A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 03

A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 03

“And the second reason, almost equally important,” Merlin admitted, “is to get me close enough to Eastshare to . . . interact with him.”

This time, Green Valley only nodded. Merlin wasn’t especially surprised — the baron had always been an astute and diplomatic fellow. He understood that, even with him, Merlin could scarcely come right out and say “They want me to see whether or not Eastshare is a traitor . . . too.”

The good news was that Merlin was almost certain Eastshare wasn’t. The bad news was that, despite all the seijin’s “unfair” advantages, Merlin was only almost certain he wasn’t. And, unfortunately, the fact that the duke was effectively Empress Sharleyan’s uncle by marriage, that he was the brother-in-law of the recently deceased Duke of Halbrook Hollow, and that he’d been Halbrook Hollow’s senior general, second in command of the Royal Chisholmian Army, for the better part of fifteen years, meant that “almost certain” wasn’t nearly good enough.

Not in the wake of Halbrook Hollow’s treason.

“May I ask what your impressions have been so far?” Green Valley asked politely. “In a general sense, of course. I wouldn’t want to ask you to get too specific about any particularly deserving ex-Marines — assuming there are any of those around, of course — and embarrass me with your effusive praise,” he added, and Merlin snorted.

“You know, My Lord,” the seijin said in an almost meditative tone, “I’ve always heard that a certain . . . brashness, one might say, is an integral part of any Marine’s personality. You wouldn’t happen to know how that rumor might have gotten started, would you?”

“Me?” Green Valley widened his eyes innocently. “I’m not a Marine, Seijin Merlin! I’m an officer in the Imperial Army. In fact, I’ve got a written commission around here somewhere to prove it. So what would a bluff, honest, naturally modest Army officer know about Marines and their overinflated self-images?”

“Oh, an excellent point,” Merlin agreed. “I can’t imagine what could have come over me to ask such a question.”

“I should certainly hope not,” Green Valley said a bit severely as he picked up the wine bottle and topped off Merlin’s cup once more.

“Well, at any rate, in answer to your question, my impressions so far have been just about universally good.” Merlin’s tone and expression had both turned serious once again. “To be honest, I hadn’t really realized quite how good the Chisholmian Army was. I should have, I suppose, given the role it played under King Sailys. Not to mention keeping Queen Sharleyan on the throne — and alive — after Sailys’ death, of course. I mean, two-thirds of its senior officers are veterans of Sailys’ campaigns, after all, and it’s obvious Eastshare — and Halbrook Hollow, for that matter — did an excellent job of training and equipping them in the first place.”

Green Valley nodded slowly, his gaze thoughtful, and Merlin shrugged.

“Obviously,” he continued, “their equipment hasn’t been as good as what we took to Corisande with us — but, then, no one’s has, when you come down to it. And, just as you’ve undoubtedly been discovering, their formations and drill are all oriented around tactics which have just become obsolete. But, again, they’re scarcely alone in that. Given the weapons available to everybody a few years ago, my impression is that Eastshare’s troops could at least hold their own against any of the mainland armies, man-for-man, and probably kick their arses for them, for that matter. Except for Siddarmark, of course.”

It was Green Valley’s turn to snort. The Republic of Siddarmark’s army was widely acknowledged — with good reason — as the most effective armed force in Safehold’s history. On land, at least. Siddarmark’s navy was virtually nonexistent, and the Royal Charisian Navy had reigned supreme upon Safehold’s seas even before Merlin Athrawes’ arrival in Tellesberg. Anyplace a Siddarmarkian pike phalanx could find a place to stand, though, it reigned supreme. Which explained the Republic’s successful, sustained expansion southward towards the Desnarian Empire over the past hundred and fifty Safeholdian years or so. That expansion had been halted only when the Lords of the Temple Lands guaranteed the frontiers of the Grand Duchy of Silkiah, in the Treaty of Silk Town, in 869.

Silkiah was at least nominally independent, although its grand duke paid a substantial yearly tribute to Desnair. He also paid one to the Lords of the Temple Lands every year, although that one was called a “tithe” and, until very recently, had been paid by every Safeholdian ruler. Not officially to the “Lords of the Temple Lands,” of course, but that was only because the Lords of the Temple Lands all just happened to be members of the Church of God Awaiting’s Council of Vicars, as well. Their dual role as both secular and temporal rulers gave them a significant unfair advantage, yet it imposed certain disadvantages, as well. Especially now. The Lords of the Temple Lands had been nervous for a long, long time about that magnificent Siddarmarkian army just on the other side of their shared frontier, and over the years, they’d used their power as princes of the Church to help discourage any adventurism on the part of a succession of the Republic’s lords protector. The Treaty of Silk Town might be the most flagrant example of their intervention, but it was scarcely the only one. That hadn’t exactly helped the Church’s relations with the Republic, although it had scarcely seemed likely to provoke an open breach, whatever some of the Vicars might have thought, given the Church’s unassailable supremacy.

But now . . . now that the Church’s supremacy had been assailed, all of the anxieties which had been entertained by decades of Church chancellors had just acquired an entirely new point. There was no real evidence of any general movement of Siddarmarkians to embrace the Church of Charis, yet that didn’t keep the Group of Four — the quartet of powerful vicars who truly ruled the Church — from worrying about what might yet happen.

I wish it would happen, Merlin thought more than a bit wistfully, but however much Stohnar resents the Church — or the Group of Four, at least — he’s not about to climb out on a limb with Charis. I don’t think it’s because he disagrees with Charis’ accusations of Church corruption or because he has any illusions about the “sanctity” of the Group of Four and their motivations. But he’s pragmatic as hell, and as well aware of the balance of power as anyone. In fact, he’s better aware of it than almost anyone else. Besides, from what I’ve seen, he doesn’t think any move to break with the Church would find general support in Siddarmark. And, for the moment at least, it looks like he’s right about that.

“The thing that impresses me most about the Chisholmians, to be honest,” the seijin continued out loud, “is how readily and smoothly they seem to be adapting to the new tactics.”

He raised one eyebrow at Green Valley, inviting comment, and the baron nodded.

“You’re right about that,” he agreed. “It seems to me that their officers are grasping the reasons behind the new tactics even faster than our troops did. And they’re not just going through the motions in order to keep Their Majesties happy. For that matter, they’re not even just duplicating what we’ve got to teach them, either. Instead, they’re thinking about why we made the changes we’ve made and looking for ways to make what we’ve already accomplished even more effective.”

“That’s been my impression, too,” Merlin acknowledged.

“As a matter of fact, I haven’t seen a sign of what I was most worried about,” Green Valley said. Merlin’s eyebrow rose again, and the baron shrugged. “Charis has never had anything anyone in his right mind would call an ‘army,’ Merlin. We had a navy second to none, and nobody wanted to face our Marines at sea, but in terms of anything a land power would describe as an army, Charis wasn’t even on the map.

“Here in Chisholm, though,” he continued, sitting back in his chair, his expression intent, “the Army’s clearly the senior service. It was the Army that broke the power of the great nobles and provided the stability here at home that let the Empress’ father — and her, in her turn, of course — build the Kingdom’s prosperity. King Sailys may have started building a navy as soon as he could, since Chisholm needed it to protect its commerce against Corisandian privateers, but it was only the prosperity created by the Army which let him do that. So while we Charisians have tended to lavish our admiration and pride — not to mention the dragon’s share of our wealth — on the Navy, it’s been the other way around in Chisholm.”

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27 Responses to A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 03

  1. Jeff Ehlers says:

    That’s usually how it works. People care more about what directly affects them.

  2. All this about Silkiah has to be leading up to something. If they decided to stop paying tribute to Desnair and called on Siddarmark for help, if Dohlar got involved one way or another, that would start a major war on the mainland. And if Siddarmark felt the need for some of that nice new Charisian artillery…
    Or, of course, this could all just be runaway worldbuilding.

  3. Bryan Holter says:

    Very nice to see book 4 available under the Baen banner, I’ll actually be able to get it. Can anyone tell me how to get books 2 and 3 in an ebook format from someone who sells into Australia? I don’t deal in pirate copies, an suthor deserves their pay. If David is listening and has an ebook copy available I’d be happy to pay full ebook price directly to him. Thanks.

  4. Bryan says:

    I have to say that I think you’re streaching with your idea of Silkiah as a flash point. IMO Siddarmark is far more likely to be brought into the war by the GO4 moving directly against it in the mistaken idea that they are defusing a potential problem.

    That idea does pose an interesting problem. My reading of the situation says that Siddarmark could take down the temple all by itself if it had reason enough. DW may elect to keep the republic out of the situation and just use it as a kind of psycological balance to make the GO4 move a little bit more circumspectly. In that case, this information about the Treaty of Silk Town is just a the author fleshing out the world by giving us a specific example of why the church prelates were widely disliked. This sort of specific example is something that’s been missing before.

  5. Bob G says:

    I was recently helping my son with his World History homework, and part of it was about the impact of the failure of the Crusades on the relative power of the Pope vs that of Kings. It had me thinking about the aftermath of a hypothetical major loss (such as a hinted-at naval war) by the Church. One of the ramifications would be that the individual Kings would gain more power from the added taxation for war, which would have money flowing from the nobility to the King. Another would be the death of so many nobles in combat against the Charisians, and finally the diminished respect for the Church would loosen the power it had over, say, treaties protecting smaller countries from larger, more adventurous ones. If there is a major war, involving many countries, with major losses of life (such as the crews and army troops on more than 100 galleys in the first battle), then Siddarmark will find itself with neighbors with smaller, less experienced armies.

    If Charis outright wins the upcoming naval war with the Church (as we all hope it will :^), the ramifications for conflict within Howard and Haven will be enormous.

  6. Peter Z says:

    snip-“Besides, from what I’ve seen, he doesn’t think any move to break with the Church would find general support in Siddarmark. And, for the moment at least, it looks like he’s right about that.”-snip

    I wonder if this is likely to change if Clyntahn purges the Wylsyn’s Circle and the survivors flee to both Siddermark and Charis. Will Siddermark protect its wayward Bishop of Glacierheart? I suspect they will but I don’t see how the G4 can let that stand. If anything, that will be the flashpoint. If things go down this road, I don’t see how the G4 survives in power unless Clyntahn is quite thorough in his purge.

  7. Michael says:

    I don’t quite get the interpretation that Siddarmark could ‘take down the temple’ by itself, though it’s stronger than any other mainland country. Perhaps if every other mainland nation stood by and let the pike columns march into Zion, sure, but that’s not likely.

    There’s no way the Empire of Charis can survive for very long without Siddarmark the way it’s set up. Eventually they’ll run out of simple innovations that are also easily copied by thier enemies, and more advanced innovations (steam powered ironclads, for example) are certain to run up against the prescriptions. At that point thier 10-1 disadvantage will get them crushed, though it may take quite a while. Something needs to push the public of Siddarmark into siding against the Go4.

    There’s also the issue of both the unknown temple ‘power sources’ and Merlin’s batcave full of federation weapons. I don’t get the feeling they’re red herrings. If DW DOES set up Siddarmark as being that overwhelmingly powerful on the mainland and has them side with Charis, that would likely be the ‘in case of global heresy, break glass and push button’ event that does whatever surprise DW has in store in the temple.

  8. lethargo says:

    @6 – If Siddarmark sided with Charis, that might bring those power sources under the temple into play (whatever they are), but if I recall correctly, father Paityr Wylsyn residing in Charis had some sort of “key” that might be what can activate those temple power sources. In other words, I am not certain that the Group of 4 are the ones who have the “button” to push. On the plus side, that could put some focus on Paityr Wylsyn and his personal struggles of conscience and faith, which could be a powerful read.

    That said, I love your phrasing ‘in case of global heresy, break glass and push button’ for describing the temple power sources.

  9. robert says:

    Possible Spoiler Ahead
    @2 There is a snippet from later in the book (not specified where) that DW posted on the Bar that was reposted to the Snippets Forum of DW’s website. It is directly related to the situation with Silkiah/Gorjah. The subject is titled “A Mighty Fortress Snippet from Baen’s Bar” and I will not repost it here. The snippet also suggests how Merlin can be in more than one place at the “same” time.

  10. robert says:

    @8 Excuse me. I meant Tarot/Gorjah and maybe Silkiah.

  11. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Bryan Holter, _A Mighty Fortress_ isn’t going to published by Baen. It’s still a TOR book.

    TOR doesn’t mind David Weber providing snippets of it here and in the Honorverse.

  12. robert says:

    @3 Bryan, TOR has the ebooks available at various prices depending on how recent, from $14 up to the same price as the hardcover. Go to
    scroll down to the book ad, and click on “More Formats.”
    Amazon US has Kindle versions for $9.99. And there is a nook version, too.

  13. Jeff Ehlers says:

    I don’t think Siddarmark is all that overwhelmingly powerful. It sounds like they were expanding towards the Desnarians, not expanding through them. No question that they’re powerful, and probably a match on land for just about anyone else, but they aren’t a match for everyone else on land.

  14. Bob G says:

    @12 If they were equipped with Charisian Rifles, and trained with them the way they train with pikes, they would be the match for everyone else on land.

  15. laclongquan says:

    you are dreaming, Jeff. On land the Siddarmark reign suppreme, army-wise. You ever read of any other power than can match them? Because if there’s one the Council would have used that to counter Siddarmark.

    Of course, the problem of land-expansion is that you got serious constraints from logistic, terrain, and political environments. The pikes of Siddarmark got stopped in Silk Town because the full (implied) power of Church stand behind that Silk Town, and they need a small buffer zones between Temple Lands with Siddarmark. Now that the suppremacy of the Church was in doubt, the Treaty became very much thinner. Siddarmark has more options now: either resume the march and PUSH for more while still stay inside Church’s obedience, or BREAK completely with the Church. The break would be more risky, but the gains are also greater. the push is based on the dismally fiasco of the Knights of the Temple Lands. Call for their removals from the Council then push straight toward their borders. hehe. Hehehehe. MWahahahahahahahahaha.

  16. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Considering how much trouble it took me to find the snipped robert referred to, (mainly due to my internet connection, but still extremely annoying) here is a direct link to the snippet he referenced: http://forums.davidweber.net/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=270

    I’m not sure how it’s a spoiler if it’s an officially released snippet and we’re reading other officially released snippets, but it obviously isn’t the next chain of events in this particular storyline, so I guess if you don’t want to know what happens don’t go there.

    But I definitely am glad I was able to find it.


  17. It is not quite obvious to me that the Siddermark pike army has not just become totally obsolete, in the sense their only way to overrun a Charisian Marine position is to march at it until the Marines run out of ammunition.

  18. robert says:

    Does Siddermark have a cavalry or just an infantry? What happens when they get modern rifles and artillery from their good friends to the south? Way south. Treaty, shmeaty!

  19. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, while Siddermark is known for its pikemen, I suspect that they have some cavalry if only for scouting.

  20. Peter Z says:

    Robert, I can see where modern weapons are a danger to Siddermark. As soon as Desnair (predominently cavalry) realize how effective the new rifles are for infantry units, they may want to try and plow Siddermark under before they incorporate the rifles into their units. Desnair will sure as shooting inform Clyntahn that a rifle armed Siddermarkian army will be several times more powerful than the current one. So, there will be a huge incentive to crush Siddermark BEFORE they modernize. The Knights of the Temple Lands may well have to organize Harchong and Desnair into an anti-Siddermark coalition as soon as Siddermark even considers modernizing the army.

    It may be wise for Siddermark to modernize their aggriculture first. That productivity gain immediately frees up the manpower to beef up the army. If the G4 decide to go after Siddermark, the added manpower will better enable Siddermark to defend against a multi-pronged invasion. Also, the threat of modernizing their economy first may escape the G4 and Desnair’s attention and not spark a pre-emptive strike.

    That’s just how the situation strikes me. Who knows how David will paly this.

  21. Grant says:

    They most certainly would have cavalry. Besdides the scouting angle you use pikes to smash an army that’s engaging you in the field or to hold a fortified position, but you only really finish them with a pursuit after you’ve turned them back.

    Pikemen don’t do pursuit.

    Then of course there’s archers. If all you have is a bunch of pikemen marching around on open ground sure you don’t want to go to to to with them, but a company of archers will have them for breakfast if you don’t have any forces to run them down. They’ll always be able to outmaneuver pikemen to avoid being run down, they can fall back in front of them indefinitely and fill them full of arrows all day long.

    I absolutely guarantee any army on a planet with weapons technology at the Charisian level either uses cavalry or ceased existing a long time ago.

  22. Grant says:

    That’s supposed to be “toe to toe” not “to to to” obviously…

  23. Bones says:

    Pike formations went the way of the dinosaur when it became feasible to equip every person in your army with an accurate long range weapon that could be fired relatively quickly. Any pike formation that went up against a well trained flintlock formation usually would be decimated before they even got close enough for a charge (or whatever). So, technically, yes, the Siddermark army is obsolete when compared to the Charisian army, but if they went toe-to-toe, the Charisian’s would probably wind up being slaughtered due to Siddarmark’s larger army. Siddarmark would suffer horrendous casualties, but as long as they didn’t break (morale), they could roll over the smaller Charissian army. Just my take of the two different countries armies…

  24. Rekes says:

    Agriculture is usually the subject of hidden abuses once industrialization of that industry begins.

    Siddarmark will receive their Charis-modern arms. The question is when. Charis will likely wait for the common opinion of Siddarmark to favor them over the Church, something which is up in the air at the moment. If Charis holds off the massive armada being made ready by the Church, then it is likely that the Church will seize any victory they can within their boundaries. This will likely mean the seizing of Charisian expatriates, civilians and their families, with their being held either as ransom against Charisian endeavors. Whether or not they’d be executed would depend on how desperately Charis backs the Church leadership into a corner, a corner from which they will try extreme measures before someone tries to change things at the top. If Siddarmark turns its favor towards Charis in the majority, it is at this time that Charis can provide their then-official all with arms. Siddarmark would make an excellent deterrent to either the current or future Church leadership.

  25. Rekes says:

    * either as ransom… or executed.

  26. Summertime says:

    Relative to large numbers of inferior armed soldiery eventually defeating smaller, even much smaller, bands of really well-armed soldiery; it didn’t happen with Charisian forces invading Corisande in BY HERESIES DISTRESSED. The issues of strategy and tactics also have to be addressed. My guess is that the Charisians are going to stay ahead of any combination of opposing forces and eventually unite the planet. The interesting thing will be how long a time, how many books, whether the current characters will be superseded by descendents, and whether Merlin will morph into another identity in the process. As others have commented; could be a LONG series. How old is DW and how much attention is he willing to put to Safehold developement in the future?

  27. Karina says:

    One thing that I’m interested in, with all the stories swirling about Merlin’s physical abilities coupled with all the tech changes, well….it was mentioned in the last book how people are noticing how everythings coincided with Merlin’s appearence. I don’t think it would take much for the GO4 to decide to declare him a demon and the reason for the initial attack. If the GO4 got replaced with someone more reasonable and would they offer peace in exchange for Merlin being the fall guy?

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