Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 13

Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 13


Year of God 896


Tellesberg Palace,

City of Tellesberg,

Kingdom of Old Charis,

Empire of Charis

“I hope they don’t get hammered too hard crossing The Anvil,” Cayleb Ahrmahk said somberly.

The Charisian Emperor stood looking out across Howell Bay from the tower window with one arm wrapped around his Empress. His right hand rested on the point of her hip, holding her close, and her head nestled against the side of his chest. Her eyes were as dark and somber as his, but she shook her head.

“They’re all experienced captains,” she said, watching the thicket of sails head away from the Tellesberg wharves. There were over sixty merchant galleons in that convoy, escorted by two full squadrons of war galleons and screened by a dozen of the Imperial Charisian Navy’s fleet, well armed schooners, and twenty-five more galleons from Erastor would join it as it passed through the Sea of Charis. It was the third convoy to sail from Tellesberg already — the sixth, overall, counting those which had sailed from Emerald and Tarot, as well — and it was unlikely they were going to be able to assemble yet another in time to be much help. Besides, there simply weren’t enough foodstuffs in storage in Charis, Emerald, or Tarot to fill another convoy’s holds. It was a miracle they’d found as much as they had; counting this convoy, they’d sent well over five hundred galleons, carrying a hundred and forty thousand tons of food and over a quarter million tons of fodder and animal feed. It was, frankly, an almost inconceivable effort for a technology limited to sail power and small, wooden-hulled vessels, but it still hadn’t been enough, for there’d been a limit to how much preserved and fresh food was available. Indeed, prices in the three huge islands had skyrocketed as the Crown and Church poured every mark they could into buying up every scrap of available food and sent it off to starving Siddarmark. The cost had been staggering, but they’d paid it without even wincing, for they had no choice. Not when she, Cayleb, and their allies could actually see the hundreds of thousands of people starving in northern Siddarmark.

“They’re all experienced,” she repeated. “They know what the weather’s like this time of year. And your sailing instructions made it clear they were to assume the worst.”

“There’s a difference between knowing ‘what the weather’s like’ and knowing you’re headed directly into one of the worst gales in the last twenty years.” Cayleb’s voice was as grim as his expression. “I’ll lay you whatever odds you ask that we’re going to lose at least some of those ships, Sharley.”

“I think you may be being overly pessimistic,” a voice said over the transparent plug each of them wore in one ear. “I understand why, but let’s not borrow any guilt until it’s actually time to feel it, Cayleb.”

“I should’ve delayed their sailing. Just three or four days — maybe a full five-day. Just long enough for The Anvil to clear.”

“And explain it how, Cayleb?” Sharleyan asked softly. “We can track weather fronts — do you want to explain to anyone else how we manage that? And without some sort of explanation, how could we justify delaying that food when everyone in the Empire — this side of Chisholm, anyway — knows how desperately it’s needed?”

“For that matter, Cayleb,” Merlin Athrawes said over the com plugs, “it is desperately needed. I hate to say it, but any lives we lose to wind and weather are going to be enormously outweighed by the lives we save from starvation. And” — his deep voice turned gentle — “are the lives of Charisian seamen worth more than the lives of starving Siddarmarkian children? Especially when some of the children in question are Charisians themselves? You may be Emperor, but you’re not God. Do you have the right to order them not to sail? Not to risk their lives? What do you think the crews of those galleons would’ve said if you’d asked them whether they wanted to sail, even if they’d known they were going to encounter the worst storm The Anvil has to offer, knowing how badly the food they’re carrying is needed at the other end? Human beings have faced far worse dangers for far worse reasons.”

“But they didn’t get to choose. They –”

Cayleb cut himself off and waved his left hand in an abrupt chopping gesture. Sharleyan sighed and turned to press her face against his tunic, wrapping both of her own arms around him, and they stood that way for several seconds. Then it was his turn to inhale deeply and turn resolutely away from the window and those slowly shrinking rectangles and pyramids of canvas.

The turn brought him face-to-face with a tall silver-haired man, with a magnificent beard and large, sinewy hands, wearing an orange-trimmed white cassock. The dovetailed ribbon at the back of his priest’s cap was also orange, and a ruby ring of office glittered on his left hand.

“I notice you didn’t have anything to say about my little moodiness,” the emperor told him, and he smiled faintly.

“I’ve known you since you were a boy, Cayleb,” Archbishop Maikel Staynair replied. “Unlike Sharley and Merlin, I learned long ago that the only way to deal with these self-flagellating humors of yours is to wait you out. Eventually even you figure out you’re being harder on yourself than you would’ve been on anyone else and we can get on to more profitable uses of our time.”

“You always have such a compassionate and supportive way of dealing with me in my hour of need, Your Eminence,” Cayleb said sardonically, and Staynair chuckled.

“Would you really prefer for me to get all weepy-eyed instead of kicking you — respectfully, of course — in the arse?”

“It would at least have the virtue of novelty,” Cayleb replied, his tone dry, and the archbishop chuckled again. Then he cocked one eyebrow at the imperial couple and gestured at the small conference table set under one of the skylights set into the tower chamber’s sloping roof.

“I suppose so,” Cayleb sighed, and escorted Sharleyan across to it. He pulled out her chair for her, then waited until Staynair had seated himself before taking his own place.

“It’ll be nice when you get home, Merlin. I can’t throttle you properly when you’re so far away,” he remarked to the empty air as he sat, and it was Merlin’s turn to chuckle.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he promised, “and you can throttle away to your heart’s content. Or try to, anyway. And the trip’s been worth it. We’re never going to get over the hole Mahndrayn’s left, but Captain Rahzwail’s turning out to be pretty impressive himself. Even more impressive than I’d expected, really. In fact, I wouldn’t be too surprised if he turns out to be a candidate for the inner circle in the not too distant.”

“Rushing it a bit, aren’t you?” Cayleb asked quizzically, and Merlin — perched like a cross legged tailor atop one of King’s Harbor Citadel’s crenellations — shrugged.

“I didn’t suggest telling him tomorrow, Cayleb,” he pointed out mildly. “I’m simply saying I think he has the . . . resiliency and flexibility to take it in stride. And given his new post, it would certainly be useful.”

“Not as useful as telling Ahlfryd would be.” Sharleyan’s voice was unwontedly sharp, and Cayleb looked at her. “I understand all the reasons for not telling him,” the empress went on in that same edged tone, “but we’ve told others who even the Brethren agreed were greater risks than he’d ever be, and there’s not a more trustworthy man in the entire Empire!”

“Besides which, he’s your friend,” Staynair said gently. Her head whipped around, anger flickering in her eyes, but Staynair met them with his normal calm, unflurried gaze.

“That has nothing to do with my estimate of how useful it would be to have him fully integrated into the inner circle, Maikel,” she said, her tone flat.

“No, but it has quite a bit to do with how guilty you feel for not having told him.” Staynair gave his head a slight shake. “And how disloyal you feel for not having managed to convince the Brethren to trust him with the information.”

The empress’ eyes bored hotly into his for another handful of seconds before they fell. She looked down at her own slender, shapely hands, so tightly folded on the table before her that their knuckles had whitened, and the archbishop reached out to lay one of his own far larger hands atop them.

“I understand, Sharley,” he told her softly. “But don’t forget, Bryahn was his friend, too, and it was Bryahn who recommended against telling him. And you know why, too, don’t you?”

Sharleyan never looked up, but, after a moment, she nodded ever so slightly, and Staynair smiled sadly at the crown of her head.


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78 Responses to Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 13

  1. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Ah Rob, it was in BSRA (not OAR) that we learned about Jeremy Knowles. [Wink]

    Seriously, I’ve suspected that if there was another Secret Brotherhood, Siddarmark is a likely place for it to be.

    But as you said, we don’t know if another one was founded.

    Oh, I do agree that Harchong is an unlikely place for another Secret Brotherhood.

  2. JeffM says:

    Oh, I didn’t mean to say that it was likely. Just that, the way RFC writes, it is POSSIBLE. ;)

  3. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Sorry Jeff but while the MWW has surprised us, it has been Honor’s definition of surprise.

    IIRC it was something like “surprise is what happens when you misread something that was in front of you all the time”.

    There were clues to the presence in Charis of Jeremy Knowles “Secret Brotherhood” in the first book.

    There are elements in what we know of Siddarmark that point to the possible presence of a “Secret Brotherhood” there.

    From what we know of Harchong, there are no elements that point to a possible “Secret Brotherhood” there.

    If David Weber is going to have a “Secret Brotherhood” in Harchong, he’ll be planting clues to its existance before he “springs” it on us.

    Minor snerk, there’s nothing in this book that I’d call a clue about a “Secret Brotherhood” in Harchong.

  4. BobG says:

    I’ve wondered if Nahrman’s wife might have been taught by members of a secret sisterhood, without her actually learning this secret details, I.e. she was in the “outer circle”. Her attitude toward CoC, and her willingness to align with Merlin so quickly points to an “unusual” upbringing.

    — Bob G

  5. SRYSandan says:

    If I were looking for a secret sisterhood I would look into the convent that produced Ivan Parson. If i were looking for another secret brotherhood I would look for something more like the Wilson’s. A family or clan with a private history passed down from one generation to the next waiting for the second coming.

  6. SRYSandan says:

    One thing that I haven’t heard from anyone is the second big spec ops mission, training. I know that campaigning stops except for some raiding in the winter. However the next sealift should include General Clark and an advance team from the ICA to start training and setting up a combined command structure.

    The other thing I have been thinking about is the huge number of POWs that are residing in the prison ships. The empire needs farm hands and other manpower to replace men serving in the army and navy. I wouldn’t trust the parole of most of the officer corps but most seamen were impressed or drafted. With an empire comprised of all island nations the chance of real escape is minimal.

  7. JimHacker says:

    @56, however the chance of them escaping and killing heretics is significantly higher – unless they’re marooned on an unpopulated island. But unpopulated islands are unlikely to be terraformed and thus not a place where food can be grown any time soon

  8. JeffM says:

    @57 Yes, but those are largely serfs. I would suspect that SOME might enjoy their freedom–and especially, a chance at land ownership. inevitably, as sparsely settled as the Charisian Empire is in places, there is land available. And terraforming is an expanding process…

  9. JeffM says:

    Hmmm…can we beat 74 posts with the holiday weekend?

    Okay, so the other thing i would expect, even with the winter months, is that the next fleet that sets sail is with rifles for those soon-to-be-former Siddarmark pikemen. Think Valley Forge–they have the rest of the winter to train, and they can do that whether hungry or not. And Madame Anjelihk has already imported their um, foreign noncoms. So, who is General Lafayette? :)

  10. ET1swaw says:

    @59 JeffM: The Siddarmarkian regulars/retirees/trained-reservists might not take “training” in the best of moods/acceptance. They were called by everyone on the planet: “the premiere and epitome of an armed force; the Siddarmark pikemen are second to none in military prowess”. And you want them to listen to ragtag islanders (many of whom were “MARINES”; oarsmen/sailors given minimum military training in their learned opinion) and take “MILITARY TRAINING” from them!!!!!!! I am wondering which gunpowder tactics are going to prevail in Siddarmark: Follow-on pike tactics (tercio tactics; what the Siddarmarkians will be most familiar with); ACW (American Civil War) tactics (fluid line and advance with many irregulars off-field (peripheral to the battle field); WWI tactics (trench and siege with an accompanying guerrilla movement); WWII tactics (specific objective and skirmish warfare with a well developed underground); or post-Vietnam tactics (asymetrical warfare).

    And we might be looking more for a Pulaski or a Kosciuszko than a Lafayette.

    @56 SRYSandan: Designated Charisian Marines (Safehold’s closest thing to SpecOp-types) don’t really have that much more of a handle on asymmetretrical warfare than anyone else on Safehold. And regrettedbly guerilla warfare seems DNA-deep in the human psyche (not efficient assymetrical warfare – no, but basic terror tactics – yes). Even Merlin/Nimue was a Naval officer (and the war against the Gbaba was not a land campaign in any way) which limits her/his knowledge in that speciallized arena!!


  11. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Well Rob, they may not *like* the need for retraining but the knowledge that their lives and their homeland’s freedom depends on them retraining will “focus their minds”.

    As for what Safehold landwar will be like, “Tum, te, tum, te, tum . . . .” [Wink]

  12. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Oh Rob, one thing to remember about asymmetretrical warfare is that it can’t take territory or really defend territory.

    All it can do is make the job of the invader more difficult and that’s when the fighters have the support/silence of the “conquerered people”.

    The Inquisition’s methods will make the job of asymmetretrical warfare more difficult.

  13. ET1swaw says:

    Addition to @60: Or maybe even a Von Steuben!

    @61 Drak: If they do go ACW, I really hope they go Sherman’s march to the Sea vice (I assume CoGA’s tactics) Grant’s Wilderness campaign.

    @62 Drak: Yeah, scorched-earth/reign-of-terror has a tendency to do that!


  14. JimHacker says:

    @ 60 Rob it is going to be intersting what kind of tactics emerge in Siddarmark but WWII tactics, post-vietnam tactics etc require semi-automatic and fully automatic hand-hel;d weaponry or they just don’t work. This is even more true of what we todat would call special forces tactics (although yes you can have elite skirmishers, or marksmen or stealthy troops without), and special forces absolutely need some kind of coms (even if its just basic ww2 era radios/telegraph)gear as well. Trench warfare is a possibility with breach loading rifles (which charis are working on) but for the really static trench warfare of WW1 to emerge there has to some kind of machine gun even if its pretty rudimentary. Tactics aren’t about how clever your generals are, the best tactics are dictated by circumstances and available resources.

  15. JeffM says:

    @64. Tactic? What are theese tactics zat you speek of???

    Let’s see…the ICA: has had rifles for a number of years, and been training in Chisholm for some time.

    AoG and allies: Gets handed rifles: What is them thar things???

    Matter of fact, I’d expect the ICA to be the pointy end of the stick, while the Siddarmakians handle lesser pressing issues as they get up to speed.

    For the matter, Glacierheart, with those 500 rifles, could well become an Afghanistan for the AoG, if not Spartans awaiting the Persians. In the former case, how soon can they become sharpshooters from the heights?

  16. JimHacker says:

    @65, why on earth the reference to the spartans?

  17. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Jim, ever hear the story about the “300”?

    There was a historical battle where 300 Spartans held off a Persian army until the rest of Greece was ready to fight the Persians.

    Jeff was thinking about a small group of people with rifles “holding off” the Army of God until reinforcments arrived.

  18. JimHacker says:

    @67, yes i’ve heard about the ‘300’, a group of murdering raping psychopathic ancient nazis who contributed very little to the defeat of the Persians in Greece in 480BC and who were subsequently glorified by the western world. I was wondering how they were at all relevant.

  19. JeffM says:

    Well, that’s fine, but the Afghans weren’t much better. Just ask Kipling. Still, the point is that if the AoG tries to filter their way through Glacierheart, they could be sticking their…hand into a meatgrinder.

  20. Izzy says:

    @68 Apparently you haven’t heard that much. I might agree with ancient. The rest, not so much.

    Of course, during the main initial engagement they were mainly a token force of help for the other 7,000 greeks defending the area (yet even so, not only did they contribute little relative to the entire force, no-one contributed to the defeat of the Persians because the Persians were in fact *not* defeated. They made up roughly 30% of the forces that stayed behind to protect the backs of the fleeing 6,000 greeks (to their deaths).

    As for rapists, if you are referring to their institutionalized pederasty, you’ll have to remember that their culture and belief system was vastly different from what I imagine yours most probably is. As far as they were concerned (and being a Relativist, correct in their beliefs) they were morally in the right.

    Murderers? If you mean that in the sense that they were soldiers sent to defend their homeland and did so by killing the invaders, then yes, I suppose you could use the word murderers, but perhaps killers would be closer to the mark.

    Nazis? Really? If you are referring to their version of eugenics – once again that was their way of life and in their culture they were in the right. In their eyes, many of the cultures today would be abhorrent to them (or more likely, simply laughable).

    Psychopathic? Do you have any reference material to back that up? I don’t ever remember coming across anything like that before. (After all, the idea of 300 individuals that all happened to be in the same unit also all happened to psychopathic seems absurd, first because the odds of that happening are astronomical, and second because anyone who has served in any Armed Forces for any extended period of time knows that deep empathy is usually shared by your various comrades).

    Whether you are closer to normative moral relativism or meta-ethical (personally, I tend to lean more towards normative myself), I think getting too excited (or angry) about some group of people thousands of years in the past is no good for anyone.

  21. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Izzy, I didn’t think JimHacker’s statement was meant seriously.

    Now, there were some Lefties who apparently said that and were serious.

  22. JeffM says:

    Maybe I should have compared Glacierheart to the Alamo…Ooops! Probably a bad example…

  23. Doug Lampert says:

    The Spartans at Thermopylae were there NOT to delay the Persians while the rest of Greece got ready. That’s an absurdity, the Greeks had known the Persians were coming for YEARS (literally), the force had been in place for ofver a month preparing the fortifications, they held out for all of three days.

    Does ANYONE seriously think those three days somehow crippled the Persian campaign or let the rest of Greece get one bit readier than they already were? Seriously? That’s insane. The Greeks has spent most of a year debating whether Thermopylae was even worth attempting to defend or whether they should hold at Corinth.

    The Spartans were in fact the MAIN advocates of abandoning Thermopylae and holding at Corinth (which is the plan that actually WORKED historically), but for that plan to work they needed the Northern Greek cities to provide their fleets, even though the the coalition would NOT defend their cities. The Spartans couldn’t convince the rest of Greece to go along with that plan. IIRC the Spartan survey of Thermopylae had said a minimum of 25,000 men were needed to garison it. The Greeks sent no more than 7-10,000, largely because the Spartans delayed the reenforcements (which makes perfect sense if you assume that sending more men would be sending good money after bad).

    The force that fought was allegedly only an advance force sent to prepare the fortifications.

    The only significant delaying action or rear guard action was the final day when the Spartans, Thessalians, and Thebans got to play rear guard to let the rest of the defenders evacuate.

    The importance of Thermopylae was purely political. The Spartans lost nearly 5% of their adult male population and one of their kings trying to hold a pass they’d already claimed couldn’t be held because the northern Greeks insisted that Thermopolae at least be tried. After that no one in Greece could plausibly claim the Spartans HADN’T tried to defend northern Greece, and the combined fleet remained intact and willing to fight as a coalition fleet under a Spartan Admiral. Which fleet won at Salamis, following which the Persians couldn’t force the isthmus of Corinth (which unlike Thermopylae couldn’t be flanked), and then there was the battle at Platea where the Persians were defeated.

    Militarily Thermopylae had no effect at all. Politically it was utterly crucial to holding the alliance together. If you want an important military delaying action where the defenders are wiped out use The Alamo. There the extra two weeks or so and the Mexican casualties both did make a real difference to the rest of the campaign.

  24. Doug Lampert says:

    @72, If you want a delaying action where the defenders weren’t wiped out use Bastogone.

  25. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @74 – Doug Lampert

    And if they use the example of Bastogne, who will play the role of General Anthony McAuliffe, and who will play General Patton? And what would be the Safeholdian equivalent of General McAuliffe’s reply — “Nuts”?

    Oh, and one more thing, how will DW spell Anthony Clement McAuliffe in his inimitable (thank the Lord!) Safeholdian style? :-)

  26. JimHacker says:

    @70, 71, 73 Actually my comment was made in some seriousness. And the Nazis actually have a lot of parallels to the spartans – who were militaristic, authoritarian national socialists obsessed with racial superiority, despite also being a gerontocracy and dual monarchy. Actually, I am one of those people who normally gets annoyed by people judging others by the standards of today. My comments are deliberately a bit over the top – though they are all true, it was all cultural and I wouldn’t actually judge them for it. However, I feel that the fact that we shouldn’t judge them doesn’t mean we should glorify them either. As to who cares thousands of years later? Well, personlly I hope the Nazis don’t get glorified in thousands of years time. And before anyone says thats different, there were a lot of people in britian, France and the USA advocating the same policies as the Nazis in the 1920s and 30s right up until the war started. Then they shut up, and the Nazis were suddenly universally percieved as evil. I also understand the factors leading to the rise of nazism in Germany (which go back hundreds of years: Germany was europe’s battle ground – and thus wasteland – for centuries). So while I don’t judge the Spartans, I am not keen on the way modern culture glorifies them; the way the 300 was selected by the way, was that on ‘graduation’ from their military training, the graduates would spend the night raping, torturing and killing helots – those who most terrorized the populace were selected to the ‘300’. These were not nice people. I don’t judge them in the same way that I don’t judge the Nazis or Al Qaeda. That does not mean people should feel free to glorify them, now or in the future, moral relativism or not.

    However, I was asking why the reference to spartans as the spartans did a lot of things. Then i asked why ‘300’ as the 300 did a lot of things. I thought you probably meant the battle of Thermopylae but I don’t see all that many possible parallels and at least you could have named the battle of Thermopylae as what yu were talkiing about. Thermopylae was rather significant as a battle, but for the Persians as it was rather important as it was the last defensive place before they could reach most of Greece. For the Greeks, they didn’t benefit much and most of Greece was suddenly open to the enemy. Thermopylae being held for three days had no real affect on the war. If it had been permanently held, that would have made a huge difference to how the war proceeded – so the most significant thing is the failure. But the greeks had ended up expecting that. I agree with most of what Doug Lampert said, but I don’t think it wasn’t as crucial to holding the alliance togther or morale as he believes. Much more important to the Greek victory in the war were the naval battles of Artemisium and Salamis, which enabled a victory by the ground forces at Platea which otherwise could not have happened.

  27. Doug Lampert says:

    @76, obviously the naval battles were the key to the campaign. But the naval battles NEVER HAPPEN unless the Athenians and some of the other northern cities are willing to let their city be destroyed while their fleets are standing by to defend other people’s cities.

    The Northern cities had openly threatened to defect to the Persian side unless a real effort was made to hold Thermopylae. I don’t see those naval battles happening without the attempt to hold Thermopylae.

    Artemisium is utterly out without Thermopylae, it was simply the naval action in support of Thermopylae and thus doesn’t happen otherwise. Salamis depends on the Northern Greeks not defecting when their cities are actually in Persian hands. Their stated intention had Thermopylae not happened had been to ask for terms and make the best deal they could.

    The coalition might have survived without the actual loss of the 300, but it was very unlikely to survive without some sort of battle at Thermopylae where it at least LOOKED like the Spartans and other Peleponisian cities were making a real effort. Thus the battle was clearly neccessary for morale and political reasons, and given the battle the fact is that the Spartan 300 died at Thermopylae as part of a rear-guard to let other Greek soldiers escape the trap alive and that their deaths removed any further serious discussion of the Greek naval powers simply giving in.

  28. JimHacker says:

    @77, yes you’re right that Thermopylae enabled the battle of Artemisium, but a similar battle would likely have taken place without it, just not at Artemisium. I dispute your assertion that Thermpylae was required to keep the northern greeks in the alliance – I believe that this was mostly bluff on their part in anattempt to get the Spartans to hold Thermopylae so they wouldn’t loose their cities. I’m pretty sure they would not have defected despite any threats, and the Athenians morale was pretty high anyway due to their previous success at Marathon.

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