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Mamelukes Snippet #3

Jerry Pournelle’s Janissaries series is alive and well. Drop in to discuss it and — especially— the latest addition: Mamelukes by Jerry himself with a little posthumous help from Phillip Pournelle and David!
Mamelukes Snippet #3
Post by runsforcelery   » Sat Aug 24, 2019 12:32 am

runsforcelery
First Space Lord

Posts: 2409
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:39 am
Location: South Carolina

This week's snippet!

And while I am posting, congratulations to one of our own for the National Fantasy Fan Federation Speculative Fiction Awards. Some of you may recognize the name of the winner in question:


Best Novel (over 100,000 words)

Against Three Lands, George Phillies (self-published)


And I might add that our own Toni Weisskopf won best book editor!


________________________________________________________________________


* * * * * * * * * *

Strymon, Crown Prince of Ta-Meltemos, was tall and serious, well known as a man of high honor and quixotic chivalry. Heir to one of the Five Kingdoms, he was allied with Ganton and Drantos, but subject to neither, and what he would do if there came a direct order from his father to abandon that alliance neither Rick nor Ganton knew. Strymon stared down at the head on the cloth.

"It could be him," he said. "I have not seen him for years."

"Akkilas is dead!" one of the lords shouted. "Ganton is heir! High Rexja Ganton!"

"High Rexja is elective," Strymon said. "Surely all know that."

"But it has been within the House of Sarakos for four generations," the herald protested. "The Five have always elected an heir to Radalphes the Great."

"There has always been a direct heir to Radalphes," Strymon observed dryly. "Until now. Majesty, I believe your claim is through your mother?"

"Yes. I take it you do not accept."

Strymon smiled thinly.

"I am Prince of Ta-Meltemos, not Wanax, and were my father dead and my inheritance secure I would still be one vote among five. It is not for me to accept or deny, Majesty."

"Yes." Ganton looked around at the aftermath of battle. "It grows late, and I confess I am weary."

"Well earned, Majesty!" several lords shouted.

"Earned or no, I need rest. Let us resume this another time. Prince Strymon, my thanks for your aid in this battle. Lord Rick, a splendid victory. We shall think how best to take advantage of it. And how to reward you. Good evening, Prince, Lady Tylara. My Lords. You all have my leave."

Rick limped to his horse and let Jamiy hold it for him.

"I can do with a bath," he said. "For all that I did more riding than fighting."

"And that is the best victory of all," Strymon said. "Fewer killed than might be, and I believe Drantos is safe enough for the moment."

"With no small aid from you," Rick said. "My thanks for that. And I will not forget that you returned My Lady unharmed."

"We were much pleased to have her as our guest," Strymon said. "What I gained in healing knowledge alone is worth far more than any ransom." He paused. "You have no camp here, and the Wanax has forgotten to provide for you. You are both welcome guests in my camp. It is a soldier's camp, but perhaps more than you brought on your march."

"I had expected to stay with the clansmen," Rick said. "But your offer is generous. Tylara?"

"My father must needs be told, but I think we have much to speak of with Prince Strymon," Tylara said.

Rick was unsurprised to see that his orderly had found a new mount.

"Jamiy, my respects to Mac Clallan Muir, and we beg his forgiveness for the night. See that he is informed," Rick said. "Prince Strymon, if your hospitality to your guests is as gracious as My Lady tells me you give to your prisoners, we would be fools to decline."

"Good. I will ride ahead to order preparations," Strymon said. He spurred his horse.

"Jamiy," Tylara said. "Inform my father that I will join my husband for the night as guest of Prince Strymon. And you may remain in the clan camp, we will not need you before morning." She waited until Jamiy had ridden off. "Prince Strymon wants to speak with us alone."

"You know this?"

"Was it not obvious?"

Rick shook his head. It hadn't been obvious to him.

"What will he want to speak about?"

"Ganton's claim, where this army goes, the war with the Five Kingdoms," Tylara said. "And he would learn more of the Galactics."

"How much did you tell him?" Rick asked.

"Little, my love. Only that you are a great warrior from a far place, brought here by men of great power but little courage."

"An interesting summary," Rick said. "True enough."

"My husband, Strymon for all his chivalry is Prince royal of Ta-Meltemos, undisputed heir to one of the Five Kingdoms, and has as good a claim to be High Rexja as Ganton. His interests were ours when the armies of the High Rexja stood in Drantos, but now? I cannot think he will be pleased to see Drantos armies march past our northern borders no matter where they head."











Chapter Two: The Prince Royal of Ta-Meltemos










Strymon's accommodations were military rather than luxurious, but comfortable enough. Tylara pointed out a field hospital. Priests of Yatar bustled about among the wounded. Acolytes tended fires and boiled cloths for bandages. Priest surgeons scrubbed meticulously before and after tending the wounded, and the dead were carried far downwind from the hospital.

"He has learned fast," she said.

"Your teaching while you were his prisoner?"

"Yes, My Lord husband. Was that not proper? You have told me that knowledge is not to be hoarded."

"Indeed, my most wise lady wife. It was very proper to teach the germ theory of disease. My surprise is at how fast he's learned."

"Cleanliness has always been pleasing to Yatar," Tylara said. "His priests needed little persuading."

And there are priests of Yatar in both armies, Rick thought. Judging by the small red crosses on the shoulders and left breast of their blue and yellow robes, nearly all the priests of Yatar in Strymon's force were converts to the New Faith, which accepted Christ as the Son of Yatar. What that would do to Tran politics was likely to be more than Rick could guess.

But at least there was enough hot water for a bath. When they reached the tent assigned to them he was delighted to see there was a large tub to soak in. Hot water and a tub! And Tylara was smiling, enjoying their renewed friendship. Like falling in love all over again! He thought of inviting Tylara into the bath with him, but that might shock Strymon's servants. Prince Strymon had no male heirs and was twice a widower, but unlike his young brother was rumored to be somewhat prudish in both habits and speech. And Tylara had her own bath. But by God we'll sleep together, Rick thought. For the first time in months…



Rick's pistols and sword were missing when he emerged from his bath. So was his armor. A page explained they were to be cleaned.

"Prince Strymon has ordered they be returned to you so soon as you need them," the boy said. His voice was strong, but Rick thought he saw fear in the boy's eyes. As well he might. The boy indicated new clothing laid out on the bed. "And if you and your lady will come to dinner when you are dressed?"

Rick dressed in silence. There would be no point in complaining to a ten year old boy, and there was no one else he could speak to. May as well play this one as it lies…

Guardsmen held umbrellas to protect them from the rain as they were conducted to Strymon's command tent.

"My pistol's missing," Rick muttered.

"As well mine," Tylara said. "Likewise my dagger."

"What the hell?"

Tylara shrugged.

"Prince Strymon's honor and chivalry are known everywhere, and I have more than enough reasons to know those stories are not false," she said. "Whatever his reason, we will know in good time. I am certain he means us no harm, and I think we would do best to trust him."

Trust is fine, Rick thought. Then he laughed.

"My husband?"

"I keep thinking how Mason would have fits if he knew," Rick said.

"Ah." Tylara grinned. Art Mason would never let Rick go out in public without full armor, chain mail over flak jacket, pistol in shoulder holster, short sword and dagger, and a full escort. And here they were both in garta cloth robes and slippers, while their armor was away to be polished and oiled and their weapons were God alone knew where.

"And Major Mason is not without his reasons," Tylara said. "Yet I feel safer here than I would in similar conditions in the camp of our own Wanax."

"You know something I don't?"

"Know?" She shook her head, a slight gesture that still said volumes.

Rick frowned. Ganton had seemed friendly enough. But Tylara understood Tran dynastic politics far better than Rick ever would. Relax and enjoy it, Rick thought. Nothing else to do.



Rain drummed on the tent roof, and sometimes a gust of wind shook the walls. For the most part Strymon's tent caravan was proof against the weather. A long trestle table had been set up, with an almost white tablecloth, and pewter dishes. A cheery fire blazed in one corner of the tent. Rick inspected the portable fireplace with approval, and made a mental note to have one made for his own travel caravan. An open faced Franklin stove, with sections of chimney made of some kind of ceramic and held together with metal collars. He had seen nothing like it in Drantos. The Five Kingdoms pretended a superiority that Drantos didn't admit. Could this be evidence that it was more than pretense?

Dinner was far more than Rick had expected, and Strymon's troops had liberated a store of wine from the enemy's camp. Like most of the wine on Tran it was thinner and more tart than Rick liked, but it was strong enough and left a good aftertaste. When Rick drained his cup it was filled again without his asking. He caught Tylara's eye. She grinned slyly, and Rick asked for water as well as wine. After that he was careful not to drain his wine cup again. Tylara thought he drank too much, and when he was being reasonable he knew that was true. And tonight he would need his head clear. Strymon was no fool.

Strymon drank plentifully but from a different jug. Tylara watched, saying nothing, until after dessert was served and the dishes cleared away. Strymon dismissed the servants.

"It is odd that you are here," Strymon said.

"I came for my wife," Rick said simply. Tylara beamed. She looked happier than she had since they were first married. It must have been terrible, a secret like that with no one to tell it to, he thought. And that won't happen again. I nearly lost her!

"I did not mean here at this battle," Strymon said. "All her time when she was my captive your lady promised me that you would work the most terrible revenge if any harm came to her, until I thought to see you come out of the mist at any moment. No, My Lord, I mean that you won the battle today. Much as I am pleased to have you here, you should be the honored guest of the Wanax, not of his ally."

"So should be you," Tylara said simply.

"He was exhausted," Rick protested.

Strymon politely ignored him.

"Then you believe as I do?" he asked Tylara.

"Yes."

"What are you two talking about?" Rick demanded.

"Oh. My husband is a direct man," Tylara said. "Quick to trust, and never thinks another may harbor ill thoughts. My Lord husband, we mean that with Akkilas dead, the world has changed a very great deal for the Wanax Ganton, and he was hardly too exhausted to know that. Or to know who won his battle for him." She smiled. "You 'Saved his bacon,' I believe your Major Mason would say."

"I do not think that head was Akkilas," Strymon said.

"What? But why did you not say so, Prince?" Tylara asked.

"I cannot be sure, and would I be believed? Wanax Ganton is aware that my claim is as good as his. He would wonder if I played for time. And it might well be Akkilas."

"If it's not him, who is it?" Rick asked.

"His tanist," Strymon said.

Rick frowned the question.

"A custom no longer followed in southern lands. Nor indeed in all of ours, but it is invariable in the High Rexja's household," Strymon said. "As the prince comes of age, a young man of good family who closely resembles him is selected. He is trained as companion, advisor—and possibly as target for assassination. Akkilas was fortunate. His tanist was a young man of ability, a good advisor and a better student of war than Akkilas ever was."

"Who'd know the difference?" Rick asked.

"Any who knew them well, I suppose. The birthmarks are only similar, not identical, and the tanist was a year older than Akkilas—"

"Ah." Tylara nodded understanding. "My Lord husband means that it may not matter whose head that is, if there exists someone of ability who can claim to be Akkilas."

"Indeed," Strymon said. "One more complication. Among many. Lord Rick, what does your Wanax Ganton intend now? Whoever leads, whether Akkilas or his tanist or the Honorable Matthias of Vothan's Temple, these invaders will retreat well into the Five Kingdoms before they can regroup. They may again become a formidable force, but it will take time, even without the pursuit you are in no condition to make. When word of this defeat reaches Chancellor Issardos, Captain General Ailas will be recalled to the defense of the realm. He will abandon your lands in the west. The invasion of Drantos is ended."

Rick nodded agreement.

"That's the way I read it. The war is as good as over."

"For now, certainly," Strymon said. "So what will Ganton do?"

Rick frowned as Tylara and Strymon looked at each other. Clearly they understood each other better than Rick did. The war's over, Rick thought. The peasants can go back to their fields, I can go back to Armagh and work on increasing the surinomaz crop for the Shalnuksis, and we can send our best diplomats to the Five Kingdoms to settle the matter. If Issardos is smart he'll put Strymon on his negotiating team, only he can't, since he's already charged Strymon with treason. Now who can we send? He looked from his wife to the prince, and saw only frowns. Tylara was thinking hard. On what? Would she want to be a negotiator? She should be….

The silence lasted half a minute.

"He will press forward, I think," Tylara said finally. "Left to himself I think Ganton would return to his home and his Roman queen, that was a true love match for all that it was arranged, but his barons will demand otherwise. The nobility of Drantos smarts under remembered grievances. The inclination will be strong to press forward, seize lands in compensation for what was lost in these wars. And Ganton's claim to the throne will be strongest if he stands with an army at the Capital of the Five Kingdoms! My Lord, I weary of war, but did I not know that My Lord husband would never approve, I would myself be among those clamoring for Ganton to press his claims. My own county of Chelm has lost much to the Five, to Sarakos when he came—"

She shuddered, and Rick reached to take her hand. The memories of what Sarakos had done to her would never leave her.

"And to Ailas," she continued, calm enough that only Rick heard the tremor in her voice. "My people should have some recompense." She turned to Rick. "Oh, I know, I have heard you say often enough that I have come to believe it, in a well managed land plunder is no substitute for production, labor spent planting and building and trading will bring more reward than looting. I know this, I believe this, but I do not feel it. And Ganton's bheromen do not even know what I know. Depend upon it, they are even at this moment clamoring for him to press his claims."

"That was my thought," Strymon said. "And I cannot permit it." He poured himself another cup of the thin wine. "I was never in favor of invading Drantos, and I will not say I was unhappy when circumstances made me ally to Ganton in resisting the invasion. But I cannot remain his ally when his armies march into the Five Kingdoms!"

"You'd come to the aid of a king who's charged you with treason?" Rick asked.

"I would not come to the aid of the High Rexja or his false chancellor, but I would act to spare the lands of desolation by the greedy bheromen of Drantos, particularly in light of the warning of The Time.

"But if Ganton comes as the High Rexja of the Five?" Rick asked. "If the Five Kingdoms become Six, as I am told they once were?"

"There is an election to be held," Strymon said. "And I do not think Ganton will win. Certainly if he comes as legitimate monarch I will accept him, but that is not likely."

"So what will you do?" Rick asked.

"Go home," Strymon said. "Go home and prepare. Prepare for a war that I hope is not against you, and mostly prepare for The Time."

"And your father the Wanax?" Rick asked.

A look of pain crossed Strymon's face.

"Did not your lady tell you? My father the Wanax Palamon is vigorous, but he has the mind of a child."

"Oh." I may have known that and forgotten it. What else have I forgotten that may get us killed?

"And his chief advisor Rauros is a tool of Chancellor Issardos," Tylara added.

"On your lady's advice I have sent my brother home to guard our family's honor," Strymon said. "He is a better soldier than statesman. As am I, but I am the oldest, and now I must return, and organize defense of the borders. Quickly, before the Wanax Ganton can lead his troops northward."

Rick nodded slowly.

"He can be decisive."

"You taught him that," Strymon said.

"I did." Rick shrugged. "It was my duty."

"Which you have discharged well," Strymon said. "And I know you have taught your young king of The Time."

The Time. The Demon Sun approached the planet of Tran, changing climates and seasons. Thrones, Dominions, and Powers were shuffled like a pack of cards every six hundred years or so, and while that happened the agriculture of the planet changed as well. And The Time was upon them.

"We've taught him," Rick said. "Whether he's learned is not so clear. And certainly many of his lords advisors have not."

"But it is true?" Strymon asked. "Not a stratagem your lady devised to win me over?"

"It's true enough," Rick said. He grinned. "Tylara can charm anyone, but in this case she was telling the exact truth."

"Truth as I learned it from Rick," Tylara said. "The Priests of Yatar tell of The Time, when the seas shall rise and the lands shall scorch—of course you have heard those stories. But My Lord husband knows why the tales are true."

"Ah. And can you tell me?" Strymon asked.

"I can try," Rick said. "But at the risk of insulting you, I must ask what you know of suns and stars."

"I have been told that the suns are great masses of flaming gas, and stars are distant suns," Strymon said. "I suppose I believe it, but I must confess it is not a matter of great importance to me. Should it be?"

"In this instance, yes," Rick said. He looked around the room. It was a tent, floored with rugs, and there were no solid walls. "I'll need a charcoal from the fire," he said.

Tylara went to the fireplace and returned with a cold ember.

"Will this do?"

Rick nodded.


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: Mamelukes Snippet #3
Post by TFLYTSNBN   » Sat Aug 24, 2019 5:17 pm

TFLYTSNBN
Vice Admiral

Posts: 1519
Joined: Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:58 am

This isnot the shower scene that I'm looking for.
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Re: Mamelukes Snippet #3
Post by phillies   » Fri Sep 13, 2019 2:59 pm

phillies
Vice Admiral

Posts: 1920
Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 8:43 am
Location: Worcester, MA

I am again most grateful to David for his very kind words about Against Three Lands and my (undeserved) award, and to Toni Weisskopf for her far more deserved award for Best Editor.
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