Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 15

Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 15

Greyghor Stohnar was a strong man, but he’d sat in his pew in Siddar Cathedral with his face buried in his hands, shoulders heaving, as he listened to the joyously tolling bells and wept in gratitude when that first convoy sailed into Bedard Bay. The schooner sent ahead to tell him it was coming, delayed by The Anvil’s quixotic headwinds, had arrived less than twelve hours before the convoy itself, and the Charisian seamen aboard those galleons had labored until they collapsed, unloading sack after sack of Charisian and Emeraldian rice and yams and corn, Tarotisian potatoes, carrots, and apples. Swaying cask after cask of preserved fish, pork, beef, and dragon out of their ships’ holds and into the lighters alongside or the wagons waiting in endless lines along Siddar City’s wharves. Lightering ashore the milk cows sent to replace those which had been slaughtered in desperation as the fodder ran out and the people starved, and the fodder to keep at least some of the surviving farm animals alive.

Foods like rice and yams were virtually unknown in the Republic, but mothers with pinched, gaunt faces had stood for hours in biting wind and cold, soaking rain to take home a few pounds of the exotic Charisian foods which would make the difference between their children’s lives and deaths. And as any galleon was emptied, it turned, setting sail back towards Charis, more often than not with a cargo of orphans or the sick to be delivered to Charisian orphanages, hospitals, and monasteries.

It was the largest relief effort in Safehold’s history, tying up almost a quarter of the empire’s total merchant fleet. The repercussions of that on trade and military logistics scarcely bore thinking upon, yet it had sent enough food to feed over a million and a half people at least a thousand calories a day and keep almost a half million desperately needed farm animals alive for three months. Three months in which Charis, Tarot, and Emerald would double the land they had under cultivation and labor gangs throughout eastern Siddarmark would put seed into the ground anywhere it wasn’t too frozen to plow.

Too many had died anyway, and more would die still, but Siddar City wasn’t the only place Charisian convoys had landed their life-saving supplies. Trokhanos Province, Malitar, Windmoor, Rollings . . . Charisian ships had been everywhere, landing lifesaving supplies wherever they could find a few fathoms of seawater.

There were those who wondered how even monarchs as legendary for their foresight as Cayleb and Sharleyan Ahrmahk could have known to begin organizing that relief effort five-days before the first messenger from Siddarmark ever reached them. Most accepted Maikel Staynair’s explanation — totally honest, as far as it went — that Charisian agents had begun to suspect Clyntahn’s intentions well before the “Sword of Schueler” struck. For the diehard Temple Loyalists, there was a simpler more acceptable explanation, of course — one supplied and endorsed by the Inquisition. They’d long since decided that in addition to all the blasphemies and heresies the world knew about, Cayleb and Sharleyan had sold themselves to Shan-wei — Cayleb in return for his demon familiar Merlin Athrawes and the sorceress Sharleyan in return for the power to steal the hearts and minds of even the godliest men and seduce them into Shan-wei’s evil — so of course they could foresee the future, as well.

Frankly, there was more truth in that explanation (in Safeholdian terms, at least) than Merlin really cared for, but the vast majority of Siddarmarkians didn’t care how Cayleb and Sharleyan had known. No, what they cared about was that the House of Ahrmahk had begun assembling those convoys of food and medical supplies long before they’d been asked to, and that they’d sent them to the Republic with no strings attached. No demand for payment, for alliances. No political conditions or stipulations. The Empire and Church of Charis had simply sent everything it had the hulls to move, and that was why a strong man had sat in a cathedral and wept as his capital’s church bells rang out the news that even in a world gone mad, there was a realm and a church which simply sent what it had to those who needed it so desperately.

There was an edge of realpolitik to it, of course. No one in Charis could be blind to the gratitude and goodwill that relief effort had bought the Empire. Yet that truly hadn’t been the primary reason Cayleb and Sharleyan had mounted it. A highly desirable second wyvern to hit with the same stone, yes, but Merlin knew that food would have moved north across Safehold’s stormy seas even if they’d known no alliance, no treaties of mutual aid, would ever come of it.

Not that anyone was going to complain — assuming Staynair was right and Stohnar and the Republic survived the winter — over what had come of it.

“There’s no question in my mind that Stohnar’s going to agree to the draft treaty terms when they get to Dragoner,” he said now. “There’s not a thing in them that doesn’t track exactly with his own offer of alliance, and frankly, without us, he doesn’t have a chance of holding off the Group of Four.”

“Especially not with that army Rahnyld’s about to send over the border into the South March,” Cayleb said grimly. “Oh, and let’s not forget that ‘voluntary’ free passage for Desnairian troops Trynair’s about to extort out of Silkiah, either.”

“Agreed.” Merlin nodded, his eyes watching as a trio of war galleons made sail, standing slowly out of King’s Harbor into the broader, darker waters of Howell Bay for gunnery practice. “Clyntahn and Maigwair are at least smart enough to know they have to go for a quick knockout, before we can intervene effectively.”

“How long do you think?” Cayleb asked. “Another month?”

“Probably.” Merlin’s expression was thoughtful. “It might be a little longer — thank God Rahnyld’s army doesn’t have its own equivalent of Thirsk! They’re getting themselves organized faster than I could wish, though, even without that. Desnair’s going to be at least another four or five five-days behind that, unless they do go ahead and ferry a Desnairian invasion force across Salthar Bay to support the Dohlarans.”

“Not going to happen.” There was no doubt at all in Cayleb’s tone. “Rahnyld trusts Mahrys about as far as Clyntahn trusts me. Even if the Group of Four gives him a direct order to pass Mahrys through his kingdom, he’ll drag his heels harder than Sharley ever did when the ‘Knights of the Temple Lands’ ordered her to help Hektor burn Charis to the ground! He’ll argue — and with some justification, really — that he doesn’t have the bottoms to move that many men, or the logistic capability to support them all through Dohlar. And he’ll spin it out long enough that by the time he’s done, Mahrys will have his invasion route through Silkiah cleared, instead At which point, it’ll still take another month actually get any Desnarian troops into Siddarmark.”

It was possible Cayleb was being a bit overly optimistic, Merlin thought, but overall he agreed with the emperor’s analysis, and Sharleyan was nodding firmly.

“That’s good,” Staynair said. “Unfortunately, unless I’m mistaken, that still means Emperor Mahrys is likely to be invading the Republic before Duke Eastshare can get anywhere near enough of the Army into Siddarmark to stop him. And then there’s King Rahnyld, of course.”

“True,” Cayleb said in a harsher, darker tone. “That suggestion we send a message from Zhevons was a good one, Merlin. But even with Kynt to do the planning and prodding, the thought of marching an army through Raven’s Land to the Passage of Storms obviously doesn’t really appeal to Eastshare. And I’m not surprised it doesn’t, to be fair. Even if the Raven Lords decide to actively cooperate rather than harassing him every step of the way, any army he force-marches across those so-called roads is going to be more than a little ragged by the time it finally gets to Siddarmark. At which point, I might add, it’s going to be at the wrong end of the Republic to stop Dohlar or Desnair.”

“I know, but it would still get them there faster than we could move them the full distance by sea. This time at least. And every mile he marches them west is one less mile a transport will have to cross. Even if he only gets them as far as Marisahl before we can start getting transports to him, it’ll cut his arrival time a lot. And if he gets as far as, say, Malphyra Bay, we can cut the number of transports he needs in half because of the reduced turn around time for the round trip. Especially if he keeps on marching west with the second echelon of his army while the first one’s en route aboard ship. He can be in Marisahl forty days after he crosses The Fence, if he pushes hard, and in Malphyra in another twenty. And we wouldn’t have to send him across to Rollings Province once we got him aboard ship, you know. There’d be time to pick another destination if it seemed like a good idea.”


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61 Responses to Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 15

  1. Joe says:

    There’s the spy in the Charisian embassey not to mention Dragoner isn’t exactly head over heels for Caylebs policies. Will the treaty reach stonhar or will some people in the embassey get a head shorter?

  2. tootall says:

    #51 Great point- maybe she’s had a change of heart given the violence directed at her people in Siddarmark- maybe not

  3. Nimitz13 says:

    @51 It’s pretty clear from the snippet that they have SNARCs watching Dragoner, and I’d guess the entire embassy at this point. Should there be any hanky-panky with the treaty, the inner-circle will know who did it. Should the spy try ANYTHING at this point she’s likely to get caught. Siddarmark has a HUGE spotlight on it now as far as EoC intelligence goes, and it didn’t before the SoS.

    After watching the savagery with which the CoGA just attacked Siddarmark, I’m pretty sure Dragoner isn’t nearly as ambivalent about his job as he used to be…

    @52 She may be shocked by how vicious “her” people were – she’s a TL after all, and seeing “heretics” and Siddarmakans raped and murdered should lead anyone to question a cause that would encourage such behavior.
    So she may give Dragoner an infodump of her own before long! Bleek!

  4. JeffM says:

    @52. A. Assumiing she survived. B. Assuming she wasn’t forewarned, and was off to visit family in the Temple Lands (which I think unlikely) and C. Assuming she or her own family weren’t harmed in the riots.

    It’s also going to be interesting to see how Dragoner’s perspective might have shifted. We haven’t seen him in a while, after all, and even the Ferayd Massacre might have shifted his position.

  5. sbs says:

    Something came to me wile I was rereading the snippets…Admiral Rock Point at the end of the last book had just destroyed the Desnairan navy and seemingly was poised to destroy Desnair the City’s harbor also. I do not think any emperor will be able to withstand that kind of defeat while also simultaneously mounting an invasion, he is leaving himself wide open to an invasion by the EoC marines. Just a thought…

  6. Drak Bibliophile says:

    SBS, he destroyed the Desnairan navy at the port of Iythria which is not close to the City of Desnair. He did destroy the war-making potential of Iythria.

    Also looking at this map: http://infodump.thefifthimperium.com/entry/Safehold/338/1 it doesn’t appear that the City of Desnair is close enough to the ocean for an invasion by ICN Marines.

    In any case, if the Church calls on Emperor Mahrys to send an army to invade Siddarmark, then he’s in big trouble no matter what excuse he makes for not sending it.

  7. JeffM says:

    At least until those selfsame Marines cart off the next shipment of gold intended for Zion. ;)

  8. BobG says:

    @53 She’s a “true believer”, even her own starving (assuming the Church underground hasn’t been feeding her), or the rape and murder of innocent Siddarmarkians won’t change her mind, or rather will be small issues relative to the saving of their souls.

    OTOH, if she is discovered by OWL and company, she may be perfect as a source for disinformation passed straight to the Temple. Assuming she isn’t discovered by local Siddarmarkians, in which case her fate will probably be short as well.

  9. sbs says:

    @56 OK, I just remember a conversation that Clynton and Rayno had regarding the sacking of Iythria. Rayno was of the opinion that the reason they did it instead of Desnair the City was because of its strategic importance rather than its political importance which is what would have happened if they destroyed the capital city’s port…that implies that at least part of it is close to the water. But your other point is true, Clynton has created such a Reign of Terror that for survival’s sake rather than military sense will rule the thinking.

  10. sbs says:

    O yea, thanks for the link too. I like that map better. :)

  11. Nimitz13 says:

    @59 It might be time to make a political statement. Besides, the ICN needs to clear out the last few war galleons hiding in Desnair harbor, and Geyra was also used in construction of the NoG IIRC, so on their way to the Gulf of Dohlar, I expect they’ll give them the same treatment they gave to Iythria.

    No king likes having lots of his troops somewhere else when he’s getting attacked at home, even if it’s just large-scale raids. The populace won’t be wild about it either. Now that jihad has been declared EVERY port is a valid military target – especially once they reach the Gulf of Dohlar, where they need to eliminate all the ports being used to transport or supply the AoG, the Harchongese, the Desnairans, and Dohlarans.

    The EoC also has a long-delayed appointment with Gorath and Thirsk, and the entire city is going to burn this time to teach Dohlar the proper treatment of POWs.

    Blockading Salthar Bay by Silkiah, the Gulf of Tanshar in NW Dohlar. and the Gulf of Bess north of Dohlar removes canal access by sea for the church’s army as well. Once the ICA captures Alykberg, Theshmar, and Dairynth, the ICN fleet can be resupplied via canal. (Assuming the church troops running around trying to take those towns back allow that.)

    There’s always the Salthar Canal in Silkiah I suppose. If Clyntahn pulls a SoS on Silkiah, (which would be incredibly stupid but that’s never stopped him before!) I’d expect another EoC ally to emerge, then resupply becomes much easier. Bleek!

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