A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 36

A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 36

Under the circumstances, while Kholman’s enemies would undoubtedly seize upon any opportunity to damage his credibility with the crown with unholy glee, they’d be careful not to do it in a way which might end up with them being chosen to take his place. For that matter, Jahras’ position, despite his far less lofty birth, was even more secure. In fact, if he’d been able to think of any way to avoid it himself in the first place, he would have done so in a heartbeat. But at least the sheer distance between them and Geyer gave them a pronounced degree of autonomy, without rivals or court flunkies constantly peering over their shoulders. So the two of them were far enough away from the imperial capital, and well enough insulated against removal, to be reasonably confident of not simply surviving their monarch’s anger but retaining their current positions.

Oh joy, he thought ironically.

“Let’s be honest, Daivyn,” he said out loud. “Nothing is going to make the Emperor or the Bishop Executor any less angry about what’s happened to Wailahr. That’s a given. In fact, I think we should use this to underscore the fact that — as you just said — we’ve warned everyone we’re bound to get hurt, at least initially, going after Charisians in their own element. We’re not the only ones who know Wailahr, or who understand his reputation as a good commander’s well deserved. All right. Let’s make that point to His Majesty — that one of our better commanders, with two of our best vessels under his command, was defeated by a single Charisian galleon in less than forty-five minutes of close action. Don’t blame him for it, either. In fact, let’s emphasize the fact that he fought with great gallantry and determination. For that matter, as far as I can tell from this Captain Yairley’s message, that’s exactly what Wailahr did! Tell the Emperor we’re making great progress in building the Navy, but that it’s going to take a lot longer to train it.”

Kholman frowned thoughtfully. There was a great deal to what Jahras had just said. In fact, the economies of the Gulf of Jahras and Mahrosa Bay had attained an almost Charisian bustle since the Church of God Awaiting had begun pouring money into the creation of shipyards there. Skilled carpenters, smiths, ropemakers and sailmakers, lumberjacks, seamstresses, gunpowder makers, foundry workers, and farmers and fishermen to provide the food to feed all of them, had swarmed into the area. The locals might not think much of the Harchong “advisers” who’d been sent in to (theoretically) help them, but they’d buckled down with a will to the task itself, propelled by an enthusiasm built almost equally out of religious zeal and the opportunity for profit.

For that matter, Kholman and Jahras had increased their own families’ fortunes enormously in the process. Of course, that was one of the standard, accepted perquisites of their birth and position, and their own share of the graft had been factored into the navy’s original cost estimates. With that in mind, they were actually ahead of schedule and marginally under budget where the actual building programs were involved, and the local metalworking industry was booming. It wasn’t precisely mere happenstance that almost all of the expanded foundries — and every single one of the new foundries — supplying artillery to the ships building in Iythria, Mahrosa, and Khairman Keep were located in the Duchy of Kholman, but there were actually some valid logistical arguments to support the far more important money-making arguments in favor of that. And production was rising rapidly. The guns coming out of those foundries might cost more than twice as much as the same guns would have cost from Charisian foundries, and they might have been two or three times as likely to burst on firing, but they were still being cast and bored far more quickly than Desnairian artillery had ever before been produced, and they were arriving in numbers almost adequate to arm the new construction as it came out of the yards.

“We can tell them that,” the duke said. “And, for that matter, whether His Majesty wants to admit it or not, he’ll almost certainly realize that it is going to take time to crew and train this many ships. But he’s still going to want some kind of an estimate as to how long it’s going to take, and I don’t think he’s going to settle for generalities much longer. Even if he’d like to, Bishop Executor Mhartyn isn’t going to stand for it.”

“Probably not,” Jahras agreed.

The baron sat gazing at one of the paintings on Kholman’s office wall for several seconds, stroking his beard while he thought. Then he shrugged and returned his attention to the other man.

“I think we need to tell the Bishop Executor that, whether it’s going to be convenient or not, we’re going to have to send the tithe overland to Zion this year. I’ll give you an official report and recommendation to that effect. And then, I think, we need to point out that we’re actually managing to build and arm the ships faster than the people responsible for providing crews can get the men to us. When I write up my recommendation to send the tithe overland, I’ll also point out how what’s happened to Wailahr underscores the obvious need for longer and more intensive training even after we get the crews assembled. And as the men come in, let’s assign them proportionately to all of the ships ready to commission, rather than fully crewing a smaller number of them.”

Kholman’s eyes narrowed, and he felt himself beginning to nod slowly. If they announced that they had even a limited number of new galleons fully manned, they would almost inevitably come under pressure to repeat the same disastrous sort of experiment which had just recoiled so emphatically on Wailahr. As long as they could report — honestly — that the ships’ crews remained seriously understrength, there’d be no pressure (or none that couldn’t be resisted, at any rate) to send them to sea in ones and twos where the Charisians could snip them off like frost-killed buds.

And if we spread the men between as many ships as possible, we can do that while still sending in manpower returns that show we’re making use of every man they send us. That it’s not our fault the supply won’t stretch to cover all our requirements, however hard we try . . . .

“All right,” he agreed. “That makes sense. And if they press us for a definite schedule, anyway?”

“Our first response should be to say we’ll have to see how successful they are in sending us the men we require,” Jahras replied promptly. “That’s only the truth, by the way. Tell them we’re going to need some time — probably at least a month or two — to form some kind of realistic estimate of how long it will take to fully man the ships we need at the rate they can provide the crews.

“After that, we’ll need time to train them. I imagine that will take at least several more months, and it’s already February.” The baron shrugged again. “Under the circumstances, I’d say August or September would be the soonest we could possibly expect to really be prepared, and even then — and I’ll mention this, tactfully, of course, in my report to you, as well — we’re going to be inexperienced enough that it would be unrealistic to expect us to win without a significant numerical advantage. Obviously,” his lips twitched in a faint smile, “it would be wisest to avoid operations which would permit the Charisians to whittle away at our own strength until we can be reinforced with enough of the ships building elsewhere to provide us with that necessary numerical advantage.”

“Of course,” Kholman agreed.

August or September, eh? he thought, restraining a smile of his own. Heading into October, really, with the inevitable — and explainable — schedule slippage, aren’t you, Urwyn? Slippage we can blame, with complete justification, on the people who aren’t getting us the manpower we need. More probably even next November . . . which will just happen to be about the time Hsing-wu’s Passage freezes solid. At which point none of those ships “building elsewhere” will be able to reinforce us until spring.

It hadn’t escaped the duke’s thoughts, as he considered what Jahras had just said, that stretching out the schedule would also present the opportunity to funnel still more of the Church’s bounty into his own and the baron’s purses. In truth, however, that calculation was little more than a spinal reflex, inevitable in any Desnairian noble. What was more important, at least in so far as Kholman’s conscious analysis was concerned, was that acting too precipitously — being the first swimmer to plunge into a sea full of Charisian-manned krakens — would be an unmitigated disaster for the navy he and Jahras were supposed to be building. Far better to be sure there were at least other targets for those krakens to spread their efforts between.

“Go ahead and write your report,” the Duke of Kholman told his admiral general. “In fact, I think it would be a good idea to backdate at least some of it. We really have been thinking about this for a while, so let’s make that clear to His Majesty.” The duke smiled thinly. “It wouldn’t do to have him decide we’re just trying to cover our arses after what happened to Wailahr, after all.”

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34 Responses to A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 36

  1. Peter Z says:

    It looks like Admiral Thirsk is all an his own for a while. I may also be right that the Grand Armada will never sail for Charisian shores, Bwahahahaha!

  2. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Fourteen more days until the Kindle version is available. I’ve preordered it. [Grin]

  3. joe6168 says:

    Damn, nother pair of reasonably competant officers on the other side.

  4. Peter Z says:

    @3 Yup, competent enough not to fight or avoid fighting for as long as possible. Defeat in detail may loom for our assorted G4 fleets. Charis consolidates and punches out Thrisk. Consolidates and repeat for Harchong, the Zion yards and finally Desnair. I doubt Gorjah will last past the first fleet geting punched. His fleet will likely join for Zion and Desnair.

    BTW, Drak, this is about the time you waltz in singing “You’re so vain…” and tell me I am gassing hot air.

  5. Mack says:

    nothing like a war to get the local economy going.

  6. Karina says:

    All that money amassed by the church is returning back to creating jobs – good paying jobs that really stimulate the local economy. Even the rich siphoning some of it off means more drainage out of the corrupt pool that is the church. More money in the average persons pockets means freedom to do more than survive. It means that you can become inventive and think about things more. Things like why do the rich have so much and there is so much poverty. How do I move up in society? And Society becomes more flexible as well – less class structure as those in power start looking for those with skill rather than breeding.

  7. rick says:

    Everyone keeps saying how modernization will defeat the church… blah blah blah… For what it’s worth, it won’t. The Church will just keep stretching the “allowed” technology. Again it also controls the mainland economy pretty much. All the nobles in these kingdoms have a vested interest in also keeping the church going. It’s like “you don’t want to listen to me… I’ll have you excommunicated by the church by paying them off.” Everyone keeps saying how this modernization will effectively destroy the church. WRONG!!!!! It took the thirty years war and the eventual rape of Northern Europe to finally kick religion out of politics in our past. It took the death of thousands of people and the burning of thousands of homes to finally do the deed. Same thing here. I think Merlin should use his abilities to turn the shipyards and the “grand armada” into kindling. A few well placed C4 charges on some of the ships set to go off before they engage the Charisian Navy will add to the chaos of war. Additionally, it’ll sow discord within each kingdom’s navy and will also get rid of some comepetent officers. Lastly, when the church tries to blame the kingdoms and the soldiers/sailors, guess what… you really think everyone is willingly going to put their head in a noose. Sooner or later, after the Charisians give a few decisive defeats, the enemy will turn on itself to end the war. As for all the people who complain, that Merlin’s ablilities and tech will backfire, don’t be so foolish. People are more likely to assume sabotoge especially if the ships blow up. As for everyone saying that Charis’s survival isn’t as important, if Charis goes down it’ll probably take another hundred years before any other power will be able to rebel effectively.

  8. Karsten says:

    @2 Drak: Happy man, that you can do that. I can’t, because of the regional limitations Tor puts on its ebooks. :( (Not one of the Safehold-books is available as an ebook in Europe; I checked …)
    At least, they limit the restrictions to ebooks only – I ordered the pbook some weeks ago ;)

  9. Virgil says:

    Have you tried Kindle for PC, for Mac, thne order a Kindle ebook from Amazon. NOT from the publishers, This book is going to cost me $8.40 and will be delivered to me at about2:30 in the morning USA cst. lol, Amazon has some free books you can download. So see if you can get the Kindle for PC software then try to download one of the free books, This really completely by pass the publishers ebooks

  10. Karsten says:

    Amazon (like any other ebook-shop) is bound to follow the restrictions set by the publishers. So, if TOR says: “David Weber ebooks published by TOR are only available to people with a valid american adress”, nobody outside of the TOR-management can change that. That that is a very shortsighted policy, we both agree, I think. (And yes, I have Kindle for PC, but that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t buy “A Mighty Fortress” or any other Safehold-installment as an ebook :(.

  11. Peter Z says:

    @7 Rick, these aren’t stupid people. Using C4 or any more modern derivative leaves clues behind that it is not gunpowder. Not the right smell, the explosive power seem to high, the burn characteristics are not quite right and any number of other things that a careful observer may detect. If it isn’t gun powder, then what is it? Those investigators will all too likely conclude: demonic intervention. As for the causes of wars, politicians will use any reason to further their interests. Religion is simply one of those reasons. Take it away and economics will be just as useful in justifying the persuit of war to gain what they want. Take eceonomics away and political power will serve.

    What matters here is that the ideology is stifling technological development. Getting the CoGA to modernize WILL defeat that ideology. Get them to modernize enough and the ideology will die completely.

  12. Katja says:

    There are no Tor books available on the Kindle at all. Weber, Modesitt and a bunch of others not available in Europe on Amazon, and you cannot buy the e-book on Tor’s own website, they are DRM restricted. Hoping that will change with the new Macmillan contract.

  13. Terranovan says:

    More and more of RHIP…almost makes me think David Drake is coauthoring this book.:-)

  14. Jesse says:

    Why set a explosive charges? Just have one of the spy nano’s land in a ships magazine. Then when the enemy ship gets into a batlle and starts taking damage…..poof goes the magazanie…..and poof goes the ship and anything close to it. No evidence, No supposed divine intervention, just real bad luck. And suddenly an Imperial ship can face any nemerical disadvantage.

  15. Maggie says:

    And I don’t suppose anyone in Desnair is likely to come up with a Liberty Ship concept.

  16. Tom B says:

    @7, 11 What is needed is something that will destroy as well as discredit CoGA. This might be the role of the lurking orbital bombardment system. Remember the mysterious key Peter Wilson has in Charis. Some have suggested that this is the activation control for the system. And at the end of the last book, Samuel Wilson was going to send Peter a letter full of advice. The letter will probably tell Peter to use the key if the Circle is eliminated. When Clyntahn destroys the Circle, Peter uses the key, or gives it to Kayleb and Merlin who use it. With the Rakurai smiting Zion, CoGA will be beheaded and discredited. Charis and the Brethren of St Zherneau will be perfectly placed to fill the resulting power vacuum. The system’s ammunition will be exhausted and Safehold can begin to develop advanced technology.

  17. joe6168 says:

    Eell that would be incredably boring. It also gose completly against Weber’s writing style.

  18. rick says:

    Whatever is said in response to 11 and 16… I have a feeling that this series will end with the use of the orbital bombardment and the assault shuttle. When they kill the Circle, Siddarmark and probably a few other so inclined powers will rebel. Desnair and Hamor will probably stay loyal to the church. Merlin will end up in Siddarmark as a High level military advisor probably. Siddarmark reminds me of a continental version of Venice. I can just imagine feudal levies and poorly trained armies assaulting Siddarmarkian fortresses and walls, which are built for modernized warfare. The characters in this section boast about how Charis won’t perform well in field battles. I can’t wait to see Desnairian cavalry get turned into chowder. As for those advocating gradual reform, it took Europe close to 600 years to finally break from the stupid aristocratic power views and relgious pressure. Merlin should know how to accelerate that process. If Weber doesn’t advocate that move, then he shows his character to be weak and ineffectual asking only for sympathy.

  19. Summertime says:

    For the impatient ones wanting Merlin to intervene and blow up stuff – not likely. This is Weber, not Drake, Ringo, Stirling, et al.

  20. Damon says:

    I still love that description of Weber, who destroys the whole human race in a powerful cataclysm and Ringo, who hunts them down and kills them one at a time.

  21. D says:

    @Karsten the first safehold book is available as an ebook through webscriptions. Pity none of the others are.

  22. robert says:

    The first 3 books are available in Kindle and nook editions from Macmillan & Amazon & B&N. This book is only available in hardback and audio editions, so far. See
    http://us.macmillan.com/series/Safehold
    Bit it is available in Kindle from Amazon for $8.40 as was said:
    http://www.amazon.com/A-Mighty-Fortress-ebook/dp/B0035FZJ9O/ref=sr_1_1_oe_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270097883&sr=1-1
    even tho’ the publisher says the ebook should be $27.99 (a price that no one but a moron would pay).
    But the Amazon UK site is not selling the Kindle edition, only the harcover & audio editions.
    Very few publishers have got their act together so far.

  23. Karsten says:

    @21: OAR is listed there, that’s right. But if you scroll down … you have to read “currently not available”. I would be very surprised if it were otherwise. TOR will allow no exceptions of its rules ….

  24. saul says:

    There was all that detailed discussion of the naval battles……I wonder if anyone could recreate them with a game like this?

    http://www.youtube.com/user/PrinceofMacedon#p/u/14/VZ5sWgPqdxE

  25. Peter Z says:

    @18 Rick, the best way to expedite the disintegration of these more aristocratic systems is to steal away their best and brightest. Create an under ground “seaway” for any serf or slave from these nations to Charis. Those with the ingenuity to make it out can make something of themselves in Charis. A significant number of people will choose to stay home and facilitate that “seaway”. The more effective that transfer of talent, the quicker that society changes. If they refuse to change and try to compell Charis to change her ways, they are commiting suicide by attacking an ever technologically improving Charisian society.

    That’s what the Ballrom has been doing in the Honorverse and likely Safehold will have a counterpart.

  26. John Driver says:

    @25, Peter,

    Nice thought, and I agree that some of what you say could and should probably happen, but I don’t think it will happen in large enough measure to make a difference. Historically, one of the easiest ways to keep a people enslaved is to keep them in ignorance. If you have complete control over their access to information, you can make most of them believe all sorts of things. “They worship Shan-wei over in Charis. They make blood sacrifices too. They eat children and practice all sorts of wickedness and perversions.”

    Mind you there are probably quite a few smart and educated people on the mainland, but their response to the church lies and deception is probably not going to be to flee their family, homes, friends, and all that they know to seek refuge in some foreign land. At least not if they have a choice about it. Look at Admiral Thirsk. He was facing possible execution and/or disgrace in Dohlar, but he stuck with his home land. And it’s not because he thought the Group of Four were the epitome of goodness and right.

  27. Peter Z says:

    @26 John, my suggestion was more in line with filling Charis’ desperate need for people. Without a massive increase in their population, Charis cannot comepete with the sheer numbers of the mainland. I would agree that controling information will keep the poor schmucks on the mainland properly cowed. At one point though how hard a decision is it to go to a strange land when home is a life of backbreaking labor and no recourse or hope? Where rumor has it that Charis has no salves or serfs. Where rumor also has it that even the lowest workers make XX marks per day, twice what a freeman makes here!

    Serioussly, folks that have nothing to loose or have greater expectations from life than their birth nation will provide WILL flee. Those that do have things to lose, will stay. Fortunately for Charis, the mainland has vastly more with very little or nothing to loose. I forsee the Statue of Liberty standing in Telesberg harbour asking for the poor of Safehold to enter her embrace.

  28. jgnfld says:

    @27–For the long term, that might be a fine idea. But even now with mass education etc. it takes at least one generation for raw, uneducated immigrants to turn into completely culturally savvy, contributing citizens. At Charis’ level of development, it could be several generations for immigration of raw uneducated immigrants to have the effects you’re counting on.

  29. John Driver says:

    @27 Good point Peter, and I’m sure that Charis will get quite a few immigrants that way. However, the poor slaves with the most to gain by fleeing to Charis are also the most uneducated and helpless. Unless some educated person starts the rumors in the first place, how’s the slave to supposed to hear those rumors of wealth and freedom. Also, if the authorities, both secular and ecclesiastical, catch anybody sowing seeds of dissent, they’re likely to take an extremely dim view of the person doing the sowing. Even if the oppressed see their own lot as almost intolerable, they may stay to keep the church and secular authorities from taking reprisals on their families. A case in point is Admiral Thirsk. Charis abolished slavery over 80 years ago. Why doesn’t the population of Charis already exceed that of the mainland? I’m not saying that you won’t get a bunch of people fleeing to Charis as you describe, and I’m not saying those people won’t be important. I’m just saying that Charis will probably get its biggest boost in population the old fashioned way, lots of babies.

    Now eventually, as Charis moves away from an agrarian society and to an industrial society and as they move away from the use of child labor, the birth rate will undoubtedly drop. In the former case the economic incentive for the families is to have lots of children, in the latter the incentive is to have fewer. However, it’s going to take a while for Charis to make the switch and even longer to turn their reproductive mindset around. My guess is that the mainland is not going to be able to significantly increase its population, because long ago they reached the limits of their land’s ability to sustain. They should be able to quickly replace any losses they experience, but any significant increase in population will be accompanied by starvation and hardship.

  30. Peter Z says:

    @29 John, I agree that internal growth will contribute most to any population growth. I disagree that population is tied directly to the type of economy a scoiety practices. It is much more tied to productivity. Family farms now-a-days are much more productive per acre and those families are smaller as a result.

    I also think you are under emphasizing the value of the education the serfs and slaves do have. They have skills to things needed all over Safehold; farming, rough carpentry and fishing. Charis isn’t a heavily industrilized nation yet, they don’t require years of study just to manouver in society. In two generations, perhaps those slaves would be hopelessly behind. Now, they can learn what skills they need quickly enough.

  31. One might further propose — I do not know if Weber agrees with current economic studies of the American south — that the fine craftsman positions and industrial — such as it is — positions are filled by slaves, slaves being economically effective at squeezing out free craftsmen as they were in the South. In this case, Harchong likely has a big group of people who could live productive lives. Also, my impression of Chisholm, Silverlode, etc. is that there is a lot of somewhat unused territory suitable for agriculture if the implements were free.

  32. Summertime says:

    Regarding population growth: won’t deaths of young men in battle, on land and sea, have at least a short term negative effect on population growth, particularly in the non-Charis kingdoms?

  33. d says:

    @Karsten, well that sucks. Hadn’t noticed as it was one I have already bought.

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