Topic Actions

Topic Search

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets

This is the place where we will be posting snippets of soon-to-be published works!
Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Aug 09, 2011 9:01 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2120
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 30

"I'm not sure how our sudden acquisition of so many galleons is going to affect that decision," he continued. "On the one hand, we've already revealed the existence of the shell-firing smoothbores, and I'm sure that bastard Clyntahn is going to provide dispensations right and left while the Church works on duplicating them. I still don't see the additional theoretical range being all that valuable in a sea fight, what with the ships' relative motion, but I'm beginning to think that if Ehdwyrd has the capacity available it might not be a bad idea to begin manufacturing and stockpiling the rifled pieces. That way they'd be available quickly if and when, as you say, we decide to shift over to them."

"I'll look into that, Sir," Seamount said, chalk clacking as he turned to make a note to himself on the waiting slate. "It'll probably mean he needs to further increase his wire-drawing capacity, as well, so the additional leadtime would almost certainly be a good thing."

Rock Point nodded, and Seamount nodded back.

"Second," he continued, "at that same meeting you suggested Commander Mahndrayn give some thought to the best way to protect a ship from shellfire. He's done that, and discussed it with Sir Dustyn Olyvyr, as well. We don't have anything like a finished plan yet, but a few things have become evident to us."

"Such as?" Rock Point prompted, and Seamount gestured for Mahndrayn to take over.

"Well," the commander said in the soft, surprisingly melodious tenor which always sounded just a bit odd to Rock Point coming out of someone who seemed so intense, "the first thing we realized was that wooden armor simply won't work, Sir. We can make the ships' scantlings thicker, but even if they're too thick for a shell to actually smash through them, we can't make them thick enough to guarantee it won't penetrate into them before it detonates. If that happens, it would be almost as bad as no 'armor' at all. It could even be worse, given the fire hazard and how much worse the splinters would be. Another objection to wood is its weight. It's a lot more massive for the same strength than iron, and the more we looked at it, the more obvious it became that iron armor that prevented shells from penetrating at all or actually broke them up on impact was the only practical answer."

"Practical?" Rock Point asked with a faint smile, and Mahndrayn chuckled sourly.

"Within limits, Sir. Within limits." The commander shrugged. "Actually, Master Howsmyn seems to feel that with his new smelting processes and the heavier hammer and rolling mills those 'accumulators' of his make possible he probably can provide iron plate to us in useful thicknesses and dimensions within the next six months to a year. He's not sure about quantities yet, but my observation's been that every one of his estimates for increased productivity has erred on the side of conservatism. And one thing's certain -- we haven't seen any evidence that anyone on the other side would be in a position to match his production for years to come."

"That's true enough," Rock Point conceded. In fact, it was even truer than Mahndrayn realized, although that didn't mean enough small foundries couldn't produce at least some useful quantities of armor, even using old-fashioned muscle power to hammer out the plates.

"Assuming Master Howsmyn can manufacture the plate, and that we can come up with a satisfactory way of securing it to the hull, there are still going to be weight considerations," Mahndrayn continued. "Iron gives better protection than wood, but building in enough protection out of anything to stop shellfire is going to drive up displacements. That's one of the problems I've been discussing with Sir Dustyn.

"I understand Doctor Mahklyn at the College is also working with Sir Dustyn on mathematical ways to predict displacements and sail power and stability. I'm afraid I'm not too well informed on that, and neither is Sir Dustyn, for that matter. He's a practical designer of the old school, but he's at least willing to give Doctor Mahklyn's formulas a try once they're finished. In the meantime, though, it's obvious hull strength is already becoming an issue in our current designs. There's simply an upper limit on the practical dimensions and weights which can be constructed out of a material like wood, and we're approaching them rapidly. Sir Dustyn's been working on several ways to reinforce the hull's longitudinal strength, including diagonal planking and angled trusses between frames, but the most effective one he's come up with uses iron. Basically, he's boring holes in the ships' frames, then using long iron bolts between adjacent frames to stiffen the hull. Obviously, he hasn't had very long to observe the approach's success at sea, but so far he says it looks very promising.

"When I approached him about the notion of hanging iron armor on the outside of the ship, however, he told me immediately that he didn't think a wooden hull was going to be very practical. I'd already expected that response, so I asked him what he thought about going to a ship that was wooden-planked but iron-framed. Frankly, I expected him to think the notion was preposterous, but it turns out he'd already been thinking in that direction, himself. In fact, his suggestion was that we should think about building the entire ship out of iron."

Rock Point's eyes widened, and this time his surprise was genuine. Not at the notion of iron or steel-hulled vessels, but at the discovery that Sir Dustyn Olyvyr was already thinking in that direction.

"I can see where that would offer some advantages," he said after a moment. "But I can see a few drawbacks, too. For example, you can repair a wooden hull almost anywhere. A shattered iron frame member would be just a bit more difficult for the carpenters to fix! And then there's the question of whether or not even Master Howsmyn could produce iron in quantities like that."

"Oh, I agree entirely, Sir. I was impressed by the audacity of the suggestion, though, and the more I've thought about it, the more I have to say I believe the advantages would vastly outweigh the drawbacks -- assuming, as you say, Master Howsmyn could produce the iron we needed. That's for the future, however. For the immediate future, the best we're going to be able to do is go to composite building techniques, with iron frames and wooden planking. And the truth is that that'll still give us significant advantages over all-wooden construction."

"I can see that. At the same time, I'd be very reluctant to simply scrap all the ships we've already built -- not to mention the ones we've just captured -- and start over with an entirely new construction technique."

"Yes, Sir. As an intermediate step, we've been looking at the possibility of cutting an existing galleon down by a full deck. We'd sacrifice the spar deck armament and completely remove the forecastle and quarterdeck. That should save us enough weight to allow the construction of an iron casemate to protect the broadside guns. We'd only have a single armed deck, but the guns would be much better protected. And we've also been considering that with shell-firing weapons we could reduce the number of broadside guns and actually increase the destructiveness of the armament. Our present thinking is that we might completely remove the current krakens and all the carronades from a ship like Destroyer, say, and replace them with half as many weapons with an eight or nine-inch bore. The smaller gun would fire a solid rifled shot somewhere around a hundred and eighty to two hundred pounds. The shell would probably be about half that, allowing for the bursting charge. In an emergency, it could fire a sixty-eight-pound round shot, which would still be more destructive than just about anything else currently at sea."

"Rate of fire would drop significantly with that many fewer guns," Rock Point pointed out, and Mahndrayn nodded.
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
*
Top
Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Aug 11, 2011 9:15 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2120
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 31

"Absolutely, Sir. On the other hand, each hit would be enormously more destructive. It takes dozens of hits, sometimes hundreds, to drive a galleon out of action with solid shot. A handful of hundred-pound exploding shells would be more than enough to do the job, and just to indicate how the weapons would scale, a rifled thirty-pounder's shot would weigh about ninety pounds, which would give you a shell weight of only forty-five or so, so you can see the advantage the larger gun has. Of course, the smoothbore thirty-pounder's shell is only around twenty-five pounds, and its bursting charge is proportionately lighter, as well. And if both sides start armoring their vessels with iron, anything much lighter than eight inches probably won't penetrate, anyway."

"That sounds logical enough," Rock Point acknowledged. "We'll have to think about it, of course. Fortunately it's not a decision we're going to have to make any time soon."

"I'm afraid we might have to make it sooner than you may be thinking, Sir," Seamount put in. Rock Point looked at him, and the commodore shrugged. "You're talking about the possibility of beginning production and stockpiling weapons, Sir," he reminded his superior. "If we're going to do that, we're going to have to decide which weapons to build, first."

"Now that, Ahlfryd, is a very good point," Rock Point agreed. "Very well, I'll be thinking about it, and I'll discuss it with the Emperor as soon as possible."

"Thank you, Sir." Seamount smiled. "In the meantime, we have a few other thoughts that should be more immediately applicable to our needs."

"You do?"

"Yes. You may have noticed commander Mahndrayn's hand, Sir?"

"You mean that fathom of gauze wrapped around it?" Rock Point asked dryly.

"Exactly, Sir." Seamount held up his own left hand, which had been mangled by an explosion many years before. "I think Urvyn was trying to do me one better. Unfortunately, he failed. All of his fingers are still intact . . . more or less."

"I'm relieved to hear it. Exactly what bearing does that have on our present discussion, however?"

"Well, what actually happened, Sir," Seamount said more seriously, "is that we've been experimenting with better ways to fire our artillery. The flintlocks we've gone to are far, far better than the old slowmatch-and-linstock or heated irons we used to use. That most of our new prizes' guns are still using, for that matter. But they still aren't as efficient as we could wish. I'm sure you're even better aware than we are here at the Experimental Board of how many misfires we still experience, especially when there's a lot of spray around or it's raining. So we've been looking for a more reliable method, and we've found one."

"You have?" Rock Point's eyes narrowed.

"Actually, we've come up with two of them, Sir." Seamount shrugged. "Both work, but I have to admit to a strong preference for one of them over the other."

"Go on."

"Doctor Lywys at the College gave us a whole list of ingredients to experiment with. One of them was something called 'fulminated quicksilver,' which is very attractive, on the face of it. You can detonate it with a single sharp blow, and the explosion is very hot. It would reduce lock time significantly, as well, which would undoubtedly improve accuracy. The problem is that it's very corrosive. And another difficulty is that it's too sensitive. We've experimented with ways of moderating its sensitivity by mixing in other ingredients, like powdered glass, and we've had some success, but any fuses using fulminated quicksilver are going to tend to corrode over time, and according to Doctor Lywys, they'll lose much of their power as they do. For that matter, she says at least some of them would probably detonate spontaneously if they were left in storage long enough. They do have the advantage that they're effectively impervious to damp, however, which would be a major plus for sea service."

"I can see where that would be true," Rock Point agreed.

"We've pushed ahead with developing those fuses -- for the moment we're calling them fulminating fuses, after the quicksilver, although Urvyn is pushing for calling them 'percussion' fuses, since they're detonated by a blow -- but I decided we should explore some other possibilities, as well. Which brought me to 'Shan-wei's candles.'"

Rock Point nodded. "Shan-wei's candles" was the name which had been assigned to what had once been called "strike-anywhere matches" back on Old Terra.

"Well, basically what we've come up with, Sir, is a tube -- we're using the same sort of quills we've been using with the artillery flintlocks at the moment, although I think it's going to be better to come up with a metallic tube in the long run; probably made out of copper or tin -- filled with the same compound we use in one of Shan-wei's candles. It's sealed with wax at both ends, and we insert a serrated wire into it lengthwise. When the wire is snatched out, friction ignites the compound in the tube, and that ignites the main charge in the gun. As far as we can tell, it's as reliable as the fulminating fuses even in heavy weather, as long as the wax seals are intact before the wire's pulled. It's less corrosive, as well, and it lets us dispense with hammer lock mechanisms, completely. For that matter, we could easily go directly to it on existing guns which are already designed to take the quills we're using with the flintlocks."

"I like it," Rock Point said with unfeigned enthusiasm. "In fact, I like it a lot -- especially the 'easily' part." He grinned, but then he raised one eyebrow. "Exactly how do the Commander's damaged fingers figure into all this, though? Did he burn them on one of the 'candles'?"

"Not . . . precisely, Sir." Seamount shook his head. "I said I prefer the friction-ignited fuses for artillery, and I do. But Urwyn's been exploring other possible uses for the fulminating fuses, and he's come up with a fascinating one."

"Oh?" Rock Point looked at the commander, who actually seemed a little flustered under the weight of his suddenly intense gaze.

"Why don't you go get your toy, Urwyn?" Seamount suggested.

"Of course, Sir. With your permission, High Admiral?"

Rock Point nodded, and Mahndrayn disappeared. A few minutes later, the office door opened once more and he walked back in carrying what looked like a standard rifled musket.

"It occurred to us, Sir," he said, holding the rifle in a rough port arms position as he faced Rock Point, "that the Marines and the Army were going to need reliable primers for their artillery, as well. And that if we were going to provide them for the guns, we might as well see about providing them for small arms, as well. Which is what this is."

He grounded the rifle butt on the floor and reached into the right side pocket of his tunic for a small disk of copper which he extended to Rock Point.

The high admiral took it a bit gingerly and stood, moving closer to the window to get better light as he examined. It wasn't the flat disk he'd thought it was at first. Instead, it was hollowed on one side -- a cup, not a disk -- and there was something inside the hollow. He looked at it for a moment longer, then turned back to Mahndrayn.

"Should I assume the stuff inside this" -- he held up the disk, indicating the hollow side with the index finger of his other hand -- "is some of that 'fulminating quicksilver' of yours?"

"It is, Sir, sealed with a drop of varnish. And this" -- Mahndrayn held up his bandaged hand -- "is a reminder to me of just how sensitive it is. But what you have in your hand is what we're calling a 'primer cap,' at least for now. We call it that because it fits down over this" -- he raised the rifle and cocked the hammer, indicating a raised nipple which had replaced the priming pan of a regular flintlock -- "like a cap or a hat."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
*
Top
Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by Alistair   » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:21 am

Alistair
Rear Admiral

Posts: 1257
Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:48 am

The Dragon is occasionally late...

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 32

He turned the weapon, and Rock Point realized the striking face of the hammer wasn’t flat. Instead, it had been hollowed out into something a fraction larger than the ‘cap’ in his hand.”

“We discovered early on that when one of the caps detonates it tends to spit bits and pieces in all directions,” Mahndrayn said wryly, touching a scar on his cheek which Rock Point hadn’t noticed. “The flash from a regular flintlock can be bad enough; this is worse, almost as bad as the flash from one of the old matchlocks. So we ground out the face of the hammer. This way, it comes down over the top of the nipple, which confines the detonation. It’s actually a lot more pleasant to fire than a flintlock.”

“And it does the same thing for reducing misfires, and being immune to rain, you were talking about where artillery is concerned, Ahlfryd?” Rock Point asked intently.

“Exactly, Sir.” Seamount beamed proudly at Mahndrayn. “Urwyn here and his team have just found a way to increase the reliability of our rifles materially. And the conversion’s fairly simple, too.”

“Very good, Commander,” Rock Point said sincerely, but Seamount raised one hand.

“He’s not quite finished yet, Sir.”

“He’s not?” Rock Point looked speculatively at the commander, who looked more flustered than ever.

“No, he’s not, Sir. And this next bit was entirely his own idea.”

“Indeed? And what else do you have to show me, Commander?”

“Well . . . this, Sir.”

Mahndrayn raised the rifle again and Rock Point suddenly noticed a lever on its side. He’d overlooked when he examined the modified lock mechanism, but now the commander turned it. There was a clicking sound, and the acting high admiral’s eyebrows rose as the breech of the rifle seemed to break apart. A solid chunk of steel, perhaps an inch and a half long, moved smoothly back and down, and he could suddenly see into the rifle’s bore. The rifling grooves were clearly visible against the brightly polished interior, and Mahndrayn looked up at him.

“One of the things we’ve been thinking about in terms of the new artillery is ways to speed rate of fire, Sir,” he said. “Obviously if we could think of some way to load them from the breech end, instead of having to shove the ammunition down the barrel, it would help a lot. The problem is coming up with a breech mechanism strong enough to stand the shock, quick enough to operate in some practical timeframe, and one that seals tightly enough to prevent flash from leaking out disastrously every time you fire the piece. We haven’t managed to solve those problems for artillery, but thinking about the difficulties involved suggested this to me.”

“Exactly what is ‘this,’ Commander?” Rock Point asked warily, not quite able to believe what he was seeing. The possibility of breech-loading artillery, far less a breech-loading rifle, was one after which he’d hungered ever since gaining access to Owl’s records, but he’d never imagined he might be seeing one this quickly. Especially without having pushed its development himself.

“Well,” Mahndrayn said again, “the way it works is like this, Sir.”

He reached back into his pocket and extracted a peculiar looking rifle cartridge. It was a bit larger than the ones riflemen carried in their cartridge boxes, and there were two oddities about its appearance. For one thing, the paper was a peculiar grayish color, not the tan or cream of a standard cartridge. And for another, it ended in a thick, circular base of some kind of fabric that was actually broader than the cartridge itself.

“The cartridge’s paper’s been treated with the same compound we use in Shan-wei’s candles, Sir,” Mahndrayn said. “It’s not exactly the same mix, but it’s close. That means the entire cartridge is combustible, and it’s sealed with paraffin to damp-proof it. The paraffin also helps to protect against accidental explosions, but with the new caps, the flash from the lock is more than enough to detonate the charge through the coating. And because the pan doesn’t have to be separately primed, the rifleman doesn’t have to bite off the bullet and charge the weapon with loose powder. Instead, he just slides it into the breech, like this.”

He inserted the cartridge into the open breech, pushing it as far forward as it would go with his thumb, and Rock Point realized a slight lip had been machined into the rear of the opened barrel. The disk of fabric at the cartridge’s base fitted into the lip, although it was thicker than the recess was deep.

“Once he’s inserted the round,” Mahndrayn went on, “he pulls the lever back up, like this” — he demonstrated, and the movable breech block rose back into place, driving firmly home against the fabric base — “which seals the breech again. There’s a heavy mechanical advantage built into the lever, Sir, so that it actually crushes the felt on the end of the cartridge into the recess. That provides a flash-tight seal that’s worked perfectly in every testfiring. And after a round’s been fired, the rifleman simply lowers the breech block again and pushes the next round straight in. The cartridges have stiffened walls to keep them from bending under the pressure, and what’s left of the base from the previous round is shoved into the barrel, where it actually forms a wad for the next round.”

Rock Point stared at the young naval officer for several seconds, then shook his head slowly.

“That’s . . . brilliant,” he said with the utmost sincerity.

“Yes, it is, Sir,” Seamount said proudly. “And while it isn’t quite as simple as changing a flintlock out for one of the new percussion locks, fitting existing rifles with the new breech mechanism will be a lot faster than building new weapons from scratch.”

“You’ve just doubled or tripled our Marines’ rate of fire, Commander,” Rock Point said. “And I’m no Marine, far less a Soldier, but it would seem to me that being able to load your weapon as quickly lying down as standing up would have to be a huge advantage in combat, as well.”

“I’d like to think so, Sir,” Mahndrayn said. His usually intense eyes lowered themselves to the floor for a moment, then looked back up at Rock Point, dark and serious. “There are times I feel pretty useless, Sir,” he admitted. “I know what Commodore Seamount and I do is important, but when I think about what other officers face at sea, in combat, I feel . . . well, like a slacker. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen. So if this is really going to help, I’m glad.”

“Commander,” Rock Point rested one hand on Mahndrayn’s shoulder and met those dark and serious eyes straight on, “there’s not a single man in Their Majesties’ uniform — not me, not even Admiral Lock Island and all the other men who died out on the Markovian Sea — who’s done more than you’ve done here with Commodore Seamount. Not one. Believe me when I tell you that.”

“I . . .” Mahndrayn faltered for a moment, then nodded. “Thank you, Sir.”

“No, thank you, Commander. You and the Commodore have come through for us again, just as I expected you to. And because you have” — the admiral smiled suddenly, eyes glinting with deviltry — “I’ll be coming up with another little challenge for you . . . as soon as I can think of it.”
Top
Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:58 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2120
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 33

.IV.
Siddarmark City,
Republic of Siddarmark

"One would have expected God's own, personal navy to fare better than that, wouldn't one?" Madam Aivah Pahrsahn remarked, turning her head to look over one shapely shoulder at her guest.

A slender hand gestured out the window at the broad, gray waters of North Bedard Bay. Madam Pahrsahn's tastefully furnished apartment was on one of the better streets just outside the city's Charisian Quarter, only a block or so from where the Siddarmark River poured into the bay. Its windows usually afforded a breathtaking view of the harbor, but today the normally blue and sparkling bay was a steel-colored mirror of an equally steel-colored sky while cold wind swept icy herringbone waves across it.

A bleaker, less inviting vista would have been difficult to imagine, but that delicate, waving hand wasn't indicating the bay's weather. Instead, its gesture took in the handful of galleons anchored well out from the city's wharves. They huddled together on the frigid water, as if for support, managing to look pitiful and dejected even at this distance.

"One would have hoped it wouldn't have been necessary for God to build a navy in the first place," her guest replied sadly.

He was a lean, sparsely built man with silver hair, and his expression was considerably more grave than hers. He moved a little closer to her so that he could look out the window more comfortably, and his eyes were troubled.

"And while I can't pretend the Charisians deserve the sort of wholesale destruction Clyntahn wants to visit upon them, I don't want to think about how he and the others are going to react to what happened instead," he continued, shaking his head. "I don't see it imposing any sense of restraint, anyway."

"Why ever should they feel 'restraint,' Your Eminence?" Madam Pahrsahn asked acidly. "They speak with the very authority of the Archangels themselves, don't they?"

The silver-haired man winced. For a moment, he looked as if he wanted to argue the point, but then he shook his head.

"They think they do," he said in a tone which conceded her point, and her own eyes softened.

"Forgive me, Your Eminence. I shouldn't take out my own anger on you. And that's what I'm doing, I suppose. Pitching a tantrum." She smiled slightly. "It would never have done in Zion, would it?"

"I imagine not," her guest said with a wry smile of his own. "I wish I'd had more of an opportunity to watch you in action, so to speak, then. Of course, without knowing then what I know now, I wouldn't truly have appreciated your artistry, would I?"

"I certainly hope not!" Her smile blossomed into something very like a grin. "It would have meant my mask was slipping badly. And think of your reputation! Archbishop Zhasyn Cahnyr visiting the infamous courtesan Ahnzhelyk Phonda? Your parishioners in Glacierheart would have been horrified!"

"My parishioners in Glacierheart have forgiven me a great deal over the years, 'Aivah,'" Zhasyn Cahnyr told her. "I'm sure they would have forgiven me that, as well. If anyone had even noticed a single lowly archbishop amongst all those vicars, that is."

"They weren't all venal and corrupt, Your Eminence," she said softly, sadly. "And even a lot of the ones who were both those things were more guilty of complacency than anything else."

"You don't have to defend them to me, my dear." He reached out to touch her forearm gently. "I knew them as well as you did, if not in precisely the same way."

He smiled again, squeezed her arm, and released it, then gazed out the window at those distant, anchored ships once more. As he watched, a guard boat appeared, rowing in a steady circle around them, as if to protect them from some shore-based pestilence.

Or, perhaps, to protect the shore from some contagion they carried, he thought grimly.

"I knew them," he repeated, "and too many of them are going to pay just as terrible a price as our friends before this is all ended."

"You think so?" The woman now known as Aivah Pahrsahn turned to face him fully. "You think it's going to come to that?"

"Of course it is," he said sadly, "and you know it as well as I do. It's inevitable that Clyntahn, at least, will find more enemies among the vicarate. Whether they're really there or not is immaterial as far as that's concerned! And" -- his eyes narrowed as they gazed into hers -- "you and I both know that what you and your agents are up to in the Temple Lands will only make that worse."

"Do you think I'm wrong to do it, then?" she asked levelly, meeting his eyes without flinching.

"No," he said after a moment, his voice even sadder. "I hate what it's going to cost, and I have more than a few concerns for your immortal soul, my dear, but I don't think you're wrong. There's a difference between not being wrong and being right, but I don't think there is any 'right' choice for you, and the Writ tells us no true son or daughter of God can stand idle when His work needs to be done. And dreadful as I think some of the consequences of your efforts are likely to prove, I'm afraid what you're set upon truly is God's work."

"I hope you're right, Your Eminence. And I think you are, although I try to remember that that could be my own anger and my own hatred speaking, not God. Sometimes I don't think there's a difference anymore."

"Which is why I have those concerns for your soul," he said gently. "It's always possible to do God's work for the wrong reasons, just as it's possible to do terrible things with the best of all possible motives. It would be a wonderful thing if He gave us the gift of fighting evil without learning to hate along the way, but I suspect only the greatest and brightest of souls ever manage that."

"Then I hope I'll have your prayers, Your Eminence."

"My prayers for your soul and for your success, alike." He smiled again, a bit crookedly. "It would be my pleasure, as well as my duty, to commend a soul such as yours to God under any circumstances. And given the debt I owe you, it would be downright churlish of me not to."

"Oh, nonsense!" She struck him gently on the shoulder. "It was my pleasure. I only wish" -- her expression darkened -- "I'd been able to get more of the others out."

"You snatched scores of innocent victims out of Clyntahn's grasp," he said, his tone suddenly sterner. "Women and children who would have been tortured and butchered in that parody of justice of his, be they ever so blameless and innocent! Langhorne said 'As you have done unto the least of God's children, for good or ill, so you have done unto me.' Remember that and never doubt for one moment that all that innocent blood will weigh heavily in your favor when the time comes for you to face him and God."

"I try to remember that," she half-whispered, turning back to the window and gazing sightlessly out across the bay. "I try. But then I think of all the ones we had to leave behind. Not just the Circle, Your Eminence, all of them."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
*
Top
Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Aug 18, 2011 8:58 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2120
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 34

"God gave Man free will," Cahnyr said. "That means some men will choose to do evil, and the innocent will suffer as a result. You can't judge yourself guilty because you were unable to stop all the evil Clyntahn and others chose to do. You stopped all it was in your power to stop, and God can ask no more than that."

She stared out the window for several more moments, then drew a deep breath and gave herself a visible shake.

"You're probably right, Your Eminence, but I intend to do a great deal more to those bastards before I'm done." She turned back from the window, and the steel behind her eyes was plain to see. "Not immediately, because it's going to take time to put the pieces in place. But once they are, Zhaspahr Clyntahn may find wearing the Grand Inquisitor's cap a lot less pleasant than he does today."

Cahnyr regarded her with a distinct sense of trepidation. He knew very few details of her current activities, and he knew she intended to keep it that way. Not because she distrusted him, but because she was one of the most accomplished mistresses of intrigue in the history of Zion. That placed her in some select company. Indeed, she'd matched wits with the full suppressive power of the Office of Inquisition, and she'd won. Not everything she'd wanted, perhaps, and whatever she might say -- or he might say to her -- she would never truly forgive herself for the victims she hadn't managed to save. Yet none of that changed the fact that she'd outmaneuvered the Grand Inquisitor on ground of his own choosing, from the very heart of his power and authority, and done it so adroitly and smoothly he still didn't know what had hit him.

Or who.

The woman who'd contrived all of that, kept that many plots in the air simultaneously without any of them slipping, plucked so many souls -- including Zhasyn Cahnyr's -- from the Inquisition's clutches, wasn't about to begin letting her right hand know what left hand was doing now unless she absolutely had to. He didn't resent her reticence, or think it indicated any mistrust in his own discretion. But he did worry about what she might be up to.

"Whatever your plans, my dear," he said, "I'll pray for their success."

"Careful, Your Eminence!" Her smile turned suddenly roguish. "Remember my past vocation! You might not want to go around writing blank bank drafts like that!"

"Oh," he reached out and touched her cheek lightly, "I think I'll take my chances on that."

* * * * * * * * * *

"Madam Pahrsahn! How nice to see you again!"

The young man with auburn hair and gray eyes walked around his outsized desk to take his visitor's subtly perfumed hand in both of his. He bent over it, pressing a kiss on its back, then tucked it into his elbow and escorted her across the large office to the armchairs facing one another across a low table of beaten copper.

"Thank you, Master Qwentyn," she said as she seated herself.

A freshly fed fire crackled briskly in the grate to her right, noisily consuming gleaming coal which had probably come from Zhasyn Cahnyr's archbishopric in Glacierheart, she thought. Owain Qwentyn sat in the chair facing hers and leaned forward to personally pour hot chocolate into a delicate cup and hand it to her. He poured more chocolate into a second cup, picked it up on its saucer, and leaned back in his chair, regarding her expectantly.

"I must say, I wasn't certain you'd be coming today after all," he said, waving his free hand at the office window. The previous day's gray skies had made good on their wintry promise, and sleety rain pounded and rattled against the glass, sliding down it to gather in crusty waves in the corners of the panes. "I really would have preferred to stay home myself, all things considered," he added.

"I'm afraid I didn't have that option." She smiled charmingly at him. "I've got quite a few things to do over the next few five-days. If I started letting my schedule slip, I'd never get them done."

"I can believe that," he said, and he meant it.

The House of Qwentyn was by any measure the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful banking house in the Republic of Siddarmark and had been for generations. It hadn't gotten that way by accident, and a man as young as Owain Qwentyn wouldn't have held his present position, family connections or no, if he hadn't demonstrated his fitness for it. He'd been trusted with some of the house's most sensitive accounts for the last five years, which had exposed him to some fascinating financial strategists, yet Aivah Pahrsahn was probably the most intriguing puzzle yet to come his way.

Her primary accounts with the House of Qwentyn had been established over two decades ago, although he wouldn't have said she could possibly be a day past thirty-five, and her balance was enviable. In fact, it was a lot better than merely "enviable," if he wanted to be accurate. Coupled with her long established holdings in real estate and farmland, her investments in half a dozen of the Republic's biggest granaries and mining enterprises, and her stake in several of Siddar City's most prosperous merchant houses, that balance made her quite possibly the wealthiest woman Owain had ever met. Yet those transactions and acquisitions had been executed so gradually and steadily over the years, and spread between so many apparently separate accounts, that no one had noticed just how wealthy she was becoming. And no member of the House of Qwentyn had ever met her, either; every one of her instructions had arrived by mail. By courier, in point of fact, and not even via the Church's semaphore system or even wyvern post.

It had all been very mysterious when Owain finally looked at her accounts as a whole for the first time. He might not have noticed her even now if the somnolent, steady pace of her transactions hadn't suddenly become so much more active. Indeed, they'd become almost hectic, including a series of heavy transfers of funds since the . . . difficulties with Charis had begun, yet despite the many years she'd been a customer of his house, no one seemed to know where she'd come from in the first place. Somewhere in the Temple Lands, that much was obvious, yet where and how remained unanswered questions, and the House of Qwentyn, for all its discretion, was accustomed to knowing everything there was to know about its clients.

But not in this case. She'd presented all the necessary documentation to establish her identity on her arrival, and there was no question of her authority over those widespread accounts. Yet she'd simply appeared in Siddar a month or so ago, stepping into the capital city's social and financial life as if she'd always been there. She was beautiful, poised, obviously well educated, and gracious, and a great many of the social elite knew her (or weren't prepared to admit they didn't know Polite Society's latest adornment, at any rate), but Owain had been unable to nail down a single hard fact about her past life, and the air of mystery which clung to her only made her more fascinating.

"I've brought the list of transactions with me," she said now, reaching into her purse and extracting several sheets of paper. She extended them across the table to him, then sat back sipping her chocolate while he unfolded them and ran his eyes down the lines of clean, flowing script.
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
*
Top
Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Aug 21, 2011 9:09 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2120
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 35

Those eyes widened, despite his best efforts to conceal his surprise, as he read. He turned the first page and examined the second just as carefully, and his surprise segued into something else. Something tinged with alarm.

He read the third and final sheet, then folded them back together, laid them on the tabletop, and looked at her intently.

"Those are . . . an extraordinary list of transactions, Madam Pahrsahn," he observed, and she startled him with a silvery little chuckle.

"I believe you'll rise high in your house's service, Master Qwentyn," she told him. "What you're really wondering is whether or not I'm out of my mind, although you're far too much the gentleman to ever actually say so."

"Nonsense," he replied. "Or, at least, I'd never go that far. I do wonder how carefully you've considered some of this, though." He leaned forward to tap the folded instructions. "I've studied the records of all your investment moves since our House has represented you, Madam. If you'll forgive my saying so, these instructions represent a significant change in your established approach. At the very least, they expose you to a much greater degree of financial risk."

"They also offer the potential for a very healthy return," she pointed out.

"Assuming they prosper," he pointed out in response.

"I believe they will," she said confidently.

He started to say something else, then paused, regarding her thoughtfully. Was it possible she knew something even he didn't?

"At the moment," he said after a minute or two, "the shipping arrangements you're proposing to invest in are being allowed by both the Republic and Mother Church. That's subject to change from either side with little or no notice, you realize. And if that happens you'll probably -- no, almost certainly -- lose your entire investment."

"I'm aware of that," she said calmly. "The profit margin's great enough to recoup my entire initial investment in no more than five months or so, however. Everything after that will be pure profit, even if the 'arrangements' should ultimately be disallowed. And my own read of the . . . decision-making process within the Temple, let us say, suggests no one's going to be putting any pressure on the Republic to interfere with them. Not for quite some time, at any rate."

She'd very carefully not said anything about "the Group of Four," Owain noticed. Given the fact that she clearly came from the Temple Lands herself, however, there was no doubt in his mind about what she was implying.

"Do you have any idea how long 'quite some time' might be?" he asked.

"Obviously, that's bound to be something of a guessing game," she replied in that same calm tone. "Consider this, however. At the moment, only the Republic and the Silkiahans are actually succeeding in paying their full tithes to Mother Church. If these 'arrangements' were to be terminated, that would no longer be the case." She shrugged. "Given the obvious financial strain of the holy war, especially in light of that unfortunate business in the Markovian Sea, it seems most unlikely Vicar Rhobair and Vicar Zahmsyn are going to endanger their strongest revenue streams."

He frowned thoughtfully. Her analysis made a great deal of sense, although the financial and economic stupidity which could have decreed something like the embargo on Charisian trade in the first place didn't argue for the Group of Four's ability to recognize logic when it saw it. On the other hand, it fitted quite well with some of the things his grandfather Tymahn had said. Although . . . .

"I think you're probably right about that, Madam," he said. "However, I'm a bit more leery about some of these other investments."

"Don't be, Master Qwentyn," she said firmly. "Foundries are always good investments in . . . times of uncertainty. And according to my sources, all three of these are experimenting with the new cannon-casting techniques. I realize they wouldn't dream of putting the new guns into production without Mother Church's approval, but I feel there's an excellent chance that approval will be forthcoming, especially now that the Navy of God needs to replace so many ships."

Owain's eyes narrowed. If there was one thing in the entire world of which he was totally certain it was that the Church of God Awaiting would never permit the Republic of Siddarmark to begin casting the new model artillery. Not when the Council of Vicars in its role as the Knights of the Temple Lands had been so anxious for so long over the potential threat the Republic posed to the Temple Lands' eastern border. Only a fool, which no member of the House of Qwentyn was likely to be, could have missed the fact that Siddarmark's foundries were the only ones in either Haven or Howard which had received no orders from the Navy of God's ordnance officers. Foodstuffs and ship timbers, coal and coke and iron ore for other people's foundries, even ironwork to build warships in other realms, yes; artillery, no.

Yet Madam Pahrsahn seemed so serenely confident . . . .

"Very well, Madam." He bent his head in a courteous, seated bow. "If these are your desires, it will be my honor to carry them out for you."

"Thank you, Master Qwentyn," she said with another of those charming smiles. Then she set her cup and saucer back on the table and rose. "In that case, I'll bid you good afternoon and get out of your way."

He stood with a smile of his own and escorted her back to the office door. A footman appeared with her heavy winter coat, and he saw an older woman, as plain as Madam Pahrsahn was lovely, waiting for her.

Owain personally assisted her with her coat, then raised one of her slender hands -- gloved, now -- and kissed its back once more.

"As always, a pleasure, Madam," he murmured.

"And for me, as well," she assured him, and then she was gone.

* * * * * * * * * *

"So what do you make of Madam Pahrsahn, Henrai?" Greyghor Stohnar asked as he stood with his back to a roaring fireplace, toasting his posterior.

"Madam Pahrsahn, My Lord?" Lord Henrai Maidyn, the Republic of Siddarmark's Chancellor of the Exchequer sat in a window seat, nursing a tulip-shaped brandy glass as he leaned back against the paneled wall of the council chamber. Now he raised his eyebrows interrogatively, his expression innocent.

"Yes, you know, the mysterious Madam Pahrsahn." The elected ruler of the Republic smiled thinly at him. "The one who appeared so suddenly and with so little warning? The one who floats gaily through the highest reaches of Society . . . and hobnobs with Reformist clergymen? Whose accounts are personally handled by Owain Qwentyn? Whose door is always open to poets, musicians, milliners, dressmakers . . . and a man who looks remarkably like the apostate heretic and blasphemer Zhasyn Cahnyr? That Madam Pahrsahn."

"Oh, that Madam Pahrsahn!"

Maidyn smiled back at the Lord Protector. Here in the Republic of Siddarmark, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was also in charge of little matters like espionage.

"Yes, that one," Stohnar said, his tone more serious, and Maidyn shrugged.

"I'm afraid the jury's still out, My Lord. Some of it's obvious, but the rest is still sufficiently obscure to make her very interesting. She's clearly from the Temple Lands, and I think it's equally clear her sudden appearance here has something to do with Clyntahn's decision to purge the vicarate. The question, of course, is precisely what it has to do with that decision."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
*
Top
Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:58 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2120
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 36

"You think she's a wife or daughter who managed to get out?"

"Possibly. Or even a mistress." Maidyn shrugged again. "The amount of cash and all those deep investments she had tucked away here in Siddar were certainly big enough to represent someone important's escape fund. It could have been one of the vicars who saw the ax coming, I suppose, although whoever it was must have been clairvoyant to see this coming." He grimaced distastefully. "If someone did see a major shipwreck ahead, though, whoever it was might have put it under a woman's name in an effort to keep Clyntahn from sniffing it out."

"But you don't think that's what it is," Stohnar observed.

"No, I don't." Maidyn passed the brandy glass under his nose, inhaling its bouquet, then looked back at the lord protector. "She's too decisive. She's moving too swiftly now that she's here." He shook his head. "No, she's got a well defined agenda in mind, and whoever she is, and wherever she came from originally, she's acting on her own now -- for herself, not as anyone's public front."

"But what in God's name is she doing?" Stohnar shook his head. "I agree her sudden arrival's directly related to Clyntahn's purge, but if that's the case, I'd expect her to keep a low profile like the others."

The two men looked at one another. They'd been very careful to insure that neither of them learned -- officially -- about the refugees from the Temple Lands who'd arrived so quietly in the Republic. Most of them had continued onward, taking passage on Siddarmarkian-registry merchant vessels which somehow had Charisian crews . . . and homeports. By now they must have reached or nearly reached the Charisian Empire and safety, and personally, Stohnar wished them well. He wished anyone that unmitigated bastard Clyntahn wanted dead well.

A handful of the refugees, however, had remained in Siddarmark, seeking asylum with relatives or friends. At least two of them had found shelter with priests Stohnar was reasonably certain nourished Reformist tendencies of their own. All of them, though, had done their very best to disappear as tracelessly as possible, doing absolutely nothing which might have attracted attention to them.

And then there was Aivah Pahrsahn.

"I doubt she spend so much time gadding about to the opera and the theatre if it wasn't part of her cover," Maidyn said after a moment "And it makes a sort of risky sense, if she is up to something certain people wouldn't care for. High visibility is often the best way to avoid the attention of people looking for surreptitious spies lurking in the shadows.

"As to what she might be up to that the Group of Four wouldn't like, there are all sorts of possibilities. For one thing, she's investing heavily in the Charisian trade, and according to Tymahn, her analysis of why Clyntahn's letting us get away with it pretty much matches my own. Of course, we could both be wrong about that. What I find more interesting, though, are her decision to buy into Hahraimahn's new coking ovens and her investments in foundries. Specifically in the foundries Daryus' been so interested in."

Lord Daryus Parkair was Seneschal of Siddarmark, which made him both the government minister directly responsible for the Army and also that Army's commanding general. If there was anyone in the entire Republic who Zhaspahr Clyntahn trusted even less (and hated even more) than Greyghor Stohnar, it had to be Daryus Parkair.

Parkair was well aware of that and fully reciprocated Clyntahn's hatred. He was also as well aware as Stohnar or Maidyn of all the reasons the Republic had been excluded from any of the Church's military buildup. Which was why he had very quietly and discreetly encouraged certain foundry owners to experiment -- purely speculatively, of course -- with how one might go about casting the new style artillery or the new rifled muskets. And as Parkair had pointed out to Maidyn just the other day, charcoal was becoming increasingly difficult to come by, which meant foundries could never have too much coke if they suddenly found themselves having to increase their output.

"I don't think even that would bother me," Stohnar replied. "Not if she wasn't sending so much money back into the Temple Lands. I'd be willing to put all of it down to shrewd speculation on her part, if not for that."

"It is an interesting puzzle, My Lord," Maidyn acknowledged. "She's obviously up to something, and my guess is that whatever it is, Clyntahn wouldn't like it. The question is whether or not he knows about it? I'm inclined to think not, or else the Inquisition would already have insisted we bring her in for a little chat. So then the question becomes whether or not the Inquisition is going to become aware of her? And, of course, whether or not we -- as dutiful sons of Mother Church, desirous of proving our reliability to the Grand Inquisitor -- should bring her to the Inquisition's notice ourselves?"

"I doubt very much that anything could convince Zhaspahr Clyntahn you and I are 'dutiful sons of Mother Church,' at least as he understands the term," Stohnar said frostily.

"True, only too true, I'm afraid." Maidyn's tone seemed remarkably free of regret. Then his expression sobered. "Still, it's a move we need to consider, My Lord. If the Inquisition becomes aware of her and learns we didn't bring her to its attention, it's only going to be one more log on the fire where Clyntahn's attitude is concerned."

"Granted." Stohnar nodded, waving one hand in a brushing-away gesture. "Granted. But if I'd needed anything to convince me the Group of Four is about as far removed from God's will as it's possible to get, Clyntahn's damned atrocities would've done it." He bared his teeth. "I've never pretended to be a saintly sort, Henrai, but if Zhaspahr Clyntahn's going to Heaven, I want to know where to buy my ticket to Hell now."

Maidyn's features smoothed into non-expression. Stohnar's statement wasn't a surprise, but the Lord Protector was a cautious man who seldom expressed himself that openly even among the handful of people he fully trusted.

"If Pahrsahn is conspiring against Clyntahn and his hangers-on, Henrai," Stohnar went on, "then more power to her. Keep an eye on her. Do your best to make sure she's not doing something we'd disapprove of, but I want it all very tightly held. Use only men you fully trust, and be sure there's no trail of breadcrumbs from her to us. If the Inquisition does find out about her, I don't want them finding any indication we knew about her all along and simply failed to mention her to them. Is that clear?"

"Perfectly, My Lord." Maidyn gave him a brief, seated bow, then leaned back against the wall once more. "Although that does raise one other rather delicate point."

"Which is?"

"If we should happen to realize the Inquisition is beginning to look in her direction, do we warn her?"

Stohnar pursed his lips, unfocused eyes gazing at something only he could see while he considered the question. Then he shrugged.

"I suppose that will depend on the circumstances," he said then. "Not detecting her or mentioning her to the Inquisition is one thing. Warning her -- and being caught warning her -- is something else. And you and I both know that if we do warn her and she's caught anyway, in the end, she will tell the Inquisitors everything she knows." He shook his head slowly. "I wish her well. I wish anyone trying to make Clyntahn's life miserable well. But we're running too many risks of our own as it is. If there's a way to warn her anonymously, perhaps yes. But if there isn't, then I'm afraid she'll just have to take her chances on her own."
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
*
Top
Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Aug 25, 2011 8:58 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2120
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 37

.V.
King's Harbor,
Helen Island,
Kingdom of Old Charis

Seagulls screamed and wyverns whistled shrilly, swooping and stooping above the broad expanse of King's Harbor. The winged inhabitants of Helen Island could hardly believe the largess a generous nature had bestowed upon them. With so many ships cluttering up the waters, the supply of flotsam and plain old drifting garbage exceeded their most beatific dreams of greed, and they pounced upon it with gleeful abandon.

Oared barges, water hoys, sheer hulks, and a dozen other types of service craft made their ways in and around and through the press of anchored warships beneath that storm of wings. Newly mustered -- and still mustering -- ships' companies fell in on decks, raced up and down masts, panted under the unrelenting demands of their officers, and cursed their leather-lunged, hectoring petty officers with all the time-honored, tradition-sanctified fervency of new recruits the universe over, yet that represented barely a fraction of the human energy being expended throughout that broad harbor. Carpenters and shipfitters labored to repair lingering battle damage. Dockyard inspectors argued vociferously with working party supervisors. Pursers and clerks counted casks, barrels, crates, and bags of supplies and swore with weary creativity each time the numbers came up wrong and they had to start all over again. Sailmakers and chandlers, gunners and quartermasters, captains and midshipmen, chaplains and clerks, flag lieutenants and messengers were everywhere, all of them totally focused on the tasks at hand and utterly oblivious to all the clangor and rush going on about them. The sheer level of activity was staggering, even for the Imperial Charisian Navy, and the squeal of sheaves as heavy weights were lifted, the bellow of shouted orders, the thud of hammers and the clang of metal resounded across the water. Any casual observer might have been excused for assuming the scene was one of utter chaos and confusion, but he would have been wrong.

Amidst that much bustling traffic, one more admiral's barge was scarcely noticeable, Domynyk Staynair thought dryly, easing the peg which had replaced his lower right leg. It had been skillfully fitted, but there were still times the stump bothered him, especially when he'd been on his feet -- well, foot and peg, he supposed -- longer than he ought to have been. And "longer than he ought to have been" was a pretty good description of most of his working days since stepping into Bryahn Lock Island's shoes.

Shoe, I suppose I mean, he reflected mordantly, continuing his earlier thought, then looked up as the barge slid under the overhanging stern of one of the anchored galleons. Her original name -- Sword of God -- was still visible on her transom, although the decision had already been taken to rename her when she was commissioned into Charisian service. Of course, exactly what that new name would be was one of the myriad details which hadn't been decided upon just yet, wasn't it?

"In oars!" his coxswain shouted, and the oarsmen brought their long sweeps smartly inboard in a perfectly choreographed maneuver as he swung the tiller, sending them curving gracefully into Sword of God's dense shadow and laying the barge alongside the larger ship.

"Chains!" the coxswain shouted, and the seaman perched in the bow reached out with his long boat hook and snagged the galleon's main chains with neat, practiced efficiency.

"Smartly done, Byrt," the admiral said.

"Thank'ee, My Lord," Byrtrym Veldamahn replied in a gratified tone. Rock Point wasn't known for bestowing empty compliments, but he was known for honest praise when a duty or an evolution was smartly performed.

The barge's other passengers remained seated as Rock Point heaved himself upright. Tradition made the senior officer the last to board a small boat and the first to debark, and as a junior officer, Rock Point had subscribed to the theory that the tradition existed so that a tipsy captain or flag officer's dutiful subordinates could catch him when he tumbled back into the boat in a drunken heap. He'd changed his mind as he grew older and wiser (and more senior himself), but there might just be something to the catching notion in his own case, he reflected now. He'd actually learned to dance again, after a fashion at least, since losing his leg, but even a boat the size of his barge was lively underfoot, and he balanced carefully as he reached out for the battens affixed to the galleon's side.

If I had any sense, I'd stay right here on a thwart while they rigged a bo'sun's chair for me, he told himself dryly. But I don't, so I'm not going to. If I fall and break my fool neck, it'll be no more than I deserve, but I'll be damned if they're going to hoist me aboard like one more piece of cargo!

He reached up, caught one of the battens, balanced on his artificial leg while he got his left foot ready, then pushed himself upward. He could feel his subordinates watching him, no doubt poised to rescue him when his foolishness reaped the reward it so amply deserved. At least King's Harbor's water was relatively warm year-round, so if he missed the boat entirely he wasn't going to freeze . . . and as long as he didn't manage to get crushed between the barge and the galleon or pushed down under the turn of the bilge, he wouldn't drown, either. Not that he had any intention of allowing his illustrious naval career to be terminated quite that humiliatingly.

He heaved, and he'd always been powerfully muscled. Since the loss of his leg, his arms and shoulders had become even more powerful and they lifted him clear of the curtsying barge. He got the toe of his remaining foot onto another batten, clear of the barge's gunwale, then drew his peg up and wedged it carefully beside his foot before he reached upward once more. Climbing the side of a galleon had never been an easy task even for someone with the designed number of feet, and he felt himself panting heavily as he clambered up the battens.

This really isn't worth the effort, he thought, baring his teeth in a fierce, grin, but I'm too stubborn -- and too stupid -- to admit that to anyone. Besides, the day I stop doing this will be the day I stop being able to do it.

He made it to the entry port and bo'sun's pipes squealed in salute as he hauled himself through it onto the deck of what had once been Bishop Kornylys Harpahr's flagship. If the truth be known, the identity of its previous owner was one of the reasons he'd selected it to become one of the first prizes to be commissioned into Charisian service.

That possibly ignoble (but profoundly satisfying) thought passed through his mind as the side boys came to attention and a short, compact officer in the uniform of a captain saluted.

"High Admiral, arriving!" the quartermaster of the watch announced, which still sounded a bit unnatural to Rock Point when someone applied the title to him.

"Welcome aboard, Sir," the captain said, extending his hand.

"Thank you, Captain Pruait." Rock Point clasped forearms with the captain, then stepped aside and turned to watch as three more officers climbed through the entry port in descending order of seniority.

The bo'sun's pipes shrilled again as another captain, this one on the tall side, stepped aboard, followed by Commander Mahndrayn and Lieutenant Styvyn Erayksyn, Rock Point's flag lieutenant. Erayksyn was about due for promotion to lieutenant commander, although Rock Point hadn't told him that yet. The promotion was going to bring a sea command with it, of course. That was inevitable, given the Imperial Charisian Navy's abrupt, unanticipated expansion. Even without that, Erayksyn amply deserved the reward of which every sea officer worth his salt dreamed, and Rock Point was pleased for young Styvyn. Of course, it was going to be a pain in the ass finding and breaking in a replacement who'd suit the high admiral half as well.

Pruait greeted the other newcomers in turn, then stepped back, sweeping both arms to indicate the broad, busy deck of the ship. It looked oddly unfinished to any Charisian officer's eyes, given the bulwarks' empty rows of gun ports. There should have been a solid row of carronades crouching squatly in those ports, but this galleon had never carried them. In fact, that had quite a bit to do with Rock Point's current visit.

The most notable aspect of the ship's upper works, however, were the bustling work parties. Her original masts had been retained, but they were being fitted with entirely new yards on the Charisian pattern, and brand new sails had already been sent up the foremast, and more new canvas was ascending the mainmast as Rock Point watched. Her new headsails had already been rigged, as well, and painting parties on scaffolding slung over her side were busy converting her original gaudy paint scheme into the utilitarian black-and-white of the Imperial Charisian Navy.
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
*
Top
Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:57 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2120
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 38

"As you can see, High Admiral, we've more than enough to keep us busy until you and Master Howsmyn get around to sending us our new toys," Pruait said. "I'd really like to get her coppered, as well, but Sir Dustyn's . . . explained to me why that's not going to happen."

The captain rolled his eyes, and Rock Point chuckled. Unlike the ICN's purpose built war galleons, the Navy of God's ships used iron nails and bolts throughout, which made it effectively impossible to sheath their lower hulls in copper. Rock Point wasn't about to try to explain electrolysis to Captain Pruait, and he was confident Sir Dustyn Olyvyr's "explanation" had been heavy on "because it won't work, damn it!" and considerably lighter on the theory.

"We may have to bite the bullet and go ahead and drydock her eventually to pull the underwater iron and refasten her with copper and bronze so we can copper her," he said. "Don't go getting your hopes up!" he cautioned as Pruait's eyes lit. "It'd cost a fortune, given the number of prizes we're talking about, and Baron Ironhill and I are already fighting tooth and nail over the Navy's budget. But if we're going to keep her in commission, it'd probably be cheaper in the long run to protect her against borers rather than replacing half her underwater planking every couple of years. And that doesn't even consider how much slower the prizes are going to be without it."

Pruait nodded in understanding. The recent Charisian innovation of coppering warships below the waterline did more than simply protect their timbers from the shellfish who literally ate their way (often with dismaying speed) into the fabric of a ship. That would have been more than enough to make the practice worthwhile, despite its initial expense, but it also enormously reduced the growth of weeds and the other fouling which increased water resistance and decreased speed. The swiftness Charisian ships could maintain was a powerful tactical advantage, but if Rock Point was forced to operate coppered and uncoppered ships together, he'd lose most of it, since a fleet was no faster than its slowest unit.

On the other hand, Rock Point thought, we've captured enough ships that we could make up entire squadrons -- hell, fleets! -- of ships without coppered bottoms. They'd be slower than other squadrons, but all the ships in them would have the same basic speed and handling characteristics. Still wouldn't do anything about the borers, though. And the truth is, these prize ships are better built in a lot of ways than ours are, so it'd make a lot of sense -- economically, not just from a military perspective -- to take care of them. The designs aren't as good as the ones Olyvyr's come up with, but the Temple obviously decided it might as well pay for the very best. We had to use a lot of green wood; they used only the best ship timbers, and they took long enough building the damned things they could leave them standing in the frame to season properly before they planked them.

Charis hadn't had that option. They'd needed ships as quickly as they could build them, and one of the consequences was that some of those improperly seasoned ships were already beginning to rot. It was hardly a surprise -- they'd known it was coming from the beginning -- and it wasn't anything they couldn't handle so far. But over the next couple of years (assuming they had a couple of years available) at least half of their original war galleons were going to require major rebuilding or complete replacement, and wasn't that going to be fun?

"While you and Sir Dustyn were discussing why you're not going to get coppered, did you happen to discuss armaments and weights with him?" Rock Point asked out loud, cocking his head at Pruait.

"Yes, Sir." Pruait nodded. "According to his weight calculations, we can replace the original upper deck long guns with thirty-pounder carronades on a one-for-one basis without putting her overdraft or hurting her stability. Or we can replace them on a two-for-three basis with fifty-seven-pounders. If we do that, though, we'll have to rebuild the bulwarks to relocate the gun ports. And he's less confident of her longitudinal strength than he'd really like; he's inclined to go with the heavier carronades but concentrate them closer to midships to reduce weights at the ends of the hull and try to head off any hogging tendencies."

"I see."

Rock Point turned, facing aft towards one of the distinctly non-Charisian features of the ship's design. While the towering forecastle and aftercastle which had been such a prominent feature of galley design had been omitted, Sword of God was still far higher aft than a Charisian galleon because she boasted a poop deck above the quarterdeck. It was narrow, and the additional height probably made the ship considerably more leewardly than she would have been without it, but it was also a feature of all of the Navy of God's galleon designs, so the Temple presumably thought it was worth it. Rock Point wasn't at all certain he agreed with the Church, but he wasn't certain he disagreed, either.

"Did the two of you discuss cutting her down aft?" he asked, twitching his head in the poop deck's direction.

"Yes, Sir, we did." Pruait followed the direction of the high admiral's gaze and shrugged. "Cutting her down to quarterdeck level would reduce topweight. That would probably help her stability at least a bit, and Sir Dustyn's of the opinion it would make her handier, as well. But he doesn't think the weight reduction would have any significant effect on the weight of guns she could carry, and to be frank, I'm of the opinion that the overhead protection from enemy musket fire for the men at the wheel is probably worth any handling penalty. Although," he admitted, "some of the other new captains question whether the protection's worth the reduced visibility for the helmsmen."

"I think that's one of those things that could be argued either way," Rock Point said thoughtfully. "And it's probably going to come down to a matter of individual opinions, in the end. Funny how sea officers tend to be that way, isn't it?" He smiled briefly. "But since we don't have time to do it now, anyway, it looks like you're going to get the opportunity to experiment with that design feature after all."

Pruait didn't exactly look heartbroken, the high admiral noted, and shook his head. Then he indicated the other officers who'd followed him aboard.

"I know you've met Lieutenant Erayksyn," he said, "but I don't know if you've met Captain Sahlavahn and Commander Mahndrayn?"

"I've never met the Commander, Sir," Pruait admitted, nodding to Mahndrayn courteously as he spoke. "Captain Sahlavahn and I have known each other for quite some time now, though." He extended his hand to the captain and they clasped forearms. "I haven't seen you in too long, Trai."

"Baron Seamount and Baron Ironhill have been keeping me just a little busy, Tym," Sahlavahn replied wryly. "Oh, and High Admiral Rock Point, too, now that I think about it."

"The reward for doing a difficult job well is to be ordered to turn around and do something harder," High Rock observed. "And no good deed goes unpunished." He fluttered his right hand in a waving away gesture. "And other clichés along those lines."

"I believe I've heard something to that effect before, Sir," Pruait acknowledged, then looked back at Sahlavahn, and his expression sobered. "How's your sister, Trai?"

"As well as can be expected." Sahlavahn shrugged and waved at Mahndrayn. "I think Urvyn's actually had a letter from her since I have, though."

"I got one a couple of five-days ago," Mahndrayn acknowledged. He and Sahlavahn were second cousins, although Sahlavahn was more than ten years his senior, and Mahndrayn had always been close to Sahlavahn's younger sister, Wynai. "From what she has to say, things are getting pretty damned tense in the Republic, but there's no way she's going to convince Symyn to relocate to Charis." He shook his head. "Apparently he's making money hand-over-fist at the moment, and even though he's just about the most rabidly Siddarmarkian you're ever going to meet, his family does come from the Temple Lands. His various aunts and uncles 'back home' are already pissed off at him for living in the Charisian Quarter in Siddar City; Langhorne only knows what they'd say if they realized how enthusiastically he was helping violate Clyntahn's stupid embargo!"
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
*
Top
Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Aug 30, 2011 9:00 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2120
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 39

Pruait snorted in understanding, and Rock Point reclaimed control of the conversation.

"Commander Mahndrayn's here in his role as liaison between Baron Seamount and Master Howsmyn," he said, "and Captain Sahlavahn was a member of Baron Seamount's Ordnance Board. He's been promoted to other duties since then -- in fact, he's assumed command of the Hairatha powder mill -- but he's still thoroughly familiar with most of our usual ordnance concerns, and he happens to have sailed down from Big Tirian for a conference with the Baron. So I thought I'd bring both of them along."

"I see, Sir," Pruait said with a nod. "And I'm glad to see them, because frankly, I'm not sure what our best solution is."

Rock Point scowled in agreement.

In many ways, the problem came under the heading of "an embarrassment of riches," he thought. The prize ships they'd captured carried literally thousands of artillery pieces, although a lot of those guns, especially the ones from Harchongian foundries, left a lot to be desired. The bronze pieces were probably acceptably safe; he wouldn't have trusted a Harchongian iron gun with a full powder charge if his life had depended upon it.

The Temple Lands' foundries had done a better job, and they'd also cast almost exclusively bronze guns. He wasn't overly concerned about those guns from a safety standpoint, but none of them used the same shot as the standard Charisian pieces, which meant no Charisian ammunition would fit them. Their smaller bores also meant their shot were lighter and less destructive, of course, which was another consideration.

"For the moment, we're going to leave you with your present gundeck guns," the high admiral said. "I know it's not an ideal solution, but in addition to all of the artillery pieces, we've captured several hundred thousand round shot for them. We're not going to have the manpower to put all the prize ships into commission anytime soon, whatever we'd like to do, so what we're going to do in the short term is to raid the shot lockers of the ships we can't man for ammunition for the ships we can man -- like yours, Captain Pruait."

"I see, Sir."

It would have been unfair to call Pruait's tone unhappy, but he obviously wasn't delirious with joy, either, Rock Point observed.

"I said that's what we're going to do in the short term, Captain," he said, and smiled at Pruait's expression. "Exactly what we decide to do in the long term is going to have to wait until Master Howsmyn, Baron Seamount, and Commander Mahndrayn have had the opportunity to kick the question around for a while. To be honest, we've captured enough guns that it might very well make sense to begin casting shot to fit them. On the other hand, Master Howsmyn's production lines are all set up around our standard shot sizes. And then there's the question of what we do about shells for nonstandard bore sizes. Do we manufacture shells for the captured guns, too?"

"How much of a problem would that present, High Admiral?" Pruait asked. Rock Point raised an eyebrow, and the captain shrugged. "I don't really know very much about these new 'shells,' Sir," he admitted. "I've talked about them with as many of the officers who were with you and High Admiral Lock Island in the Markovian Sea as I could, but that's not the same thing as really understanding them or how they differ from solid shot in terms of manufacture."

"I'm afraid you're hardly alone in that," Rock Point said wryly. "It was all very closely held before we were forced to commit the new weapons to action. Even Captain Sahlavahn and the Ordnance Board were left in the dark, as a matter of fact. Baron Seamount, the Experimental Board, and Master Howsmyn and a handful of his artisans did all the real work on them.

"And in answer to your question, Captain Pruait, I don't have the foggiest notion how much of a problem it would be to manufacture shells to fit the captured guns. Commander Mahndrayn and I will be leaving shortly to go discuss that very point with Master Howsmyn. We'll drop Captain Sahlavahn off at Big Tirian on our way, but I wanted to have his expertise available for our discussion here before we left."

"I'm afraid it's going to be mostly background expertise, Tym," Sahlavahn said dryly. "As the High Admiral says, I actually know relatively little about the exploding shells even now. I understand" -- his tone got even dryer -- "that I'm going to be learning more shortly, though. Baron Seamount tells me we're going to be filling quite a few shells, and the Hairatha Mill's going to be called upon to provide the powder for most of them."

"Oh, we'll be filling a lot of them, all right, Captain," Rock Point assured him with a hungry smile. "We're going to have a use for them sometime soon now. And we're counting on that efficiency of yours to help smooth out some of the bottlenecks to make sure we've got them when we need them."

Sahlavahn nodded. Although he'd commanded a galley under King Haarahld at the Battle of Darcos Sound, he'd served strictly in shoreside appointments since. He was nowhere near the gifted technocrat his younger cousin, Mahndrayn, had proven to be, however. In fact, he was inclined in the opposite direction, with a conservative bent that was occasionally frustrating to his superiors. But if it was occasionally frustrating, it was far more often valuable, the sort of conservatism that had an irritating, maddening ability to point out the flaws in the latest and greatest brilliant inspiration of his more innovative fellows. Even more to the point, he was at least as gifted as an administrator as Mahndrayn was as an innovator. The commander would have been hopelessly ill suited for the task of commanding the Hairatha powder mill on Big Tirian Island. His mind worked in leaps and jumps, thriving on intuition and incessantly questioning the known and accepted in pursuit of the unknown and the unconventional. Sahlavahn, on the other hand, had already expedited three production bottlenecks in the Imperial Charisian Navy's third-largest gunpowder production center by approaching them from his usual pragmatic, unflappable, conservative perspective.

"The main point," Rock Point continued, striding aft towards Sword of God's poop deck as he spoke, "is to provide each of the ships with the most effective armament we can in the shortest time frame. At the moment, I'm thinking in terms of a work in progress in which we'll go immediately to an effective 'conventional' armament without worrying about explosive shells. That's what I meant about a short term solution, Captain Pruait.

"The next stage of the work in progress will be to provide all of you with appropriate carronades. At this point, probably the thirty-pounders, since that won't require us to relocate gun ports. And we can provide them with the same explosive shells the long thirties fire, which will give you a shell-firing capability at shorter ranges. Eventually, though, we're going to have to decide whether to melt down the captured guns and recast them as standard thirty-pounders so your entire armament can use the standardized shells, or to produce molds to cast shells to fit their existing bores."

He reached the taffrail and leaned on it, bracing his arms against it while he gazed out across the harbor. He stood for a moment, breathing the salt air deep, then turned back to Pruait, Sahlavahn, Mahndrayn, and Erayksyn.

"Suppose we do this Navy fashion," he said and turned a broad smile on Mahndrayn. "Since Styvyn doesn't know any more about the technical aspects of this than I do, we'll let him sit this one out. But that makes you the junior officer present with something to contribute, Commander Mahndrayn. Which means you get the opportunity to express your views first, before any of us crotchety seniors get out there and express something that might cause you to change your mind or not suggest something you think might piss one of us off. Of course, I've observed how . . . inhibited your imagination gets under these circumstances, but I believe you'll manage to bear up under the strain."

Pruait chuckled. Sahlavahn, on the other hand, laughed out loud, and Mahndrayn smiled back at the high admiral.

"I'll do my best, Sir," he said.

"I know you will, Commander." Rock Point turned to brace the small of his back against the taffrail, folded his arms across his chest, and cocked his head. "And on that note, why don't you begin?"
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
*
Top

Return to Snippets