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STICKY: Midst Toil and Tribulation Snippets

This is the place where we will be posting snippets of soon-to-be published works!
Re: STICKY: Midst Toil and Tribulation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:00 pm

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For what it is worth, I'll be snippeting three times a week until Sept 19th.


Midst Toil And Tribulation - Snippet 40

.IX.
Archbishop's Palace,
City of Tellesberg,
Kingdom of Old Charis,
Empire of Charis.

It was strange how alike and yet un-alike Manchyr and the city of Tellesberg were, she thought, standing on the balcony and looking out across the Charisian capital. Tellesberg was cooler, without the fiercer heat of the city of her birth, but it was also twice as far from the equator. The flowers and trees were very different here, as well, yet equally bright, and Lady Hanth was a botanist. She'd spent much of her time here, especially since her marriage, cataloging the countless differences between Chisholm's northern plant life and her new home's. She'd been making that knowledge available to Irys and enthusiastically expanding her own store of knowledge by adding everything Irys could tell her about Corisandian botany to it. And the two of them had made several visits to Emperor Cayleb's Royal College, to discuss the subject with Doctor Fyl Brahnsyn, the College's senior botanist.

Irys' hands tightened on the balcony railing as she thought about those visits. She remembered her father's comments on the College, the way he'd recognized -- and envied -- the advantages it bestowed upon King Haarahld and yet simultaneously seen it as one of Haarahld's great vulnerabilities. He'd been right about both those points, she thought now. He usually had been right about things like that, and she knew he'd been tempted to emulate the Charisian king. But in the end, he'd decided the advantages the College had given to Charis had been outweighed by the vulnerability it created. Instead of copying Haarahld, he'd been careful to avoid any policies which might have suggested to Mother Church that he was tempted to follow in Charisian footsteps where questionable knowledge was concerned. And he'd been equally careful -- and invested enormous bribes -- when it came to pointing out to the Inquisition just how "questionable" the Royal College of Charis' knowledge truly was. In fact, she admitted, he and Phylyp Ahzgood had been quite . . . creative when it came to carefully crafted rumors about the way in which the College was secretly transgressing against the Proscriptions, despite all its public professions to the contrary.

Actually, she thought, they hadn't been so much creative as inventive. She rolled the word over her mental tongue, tasting its implications, for it represented the biggest single difference between Manchyr and Tellesberg. In Corisande, "inventive" remained the pejorative it had always been under Mother Church; in Charis, the same word had become a proudly worn badge of men -- and women -- who deliberately and aggressively probed the limits of what man might and might not properly know.

It made her skin crawl, sometimes, to realize how hard and how far people like Rahzhyr Mahklyn and his colleagues were pushing those limits. The proof of her father's appreciation of the College's value to the House of Ahrmahk was all around her, in the forest of sails and rigging she saw in the harbor, the huge, sleek, low slung warships lying to anchor or heading out into Howell Bay, the enormous stacks of crates, boxes, and barrels waiting to be swayed aboard merchant ships and ferried off to every corner of Safehold. It was that same "inventiveness" which had allowed those warships to defeat every foe who'd sailed against Charis, and in many ways, it was also that inventiveness which was allowing Safehold's newest empire to blunt the starvation the "Sword of Schueler's" fanatics had wreaked upon the Republic of Siddarmark. Yet, what if that butcher Clyntahn was right? Not about his bloody persecutions, or his amoral policies of assassination and terror, or his gluttonous, sensual lifestyle, but about the taint which clung to all this Charisian innovation? What if the Royal College of Charis truly was Shan-wei's foothold in the world God and the Archangels had made?

And why did the possibility he was right bother her so much? Fill her with such a confusing mix of trepidation, apprehension, foreboding, and . . . regret.

Because you want it, too, she told herself now, finally admitting the point, remembering the hours she'd spent talking to Brahnsyn, the gleam of delight in his eyes as he'd jotted down note after note from her recollection of Corisande's botany. The questions he'd asked had elicited more details than she would have dreamed she could have provided, too. He'd known exactly which to ask, actually assembled the information he'd already gotten from her in ways that let him shape and focus his follow-on questions almost as if he'd physically examined the plants she could describe to him only in frustratingly incomplete ways. The sheer depth of his knowledge had been astonishing, yet he'd been only one of the scholars she'd spoken with, all of whom had willingly taken time from their own studies to answer her questions and ask questions of their own.

She hadn't understood a great deal of what Doctor Mahklyn had had to say about the new mathematics. She'd been forced to acknowledge that after the first five minutes -- or, perhaps she'd actually managed to stay in shouting distance for the first nine minutes, although she was certain she'd been completely lost by the time he got to ten. But even the limited amount she'd been able to follow had filled her with wonder and a sense of half-terrified delight. There'd been nothing in what he'd said that actually violated any aspect of the Proscriptions, so far as she could tell, yet the implications of his new "calculus" and the other, frankly brilliant, mathematical operations and theories he'd proclaimed, would affect everything. She knew very little about scholarship in general, compared to the minds assembled in the College, but she knew enough to recognize the way in which Mahklyn's new math must provide those minds with new, immensely potent tools. She'd seen proof of that already in the pages of diagrams Doctor Dahnel Vyrnyr, another of those scholars had enthusiastically displayed to her.

Vyrnyr was the College's leading expert in the field of pressures, which wasn't something Irys would have thought of as a field of study in its own right. The Writ explained why the Archangel Truscott had arranged for the boiling point of water to increase in a tightly sealed vessel, after all, and taught mankind how to construct pressure cookers to take advantage of his foresight in seeing to it that it was so. The benefits for food preparation and preservation were well known to anyone who'd read the Book of Truscott and the Book of Pasquale, yet Vyrnyr wanted to understand how the Holy Truscott had arranged for it to work, and she'd been using her own observations and Mahklyn's new mathematical tools to pursue that understanding. She'd shared some of what she'd discovered with Irys on one of the princess' visits to the College with Lady Hanth, and the scholar's eyes had glowed with pleasure as she displayed the elegant rules and processes Truscott had imposed on the seemingly simple act of lighting a fire under a sealed pressure cooker.

There was a beauty to those rules, those processes, Irys thought now, leaning on the balcony rail, gazing out over the sun-soaked roofs of Tellesberg, listening to the voice of the city that never slept, seeing the new construction sweeping up over the hills around the city as the Charisian Empire's southern capital grew yet larger and watching gulls and sea wyverns of every description and hue swirling in raucous crowds above the flotsam-rich harbor. The meticulous way in which the Archangels had fitted the universe together had never been more obvious than when Doctor Vyrnyr explained about pressures, or Doctor Mahklyn attempted to explain the magnificent inevitability of mathematics, or Doctor Lywys demonstrated the ways in which separate, dissimilar materials combined into new and unique compounds, or Doctor Hahlcahm talked about his efforts in conjunction with Doctor Vyrnyr's studies of heat and pressure to determine how Pasqualization purified milk and food. Surely God couldn't object to His children trying to understand and appreciate the majestic beauty and intricate detail with which His and His Archangels' gifts had imbued His universe?

Yet there'd been another side to Doctor Vyrnyr's studies and revelations, for it was obvious they provided a basis for the systematic expansion and improvement of processes which already pressed far too closely for the Inquisition's taste on the bounds of the Proscriptions. The College had even proposed new names for the practical applications of Vyrnyr's studies. "Hydraulic" and "pneumatic" fell strangely on Irys' ear, and the fact that the College had seen a need to coin those words -- indeed, had set up a committee chaired by Doctor Mahklyn himself, for the express purpose of naming new fields of study -- was a chilling reflection on how its faculty's determination to expand and quantify human knowledge drove them inevitably towards the Proscriptions' limits.
*
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Re: STICKY: Midst Toil and Tribulation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Aug 28, 2012 9:04 pm

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Midst Toil And Tribulation - Snippet 41

And you want to join that quest, don't you? she asked herself, hazel eyes dark as Tellesberg's morning breeze teased tendrils of silk loose from her braided hair. That's what truly frightens you, isn't it? You see that beauty, want to understand that intricacy, and you're afraid the Inquisition is right after all, that it truly is exactly the same lure Shan-wei and Proctor used to seduce men into damnation when they first rebelled. That's what Clyntahn's saying, after all, and he's not the only one. You want the people who say that to be wrong, but inside you're afraid they aren't. That Shan-wei and Proctor are still using that temptation, that hunger to get just a glimpse of the mind of God, to entice men away from the God they think their quest honors.

"Good morning, Your Highness," a voice said behind her. "May I join you?"

"Of course you may, Your Eminence." A smile replaced her brooding frown, and she turned from the railing to greet the speaker. "It's your balcony, after all."

"True, in a manner of speaking," Maikel Staynair replied with an answering, gentle smile. "For the moment, anyway. Personally, I prefer to think I'm simply holding it in trust for my eventual successor. Although, actually, you know, I really miss my rather more spartan little palace over there." The ruby ring on his hand glittered in the sunlight as he indicated the building on the far side of Tellesberg Cathedral which was home to the Bishop of Tellesberg. It was, indeed, smaller than Archbishop's Palace . . . and still bigger than any other structure in sight. "A humble little hovel, I know, but the truth is that I really don't need the extra seventeen bed chambers, the second ballroom, or the state dining room," the Archbishop of Charis continued, his smile turning almost impish. "Fourteen bedrooms and a single dining room -- on the large size, admittedly, but only one -- were quite sufficient for my needs when I was a simple bishop, and I'm sure I could get along under such straitened conditions even now if I truly had to."

Irys' lips quivered at Staynair's tone, and that, too, was something she wouldn't have believed was possible as little as two months ago. The archbishop was the very heart of heresy and voice of apostasy, after all. That was what the Inquisition taught, and Staynair's ability to seduce the Faithful away from Mother Church, even from among her own priesthood, was legendary. She'd read Earl Coris' reports about Staynair's visit to Corisande, about the way he'd drawn her father's subjects towards him, and she hadn't understood how it could have happened. What sinister gift had Shan-wei bestowed upon him to allow him to so easily beguile the faithful into accepting his words? To bewitch Mother Church's own bishops and priests into accepting his authority over that of the Grand Vicar himself? Whatever might have been true about Cayleb Ahrmahk's reaction to the assault upon his kingdom, his father's death in battle, Maikel Staynair, the fallen bishop and betrayer of Mother Church, bore the true guilt for the schism, for it was he who had led the revolt against the Temple and the Vicarate from inside Mother Church, splitting all the world into warring camps for the first time since Shan-Wei's Rebellion.

Yet she'd discovered it was impossible to see that monster in the heretical archbishop's gentle, compassionate eyes . . . or to spend ten minutes in his presence without feeling the way he reached out almost unconsciously to those about him.

Cayleb and Sharleyan had been meticulous about not requiring her and Daivyn to attend mass in Tellesberg Cathedral. They'd even guaranteed them regular access to Father Davys Tyrnyr, an upper-priest who'd fearlessly maintained his loyalty to the Temple and Grand Vicar. They'd allowed him to celebrate mass privately for them in one of Archbishop Palace's numerous small chapels, and the sanctity of the confessional had been rigorously observed. It was amazing enough, and totally contrary to the Grand Inquisitor's version of events in Charis, that Temple Loyalists were actually allowed to practice their faith -- their adherence to the Grand Vicar and the Group of Four -- openly in the very heart of Tellesberg, without fear of suppression from Crown or Church. She knew only too well what had happened to anyone who openly professed Reformism -- far less any suggestion of support for the Church of Charis! -- in Delferahk or any other mainland realm. How could it possibly be that here, in the very capital of an empire which had no hope of victory, or even survival, without Mother Church's defeat, those who remained loyal to her were protected by the Crown even while Reformists were savagely persecuted in other lands? It made no sense -- none at all -- yet the evidence of her own eyes and ears had forced her to recognize that it was true, and Father Davys himself had acknowledged as much.

Yet it had taken Irys over three five-days to discover that the person who'd actually made certain she and Daivyn had access to Father Davys had been Maikel Staynair himself. She had no doubt -- now -- that Cayleb and Sharleyan would have granted that access anyway, but it was Staynair who'd made it explicit, ordered his personal guardsmen to admit a known Temple Loyalist and his acolytes to Archbishop's Palace without even having them searched for weapons, despite at least two Temple Loyalist attempts, one on the floor of his own cathedral, to assassinate him. And he'd insisted upon that because he truly did believe human beings had both the right and the responsibility to decide for themselves where their spiritual loyalties lay. That the human soul was too precious for anyone but its owner to endanger or constrain it, and that no political purpose, however vital, could be allowed to trump that fundamental, essential article of faith.

She'd been stunned by that discovery. She'd grown up a princess. She knew how political reality sometimes had no choice but to transgress even against the letter of the Writ. Mother Church herself acknowledged that, made provision for rulers to confess their transgressions, do penance for the times they'd been forced by necessity to compromise the Writ's full rigor. Her own father had paid thousands of marks to Mother Church and the Office of Inquisition for dispensations and absolution under exactly those provisions, and Irys Daykyn knew every other ruler, upon occasion, had found himself or herself forced to do the same.

Yet where personal faith and obedience to God were concerned, Maikel Staynair flatly rejected that concept. He would not compromise his own faith, and he refused to force anyone else to compromise his, and that, Irys had realized, almost against her will, was the true secret of his ability to "seduce" the faithful. The reason even many of the Temple Loyalists here in Old Charis respected him as a true son of God, however mistaken he might be in what he believed God and his own faith required of him.

She'd attended mass in the cathedral three times now, although she'd insisted Daivyn not do so, and she'd heard Staynair preach. And as she'd listened to him speaking from the pulpit, seen the joy bright in his eyes, heard it in his voice, she'd recognized the proof of what she'd already come to suspect. He was, quite simply, the gentlest, most devout, most compassionate and loving man she'd ever met. It might be true, as the Temple Loyalists insisted, that he was doing Shan-wei's work in the world, but if he was, it was never because he'd knowingly given his allegiance to the Dark.

"I'm sure you could survive even under such atrocious conditions, Your Eminence," she said now. "Personally, however, I'm much more comfortable here in the ostentatious luxury of your current domicile. I suspect the same is true of Daivyn, as well, although it's hard to be certain what he thinks when I so seldom have a chance to speak to him. I'm afraid he spends too much time playing basketball on your private court with Haarahld Breygart and Prince Zhan for any long and meaningful conversations with a mere sister. When he's not swimming with them in the Royal Palace's pool, that is. Or running madly about the baseball diamond in Queen Mairah's Court with them, for that matter."

"It does the boy -- I mean, His Highness -- good, Your Highness." Staynair's smile broadened, then softened. "Forgive me, but it seems to me your brother's had very little opportunity to simply be a boy since your exile from Corisande. I think it's important we give some of that boyhood back to him, don't you?"
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: STICKY: Midst Toil and Tribulation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Aug 30, 2012 9:04 pm

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Midst Toil And Tribulation - Snippet 42

"Yes," Irys replied softly. But then she gave herself a mental shake and tilted her head, hazel eyes taking on an edge of challenge. "Yes," she repeated, "and it doesn't hurt Charis' position with him one bit for him to play baseball and basketball with the boy who's still second in line to the Charisian Crown, does it, Your Eminence?"

"Of course it doesn't. And I won't pretend that consideration isn't a part of Their Majesties' . . . calculations where you and your brother are concerned. But do you truly believe they wouldn't have done the same thing anyway?"

Irys locked gazes with him for a moment. Then she shook her head.

"No," she admitted. "I think they would've done exactly the same thing And" -- she confessed -- "they've given him a degree of freedom here in Tellesberg he never would've had in Manchyr."

"But not without seeing to his security very carefully, Your Highness."

"No, not without that," she agreed, and her lips quirked almost against her will. "Seeing three boys, the oldest barely fourteen, playing baseball with two complete teams of Marines and Imperial Guardsmen in full uniform -- including the Guardsmen's armor -- is . . . not something I would've seen back in Manchyr. And it's amazing how good Colonel Falkhan is at losing after absolutely playing as hard as he possibly could."

"Ah, well, Your Highness, he was Emperor Cayleb's chief bodyguard when Cayleb was crown prince himself, you know. And the truth is that I suspect Zhan would be having rather a harder time of it if it weren't for the younger boys. Colonel Falkhan had quite a lot of practice doing the same thing with Cayleb, but it began to change somehow when Cayleb turned fourteen or fifteen." The archbishop smiled in memory. "At that point, Cayleb suddenly discovered it was far more difficult to beat his armsmen than it used to be. He's one of the brighter fellows I know, and it didn't take him long to realize they'd been -- I believe the term is 'throwing' -- the games when he'd been younger. Which only made him even more determined to beat them fairly now that he was older. Not a bad lesson for a future monarch to learn early, I think."

"Probably not," Irys said thoughtfully. "Especially the bit about people letting him win because he was a prince. People get -- or some of them get, at any rate -- more subtle about it as they get older, but there are always plenty of flatterers and toadies around. Learning to watch for that sort of thing would be a useful lesson for any ruler."

"Actually, Your Highness, you're missing the point," Staynair corrected gently. She looked a question at him, and the archbishop shrugged. "Every child is 'allowed' to win, at least sometimes, by adults who truly love him. It gives him the confidence to try again, to become steadily better, to master challenges. It's important that he not realize the adults in his life are deliberately losing to him, because he needs that sense of accomplishment. And it's important for them to challenge him even when they 'let' him win, so that he truly does gain in proficiency and capability. But for someone destined to wear a crown, it's even more important for him to realize those who truly care for him are willing to beat him, to force him to stretch to the very limit of his capabilities, and to show him the difference between glib-tongued sycophants and those he can trust to be honest with him. That's a valuable lesson for anyone, Your Highness, but especially for someone destined to rule. And one reason it's especially valuable for a ruler is because it also teaches him to cherish those who are honest with him, to encourage them to tell him when they disagree with him, or when he's making a mistake. And to listen to them when they tell him that." He shook his head. "That's the lesson young Crown Prince Cayleb learned from Lieutenant Falkhan all those years ago, and it's stood him -- and the Kingdom and Empire of Charis -- in very good stead since King Haarahld's death."

Irys' eyes had narrowed while the archbishop was speaking. When he finished, she stood for a moment, still gazing up at him, and then, slowly, she nodded.

"I hadn't thought of it exactly that way, Your Eminence," she confessed, and a shadow touched her expressive eyes. "And I wish my father had had the opportunity to have this conversation with you years ago," she went on very softly. "I think . . . I think it might have served him in good stead where my brother Hektor was concerned."

"Perhaps."

Staynair captured her right hand in his, tucking it into the bend of his left elbow as he stood beside her and they both turned to look out over the city once more.

"Perhaps," he repeated. "But perhaps not, too."

He turned his head, gazing at her profile as the breeze cracked the banners flying from the cathedral's façade like whips.

"I can't speak to your father's relationship with your brother, of course," he continued. "But I can say that looking at you and Daivyn, who you are and who you've become despite everything that's happened, gives me a far better opinion of Prince Hektor than I ever had before." She twitched in surprise at the admission, and he smiled. "I still have . . . significant reservations about him as a ruler, you understand, Your Highness. But he -- or he and your mother, perhaps -- obviously did something right as parents where you and your younger brother are concerned."

"Flattery won't win you anything with me, you know, Your Eminence," she said lightly, trying to mask how deeply his last sentence had touched her. "Father may not've allowed my armsmen to beat me at baseball, but he did make sure I understood how dangerous honeyed words can be!"

"I'm sure he did, and if he hadn't, Earl Coris would've repaired the deficiency long since," the archbishop said so dryly she chuckled. Then he turned to face her more fully, and his expression turned more serious.

"I must confess, Your Highness, that I didn't follow you out onto the balcony this morning simply to enjoy the sunlight and the breeze with you. I've just received word from the Palace, and it concerns you and Daivyn."

"It does?" Irys felt a quick stab of anxiety, but it didn't touch her tone, and her eyes were level as she gazed up at him.

"It does," he replied. "I'm sure you're aware that the marriage treaty between Cayleb and Sharleyan not only established a joint Imperial Parliament but requires that the government spend half of each year, minus travel time, in Tellesberg and the other half in Chisholm?"

He crooked an eyebrow, and she nodded.

"Well, I'm afraid they're off schedule." He grimaced. "What with that affair in the Gulf of Tarot, and the need to get you and Daivyn -- and Earl Coris, of course -- safely out of Delferahk, and now this business in Siddarmark, Cayleb's been here in Tellesberg for almost an entire year, and Sharleyan's been here for the better part of eight months. They should've departed for Chisholm four months ago, and even though everyone in Cherayth understands why they haven't, they really can't justify putting it off any longer. Or, rather, Sharleyan can't. She's going to be returning to Chisholm in the next few five-days, whereas Cayleb is going to be sailing for -- Well, to coordinate with Duke Eastshare and, possibly, for a personal meeting with Lord Protector Greyghor. In any case, neither of them is going to be here in Tellesberg very much longer, and you and young Daivyn will be accompanying Empress Sharleyan when she leaves."

Irys' eyes widened.

"But -- But, forgive me, Your Eminence, but I thought Daivyn and I had been placed in your custody."

"As you have been." He patted the hand tucked into his elbow. "I'll also be accompanying the Empress. One of the ways in which the Church of Charis differs from the Group of Four's Church is that the archbishop travels to the constituent states of the Empire rather than reigning imperially here in Tellesberg and requiring all those other prelates to come pay homage to him. We haven't yet established a firm schedule for my pastoral visits, however, and I'm rather behind. So I'm taking this opportunity to sail with you and Daivyn at least as far as Cherayth. From there, I'll continue to Zebediah and Corisande, before I return home, possibly by way of Tarot. I imagine I'll be gone for the better part of a year myself, but you and your brother will still be under my protection."
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Re: STICKY: Midst Toil and Tribulation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Sep 02, 2012 8:59 pm

DrakBibliophile
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Posts: 2125
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Midst Toil And Tribulation - Snippet 43

Irys' heart leapt when he mentioned Corisande, but she tried -- almost successfully -- to keep that response from showing in her expression or her eyes. Was it possible she and Daivyn would be permitted --?

Don't be silly, she told herself. Yes, the Archbishop -- and Cayleb and Sharleyan -- have treated both of you far more gently than you expected. But they aren't going to let you return home without first making damned sure you won't do anything to . . . destabilize their control. Archbishop Maikel may travel to Manchyr, but you won't.

She knew it was true, and she knew the logic which made it so was irrefutable. That she would have made exactly the same decision, no matter how kind she might have wanted to be. She even knew Daivyn would be far happier to be allowed to remain a boy a few months longer, rather than be trapped in the role of a child monarch in the hands of a Regency Council over which he had no control. But it still hurt.

Maybe it does, but at least you'll still be together, you'll both still be alive, and Chisholm's much closer to home. Maybe it won't feel quite as lonely there as it did in Delferahk.

"Thank you for telling me, Your Eminence," she said finally. "I appreciate the warning. Can you tell me when we'll be departing?"

"Not for certain, Your Highness. There are several details that still need arranging. Lady Hanth's travel plans, for example."

"Lady Hanth's? Lady Mairah is coming with us?" Irys heard the happiness and relief in her own voice, and Staynair smiled.

"Yes, or that's the plan right now, at any rate. Emperor Cayleb's recalled Earl Hanth to active duty -- you knew he was a Marine before he became Earl, I believe?" He paused until she nodded, then shrugged. "Well, it seems Their Majesties have decided his services could be very useful in Siddarmark, and to be brutally honest, the Empire's going to need every experienced Marine it can lay hands on for the summer campaign. So, since he's going to be out of the Old Kingdom anyway, Lady Hanth is taking her stepsons to meet her parents and her cousin, Baron Green Mountain." His expression saddened. "She may not have another opportunity for them to meet the Baron, I'm afraid."

Irys nodded in understanding. Mahrak Sahndyrs, Empress Sharleyan's first councilor in Chisholm, had been savagely wounded in one of the terrorist attacks which had swept through the Empire. He'd been too badly injured to continue as first councilor, and he'd been replaced by Braisyn Byrns, the Earl of White Crag, who'd been Sharleyan's Lord Justice. White Crag had been replaced in turn as Lord Justice by Sylvyst Mhardyr, the Baron of Stoneheart, and although she and Phylyp Ahzgood had enjoyed a quiet chuckle over a kingdom's chief magistrate being known as "Lord Justice Stoneheart," he was actually an excellent choice, an intelligent and humane man with a strong legal background and over twenty years' experience on the Queen's Bench.

"I didn't realize Baron Green Mountain had been injured quite that severely," she said now.

"Well, reports at this distance tend to get garbled or exaggerated. It's quite possible we're being overly pessimistic. But I won't deny that the Baron's health is one reason the Empress is determined to set out for Chisholm as soon as possible." Staynair smiled again, with a sort of wry sadness. "I doubt she'd be leaving, despite that, if Cayleb weren't going to be called away from Tellesberg, as well. The amount of time they have to spend apart from one another to make the Empire work is hard -- very hard -- on both of them. It's not often a marriage of state turns into the kind of love match that litters so many children's tales, but in this case, it truly has."

Irys nodded again. She'd seen enough of the emperor and empress to know what Staynair had just said was no more than the simple truth. And everyone in Charis seemed to know it as well as the archbishop did. In fact, Irys had come to the conclusion that the deep and obvious love between them -- and the fact that they were so willing to let that love show -- was a huge part of the magic which bound their subjects to them like iron. And the fact that Sharleyan had willingly come from distant Chisholm to stand beside their youthful king in the teeth of the Inquisition and hell itself had forged a fierce, fiery devotion to her in the hearts of Old Charisians of every kind, clergy, commoners, and peers alike.

They really are the kind of characters you only meet in legend, aren't they? Larger-than-life, beautiful, fearless, determined, beloved by their subjects . . . no wonder so many of their people are ready to walk straight into the fire at their heels, face even the Inquisition and the Punishment of Schueler at their side! Father's subjects loved him, too, but not the same way. They respected him, they trusted him -- in Corisande itself, at least -- but they didn't love him the way Charisians love Cayleb and Sharleyan. And whatever the Inquisition says, it's not sorcery, it's not some malign influence from Shan-wei or any of the other Fallen. It's just who they are -- what they are. And I wish . . . I wish some of that same magic would touch me.

Her eyes widened as she realized what she'd just thought, yet it was true. She envied them -- envied them their love and their obvious courage, the depth of their faith and the strength of their combined will. The love of their subjects, the loyalty of their followers . . . and the certainty of their purpose. Their steadfast, unflinching commitment to all they believed and held dear. They might yet prove wrong, might yet discover that whatever they thought, they truly had served Shan-wei and not Langhorne. But mistaken or not, they served their beliefs with a bright, ardent intensity Irys Daykyn could only envy in a world in which so much certainty had disappeared into confusion and hatred and bloodshed.

No wonder she wanted some of that magic, that flame of reflected legend and bright honor, to touch her. It was, she realized wonderingly, what bound all their followers to them -- that aspiration to be worthy of them as they had proven they were worthy of their crowns. The intensity of that awareness shook her to the bone, like some silent whirlwind, and in that moment, she recognized its seduction. To seize upon something, anything, that gave purpose and certainty and honor to a life in the midst of all the bewilderment and doubt -- who could not crave that? How could anyone not long to say as Cayleb Ahrmahk had said into the teeth of the Grand Inquisitor himself, with scorching, fearless honesty "Here I stand; I can do no other"?

Back away, Irys, she told herself. Back away. Yes, you want it, but you need to think about why. You need to understand what's driving that hunger. It's too seductive, too strong. Father Davys would tell you you're succumbing to all the undeniable goodness within Cayleb and Sharleyan, just as they themselves have been seduced into Shan-wei's service through their very love of their people. It isn't through the Darkness in our hearts that Shan-wei takes us; it's the Light within us that she twists and perverts and uses against us.

"I hope the reports about Baron Green Mountain are wrong, Your Eminence," she heard herself saying out loud. "Father had very few good words to say about him, I'm afraid, but even he admitted there'd never been a more capable or loyal first councilor in the entire world."

"No, there hasn't. And it's particularly sad that Cayleb and Sharleyan have both lost the services of first councilors of whom that could've been said. But it's even worse in her case, I think. She hasn't completely lost him yet, of course, but he was effectively her second father after her own father's death."

"I can see that," Irys said, her heart twisting as she thought of Phylyp Ahzgood and all he'd come to mean to her, and touched the archbishop's forearm again, impulsively. "I can see that. And would you tell Her Majesty for me, please, that I'll be remembering the Baron in my prayers?"

"I'm sure she'll be grateful to hear that, Your Highness." Staynair patted her hand briefly, then looked back across the crowded harbor.
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Re: STICKY: Midst Toil and Tribulation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:03 pm

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Midst Toil And Tribulation - Snippet 44

"There are several other questions which need to be considered, of course," he said. "For example, Father Davys has many commitments among the Loyalist congregations here in Tellesberg. I think it would be difficult for him to leave the Old Kingdom, that he'd feel he was abandoning those who depend upon him. Neither Their Majesties nor I wish to deprive you of clergy of your choice, however. Would you wish for me to ask Father Davys to nominate a Loyalist chaplain to accompany you on the voyage? I'm sure he'd be able to come up with several possibilities."

"That . . . would probably be a good idea, Your Eminence," Irys replied slowly, her eyes hooded. "I think, if you'll forgive me for saying it, that it's important Daivyn not be faced with . . . competing orthodoxies at this time in his life."

"It's never a good idea to confuse children," Staynair agreed. "At the same time, however, if you'll forgive me for saying it, they're capable of grasping differences of view with rather more acuity than adults give them credit for. Your brother is going to have to decide what he himself believes in the fullness of time, and I'm afraid he'll probably have to make that choice earlier in his life than most, simply because of who he is. I agree that this is no time for him to be trapped between men of God who both claim to know the truth yet persist in telling him different things, but I think you owe it to him -- and to yourself, perhaps, if you'll forgive the observation -- to see both sides of the issues which are currently wounding Mother Church so severely."

"I can't disagree with you about that," Irys said, meeting his gaze levelly, "but neither am I prepared at this moment to lend myself to undermining my brother's beliefs. The truth is that he's more concerned about winning at baseball or basketball -- or telling me about that marsh-wyvern hunt Earl Hanth took him on -- than he is about the state of his immortal soul. I think it's called being a ten-year-old." Despite herself, her lips twitched into a brief smile, but it disappeared quickly. "Yet I think that makes it even more important for me and for the adults in his life not to confuse him. Give him a little longer, Your Eminence, please. You yourself say in your sermons that a child of God has to choose what he or she believes, and whether or not I can agree with you about Mother Church and the Grand Vicar, I do agree with you about that. But no one can make an informed choice when they don't understand what it is they're choosing between, and Daivyn doesn't. Not yet. For that matter," her nostrils flared as she made the admission, "I don't understand yet, not fully, what I have to choose between."

"Of course you don't," he said simply. "I think, perhaps, you've come closer to that understanding than you yet realize, but you're absolutely right that it isn't something you rush into. Not if you're going to give it the amount of thought and prayer a decision that important deserves. And we're also right about the need to give Daivyn as much time as we can before he's pushed to decide. I'll send Father Davys a note this afternoon asking him to nominate a chaplain for both of you. And for Earl Coris, of course."

"Thank you, Your Eminence," she said with quiet sincerity.

"I do have to wonder where Captain Lathyk's going to put everyone, though," the archbishop said with a faint smile.

"Captain Lathyk?" Irys asked just a bit more quickly than she'd really intended to, and the archbishop's smile grew a little broader.

"Admiral Yairley -- I'm sorry, I mean Baron Sarmouth, of course -- is being sent out to Chisholm, and he's retaining Destiny as his flagship. Their Majesties thought that since he and Captain Lathyk seem to've done a reasonably adequate job of plucking you and your brother out of captivity and delivering you safe and sound to Tellesberg, the Empress might as well avail herself of their services for delivering her -- and you -- safe and sound to Cherayth, as well."

"Daivyn will be delighted to hear that, Your Eminence!" Irys felt her own eyes sparkling. "He had so much fun aboard Destiny! Of course, with Haarahld Breygart to help him get into trouble, it's going to take the entire crew to keep the two of them from burning the ship to the waterline."

"Oh, I doubt it will be quite that bad, Your Highness." Staynair's eyes twinkled back at her. "Not with you and Lady Hanth there to keep an eye on things, at least. For that matter, it takes a very brave person to cross Empress Sharleyan, as well, now that I think about it. And although I'm afraid Seijin Merlin won't be able to join you for the voyage, I understand your brother has become almost as fond of Lieutenant Aplyn-Ahrmahk. I imagine he'll serve as a . . . restraining influence on the two of them."

"I'm sure you're right about that," Irys agreed, uncomfortably aware her cheeks had grown ever so slightly warm for some reason. "The truth is that Daivyn adores Hektor -- I mean, Lieutenant Aplyn-Ahrmahk -- almost as much as he does Seijin Merlin. He'll be so happy to make another voyage with him."

"I'm glad to hear that." The twinkle was still in Staynair's eyes, and Irys felt her face turn a little hotter, but he only smiled. "I'm rather attached to young Hektor myself," he said, "and I'm sure Her Majesty will look forward to spending some time with him, as well. When he can be spared from his duties and from riding herd on Daivyn and Haarahld, of course."

"Of course, Your Eminence," Irys agreed, and turned quickly back towards the panoramic view of the harbor. "Is that Destiny?" she asked just a bit hurriedly, pointing at a galleon making its way into the outer roadstead.

"No, Your Highness," the archbishop said gravely. "No, I believe Destiny's currently at King's Harbor, refitting for the voyage to Cherayth, although that's obviously one of her sister ships."

"I see," she said, keeping her eyes resolutely on the ship's sails until she could be sure that inexplicable heat had faded from her face.

"Of course, Your Highness." She sensed rather than saw the archbishop's small, possibly slightly ironic half-bow. "But now, I'm afraid, I have to return to my office. There are a great many details I have to deal with before our departure, as well, I fear."

"Of course, Your Eminence," she replied, still gazing at the nameless galleon making her slow, steady way closer to Tellesberg. "Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to tell me about all this in person. I appreciate it."

"It was my honor, Your Highness," Staynair murmured, and she heard the glass-fronted door open and close as he left her to the view, in sole possession of the balcony once more.
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Re: STICKY: Midst Toil and Tribulation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Sep 06, 2012 9:06 pm

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Midst Toil And Tribulation - Snippet 45

.X.
The Fence,
Western Crown Desmene,
Kingdom of Chisholm,
Empire of Charis.

"At least it's a nice day for it," Ruhsyl Thairis said dryly.

The Duke of Eastshare stood on the parapet of one of the interval forts of the fortified line known as The Fence. The population of Raven's Land was tiny by the standards of any major Safeholdian realm. In fact, all the Raven Lords and their clansmen together would not have equaled the population of his own duchy. Unfortunately, they were a fractious lot and among the finest -- if not simply the finest -- horsethieves, dragonthieves, and sheep-stealers in the entire world. That was why The Fence had been built in the first place. The line of observation posts, with interval forts every twenty miles, ran almost a hundred and fifty miles east to west across the single neck of land connecting the Western Crown Demesne and Raven's Land. The observation posts were placed on high ground where sentries could keep an eye on the countryside between the interval forts. They also ran patrols, during anything resembling survivable weather, and the forts' relatively small garrisons were big enough to deal with any typical Raven Lord incursion the observation posts reported. They didn't catch all of them, by any means, but any raid large enough to carry back significant amounts of booty was generally large enough for the observation posts to spot, and the forts' garrisons consisted primarily of cavalry and dragoons, who tended to be a bit speedier than clansmen driving recalcitrant sheep into captivity.

They could still send skin boats and fishing boats across the Chisholm Bight (or cross the ice in mid-winter), but neither of those avenues were likely to accomplish much beyond irritating the local landlords. And what with the Navy's light units in summer and the tendency of ice rifts to appear in . . . inconvenient spots, crossing the Bight was always a risky proposition. Risky enough that even the hardiest of wing warriors (the title awarded to blooded Raven Lord warriors) preferred to take their chances with The Fence, instead.

And if we don't catch them all when they do try The Fence, it's still good training . . . for both sides, he reflected wryly. Besides, we've been doing it for so long now that I think we'd all be disappointed if the tradition came to an end.

At the moment, however, the small party of horsemen making its way through the steady rattle of sleet towards the fort on whose parapet he stood, wasn't trying to be particularly unobtrusive.

"I wonder what the Council's decided?" he asked out loud.

"Oh, I imagine they've agreed, Your Grace." Kynt Clareyk smiled tartly. "I doubt any of the Raven Lords can really picture just how large a force like the one you're talking about marching through their territory actually is, but I'm pretty sure they can at least figure out they can't actually stop it, whatever they might try to do. Doesn't mean they couldn't make us thoroughly miserable, though, so unless I miss my guess, the real sticking point for them was calculating how much we'd be prepared to pay to avoid the nuisance value of their harassment."

"That's such a Charisian attitude," Eastshare complained with a twinkle.

"Marks make the world move, Your Grace. I will acknowledge that wind, weather, and tide can also generate movement, but when it comes to human activity, well --"

Green Valley shrugged, and Eastshare chuckled. Not, he reflected, that the baron didn't have a valid point.

"Then I suppose it's a good thing the Empire has more marks than almost anyone else at this particular time," he said. "Of course, there's the small matter of how many of them I can obligate to the Raven Lords without Their Majesties' approval or knowledge."

"I don't know Her Majesty as well as you do, Your Grace, but I've worked with both of Their Majesties quite a bit over the last few years. I'm reasonably certain they'll stand by any agreement you might make with Shairncross and the rest of the Council."

"And if they don't, they can always take it out of our pay."

"I suppose. Although, to be perfectly frank, Your Grace, given the disparity in our pay levels, I believe it would only be fair for you to pay the slash lizard's share"

"I thought you seemed remarkably complacent about the possibility."

Eastshare gazed at the oncoming horsemen for another several seconds, then shrugged.

"There's no point our standing out in this crappy weather until they get here. For that matter, we're going to have the opportunity to march in weather a lot worse than this soon enough, assuming this brilliant inspiration comes to fruition. So what say you and I make sure the tea and chocolate are both hot before our guests arrive?"

"An excellent notion, Your Grace." Green Valley smiled approvingly. "And, of course, the only way we can be positively certain they're hot enough is by personally sampling them to assure ourselves of their quality."

"Exactly what I was thinking," Eastshare agreed, one gloved hand brushing at the layer of sleet gathered on the shoulders of his thick coat. The other hand waved at the heavy wooden door behind them. "After you, General Green Valley. After you."

* * * * * * * * * *

Flahn Tobys wrapped his hands gratefully around the outsized mug of hot, steaming tea. Any Raven Lord wing warrior was a tough, skilled fighting man, inured to the worst of weather, trained by his high northern homeland's bitter winters to laugh at snows which would seem like the end of the world to any effete Lowlander.

Of course we are. He inhaled the steam appreciatively, then took a satisfying sip of the almost-scalding liquid. And when we're especially young and stupid, we actually think that way. Fortunately, I'm no longer young. I suppose the verdict's still out on the other quality.

"Thank you, Your Grace," he said in the slow, harsh accent of a Raven's Land Highlander as he lowered the cup and gazed across it at the Duke of Eastshare. "It's a rare nasty day out there, to be sure."

"Yes, it is," Eastshare agreed, leaning back in his own chair on the other side of the hearth as he considered his guest.

Tobys was a weathered-looking man, with dark hair and eyes and perhaps forty-five years old. Some people might have allowed his backwoods appearance to deceive them into missing the intelligence in those dark eyes, but Eastshare knew his Raven Lords better than that. He recognized the gold rings and the red tip of the single raven's feather in Tobys' warrior's braid. They indicated he'd won his wing warrior status on more than one field of battle, and he was the senior wing -- and close kinsman -- of Phylyp Zhaksyn, Lord Tairwald, who'd been chosen by the Council of Clan Lords to speak for them in any discussions with Chisholm. The fact that Tairwald had sent Tobys was proof the Council had reached a decision.

Tobys looked back, studying the duke with equal care. He'd heard lots of stories about Eastshare, and no one who'd ever tangled with the Royal Charisian Army was likely to take its commander lightly. Still, he liked what he saw in the duke's level regard. There was no sign of the scorn he'd seen in other Lowlanders' expressions, at any rate, and he allowed himself a mental nod of satisfaction before he turned his attention back to his surroundings, waiting for the duke to finish his own appraisals and get to the matter in hand.

The interval fort housed its garrison in relative comfort, but it was plainly furnished, without frills or anything smacking of luxury. The massive wooden beams overhead were darkened by decades of wood and peat fires, and as the wind drove thickening curtains of sleet and snow across the chimney tops, an occasional tendril of fresh smoke crept from the fire currently radiating heat into the fort commander's commandeered office to add its mite to that patina. The northern daylight had already faded, the heavy overcast turning the evening into something more akin to midnight than late afternoon, and the whiskey bottles and glasses on a small side table gleamed in the lamplight, throwing back stronger flickers of light every so often as the fire on the hearth crackled higher. Tobys was acutely aware of those bottles, but Raven Lord etiquette required whiskey not be offered until the serious business was discharged.

After all, the wing reflected, wouldn't do for us to get all liquored up and give away the keys to the clan lord's castle, now would it? And, clansmen being clansmen, wouldn't we just?

His fellow Raven Lords, alas, took their drinking seriously.

"Speaking of the weather," the duke continued after several seconds, crossing his booted ankles as he stretched his legs out before him, "I'm sure my men are going to spend quite a lot of time over the next several five-days cursing my name. Assuming, of course, that the Council of Clan Lords has seen fit to agree with my . . . suggestion."

To the point, Tobys thought. More like a Raven Lord than a Lowlander, in fact. Man knows us better than most, or else -- the clansman's eyes considered the tall, dark-haired young general sitting to Eastshare's left -- he's had good advisors.

"Well, as to that, Your Grace, and bearing in mind the quality of good Chisholmian whiskey, I'd sooner not beat about the bush myself. And it's no fancy 'diplomat' I am, either. So, to get right to the heart of it, Lord Tairwald's told me to be telling you Lord Shairncross and the Council are minded to agree to let your army pass. Of course, while it's well known the Royal Army's better disciplined than most, there's no way in the world that many men could be passing through without doing at least a wee bit of damage. With the best of goodwill, you just can't send that many men down our roads -- the most of which pass right through the hearts of our towns and villages, you know -- without the odd bit of breakage. And it's well-known that sometimes small possessions stray from where you thought you'd left them into the pockets and knapsacks of visiting soldiers."

"Yes, I've observed that myself, here in the Crown Demesne, when armies -- or warriors, at least -- come calling." Eastshare's smile held genuine humor, Tobys observed. "Should I, ah, assume the Councilors were able to determine a sum which they felt would . . . indemnify their clansmen against any such completely unintentional harm?"

"Well, in fact they have," Tobys admitted. "It was in the Council's mind to set a number based on the number of troops you're thinking of passing through. Say, ten Charisian marks for an infantryman and fifteen for a cavalry trooper -- those horses eat a sight of fodder every day, you know, and we've the thatched roofs to be thinking of. Not to mention the haystacks. And they were thinking perhaps, say, seven marks five for each wagon. But they'd be passing your artillery through free and clear."

"That seems a bit high, Wing Tobys." Eastshare sipped his tea thoughtfully and glanced at the younger officer at his side. "We quite understand the clan lords' concerns, of course. But still."

"It's just that we've had bad experiences in the past, Your Grace." Tobys shrugged apologetically. "With armies passing through, I mean."

"While I'd never want to be tactless or bring up past unpleasantnesses, Wing Tobys," the other officer -- Green Valley, his name was -- put in an accent which definitely wasn't Chisholmian, "unless I'm mistaken, those other armies passing through Raven's Land were, for want of a better word, invading your land, weren't they"

"We prefer to think of it as responding to someone else's provocations, My Lord," Eastshare chided. "'Invade' has so many unpleasant connotations."

"Oh, I see, Your Grace." Green Valley nodded.

"Nonetheless, the Baron does have a certain point, Wing Tobys," Eastshare said, turning back to the Raven Lord envoy. "Not that anyone is implying that this particular proposed journey would have anything in common with an invasion, of course. But troops who are there for the specific purpose of . . . delivering a message do tend to do far more damage than ones just marching past, smiling at the pretty girls as it goes."

"True, Your Grace. Very true." Tobys sipped more tea, his expression thoughtful, then shrugged. "Can I take it, then, you've another set of numbers in mind?"

"Well, actually, it seems to me -- speaking off-the-cuff, you understand -- that something closer to two Charisian marks per infantryman and five per cavalry trooper would be far more reasonable. And perhaps three marks five, rather than seven and a half, per wagon. Trust me," Eastshare's eyes hardened ever so slightly, "given the number of men I'm planning on taking with me, that will still come to a very tidy sum."

Tobys raised his teacup again. Clansmen were a hardy lot, less impressed by birth and more by ability than the folk of many another land, and Lord Tairwald and the Council of Clan Lords had chosen him as their envoy because they trusted both his wit and his judgment. He actually had more authority to adjust prices than might have been expected in someone of his outwardly lowly rank, and he'd known before he set out that Eastshare would never accept the Council's initial offer. The Raven Lords' current estimate was that he'd be moving at least forty thousand men, perhaps a quarter of them cavalry, through their territory. Leaving aside the freight wagons which would certainly have to accompany them, however much of their total supplies might be carried by water along the coast, that would have come to three hundred thousand marks, enough to buy one of the new Charisian-style war galleons with all the trimmings. It would also have been more cold, hard cash than the Council normally saw in an entire year. Eastshare's counter offer, however, would drop it to only a hundred and twenty thousand marks. Still, as Duke Eastshare had just pointed out, a tidy sum, but . . . .

"I think we need a number somewhere out in the middle of that, Your Grace," he said now. "Suppose I were to suggest four marks per infantryman and horseman alike and accept your three-and-five for each wagon? And, of course, the artillery would still be passing through free of charge?"

"That might be acceptable," Eastshare said after a moment. "Assuming, of course, that my quartermasters don't find themselves being exorbitantly charged for landing supplies at any of your ports along the way."

"The Council thought you might be a wee bit bothered by that possibility." Tobys smiled slightly. He'd never liked Lord Theralt, anyway. "So, after debating it a bit, they thought it best to assure you you'll not be charged a tenth-mark more than the normal port fees per ton of cargo landed. And" -- his eyes gleamed for a second -- "the Council's also made it clear that the 'normal port fees' are the ones as were in force before ever the thought of your little jaunt along the coast was first suggested."

"I see."

Eastshare's lips twitched. He was quite well informed on the relations between Barjwail Suwail and the rest of the Council, and he didn't doubt for a moment that Lord Shairncross had taken a certain pleasure in ramming that proviso through. Not that Theralt and the other small harbors and fishing ports along Raven's Land's southern coast weren't going to receive an ample landfall, even at existing rates. And not that Eastshare had any objection to improving the local economies as he passed through, either. And, for that matter, he rather suspected the Raven Lords didn't realize how many troops he'd been able to concentrate in Ahlysberg. He'd be taking the next best thing to eighty thousand men through their territory, which would mean a greater profit than they'd probably anticipated, even at the lower rate Tobys was suggesting now.

And, frankly, it's as good as you've got any realistic prospect of getting out of them -- especially with the Council sitting on Theralt and the others. Theralt, for one, would cheerfully double or triple his fees when we arrived . . . without ever mentioning ahead of time he was going to do it.

"Well," he said after a moment, setting his teacup aside and nodding to Green Valley. "Now that we've got that out of the way, I think it's time we opened one or two of those bottles, My Lord."
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Re: STICKY: Midst Toil and Tribulation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:59 pm

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Midst Toil And Tribulation - Snippet 46

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

There were too many of them to fit into Baron Seamount's office this time, so they'd met in Sir Dustyn Olyvyr's drafting office, instead. The drafting tables where the ICN's Chief Naval Constructor's assistant designers normally labored had been moved back against the enormous room's walls and a conference table had been moved into the middle of the floor. The louvered skylights were open, allowing the harbor breeze to swirl through, and sunlight poured through the glass, flooding the room with the light the draftsman normally required. The smells of salt water, freshly sawn timbers, tar, and paint came with the breeze, and the cries of gulls and sea wyverns, mingled with the shouts of foremen and their work crews, floated through the opened windows over the racket of hammers and saws.

"Every time I get out here, it seems like you've figured out how to cram at least one more building way into the waterfront, Sir Dustyn," Cayleb Ahrmahk said wryly.

"It's not really that bad, Your Majesty," Olyvyr said.

"No, not quite," Domynyk Staynair agreed. "Although, I do seem to recall having authorized you to demolish four of those warehouses associated with the old foundry in order to build new slips over there. Is my memory playing me false?"

"Well, no. It isn't."

"I thought not." Baron Rock Point nodded, standing behind his chair at the table, and surveying the assembled group. Almost half were members of the inner circle, which was going to make the ensuing conversation interesting, since they'd have to remember the other half weren't.

"All right." Cayleb slid Sharleyan's chair up to the table after she was seated, then dropped into his own, "I know we're all short on time -- especially with Sharleyan due to leave for Chisholm in only seven days." He grimaced. "She and I both have a lot of things we need to do before then, and all of you have just as many projects and responsibilities waiting for you. It's not often we get a chance to sit down in one place together, though, and before we scatter to our various roosts, I want to make sure we cover everything that needs to be covered. Ehdwyrd," he looked at Ehdwyrd Howsmyn, "I know you and Captain Rahskail and Commander Malkaihy need to spend at least a full day of your own discussing the new artillery designs. I want to sit in on that as well, if I can find time. At the moment, though," he returned his attention to Olyvyr, "I'm more interested in where we are on the new ship designs."

"Of course, Your Majesty." Olyvyr nodded and settled into his own chair, like all of the others -- except Seijin Merlin, who stood comfortably beside the only door into the big room -- after the emperor and empress had been seated. Then he folded the hands which bore the long-faded scars of chisel, saw, and adze on the table in front of him and nodded to the man at his right, Captain Tompsyn Saigyl. "Tompsyn and I have been working on that, and we're confident we've solved the last design problems -- assuming Ehdwyrd and Commander Hainai's final drawings and performance estimates on the engines are accurate?"

He raised one eyebrow, and Howsmyn shrugged.

"The test engine's completed and running, Dustyn, and we're actually producing about ten more dragonpower than predicted."

Olyvyr nodded. One "dragonpower," the unit Stahlman Praigyr had proposed to measure the energy output of his beloved engines, equated to about twenty-five Old Earth horsepower.

"Of course, at this point we haven't had a chance to see how well our projected propeller efficiency will stand up," Howsmyn continued, "but the rest of the numbers we've given you are sound. And the canal boat propellers we've tested so far have come out fairly close to the efficiencies we'd predicted. We'll be delivering the first harbor tug in about another three five-days, so you should be able to play with it yourself, if you like."

"And the plate production estimates?"

"There I can't be quite as confident," Howsmyn admitted. "Those depend on whether or not we're able to continue to increase capacity at the projected rate. And whether or not we have enough iron, for that matter. Nickel production's running a little ahead of our estimated requirements, but there's only so much iron ore to go around."

"That's why I authorized you to strip the iron guns off our Desnairian and Navy of God prizes," Rock Point said. "It's not like we've got the manpower to crew every ship we have, anyway, and the workmanship on the Desnairian guns, especially, is less than reliable, so if we're going to find you scrap metal, better there than anywhere else I can think of." He glanced at Cayleb and Sharleyan and grimaced, his expression unhappy. "I don't like disarming that many galleons, but Ehdwyrd's already melted down everything else I could think of, and we can always move guns from some of our early emergency-build ships into the prize vessels later. We always knew using so much green timber was going to cost us in the end, and God knows we're starting to have enough problems with dry rot! And it's only going to get worse over the next year or two."

Cayleb nodded, although he was actually hard put not to smile, and from the way Sharleyan was squeezing his hand under the table, she was, as well. The idea had been hers, after all. They were going to need lots of transports to lift Eastshare's expeditionary force across to the Republic, once they officially found out about it, and Howsmyn and the rest of the Empire's foundries needed all the iron they could get. So, since war galleons were already fitted to carry large crews, which meant they had the berthing space and water and food stowage for feeding and transporting sizable numbers of men, why not kill two wyverns with one stone? Go ahead and begin stripping the artillery out now for Howsmyn and his fellow ironmasters, which would just happen to leave Rock Point with a significant number of galleons, berthed right here at Helen Island or Tellesberg, which could immediately be sent off to Chisholm.

"That's going to help a lot, obviously," Howsmyn said with admirable gravity. "And Brahd Stylmyn thinks he can increase output at the High Rock mines by perhaps another five, possibly even six percent once the new engines are fully available. I think he's underestimating a bit, but there's no way we're going to get an output increase of more than, say, ten percent in anything less than four or five years, no matter what we do. Those new deposits in the Hallecks are going to help, too, but it's going to take at least several months to get the mines operating, and transport's going to be a real problem even after we do. That's why we're putting so much effort into the Lake Lymahn Works right now, to decrease how far we'd have to ship it." It was his turn to grimace. "Which, of course, is diverting trained manpower at the moment we need it most to support your new project, Dustyn."

"So is the bottom line that we're going to be able to produce the necessary iron and steel or not?" Sharleyan asked.

"The answer is . . . probably but not certainly. For the immediate future, that is," Howsmyn said, manifestly unhappily. "On the other hand, the answer for the entire program the High Admiral and I originally discussed is more likely going to be 'no,' I'm afraid, at least in anything like our original timeframe."

"Would that change if we pulled those workmen of yours home from Lake Lymahn and the other new works you're building?" Rock Point asked.

"Not hugely." Howsmyn leaned back and shook his head. "And if we pull them back, we lose the increased production we're going to need even worse down the road."

"I think you're entirely right about that," Cayleb said. "In fact, I think we probably need to make it a hard and fast rule that we're going to reserve at least -- what? ten percent? -- of your total capacity for expansion."

"Your Majesty, I don't know if we can do that," Baron Ironhill, the Empire's treasurer, said. He looked back and forth between Howsmyn, Rock Point, and the emperor and empress. "Your Majesties know how bad the treasury numbers look right now, especially with the loss of all the trade that was moving through Siddarmark to the rest of the mainland. I expect to see some recovery in the revenue numbers in the next year or so, but it's not going to make up for what we've lost. Frankly, I don't know if I'm going to be able to steal enough money to finance the Crown's projected share of the new works after all, and even if I can, we're going to be committed to supporting a major land war in Siddarmark. That means we're going to have to operate on a mainland scale, and we've never done that where the Army and the Marines are concerned. If we don't produce what they need now -- and find the money to pay for it somehow -- it won't matter what we may be able to produce in another three years' time. And right now, frankly, Ehdwyrd's running at full capacity just to meet current needs."

"Ahlvyno's right about what we're going to need, at least in the next year to fifteen months." Trahvys Ohlsyn, the Earl of Pine Hollow, who'd replaced the murdered Rayjhis Yowance as Cayleb's first councilor, didn't look happy to hear himself saying that. "We can't afford to cut back the Navy -- the Empire's fundamental security won't let us do that -- but we're going to find ourselves under huge pressure to support Stohnar and any troops we put ashore in Siddarmark. But you're right, as well, Your Majesty. We have to keep expanding output if we're going to meet our future needs."
*
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Re: STICKY: Midst Toil and Tribulation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Sep 11, 2012 9:04 pm

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Midst Toil And Tribulation - Snippet 47


"But --" Ironhill began, only to close his mouth again as Cayleb raised his hand.

"I understand both viewpoints, Ahlvyno, and I'm sympathetic to both. Unfortunately, the best we can manage in this case is a compromise no one's going to like. We'll talk about it -- let Ehdwyrd, Ahlfryd, Domynyk, and Sir Dustyn discuss exactly how they need to balance expansion and present output -- and do our very best to meet those numbers, but we have to continue to expand. I hate to say it, but even if we lose more -- or all -- of Siddarmark, we'll still survive and still have a chance to win in the end as long as we can maintain and increase our qualitative edge. But however good our quality, we have to be able to produce it in sufficient quantity, as well. So if it's a choice between cutting current production to the bone over the next year or so, whatever problems that causes in Siddarmark, and not having the capacity we need two years from now, we're going to have to opt for the future."

Ironhill looked worried, but he recognized an unpalatable reality -- and a final decision -- when he saw them, and he nodded in understanding.

"All right," Cayleb continued, turning back to Olyvyr and Howsmyn. "I think one place we're going to have to make some hard choices is by reducing the number of new ships." He shrugged his shoulders unhappily. "God knows we need as many as we can get, but at the moment we have effective superiority over every remaining ship the other side has, and we are going to have to shift emphasis to supporting land operations. So instead of a dozen, I want you to plan on only six, Sir Dustyn. At the same time, though, I want you and Captain Saigyl to begin thinking about ironclad riverboats." He showed his teeth. "With any luck at all, we're going to need them even more than we need the oceangoing variety."

"Of course, Your Majesty," Olyvyr replied. "No one saw Siddarmark coming, so we haven't really considered it yet, but we'll begin immediately. And while I hate postponing the blue-water ships, the idea of building a smaller group first has a certain appeal. It might not hurt to see how well our first experiments work out before we commit to building vast numbers of seagoing ships."

"I'm glad you think so . . . even if I can't quite escape the feeling that you're looking hard for a bright side to look upon."

"If you have to do it anyway, Your Majesty, you might as well see the upside as well as the downside."

"That's true enough," Sharleyan agreed. "Although, personally, I think your 'first experiments' are going to turn out quite well, Sir Dustyn."

"I hope so, and I actually believe you're right, Your Grace . . . assuming Doctor Mahklyn's newfangled numbers work out as well as everyone keeps assuming they will." Olyvyr grimaced, and Sharleyan nodded gravely, although the truth was that Olyvyr had been initiated into the inner circle almost a year ago. He'd been using Rozhyr Mahklyn's new formulas to calculate displacement and sail area even before that, and he'd been like a little boy in a toy store ever since he got access to Owl and started calculating things like stability, metacentric heights, prismatic coefficients, and a hundred other things which had always been rule-of-thumb -- at best -- before. He still had to do quite a lot of those calculations himself (or have Owl do that for him) rather than allowing his assistants to perform them, since the formulas -- and concepts -- hadn't been officially "invented" yet, but he and Mahklyn were working hard to introduce the ideas. Within another year or so, at the outside, Charisian shipbuilders outside his own office would be starting to apply all those even more "newfangled" theories and rules, as well.

"In the end," he continued, looking around the table, "and even before we started worrying about Ehdwyrd's output numbers, it became obvious to Fhranklyn and me that we were going to have to go with composite construction, at least for the first blue-water class." He twitched his shoulders. "It would simplify things enormously to go directly to all-iron construction, but we simply don't have the output. So, we'll be using cast-iron framing and deck beams, wooden planking, and steel plate from the Delthak Works for armor. Iron frames will give us enormously better longitudinal strength than we've ever had before, which is critical for the weights incorporated into these designs, and there are several other foundries here in Old Charis which can produce them while we leave the more complex aspects to Ehdwyrd's artificers. Of course, I'm sure some of your captains are going to scream at the notion of ironwork, Domynyk," he said, looking across the table at Rock Point. "In fact, I'm positive at least one of them is going to point out 'But I can't repair an iron deck beam at sea the way I could one made out of wood!'"

"Oh, I'm sure your number's off, Dustyn." Rock Point waved one hand dismissively. "I'll be astonished if I hear that from less than a dozen of them!"

A laugh circled the table, and Olyvyr shook his head with a smile. Then he sobered.

"The river ironclads we can probably build with wooden frames if we have to, although it would help a lot to use iron framing for them, as well. They'd have to be a lot smaller, too, which is going to mean a lot of compromises. In particular, it'll probably mean thinner armor, but they should be facing primarily field artillery or light naval guns, which will help a lot.

"The blue-water ships, on the other hand, are going to be the largest vessels ever built," he said, looking around the table. "According to Doctor Mahklyn's numbers, they're going to come out at over five thousand tons displacement, not burden -- better than three times our biggest war galleon. They're going to be three hundred feet long, and they'll draw around twenty-eight feet at normal load, which is the main reason Fhranklyn and Commander Malkaihy are already working with Ehdwyrd's artificers on steam-powered dredges -- we're going to need them for some of our more critical ship channels as soon as we build anything bigger than this. The sheer weight and size of a rudder sized to something that big is going to pose problems, too. I'm not at all sure it could be handled using raw muscle power, so we've put quite a bit of effort into coming up with a hydraulic-assistance system for it. It's going to require at least one small steam engine permanently on line to power it, but the fuel requirements for that engine will be very low, and there are other places where having steam available on that scale would be very useful. For one thing, in raising and lowering the screw. And we've designed the system so it can be disengaged in an emergency, although at that point you're going to need at least eight to ten men on the wheel. That's why the thing's going to have a triple wheel -- so they can all find a place to get a grip."

Many of the heads around the table nodded at that. Even with the efficiency Howsmyn had been able to engineer into his "first-generation" steam engines, providing the internal fuel capacity for a steamship to obtain the kind of cruising distances required by the Imperial Charisian Navy would be difficult. It was over eight thousand miles from Tellesberg to Siddar City, for example, and that was far from the longest voyage a Charisian warship was likely to face, nor did it even consider the need to remain on station for extended periods, which was why the first generation of Charisian armored warships would be fully rigged for sail, as well. The truth was that they probably could have designed solely for steam power, but only at the cost of establishing chains of coaling stations along critical shipping lanes and in forward deployment areas. That would be far from impossible for them to do on an internal basis, for the separated islands of the Charisian Empire itself, but it would certainly be expensive, and they couldn't afford to assume it would be equally feasible elsewhere.

"It would simplify things a great deal if we could leave the screw permanently in place," Olyvyr continued, "but the more efficient it is for moving water, the greater the drag when it isn't revolving. Fortunately, once Fhranklyn came up with a notion for indexing the shaft and locking it in place, it turned out to be a lot simpler than I expected to design a moving cradle to unlock the screw and raise it into the above water well." He snorted. "Mind you, it would've been a lot harder if we hadn't decided to go with hydraulic power for the rudder. Since we were doing that anyway, it only made sense to apply power to raising and lowering the screw, as well." He shrugged, then grinned almost impishly. "I think we could still've done it, but I wouldn't be surprised if it had required three or four hundred seamen -- probably complaining at the top of their lungs the entire time -- to do the same thing by muscle power."

"Then I'd say it's a good thing you didn't do that, Sir Dustyn," Sharleyan said with a smile. "I gather from what you're saying that the amount of fuel required for this . . . auxiliary engine, I suppose we should call it, won't have any significant impact on the designed cruising radius?"
*
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Re: STICKY: Midst Toil and Tribulation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:00 pm

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Midst Toil And Tribulation - Snippet 48

"We're allocating that fuel in addition to the coal for her normal steaming radius, Your Grace. Our calculations indicate that one of the new ships ought to be good for about five thousand miles at twelve knots under steam alone. Assuming average weather conditions, she'll probably be able to maintain sixteen knots under sail and steam combined at an economical rate of fuel consumption. With the propeller raised, she should still be able to maintain between six to ten knots under sail alone -- possibly as much as fourteen or fifteen in blowing conditions, given her size and ability to carry more sail than anything smaller. Her maximum speed under steam is actually going to be almost twenty knots, but her endurance at that speed will drop catastrophically."

Several of the faces around that table looked stunned, perhaps even incredulous, at those numbers. Of course, twenty Safeholdian knots was also twenty miles per hour, not the twenty-three miles per hour twenty knots would have been back on a planet called Earth. Still, it was an unheard-of speed for any ship.

"In addition to being the biggest and the fastest ships in the world," Olyvyr continued, "they're going to be the toughest. We began our original plans for them before Ehdwyrd's artificers came up with steam engines, when we would've had to power them by sail alone. That also means we started on them before he began experimenting with nickel steel and hardening plate faces with his new quenching procedures, as well. At that point, we'd estimated it would take at least twelve inches of cast iron armor to stop one of Ahlfryd's projected ten-inch rifles firing solid wrought iron shot at short range. Ehdwyrd's 'face-hardened' plate is much tougher than that; we should be able to use as little as eight inches, probably even less. Our current calculations are that three inches of Howsmynized Nickel plate will stop anything the Navy of God has, even at point blank range, but we're going to go ahead and design to defeat our own guns, so we'll use six inches and back it with twelve inches of teak to help damp the shock of impacting shot.

"For the riverine vessels, we'd probably go with something more like three-inch armor and backing of six inches. I'd prefer thicker, but that probably won't be practical on their displacement -- we'll know better once we actually start looking at them -- and we're already set up to produce three-inch plate, since Ehdwyrd chose that thickness to perfect his new techniques and he's actually got several hundred tons of it sitting at the Delthak Works right now. Actually, what I'm more worried about is the thinner backing. The new plate's no where near as brittle as iron, so we're not as concerned about its shattering under the impact, but the cushioning effect should help prevent the securing bolts from shearing.

"I assume any river vessels will be armed with existing guns, at least in the interim. Assuming the projected weights for the new guns hold up, the ocean ironclads should have twelve eight-inch in each broadside and a pair of ten-inch on pivot mounts, one each forward and aft, all of them behind armor. The masts and rigging will be vulnerable, of course, but these ships are designed to move and fight under steam, so the loss of a mast or two won't be a major handicap in battle. Since we don't have a design for the riverboats yet, I can't estimate building times on them, but I estimate we can launch the first blue-water ship between six months and a year from the day we lay her down. And under the circumstances," he sat back in his chair with an expression of profound satisfaction, "I don't think Zhaspahr Clyntahn will like her one bit."

"No, they aren't," Cayleb agreed, and his expression had hardened. It was his turn to look around at the others, his brown eyes grim. "And just in case the bastard doesn't get the message on his own, Sharleyan and I have decided what we're going to name the first three ships." The others looked at him, and he smiled coldly. "We thought we'd begin with the King Haarahld VII, the Gwylym Manthyr, and the Lainsair Svairsmahn." The eyes around that table turned as hard as his own, glittering with approval. "If he doesn't quite grasp what we intend to do with them from the first three names," Cayleb continued, "I'm sure he'll get the point when we sail them and a dozen more just like them clear up Hsing-wu's Passage to Temple Bay and start putting the troops ashore."

* * * * * * * * * *

"Ehdwyrd?"

Ehdwyrd Howsmyn lowered his glass as the deep voice spoke in his ear plug. The ironmaster was alone in the study of his Tellesberg townhouse, the last of his daily correspondence spread across the desk before him, and it was very late. Rain battered the roof and cascaded in torrents from the eaves and wind and rain ruled the night outside his windows, lit by an occasional flash of lighting and rumble of thunder, but inside those windows was an oasis of comfort, so quiet between thunder grumbles he could head the crisp ticking of the clock in one corner. The light of sea dragon oil lamps gleamed on the frames of paintings, polished the deep-toned leather of hundreds of book spines with a burnished glow, and pooled golden in the Chisholmian whiskey as he set the glass on his blotter beside one of the neat stacks of paper. There were quite a few of those stacks. He seldom had much time to spend in the luxurious townhouse these days, and even when he did, the correspondence followed him wherever he went.

"Merlin?" He cocked an eyebrow in mild surprise. He'd left the day's final conference with the seijin less than five hours ago. "Has something come up?"

"More a matter of something occurring to me that I should've thought of five-days ago," Merlin replied, and Howsmyn heard a note of genuine chagrin in his voice.

"Which would be what, exactly?" the Charisian inquired.

"Ironclads. To be specific, river ironclads."

"What about them?"

"When you were all discussing them this morning as I stood ominously guarding the door, my brain was on autopilot. In fact, I was actually using the time to review some of the take from the SNARCs rather than concentrating on what all of you were saying."

"I'm crushed to learn our conversation was insufficiently scintillating to hold you riveted to our every word," Howsmyn said dryly, and Merlin chuckled over the com.

"I've discovered the lot of you are all grown up -- or close enough I can trust you to talk things over without me, anyway. Besides, we'd already discussed everything I knew was going to come up, so I figured you could play without adult supervision this once."

"You have a true gift for flattering my ego, don't you?"

"If I told you and the others how good you really are, you'd all be impossible to live with. That wasn't the reason I commed, though."

"So what was the reason?"

"Exactly how much of that three-inch armor plate do you actually have?"

"Um. I'd have to check the inventories to be sure. A fair amount, though. Probably close to fourteen or fifteen hundred tons, I suppose. Might be a little more or a little less. Frankly, I haven't worried too much about the actual quantities, since there wasn't any rush. It's too thin for those five thousand-tonners Dustyn's come up with, for one thing, and I know we don't have anywhere near enough to cover them even if we wanted to use multiple layers to build up the needed thickness. And Dustyn hasn't even started the design on the riverboats. For that matter, we won't be starting construction on any of them until one of the other foundries is ready to start casting the frame members. Why?"

"Because I've got another question for you, to go with the first one. How much of it would it take to armor one of your steam-powered river barges?"

Howsmyn blinked.

"I don't know," he said slowly. "I never thought about it."

"Neither had I, until this evening," Merlin told him. "I've been thinking all along in terms of purpose-built ironclads, and going at it this way, we'd have all the wooden hull worries Dustyn was talking about But those barges are pretty damned heavily framed, given what you wanted them for in the first place. I'm willing to bet they'd hold up at least as well -- probably better -- than the steamboats the Americans converted into ironclads on the Mississippi in the American Civil War. And unlike Dustyn's designs, they already exist. All we'd have to do would be slap the armor on them."

"I think it'd be a little more complicated than that," Howsmyn said dryly. "I don't really know about your 'Mississippi' conversions -- I take it that was a river back on Old Earth? -- but I'm willing to bet they hit the odd little problem along the way. On the other hand, you have a point about the fact that the barges already exist."

He pulled out a blank sheet of paper, slid his abacus in front of him, and began jotting numbers.

"They're a bit bigger than the standard mainland river barges, you know," he said as his pen scratched and abacus beads clicked busily. "We don't have anywhere near the dependency on barge traffic they do, and we haven't got anywhere near the same number of canals. A lot of their canals are over five or six hundred years old, though, and making any major changes in them would be an incredible pain, so they worry a lot more about barge interchangeability than we do. The newer canals mostly have bigger locks to let them use bigger barges for purely local traffic, but one of the really old trunk lines -- like the Langhorne -- can't accept 'outsized' barges. Since barge owners never know when they're going to have to use one of the lines with smaller locks, they tend to build small unless it's for purely local use, like the wheat trade out of Tarikah via the Hildermoss and the New Northland Canal. That limits their really long-haul barges to about a hundred and twenty-five feet. We didn't have to worry about fitting through something like the Langhorne, though, so we just stole the plans for the New Northland's locks when we built the Delthak canal."
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Re: STICKY: Midst Toil and Tribulation Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Sep 16, 2012 9:02 pm

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The next snippet is a new chapter and the last snippet.




Midst Toil And Tribulation - Snippet 49

He grimaced and shook his head with a chuckle.

"If I'd known about the inner circle then, I might've thought about coming up with another design, but the truth is, the ones based on the Writ are about as good a fit to allowable technology as anything Owl could've come up with. And at least that way I didn't have to worry about getting anything past Paitryk. The old Paitryk, I mean."

He shrugged.

"Anyway, because of the lock size we chose, our barges are a hundred and forty feet long and forty-five feet in the beam with a draft of about six and a half feet and around fifteen or sixteen feet depth of hold, which lets them carry a hell of a lot more than your typical mainland boat. Within limits, of course. They're basically just big, square boxes with round ends, when you come down to it We did slightly redesign the sterns for the powered barges, but not enough to change their volume so anyone would notice, so each of them can carry about ninety-five thousand cubic feet of cargo. That comes to around twenty-three hundred tons of coal per barge, which we figured was pretty much the ceiling for animal-drawn loads, even with tow roads as wide as the ones we used. Takes a four-dragon team to move the unpowered ones, and it also just about doubles their draft to twelve feet, which is as deep as you want to go in even one of our canals. The steam-powered boats are a little less than that because of the weight the engine and boilers and the fuel take up, but still . . . ."

His pen stopped scratching and he looked down at his notes.

"All right, here're the fast-and-dirty numbers. A cubic inch of armor steel weighs about a quarter of a pound. Figuring three-inch side armor over a length of a hundred and forty feet and a height of ten feet -- we might need a little less height than that; that's the freeboard unladed, and by the time you put armor and guns aboard -- oh, and you'd need to throw in a gundeck to mount the damned things on, too, you know -- you're bound to deepen the draft a little, so --"

He cut himself off with another grimace.

"Sorry. The point is that you'd need about one-point-six million cubic inches to armor the sides and ends of a box that size. Call it four hundred thousand pounds or around two hundred tons."

"But that's only the sides and ends," Merlin pointed out. "You'd need to armor the top, too. They're bound to take plunging fire from a river bluff somewhere. For that matter, we know Thirsk is already starting to produce his own version of Alfryd's 'angle guns.'"

"You don't want much, do you?" Howsmyn demanded sarcastically. "You do realize we can't armor the top as thickly as the sides, right? The roof of the box is going to be about twice the area of its sides. That'd be a lot of weight, especially that high up in the ship, where it's not going to do stability any favors."

"The roof would be more likely to take glancing hits or hits from fairly light shells," Merlin countered. "What if you dropped it to, say, one-inch thickness?"

"Great," Howsmyn grumbled, and started scribbling again. A short while later he sat back with a grunt.

"I'm assuming no taper in the casemate sides or ends here, which is probably wrong. I'm sure we'd want to slope at least the sides for a better ballistic coefficient and to improve stability, which should narrow the 'roof' quite a lot, but at this point I'd rather overestimate than underestimate. At any rate, using those numbers I come up with around a bit over another hundred and thirteen tons. Call it three hundred and fourteen for the entire armor weight, just to be on the safe side. And, of course, none of that allows for cutting out gunports. That would reduce the total armor requirement at least some . . . although I suppose you'd want shutters for the gunports?"

"I don't know," Merlin said in a thoughtful tone. "Probably. But, you know, the numbers are actually better than I thought they'd be. If you have fifteen hundred tons of three-inch armor already fabricated, you could armor four of them, couldn't you? Maybe even five, if you're right about the taper reducing the width of the casemate roof."

"Except that none of that one-inch armor exists yet, of course," Howsmyn observed in a pleasant but pointed tone, and Merlin chuckled.

"True, but I bet you could produce another four or five hundred tons of armor that thin pretty quickly, couldn't you?"

"Faster than three-inch, anyway," Howsmyn agreed. "The quenching process wouldn't take as long, for one thing. I don't know how much time we'd save total, but you could probably figure we'd be able to turn it out in -- oh, I don't know. A month if we made it a category one priority? Something like that, anyway."

"And how long would it take you to haul four of your barges out of the water and armor them?"

"Probably about a month . . . ." Howsmyn said slowly.

"Then I think this might be very worth considering," Merlin said in a serious tone. "Especially given how critical water transport and river lines are going to be in Siddarmark."

"Maybe. But they're going to be pushing the limit on any mainland canal, Merlin. They can probably -- probably -- get through most of the newer ones, but they sure as hell won't get through all of them. And they were never designed for open water," Howsmyn protested.

"With that low a freeboard, they'd be useless in a seaway," Merlin agreed. "But we're talking about brown water, not blue. Ten feet would be plenty for inland work -- or in most harbors, for that matter."

"Sure, but first you have to get them to the mainland in the first place." Howsmyn shook his head. "I'm not the sailor you or Cayleb are, but it occurs to me that something that small and shallow draft would be a pain in the arse under typical ocean conditions!"

"Worse as a sail boat than a steamer," Merlin replied. "And there are ways we could work around a lot of the problems. Garboards or leeboards to give the hulls more effective depth, for example, like we used on the landing craft we took to Corisande and the ones Dustyn is running up for Siddarmark. As for size, they're not that much shorter or narrower than most war galleons. They are smaller, and they're a lot shallower draft, with only about half as much freeboard, which means the hulls are nowhere nearly as deep, so they've got a lower displacement. But, again, that's not a big problem for a steamer with leeboards. And since they were designed originally to carry coal, I'm pretty sure we could load them up with enough fuel for the voyage, especially if we wait to mount the guns till we get them to Siddarmark and only put a passage crew aboard them for the trip itself. And they're good for -- what? Twelve knots?"

"A little better than that, actually," Howsmyn said. "In fact, the operational boats are ridiculously overpowered for canal work -- they were propulsion experiments, and we've had them up to over fourteen knots on the lake. The ones we're building now'll have a maximum speed of no more than ten knots. Even the operational ones probably wouldn't be able to make that kind of speed at sea, though. Not more than twelve or thirteen, tops, I'd think."

"Even twelve would let them make the trip to Siddar City in only about six or seven five-days, though. Still a lot better than a galleon can do. Especially since they wouldn't have to worry about calms or beating to windward."

"True," Howsmyn agreed. He sat rubbing his chin thoughtfully for several seconds, then sighed.

"All right. Much as I hate to do this, knowing what will happen if I do, I have to concede it's at least theoretically possible. So should I go ahead and start shredding my production schedules right now, or shall we wait and pretend you actually intend to leave the decision up to Cayleb and Sharleyan?"

"What a perfectly dreadful thing to say!" Merlin told him austerely. "I am deeply affronted by the very suggestion. Now that you and I have discussed the feasibility, I will, of course, present the possibility to the two of them. It would be most unbecoming for us to presume to reorder their established priorities without their having had due time to consider all of the pros and cons of the suggestion."

"But I should go ahead and start planning for it right now, right?" Howsmyn asked with a grin.

"Well, of course you should. Good manners are good manners, but we can't let them get in the way of efficiency, now can we?"
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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