Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 31

Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 31

.VI.

Shairncross House,

Marisahl,

Ramsgate Bay,

Raven’s Land.

 

Weslai Parkair glowered out the window at the gray sky. He regarded the handful of soggy snowflakes oozing down it towards the equally gray steel of Ramsgate Bay through the chill, damp stillness of a thoroughly dreary morning with glum disapproval, not to say loathing.

Not that it did any good.

The reflection did not improve his sour mood, although the weather was scarcely the only reason for it. He knew that, but the weather was an old, familiar annoyance — almost an old friend, one might say. It was less . . . worrying than other, more recent sources of anxiety, and he was a Highlander, accustomed to the craggy elevations of his clan’s mountainous territory. That was why he hated the winter climate here in Marisahl. He neither knew nor cared about the warm current which ameliorated the climate along the southern coast of Raven’s Land and the northwest coast of the Kingdom of Chisholm. What he did care about was that winter here was far damper, without the proper ice and snow to freeze the wet out of the air. He’d never liked the raw edge winter took on here in Marisahl, where the drizzling cold bit to the bone, and as he’d grown older, his bones and joints had become increasingly less fond of it.

For the last dozen years or so, unfortunately, he’d had no choice but to winter here. It went with the office of the Speaker of the Lords, just one more of the numerous negatives attached to it, and as his rheumatism twinged, he considered yet again the many attractions of resigning. Unfortunately, the clan lords had to be here, as well, since winter was when they could sit down to actually make decisions rather than dealing with day-to-day survival in their cold, beautiful clan holdings. It wasn’t that life got easier in the winter highlands, only that there was nothing much anyone could do about it until spring, which made winter the logical time to deal with other problems . . . like the Council of Clan Lords’ business. So all resigning would really do would be to relegate him to one of the un-upholstered, backless, deliberately spartan benches the other clan lords sat in, thereby proving their hardihood and natural austerity.

Might as well keep my arse in that nice

padded chair for as long as I can, he thought grumpily, and then smiled almost unwillingly. Clearly I have the high-minded, selfless qualities the job requires, don’t I?

 

“It looks like it may actually stick this time, dear,” the small, petite woman across the table said, cradling her teacup between her hands. Zhain Parkair, Lady Shairncross, was eight years younger than her husband, and although his auburn hair had turned iron gray and receded noticeably, her brown hair was only lightly threaded with silver. Twenty-five northern summers and as many winters had put crowsfeet at the corners of her eyes, he thought, but the beauty of the nineteen-year-old maiden he’d married all those years ago was still there for any man with eyes to see, and those same years had added depth and quiet, unyielding strength to the personality behind it.

Umpf!” he snorted now. “If it does, the entire town will shut down and huddle round the fires till it melts.” He snorted again, with supreme contempt for such effete Lowlanders. “People wouldn’t know what to do with a real snowfall, and you know it, Zhain!”

“Yes, dear. Of course, dear. Whatever you say, dear.” Lady Zhain smiled sweetly and sipped tea. He glowered back at her, but his lips twitched, despite his sour mood. Then his wife lowered her cup, and her expression had turned far more serious.

“So the Council’s reached a decision?” Her tone made the question a statement, and her eyes watched him carefully.

“What makes you think that?” he asked, reaching for his fork and studiously concentrating on the omelet before him.

“Your smiling, cheerful mood, for one thing,” his wife said serenely. “Not to mention the fact that you’re meeting this morning with Suwail, whom I know you despise, and Zhaksyn, whom I know you like quite a lot.”

“You, woman, are entirely too bright, d’you know that?” Parkair forked up another bite of omelet and chewed. The ham, onion, and melted cheese were delicious, and he took the time to give them the appreciation they deserved before he looked back up at Lady Zhain. “And you’ve known me too long, too. Might’s well be a damned book where you’re concerned!”

“Oh, no, Father! Never anything so decadent as a book!” The young man sitting at the table with them shook his head, his expression pained. “Mother would never insult you that way, I promise!”

“You have three younger brothers, Adym,” Parkair pointed out. “That means at least two of you are spares. I’d remember that, if I were you.”

“Mother will protect me.” Adym Parkair smiled, but the smile was fleeting, and he cocked his head in a mannerism he’d inherited from Lady Zhain. “She’s right, though, isn’t she? The Council has made a decision.”

“Yes, it has.” Parkair looked back down at his omelet, then grimaced and laid aside his fork to reach for his teacup once more. “And, to be honest, it’s the one I expected.”

Zhain and Adym Parkair glanced at one another. Most Raven Lord clan heads tended to be more than a little on the dour side — enough to give teeth to the rest of the world’s stereotypical view of them and their people. Weslai Parkair wasn’t like that. Despite his only half joking distaste for anything smacking of “book learning,” he was not only warm and humorous but pragmatic and wise, as well, which had a great deal to do with how long he’d been Lord Speaker. Yet that humor was in abeyance today, despite his best effort to lighten the mood, for he was also a devout man, and the question which had occupied the Council of Clan Lords for the last five-day had been a difficult one for him.

“So the Council’s going to grant them passage?” his son asked quietly after a moment, and Parkair grimaced.

“As your mother just observed, nothing else could possibly constrain me to spend a morning talking to that ass Suwail,” he pointed out. “The thought doesn’t precisely fill me with joyous anticipation.”

Adym smiled again, very faintly. Although he was barely twenty years old, his father had initiated him into the clan’s political realities years ago. No one was immortal, Lord Shairncross had pointed out to his thirteen-year-old son, and having to learn all those realities from a standing start after the responsibility landed on him was scarcely the most auspicious beginning to a clan lord’s tenure. As part of that initiation process, he’d and systematically dissected the character, strengths, and weaknesses of every other major clan lord for Adym. Fortunately, Raven’s Land was so sparsely populated there weren’t all that many clan lords to worry about. Unfortunately, one of those clan lords was Barjwail Suwail, Lord Theralt.

Suwail had never been one of his father’s favorite people. Partly because the burly, dark-haired Lord of Clan Theralt had competed strongly for the hand of Zhain Byrns twenty-five years or so earlier, but most of it had to do with Suwail’s personality. Lord Theralt had always seen himself in the tradition of the corsair lords of Trellheim, despite the fact that the Raven Lords had never been a particularly nautical people. Aside from a fairly profitable fishing fleet, there simply hadn’t been any Raven Lord mariners to provide him with the “corsairs” he needed, but he’d proposed to overcome that minor problem by making Theralt Bay available to freelance pirates of other lands in return for a modest piece of their profits.

Suwail’s activities had been . . . irritating to King Haarahld of Charis, who’d sent a squadron of his navy to make that point to Lord Theralt some twelve years ago by burning Theralt’s waterfront, which had made a quite spectacular bonfire. He’d made it to the rest of the Raven Lords by sending the same squadron to Ramsgate Bay and not burning Mairisahl’s waterfront.

That time, at least.

Adym’s father, who’d just been elected Lord Speaker, had been the recipient of that visit’s warning, and some of the other clan lords had been in favor of sending a defiant reply back to Tellesberg. Not because any of them had been fond of Suwail, but because they were Raven Lords, and all the world knew no one could threaten Raven Lords! Besides, they weren’t a maritime people. Charisian warships might burn the coastal towns to the ground, but not even Charisian Marines were going to advance inland to tackle the clans in their valleys and dense forests. Lord Shairncross had managed to talk them out of anything quite that invincibly stupid, pointing out that the only Raven Lord who’d actually been chastised was Lord Theralt, who’d obviously brought it upon himself. In fact, he’d argued, the Charisian response had been remarkably restrained, under the circumstances.

 

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Comments

17 Responses to Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 31

  1. charles says:

    finally get to hear about the raven lords. sounds like scottish highlanders

  2. Et1swaw aka Rob says:

    Looks like the lowlander Theralt be a Campbell.

    Isn’t it interesting that Haarald of CHARIS rather than the King of Chisholm (still alive I believe before his own death by Corisande-supported pirates) that CHASTIZED the pirates using Theralt Bay (geographically just a bit north of CHISHOLM’S border with the Raven Lands)?

    • Anette says:

      Actually, if it was “some twelve years ago” it may have been shortly after Sharleyan’s father died. She was probably occupied with making her nobles accept her as their ruler. Haarahld would of course have wanted to stop any pirates no matter where they came from.

    • JeffM says:

      Why? It’s the opposite side of the continent. And Charis is the nation with the immense trading fleet, so I;m hardly surprised that it was Charis who piad a visit. Come to think of it, Corisande probably would have just marched their army across the border–so the “corsairs” based there were probably avoiding Coridandan-flagged shipping.

  3. max says:

    Wasn’t that because they were just too close to Chisolm and their land army(not even speaking of their’s warships)? So the pirates thought smartly not to antagonize them?

  4. JeffM says:

    So, Suwail and Zhaksyn are about to be told that they can’t snipe at the Charisians because one is srtill ticked off at them, and the other is a rabid Temple Loyalist?Or is the latter the local archbishop?

    • Zak says:

      One of the Raven Lords has to be trouble. I just can’t see all of them just smiling at the Heretics army marching across their land to attack Gods army. I just don’t see Mr. Weber letting that happen. (grin)

      • Robert H. Woodman says:

        I would imagine that the troublemaker will be Theralt. I doubt he will come out openly against the army at first, but he is fairly close to the “The Fence” and any army marching to Malphyra will need to march past Theralt. Lord Theralt is already being presented as a troublemaker and an opponent of Charis, so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for him to try and make trouble for the EoC army as it marches past. It would, of course, be a terminal mistake on his part, but as he has been presented so far, intelligence and wisdom don’t seem to be his strong suits.

  5. Frank says:

    Anyone ever wonder where the tech and manufacturing plants the surviving archangels used to build the temple went? Because that could be a very big force leveler if that tech is brought into play. The archangels must have a depot somewhere. Also where did those surviving archangels go to during their waning years? It wouldn’t do to have any of them ‘die’ in front of their worshiping public. Is it possible that perhaps there is a powered down ship nearby? That would make sense. Less chance of being discovered by someone. Any thoughts?

    • BobG says:

      My guess would be that they moved all that tech to under the Temple. Remember that the Temple was built after Pei Shan Wei killed Langhorn and Bedard in retribution for Armageddon Reef.

      On reflection, it is interesting to me that with NEATs and all the other tech base they had, they didn’t have children who continued as Archangels as the original staff aged and died off, assuming they are not in stasis somewhere. And if they are in stasis, would reprogramming them be ironic justice?

    • Doug Lampert says:

      IIRC the Archangels always admitted that in coming to the world they had become physically mortal and would eventually die. I shouldn’t think that aging and dying where there patsys could see them would be a big problem.

      Equipment is still a question, we know at least one of the original crew left some stuff to his descendants, this may have been done with some other stuff, and I’d bet on their being a rather large depot under the temple.

      • Drak Bibliophile says:

        “I’d bet on there being a rather large depot under the temple”.

        That’s what I call “betting on a sure thing”. [Wink]

        Schueler might have left additional equipment for his family but if Paityr knew about any, he’d likely already told the inner circle.

        Paityr wasn’t aware of any other family descended from the angels but IIRC his family didn’t talk about their descent from Schueler to outsiders.

        I won’t bet against the idea that some of the other Church families were descended from some of the angels and also have hidden tech.

  6. kari says:

    My impression has always been that after Armageddon Reef and Commodore Pei and the new temple got built that the remainder mostly hid what they knew and what they had passed themselves off as. Few would’ve had spouses who’d been programmed and they probably raised any kids in ignorance of how to use the tech around them or if they believed hard enough that technology must be forgotten, they fostered the kids out.

    • Drak Bibliophile says:

      From the beginning Safehold theology had it that the angels had *mortal* bodies which would eventually die (although long after the last of the Adams & Eves did) and they would return to Heaven.

      So it is likely that the Church would periodically report that angel/archangel so-and-so “has returned to Heaven”.

      We have no text evidence for any of the angels having children with other angels so we don’t know what they did about children of angels.

      Now so far, we know that only one of the angels (the Archangel Schueler) had children by a “mortal” woman and its obvious that he never revealed anything of the Truth.

  7. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Okay. I’ve gone and lost the link for DW’s updated map of Safehold. Can somebody provide me the link, please?

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