unloaded from a proper docking ramp in a proper harbor.


  4. robert says:

    @3 Maybe the siege artillery is heading (by sea) to another landing place with more of the fleet and more marines. There are still an estimated 45K more troops to be landed…by landing boat? Now we have some 20th century innovations.

    @2 Lucky you. Amazon is holding my copy up from delivery until November. That’s so they can ship the latest Liaden book along with it and have fewer shipments, the rats. I may cancel the order since the local library will be providing it a lot sooner.

  5. robert says:

    Oh, yes. Maybe Cayleb is not planning on any sieges. What are the alternatives?

  6. From the description, it sounds like the point of the land troops is not to take the town by themselves, but to surround it quickly and bag the defending force inside.

    RH, your guess about the siege guns being too big and heavy for the landing boats is probably right. Cayleb probably has the wherewithal for a siege, but first he’ll try a very polite, understated, PG-rated version of the Harfleur speech in Henry V.

  7. E says:


    That word might haunt Charisians in the future if this letter is preserved.

  8. erispope says:

    @3 I would assume that Cayleb doesn’t intend to keep his boats nor the majority of his army in the city – he may send part of it inland to hole up as much of Hektors forces in the mountain pass as possible, and then strike elsewhere. Mobility is a very great advantage, and I doubt he would want to give it up without a good reason. Of course, just because the army is off doing army-ish things doesn’t mean that the navy will have to putter around doing nothing, but splitting up your forces in that way can be iffy (it is probably quite safe as long as he has Merlins satellite intelligence to fall back on).

    @7 Profit was used to imply other things than purely economical a while back – in fact, the sentence “There’s no profit in it.” has received its mercenary meaning rather recently.

    Profit (n.)
    to be of service to; to be good to; to help on; to benefit; to advantage; to avail; to aid; as, truth profits all men.
    alt – to be of use or advantage; to do or bring good.

    Essentially, it is used in this case in place of “gain” – Weber may have used “profit” to underscore the economical bent of the Charisian mind, but I kind of doubt that he did a thorough analysis. In short, don’t read too much into one word!

  9. HdS says:

    Will the book be available as e-book? Amazon Germany will ship the book in late july and i want to read it earlier, at best the day it is published.

  10. Drak Bibliophile says:

    HdS, no word yet on its availablity as an ebook. I suspect it will be but when and cost are the questions I have right now.

  11. Virgil says:

    e-book? Got to remember its NOT a Baen;s book, the leader in reasonable ebooks. lol

    Like I said before that landing force is not to take the city by itself its to stop the flight of the upper crust if they decide its too hot in the city. You know “Commander you just got to hold on till I’m at least to far away for ryou to see!”
    Rifles Rifles was this not ask before – the statement a little more time allowed teh mfg of a few more thousand rifles – eally implied that a lot of thousand more rifles had already been made.

    This Duke has to base his decision on more then the point “I can;t win” he got to worry about what Hector might do to him if he surrenders the city now but Hector wins in the long run. What the church will say. What his on people will say.

    But one thing this is a seaport the people here are use to “strangers” so if they surrender the will adjust faster then an inland city to the occupation.

  12. Peter Z says:

    @3 I suspect that landing craft are more necessary then we might suspect right now, RH. They enable Cayleb to disembark his troops almost anywhere there is a flat beach quite quickly. Getting his people to his side of the Dark Hills and Hektor’s side quickly could bottle up most of Hektor’s force in terrain Cavalry is really unsuited for and in terrain his people have trained in almost exclusively.

    In this terrain all my concerns about accuracy go out the window. Setting up ambushes where each rifleman has time to aim properly, has his weapon steadied and is under cover turns this opening phase into the turkeyshoot you have been describing all along. Sniping the officers at the outset turns an army into a mob. Sniping the officers of Hektor’s vanguard prior to exiting the Hills neatly places a stopper on Hektor’s cornacopia of personell until new officers can be assigned. The heliograph provides the two way communication loop needed take advantage of Merlin’s comparitively omniscient intel gather capability.

    Add in the landers and Cayleb not only has the more responsive force but the force with the most strategic speed in his chosen area of opperation. As Hektor commented recently, traditional disembarking methods would have added considerable time to any use of the sea. Blast, I doubt we will see much of the conclusive battle after all. We get a nice rendition of the small unit engagements in the Hills and the intro into the final battle but the rest of it is a fait a complis. DW either won’t waste time descibing a one sided massacre or will profit us nicely with more Sharley scenes.


  13. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Actually, Virgil, rifles vs. muskets was indeed quite a big hullabaloo a few snippets back. I never understood why, I’m pretty sure you are quite correct, but apparently our counterpart on that one either didn’t read that part of BSRA or read it differently. And yeah I think the Duke is worried about Hektor’s response, but also realizes that he’ll pay if he doesn’t surrender (being surrounded makes escape a bit difficult) so *for now* at least going to do what he “must” but do it as grudgingly as possible.

    PZ, that might well be a good point. Again I’m not sure it’s *necessary* per se but it could provide a very effective force multiplier. For that matter even if they don’t try to surround Hektor’s troops the boats can still be useful to get troops ashore faster because it greatly multiplies the debarkation points. And that will speed Cayleb’s ability to off-load his troops to a minuscule fraction of the time Hektor is estimating. About the only weapon more deadly than surprise is counter-surprise. If Hektor thinks he has better C&C and a shorter command loop (and how could he not by any means he knows of?) his men are sure to know they are rushing off to deal with Cayleb, sure that they can respond before he can get his forces ready to fight in the first place, and even more sure that Cayleb won’t know they are coming until they are spotted by the scouts a few miles out or so. So they expect to not only have better numbers and equal weapons but also they expect to have surprise on their side. When instead they turn out to have been ambushed themselves panic will take out nearly as many troops as Charisian bullets (or perhaps even more).


  14. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Oops… make that the *Baron* will be grudgingly cooperating. Probably at least in part because he hasn’t a clue how badly Hektor is going to get his butt whooped. But since he’s never heard of such a thing as a Minie ball before, that’s actually quite understandable.

    However, I suspect that if he doesn’t surrender immediately upon the receipt of this message he won’t have to worry about Hektor’s reaction after all, because then he won’t live long enough to see it.


  15. Peter Z says:

    It depends on how loyal the Baron is, RH. If he can hold out 2-3 days (doubtful), he gives Hektor that much more time to deploy his troops. We know he would be wrong in making that assumption, but sacrificing his detachment (and civilian charges) could concievably provide Hektor with the time to catch Cayleb in the open short of the Dark Hills. If all the other assumptions Hektor has made were accurate, those 2-3 days could save Corisande for 6 months to a year as Cayleb is forced to regroup.

    In that light, what are the odds of the Baron’s surrender? Just how loyal is he and how did he interpret Zebediah’s depiction of Cayleb? If he is loyal and believes Cayleb to be feckless, he may well fight for each day’s delay.


  16. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Well, PZ, again I think you’ve got a point. And we must remember that Hektor at least considers this guy one of his *most* loyal vassals. The problem is that the city is “not a fortress citadel”. Does that mean they have no walls at all? Not sure, frankly. Considering that until quite recently sword and mace and pike were king of the battlefield it seems unlikely they have none at all. On the other hand, this is a minor barony, not a rich and powerful dukedom or whatnot that can afford to pay for its own defenses. If it weren’t, Hektor wouldn’t have been so interested in “helping him out” by tying him to Zebediah. And it wasn’t exactly on the “front lines” in any of the wars that were fought over the last 100 years or so, which is likely yet another reason it wasn’t as well fortified to begin with. (I highly doubt that ALL the build-up of the western shores was done in the last 6 months after all. Likely at least SOME preexisting fortifications from previous wars with Zebediah and whatnot were reused in the recent buildup.)

    So I guess the big question would be how long the island of Corisande has been united. If they have been united for centuries then there may not have been any particular need to put any walls around the city. And in that case if he has any sense at all they’ll have to surrender. Otherwise, there have to be at least some walls, and perhaps they could keep the Charisian marines out (or at least have reason to think they could) for a while.

    Also note the way Merlin was complimenting Cayleb on *not* saying “or else”. I read that as foreshadowing that Cayleb isn’t going to be in a charitable mood if the Baron continues to hold out and costs him yet more time. Which could very easily lead to an extra head on a pike for Cayleb’s collection.


  17. Peter Z says:

    Here comes the ruthless part of the equation, RH. How much time would be wasted if the Charisian marines ‘got out of hand’ after storming the town? 1-2 days to defeat the defenders, 1 day of chaos and 2-3 days to regather the forces for a total of more than a 5-day wasted? The baron may well count on the after effects of Cayleb’s victory wasting more time than any actual battle. Nahrmahn did mention that Hektor was ruthless in this respect. Perhaps his most loyal nobles are equally ruthless? Regardless of how disciplined the marines are, there will be some chaos after storming a town and time will be wasted.

    In truth I doubt this will happen, but won’t be surprised if that was the Baron’s thinking in not surrendering. Of course, he probably thinks he will survive as well, which will also be doubtful.


  18. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Yeah PZ I suspect that’s a very good guess as to what he’s probably thinking. He likely figures it will take Hektor about another 5-day/week (or maybe even less) to get forces there to help him out. Hektor was thinking in terms of it being somewhere around three to four weeks from the initial sighting before Cayleb could march out on the offensive. One week has already passed, though its unlikely Hektor did anything more than *perhaps* gather his forces to Manchyr during that time since he couldn’t know *for sure* where Cayleb would land. But unless the distance to Manchyr is *significantly* greater than it appears on the map I can’t see it taking much more than a week’s march to get from one to the other.

    But his calculations are no doubt WAY off. Against the minimal defenses they will face the Charisian troops will storm the town in a few hours, and they’re using Cayleb’s most “elite” troops of all (the first two regiments ever, which all-but guarantees they are the best trained and best disciplined of a force that *already* considers itself the class of the planet anyway). If they “get out of hand” for a single split-second I’ll be rather surprised.

    Add in the fact that between normal port moorings for the transports and the landing craft Cayleb can probably get his entire army ashore in a single day, and he might very well think he could provide immense help to Hektor by trying to hold out and accomplish absolutely nothing save for making his head lonely for his shoulders.

    The only mitigating factor I could see would be that Hektor may well be planning on waiting a few more days to allow the last of his westernmost forces to make it to Manchyr so they can stay to defend his capital while the others (which have now had a day or two to rest up and recover from their max-speed march) all march out as one massive steamroller fit to push Cayleb right back into the sea. If that is indeed his plan, then the baron may realize he can’t hold out long enough to do any good and surrender after all.


  19. robert says:

    The Baron’s options:
    *Surrenders as a prisoner of war after putting up a hopeless fight
    *Surrenders right away and asks for amnesty
    *Doesn’t surrender and ends up dead in Dairos
    *Doesn’t surrender, tells the troops to keep fighting while he flees to the mountains with his family and household guard to connect up with Hektor (later flees with Hektor to Temple Lands or dies with Hektor in battle).
    Questions: Are the gunners his men or Hektor’s? Who does Hektor have watching the Baron, just in case?

  20. The ruler of Dairos, thanks to the semaphore, is likely in near-immediate contact with Hector via the semaphore. Perhaps not instant, but depending on the topographic details of the hills likely fractions of an hour, not hours, to pass a message back and forth, fast enough that thinking what to say is a decent part of the time.

    Curiously, if Hektor sends a message that he should surrender when further resistance is pointless, to protect his people, the message has some likelihood of being received as Never Surrender; hold out to the last man.

  21. robert says:

    @20 Remember that the Church controls the semaphore network, so what you are saying is even more likely, if the Church decides to go behind Hektor and dictate how the battle will be fought. They can even pass false info to try to force things to go their way even for propaganda reasons, despite the inevitable outcome. Forcing massacres, even tho’ Cayleb doesn’t want that would seem to be typical of the Church. That would have the effect of making accommodations with rulers in the future less likely.

  22. robert says:

    To continue…the destruction of the local semaphores has to be a prime objective wherever Cayleb’s army goes.

  23. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, what would Hektor do if he learns that the Church semaphores sent the wrong message? Even if individuals within the Church might want to try something like that, others may be smart enough to see the problems if loyal rulers find out about it and IMO they’d be smart enough to know that it might get out.

    For one thing, could they depend on Cayleb’s forces to kill everybody who knew the false message? Could they be sure that Hektor’s agents wouldn’t get word to Hektor about the false message?

  24. robert says:

    @23 Were I Hektor, I would make peace with Cayleb under whatever terms he asked and I would wreak revenge on the Church.

    Do you think that those intent on making mischief always think through the consequences of their actions? Knowing the Church folks from the first 2 books, I doubt it.

  25. Peter Z says:

    After this splendid disection of the Baron’s options, I ask what the chances of his troops obeying a fight to the last man order? In aggregate there is a smaller chance of the troops agreeing to a hopeless AND pointless stand than the Baron himself. This type of semi-mutiny would be as damaging to Hektor as the Baron caving too quickly. Should the troops get honorable treatment from Cayleb as well and Hektor may find his troopers especially vulnerable to surendering quickly in the face of one technical/tactical suprise after another in the opening stages of this war.

    Am I off base?


  26. robert says:

    @25 Peter, what about a “fight until Thursday when Hektor will be here” order?

  27. E says:

    Dear Hektor,

    I am sending this letter with [Subject assigned to deliver] to propose that rather than fight you agree to [exile/surrender/disarm/all of the above]. If not we will continue to be very nice to the people of [captured city/cities] and show them that you’re a big meanie by giving them lots of interesting [technology/ideas/stuff] to entice them to see the [politics/futility] of the situation and enjoy [peace/the prospect of peace/actually trading again]. If you agree to these terms you can expect [cake/death/exile] and for [subject name here] to rule in your stead. If you do not agree, simply wait where you are and we shall be around to negotiate after we finish delivering some free ammunition to you… at speed.

    Cayleb Ahrmahk Vi Imperial Charis

    (Disclaimer: Just me having fun here)

  28. Paul says:

    Now that was funny.

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