A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 08

A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 08

There were times when Merlin was deeply tempted to hop into his recon skimmer, buzz down to Manchyr, and personally eliminate Waimyan. It wouldn’t be particularly difficult. In fact, it would be childishly simple and, under the circumstances, one of the more pleasant chores he could have assigned himself. Unfortunately, unless he was prepared to remain in Corisande full-time and spend his nights doing nothing but eliminating resistance leaders, he’d be rather in the position of King Canute. Worse, he would deprive the resistance of its organized leadership, and he didn’t want that. Far better to leave Waimyan in position for now, however irritatingly competent and industrious he was proving, rather than shatter the resistance’s cohesion. That might change, yet for now it was far more useful to know exactly who its leaders were, exactly where they might be found when the time came, and exactly what sort of plans it was making and what information it was passing to its various satellites. Breaking up the current organization would almost certainly deprive it of its increasing effectiveness, but only at the cost of replacing it with a formless, unorganized movement which would be almost impossible to monitor the way they could monitor the present situation. Not to mention one which would be far more difficult to uproot when the moment to take action against it finally arrived.

I only wish, he thought, returning his attention to the SNARC’s imagery, that I didn’t expect them to do so much damage in the interim.

* * * * * * * * * *

“I know it’s a pain in the arse,” Hauwyl Chermyn growled, standing with his hands clasped behind him while he gazed out his office window at a vista of cloudy rain. “And, truth to tell, what I’d really like to be doing is shooting the bastards the instant they turn up!”

Brigadier Zhoel Zhanstyn, commanding officer of the Imperial Charisian Marines Third Brigade, looked at his superior’s back with a faint smile. It was mostly a smile of affection, although it might have held just a trace of amusement, and possibly just a little exasperation. If it did, though, that last emotion was directed at the situation, not at Viceroy General Chermyn.

And if the Old Man needs to vent his spleen at someone, I suppose I’m the logical candidate, Zhanstyn reflected. It’s not like there’s anyone else he can let down his guard with.

That would probably have been true with just about any senior officer in Chermyn’s unenviable position, the brigadier thought. Combining the roles of occupation force commander and official viceroy for Emperor Cayleb and Empress Sharleyan would have been a stiff enough challenge for almost anyone. Given Chermyn’s distaste for politics, coupled with his previous lifelong success at avoiding anything that even smacked of duty at court, it would have been difficult to find someone who felt less suited to the task.

Fortunately for the Empire of Charis, it had never occurred to Hauwyl Chermyn to decline his present post. And the reason that was fortunate was that no matter how ill-suited he might have considered himself, he was almost certainly the very best man available for the job. The Viceroy General might not like politics, and he might be unpolished (to say the very least) by courtly standards, but that didn’t mean he didn’t understand politics, and his iron sense of duty and integrity was coupled with a bulldog pugnacity any fool could sense from clear across a room.

There was no doubt that the noblemen and commoners who’d assembled in Parliament here in Manchyr had sensed it, at any rate, and none of them had been stupid enough to challenge him. Not openly, at any rate. Zhanstyn had no doubt that quite a few conversations in various cloakrooms and private apartments had centered on clandestine ways to evade Chermyn’s determination to enforce the policies Emperor Cayleb had laid out before his own departure for Chisholm. For the moment, though, the viceroy general had his hand firmly around the throat of Corisande’s great lords.

That had been made easier by the fact that, like the wealthier members of the House of Commons, the great aristocrats had too much to lose. That made them cautious, unwilling to attempt open resistance, especially after Chermyn — in his blunt, unpolished, uncourtly, yet crystal clear style — had made it abundantly clear what he intended to do to any noble who violated his new oath of fealty to the Charisian Crown. The fact that diplomatic circumlocution was so utterly foreign to him had gone a great way towards making certain no one in his audience doubted for a moment that he’d meant every word he said. And that any excuses about oaths to the excommunicated not being binding would leave him remarkably unmoved when he and his siege artillery turned up outside any oathbreaker’s castle walls.

“But pain in the arse or not,” Chermyn continued now, swinging away from the window to face the brigadier, hands still clasped behind him, “it’s the way it’s got to be. For now, at least.” He grimaced. “Mind you, I’d like nothing better than to get my hands on the damned ringleaders! There’s not much doubt in my mind that most of these poor bastards’re being more or less led around by the nose.” He made a disgusted sound midway between a snort and a snarl. “And I’ve read the damned broadsides, same as you. Somebody’s stirring this pot, and I’ve no doubt His Majesty was right about what it is they’re after. Which is why I’m not going to give it to them.”

“Yes, Sir,” Zhanstyn acknowledged. Although, truth to tell, it wasn’t exactly as if he’d objected to the viceroy general’s instructions or policy. On the other hand, he was pretty sure Chermyn knew he understood his superior’s “explanation” was more in the nature of a way for Chermyn to let off pressure of his own before it did him a mischief.

“The last thing we need to offer up to the bastards behind all this are martyrs,” Chermyn growled now, turning his head to look back at the water-streaming panes of glass. “I think most of these people are at least willing to keep their heads down, if the troublemakers’ll just leave them alone. I’m not saying we could keep the lid on the pot forever, but all we really have to do is keep it screwed down until Anvil Rock, Tartarian, and the rest of the Regency Council get their feet on the ground. Build up at least a little legitimacy. That business at the Cathedral the other day” — he turned his head back, his eyes meeting Zhanstyn’s suddenly — “that could’ve turned nasty. Bad enough to lose one of our own, but if that young lad of yours — Lieutenant Tahlas, wasn’t it?” He paused until Zhanstyn nodded, then snorted again. “If the boy had lost control, let his men stack the bodies the way I’ve no doubt they wanted to instead of settling for cracked skulls and a few broken bones, it would’ve given the bastards on the other side exactly what they wanted.”

“I’ve already commended Lieutenant Tahlas, Sir,” Zhanstyn said, making no effort to hide how pleased he’d been by the viceroy general’s remembering the young man’s name. “And I agree with what you’ve just said. All the same, Sir, if they keep pushing, and especially if we lose more men, we’re going to have to push back. It’s one thing to show restraint; it’s another thing if the other side decides restraint is really weakness.”

“Agreed.” Chermyn nodded grimly. “That’s one reason I want Gahrvai’s formations stood up as quickly as possible. I’d rather put a Corisandian face on this whole confrontation, drop us back into a support role.” He showed his teeth in a thin smile. “D’you suppose any of these people are going to realize just how much we don’t want to kill any more of them than we can help?”

“In a perfect world, Sir, I’m sure they would. In the world we’ve got –?”

The brigadier shrugged, and Chermyn chuckled harshly. Then he squared his shoulders and marched back across to his desk. He settled into the chair behind it and picked up the first of the folders piled on his blotter.

“Well, as you’ve just suggested, it’s an imperfect world, Brigadier,” he observed. “And that being the case, I suppose it’s time we dealt with some of those imperfect little details. Starting with this request from Brigadier Myls.” He tapped the top sheet of paper and the folder with an index finger. “I think he’s got a point about being spread too thin.”

“I agree, Sir.” Zhanstyn grimaced. “That’s not to say I like it, but I agree he’s got a problem. And, unfortunately, I can already see where you’re thinking about finding the manpower to solve it for him.”

“Sharp as a tack, that’s you,” Chermyn said with another, much more cheerful-sounding chuckle. “Now, where do you think I should start robbing you?”

“Well, Sir, I was thinking that if we took Alpha Company out of the 2/3rd, then took Charlie Company out of the 3/3rd, we’d have a pretty good mix of experience and enthusiasm. Then, if we added –”

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39 Responses to A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 08

  1. Rekes says:

    I’m trying to guess at why DW wants to snippet less. I hope it’s not because of the criticism he gets on pages like this.

    Mixing the Charisian and Corisandian militaries for the purpose of stabilization is a good idea. The Corisandians should be eager to learn how they were beat and they have a mutual respect for the decisions of their leaders as well as that special bond that comes from being on opposite sides killing each other. Of course, this is without religious contexts so it will likely unfold in very different ways by variation of who is more willing to shout blasphemer.

  2. msj says:

    With respect to pacification and integration, I’m surprised that Caleb hasn’t taken “hostages” from the great lords. One of the mechanisms used in history was to take some of the heirs from the conquered and raise them as fosterlings in the conqueror’s household(s). That would provide both a check on the lord’s behaviors and a chance to raise a new generation loyal to Charis or Charisian concepts. Of course, taking hostages might inflame the situation…

  3. Rekes says:

    With regards to pacification, Charis has the whole nation hostage and the Corisandians don’t exactly love their royalty beyond their former king. Taking hostages would free up other members of the Corisandian government to wield more power for their own plans as their peers with hostage children become restricted.

    Charis is Corisande’s only trade lifeline, so unless they want a full-blown depression they’ll have to rely on Charis or abandon the use of money.

  4. Damon says:

    I was trying to guess the possible outcome of this “revolt” subplot in the series (other than the obvious It Will Be Defeated one that is surely coming) and thought that a nice wrap up would be exposure of the GOF’s and church complicity in both Hektor’s death AND the “resistance” movement.

    Echoes of Iraq/Afghanistan in this occupation and resistance, with the religious differences between the occupying power (made up of elements of multiple external states) and the native population, the call to arms in the name of a dead leader, and the external support for the unrest from fellow believers.

    Just a coincidence I’m sure.

  5. Peter Z says:

    @4 Damon, I suspect that DW is reviving the argument of separation of Church and State which took place at the founding of the U.S. Patrick Henry was a proponent of locailties being allowed to set up municipal sponsored Churches which were maintained through taxes or some sort of manditory tithes. Such a theme is more in keeping with the story line than Afganastan/Iraq. Think about it for a bit, in this story it is the monarch trying to restrain the reach of the state into matters of conscience.

    I do suspect you are correct to assume all sorts of twisty surprises.

  6. robert says:

    @5 While Henry was a proponent of state supported churches, he later changed his mind and decided that that was not a good thing. So far the church of Charis, or whatever it is called, is state supported and has a voice at the table of state. Clearly that has to change, but there is a difference between a state religion (England, Church of; Russia, Orthodox, Eastern) and a state supported religion.

  7. Rekes says:

    @6 Charis’ situation is one of reversing the original Safehold order of the Church supporting Government. In Charis’ case the Church and Government agree on the need for schism, but it is the Government that is given the province of war in this case. Charis is to be an example of government in the role of secular matters and church in spiritual as a necessary separation to prevent abuses of both as evidenced by the theocracy practiced by Zionite nations.

  8. Sigh says:

    Sorry to get off topic, but has anybody put any thought into how much of a powder keg the Harchongese Empire is. Think about it. Harchong is, as far as I can tell, a stagnant and decadent empire. They still have a serf class that really only needs two things to set off a revolution. Leadership and a Cause, something to believe in (something more appealing than the Go4 and the ‘church’.

    Also seeing as Merlin is a sort of failsafe or plan D himself, he should probably be thinking of hedging his bets a little. A colony of could be established on Armageddon Reef. They’d never be found, and if they were comprised of only the ‘inner circle’ in a few generations a whole country could be established, a hidden one with no perscriptions. And they’d announce themselves one day with a fleet of Ironclads or battleships depending on how long they prepare.

  9. robert says:

    By Zionite you mean a follower of John Alexander Dowie? Or…

  10. Peter Z says:

    Sorry, Rekes@7 but the original Safehold order really wasn’t the Church supporting government. Recall the scene prior to Nimue waking. The local mayor, an Adam, discussing the comming of the angel with the local priest. There was clearly a separation from the beginning with each supporting the other in their separate duties. Later it was stated several times including in an internal dialogue by Duchairn that the secular rulers appointed their local priests. So the priests may appoint their own heirarchy but bishops and arch-bishops were apointed by the secular rulers.

    What Staynair and Cayleb are doing is to resurect the original relationship between Church and State but add to it a hefty dose of freedom of conscience. Robert’s @6 point of Henry changing his mind opens up new vistas for DW to explore in this context. Primarily that the G4 are looking down eir world as if it was a giant leggo set to be broken apart and reformed at their pleasure or need. That people don’t matter. Charis on the other hand simply laid down the foundation and let the individuals build on that solid base using a blue print composed of principles and beliefs. The individuals apply these principles in their every day lives. Government protects this process, but otherwise is growing right along with the rest of Charisian society as they, together, navagate the seas of change.

  11. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Sigh, you should reread _Off Armageddon Reef_. Please remember the fear that Safeholdians have of being *near* Armageddon Reef. IMO even most Charisians would share that fear. It would be extremely difficult to find enough people to be willing to create a settlement on Armageddon Reef. It would require letting them in on the Brotherhood’s secret which is also very dangerous.

  12. Sigh says:

    True. I had considered that. But it’s not an insurmountable problem if Merlin dedicated enough time into it. The fact that Safeholdians have such a fear of Armageddon Reef is what makes the plan possible. If the colony took pains to hide being spotted from shore and only built a few ports… anyway it could be done and in the long term the plan has only a small chance of failing. The only thing is that it would take generations for the plan to bear fruit. And it would take Merlin away from other projects. Anyway it would be a backup plan, if the ‘in case of global heresy’ turns out to be disastrous to Merlin’s other plans.

  13. Grant says:

    Safeholdians may not like going near the Reef, but they WILL go near it when it’s called for or the first book wouldn’t have had the title it did considring where the intial naval engagement of the conflict took place . It would only be a matter of time before someone noticed activity there if a colony of any kind of size was established, which would almost certainly instantly get the attention of anyone it was reported to and spur investigation.

    There is zero chance a colony with the industrial capacity to build up their military armament to the point they could stand off an attack could grow there undetected.

  14. Sigh says:

    Not if Owl and Merlin were willing to spend the effort and time needed to make sure any ship that made it near Armageddon Reef was kept under strict observation and if it is as you say only a matter of time before activity was noticed than it would also only be a matter of time before that ship ‘disappeared’. Eventually this would engender even more fear of Armageddon Reef, and aside from those who live there, perhaps other Safeholdians will stop going there even “when it’s called for.”

  15. Sigh says:

    This is all hypothetical. When I first read Off Armageddon Reef, before Merlin even saved Cayleb, this was the first idea that came to me. With the resources at Merlin’s disposal he could shuttle orphans to Armageddon Reef and use them as his own Adams and Eves. The chance that a colony with the industrial capacity to build up their military armament to the point they could stand off an attack undetected is much greater than zero, given the resources Merlin has.

  16. Grant says:

    Sigh, is ships start mysteriously dissapearing every time they set out from port on any course near Armageddon Reef that kind of gives the game away too. And relying on people to get so spooked by it that they refuse to investigate WHAT is making thier ships dissapear is wishful thinking. Some king starts losing ships and they’re eventually sending a fleet to find out why, superstitious scary factor or no superstitious scary factor. Yes, the Reef gives people the willies, but they’ve also been sailing by it for 700 years without ships vanishing into nowhere never to be heard from again just because they got near the place. If that suddenly changes people are going to devote some effort to finding out why that is, which pretty much defeats the purpose of having a hidden secret colony.

    And Merlin’s resources are considerable but their use is severely constrained. He can’t just personally go to war against any of the world’s shipping that wanders into the wrong part of the ocean for year after year after year to keep them away from some pet colony he sets up.

  17. Grant says:

    PS: And even if he did somehow manage this (which he couldn’t)… one day in the future we have a military superpower with adnvanced weaponry suddenly just appearing and venturing forth… *from Armageddon Reef*. Name me one thing you can think of better designed to associate the new technology they’re wielding to dominate the opposition with Shan Wei and turn the vast majority of the population of the world irrevocably against it?

  18. Sigh says:

    You’re right about that…
    Hmmm. Maybe if for the first two or three generations of colonization the colonists stay entirely away from the coast. By that time they should be able to produce a few automatic weapons, even without an army or fleet anybody who steps foot on Armageddon Reef after that is likely to get it shot off. And a few generations after that it’ll be to late for even the combined might of the rest of Safehold to stop the Armageddons.
    Anyways I think it’s doable but pretty much only if Merlin devotes 100% of his time towards it. In many ways I think it would be the plan most guaranteed of success. However like I said all hypothetical the way the story is going things will be decided before any colony on Armageddon Reef was ready for war. That is why I presented it as a backup plan.

  19. Sigh says:

    That’s certainly true as well…
    but at that point it really won’t matter. The rest of Safehold will have to change the way to think to even resist clandestinely. The Armageddons will have electricity and all the advantages that brings, radio, electronic surveillance, etc. A good propaganda campaign would show results eventually as well. After that all the Armageddons would need to do is stay in control until they can once again return to the stars. By then Safehold will have accomplished it’s purpose and what it does after that won’t matter at all.

  20. Grant says:

    How do they stay away from the coast? It’s a reef. As far as I understand of what’s left of the geography of the area it’s basically all coast.

  21. Sigh says:

    Download the map from Weber’s website. There is one Australia size continent/island. The current population of Australia is estimated at 22.1 million. It’s been 220 years since the first English colony on Australia, and with Merlin to speed the advancement of civilization on Armageddon Reef, I don’t see why it’s growth cant be even faster than that.

  22. Grant says:

    Also, radio and electronic surveillance would be really, really, REALLY bad ideas considering we don’t know the detection thresholds that are programmed into the orbital bombardment platforms.

    They may or may not get triggered by an electromagnetic field of sufficient power… but a *radio broadcast*? That’s like shouting “Hey, over here, please vaporize us we’re developping proscribed technology!”. Keep in mind Merlin’s communications are currently highly directional and secured to keep them from being detected by whatever automated sensors are floating around up there in orbit, which he can manage because he’s got really advanced military com tech the Safeholdians are not going to be reproducing any time soon. I mean, all the developments it’s going to take to develop a semiconductor manufacturing capability just to name one aspect of it boggles the mind… it’s not happening in an isolated colony.

  23. Sigh says:

    Hmm…good point again
    There is only one Orbital bombardment platform right???
    Somebody check that. If i recall correctly there is only one platform but it has a strong defense net around it…. so sending up a ship or missile wont kill it unless you overwhelm it’s defenses right? And shutting it down by remote or from inside is not likely to workout well, “oops there goes Charis!” Not a good idea. So If Merlin wants to take it out you’d probably need to hit it with something like an asteroid.

    Anyways until the Orbital Bombardment platform’s gone, they probably need to lay low yes, but that would only mean they’d have to wait to conquer the rest of Safehold until after the OBP is taken out. Up until that point they could just sit back and build A MIGHTY FORTRESS! And like I said the one thing they would have going for them once they develop automatic weapons is time.

  24. Grant says:

    Yeah, I’ve been puzzling over how he’s going to neutralize that platform since OAR and a kinetic strike sufficient to overwhelm the defense net is pretty much the leading candidate among my ideas too, unless that energy signature under the Temple is a control room he can hack somehow to shut the thing down of course. Probably spend a lot of time putting a lot of projecties on course from way, way out so they all arrive at the same time and saturate the defense platforms. Have to be a lot of small fast projectiles that would bun up in atmosphere though, it would be a pretty big “oopsy” to smash an asteroid through it then watch it continue on down the planetary gravity well and wipe out a city or something.

    I have my doubts Merlin has the capabilities required to hit it with something like that which could penetrate its defense net though… OWL should have been able to model that and present it as a viable option if he did, and OWL’s conclusion after analyzing the situation was that Merlin lacked the equipment necessary to penetrate the defenses so I suspect that’s not what will be used. (Or maybe OWL was just being insufficiently creative, but he is a battleship AI so if there’s one thing he’s supposed to be optimized for it’s knowing how to blow stuff up)

  25. Sigh says:

    I guess I agree. But the OBP is only really a threat to the planet, and I don’t think it is capable of preventing a launch from the other side of the planet right??? So is it remotely possible to build some sort of ship designed to intercept a specific asteroid and change its orbit precisely enough to knock out the OBP without raining destruction down on Safehold???
    With a good enough computer and the ability to construct said ship I think it could be done. The ship could launch from the other side of the planet so the OBPs defenses cant shoot it down. The launch site would probably have to be hidden from sattelite detection.

  26. Grant says:

    I would imagine the platforms orbit is not geostationary and has at least minimal maneuvering and attitude correction capabilities… and is thus capable of targeting anywhere on the planet in a matter of hours. And building an industrial base advanced and large enough to launch a space program is going to involve detectable energy emissions.

    They’re going to need to neutralize that platform before anything planetside advances that far or they’re inviting bombardment.

  27. Sigh says:

    Maybe, But I can’t help thinking that if they build the launch pad near the temple, the platform wont fire on it. What kind of message would that be Raikuri hitting the temple itself???

  28. John says:

    Remember in BHD the Wylsyns discussed Paityr having a key that could fire the Rakurai once. I wonder if that will come into play in this book?

  29. Grant says:

    If they’re building a launch facility right next to the Temple then we’ve reached a point where friendly forces have seized control of it and held it for quite some time.

    So… the message would be “And… God smites the heretics who dared defile the Temple with their demonic proscription defying ‘technology’…” and the survivors never ever trust technological advancement again.

  30. Sigh says:


    Or the Launch goes off without a hitch and “Langhorne was a fraud, the church of Langhorne is a fraud”

  31. Drak Bibliophile says:

    John, we don’t know what that key actually does. All we know is that it can only be used once and is to be used to ‘save the Church’. Apparently save the Church from an outside force.

  32. Malcolm says:

    It would have been an alarming development if Merlin didn’t squelch his desire to go an eliminate the leaders of the resistance….Nimue’s character was sacrificial and altruistic and I would hate to see her with so much blood on her hands, no matter what the cause. The resistance leadership will have to be ‘persuaded’ by other means than elimination.

  33. Sigh says:

    The worst possible scenario I can think of is another Pica. Another Pica would have the ability to nullify Merlin’s advantages.

  34. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Sorry but if one of the “Archangels” had a PICA, then he/she would still be active on Safehold.

    Using a PICA, an “Archangel” would never age and could remain active for the complete history of Safehold.

    Everything I’ve read about the “Archangels” tell me that they’d love to continue to ‘play God’ over the people of Safehold.

    No way would one of them in a PICA just ‘turn it off’ until it was needed.

    My “guess” is that the key wakens one or more sleeping “Archangels”.

    Remember the “Archangels” do age so one or more might be willing to go into “cold sleep” until they would be needed.

    By the way, I suspect that a PICA could be taken out by Federation weapons.

  35. Sigh says:

    I think a battle steel blade could probably take out a Pica if it was swung with enough force. In the book it says that as long as the molycirc ‘brain’ survives than a pica could repair itself given time. But that even a direct hit with a cannon ball would not be enough to take out Merlin’s ‘brain’. But Merlin’s wakizashi might be able to cut molycirc. Molycirc is the right term right? I could have confused it with a tech from a different series.

  36. Karina says:

    From my memory of OAR, there are multilple weapons platforms so that the entire surface of the planet is monitored. Merlin checked to see if he could somehow approach one platform, but even powered down and under stealth the platform detected his probes approach and destroyed it with a laser. With what he has in the cave, there’s nothing powerful enough to get past those defenses with enough fire power to take it out. I’m guessing Webers solution is a comunications system somewhere – perhaps the ‘key’ that will Merlin be able to comunicate with the AI’s and reprogram them or get them to take each other out.

  37. Karina says:

    Oh yeah, and remeber in OAR that the temple in Zion is built stronger than some defense bunkers on Earth, so I bet it could survive a direct hit from one of the weapons platforms. If I were Langhorn & co. one thing I’d plan for is the possibility of an army marching on the temple like several did on the Vatican. Besides automatically detecting and destroying proscribed tech, you want the ultimate defense for those who you put in place that maintain the status quo.

  38. Karina says:

    Oh yeah, and remeber in OAR that the temple in Zion is built stronger than some defense bunkers on Earth, so I bet it could survive a direct hit from one of the weapons platforms. If I were Langhorn & co. one thing I’d plan for is the possibility of an army marching on the temple like several did on the Vatican. Besides automatically detecting and destroying proscribed tech, you want the ultimate defense for those who you put in place that maintain the status quo.

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