A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 15

A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 15

King Ahrnahld’s Tower,
Royal Palace,
City of Gorath,
Kingdom of Dohlar

Lywys Gardynyr, the Earl of Thirsk, was in a less than cheerful mood as the guardsmen saluted and their commanding officer bowed him through the open door.

Langhorne, how I hate politics — especially court politics, he thought harshly. And especially court politics at a time like this!

Of course, he admitted a bit grudgingly as one of the Duke of Fern’s innumerable secretaries met him with a deep bow, just inside King Ahrnahld’s Tower, it could have been worse. In fact, for the last two years or so, it had been worse — a lot worse. Things were in the process of looking up enormously, at least for him personally, and he was grateful that was true. On the other hand, he could have wished they’d started looking up a bit sooner . . . and at not quite so cataclysmic a cost for everyone else.

The secretary led him down a short, broad hall, turned a corner, ascended a shallow flight of stairs, and knocked gently on an ornately carved wooden door.

“Enter!” a deep voice called, and the secretary pushed the lavishly decorated panel wide.

“Earl Thirsk is here, Your Grace,” he announced.

“Excellent. Excellent! Come in, My Lord!”

Thirsk obeyed the deep voice’s invitation and stepped past the secretary into a luxurious, sunlit office. The walls of King Ahrnahld’s Tower were over three feet thick, but some remodeler had laboriously cut windows, reaching almost from floor to ceiling, through the thick masonry. They filled the chamber with light and at least the illusion of warmth. It was a welcome illusion, given the icy weather outside. The reality of the fire crackling on a wide hearth did considerably more to hold off the chill, however, and he was grateful for it, even if the chimney did seem to be smoking just a bit.

“Thank you for coming so promptly, My Lord,” the owner of the deep voice said, rising to stand behind his desk.

Samyl Cahkrayn, the Duke of Fern, was a man of medium height, thick-chested, with still-powerful arms and hands, despite the years he’d spent in offices very like this one. His hair had silvered with age, yet it was still thick and curly, despite the fact that he was several years older than the grizzled, gray Thirsk. Those sinewy hands were soft and well manicured these days, though, without the sword calluses they’d boasted when he was younger, and he’d discovered that a quill pen was a far more deadly weapon than any blade he’d ever wielded.

“My time is His Majesty’s, Your Grace,” Thirsk said, bowing to the Kingdom of Dohlar’s first councilor, “and sea officers learn early that nothing is more precious than time.” He straightened once more with a smile which was decidedly on the thin side. “Changing tides have little compassion, and winds have been known to shift whenever the mood takes them, so a seaman learns not to dawdle when they’re a favorable.”

“I see.” Fern returned the earl’s smile with one which was even thinner, then gestured gracefully to the other man who’d been waiting in the office. “As a matter of fact,” he continued, “Duke Thorast and I were just discussing that. Weren’t we, Aibram?”

“Yes, we were,” Aibram Zaivyair, the Duke of Thorast, replied. There was no smile at all on his face, however, and the “bow” he bestowed upon Thirsk was far closer to a curt nod.

“You were, Your Grace?” Thirsk asked, raising one eyebrow slightly in Thorast’s direction. It probably wasn’t wise of him, yet under the circumstances, he couldn’t quite refrain from putting a certain innocent curiosity into his tone.

“Yes, we were,” Fern said before his fellow duke could respond. The words were identical to Thorast’s, but there was a small yet pronounced edge to them. Thirsk heard it, and met the first councilor’s eyes. The message in them was plain enough, and the earl nodded in acknowledgment and acceptance.

He’s probably right, too, Thirsk reflected. Much as I’d like to watch the bastard squirm, I’m still going to have to work with him, so rubbing too much salt into the wounds probably isn’t the very smartest thing I could do. But, damn, it felt good!

“As you say, Your Grace,” he said out loud. “And, to be honest, I can’t say I’m completely surprised to hear it. It’s not as any of us have an unlimited supply of time, is it?”

“No, we don’t,” Fern agreed, and waved his hand at a large armchair set facing his desk. “Please, be seated, My Lord. We have a great deal to discuss.”

“Of course, Your Grace.”

Thirsk seated himself in the indicated chair and leaned back, his expression attentive. Although Fern’s formal note hadn’t stated the official reason for his summons to the first councilor’s private office, he’d been fairly certain what it was about. Finding Thorast waiting with the first councilor — and looking like a cat-lizard passing fish bones, into the bargain — confirmed the earl’s original surmise. What remained to be seen was exactly how far Thirsk was about to be formally “rehabilitated.”

“As I’m sure you’re aware, My Lord,” Fern began after a moment, “Mother Church’s Captain General, Vicar Allayn, determined some months ago that our initial shipbuilding programs required a certain degree of . . . modification.”

Well, that’s one way to put it, Thirsk thought sourly. After all, it would hardly do to say “The fucking idiot finally got his thumb out of his arse and realized he’d wasted Langhorne only knows how many marks building exactly the wrong damned ships,” even if it would be considerably more accurate.

“Although I’m sure many of the galleys we originally laid down will still prove useful,” Fern continued, “it’s apparent that, as Vicar Allayn has pointed out, we’re going to require a galleon fleet of our own when the time comes to take Mother Church’s war back to the apostate.”

Which is exactly the point I made to the moron in my reports — my detailed reports — eighteen months ago, if memory serves, Thirsk reflected.

Of course, it had been made tactfully but firmly — very firmly — clear to him that he was to keep his mouth shut about how long Vicar Allayn Maigwair had totally ignored his own warnings about what Cayleb Ahrmahk’s heavy, gun-armed galleons had done to the Royal Dohlaran Navy’s galleys in the battles of Rock Point and Crag Reach.

“As I’m sure you’re aware, the Captain General ordered a major shift in our building plans six months ago,” the first councilor said. “It took some five-days for that change in direction to be integrated into our own efforts here in Gorath” — in fact, it had taken over two months, as Thirsk knew perfectly well — “but we’ve undertaken a large scale conversion program on existing merchant galleons. Work is well under way on the new ships now, as well, and several of our original vessels are being altered on the ways. Duke Thorast” — Fern nodded in Thorast’s direction — “tells me the first of our converted galleons will be ready for service within the month and that the first of our new galleons will be launching quite soon after that, although it will obviously take rather longer than that to get them rigged and ready for sea. When they are ready for sea, however, My Lord, I intend to call upon you to command them.”

“I’m honored, Your Grace,” Thirsk said quietly. “May I ask, however, if I am to command them in King Rahnyld’s service, or in that of the Temple?”

“Does it matter?” Thorast asked, his tone sharp, and Thirsk looked at him calmly.

“In many ways, not at all, Your Grace,” he replied. “If my impression of the number of ships to be manned is correct, however, we’ll have no choice but to impress seamen. Just finding experienced officers is going to be extremely difficult, assuming it’s possible at all, and our supply of experienced sailors may well be even more limited, relative to the numbers I’ll require.”

Thorast’s lips tightened. He seemed about to say something, then glanced at Fern and clearly changed his mind.

Probably just as well I didn’t point out that his idiot brother-in-law, Malikai, is one of the main reasons we’re so short of sailors, the earl reflected dryly. Especially since he’s done everything he could for the last two years to hang responsibility for that fiasco around my neck! And what Cayleb’s privateers have done to our merchant fleet — on his own watch — hasn’t done one thing to help the shortage, either. Not to mention considerably reducing the potential supply of those converted galleons Fern was just talking about.

“And your point is, My Lord?” Fern inquired as if he were totally unaware of Thirsk’s thoughts . . . which he most definitely was not.

“My point, Your Grace, is that it will make quite a bit of difference whether those seamen are being impressed by the Kingdom of Dohlar or by Mother Church. While I realize no one likes to admit it, many of His Majesty’s subjects have little or no compunction about avoiding the Navy’s press gangs, and I regret to say that not a few of their fellow subjects have no compunction about helping them do it. Frankly, it would be unreasonable to expect anything else, I’m afraid, given the common seaman’s lot aboard a ship of war.

“If, however, they’re being impressed for service in Mother Church’s name, I think it likely many who might otherwise attempt to avoid service will be more willing to come forward. Moreover, I believe it’s even more likely that those who might otherwise assist the . . . less enthusiastic in avoiding the press gangs are far less likely to do so if that would run counter to Mother Church’s commands.”

Fern frowned thoughtfully. Although the first councilor had never himself served at sea, he had risen to high rank in the Royal Army before turning to a political career. He understood the question Thirsk was really asking.

“I see your point, and it’s well taken, My Lord,” the duke conceded after several seconds. “Unfortunately, I can’t answer it at this moment.”

“May I speak frankly, Your Grace?”

“Of course, My Lord.” Fern sat back in his chair slightly, his eyes narrowing, and Thirsk gave a small shrug.

“Your Grace, I realize Grand Vicar Erek has not yet chosen to decree Holy War against Charis.” Thorast stiffened noticeably, but Fern only sat there, and Thirsk continued in the same calm voice. “Among ourselves, however, as the men who will be responsible for answering Mother Church’s summons when it comes, a certain degree of bluntness is in order, I think. No one in the entire Kingdom can possibly doubt why Mother Church is building such an enormous fleet. Given the Charisians’ actions over the last couple of years, it’s inevitable that Mother Church is going to move openly against Cayleb and Sharleyan as soon as it’s practicable to do so. I’m positive Cayleb and Sharleyan realize that, as well, unless all of their spies have been miraculously rendered deaf and blind. That being the case, I believe it would be better to acknowledge from the beginning exactly whom the ships — and their crews — will serve, and why. Pretending otherwise will fool no one, yet may make it more difficult to get the ships manned. Under the circumstances, I would vastly prefer to be able to tell my officers and men what they will be called upon to do from the start.”

There was silence in the office for the better part of a minute. Even Thorast looked more thoughtful than belligerent — for the moment, at least. Finally, Fern nodded slowly.

“Again, I see your point, My Lord,” he said. “And I confess I’m inclined to agree with you. At the moment, however, I have no instructions from the Captain General or the Chancellor in this regard. Without such instructions, it would undoubtedly be . . . premature, shall we say, to begin unilaterally declaring our belief that Holy War is coming. That being the case, I don’t believe we can authorize you to begin impressing men in Mother Church’s name. Not yet, at least. But what I can do is ask Bishop Executor Ahrain to consult with the Captain General by semaphore. I’ll inform Vicar Allayn that I’m in agreement with you on this matter. I’m inclined to think that while the Grand Vicar may not wish to declare Holy War quite this soon, Vicar Allayn” — or the rest of the Group of Four, at least, the first councilor carefully did not say aloud — “will agree that it’s self-evident the fleet is being raised in Mother Church’s service.”

“Thank you, Your Grace,” Thirsk murmured.

“You’re welcome.” Fern gave him a smile which looked mostly genuine, then turned to other matters.

“Something you may not be aware of, My Lord,” he said briskly, “is that the Grand Inquisitor has personally ruled that the new artillery mountings do not constitute any infringement of the Proscriptions. While I’m sure all of us could wish this point had been clarified sooner, all of our new artillery will be modified as it’s cast to incorporate these ‘trunnions.’ In addition, I’ve been informed that a technique has been devised for adding ‘trunnions’ to existing guns. I’m scarcely an artisan myself, so the details of the process don’t mean much to me, but I feel confident that an experienced sea officer like yourself will understand them.

“In addition, we’ll be adopting the new sail plans, and I’ve been informed that our gunsmiths will soon be beginning construction of a new and improved musket, as well. Taken all together, I believe this means –”

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48 Responses to A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 15

  1. Paul Breed says:

    >Taken all together, I believe this means
    The virus of innovation is spreading….

  2. RobertHuntingdon says:

    >>Taken all together, I believe this means
    >The virus of innovation is spreading….

    And the body count of the next round is rising.


  3. John says:

    Taken all together, I believe this means –

    We will see many more projectiles flying.

  4. Summercat says:

    Taken all together, I believe this means –

    a new meme in these comments.

  5. Karina says:

    Now a well aimed laser or what ever could start a few fires in the shipyards, setting things back again. Although it doesn’t have to be a laser, just sneak in and start a few.

  6. wyrm says:

    The big question now is whether the Go4 learn about the explosive shells that Charis is developing, or the next battle will be as one-sided as the last.

  7. Olin Anderson says:

    Seems like Charis could do some “pruning” of these new fleets. They new galleons have to put to sea and train, and at least initially not combined. With Merlin’s Snarcs Charis could fall on the different fleets piecemeal before they trained up and pretty well smash them in detail. Not stop the church, but at least delay actions against Charis for possibly a year or so.

  8. Rekes says:

    Merlin could start a few hold fires using three tiny SNARCs in unison (he considered burning through Hektor’s brain with this method). If he ran on a little theme, say, burning the flagships of each enemy fleet on separate occasions, then he could make it seem like a bad omen when the fleets come together.

    Given the Church’s failed two-prong approach, I predict a single massive fleet aimed at either Charis or Chisholm (probably Chisholm, decision pending) but in either case resulting in a breakthrough and landing, after which Charis will be able to cut off the Church’s sea support with the “stranded” armies then facing the new Imperial Army and Marine elements.

  9. KimS says:

    This reminds me of the early days of wooden ships and iron men, the British against the French and Spanish. The others could build big and pretty ships but the naval gunnery of the British along with the sailing skills of the impressed British swabies handled either fleet with relative ease, with few exceptions. Also the continued knowledge that the Mother Church will lay waste to the Empire will stiffen the resolve of Cayleb’s and Sharylean’s Navy. Good Hunting!

  10. Persuading King Gorjah to change sides, whether by rational argumentation or violence, would also work for his ships, and at that point the opposition has fleets from Dohlar and Trellheim. I would not be surprised if Charleyn proposes reducing Trellheim (a) they are a perpetual expense and (b) they have ships. In area if not people, the islands are not much smaller than the main continent.

    Provoking slave revolts in a few kingdoms, one at a time, that are supported with the no longer insignificant ground forces of the empire, might also be effective.

  11. jjakx says:

    Hmm… I wonder if Merlin will inspire some of those ships I keep seeing on Ancient Inventions on the History Channel…

    Man-powered paddlewheelers, horse(dragon)-powered paddlewheelers, bulkhead construction / multicompartment floodable hulls, counterflooding ability on wooden ships, … or hyperfast outrigger canoe/catamaran scouts …

    or the weapons from same

    … gunpowder rockets, surface skimming gunpowder rocket propelled torpedoes, winged gunpowder rockets (cruise missile)

    … or the Mythbusters stuff about the US Civil War… like multistage gunpowder rockets, gunpowder external combustion engine,

  12. Rekes says:

    Weber hasn’t brought up the subject of slavery in great detail. Likely it will be a divisive issue for Charis’ enemies when Charis decides to use it against the Church nations by, say, declaring that any slave entering the Empire is free.

  13. Anthony says:

    @ 1 The virus of innovation is not spreading quite yet. All the church’s forces are doing is copying innovations they have already seen, not figuring out their own innovations.

    Gorjah will change sides, he has no real choice if he wants to live. The only question is how the change of heart comes about. There was a snippet I saw elsewhere about that (not even sure if it was legit). Can’t remember where now.

    @ 9 Imagine the British with all of their advantages and real time intelligence on enemy fleets, building programs and war plans. Not to mention the previously mentioned exploding shells.

  14. TimC says:

    @8 Merlin is determined not to use those powers of his which are clearly against the proscriptions. What he has succeeded here in doing is moving the official line forward, trunnions and sail plans are legal. My prediction is a few rockets in the next sea battle, , the exploding shells and maybe an electric telegraph for the land battle. After all the Church uses a mechanical telegraph so what could be wrong with that? It would also assist in hiding the effect of the ‘coms’ that he has distributed.

  15. Peter Z says:

    As I said before, I doubt the entire fleet will ever set sail. Between raids on the shipyards and on those ships working up, that Church Aliance fleet is going nowhere. Simply using exploding smoothbore shells would put the fear of Langehorn into potential swabbies waiting to be impressed. A couple of engagements using those and I doubt any church or secular press gangs will have much success at all. Once Tarot folds under Charisian pressure, there will not be any population of sailors anywhere to man a fleet large enough to take Trellheim let alone take out Charis.

    After he sees exploding shells, the Earl of Thrisk will scream holy hell about requiring to duplicate that before they set sail. This time he may just get an interested audience.

  16. Rekes says:

    @14 He is not going to use his powers in a manner that could get him caught. He’s already using what can be attributed to the blessing of anshinritsumei (enlightenment) and thensome. A shipboard fire half a planet away would be more attributable to accident or carelessness than Charisian black magic, especially if it’s only one ship that happens to be symbolically relevant.

    Taken all together, I believe that the Charisians will press the advantage with exploding and incendiary shells, of which one tactic would be to introduce “sail burner” substances that would cling to the shrapnel and disable enemy ships in action; bursts timed to upper-deck/mast level. If Charis has no interest in captures, then regular impact rounds will do. I do not think that electricity will make its appearance this soon, but maybe towards the end of this book.

  17. Brent says:

    I think you are missing the point. This snippet sets up that the Church’s navy will be crewed with scrapped up crews and will have a shortage of trained officers. Even assuming that the hardware is identical, the British navy crushed stronger fleets that met this description repeatedly simply based on the quality and speed of their crews. The Spanish Armada and Napoleonic era French fleets were always at a disadvantage because the British crews could fire more broadsides and could maneuver faster due to their quality. Add to this that the Church navy will not actually be the same quality in hardware. They will be generations behind actually. Many of their ships will be merchant conversions (which Charis will have replaced in its main fleets with second or third generation designs of warships) and their artillery will be poorer than the built for the new warfare guns on Charis’ ships. Not to mention the “new” firearms are described as muskets, not rifles.

  18. saul says:

    A better plan would be to just introduce disease into the food stocks of the ships. Easy to explain, but very effective.

    Or, contaminate the gunpowder/gunbarrels. Either introducing flaws in the barrels, or some higher power explosive sprinkled into the mix, would result in the guns exploding during training or battle. A tight beam tiny lazer could probably be fired from underwater (just need the right color) to introduce the microscopic barrel flaws. Maybe right around the new barrel modifications :)

    These ships will have inexperienced crews of men who probably can’t swim. They are using new ship designs, guns and new sail plans. Would anyone be surprised if they had a very very high rate of ships lost with all hands during storms/training?

    If he is going to start fires…A small fire near the magazine would not leave most of the crew alive to start complaining about magically starting fires.

    Since the traditional fleets didn’t suffer any such mystery failures, it will be blamed on the new ship designs/men, not the devil/luck.

  19. Peter Z says:

    The entire idea, Saul, is to encourage innovation. The tactics you suggest would kill the innovative spirit in its prenatal potential.

  20. Michael says:

    Yep… killing the innovative spirit without allowing the Church to get too close to technological parity is the real trick. I agree we’ll not likely see Merlin sabotaging too many experiments, but having the Charisian fleet pounce on the new ships working up or even in the final stages of fitting while at dock would be very effective. This would push the mainland into making even more upgrades for shore batteries for harbor protection. Won’t help them much when the ships have to set out for initial shakedown / training cruises, though.

    We haven’t seen the full text of the prescriptions, of course, but I’d be shocked if electricity wasn’t realllllly high on the list of banned tech. Jwo-Jeng may have missed gunpowder, but it’s dead certain he didn’t miss that. Electrical generation also puts out a ton of emissions that certain orbital weapons may be programmed to home in on.

  21. Peter Z says:

    I wonder if a Merlin alias would suggest a proscribed technique to a church allied nation after Charis unveils their exploding shells. Provide something useful but not game changing and not too obviously beyond (but still beyond) the proscription, say TNT. Get the G4 to break the proscriptions first and demonstrate it after the fact or simply copy the new innovation. Clyntahn has already expressed a willingness to do anything including using proscribed tech to crush this schism. If Merlin offers something like that clandestinely, would the G4 take the bait?

    Taken in isolation, this tactic may go unnoticed for quite some time and move things along quite nicely.

  22. robert says:

    @13 Anthony, the snippet you refer to is both on the Bar and in the Snippets Forum on Weber’s site. This should work:
    So will Gorjah get on board? What does the accent Merlin adopted mean? Questions, questions.

    @15 Peter, here is an excerpt from the book’s blurb:

    Their success may prove short-lived. The Church of God Awaiting, which controls most of Safehold, has decreed their destruction. Mother Church’s entire purpose is to prevent the very things to which Charis is committed. Since the first attempt to crush the heretics failed, the Church has no choice but to adopt some of the hated Charisian innovations for themselves. Soon a mighty fleet will sail against Cayleb, destroying everything in its path.

    So maybe it will sail. Actually I think it has to sail for two reasons: it is required by the plot and the readers because a big battle is needed and Weber is good at sea battles, as he ought to be; and the Charisian Empire needs to show it is invincible. The question is, now that Sharly is pregnant, can Merlin keep him out of the battle and will he survive if not? I sure hope we are not left with the kind of cliffhanger that…oh, never mind.

  23. TimC says:

    Electricity generation is probably banned, but a telegraph with a Voltaic cell or powered by an accumulator is pretty low impact, and one assumes that electricity is involved in the ‘com’ and in the messages from SNARCs so I dont rule it out.

  24. Grant says:

    Guys… practical applications of electricity would be a quantum leap from any technology that currently exists in the Safeholdian arsenal. I guarantee it would be immediately condemned as a proscription violation not only by the Temple but by a good portion of the Church of Charis clergy. Which would be a disaster.

    Plus even if you got around peoples almost certain reaction to it once you show them how electricity works it’s only a matter of time before some tinkerer somewhere Merlin isn’t watching creates an electrmagnetic field strong enough to attract attention from the orbital sensors, so it’s hideously reckless as well. After all, if you somehow convince people it ISN’T a violation of the proscription why shouldn’t they play with it? They’ve got nothing to worry abou… *KABOOM*.

    Introducing the use of electricity outside Merlin’s “circle” until Merlin makes a lot more headway with getting people to accept the proscriptions aren’t valid AND figures out what to do about those orbital platforms is contra-indicated.

  25. saul says:

    Gunpowder cannons have a long history of blowing up. Merlin would just be increase the rate. Innovations would not become distrusted more, just those specific manufacturing facilities.
    Surely winning the war by making the enemy under charge their guns is vastly more important than people distrusting modified cannons.

  26. Rekes says:

    @23 Good ideas are you giving me.

    If Merlin were to burn ships or explode cannons from a specific manufacturer, it would be more plausible for the Church nations to assume either deliberate sabotage due to spies in those businesses. Merlin would then get the Church nations to waste additional funding on home-espionage and security, provided they don’t do the smart thing and assign their spare military forces to guard duty.

    As to the feasibility of random gunpowder explosions, under different conditions gunpowder can self-combust, especially when improperly stored or near an open flame. If Merlin wanted to manually plant fake evidence of what starts an explosion, he could put a metal torch lamp (which would more or less survive a fire or explosion) in the powder holds so as to give people a plausible explanation. Of course, if he’s doing that kindof thing personally he could just sabotage it himself instead of remotely.

    Another thing: Ships don’t do nothing with their cannons when at sea. The British ran drills to stay at the top of their game and any decent nation will realize the importance of drills at sea for this level of technology. Merlin could encourage a few accidents then without due incident (apart from the exploded ship or corpses that is) and have it attributed to user error. A “self”-exploded cannon on an enemy flagship can’t be good for enemy morale.

  27. Rekes says:

    *24 [spies in those businesses] or gross incompetence.

  28. Jared says:

    I think its still a but too early for electricity, though the GIGANTIC fleet battle (GO CHARIS) will probably be there…along with a landing by Siddarmarkian and Temple Forces on Charis, Emerald or Corisande. The, Charis will crush the fleet, bombard the armies with rockets and/or cannon fire, then battle/mop up the temple forces with Rifles, Long Range Cannon, Explosive shells, the new mortars, etc.

    I highly doubt the sabotaging things thread. Merlin simply doesnt have enough time to coordinate such an extensive sabotage program. He’s already having lots of trouble keeping track of the SNARCS as we know from the 3rd book (Sharleyan *ahem*). I’m pretty sure though anything gunpowder related is fair game…

  29. Bret Hooper says:

    @26 Rekes: A long rifled small cannon – about 2″ bore — might could fire into the muzzles of opposing larger cannons, preferably just as the ramrod is removed, causing said opposing cannons to misfire and possibly explode, somewhat disconcerting the gun crews.


  30. Rekes says:

    @29 – Enemy keeps suffering from premature detonation of cannon charges, no pill for that.

    Wonder if the enemy has figured out about the whole shorter-barrel thing yet or if they’re wasting bronze. Charis is going to have wire-wrap cannons with more endurance (BSRA) and will be into large-scale production of steel in a few short years. Once the bronze loading shell hits production, they’ll be able to store round, charge, and fuse as one item whereas other nations will be wasting space. Of course, fulminate of mercury would need to be invented as well as a breach loader cannon… if only Merlin had pushed forward a steam engine, it would give the enemy one heck of a surprise to find their opponents sailing upwind with ships of iron.

  31. John says:

    As many have said, Merlin has to be very careful as to not find out ala Armageddon Reef that something is on the proscribed list. As to Merlin jetting about sabotaging things, I think he said it in OAR, he can’t go around creating sonic booms. The archangels could do it because everything they did was divine.

  32. AVD says:

    One thing I’ve wondered is how to Kenetic Bombardment System actually works. Well, we heard that it throws big rocks at the ground. We know its armed, but with how many rocks and how many rocks are used per charge? Obviously we can count on at least one, but if theres only one shot, then technically, Merlin could go to some land that no one lives on and just start electricity. Once he gets out of there, enlarge the process until the bombardment begins. It’ll hit the area, and use up a charge. Both sides would say God is sending a message, which ruins the overall goal of showing its all a lie, but if it disables the bombardment system, then so many problems are fixed.

  33. jjakx says:

    @32 “Kenetic Bombardment System” – well… if they created Armaggeddon Reef, it’d take a lot of hits, since otherwise it’d be a circular Armaggeddon Bay instead. And the hits has to be small enough to not trigger a nuclear winter. But they’d have to be larger than a “Rods From God” system (like the one described in “Footfall” by Jerry Pournelle)

  34. KenJ says:

    One thing I can see Merlin doing under another persona is helping rescue the dependents from The Circle once Clyntahn begins his purge. That may even be part of what the assault craft will be used for…

  35. AVD says:

    Saving them means he has to know about them. all indications are he doesn’t. also, I doubt any of them would get on the craft.

  36. saul says:

    He can manufacture new equipment, like the communications gear. Surely he has the tech to make a bird/fish sized machine that can, over time, damage many of the enemies cannons. Couldn’t his computer control them remotely, so it wouldn’t even take much time. At the very least, the machine could auto tail enemy fleets, and just notify the good guys when the enemy was running gunnery drills. Merlin could ‘log in’ for 5 min, blow up a cannon or two, then be back to whatever he was up to.

    On the disease front. Another options would be a well timed release of a disease. If you managed to attack just when 30% of the crew were disabled, you would again have a big advantage.

  37. robert says:

    Does the Circle know that Clynton know about them? If not, then neither does Merlin since the informer did his informing inside the Temple, which Merlin has not penetrated.

  38. Karina says:

    Duchairn, the member of the GO4 who’s suddenly gotten a consience and who realized he was being sounded out by the Wylson’s about his loyalties, warned them about his suspicions about what Clyntahn was planning on for winter’s entertainment. They were beginning to move some of the minor members away to safety.

  39. Karina says:

    One speculation is that the archbishop, will pass onto Merlin about the prostitute who’s volunteered to be a schism spy. He plants a snark in her quarters and voila! Hears about Clyntahn’s plans. Whether he feels he can do something about it or not is another question.

  40. Steven says:

    @37Not everyone in the Circle knows Clyntyn is onto them. The Wylsynn brothers do and they have evacuated as many of their members as possible. Merlin will not destroy any of the ships using advance technology. He made that clear in the first book when he decided to let the Corisande courier ship go through with the dispatches and also again in the last book when he didn’t destroy the ship that took the princess and Daikyn out.In other snippets he also refused to use his “magic” to cut off the head of the resistance in Corisande. What I do see happening are the slave revolts, especially in Harchong and Desnairi, Siddarmark being pushed into open defiance due to Clyntyn’s meddling in their internal affairs, and a rebellion within the CoGA when the Inquisition moves to arrest those members of the Circle. Also, in the first book, Merlin has already hypothesized that the rakurai is set to go off when it detects the footprint of an electrical plant, he probably got the idea that it was by reading the Proscriptons. Just a thought…

  41. Oliver says:

    I think all speculations about electricity or Merlins direct intervention in things like burning ships or exploding enemy cannons is totally beside the point. What is needed most is to advance the spread of innovative thinking and that on BOTH sides! Because if you get people to think innovative, its nearly impossible to put the genie back into the bottle. Therefore its important to get the people themselves to develop new ideas…. on both sides because that will in the end destroy the base the church rests on. Of course Merlin has to see to it that Charis side keeps innovating faster, but not in quantum leaps like electrical maschines! It des not matter if the electricity comes from generators or voltaic cells, there is just no base for the people there to get to that point on their own in a timeframe that matters in the timeframe of one or even several books!
    I see a much more gradual, if still steep development curve… Lets say the first big battle between the charisian navy and the churchs fleet will be decided mostly by the superior seamanship and ships of charis, maybe with the help of shells, then the next step could be to protect ships from the effect of normal and shell artillerie themselves! That would lead to ironclads armed with big, shell-firing guns, maybe in time even with breachloaders! Add in building in bulkheads and maybe an more advanced bilge-punp system such a ship could be formidable in blockading the mainland ports! Then secure forward supply&repair bases, for example on that island mentioned somewhere where so much of the wood for the churchs shipbuilding comes from, and you have a scenario where it would be extremly difficult for the church to build up a fleet strong enough to break through the blockade. And if they go into developing their own ironclads the innovations required for that will undermine the church’s base more and more.
    For land battles another “small” inovation would be the development of simple infantry-mortars. Even those used today in our reality are not far from what the charisians could build. The shells are already in development and adding a “stem” and some donut formed bagged powder charges is not a big step. The rest is VERY simple metalwork!
    In terms of what that will do to the side of mother church think about this: It is only a short step from people thinking “Why did that innovation never occur to us?” to them thinking, even if in a subconcious way, “where else a little innovation (like trunnions) might give us big benefit?” Thats just human nature. It might not catch at once in the mass of people, but it certainly will have that effect in the eduacated and successfull levels of society, probably especially in the levels of business-/craftsmen and the minor nobility. The high level nobility might in big parts just be too traditionbound to profit.
    And one more thought, if the armies of Siddarmark are already feared with pikes, how much more would they be with rifles and artillery? Maybe so much that Siddarmark would loose a lot of the (already low) deference to mother church?

    I expect the series to have a lot more books, many of them situated in Caylebs lifetime. I could imagine that during Caylebs time a balance between Charis and the church is reached, where no side is able to destroy the other. Then there could be a time-jump to a later generation of rulers of charis, maybe to the time where the society there has opened up enough to accept innovations like steam-power and early electricity… enabling charis to get strong enough to dispose of a meanwhile weakened church. And a last book set in the future when the human race takes the fight back to the gdaba….

    And if anyone is not yet asleep from reading this post, I am curious for comments… ;)

  42. Daryl says:

    @41 Oliver. Well said and what you say must be right because I agree with you in the main. A point to consider though is that in our timeline the first ironclads came out in 1858 (La Gloire & then Warrior two years later), and the first public electrical power station in 1882. Not a big time differential, and while a population brainwashed to fear innovation and an orbital bombardment system are big disincentives, having people who know it can be done is a counterbalance. Thus the author could use any timeframe he thinks fits the overall plot to introduce new technologies. Your point about spreading innovation being the main game is particularly apt, and even the unlikely scenario of the church group suddenly going over the top with innovation and destroying Charis while doing so would fit in with the ultimate goal of ensuring human survival by destroying the Ghaba. Not that it will happen than way.

  43. Gunpowder rockets?

    Those were a real-war period weapon, invented by Congreve. If you had lots of them, you could use them to burn down a city you were besieging. No one even considered using them at sea, because they totally inaccurate against targets smaller than cities, expensive, and inconvenient.

    We know what explosive shell will do against wooden ships. The winner had one ship. The loser, while not one of Europe’s better navies, started out with one fleet, and lost more or less all of it. Ignoring the question of whether you can improve on explosive shell — that pivot mounted bow gun is also significant — there is no point to trying.

    Mind you, what Weber does is his call. I have previously noted that his galley tactics appeared to be incorrect.

  44. Peter Z says:

    @43 Goerge (anyone else for that matter), help me out here. The entire reason naval ships got bigger and bigger was to support larger guns and armour. The guns and armour grew in a reinforcing feedback cycle. Ships needed progressively bigger guns to pierce increasingly thicker armour. Until the G4 forces actually armour their ships, the ICN (Imperial Charisian Navy) cruisers armed with exploding shells will go through any number of galleons like excrement through a goose. The ICN doesn’t need bigger ships (unarmoured) to achieve naval superiority. The bigger ships would be more suited for reducing land fortifications. Those swivle guns on the cruisers would allow for choosing relatively safe angles to fire from as well as fire from farther out and their mobility would probably limit exposure to the galleons broadside.

    So as I see it, any raid would work out like this. The cruisers (of which the ICN has very many) sweep in and clear out whatever galleons and galleys there are. The big boys follow and blow up what fortifications there are. They land marines to more thoroughly blow up the entire shipyard. Once thoroughly destroyed they leave.

    Now DW may well choose not to do this. Its his book. I am just curious if my logic is faulty.

  45. robert says:

    @41 “It does not matter if the electricity comes from generators or voltaic cells, there is just no base for the people there to get to that point on their own in a timeframe that matters in the timeframe of one or even several books!”

    No lightening, no kites and no Ben Franklin analog, huh? From Franklin to the telegraph was less than 100 years. Of course there were developments prior to Franklin, but science and technology, once they get a head of steam (hmmm), move very fast. From the telegraph to the laser was another 100 years, etc.

  46. robert says:

    @41 Oliver, you write: “I expect the series to have a lot more books, many of them situated in Caylebs lifetime.”

    Quite right. There will be 10 books in all according to the McMillan webpage for the Safehold books. It says that A Mighty Fortress is book 4 of 10. But in those 10 books David Weber has stated that he plans to take Humanity back into space, but not all the way to the defeat of the Gbaba. That will be another series, perhaps similar to the one he did with Steve White that ended with The Shiva Option (my guess, nothing else).

    I still say that with a very tiny push the Newcomen engine could be prototyped in a very few years, perhaps months. It was first produced in 1712ish and from there to Watt to the railroad was a very few generations.

  47. Rekes says:

    Almost forgot the gunpowder.

    Charis has the advantage of superior explosives in terms of both safety and power (not smokeless yet but in time…). New Muskets are all well and good except when you get an underpowered bullet from uneven burning when your powder sorts out during a brief walk.

  48. jjakx says:

    @43 – not true, Gunpowder rockets were used at sea by East Asian navies centuries before Congreve, for that matter, they were used on land for centuries before Congreve

    The Chinese used rockets to disperse poison gas on the battlefield, and incindiery rockets at sea. The Indians used rockets in land warfare. The Koreans used area denial rockets (a swarm of small rockets)

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