A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 05

A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 05

She and Cayleb were both fully aware of that, which was why, just as Cayleb had insisted Chisholmian merchants and manufacturers must have equal access to the Empire’s markets, both foreign and domestic, the two of them had decreed that it was Chisholm which would take the lead in the formation of the Imperial Army. There were those among the Royal Charisian Marines who had objected (although they’d been wise enough to do it quietly, in most cases) to that decision. Whose sense of pride in their own organization, in the way it had grown so explosively, the fashion in which it had smashed its opposition in Corisande, was deeply offended by the notion that the Marines should not only go back to being purely a shipboard and amphibious force but also transfer the majority of the Corisande campaign’s veterans to the Army.

Those who’d been sufficiently foolish to make an issue of their objections had been . . . found other duties, however.

“I think probably still another part of it,” the seijin said out loud now, “is the fact that Cayleb and Sharleyan have made it so abundantly clear that whereas Charis is reasonably going to take the lead where naval affairs are concerned, it only makes sense to give that same role to Chisholm where the Army is concerned. Which is why you’re an Army officer now, of course. The decision to fold the bulk of the Imperial Marines over into the Army — and respect the seniority of the Army’s existing officers in the process — wasn’t an easy one, but Cayleb and Sharleyan were right to insist on it, I think.”

“Absolutely!” Green Valley’s nod was more vigorous and emphatic than Merlin’s had been. “The officers I’m working with obviously see that decision as proof Their Majesties meant what they said about the organization of the Empire’s armed forces. Especially after — well . . . .”

The baron’s voice trailed off on a most unusual note of something that was almost — not quite, but almost — embarrassment, and Merlin smiled without any trace of humor.

“Especially after the Army’s top commander conspired with the Temple loyalists to murder — or at least kidnap — Sharleyan, you mean?”

“Well, yes, actually,” Green Valley admitted. He shook his head slightly. “Hard to blame them for worrying about it, really. In their place, I’d certainly have been afraid the Crown would entertain serious doubts about the Army’s basic reliability. Especially given how popular Halbrook Hollow was — with the common troopers, not just the officer corps. He’s the one who built this entire Army, Merlin. He shaped it, he commanded it in most of its critical battles, and he led its soldiers to victory in every campaign. How could they not have worried about whether or not the Crown would feel it couldn’t afford to trust their loyalty after something like that? For that matter, a lot of them felt shamed by his actions. They hadn’t done anything wrong, but he was their commander, and at least some of them feel his treason has stained them, as well.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Merlin said soberly.

And the truth is, he told himself silently, that at least some of the Army’s officers do entertain the same doubts Halbrook Hollow did. Like the noble Earl of Swayle, for example.

Barkah Rahskail, the Earl of Swayle, was young, only thirty-seven Safeholdian years old. He was also very tall for a Safeholdian, within an inch or so of Merlin’s own height, and rakishly good-looking with his fair hair, dark eyes, and sun-bronzed complexion. Back when Merlin Athrawes had been Nimue Alban, she would definitely have given Swayle a close look.

But in addition to his good looks and noble birth, Swayle was a dyed-in-the-wool Temple Loyalist. He’d done a better job of hiding it than quite a few of his fellows, including Halbrook Hollow, but Merlin had no doubts about his fundamental beliefs. What he didn’t know yet was where Swayle’s ultimate loyalties lay. Would his repulsion against the Church of Charis’ “apostasy” and “heresy” — and, quite possibly, the death in disgrace of an army commander he’d deeply admired and respected — drive him into treason of his own? Or would his and his family’s long-standing loyalty to the House of Tayt — unusual, actually, among the high Chisholmian nobility — and his oath as an officer of the Royal Army hold firm against those forces?

Merlin was afraid he could guess which way Swayle would jump in the end. But he hadn’t jumped yet, and neither Cayleb nor Sharleyan was in the habit of punishing people for what they might do.

Which suited Merlin Athrawes just fine, when it came down to it.

I’m keeping an eye on all of the ones we know shared at least some of Halbrook Hollow’s doubts, he reminded himself. And if Cayleb and Sharleyan aren’t going to hammer anyone until and unless someone decides to emulate Halbrook Hollow, they won’t hesitate if the time ever comes to bring that hammer down, either. I know they hope they won’t have to, but they’ll do it if they do have to. And at least it looks like the ones with Temple Loyalist leanings are definitely in the minority . . . for now.

“And Duke Eastshare?” he asked out loud. “What’s your read of how he feels about all this, My Lord?”

“You’re asking me to comment about my commanding officer, Seijin Merlin,” Green Valley said with a sudden — and unaccustomed — edge of severity, and he frowned. “I understand why you’d be concerned, but, to be honest, I don’t think it’s really appropriate for me to be passing judgment on His Grace’s loyalty to the Crown.”

Merlin allowed one of his eyebrows to arch in mild surprise. He started to respond, then stopped.

Actually, he thought, Green Valley’s . . . stiffness was a judgment on Eastshare’s loyalty. Particularly since it clearly didn’t stem from any reluctance to risk antagonizing a powerful noble in the extraordinarily unlikely event that word of any criticism on his part would ever make it back to Eastshare.

What it is, is an indication of just how much he’s discovered he respects Eastshare, Merlin told himself. If he had any doubts about Eastshare’s loyalty, he wouldn’t respect him, either, no matter how flexible the Duke might be in a professional sense. So the fact that he doesn’t want to answer is an answer.

“I understand, My Lord,” he said out loud, rather more formally than had become the norm for his conversations with Green Valley. The baron looked at him for a moment, then gave an almost imperceptible nod, and his frown vanished.

“So, overall, you’re satisfied?” Merlin continued in a more normal tone, and Green Valley nodded again, more firmly.

“Overall, I’m very satisfied. I wish — and so does Duke Eastshare — that we could have provided even more Marines as cadre, but we both understand why Their Majesties had to leave General Chermyn a big enough garrison force in Corisande. I also wish we could get the new rifle shops and cannon foundries set up here in Chisholm more quickly, but Chisholm simply doesn’t have the pool of experienced mechanics and craftsmen Old Charis does. At least the first couple of shipments of rifles have already come in, so not everyone is drilling with broom handles.

“On the plus side, in addition to everything else we’ve just been talking about, I have to admit that the Duke and his officers seem to have a better grasp of the realities of fighting on land than we do — than I do, and I’m the fellow who developed all our new infantry tactics.” He snorted. “They pay me a flattering amount of attention, and they listen damned carefully to everything I say, particularly given the fact that, unlike them, I actually have field experience with the new weapons. But the truth is, they’ve already pointed out a lot of places where my ideas — and not just about tactics, either; they’ve got a lot more experience with army logistics than we have — could stand some improving. In some cases, a lot of improving.”

And it says very good things about you, My Lord, that you not only recognize the truth when you see it but that you’re willing to admit it — to others, and not just yourself, too, Merlin thought.

“So you think I’ll be able to go back to Cherayth and tell Their Majesties the great army integration project is going well?” he said out loud.

“Yes,” Green Valley said, looking steadily into the seijin’s blue eyes, making it plain just how many levels he was actually speaking on. “Yes, I think you can tell them it’s going very well.”

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29 Responses to A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 05

  1. Elim Garak says:

    Blah-blah-blah. More exposition and establishment of characters.

  2. Jimmy says:

    Man, you guys complaining about the previous snippet and already going at this one are nuts!

    I don’t know about you but I love these kind of details that give insights into the integration of Chisholm and Charis, not to mention how they’re going about forming the Imperial Army and other institutions. And the fact that Halbrook Hollow’s treason has consequences and isn’t just some random little bit that doesn’t get mentioned again is perfectly fine with me. This kind of detail and care to attention when it comes to fleshing out the story is what’s made this series a pleasure. Maybe that you’re reading this in snippets instead of all at once is making extra aware of the parts you don’t like?

  3. Robert Woodman says:

    Yes. It is more exposition, but I also see some threads developing that are worth paying attention to. Baron Rahskail — pronounced liked rascal? (G) — is one example. The organization of the Imperial Army and how it is shaping Green Valley (not just the other way around) is another example. In the latter example we get some new insights into Green Valley’s character, which insights may become factors in later story developments. Plus, unlike his previous expositions, this is two characters talking to each other about things they (and we) don’t already necessarily know (though some we could have deduced), and it is not the Wink-wink-nudge-nudge sort of exposition which has elicited complaint from myself and others. This is a more important piece of exposition than previous pieces, IMO.

  4. Peter Z says:


    In addition to you points, I would like to draw attention to another pattern in these intitial scenes. Has anyone else noticed that every book has begun with a depiction of Nimue/Merlin’s deep personal attachments? The whole series began with a description of who was most important to her and how the Commadore was lost. Books 2 has Merlin alone in space above the spot where the woman who was almost a mother to her was lost. Book 3 also began in space with Merlin alone contemplating not loss but a new beginning over Charis. This book is the first one that begins not with a scene of solitude or loss but of life going forward.

    And who is the character DW includes in this scene of life moving forward? Not Cayleb, her closest friend, but Green Valley the first character Merlin has shown any interest in beyond friendship or duty. I find it interesting and would argue that these introductions are indeed essential to the story beyond mere exposition.

  5. TheDude says:

    @ 4,
    Good point about the openings to the novel. Plus, providing a little bit of background for a sequel is always important, even if returning fans already know it all. I originally started on By Schism Rent Asunder, and I would have been totally lost without the summation of Armageddon Reef in the first chapter.

  6. deke says:

    “1. Blah-blah-blah. More exposition and establishment of characters.” Huh…?

    This short snip seems to touched all 4 aspects of war: Grand Strategy, Operational Stratgey, Tactics, and Logistics. http://www.kirit.com/Strategy,%20Tactics%20&%20Logistics Grand Strategy -> the politcal aspects (ie Church vs Charis’ Church, loyalty to whom); Operational Strategy -> planning and execution (setting up the Imperial Army, training, testing new tactics, new rifles); Tactics -> deployment of troops (“actually have field experience with the new weapons”); Logistics -> having troops and supplies where they are needed, and their transport.

    As I remember it “Amateurs study war, professionals study logistics.” from somewhere… I have CRS (Can’t Remember Shit). Getting old sucks.

    Some readers just want the “Tactical” – the actual fighting, boom, bang, boing. They ignore all the other 3 aspects of military science. So this snippets is just not character development.

  7. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Deke, it’s “Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics”.

    Although I wouldn’t say that tells the whole story either. All the parts have to fit together for things to work. But if you want a truly “professional” story worth rereading over and over you have to incorporate some of all parts. You can write a story with only one part. You can write just political wrangling with a war in the background briefly mentioned in passing. You can write a logistics manual explaining how you prepared for something and then leave it to the reader to imagine how it all worked out in the end (if they’re still awake). You can write just “bombs away” from page one to page done. But if you really want a good story, you need some of ALL of it. And Weber does a very good job of that.


  8. Rekes says:

    Good quote there, RH. I also like “Marine logistics is what the entire Navy’s for.”
    A little bit of everything is nice. Frankly I’d like to see what’s going on in other countries a bit more. That good ol’ Charisian propaganda is bound to spark groups of the let’s-have-a-few-beers-and-talk variety that revolutions tend to spring out of in North America and Germany (good in the former, not so good in the latter).

    I just remembered why Charis can’t or won’t invade.

    With the Church having been slapped back for trying to invade Old Charis, the New Church holds sanctity and peace within its own borders so long as the Empire remains on the defensive. With the current generation still in shock from the schism, an outright invasion of Church lands (directly owned, not like Ferayd or Harchong) would probably be too much for the Loyalists and fence-sitters. Charis kills many birds with a single stone by sitting on the defensive: They get the home field advantage in land wars, the supply advantage in sea wars, and the propaganda advantage of Choosing to be on the defensive (at least until such time as the people are willing to play offense). And so long as the Church is a corrupt circus of bears, any grand strategy the Church comes up with will fail spectacularly with the intelligence praises going to the Imperial Intelligence Agency as opposed to one man and his OWL. Probably explains why the title is “A Mighty Fortress,” all that the Empire has to do is shore up its defenses and dig in until the Church stabs itself in the back trying to take Charis down.

  9. Tom says:

    I wonder at this time if the Siddarmark Army realize their “invisible” pikemen is now obsolete. If so, will they change?

  10. fester says:

    I would bet that someone is telling the Lord Protector of Siddarmark that their army is pointless now and it would be a great idea to send observers to Charis, or Chisholm ASAP or to Tarot sometime in the next year. And BTW, that same someone will have a great package deal available on rifles and trainers.

  11. Robert Woodman says:

    @4 Thanks for pointing out the repeating pattern in the storyline about Nimue/Merlin. I’m a bit abashed that I didn’t notice it, as my wife (an English major, now employed in the English department at THE Ohio State University) often encourages me to pay attention to details like that.

    @6,@7,@8 Those are good and valid point about logistics. Exposition is (or can be) to a story as logistics is to making war; however, there are better and worse ways or carrying on exposition. While I understand and appreciate the comment @3 about needing to exposition to avoid being lost in the story, my complaint has not been about exposition per se but about how *some* of it is done. I think that DW is an outstanding writer, but I believe that he could do SOME of his exposition better by crafting it in a way that gives us the back story we already know (and that newbies to the series need to learn) but at the same time moves the story forward. Some of DW’s exposition leaves us marking time in the story line, and if you’ve ever been in a marching band or in military parade ground drills (I’ve been in both), you understand that long periods of marking time are hard. Marking time has is useful for dressing up lines, cleaning up formations, and avoiding running into other people, but you don’t want to do it for a long time. Exposition that doesn’t carry the story line forward is in an analogous position to marking time in parade.

    None of that, though, changes the fact that I am a great admirer of DW and his writing and look forward almost rabidly to his forthcoming books!

    @9 Some forward thinking people in Siddarmark may realize the pikeman is not obsolete. Some of those forward thinking people may be in the military. But it would not surprise me to discover that at least a few people at the top of the command chain are the last to believe they are obsolete. If they don’t change ahead of the first battle with the Charisian Imperial Army, though, they very likely will change before the second battle.

  12. Real amateurs study technology, leading to computer games in which research on better technology is a primary war-winning move, despite the experience of, e.g., the first hovercraft (WW1) or the first American Aircraft carrier (remember, an aircraft need not be an airplane or a helicopter).

    Siddermark may, however, note that their army is not obsolete relative to Silkiah or Harchong, and the Knights of the Temple Lands are a bit too busy to complain as the treaty of Silk town is renegotiated “Silkiah is part of central Siddermark”.

  13. Peter Z says:

    I think the Charisian rifles and artillery are an incredible threat to Siddermark right now. The G4 have just acknowledged that they were behind the eight ball with respect to the galleons. After huge disasters they still denied the truth of their enemy’s military effectiveness. It took Clyntahn to get the G4 to truly consider the military disparity they faced. Now that he has allowed allies to innovate a bit, others will start to really look at the Charisian capabilities.

    What they will find is that the fire power of Charisian rifles will make an invasion extremely expensive and uncertain to win. Yet after the Grand Vicar issued his comments to prepare for jihad, the G4 cannot simply call the whole thing off. They will find themselves with a navy that may get an army to Charis but not enough of an army (after battle losses at sea) to be be able to defeat Charisian arms. Their options at this point will be to completely cut off Charis from the mainland and divert attention from Charis as they prepare their army to better fight Charis. What they need is a Shorter Vicorious War (pun intended).

    While the G4 may never realize this, their allied kings will. Under these conditions the aliied kings in Desnair and Harchong may well insist on taking out Siddermark first while the new navy tries to gain control of the seas. Taking Siddermark will reduce the mainland’s weak link with respect to Charis as well as dierting the clergy’s attention from Charis. One not inconsiderable benefit will be to reduce Charisian trading income and their ability finance the upcomming wars. They may reason that enough boots on the ground will overwhelm even the vaunted pikes of Siddermark. These will be boots needed eventually against Charis anyway.

    If I were Stohnair, I would be nervous as all get out as soon as I found out about the new Charisian guns (rifles and cannon) and realized how truly effective they are. Finding out about the Imperial Charisian Navy’s explosive shells would make things worse still. How he deals with all this knowledge will be interesting indeed.


  14. Rekes says:

    The other nations won’t easily or readily attack Siddarmark short of public mass heresy. They would probably see it as the forced removal of a sovereign king, just like what was attempted with Charis.

  15. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Another thing, even Clyntahn might hesitate about calling for the removal of Stohnair from the Office of Lord Protector even though (in theory) that’s within the power of Church.

    While the people of Siddarmark may not be ready to defy the Church, trying to remove their elected Lord Protector might push them into being willing to defy the Church.

  16. Grant says:

    I doubt Stohnair is all that worried about the developments in infantry weaponry. Yes, they make pikes obsolete… so what? What makes Siddarmark’s army so supreme isn’t that they *have* pikes, everybody has pikes, it’s not like they’re hard to acquire classified military tech or something. It’s the people swinging the things.

    Arm those same people with the new weapons and train them just as hard and well as they obviously train them with pikes now and he STILL has the strongest land army around once they work out the proper tactics. The only way he’d be really threatened is if he were going to be attacked by someone with the new weapons in the short term before he had a chance to copy and adapt them himself. And nobody has evem suggested that would be a possibility. Last I checked, Siddarmark and Charis were on pretty darn decent terms, what with him giving the Charisians the tip-off so they could bolt the ports before the church seized their ships. And the church certainly isn’t going to figure out how to copy the weapons then decide the first thing they should do with them is start a war with Siddarmark and drive them into immediate full alliance with Charis. That would be beyond insane.

  17. Peter Z says:

    Drak, you and Rekes are probably right. I just have difficulty seeing how the mainland powers will react to the sheer firepower Charisian guns now represent. They are not all stupid. On top of the guns they have to go through those flippin’ Charisian galleons to get to Charis first. That will cost them casualties both in their naval force and in the troops being carried.

    Once Clyntahn acknowledged its OK to analyze Charis’ capailities without sanction (as he himself did with the church galley fleet and Charisian galleon), the mainland military experts will begin piecing the information into a more complete picture. That picture should scare the crud out of any potential army commander. Earl Thrisk may well be listened to and I doubt he will paint a pleasant picture of any navy’s prospect against the ICN. Toss in info on exploding shells and the G4 may have to settle for waiting untilt hey can match those capabilities, becasue their allies/lackies will refuse to do otherwise.

    All in all I am beginning to really doubt that any Grand Holy Armada will ever sail to meet the ICN.

  18. robert says:

    Siddermark’s Army: I have a question. Are the new weapons developed by Charis proscribed by the Church (I know the new ship designs aren’t anymore)? If they are, then Siddermark has a good reason for not switching, yet.

    The Holy Armamda: Peter, the book’s overblown blurb indicates that the tubs will sail. See:
    “…Soon a mighty fleet will sail against Cayleb, destroying everything in its path….” Sigh.

    Finally, I do not think that Charis poses a real threat to Siddermark, if only because they are natural allies–elected leader, elected parliament, etc. When the time comes that Charis can show that they can really whip the Church and its minions, expect Siddermark to ally itself with Charis openly.

  19. Peter Z says:

    Grant @16, I just wanted to suggest that if the G4 couldn’t get willing allies to fight Charis, the G4 would instead focus on isolating the mainland from Charis. I made the assumption that Siddermark would not be too keen on that idea and so the other mainland powers would attempt to compell Siddermark with force. In short the more unassailable Charis becomes the more exposed Siddermark becomes so long as they maintain ANY relations with Charis.

  20. Grant says:

    I suppose an argument could be made, but I would think it would be the other way around. The more unassailable Charis becomes the more the Church absolutely MUST keep firmly on Siddarmark’s good side and not do anything to antagonize Stohnar. They push him too hard and Siddarmark breaks with them and gives Charis their conduit onto the mainland while Charis upgrades Siddarmark’s military to make sure that conduit becomes impregnable. If they want to keep Charis contained and off the mainland they absolutely cannot afford to go picking any other fights… with Siddarmark more than anyone else.

  21. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Some points to remember.

    At first the G4 was more worried by Siddarmark than about Charis.

    They went against Charis more because they were concerned about Charis ‘infecting’ Siddarmark.

    IMO they’ll be very careful to not turn the people of Siddarmark against the Church.

    They know that even if the Lord Protector wants to openly support Charis, he won’t do so unless his people will support him.

    I also think that Siddarmark and Charis will not be enemies unless Charis does something completely stupid.

    Like others have said, it is likely that Siddarmark will get copies of the new weapons.

  22. Rekes says:

    Solution to Siddarmarkian support of Charis: Turn Siddarmark against Charis through a campaign of targeted sabotage aimed at framing Charisian expatriates as heretic, money grabbing, honorless dogs. Even if Siddarmark’s leaders know that the Church orchestrated the sabotage, it would be forced to act by the will of the people. A civil war in Siddarmark as a result would also allow the Church to invade if they so wished, to which Charis would have to counterinvade in order to save its expatriates and stabilize the region.

  23. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Rekes, that sounds like a great idea in theory. But what if they get caught?

    Now some of Clyntahn’s gleeful hand-rubbing and mustache-twirling at the start of BHD leads me to suspect that something along those lines might happen after all. Or at least be attempted. But I wouldn’t be surprised to have Weber find a plausible way for it to backfire.


  24. Summertime says:

    With an eye to Church internal affairs; what will happen when Clyntahn outs the Wylsyn underground group as traitors? He seems to have alluded to that issue previously. Will he link them to the Charisian heretics to further inflame sentiment against Charis so Temple Loyalists close ranks and shout for Holy War?

  25. Alejo says:

    Boring. I will freely admit it, I read Webber for the fight scenes and the exciting bits. All this backfill stuff is like the frill on a fancy scabbard, the gold and ivory inlay on a gun that would work just as well without it if not better. Nope, I want action and plenty of it. I don’t read military sci fi for its value as a learning tool when plumbing the mysteries of military science or politics.

  26. gunsmoke says:

    when will snippet 6 be on line?

  27. gunsmoke says:

    what about snippets 6 7 and 8?

  28. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Gunsmoke, where are you looking for them? They are up here.

  29. Wallace says:

    The story of Safehold, and its telling, is determined by Mr. Weber, and is solely the product of his mind. It is therefore idle to discuss the various characters and their motivations as if they were real. You may enjoy his tale, as I do, or disagree with the way he depicts the people in the story, but it remains for Mr. Weber’s determination alone.

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