Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 14

Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 14

Sir Ahlfryd Hyndryk, Baron Seamount, was quite possibly the most brilliant Charisian naval officer of his generation, and he’d become one of Sharleyan’s favorite people during her original visit to Charis. In fact, virtually every one in the slowly growing circle of Charisians who knew the truth about the Terran Federation and the monumental lie which underlay the entire Church of God Awaiting knew him and held him in deep affection, although he was closer to Sharleyan than to anyone except, perhaps, Staynair’s brother, Domynyk. No member of the inner circle questioned his loyalty or his intelligence. But Bryahn Lock Island had been right to fear his integrity . . . and his outrage.

In another time and another place, Ahlfryd Hyndryk would have been called a geek, and he had all of that breed’s impatience with subterfuge and dissimulation. Sheer love of knowledge and impatience to rebuild the technology the Proscriptions of Jwo-jeng had denied to Safehold so long would have been bad enough, driving him to press the limits of what was being introduced, perhaps too hard and too fast. But his wrath at the way the entire population of the last surviving world of humanity had been lied to, been robbed of the stars themselves, would have been even worse. Lock Island had feared that the combination of impatience and fury — and the awareness of how desperately Charis needed every advantage it could find — would have pushed their brilliant, adaptive problem solver into too openly challenging the Proscriptions, defying the doctrine of the Church of God Awaiting, even denouncing the Church itself as the monstrous lie it was. And if that happened in the midst of the Charisian Empire’s war against the Group of Four . . . .

Merlin gazed out over the blue water of King’s Harbor, at the swarm of ships covering the surface, the hive of activity, so much of which had resulted directly from Seamount’s fertile imagination and compulsive energy, and his sapphire eyes were cold. They dared not risk revealing the truth about the Archangels, the Church, Langhorne’s Rakurai and Armageddon Reef. Not yet. Not when such revelations would play directly into the Group of Four’s denunciation of them all as lying, blasphemous servants of corruption. And so, if it had turned out Seamount was a threat to the secret they all guarded, that threat would have to be removed . . . permanently.

“I swear to you, Sharleyan,” he said now over the com, softly, “the instant I’m certain it would be safe to tell him, I will.” He smiled crookedly. “It won’t be the first time I’ve, ah, overridden the Brethren, if you’ll recall. And if I do it and it turns out I was wrong about the safety factor, I’ll drag him off to Nimue’s Cave and pop him into one of the cryo units until it is safe to turn him loose again.” He watched through the SNARC remote perched on the ceiling above the conference table as the empress looked up with a sudden, astounded smile, and he chuckled softly. “I don’t have room for many people,” he told her, “but Ahlfryd’s one of the special ones. If we end up telling him and it turns out we shouldn’t have, he deserves space in the cave. Besides, that way we’ll know he’s still going to be around when we’re able to begin rebuilding our tech base openly!

“I hadn’t thought of that.” Cayleb sounded more than a bit chagrined.

“Well, you didn’t exactly grow up with technology, now did you?” Merlin shrugged. “On the other hand, I’d really hate to do that, because he’s so damned useful where he is. You do realize he’s come up with more original departures, even without access to Owl, than Ehdwyrd?”

“Fair’s fair, Merlin,” Staynair pointed out. “Ehdwyrd’s deliberately picking his spots carefully — and giving someone else credit for them whenever he can.”

“Oh, I know that, Maikel. I’m just saying Ahlfryd’s a mighty impressive fellow to’ve come up with so many ideas, and inspired so many of his assistants — like Mahndrayn — to come up with ideas of their own. He’s taken even the ones I’ve ‘steered’ him into and run with them, generally to places I didn’t expect him to get to without at least another few nudges. The truth is, Bryahn was right about that, too. He’s doing exactly what we need done even without Owl, and he’s teaching an entire generation of Navy officers and the civilians working with them to use their brains, push the envelope, and explore the possibilities.”

“So now that we’ve all made me feel better,” Sharleyan said in a tart tone much closer to normal, “perhaps we should go ahead and deal with the original agenda for our little get together?”

“As always, your wish is our command, love.” Cayleb smiled at her across the table, and she kicked him gently in the knee under it.

“Such a brutal, physically abusive sort,” he mourned, and she stuck out her tongue.

“However,” he continued more briskly, “you have a point. Especially since the rest of you have also made me feel better — sort of, anyway — about sailing the convoy despite the weather. So, Maikel. Your impressions?”

“I think . . . I think Stohnar is going to make it through the winter,” Staynair said slowly, his expression far more somber. “For several five-days I was afraid he wasn’t, especially when the Temple Loyalists in Mountaincross tried to push through the Sylmahn Gap.” He shook his head. “It didn’t seem possible he could stop them.”

“He wouldn’t have without ‘Aivah.'” Merlin’s own expression was as grim as his voice. “Those extra rifles — and the men trained to use them — are what made the difference. That and the food we were able to ship in.”

“The food he didn’t know was coming,” Sharleyan said softly. “I think he’s aged ten years since this started.”

“Probably,” Merlin acknowledged. “And I think he’s going to be a long time forgiving himself for some of the calls he’s made, but thank God for that military background of his. Without it, he wouldn’t‘ve made them, and in that case, Maikel’s right — the Temple Loyalists would’ve come through the Gap into Old Province.”

Heads nodded around the table. Greyghor Stohnar had recognized the absolute necessity of keeping his enemies locked up behind the Moon Thorn and Snow Barren Mountains at any cost. If the Group of Four’s adherents had broken out of Mountaincross Province, they would have opened a direct invasion pathway from the Temple Lands into the most densely populated province of the entire Republic . . . and to its capital. He’d had to hold that mountain barrier, and so he had . . . even at the expense of sending desperately needed food from the starving families of Siddar City to the troops fighting in the snow and freezing cold of the Sylmahn Gap.

Eastern Siddarmark was far more densely populated than its western provinces, and the southeastern provinces were even more heavily populated than the more northern ones, thank God. Still, there were well over seventy million people in the portion of the Republic which remained under his control, and the timing of Clyntahn’s uprising — and its deliberate attacks on food supplies and the transport system — had been catastrophic. Westmark, Tarikah, New Northland, northern Hildermoss, western Mountaincross, and the South March were major centers of the Republic’s agricultural production, and all of them had been taken by the rebels or were (at best) disputed battlefields where no one was worrying much about farming. Crop-burning rebels had done major damage to the harvests in Southguard, Trokhanos, Cliffpeak, and Northland, as well, before they’d been subdued in those provinces. The lord protector had lost over a third of the Republic’s best cropland and twenty-five or thirty percent of its normal winter food supply, and the disruption of the revolt had sent enormous numbers of refugees streaming into areas which wouldn’t have been able to feed even themselves adequately. Starvation and disease — disease brought on by the breakdown of sanitation in the refugee camps, despite the Book of Pasquale‘s stern injunctions, and the weakened resistance of human beings getting perhaps half the calories they actually needed — had stalked the Republic like demons, and that was the background against which he’d had to choose whether or not to reinforce and supply the field army driving into eastern Mountaincross, slogging ahead through snow and ice to reach the outnumbered, starving troops somehow clinging to the crucial mountain gap.

It was a decision he’d had to make long before any response to his frantic pleas for help could possibly come back from Tellesberg. He’d had no idea how soon — or even if — the first relief convoy from Charis could reach him, yet he’d made it anyway, sending every man he could spare, and the precious food to feed them, under his own first cousin’s command And Sharleyan was right: it had aged him overnight. It had engraved deep lines into his face, streaked his dark hair with thick swathes of iron gray, and turned his cheek bones hard and gaunt. Not by itself, but in conjunction with all the other decisions he’d had to make and the knowledge of what was happening to the Republic’s citizens where he couldn’t reach them at all, couldn’t do one single thing about the privation and terror being visited upon them.


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44 Responses to Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 14

  1. Matthew says:

    It’s a solid piece of writing, but I don’t like the reasons they’re giving for not telling Ahlfryd. I think the “geek” thing was over the top and honestly, if he’s as smart as they say he is then he’s going to understand the reasons that they can’t shout their outrage to the skies. Moreover, he’d be even more effective and inventive if they weren’t handicapping him by preventing him from having the access that they have. Honestly, if he really is a genius level inventor then he might be able to come up with things that weren’t ever developed on this earth at a similar time period but still fit with the technology that they have.

    Also, the idea that he’d push technology “too fast” is a load of baloney. It’s already been laid out that they would have to get to electricity on a large scale (at least) before the orbital bombardment system would take notice and there really IS no other real handicap on tech.

    They have their own pet priests and the temple has already been clear they will make up whatever excuses they need to to keep up with the tech race… so the argument there doesn’t hold water either.

    Nope don’t like that part at all.

  2. ET1swaw says:


    Is the Duchy of Fallos part of Siddarmark or of Tarot (hence p/o the EoC)?

    Looks like Stohnar has only retained/recovered: Southguard; Trokhanos; Cliffpeak; Northland; Icewind?; Rollings; Midhold; Old Province; New Province; Glacierheart; Shiloh; Malitar; Markan; Windmoor; and Transhar. The West and a major thrust east through Mountaincross is Clyntahn’s/TL-Rebels!!
    All but: Cliffpeak; Southguard; New Province; Glacierheart; and Shiloh are coastal though and Glacierheart seems to hold a fairly key position by my reading of the map. I am suprised they got Cliffpeak back. And Icewind (if it is still Stohnar’s) is isolated from the rest.

    And Stohnar’s troops held the passes after he made the leap of faith (IMO anyway) and almost banked on the EoC’s aid!!

    The rebels with CoGA support did a massive amount of initial damage and the AoG with called-on supporting invasions in jihad mode are still-much-to-come/on-their-way. But so is the ICA!!!

    The Dohlarian arm (and to a greatly lesser extent the Desnairian arm) of the NoG are pretty much all that remains; so that frees the ICN/ICMC up alot IMO!!

    And Seamount’s incorrectness for the ‘inner circle’ is again laid out. I am wondering if perhaps (like the Royal College mathmetician and Kynt Claryk before they were brought inside) he might smell a rat and figure out some of it on his own!


  3. Actually, there is still no direct evidence as to what does draw the attention of the bombardment system, other than objects closing on it, or that it does have primary AI control. It may, for example, be limited to a ‘telephone the leader of the Order of Two-Jeng and ask for directions’.

    Of course, the author would never seek to mislead us, for example by giving the impression that the bombardment device as opposed to its defenses is still in working order.

  4. Louis says:

    @2 I think Fallos was mentioned as an independent duchy in By Heresies Distressed

  5. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Louis, I believe you’re correct.

    In addition, the early-modern German sovereign rulers did have titles “lower” than “Princes/Kings”.

    I suspect that on Safehold, the exact title of sovereign rulers depended rules set up by the Church.

    Thus in theory, a sovereign ruler could have the title of Earl.

    Oh, for nit-pickers, on Safehold a sovereign ruler would be answerable only to the Church not to some other secular ruler. [Wink]

  6. Nimitz13 says:

    @3 Merlin is almost certain that an electrical generating plant will attract the attention of the Rakurai. He’s unlikely to conduct a test of that, like he did with steam power at the beginning of HFaF, now that he knows SOMETHING is “sleeping” under the temple… (“While Saints Their Watch are Keeping” is STILL a decent bet for a future title, although the MWW said he might use it as a working title…)

    From the books, the Pearls of Weber, and some of his comments on the Weber forums – no spoilers, but interesting stuff:

    First, what IS the Rakurai? We tend to focus on the kinetic bombardment platforms, but there’s much more to it. From AOR: the Rakurai is a collection of “kinetic bombardment and solar energy platforms… nested in the center of a sphere of area defense systems and passive scanners” that orbits Safehold. The “Rakurai” part is merely the six kinetic bombardment platforms. Every component in the sphere appears to be powered by the solar energy platforms. (I’d guess they each store energy in some sort of on-board batteries for immediate use.) The system is protected by many defensive systems, the only one for which we have textev is an anti-missile laser. Some of the passive scanners search the planet for “emissions,” and we don’t know which type will set off the kinetic bombardment platforms. Other scanners search an area around the sphere called “the defensive perimeter” for high-tech emissions, missiles, etc. As long as they don’t get too close to the defensive perimeter (which extends out at least several thousand kilometers from the Rakurai but most likely doesn’t reach the planet) Terran Federation emissions on or near the planet, such as Merlin’s skimmer, SNARC transmissions, etc. are ignored.

    The Rakurai currently has 6 loaded kinetic bombardment cells, each of which can cover (but not destroy) half a continent, and the MWW “never SAID they couldn’t be reloaded.” (Interpret that as you wish…) They work by hurling projectiles at the planet at great speed, but the projectiles themselves aren’t explosive.

    It’s clear the Rakurai’s defenses inadvertently serve as a planetary defense system to a small extent – quoting from AOR: “the one SNARC which had gone active to probe for additional information had been picked off ALMOST INSTANTLY by a laser-armed anti-missile platform. Another SNARC had attempted to penetrate the defended perimeter under maximum stealth, only to be detected and destroyed while it was still thousands of kilometers from the platforms.” (No notable lag means the defensive platforms are likely set to auto-fire under a certain set of conditions.) Should a Gbaba scout show up and happen to get too close… ZZZZAP! (Imagine a very LARGE electric bug zapper. Bleek!)

    We don’t know where the Rakurai’s decision-making processes are located. Does it have a computer platform inside the sphere of platforms or aboard each platform that decides when to act, or does it relay what its scanners see to the temple, or somewhere else we haven’t been told about?

    Whatever activates the defensive lasers doesn’t seem to have found the detection and destruction of two Terran Confederation SNARCs serious enough to warn a more intelligent entity that “Something” notable had happened that warranted further investigation – since nothing appears to have “woken up” under the temple. The Rakurai’s defenses are probably in auto-fire mode and may not report to any intelligence at all. Then again, it’s possible that the entire system may be on a higher level of alert now.

    Safehold shouldn’t feel TOO safe hiding behind it, since the range of the Rakurai’s lasers is likely limited to at most a couple of light seconds – that’s my guess, it appears the MWW hasn’t covered it. The inverse square law means the power of the lasers it uses for protection strike with only 1/4 the power at 2000 km that they hit with at 1000 km, so beam weapons have an inherit limit to their effective range.

    Guessing here – those lasers might be able to take out a relatively small rock headed for Safehold – pick any size, say 100 meters across or less but not a really big one – if they’re programmed to shoot at potential meteorites that enter the defensive sphere. So Langehorne’s successors likely didn’t preserve humanity from the threat of annihilation from an asteroid impact. Safehold’s wonderfully dark night skies may have a fewer large “shooting stars” than they would have without the Rakurai, but they may have more “meteor swarms” if the lasers break up “big” incoming rocks.

    I have NO idea if high energy beam weapons are detectable from interstellar distances, or at merely interplanetary distances or less. At some point of detectability, the Archangels would have wanted to minimize the Rakurai from using its defensive lasers. So no shooting incoming rocks if it makes it significantly more likely that the Gbaba will discover Safehold, or if firing the lasers wears them out. (So if Merlin disguises a weapon as a rock and sends it towards the Rakurai…) ;)

    If anyone has some textev that adds to or refutes some of what I’ve listed, feel free to jump in!

  7. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Nimitz, a couple of additions.

    First, DW said that the Rakurai is intended only to prevent Safehold humans from reaching a tech level able to return to space. It wasn’t intended to defend Safehold from a Gbaba attack.

    Second, DW said that the Writ says that “lightning” is restricted to God (and his angels) thus experiments with electricity are known (by the Church) to be forbidden. From what DW said, the Rakurai is intended to destroy large scale use of electricity thus preventing Safeholdians from reaching a tech level that could return to space.

    Of course, Merlin knows what the Writ says about “lightning” so suspects that the Rakurai would strike against large scale use/generation of electricity.

    What he doesn’t know is if the Rakurai would strike or just “waken” what waits under the Temple.

  8. Nimitz13 says:

    As awful as conditions were/are for the soldiers defending the Sylmahn Gap, conditions for the TLs assaulting it must be immeasurably worse. They’re fighting against an entrenched position, probably uphill, and exactly WHO is providing them with resupply? They must be freezing and starving to death by the hundreds/thousands depending on how many there are. If they aren’t turncoats from the regular army, they’re at best militia, and now they’re seriously outgunned since Stohnar sent modern rifles to stop them.

    It’s well over a thousand miles to the nearest of the Border States from the gap, and those states aren’t organized to bring in food and supplies to support the rebels. (As far as we know…) Stohnar’s troops and supplies had to travel roughly 500 miles, and once the first EoC convoys arrive, they can be resupplied indefinitely. When Spring arrives, they’ll have something to eat, but the TLs? It’s gonna be months before the AoG arrive, and the ICA may arrive in plenty of time to help defend the Sylmahn Gap, smash it open, and rout the starving TLs before the AoG arrive. THEN they can rout the northern AoG! ;)

    I was really surprised that Stohnar controls only 70 million people at this point, barely more than half those who lived in Siddarmark prior to the SoS. He controls the most heavily inhabited provinces, so does the 70 million figure tell us that millions died during the SoS? What’s the total population of Siddarmark now? It’s still WAY more than the entire EoC, so getting Siddarmark as an ally will be crucial to the good guy’s survival – and will fulfill Clyntahn’s worst nightmare… Bleek!

    The ICN needs to do an Iythria on Geyra and Desnar this year to sink the last few ships of the Desnarian NoG, and to deny Thirsk any major ports to resupply and repair his ships if he’s ordered to sail around Howard and harass EoC shipping. I STILL think they should take out Gorath and Thirsk this year, but that’s probably not gonna happen in this book, and Thirsk may bail before the ICN comes calling. King Rahnayld may not be so lucky…

  9. Grant C says:

    @Matthew: I did not get the impression they were worried about him pushing tech to fast for the orbital platforms, but rather for the general population and the public relations concerns about the proscriptions and whether they are violating them.

    They NEED people to continue believing they are not violating those proscriptions at this point in the game. The CoGA are going to push the case hard wherever they get an opening, helping them make it convincing and turning the population more adamantly against Charis by letting Seamount go on a far more accelerated rampage of technological innovation would be a bad thing.

  10. JeffM says:

    @5. C’mon, Drak–on Safehold, there is no such thing as a sovereign ruler (yet)–because Cayleb is answerable to Sharleyan, and vice versa!

  11. Drak Bibliophile says:

    JeffM, that’s a good one. [Chuckle Chuckle]

  12. JeffM says:

    Key phrase: “Besides, that way we’ll know he’s still going to be around when we’re able to begin rebuilding our tech base openly!”

  13. BobG says:

    @6 Lasers are columnated light, so the inverse square law per see does not apply. Rather, in depends on the wavelength of the laser.

    “Neglecting divergence due to poor beam quality, the divergence of a laser beam is proportional to its wavelength and inversely proportional to the diameter of the beam at its narrowest point.”

    Ideally, the formula is beam_divergence = laser_waverlength / ( pi * initial_beam_width )

    (all this from Wikipedia)

    — Bob G

  14. Doug Lampert says:

    @13, inverse square law still applies. The beam divergence is in radians and thus the beam spreads with distance and the intensity falls by an inverse square law.

    This is from years of working with optical systems including lasers, not Wikipedia.

  15. Allan G says:

    Spaceflight does not require electronics and never has.
    Fluidic (pneumatic and hydraulic) controls are more than adequate.
    Remote telemetry does require electronics and any form of interstellar flight will have a significant thermal or gravity wave footprint using current physics.

  16. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Allan, it’s not about “electronics”.

    It’s about preventing the use of electricity.

    Langhorne wanted to prevent “interstellar flight” and you wouldn’t be able to get to that point without the use of electricity.

  17. @13 That is the inverse square law. There is a divergence angle, which defines a nominal point source (lasers are not point sources). However, the coherent process yields a light beam spreading from a center that is not located inside the laser, but rather far to the rear of the laser.

  18. “The inverse square law means the power of the lasers it uses for protection strike with only 1/4 the power at 2000 km that they hit with at 1000 km, so beam weapons have an inherit limit to their effective range.”

    Well, no. You can say that a laser acts as a point source, but a laser is not a point and the nominal point is not inside the laser.

    Yes, I did spend 40 years of professional career worrying about this. And it is correct in my book “Minutegirls”.

  19. Nimitz13 says:

    @7 I bow to the master – Ok, the master’s evil servant, who has read the book and doles out tidbits for us to make grand fusses over and fools of ourselves…

    I DID say any planetary defense coming from the Rakurai was small and inadvertent. A Gbaba scout isn’t likely to fly close enough to get blasted to atoms, but it COULD, which was my point. Sorta like guessing if a bug is gonna fly into the zapper. Bleek!

    The “waking up something under the temple” that has Merlin worried could put a serious crimp in scientific progress. We’d all like to see a test of the Rakurai’s response to electrical generation on some lonely, deserted wasteland near the south pole, but now it ain’t gonna happen… at least not until the Archangels return (and we find out what that means and what they DO,) or the EoC and Siddarmark seize the temple and Merlin figures out what’s under it and how to stop it. (That gets my vote for best plot!)

    “Heirs of Empire” WAS written based on the Safehold saga that the MWW had been thinking about, and is sort of a first try at the concept. I tend to think it’s going to be quite “loosely” based by the time the Safehold series ends, but capturing the temple DID give them control of the orbitals in HoE. I don’t think that will happen with Safehold – I fear the return of an Archangel AI or PICA to reform the CoGA or use the Rakurai on Charis & co. is more in the cards.

    Remember, the CoGA must NOT be reformed, it must be DESTROYED for the lie that it is, or mankind will never reach the stars, let alone be prepared to defeat the Gbaba.

  20. Nimitz13 says:

    @18 I’ll yield to the laser experts as to whether the inverse square law applies, but there’s a functional limit on the range of a laser in any case – the ability to anticipate the location of a target when the laser arrives at that location.

    It would be tough to hit a dodging Gbaba scout 30 light seconds away. I’d guess that’s why the MWW put a limit on the effective range of grasers in the Honorverse. The target practice excerpt in “Shadow of Saganami” IIRC showed how tough it was to hit a distant target with a graser. That’s one reason Manticore switched predominantly to missiles that can be redirected as they close with their target. (Killing the enemy without closing to beam weapon range is another, plus missiles can search for a new target if they lose initial targeting, and passing fleets are only in energy range for a few seconds at most, etc.)

    The Mesan Alignment’s graser missiles further demonstrate beam weapon’s limitations – they’re effective only IF the missile loaded with a graser can get within effective targeting distance. Then they’re VERY effective, so look for Manticore to develop them as well.

    Regardless of whether the inverse square law applies or not, the defensive lasers of the Rakurai ARE effective within the defensive perimeter they’re programmed to defend, and they DON’T fire outside of that perimeter, so this discussion doesn’t really matter in practical terms.

  21. Allan G says:

    @16 Drak Bibliophile,
    It is however entirely possible to build a nuclear (fission warhead only though as fusion devices use particle accelerators in the warhead) armed ICBM within the restrictions stated so far, so long as you will settle for ground burst rather than airburst detonation without using any electricity at all. The technology ladder would normally require the use of electricity to be used for research purposes (particle beam accelerators etc. but the basic weapon does not require a technology level much higher than mid Victorian (steam engine) engineering level). David Weber made the point that the proscriptions were designed by bureaucrats without much knowledge of the history of technology.

  22. Summercat says:


    You forgot to bleek. >:L

  23. msj says:

    @21 – yes but…. getting the ignition mechanism to work in a reliable enough manner would be interesting. I had two visions when I read your post – the first of someone lighting a fuse 5 miles long; the second of someone winding up a clock work mechanism designed to trigger a percussion cap of some sort at some point in the future. Assuming a gun style fission bomb (think “Little Boy” – the Hiroshima bomb) you can probably make it go off, but when? And what do you do if it fails to go off when you expect it to?

    Admittedly, Merlin can work around these things, but then we’re really not talking about pure Victorian tech.

  24. Allan G says:

    The “Little Boy” device was armed (and final assembly completed) in the air because of the very high risk of detonation if the aircraft crashed. Gun type uranium bombs are particulary sensitive to this and this is why they are not popular with the users, implosion devices are safer against accidental detonation as the design requires precision timing of 20 plus detonators but the potential is still there if the original “Fatman” design is used with the Polonium implosion peizoneutron generator in the core of the plutonium target, later designs changed to a linear accellerator as a neutron source providing an additional layer of protection against accidental (or even deliberate) detonation. The US Army built and tested a number of nuclear artillery shell designs gun type mechanisms with inertial triggers. (But to deploy these you need a gun with a 20 mile range, rather more than the Safehold current tech level until smokeless powders reach production). (FYI Designs for home built gun type bombs were published widely 20 years ago, the hard part is obtaining the enriched uranium target and projectile (without killing yourself in the process or alerting your neighbours)).
    As for clockwork fuses, dusting off the really nasty antitamper designs of the second world war would be educational (which Merlin probably has stashed in the library).
    Other nasty tech within easier reach could include submarines with peroxide based power plants and torpedo’s (German Type-XX U-Boats for example)(and possibly aircraft), sea mines, gliders (including sea launched kite based versions) and the many and varied poison gases (which any sensible rule of warfare would have banned). Even diesel (compession ignition) engines are possibly arguable (compressed air starters are common today and if that doesn’t suit, clockwork starters are available for up to 12 liter engines (I know because I ordered some for an offshore oil platform’s emergency generator / air compressor set a couple of years back)).
    You dont need electricity for tech levels below 1950’s level technology (Radio and TV requires it, as do microprocessor based computers, mechanical computers do not and they are Victorian tech (Look up Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace…), numerical (punch card programmable)controlled machines are even older tech (Napoleonic era). It was common until the 1980’s for refineries to have no electrical power on site (due to fire risks) but it didn’t prevent quite complex controls being implemented.

  25. @8 Where are the figures on Siddarmark’s population?

  26. damonby says:

    @25 on davidweber.net David is a frequent poster, under the name runsforcelery. On that website he supplied a number population numbers and other info about Safehold. If you are seriously into this series, check out the Safehold forum on that site. It has a lot of speculation about the next book and the future of the series.

  27. arrrgh says:

    Note, merlin uses electricity all the time. Sure, the main base is shielded, but how shielded is Merlin?

    I doubt small localized uses of electricity would show up. How could they even be detected? The likely trigger would be long distance power lines, which would easily show up. ie anything that would normally be affected by emp, solar storms etc.

    The other trigger could of course be the power plants, they would generate pollution that would show up on a spectrometer. However, if you are talking about a single project, i suspect Merlin’s mountain can generate all that’s required. Or, if the power was generated and used at a hydro dam, it should be safe? I guess maybe there could be a way to detect the large spools of copper wire used in generation?

  28. Anthony says:

    @ 27 for the hydro dam it would probably depend on how much material you could use as shielding for the generator. Can they even produce concrete or are they using some form of cement? can they make enough of it to manufacture the dam?

    As far as the nuke I see the problems would be in mining and enriching the uranium (enriching uranium appears to be a very complicate task) and delivering the bomb itself. You can simplify the delivery if you were willing to use a suicide bomber; he could just drive the bomb in on a cart and “pull the trigger.”

    That sounds more like Clyntahn tactics though; and risks capture too. (clyntahn with a nuke to use, scarry thought.)

  29. jgarland says:

    @20 To the best of my knowledge lasers presently are collimated to achieve microradian dispersion (if dispersion is the correct word). This works out to a millimeter per kilometer. Therefore, a 1 meter graser would be 1.001 meters across at 1 km, 2 meters (i.e., 1/4 the energy density/meter squared) meters at 1000 km and so on. Given advances in Manticorian tech, maybe they are down a few more orders of magnitude (don’t know what the theoretical limit is). In any case, distance will always rear its ugly head.

  30. jgarland says:


    The romans used concrete without having electricity.

  31. tootall says:

    Nukes, electricity,cement-concrete,lasers- a lot of which I didn’t know,

    Is this fun or what?

  32. Allan G says:

    Uranium enrichment isnt overly hard, just very power intensive and time consuming (and involving the handling of toxic and corrosive gases like Uranium hexafluoride).
    Electromagnetic mass separation would be out, this would leave gas diffusion (requiring teflon coatings and membranes) and gas centrifugal separation (which requires finely balanced machinery for which aluminium is preferred but other metals could be used).
    All of these are 1940’s level technology which are possible to implement without electric power, at the cost however of higher energy consumption, due to higher mechanical transmission losses. (The Iranian’s appear to have made a dogs breakfast of this by overcomplicating everything (a problem and a serious temptation with computer controlled equipment, and a common factor in a lot of modern equipment (not helped by a liberal helping of sabotage)) and the North Koreans by getting the mechanics wrong). Technology is often about attitude rather than invention, fine tolerances require a willingness to reject anything that is just not precisely right (an issue for people used to working to cannon tolerances but not for people used to handling high pressure steam.

  33. Nimitz13 says:

    @22 Whoops, you caught me! Bleek!

    The discussion of lasers, micro-radian measurements, and the fine tolerances required for future tech reminds me of an example we were given in college:

    If you tell an engineer and a mathematician that with each step they will close half the distance to a beautiful woman, the mathematician will despair of ever reaching her, but the engineer will be delighted to know that he will soon be close enough for all practical purposes!

    To which I add, given the inability of the human body to position itself within extremely strict tolerances (and stay there), the engineer will actually REACH the woman when his proximity to her is less than the margin of error introduced by the physical inability to position their bodies with a high degree of precision. Enjoy! ;)

    May Safehold have many engineers and relatively few mathematicians, although they need plenty of both.


  34. Nimitz13 says:

    WhoHoo! The MWW just released an updated world map, with LOTS of new details about Siddarmark, where canals are located, (but not locks,) cities, etc.


    This is SO cool! My thanks to the MWW!!!! Wow, golly, jeepers, Bleek!!!

  35. ET1swaw says:

    I so love thread drift (G)!!

    Let’s recap:
    A major portion of Siddarmark is: under (CoGA sanctioned) rebel control or involved recovering from rape/pillage/terrorism (also CoGA sanctioned).
    A good portion of the remainder is involved in irregular warfare that makes Georgia/Carolinas in the Revolution and/or Kansas/Missouri in the ACW look like a gentleman’s game.
    Exremely nasty conventional war is also being waged against the embattled Stohnar loyalists.
    The Reformers in Siddarmark (unlike EoC’s Church of Charis) do not yet have a unified front; just opposition to the Go4 and a wish for a better CoGA.
    Clyntahn’s scorched earth (irregular and regulars alike) and call for jihad are causing mass starvation (with the accompanying illnesses/fatalalities) for the less well off of BOTH sides (though aimed at Stohnar).
    The AoG from the Temple Lands and Border States though minimally engaged ATT (AFAIK most current “problems” in siddarmark are rebel-based not AoG) is due for a MAJOR increase in manpower and a planned for increase in capability.
    Stohnar has a MASSIVE fifth column present in the lands he still holds.
    The EoC can send only so much food through an EXTENDED line of supply (IIRC their population is maybe one fifth (or less) that of the remaining Siddarmark areas and their previous exports were mainly manufactured goods not foodstuffs).
    While Clyntahn’s embargo and the hits taken by the NoG may have freed up shipping hulls; the EoC was not a breadbasket (NOT like the US shipping to Russia or the PLC to TYW Germanies).
    Clyntahn’s forces (the Inquisition and suborned priests) seem to readying to call upon Desnair, Dohlar, Silkiah, and even Harchong to ready their own AoGs to crush Siddarmark as the original multinational naval force was called on to do by the Knights of the Temple Lands (South Howard (Delferayk, etc.); Trellheim; Fallos; etc. amy not be directly called, but I am sure they will be required to show support (in nothing else to escape the taint/death-sentence of declared heresy)).
    The technological gaps between the EoC forces and those of the CoGA are narrowing (somewhat rapidly as the Inquisition using stolen concepts is becoming fully self-justified (it isn’t evil if we use it; we can always proscribe it again later after we send all those heretics to Hell to squat with Shan Wei).
    And Clntahn has basically given carte blanche to everyone’s worser nature as long as the recipient is “a heretic” or thought to be supporting one (and like the witch trials; the accusers/judges (with a nice CoGA cut of course) get the witch’s lands and goods).
    IIRC even with all of Siddarmark added on the EoC side; the population mismatch is in excess of 7 to 1 (in CoGA’s favor).
    And the ICA (though technologically superior) is miniscule compared to the land forces arrayed against them.

    I am sure there is more bad news for the good guys, but that seems enough for now!


  36. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @35 – Rob

    Let’s not forget something important, though. The CoGA is going broke. By devastating Siddarmark in the name of “purifying” the Church (or however Clyntahn wants to justify it), the AoG is contributing to its own decline, and is in fact making that decline more rapid. Siddarmark was supplying much of the money to the CoGA through its tithes (even though it was trading with EoC); that’s gone now, and none of the other nations can make up that lack effectively or quickly.

    Moreover, the scorched earth policies the AoG has adopted in Siddarmark means that the AoG cannot forage off the land. They have to be supplied over a long line as well. It’s not as long as the EoC line to Stohner, and in theory, the AoG has more resources to draw upon, but they still have a vulnerable supply line to defend/maintain. Rear area raids by the Siddarmark/ICA combined forces could create serious problems for the AoG.

  37. DKCWong says:

    @35 Pretty good recap and I agree with most of it. However, I think that the narrowing of the technology gap between the CoGA and EoC is short-term. While obtaining exploding shells, formulating better power, and matching Charisian small arms will improve the effectiveness of the CoGA’s military, Charis is still innovating at a much faster clip. Worst for the CoGA they have been ‘reverse’ engineering and really don’t have Charis’ equivalent of Ahlfryd Hyndryk (aka Baron Seamount) and his R&D staff.

    Since Clyntahn’s deep undercover spy blew himself up after murdering his unsuspecting cousin, I don’t know if there is an effective spy organization left in Charis or elsewhere in the EoC that can provide him an inside track on what the Charisians are currently developing and deploying. If he doesn’t have one any more, then he’s never going to ever be able to anticipate let alone be able to quickly replicate the latest military innovations Baraon Seamount will be introducing. Of course there are some smart people like Admiral Thirsk who thought up the idea of armoring ships to withstand exploding shells. But again, the CoGA doesn’t have the foundary and industrial capability and techniques to manufacture armor as quickly as Charis will be able to and fortunately, Thirsk isn’t one of Clyntahn’s favorites so it’s likely any of his good ideas won’t be taken seriously or promptly.

  38. PeterZ says:

    @36 RHW. Robert, if you look that the map Nimitz13 is squealing about ;-) (it is worthy of a squeal or two), the rear area raids are not that attractive. The river/canal network for the AoG in the Border Kingdoms are pretty thorough. It makes more sense to attack Dohlar. Taking out the Dohlaran ports forces North Harchong to send their troops and supplies up through the Hsing-wu passage and forces Desnair and South Harchong out of the fight. North Watch really doesn’t support any good trade routes. Troops and supplies have to go through Silkiah or Dohlar. Destroy the Dohlaran ports and Howard is out of the fight. Capture Alykberg and control Shiloh, Cliff Peak and Glacierheart and Dohlar can’t get troops or supplies north to the theatre of operations.

    If the AoG captures Glacierheart, they can move south and cut Siddar City from the southern provinces which means less food for next winter. The AoG has two mortally crippling targets: Glacierheart and Sylmahn Gap. If they capture either, Stohnar is dead.

    The Cliff Peak campaign is where the ICA will be staged, I think. Open terrain where the ICA’s combined arms formations will chop up the pikes and muskets formation of the AoG. If the ICA has muzzle loading rifled canons firing shells, those closed pike and musket formations will just be slow moving targets.

  39. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @38 – PeterZ

    Thanks for that info (I had overlooked Nimitz13’s map link somehow) and the observations. I think your observations are pretty good, but I’d still be tempted to try rear area raids at a scale just large enough to keep the AoG worried about their rear. Yes, the rear area raids are exceedingly dangerous, and the canal system can potentially keep the AoG well-supplied. OTOH, there is the “fear factor” that rear area raiding can cause. No, you won’t shut down the AoG, but you will make them consider the vulnerabilities in their rear areas. The effect of rear area raiding on AoG morale could be (I’d argue would be) out of proportion to the actual danger the raids represent to AoG logistics, and it might cause them to divert front-line troops rearward for canal protection.

    What do you think?

  40. PeterZ says:

    @39 RHW

    I agree with the logic of posing visible threats to the AoG rear. I would recommend securing Icewind Province instead of a raid. If that is secured and reeled into the Protector’s boat, the Border Lands up north will be sweating bricks. It has a better chance of success as at least some of the population supports resisting the AoG. After that is secured, then the rear area raids become much more attractive using Icewind as a base of operations. Besides, with the ICN to ferry forces along the shore of Hsing-wu’s passage to flank forces moving towards Salyk. This also has the benefit of creating a base to operate ICN cruisers/privateers along of the passage to further cut off Harchongese logistics.

  41. Scotian says:

    “It’s a solid piece of writing, but I don’t like the reasons they’re giving for not telling Ahlfryd. I think the “geek” thing was over the top and honestly, if he’s as smart as they say he is then he’s going to understand the reasons that they can’t shout their outrage to the skies.”

    @1 – Matthew

    I strongly disagree with you on this point. In fact I find the “geek” comment actually underscores something which you appear not to be taking into consideration, that being emotional reactions are not always governable by intellectual control, and this can be especially true in those with high intelligence and the belief that intellect is there to be used to benefit humans/humanity with its use like with many “geeks” of the world, and for someone with such core beliefs to find out the lie that has blocked such development this is going to be a major emotional issue. The problem with your reasoning comes down to the fact that just because we may know something should/can not be done because it will have major negative repercussions to something important to us does not automatically mean a person can do so, especially if the emotional impact goes to a core/basic element of one’s nature/beliefs and outrages it. I think the character as written really could be susceptible to this very human failing given the way Weber has written him, and I find that the descriptor actually helps explain that as well. Smart people are still people, and just because one has intellectual gifts/strengths does not mean they have equivalent emotional gifts/strengths/control, this is a reality that you see throughout human society, history, and nature, which is why I found your comment bothersome to me. Not everyone with the intellectual ability to know the truth and understand it will be able to emotionally control their reaction to that knowledge (a point the Brethren have made I might add from the outset), some will find it more than they can bear and retreat, others will burn so much with outrage that despite their knowledge that they cannot be open about it will still end up slipping and having it come out anyway, as I said before this is a very basic human nature issue, and not an obscure on either.

    I think this concern is very real and valid in Ahlfryd’s case, and the only reason it has not been permanently decided against him being told already is because Sharleyan wants so much to be able to be open with him because of her personal feelings towards him. Otherwise I expect this would be a long settled issue because he really is doing so much of what Merlin/Nimue needed to see in both research development AND in creating the right mindset to create more in his fellows without the knowledge and that at this stage truly is the most important aspect, not whether he might be able to take some advanced tech and make more use of it, the risk vs rewards ratio here clearly shows it is far better to not tell him than to do so. At least that is how it seems to me.

  42. Alan says:

    @5 With titles apart from king and emperor it is pretty much random what they actually mean. The English versions are all late Roman military titles, apart from king and earl.

    Several centuries worth of dukes of Aquitaine, Brittany and Normandy (long before many of them were also kings of England) would have been deeply surprised at the idea that they were part of France or answered to the king of France. Ditto the dukes of Burgundy a while later. The counts of Barcelona refused a crown for a long time because they said they were already great counts but would only be little kings.

  43. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Correct Alan. Of course, I suspect that on Safehold the Church has definitions for the different titles.

  44. Nimitz13 says:


    If you want to know just about everything about country’s populations, armed forces, available shipping, sailing distances, troops speeds, fodder needs, food needs, you name it, check out the RAW MEAT FOR THE SPECULATORS (SPOILERS) thread on the Weber Forums.


    @35 A VERY good summation, although combining Siddarmark’s population with the EoC makes the odds against them 4 to 1. Granted a large part of the population of Siddarmark are TLs, so we can’t count them as allies of the EoC. Stohnar controls 70 million of his people, which effectively doubles the number of “good guys.” There are probably millions who support him in the provinces controlled by the TLs, so the odds are probably closer to 6 to 1 – but there’s no indication that Silkiah, Sodar, and Delferahk will be sending troops, which drops the odds to less than 5 to 1.

    This presumes nobody died, but unfortunately MILLIONS of Siddarmarkans have likely died, and a lot more will starve and be slaughtered by the AoG, regardless of which side they’re on. So the good guys need to stay steeply on top of the technology curve to defeat the incoming hordes of the AoG, Dohlar, Desnair, and Harchong.

    What matters is how many troops will be involved, and the news gets a lot better. The “good guys” number 1.34 million, of which 37% are militia, but some of the ICA has to stay where they are to guard the home front, and in the garrisons in Corisande, Zebediah, etc.

    There are 473,000 TL militia fighting against Siddarmark in the provinces they control. There are are NO surviving TL Siddarmark army troops listed – apparently all TL army deserters are counted as TL militia now. The only forces Stohnar faces at the moment are the surviving TL militia, which outnumber his much better army troops by 79,000, but including his militia he outnumbers the TLs almost 2-1. If Siddarmark could fight the civil war themselves, Stohnar would retake the country eventually, even without ICA troops.

    Incoming troops – the AoG refers only to the Border States and the Temple Lands. They number somewhere north of 500,000, and they’ll trickle in to the north and south (and possibly the middle) at different times. We aren’t given the exact number of troops Dohlar has, but they can invade as soon as they can find their posteriors with both hands. Combined with Desnair, they number 360,000 troops – but Desnair won’t arrive for a while, as they’ll be forced to walk north to Silkiah, as there are no north-south canals on the mountainous isthmus – and the best canals headed north in Desnair all debouch in the Gulf of Jahras, which is RULED by the ICN. (OUCH!) Once in Silkiah they can take the canal north to South March and invade away!

    The good guys should be able to fight these invaders to a standstill, and could kick them completely out of Siddarmark were it not for the 1.5 million Harchongese on their way – eventually, but probably not in large numbers until next year. The new map doesn’t show the canals in North or South Harchong, so it’s difficult to estimate how quickly they can arrive, especially if the ICN prevents them from shipping troops across the Gulf of Dohlar and kills a bunch by sinking their transports. The entire world minus the EoC has only 1300 galleons left with 1.3 million tons capacity (wherever they are) while the EoC has more than twice as many galleons and almost three times the carrying capacity. Charis has a LOT further to sail, but the CoGA may be able to use very little of that “available” shipping. (Please MWW, send a fleet to stomp on Thirsk and control the Gulf of Dohlar! It’s a major key to winning!)

    So troop-wise the odds are about 2-1, although 1/3 of the good guy’s troops are militia, and not all of the ICA can come to the party. Counting only regular army troops, the odds are 3-1. Given the increased firing rates of the ICA, plus their rifled artillery and whatever new surprises they have for us, they have a multiplying force of at LEAST 2-3x the effectiveness of the AoG, Dohlar, and Desnair, and probably higher against Harchong. Siddarmark is fighting for its life, which tends to stiffen one’s spine and increase one’s effectiveness as well.

    Unfortunately Dohlar and Desnair will invade before the ICA can arrive, as will a number of the Border States. The Temple Guard may not arrive before the ICA, although when and where they’ll meet is up to the MWW. Traymos, just south of Icewind, which is THE northern choke point for canals and would cut off the AoG completely from going further east or south is a good possibility.

    We’re going to see some VERY intense fighting, especially around Glacierheart and the Sylmahn Gap. The ICA should send troops to take Thesmar, Alkyberg, Dairnyth,and Port Darymahn in the South March Lands to prevent Dohlar, Desnair, and Harchong from moving north using the canals, and anyone from using the Gulf of Bess to land troops near a canal. Plus there’s still troops and militia loyal to Stohnar fighting the TLs in the South March Lands who will join with the ICA.

    But until the ICA arrives, the first weeks/months of the invasion are going to be Bleek!

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