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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   » Sun Jul 17, 2011 8:54 pm

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How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 20

"I appreciate the compliment, Your Majesty," Nahrmahn said. "All the same, I can't help thinking how much more comfortable it would have been to provide all that assistance from a nice, motionless bedroom in Cherayth."

"Coms are all well and good," Sharleyan replied, "but he's going to need someone to obviously confer with instead of just listening to voices out of thin air. And having another warm body he can send out to do things isn't going to hurt one bit, either."

"I have to agree with that," Cayleb said. "Although trying to picture any Charisian's reaction to the notion of using Prince Nahrmahn of Emerald as an official representative and emissary a couple of years ago boggles the mind."

"I'm sure it boggles your mind less than mine," Nahrmahn replied tartly, and it was Cayleb's turn to chuckle. "On the other hand, it's worked out better -- and a lot more satisfyingly -- than several alternatives I could think of right off hand," the Emeraldian continued a bit more seriously.

"I'd have to agree with that, too," Cayleb acknowledged. "Although I wish to hell you and I didn't have to go home and assist each other with this mess."

"I wish you didn't have to either," Sharleyan agreed somberly, "but this mess is a lot less ugly than the one we could've had."

Cayleb nodded, his expression sober, at the accuracy of her remark.

The Navy of God had outnumbered the Imperial Charisian Navy by a terrifying margin when they met in the Gulf of Tarot barely two months ago. Of the twenty-five Charisian galleons who'd engaged, one had been completely destroyed, eleven had been reduced to near-wrecks, five more had lost masts and spars, and only eight had emerged more or less intact. Charis had suffered more than three thousand casualties, more than half of them fatal . . . including Cayleb's cousin, High Admiral Bryahn Lock Island. Yet hideously expensive as the victory had been, it had also been overwhelming. Forty-nine of the Navy of God's galleons had been captured. Fourteen had been destroyed in action, another seventeen had been scuttled after their capture as too damaged to be worth keeping, and only nine had actually managed to escape. Forty-one Harchongese galleons had been captured, as well, and the blow to the Church's naval power had been devastating.

Cayleb Ahrmahk had never felt so useless as he had watching that titanic engagement through Merlin's SNARCs. He'd seen every moment of it, including his cousin's death, but he'd been the better part of eight thousand miles away, unable to do anything but watch the death and destruction. Almost worse, there'd been no acceptable way for him and Sharleyan even to know the battle had been fought. They'd had to pretend they knew nothing about it, had no idea how desperate it had been or how many men had died obeying their orders. Even when Admiral Kohdy Nylz had arrived with the reinforcements dispatched to Chisholm when they'd anticipated the Church was sending its ships west to join Admiral Thirsk in Dohlar instead of east to the Desnarian Empire, they'd been unable to discuss it with him in any way.

It had taken another full two and a half five-days for a weather-battered schooner to arrive with Admiral Rock Point's official dispatches, and the only good thing was that their inner circle had had plenty of time by then to confer and make plans over their coms. Which was why Cayleb was already on his way back to Tellesberg, despite the fact that he and Sharleyan had been scheduled to remain in Cherayth for another month and a half. And it was also the reason Sharleyan wasn't headed back to Tellesberg with him.

One of them had to return. In theory, they could have used their coms to coordinate responses with Rock Point, Archbishop Maikel Staynair, Baron Wave Thunder, and the inner circles' other members in Tellesberg from Cherayth. In fact, that's what they'd been doing, in many ways. But there were limits to what their subordinates could do on their own authority, which meant either Cayleb or Sharleyan had to be there in person. For that matter, the entire world would be expecting one or both of them to return to Old Charis after such a cataclysmic shift in naval power. They couldn't afford the sort of questions not returning might arouse, and the truth was that Cayleb wanted to be there. Not that he was going to get there in any kind of hurry. This time of year, they'd be lucky if Royal Charis could make the crossing in less than two months, although Cayleb expected they'd be able to shave at least a five-day or so off of the time anyone else might have managed.

Unfortunately, Sharleyan couldn't come with him. He was just as glad to spare Alahnah the roughness and potential hazards of this particular winter voyage, but that wasn't the main reason she and her mother had remained in Cherayth. Nor was it the reason Merlin had remained with them. Sharleyan would be making a voyage of her own soon enough, and Cayleb didn't envy the task she was going to face at the end of it.

Well, no one ever told you it was going to be easy . . . or pleasant, he reminded himself. So stop thinking about how much you envy Nahrmahn and Ohlyvya for at least being together and concentrate on getting your job done. Sharley will handle her part of it just fine, and the sooner she does, the sooner she will be joining you.

"I agree things could be a lot worse," he said in a deliberately more cheerful tone, then smiled wickedly. "For example, I could be just as bad a sailor as Nahrmahn!"
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Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:14 pm

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How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 21

.III.
The Temple,
City of Zion,
The Temple Lands

And aren't we four poor miserable looking sons-of-bitches for the most powerful men in the world? Vicar Rhobair Duchairn thought sourly, gazing around the conference chamber. None of the other faces were gazing back at him at the moment, and all of them wore expressions which mingled various degrees of shock, dismay, and anger.

The atmosphere in the sumptuously furnished, indirectly lit, mystically comfortable chamber was like an echo of the bitter blizzard even then blowing through the streets of Zion beyond the Temple's precincts. Not surprisingly, given the message they'd just received . . . and the fact that it had taken so long to reach them. Poor visibility was the greatest weakness of the Church's semaphore system, and this winter's weather seemed to be proving worse than usual. It certainly was in Zion itself, as Duchairn was all too well aware. His efforts to provide the city's poor and homeless with enough warmth and food to survive had saved scores -- if not hundreds -- of lives so far, yet the worst was yet to come and he knew he wasn't going to save all of them.

At least this year, though, Mother Church was actually trying to honor her obligation to succor the weakest and most vulnerable of God's children. And seeing that she did was eating up a lot of Duchairn's time. It was also taking him beyond the Temple far more frequently than any of his colleagues managed, and he suspected it was giving him a far better perspective on how the citizens of Zion really felt about Mother Church's jihad. Zhaspahr Clyntahn's inquisitors circulated throughout the city and Clyntahn had access to all of their reports, but Duchairn doubted the Grand Inquisitor paid a great deal of attention to what Zion's poorest inhabitants were saying. Duchairn's own activities brought him into much more frequent contact with those same poor, however, and at least some of what they truly felt had to leak through the deference and (much as it distressed him to admit it existed) the fear his high clerical rank inspired. He might have learned still more if he hadn't been continually accompanied by his assigned escort of Temple Guardsmen, but that was out of the question.

Which says some pretty ugly things about how our beloved subjects regard us, doesn't it, Rhobair? He felt his lips trying to twist in a bitter smile at the irony of it all. All he really wanted to do was reach out to the people of Zion the way a vicar of God was supposed to, yet trying to do that without bodyguards was entirely too likely to get him killed by some of those same people. And it would make sense from their perspective, I suppose. I don't imagine some of them are differentiating very much just now amongst us, and given Zhaspahr's idea of how to inspire obedience, somebody probably would put a knife in my ribs if only he had the chance. Not that there's any way Allayn and Zhaspahr would let me out without my keepers even if everyone loved and cherished all four of us as much as Charis seems to cherish Staynair.

Duchairn knew perfectly well why Allayn Maigwair and Zhaspahr Clinton regarded Captain Khanstahnzo Phandys as the perfect man to command his bodyguard . . . and keep an alert eye on his activities. As the officer who'd thwarted the Wylsynn brothers' escape from the Inquisition -- and personally killed Hauwerd Wylsynn when the "renegade" vicar resisted arrest -- his reliability was beyond question.

Of course, these days things like reliability and loyalty were almost as subject to change as Zion's weather, weren't they? And not just where members of the Guard were concerned. All he had to do was glance at the ugly look Clyntahn was bending upon Maigwair to realize that.

"Tell me, Allayn," Clyntahn said now. "Can you and the Guard do anything right?"

Maigwair flushed darkly and started to open his mouth quickly. But then he stopped, pressing his lips together, and Duchairn felt a spasm of sympathy. As the Captain General of the Church of God Awaiting, Maigwair commanded all of her armed forces except the small, elite armed cadre of the Inquisition. That had made him responsible for building, arming, and training the Navy of God, and it had been commanded by Guard officers on its voyage to Desnair.

A voyage which, as the dispatch which had occasioned this meeting made clear, had not prospered.

"I think that might be a bit overly severe, Zhaspahr," Duchairn heard himself say, and the Grand Inquisitor turned his baleful gaze upon him. Clyntahn's heavy jowls were dark with anger, and despite himself, Duchairn felt a quiver of fear as those fuming eyes came to bear.

"Why?" the inquisitor demanded in a harsh, ugly tone. "They've obviously fucked up by the numbers . . . again."

"If Father Greyghor's dispatch is accurate, and we have no reason yet to believe it isn't, Bishop Kornylys obviously encountered a new and unexpected Charisian weapon . . . again." Duchairn kept his voice deliberately level and nonconfrontational, although he saw Clyntahn's eyes narrow angrily at the deliberate mimicry of his last two words. "If that weapon was as destructive as Father Greyghor's message suggests, it's hardly surprising the Bishop suffered a major defeat."

"Major defeat," he thought. My, what a delicate way to describe what must've been a massacre. It seems I have a gift for words after all.

The fact that Father Greyghor Searose, the commanding officer of the galleon NGS Saint Styvyn, appeared to be the senior surviving officer of Bishop Kornylys Harpahr's entire fleet -- that not a single squadron commander seemed to have made it to safety -- implied all sorts of things Duchairn really didn't want to think about. According to Searose's semaphore dispatch, only seven other ships had survived to join Saint Styvyn in Bedard Bay. Seven out of a hundred and thirty. The fact that they'd been anticipating a very different message for five-days -- the notification that Harpahr had reached his destination and united his forces and the Imperial Desnairian Navy into an irresistible armada -- had only made the shock of the message they'd actually gotten even worse. No wonder Clyntahn's nose was a little out of joint . . . especially since he was the one who'd insisted on sending them to the Gulf of Jahras in the first place instead of to Earl Thirsk in Gorath Bay.

"Rhobair has a point, Zhaspahr," Zahmsyn Trynair put in quietly, and it was the Inquisitor's turn to glare at the Church's Chancellor, the final member of the Group of Four. "I'm not saying things were handled perfectly," Trynair continued. "But if the Charisians somehow managed to actually make our ships explode in action, it's scarcely surprising we lost the battle. For that matter," the Chancellor's expression was that of a worried man, "I don't know how the people are going to react when they hear about exploding ships at sea! Langhorne only knows what Shan-wei-spawned deviltry was involved in that!"

"There wasn't any 'deviltry' involved!" Clyntahn snapped. "It was probably --"

He broke off with an angry chop of his right hand, and Duchairn wondered what he'd been about to say. Virtually all of Mother Church's spies reported to the Grand Inquisitor. Was it possible Clyntahn had received some warning of the new weapon . . . and failed to pass it on to Maigwair?

"I don't think it was deviltry, either, Zhasphar," he said mildly. "Zhamsyn has a point about how others may see it, however, including quite a few vicars. So how do we convince them it wasn't?"

"First, by pointing out that the Writ clearly establishes that Shan-wei's arts cannot prevail against godly and faithful men, far less a fleet sent out in God's own name to fight His jihad!" Clyntahn shot back. "And, secondly, by pointing out that nothing else these goddamned heretics have trotted out has amounted to actual witchcraft or deviltry. Pressing and twisting the limits of the Proscriptions till they squeal, yes, but so far all of it's been things our own artisans can duplicate without placing ourselves in Shan-wei's talons!"
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Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Jul 21, 2011 9:16 pm

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How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 22

That was an interesting change in perspective on Clyntahn's part, Duchairn thought. It had probably been brewing ever since the Inquisitor decided Mother Church had no choice but to adopt the Charisians' innovations themselves if they hoped to defeat the heretics. Odd how the line between the acceptable and the anathematized started blurring as soon as Clyntahn realized the kingdom he'd wanted to murder might actually have a chance to win.

"Very well, I'll accept that," Trynair responded, although from his tone he still cherished a few reservations. "Convincing the common folk of it may be a little more difficult, however. And 'deviltry' or not, the shock of it -- not to mention its obvious destructiveness -- undoubtedly explains how Bishop Kornylys and his warriors were overcome."

"I think that's almost certainly what happened." Maigwair's voice was unwontedly quiet. The Group of Four's least imaginative member clearly realized how thin the ice was underfoot, but his expression was stubborn. "There's no way Haarpar could have seen this coming. We certainly didn't! And, frankly, I'm willing to bet the Harchongese got in the way more than they ever helped!"

Clyntahn's glare grew still sharper. The Harchong Empire's monolithic loyalty to Mother Church loomed large in the Grand Inquisitor's thinking. Harchong, the most populous of all the Safeholdian realms, formed an almost bottomless reservoir of manpower upon which the Church might draw and, geographically, it protected the Temple Lands' western flank. Perhaps even more important from Clyntahn's perspective, though, was Harchong's automatic, bone-deep aversion to the sort of innovations and social change which had made Charis so threatening in the Inquisition's eyes from the very beginning.

Despite which, not even he could pretend Harchong's contribution to Bishop Kornylys Harpahr's fleet had constituted anything but a handicap. Poorly manned, worse officered, and in far too many cases completely unarmed thanks to the inefficiency of Harchong's foundries, they must have been like an anchor tied to Haarpar's ankle when the Charisians swooped down upon him.

"I get a little tired of hearing about Harchong's shortcomings," the Grand Inquisitor said sharply. "I'll grant they aren't the best seamen in the world, but at least we can count on them . . . unlike some people I could mention." He made a harsh, angry sound deep in his throat. "Funny how Searose ended up in Siddarmark of all damned places, isn't it?"

Duchairn managed not to roll his eyes, but he'd seen that one coming. Clyntahn's aversion towards and suspicion of Siddarmark were just as deep and automatic as his preference for Harchong.

"I'm sure it was simply a case of Bedard Bay's being the closest safe port he could reach," Trynair said.

"Maybe so, but I'd almost be happier to see them on the bottom of the sea," the inquisitor growled. "The last thing we need is to have our Navy -- our surviving Navy, I suppose I should say -- getting contaminated by those bastards. The embargo's leaking like a fucking sieve already; Langhorne only knows how bad it'd get if the people responsible for enforcing it signed on with that pain in the ass Stohnar!"

"Zhaspahr, you know I agree we have to be cautious where Siddarmark is concerned," the Chancellor said in a careful tone. "And I realize Stohnar is obviously conniving with his own merchants and banking houses to evade the embargo. But Rhobair's right, too. At this moment, Siddarmark and Silkiah have the most prosperous economies of any of the mainland realms precisely because the embargo is 'leaking like a sieve' in their cases. You know that's true."

"So we should just sit on our asses and let Stohnar and the others laugh up their sleeves at Mother Church?" Clyntahn challenged harshly. "Let them flout Mother Church's legitimate authority in the middle of the first true jihad in history and get rich out of it?!"

"Do you think I like that any better than you do?" Trynair demanded. "But we've already got one slash lizard by the tail. One war at a time, please, Zhaspahr! And if it's all the same to you, I'd really like to take care of the one we're already fighting before we start another one with Siddarmark."

Clyntahn scowled, and Duchairn heaved a mental sigh. The Church had already lost the tithes from the scattered lands which had joined or been conquered by the Empire of Charis. That was a not insignificant slice of revenue in its own right, but of all the mainland realms, only the Republic of Siddarmark, the Grand Duchy of Silkiah, and the Desnairian Empire were managing to pay anything like their prewar tithes, and it was questionable how much longer that would be true in Desnair's case.

The only reason the Empire was making ends meet was the depth and richness of its gold mines, and that gold was running like water as the rest of the Desnarian economy slowed drastically. The result was a drastic rise in prices which was crushing the poor and the limited Desnarian middle class, and in the end, far more of the total tithe came from those two classes than from the aristocracy. If they could no longer make ends meet, if their incomes dropped, then so did their ability to pay their tithes, and Duchairn could already see the downward spiral starting to set in.

All of that made the fact that the Republic and the Grand Duchy were able to pay their full prewar tithes even more important. And the reason they were, as Trynair had just reminded Clyntahn, was precisely because they were the only two mainland realms continuing to carry on a brisk trade with Charis. In fact, even though the total level of their trade had dropped significantly because of the need to evade Clyntahn's prohibition of any commerce with Charis, Siddarmark in particular was actually more prosperous than it had been three years ago.

Everybody knows Siddarmark's always been the main conduit between Charis and the Temple Lands, whether Zhaspahr wants to admit it or not, the Treasurer thought disgustedly. Their farmers have been cleaning up out of the need to provision all our armed forces, of course, but now that Charisian goods can't be imported legally into the Temple Lands -- thanks to Zhaspahr's stupid embargo -- Siddarmark's merchants and banking houses are making even more on the transaction. And it's still costing us less to buy Charisian than to buy anything manufactured here on the mainland. So if we break the Siddarmarkian economy, we break our own!

He knew how much the situation infuriated Clyntahn, but for once the Grand Inquisitor had faced the united opposition of all three of his colleagues. They simply couldn't afford to kill the wyvern that fetched the golden rabbit -- not when Mother Church was pouring so much gold into building the weapons she needed to fight her jihad. That was the argument which had finally brought him -- grudgingly, dragging his heels the whole way -- into accepting that he had no choice but to close his eyes to the systematic violation of his embargo.

And the fact that it's his embargo, one he insisted on decreeing without any precedent, only pisses him off worse, Duchairn thought. Bad enough that they should defy God's will, but Langhorne forbid they should dare to challenge Zhaspahr Clyntahn's will!

"I think we need to turn our attention back to the matter at hand," he said before Clyntahn could fire back at Trynair and back himself still further into an untenable corner. "And while I know none of us wanted to hear about any of this, I'd like to point out that all we have so far is Father Greyghor's preliminary semaphore report. Reports over the semaphore are never as detailed as couriered or wyvern-carried reports. I'm sure he dispatched a courier at the same time he handed his preliminary message to the semaphore clerks, but it's not going to get here for a while, given the weather, so I think it's probably a bit early for us to be trying to decide exactly what happened, or how, or who's to blame for it. There'll be time enough for that once we know more."
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Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Jul 24, 2011 10:36 pm

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How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 23

For a moment, he expected Clyntahn to launch a fresh verbal assault. But then the other man made himself inhale deeply. He nodded once, curtly, and thrust himself back in his chair.

"That much I'll give you," he said grudgingly. "If it does turn out, though, that all this resulted from someone's carelessness or stupidity, there will be consequences."

He wasn't looking at Maigwair as he spoke, but Duchairn saw the Captain General's eyes flicker with an anger of their own. It was just like Clinton to conveniently misremember who'd originally come up with a plan that hadn't worked out. The frightening thing, as far as Duchairn was concerned, was that he was almost certain the Grand Inquisitor honestly did remember things the way he described them. Not at first, perhaps, but given even a little time he could genuinely convince himself the truth was what he wanted the truth to be.

Which is how we all got into this mess in the first place, the Treasurer thought bitterly. Well, that and the fact that not one of the rest of us had the guts, the gumption, or the mother wit to recognize where all four of us were headed and drag the fool to a stop.

"Something we are going to have to think about, and quickly, though," he continued out loud, "are the consequences of what's happened. The purely military consequences are beyond my purview, I'm afraid. The fiscal consequences, however, fall squarely into my lap, and they're going to be ugly."

Trynair looked glum, Maigwair looked worried, and Clyntahn looked irritated, but none of them disagreed with him.

"We poured literally millions of marks into building those ships," Duchairn continued unflinchingly. "Now that entire investment's gone. Worse, I think we have to assume that at least a great many of the ships we've lost will be taken into Charisian service. Not only are we confronted with the need to replace our own losses, but we've just given the Charisians the equivalent of all that money in the hulls they're not going to have to build and the guns they're not going to have to cast after all. We still have the Desnairian and Dohlaran navies, but if the Charisians can find the crews to man all the galleons they have now, they'll have a crushing advantage over Desnair or Dohlar in isolation. In fact, they'll probably outnumber all our forces combined, even if we include our own unfinished construction and the ships Harchong hasn't finished yet. Frankly, I'm not at all sure we can recover from that position anytime soon."

"Then you'll just have to find a way for us to do it anyway," Clyntahn said flatly. "We can't get at the bastards without a fleet, and I think it's just become obvious we're going to need an even bigger fleet than we thought we did."

"It's easy to say 'find a way to do it anyway,' Zhaspahr," Duchairn replied. "Actually accomplishing it is a bit more difficult. I'm Mother Church's treasurer. I know how deeply we've dipped into our reserves, and I know how our revenue stream's suffered since we've lost all tithes from Charis, Emerald, Chisholm, and now Corisande and Tarot." He carefully refrained from mentioning the subsequent importance of any places with names like Siddarmark or Silkiah. "I won't go so far as to say our coffers are empty, but I will say I can see their bottoms entirely too clearly. We don't have the funds to replace even what we've just lost, far less build 'an even bigger fleet.'"

"If we can't build a big enough fleet, Mother Church loses everything," Clyntahn shot back. "Do you want to face God and explain that we were too busy pinching coins to find the marks to save His Church from heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy?"

"No, I don't." And I don't want to face the Inquisition because that's what you think I'm doing, either, Zhaspahr. "On the other hand, I can't simply wave my hands and magically refill the treasury."

"Surely you've been thinking about this contingency for some time, though, Rhobair?" Trynair put in a pacific tone. "I know you like to be beforehand in solving problems, and you must've seen this one coming for some time."

"Of course I have. In fact, I've been mentioning it to all of you at regular intervals," Duchairn observed a bit tartly. "And I do see a few things we can do -- none of which, unfortunately, are going to be pleasant. One thing, I'm afraid, is that we may find ourselves borrowing money from secular lords and secular banks instead of the other way round."

Trynair grimaced, and Maigwair looked acutely unhappy. Loans to secular princes and nobles were one of Mother Church's most effective means of keeping them compliant. Clearly, neither of them looked forward to finding that shoe on the other foot. Clyntahn's set, determined expression never wavered, however.

"You said that was one thing," Trynair said. "What other options have you been considering?"

He clearly hoped for something less extreme, but Duchairn shook his head almost gently.

"Zahmsyn, that's the least painful option open to us, and we're probably going to have to do it anyway, no matter what other avenues we turn to."

"Surely you're not serious!" Trynair protested.

"Zahmsyn, I'm telling you we've spent millions on the fleet. Millions. Just to give you an idea what I'm talking about, each of those galleons cost us around us almost two hundred and seventy thousand marks. That's for the ships we built here in the Temple Lands; the ones we built in Harchong cost Mother Church well over three hundred thousand apiece, once we got finished paying all the graft that got loaded into the price."

He saw Clyntahn's eyes flash at the reference to Harchongese corruption, but there was no point trying to ignore ugly realities, and he went on grimly.

"Dohlaran and Desnarian-built ships come in somewhere between the two extremes, and that price doesn't include the guns. For one of our fifty-gun galleons, the artillery would add roughly another twenty-thousand marks, so we might as well call it three hundred thousand a ship by the time we add powder, shot, muskets, cutlasses, boarding pikes, provisions, and all the other 'incidentals.' Again, those are the numbers for the ships we built right here, not for Harchong or one of the other realms, and between our Navy and Harchong's we've just lost somewhere around a hundred and thirty ships. That's the next best thing to forty million marks just for the ships Zhamsyn, and don't forget that we've actually paid for building or converting over four hundred ships, including the ones we've lost. That puts Mother Church's total investment in them up to at least a hundred and forty million marks, and bad as that number is, it doesn't even begin to count the full cost, because it doesn't allow for building the shipyards and foundries to build and arm them in the first place. It doesn't count workers' wages, the costs of assembling work forces, paying the crews, buying extra canvas for sails, building ropeworks, buying replacement spars. And it also doesn't count all the jihad's other expenses, like subsidies to help build the secular realms' armies, the interest we've forgiven on Rahnyld of Dohlar's loans, or dozens of others my clerks could list for us."

He paused to let those numbers sink in and saw shock on Trynair's face. Maigwair looked even more unhappy but much less surprised than the Chancellor. Of course, he'd had to live with those figures from the very beginning, but Duchairn found himself wondering if Trynair had ever really looked at them at all. And even Maigwair's awareness was probably more theoretical than real, No vicar had any real experience of what those kinds of numbers would have meant to someone in the real world, where a Siddarmarkian coal miner earned no more than a mark a day and even a skilled worker, like one of their own ship carpenters, earned no more than a mark and a half.
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Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:04 pm

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How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 24

"We've had to come up with all that money," he continued after a moment, "and so far we've managed to. But at the same time, we've had to meet all Mother Church's other fiscal needs, and they haven't magically vanished. There's a limit to the cuts we can make in other areas in order to pay for our military buildup, and all of them together aren't going to come even close to making up the shortfall in our revenues. Not the way our finances are currently structured."

"So what do we do to change that structure?" Clyntahn demanded flatly.

"First, I'm afraid," Duchairn said, "we're going to have to impose direct taxation on the Temple Lands."

Clyntahn's face tightened further, and Trynair's eyes widened in alarm. The Knights of the Temple Lands, the secular rulers of the Temple Lands, were also the vicars of Mother Church. They'd never paid a single mark of taxes, and the mere threat of having to do so now could be guaranteed to create all manner of resentment. Their subjects were supposed to pay taxes to them, plus their tithes to Mother Church; they weren't supposed to pay taxes to anyone.

"They'll scream bloody murder!" Trynair protested.

"No," Clyntahn said harshly. "They won't."

The Chancellor had been about to say something more. Now he closed his mouth and looked at the Grand Inquisitor, instead.

"You were saying, Rhobair?" Clyntahn prompted, not giving Trynair so much as a glance.

"I think it's entirely possible we're going to have to begin disposing of some of Mother Church's property, as well." The Treasurer shrugged. "I don't like the thought, but Mother Church and the various orders have extensive holdings all over both Havens and Howard." In fact, as all four of them knew, the Church of God Awaiting was the biggest landholder in the entire world . . . by a huge margin. "We should be able to raise quite a lot of money without ever touching her main holdings in the Temple Lands."

Trynair looked almost as distressed by that notion as by the idea of taxing the Knights of the Temple Lands, but once again Clyntahn's expression didn't even waver.

"I'm sure you're not done with the bad-tasting medicine yet, Rhobair. Spit it out," he said.

"I've already warned all of our archbishops to anticipate an increase in their archbishoprics' tithes," Duchairn replied flatly. "At this time, it looks to me as if we'll have to raise them at a minimum from twenty percent to twenty-five percent. It may go all the way to thirty in the end."

That disturbed Trynair and Maigwair less than any of his other proposals, he noted, despite the severe impact it was going to have on the people being forced to pay those increased tithes. Clyntahn, on the other hand, seemed as impervious to its implications as he'd been to all the others.

"Those are all ways to raise money," he observed. "What about ways to save money?"

"There aren't a lot more of those available to us without cutting unacceptably into core expenditures." Duchairn met Clyntahn's eyes levelly across the conference table. "I've already drastically reduced subsidies to all of the orders, cut back on our classroom support for the teaching orders, and cut funding for the Pasqualate hospitals by ten percent."

"And you could save even more by cutting funding for Thirsk's precious 'pensions,'" Clyntahn grated. "Or by stopping coddling people too lazy to work for a living right here in Zion itself!"

"Mother Church committed herself to pay those pensions," Duchairn replied unflinchingly. "If we simply decide we're not going to after all, why should anyone trust us to meet any of our other obligations? And what effect do you think our decision not to provide for the widows and orphans of men who've died in Mother Church's service after we've promised to would have on the loyalty of the rest of Mother Church's sons and daughters, Zhaspahr? I realize you're the Grand Inquisitor, and I'll defer to your judgment if you insist, but that decision would strike at the very things all godly men hold most dear in this world: their responsibilities to their families and loved ones. If you threaten that, you undermine everything they hold fast to not simply in this world, but in the next."

Clyntahn's jaw muscles bunched, but Duchairn went on in that same level, steady voice.

"As for my 'coddling people too lazy to work,' this is something you and I have already discussed. Mother Church has a responsibility to look after her children, and it's one we've ignored far too long. Every single mark I've spent here in Zion this winter -- every mark I might spend here next winter, or the winter after that -- would be a single drop of water in the Great Western Ocean compared to the costs of this jihad. It's going to get lost in the bookkeeping when my clerks round their accounts, Zhaspahr. That's how insignificant it is compared to all our other expenses. And I've been out there, out in the city. I've seen how people are reacting to the shelters and soup kitchens. I'm sure your own inquisitors have been reporting to you and Wyllym about that, as well. Do you really think the paltry sums we're spending on that aren't a worthwhile investment in terms of the city's willingness to not simply endure but support what we're demanding of them and their sons and husbands and fathers?"

Their gazes locked, and tension hovered like smoke in the chamber's corners. For a moment, Duchairn thought Clyntahn's rage was going to push him over the line they'd drawn a year ago, the compromise which had bought Duchairn's acquiescence -- his silence -- where the Grand Inquisitor's pogroms and punishments were concerned. In Clyntahn's more reasonable moments, he probably did recognize it was necessary for the Church to show a kinder, more gentle face rather than relying solely on the Inquisition's iron fist. That didn't mean he liked it, though, and his resentment over the "diversion of resources" was exceeded only by his contempt for Duchairn's weakness. For the Treasurer's effort to salve his own conscience by showing his compassion to all the world.

If it came to an open confrontation between them, Duchairn knew exactly how badly it was going to end. There were some things he was no longer prepared to sacrifice, however, and after a moment, it was Clyntahn who looked away.

"Have it your own way," he grunted, as if it were a matter of no importance, and Duchairn felt his taut nerves relax ever so slightly.

"I agree there's no real point in cutting that small an amount out of our expenditures," Trynair said. "But do you think we'll be able to rebuild the fleet even if we do everything you've just described, Rhobair?"

"That's really a better question for Allayn than for me. I know how much we've already spent. I can make some estimates about how much it will cost to replace what we've lost. The good news in that respect is that now that we've got an experienced labor force assembled and all the plans worked out, we can probably build new ships more cheaply than we built the first ones. But Allayn's already been shifting the Guard's funding from naval expenditures to army expenditures. I don't see any way we're going to be able to meet his projections for things like the new muskets and the new field artillery if we're simultaneously going to have to rebuild the navy."

"Well, Allayn?" Clyntahn asked unpleasantly.

"This all came at me just as quickly and unexpectedly as it came at any of the rest of you, Zhaspahr," Maigwair said in an unusually firm tone. "I'm going to have to look at the numbers, especially after we find out how accurate Searose's estimate of our losses really is. It's always possible they weren't as great as he thinks they were. At any rate, until I have some hard figures, there's no way to know how much rebuilding we're actually going to have to do.
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Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Jul 28, 2011 9:11 pm

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How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 25

"Having said that, though, there's no question that it's going to be the next best thing to impossible to push the development of the Guard's military support structure the way we originally planned. For one thing, field artillery's going to be in direct competition with casting replacement naval artillery for any new construction. A lot of the artisans and craftsmen we'll need to make rifled muskets and the new style bayonets are also going to be needed by the shipbuilding programs. As Rhobair says, we've planned all along on shifting emphasis once we got the shipbuilding program out of the way. In fact, I'd already started placing new orders and reassigning workers. Getting those workers back and shuffling the orders is going to be complicated."

"Should we just shelve land armaments in favor of replacing our naval losses?" Trynair asked.

"I think that's something we're all going to have to think about," Maigwair said. "My own feeling, bearing in mind that we don't have those definite numbers I mentioned, is that we'll have to cut back on the muskets and field artillery and shift a lot of emphasis back to the shipyards. I don't think we'll want to completely cancel the new programs, though. We need to at least make a start, and we need enough of the new weapons for the Guard to start training with them, learning their capabilities. Striking the balance between meeting that need and rebuilding the Navy is going to be tricky."

"That actually makes sense," Clyntahn said, as if the notion that anything coming out of Maigwair's mouth might do that astounded him. "On the other hand," he continued, ignoring the flash of anger in the Captain General's eyes, "at least it's not as if Cayleb and Sharleyan are going to be landing any armies on the mainland. Even adding the Chisholmian Army to the Charisians' Marines and assuming every outrageous report about their new weapons is accurate, they've got far too few troops to confront us on our own ground. Especially not when they've got to keep such hefty garrisons in Zebediah and Corisande."

"There's something to that," Maigwair conceded. "Doesn't mean they won't try hit-and-run raids, of course. They did that against Hektor in Corisande. And if they're willing to start that kind of nonsense on the mainland, our problem's going to be mobility, not manpower. They can simply move raiding parties around faster by ship than we can march them overland, and the sad truth is that it doesn't really matter how good our weapons are if we can't catch up with them in the first place. That's one of the reasons I'm inclined to think we're going to have to place more emphasis on ships than muskets for the immediate future. We need to have enough of a navy to at least force them to make major detachments from their own fleet to support any operations along our coasts."

"And how realistic is that?" Clyntahn's question was marginally less caustic. "We're going to have to rebuild -- there's no question of that, if we're ever going to take the war to them the way God demands -- but how likely are we to be able to build enough of a replacement fleet quickly enough to keep them from raiding our coasts whenever they want?"

Maigwair's unhappy expression was answer enough, but Duchairn shook his head.

"I think Allayn may be worrying a bit too much about that, for the moment at least," he said. The others looked at him, and he shrugged. "They can probably raid the coast of Desnair if they really want to, but unless they go after one of the major ports -- which would take more troops than they're likely to have -- simple raids aren't likely to hurt us very much. The same is true of Delferahk." Now, at least, he added silently. After all, Ferayd was the only "major port" Delferahk had, and it's gone now . . . thanks to you and your inquisitors, Zhaspahr. "Dohlar is a long way from Charis and well protected, especially with Thirsk's fleet still intact to hold the Gulf of Dohlar. And even though I know you're not going to want to hear this, Zhaspahr, no one's going to be raiding Siddarmark or Silkiah as long as both of them are trading with Charis."

He paused, looking around their faces, then shrugged again.

"I agree we need to rebuild, but I also think we've got some time in hand before we're really going to need a fleet for anything except offensive operations. Just manning all the ships they've got now is going to be a huge drain on their manpower. As you say, Zhaspahr, they aren't going to be able to build an army large enough for any serious invasion of the mainland, so if their raids can only inconvenience us without really hurting us, I don't see any need to panic over the situation. Yes, it's serious, and we're going to have our work cut out for us to recover from it, but it's a long way from hopeless."

"That's sound reasoning," Clyntahn said after a moment, bestowing a rare look of approval on the Treasurer.

"Agreed." Trynair looked happier as well, and he nodded firmly. "Panic isn't going to help us, but clear thinking may."

"I agree, too," Maigwair said. "Of course, one thing we're going to have to do is figure out how this new weapon of theirs actually works. Until we know that and produce similar weapons of our own, meeting them at sea would be a recipe for disaster. And it's probably going to have a lot of implications for battles on land, too, for that matter." He looked at Clyntahn. "Do I have permission to begin work on that, Zhaspahr?"

"The Inquisition has no objection to your at least putting people to work thinking about it," the Grand Inquisitor replied, his eyes opaque. "I'll want to be kept closely informed, of course, and I'll be assigning one or two of my inquisitors to keep an eye on things. But as I said before, our own artisans have been able to accomplish many of the same things the heretics have done without violating the Proscriptions. I'm not prepared to say they've managed it entirely without violations, but we have, and I'm sure we'll be able to continue to do so."

Oh, I'm sure we will, too, Duchairn thought even as he and the other two nodded in grave agreement. Your inquisitors are going to approve anything you tell them to, Zhaspahr, and you'll tell them to approve whatever Allayn comes up with even if it smashes right through the Proscriptions. After all, who's a mere Archangel like Jwo-jeng to place any limits on you when it comes to smiting your enemies? In God's name, of course.

He wondered once again where all this madness was going to end. And, once again, he told himself the one thing he knew with absolute certainty.

Wherever it ended, it was going to get far, far worse before it got better.
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Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:15 pm

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How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 26

April,
Year of God 895

.I.
HMS Dawn Star, 58,
Chisholm Sea.

Crown Princess Alahnah Zhanayt Naimu Ahrmahk wailed lustily as another sea rolled up under HMS Dawn Star's quarter and sent the galleon corkscrewing unpleasantly. Despite her parentage, the infant crown princess was not a good sailor, and she obviously didn't care who knew it.

It was chilly in the large after cabin, despite the small coal stove securely affixed to the deck, and a warmly dressed Empress Sharleyan sat in the canvas sling-chair. The chair was adjusted so that its swinging movement could minimize the ship's motion as much as possible, and she cradled the blanket-cocooned baby on her shoulder, crooning to her.

It didn't seem to help a lot.

"Let me fetch Glahdys, Your Majesty!" Sairaih Hahlmyn, Sharleyan's personal maid said yet again. "Maybe she's just hungry."

"While I'll admit this young monster is hungry most of the time, Sairaih, that's not the problem right now," Sharleyan replied wanly. "Believe me. I've already tried."

Sairaih sniffed. The sound was inaudible against the background noise of a wooden sailing ship underway on blowing weather, but Sharleyan didn't need to hear it. Glahdys Parkyr was Alahnah's wetnurse, and as far as Sairaih was concerned, that meant Mistress Parkyr should be the crown princess' only wetnurse. She'd made no secret of her opinion that Sharleyan had far too many pressing demands on her time to do anything so unfashionable as breast-feeding her daughter.

There were times Sharleyan was tempted to agree with her, and there were other times when she had no choice but to allow Mistress Parkyr to replace her. Sometimes that was because of those other pressing demands, but she'd also been forced to admit that her own milk production wouldn't have kept pace with Alahnah's needs without assistance. That bothered her more than she wanted to admit even to herself, which was one reason she was so stubborn about nursing the baby whenever she could.

In this case, however, that wasn't the problem. In fact, her breasts felt uncomfortably full at the moment and Alahnah was too busy protesting her universe's unnatural movement to care. Of course, Alahnah being Alahnah, dire starvation was going to redirect her attention sometime in the next half-hour or so, Sharleyan thought wryly.

"You need your rest, Your Majesty," Sairaih said with all the stubbornness of an old and trusted retainer gamely refusing to give up the fight.

"I'm stuck aboard a ship in the middle of the Chisholm Sea, Sairaih," Sharleyan pointed out. "Exactly what do I need to be resting up for?"

The unfair question gave Sairaih pause, and she looked reproachfully at her empress for sinking so low as to actually use logic against her.

"Never mind," Sharleyan said after a moment. "I promise if I can't get her to settle down in a little bit, I'll let you get Glahdys or Hairyet to see what they can do. All right?"

"I'm sure whatever Your Majesty decides will be just fine," Sairaih said with immense dignity, and on that note, she swept a rather deeper curtsy than usual and withdrew from Sharleyan's cabin.

"Have you ever considered how the rest of your subjects would react to the knowledge of how ruthlessly you're tyrannized in your own household?" a deep voice asked in the empress' ear, and she chuckled.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," she replied to the cabin's empty air, and it was Merlin's turn to chuckle.

He stood alone on Dawn Star's sternwalk, gazing out over the endless ranks of white-crested waves sweeping down on the ship from the northwest. There was enough flying spray, and the weather was cold enough, that no one seemed inclined to dispute his possession of the sternwalk at the moment. Of course, the fact that he was Emperor Cayleb's personal armsman and currently attached to Empress Sharleyan in the same role probably had as much to do with it as the weather did. Then there was that minor matter of his seijin's reputation. Even most of those who knew him well were disinclined to crowd him when they didn't have to.

"No idea at all," he said now. "That's what you want me to believe?"

"I'll have you know, Seijin Merlin, that I rule my household with a will of iron," she told him firmly.

"Oh, of course you do." Merlin rolled his eyes. "I've seen the way they all jump to obey your orders in obvious terror."

"I should certainly hope so." She elevated her nose with a sniff Sairaih couldn't have bettered, but a sudden, renewed complaint from Alahnah spoiled her pose.

"There, baby," she murmured in the child's delicate ear. "Momma's here." She nuzzled the side of the little girl's neck, inhaling the scent of her while she patted her back gently.

Alahnah's protests died back to a more sustainable level, and Sharleyan shook her head.

"How much longer until that wind change gets here?" she asked.

"Another seven or eight hours yet, I'm afraid," Merlin replied, watching the real-time weather map from Owl's sensors.

"Wonderful," Sharleyan sighed.

"At least we've got better weather than Cayleb does," Merlin pointed out. At that moment, Empress of Charis was battling headwinds and high seas as she fought her way steadily westward. "And we'll be heading into even better weather in the next few days. Of course, it's going to get a lot hotter."

"Fine with me," Sharleyan said fervently. "Don't tell any of my Chisholmians, but this northern girl's been spoiled by Charisian weather."

"Would that have anything to do with the fact that the snow was three or four feet deep when we left Cherayth?" Merlin asked mildly.

"I think you can safely assume it factors into the equation."

"I thought it might. Still, you might want to remember that too much heat's as bad as too much cold, and the last time Cayleb and I were in Zebediahan waters, it was hot enough to fry eggs on a cannon's breech. I thought it was going to render that toad Symmyns down into candle fat right on the quarterdeck."

"And it would've saved all of us -- including him -- a lot of grief if it had," Sharleyan said, her voice and expression much grimmer than they had been. "That's another part of this trip I'm not looking forward to, Merlin."

"I know," Merlin agreed soberly. "And I know it probably doesn't help, but if anyone's ever had it coming, it's certainly him."

Sharleyan nodded. Tohmys Symmyns, Grand Duke of Zebediah, was presently ensconced in a reasonably comfortable cell in what used to be his own palace in the city of Carmyn. He'd been there for four months now, awaiting the arrival of Cayleb or Sharleyan, and he'd probably have preferred to go on waiting a lot longer. Facing the emperor or empress against whom one had committed high treason wasn't something to which most self-serving, treacherous schemers looked forward. Unfortunately for Symmyns, he was going to have the opportunity to do precisely that -- briefly, at least -- in another seven or eight days. And while Merlin knew Sharleyan wasn't looking forward to the meeting either, he also knew she would never flinch from what her duty required.

"I'm not looking forward to Corisande, either, for that matter," she said now. "Well, not most of it, anyway. But at least there'll be some good news to go along with the bad in Manchyr."

"Would it happen that Hauwyl's reaction is one of the things you are looking forward to?" Merlin inquired dryly.

"Absolutely," Sharleyan replied smugly.

"I still say it was a nasty trick for you and Cayleb to keep him entirely in the dark about it."

"We're cunning, devious, and underhanded heads of state engaged in a desperate struggle against an overwhelming foe," Sharleyan pointed out. "It's one of our responsibilities to keep our most trusted henchmen alert and on their toes, ready for anything which might come their way."

"Besides which you both like practical jokes."

"Besides which we both like practical jokes," she agreed.
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Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:18 pm

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How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 27

.II.
Royal Palace,
City of Talkyra,
Kingdom of Delferahk

Thunder rumbled far out over Lake Erdan, and multi-forked tongues of lightning glared down the heavens. Heavy waves broke on the reed-grown shore far below the hanging turret, and Princess Irys Daykyn propped her elbows on the windowsill as she leaned out into the rough-armed wind. It slapped at her cheeks and whipped her hair, and she slitted her hazel eyes against its exuberant power.

The rain would be along soon. She could already smell its dampness and a hint of ozone on the wind, and her gaze searched the heavy-bellied clouds, watching them flash as more lightning danced above them without ever quite breaking free. She envied those clouds, that wind. Envied their freedom . . . and their power.

The air was chill, cool enough to be actively uncomfortable to her Corisandian-trained weather sense. March was one of the hot months in Manchyr, although the city was so close to the equator that seasonal variations were actually minimal. Irys had seen snow only two or three times in her entire life, on trips to the Barcor Mountains with her parents before her mother's death. Prince Hektor had never taken her back there after her mother died, and Irys wondered sometimes if that was because he'd had no heart to visit his wife's favorite vacation spot without her . . . or if he'd simply no longer been able to find the time. He'd been busy, after all.

Thunder crashed louder than before, and she saw the darkness in the air out over the lake where a wall of rain advanced slowly towards the castle and the city of Talkyra. It was rather like her life, she thought, that steadily oncoming darkness moving towards her while she could only stand and watch it come. This castle had been supposed to be a place of refuge, a fortress to protect her and her baby brother from the ruthless emperor who'd had her father and her older brother murdered. She'd never wanted to come, never wanted to leave her father's side, but he'd insisted. And it had been her responsibility, too. Someone had to look out for Daivyn. He was such a little boy, so young to be so valuable a pawn and have so many deadly enemies. And now the refuge felt all too much like a prison, the fortress too much like a trap.

She'd had time to think. In fact, she'd had entirely too much of it in the months she'd spent with her brother as "guests" of their kinsman, King Zhames of Delferahk. Months to wonder if they'd escaped one danger only to walk straight into one far worse. Months for her brain to beat against the bars of a cage only she could see. To think about why her father had sent her and Daivyn away. And, perhaps worse, to think about who and what her father had truly been.

She hated those thoughts, she admitted, gazing unflinchingly into the heart of the oncoming storm. They felt disloyal, wrong. She'd loved her father, and she knew he'd loved her. There was no doubt in her mind about that. And he'd tutored her well in the arts of politics and strategy -- as well as if it might have been possible for her to inherit his crown. Yet her very love for him had kept her from looking at him as clearly and fearlessly as she now contemplated the lightning and rain sweeping towards her across the enormous lake. He'd been a good prince in so many ways, but now, trapped in Delferahk, fearing for her brother's life, she realized there'd been a side of him she'd never seen.

Was it because I didn't want to see it? Because I loved him too much? Wanted him to always be the perfect prince, the perfect father, I thought he was?

She didn't know. She might never know. Yet once the questions were asked, they could never be unasked, and she'd begun to consider things she'd never considered before. Like the fact that her father had been a tyrant. A benign tyrant in Corisande, perhaps, yet still a tyrant. And however benign he might have been within his own princedom, he'd been nothing of the sort outside it. She thought about his ruthless subjugation of Zebediah, his rivalries with King Sailys of Chisholm and King Haarahld of Charis. His ambition for empire and his intrigues and relentless drive to accomplish it. The bribes he'd paid to vicars and other senior churchmen to influence them against Charis.

None of that had made him a bad father. Oh, she could see now how the time he'd invested in his machinations had been stolen from his family. Was that one of the reasons her older brother had been such a disappointment to him? Because he'd been too busy building his realm to spend enough time in teaching the boy who would someday inherit it to be the man capable of ruling it? Perhaps he'd spent so much more time with Irys because she was his daughter, and fathers doted on daughters. Or perhaps because she reminded him so much of her mother. Or perhaps simply because she was his firstborn, the child given to him before ambition had narrowed his horizons so sharply.

She'd never know about that, either. Not now. Yet she believed he'd truly done his best for his children. It might not have been exactly what they needed from him, but it had been the very best he could give them, and she would never question his love for her or her love for him.

Yet she'd come to the conclusion that she dared not allow love to blind her any longer. The world was a larger, and a more complex, and an infinitely more dangerous place than even she had realized, and if she and her brother -- her rightful prince, despite his youth -- were to survive in it, she could cling to no illusions about who might be her enemies, who might claim to be her friends, and why. She knew Phylyp Ahzgood, the man her father had chosen as his children's guardian and adviser, had always seen the world -- and her father -- more clearly than she. And she suspected he'd been trying as gently as possible to train her eyes to see as his did.

I'll try, Phylyp, she thought now as the first heavy raindrops pattered against the stonework and splashed her cheeks. I'll try. I only hope we have the time for me to learn your lessons.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Is she hanging out the window again, Tobys?" Phylyp Ahzgood, the Earl of Coris, asked wryly.

"Couldn't say as how she's hanging out the window, My Lord," Tobys Raimair replied in a judicious tone. He stroked his walrus mustache thoughtfully, bald head gleaming in the lamplight. "Might be she's closed it by now. Might be she hasn't, too." He shrugged. "Girl misses the weather, if you'll pardon my saying so."

"I know she does," Coris said, and smiled sadly. "You should've seen her in Corisande, Tobys. I swear she spent every minute she could on horseback somewhere. Either that, or sailing in the bay. It used to drive Prince Hektor's guardsmen crazy trying to keep an eye on her!"

"Aye?" Raimair cocked his head, still stroking his mustache, then chuckled. "Aye, I can believe that. Wish to Langhorne she could do the same thing here, too!"

"You and I both," Coris said. "You and I both. But even if the King would let her, we couldn't, could we?"

"No, I don't suppose we could, My Lord," Raimair agreed heavily.

They looked at one another in silence for several seconds. It would have been difficult to imagine a greater contrast between two men. Coris was fair-haired, of no more than average build, possibly even a bit on the slender side, aristocratically groomed and dressed in the height of fashion. Raimair looked like exactly what he was: a veteran of thirty years' service in the Corisandian Army. Dark-eyed, powerfully built, plainly dressed, he was as tough in both mind and body as he looked. He was also, as Captain Zhoel Harys had said when he recommended Raimair to Coris as Irys' bodyguard, "good with his hands."
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Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Aug 04, 2011 9:27 pm

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How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 28

And large and sinewy hands they were, too, Coris thought approvingly.

"Pardon me for asking, My Lord, and if it's none of my affair, you've only to say so, but is it my imagination or are you feeling just a mite more nervous of late?"

"Odd, Tobys. I never realized you had an imagination."

"Oh, aye, I've an imagination, My Lord." Raimair smiled thinly. "And it's been whispering to me here lately." His smile disappeared. "I'm not so very happy about what I'm hearing out of . . . places to the north, let's say."

Their eyes met. Then, after a moment, Coris nodded.

"Point taken," he said quietly. The Earl of Coris had learned long ago how risky it was to judge books by their covers. And he'd also learned long ago that a noncommissioned officer didn't serve as long as Raimair had without a brain that worked. Other people, including quite a few who should know better, forgot that all too often. They came to regard soldiers as little more than unthinking pawns, enforcers in uniform who were good for killing enemies and making certain one's own subjects were kept firmly in their places, but not for any tasks more mentally challenging than that. That blindness was a weakness Prince Hektor's spymaster had used to his advantage more than once, and he had no intention of forgetting that now.

"She's not discussed it with me, you understand, My Lord," Raimair said in an equally quiet voice, "but she's not so good as she thinks she is at hiding the way the wind's setting behind those eyes of hers. She's worried, and so are you, I think. So the thing that's working its way through my mind is whether or not the lads and I should be worried as well?"

"I wish I could answer that." Coris paused, gazing into the lamp flame and pursing his lips in thought for several seconds. Then he looked back at Raimair.

"She and the Prince are valuable game pieces, Tobys," he said. "You know that. But I've been receiving reports lately from home."

He paused again, and Raimair nodded.

"Aye, My Lord. I saw the dispatch from Earl Anvil Rock and this Regency Council when it arrived."

"I'm not talking about the Earl's official reports," Coris said softly. "He'll know as well as I do that any report he sends to Talkyra's going to be opened and read by at least one set of spies before it ever reaches me or the Princess. And don't forget -- he's in the position of someone cooperating with the Charisians. Whether he's doing that willingly or only under duress, it's likely he'll bear that in mind whenever he drafts those reports he knows other people are going to read. The last thing he'd want would be for . . . certain parties to decide he's cooperating with Charis because he wants to. I'm not saying he'd lie to me or to Princess Irys, but there are ways to tell the truth, and then there are ways to tell the truth. For that matter, simply leaving things out is often the best way of all to mislead someone."

"But the Earl's her cousin, My Lord." Raimair sounded troubled. "Are you thinking he'd be looking to feather his own nest at her expense? Hers and the boy's? I mean, the Prince's?"

"I think it's . . . unlikely." Coris shrugged. "Anvil Rock was always sincerely attached to Prince Hektor and his children. I'm inclined to think he's doing the very best he can under the circumstances to look after Prince Daivyn's interests, and that's certainly the way his correspondence reads. Unfortunately, we're fourteen thousand miles as the wyvern flies from Manchyr, and a lot can change when a man finds himself sitting in a prince's chair, however he got there. That's why I left eyes and ears of my own behind to give me independent reports."

"And those would be the ones you're talking about now?" Raimair's eyes narrowed intently, and Coris nodded.

"They are. And they accord quite well with Earl Anvil Rock's, as a matter of fact. That's one of the things that worries me."

"Now you've gone and lost me, My Lord."

"I didn't mean to." Coris showed his teeth in a tight smile. "It's just that I'd rather hoped the Earl was putting a better face on things than circumstances really warranted. That there was more unrest -- more resistance to the Charisians and, especially, to the 'Church of Charis' -- than he's reported and that he was trying to cover his backside a bit in his dispatches to us here by understating it."

Raimair's eyebrows rose, and Coris shrugged.

"I don't want to hear about blood running in the streets any more than anyone else, Tobys. I'll admit a part of me would like to think Corisandians would be slow to accept foreign rulers they think had Prince Hektor assassinated, but I'd sooner not get anyone killed or any towns burned to the ground, either. You'll know better than I would how ugly suppressing rebellions can be."

Raimair nodded grimly, thinking about his previous prince's punitive campaigns to Zebediah, and Coris nodded back.

"Unfortunately, there are some people -- the ones in the north you were just speaking of, for example -- who aren't going to be happy to hear there's not widespread rebellion against Cayleb and Sharleyan. And they're going to be even less happy to hear the Reformists are making solid progress in the Church."

He paused again, unwilling even here, even with Raimair, to name specific names, but the ex-sergeant nodded once more.

"It's in my mind that those unhappy people will see any reports of cooperation and acceptance in Corisande as dangerous. They'll want as much as possible of the Charisians' manpower tied down back home, and any erosion of the Temple Loyalists' strength is going to be completely unacceptable to them. And there's not anyone they can reach in Corisande to change the way our people are beginning to think back home."

Raimair's eyes widened, then narrowed with sudden, grim understanding. He'd quietly assembled a tiny guard force -- no more than fifteen men, plus himself -- who were loyal not to King Zhames of Delferahk but to Princess Irys Daykyn and the Earl of Coris. He'd chosen them carefully, and the fact that Prince Hektor had established lavish accounts on the continents of Haven and Howard to support his espionage networks and that the Earl of Coris had access to them meant Raimair's men were quite comfortably paid. And not by King Zhames.

Or by Mother Church.

From the outset, Raimair's primary attention had been focused on the Delferahkans and any threat from the Charisians who'd assassinated Prince Hektor and his older son. Over the last couple of months, he'd begun to entertain a few doubts of his own about exactly who had assassinated whom, yet he'd never put together what Coris seemed to be suggesting now. But for all her youth, Princess Irys had a sometimes dismayingly sharp brain. The ex-sergeant never doubted for a moment that she'd already considered what he was considering now, whether she wanted to admit it even to herself or not.

And that would explain a lot about the brooding darkness he'd sensed within her, especially since the Grand Inquisitor had begun his purge of the vicarate and the episcopate.

"It would be an awful shame if something were to happen to Prince Daivyn that led to all that rebellion back in Corisande after all, wouldn't it, My Lord?" he asked softly, and Coris nodded.

"It would indeed," he agreed. "So perhaps you had better have a word with the lads, Tobys. Tell them it's especially important to be on the watch for any Charisian assassins just now. Or, for that matter" -- he looked into Raimair's eyes once more -- "anyone else's assassins."
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: STICKY: How Firm a Foundation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Aug 07, 2011 9:00 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

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How Firm A Foundation - Snippet 29

.III.
King's Harbor Citadel,
Helen Island,
Howell Bay,
Kingdom of Old Charis

Admiral Sir Domynyk Staynair, Baron Rock Point, stood gazing out a familiar window at an incredibly crowded anchorage. His own flagship lay well out on the seventeen mile stretch of King's Harbor Bay, but dozens of other galleons were moored literally side-by-side all along the waterfront. Others lay to anchors and buoys while flotillas of small craft wended their way through the press.

From this high in the Citadel they looked like toy boats, growing smaller as the eye moved further and further away from the wharves and piers, and he'd never in his wildest imagination dreamed he might see that many warships anchored here.

They'd arrived over the last several weeks in fits and starts as the men who had originally crewed them were taken ashore or moved to one of the old ships which had been converted into prison hulks to accommodate them. Under other circumstances, in another war, those men probably would have been paroled and repatriated to the Temple Lands and the Harchong Empire In these circumstances, in this war, that was out of the question, and so the Kingdom of Old Charis had been forced to find places to put them.

Finding places to safely confine and guard upwards of sixty thousand men, more than a few of whom were religious zealots perfectly prepared to die for what they believed God wanted of them, was a serious challenge. Safeholdian wars never produced POWs on a scale like that, and no realm had ever been prepared to accommodate them. The sheer expense of feeding that many prisoners, far less maintaining security and hopefully seeing to it that their living conditions were at least bearable, was one reason the practice of paroling honorably surrendered enemies was so universal. Perhaps Charis should have foreseen something like this, but it hadn't occurred to any of the native Safeholdians to even think about it. Nor, for that matter, had it occurred to Merlin Athrawes.

Rock Point had been inclined, when he first recognized the magnitude of the problem, to think Merlin should have seen it coming. After all, unlike Rock Point, Nimue Alban had been born and raised in the Terran Federation. She'd grown up learning about the long and bloody history of a planet called Old Terra, where prisoner hauls like this one had once been almost routine. But that was the point, he'd realized. It had been history to her . . . and there'd been no surrenders, no POWs, in the only war Nimue had actually fought, which explained why Merlin hadn't anticipated the problem either.

Oh, quit bitching, Rock Point told himself now. The problem you've got is one hell of a lot better than the alternative would've been!

Which was undoubtedly true, however inconvenient things might seem at the moment.

Most of the ships closer to shore still flew the imperial Charisian flag above the green, scepter-badged banner of the Church of God Awaiting. A handful still showed red and green banners with the crossed scepter and saber of the Harchong Empire, instead, but most of those were moored further out, or in one of the other anchorages. King's Harbor was more concerned with the ships which had been fully armed, and surveyors and petty officers swarmed over those vessels like locusts. Their reports would tell Rock Point how quickly the prize vessels could be put into Charisian service . . . assuming he could find crews for them, of course.

And with Bryahn Lock Island's death, that decision would be his, at least until Cayleb could get home.

An embarrassment of riches, that's what it is, he thought. Thank God the Church doesn't have them anymore, but what the hell am I going to do with all of them?

He shook his head and turned back from the window to the two officers he'd actually come here to see.

Commodore Sir Ahlfryd Hyndryk, Baron Seamount, stood before one of the slate sheets which covered his office's walls. As always, the cuffs of his sky blue uniform tunic were dusted with chalk and the fingers of his good hand were stained with ink. The short, plump Seamount was about as far removed from the popular imagination's image of a sea officer as it would be possible to get, yet his fertile brain and driving energy were one of the primary reasons all those prize ships were anchored in King's Harbor this sunny summer afternoon.

The rail-thin, black haired commander standing respectfully to one side was at least ten or twelve years younger than Seamount. He radiated all the intensity and energy people tended not to notice just at first in his superior officer, and his left hand was heavily bandaged.

"It's good to see you, Ahlfryd," Rock Point said. "I apologize for not getting out here sooner, but --"

He shrugged, and Seamount nodded.

"I understand, Sir. You've had a lot to do."

The commodore's eyes dropped to the enormous Rottweiler lying quietly beside his desk. Rock Point had inherited the acting rank of high admiral from Bryahn Lock Island, but Seamount had inherited Keelhaul. Frankly, the commodore was more than a little surprised the big, boisterous dog had survived his master's death. For the first couple of weeks, he'd been afraid Keelhaul was going to grieve himself to death, and he still hadn't fully regained the exuberance which had always been so much a part of him.

"Yes, I have." Rock Point inhaled deeply, then crossed to one of the office's armchairs. His peg leg thumped on the stone floor, the sound quite different from the sound his remaining shoe made, and he seated himself with a sigh of relief.

"Yes, I have," he repeated, "but I've finally managed to steal a couple of days away from all the reams of paperwork. So why don't the two of you dazzle me with what you've been up to while I've been away?"

"I don't know if 'dazzle' is exactly the right word, Sir," Seamount replied with a smile. "I do think you're going to be impressed, though. Pleased, too, I hope."

"I'm always impressed by your little surprises, Ahlfryd," Rock Point said dryly. "Of course, sometimes I'm not so sure I'm going to survive them."

"We'll try to get you back to Destroyer undamaged, Sir."

"I'm vastly reassured. Now, about those surprises?"

"Well, there are several of them, actually, Sir."

Seamount crossed to the slate wall and reached for a piece of chalk. Rock Point watched him a bit warily. The commodore was a compulsive sketcher who had a tendency to illustrate his points enthusiastically.

"First, Sir, as you. . . suggested last time you were both here," Seamount continued, "I've had Commander Mahndrayn and the Experimental Board finishing up the work on the rifled artillery pieces. Master Howsmyn's provided us with the first three wire wound pieces, and they've performed admirably. They're only twelve-pounders -- although the shot weight's actually closer to twenty-four pounds, given how much longer it is in proportion to its diameter -- but as proof of the concept, they've been completely satisfactory. Master Howsmyn is confident he could go to production on much heavier weapons if and when you and Their Majesties should determine the time is right."

"That's excellent news, Ahlfryd!" Rock Point's smile of pleasure was completely genuine, even though he'd already known what Seamount was going to report. Ehdwyrd Howsmyn had kept him fully informed. Unfortunately, Seamount wasn't part of the inner circle, which meant explaining how Rock Point could have come by his knowledge would have been a trifle difficult.
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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