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HFQ Official Snippet #7

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HFQ Official Snippet #7
Post by runsforcelery   » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:38 am

runsforcelery
First Space Lord

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Location: South Carolina

“Do we know how it happened, My Lord?” Stywyrt Baiket, Chihro’s CO and Thirsk’s flag captain, asked quietly. “I mean, they had over two hundred thousand men and Eastshare had less than twenty thousand!”

“The dispatches are less than detailed,” the earl replied, never looking away from the harbor’s soothing panorama. “Messages tend to be that way when people have to send them by wyvern, and the semaphore line was cut early in the Charisian attack. One thing they do make clear, however, is that the real threat didn’t come out of Fort Tairys. It wasn’t Eastshare; they got an entirely separate force down through eastern Cliff Peak past the Desnarian cavalry at Cheyvair. One big enough to block — and hold — the high road through the Kyplyngyr Forest.” He shrugged heavily. “According to the message I’ve seen” — he didn’t mention that he wasn’t supposed to have seen it . . . and wouldn’t have, if not for Bishop Staiphan Maik — “Ahlverez did his damnedest to fight his way through them. His attacks obviously hurt the Charisians bady, but they pretty much gutted our part of the army in the process, so Harless finally agreed to pull the majority of his own infantry back from Ohadlyn’s Gap for a second attempt to clear the high road. That’s when Eastshare attacked out of Fort Tairys, and with one hell of a lot more than twenty thousand men.”

He gazed out over the harbor for another moment, then turned on his heel to face his subordinates.

“My best guess, reading between the lines, is that the Charisians and Siddarmarkians must’ve had a lot closer to seventy thousand men, probably more, and too many of the Desnarians were cavalry. Even an admiral knows that’s not the sort of troops equipped or trained to take on entrenched infantry in the damned woods, and the Army of Shiloh was half starved and riddled with sickness. I doubt Ahlverez and Harless between them could actually have put much over half their official strength into the field. And let’s face it — a fight with the Imperial Charisian Army at anything like equal numerical odds is a losing proposition.”

Sir Ahbail Bahrdailahn, Thirsk’s flag lieutenant, looked uneasy at that remark. Not because he disagreed, but because that sort of frankness could be dangerous. Thirsk knew that, but if he couldn’t trust these men there was no one on the face of Safehold he could trust. If one of them was prepared to inform the Inquisition that he was preaching defeatism when he shared the truth with them, there was no point even trying to stem the disaster he saw flowing towards his kingdom like some vast, dark tide.

“Do we have any idea of how severe our losses have been?” Baiket asked somberly, and Thirsk grimaced.

“Not really. Or if anybody does have an estimate, it hasn’t been shared with me. I do know Hanth inflicted heavy casualties on the Army of the Seridahn when he attacked out of Thesmar, though.”

The flag captain’s eyes flickered at that, and Thirsk didn’t blame him. Officially, Sir Fahstyr Rychtyr’s command had been renamed solely as an honor, in perhaps belated recognition of the importance to the Jihad and the Kingdom of its accomplishments. Only an idiot, however — which Baiket was not — could have failed to note Mother Church’s tendency to rename armies in what certainly looked like efforts to stiffen their morale in the face of unimitaged disaster. And that, the earl thought, did not bode well.

“The heretics’ve driven General Rychtyr almost all the way back to Evyrtyn,” he continued. “I don’t know what his losses were at Cheryk and Trevyr, but it doesn’t sound good. And Ahlverez is probably going to lose a lot of whatever he managed to pull out of the Kyplyngyr. I don’t see how anyone could’ve gotten a message to him yet to warn him Rychtyr’s lost Cheryk, much less Trevyr, so he’s probably marching straight towards Hanth right this minute. And we’ve lost touch with everything east of Syrk on the Saint Alyk, as well.” He shook his head and puffed out his cheeks. “Frankly, I’ll be astonished if we get as much as a third of Ahlverez’s troops back, and I wouldn’t count on any of his artillery making it out.”

The only sound was wind and wave as his subordinates looked at one another in dismay. Clearly the rumor mill had yet to catch up with how bad it truly was. Probably, he thought dryly, because the gossip mongers couldn’t believe even a Desnarian could truly have proved as inept as the late and — in Dohlar, at any rate — very unlamented Duke of Harless.

“The good news — or as good as it gets, anyway — is that about a third of the riflemen headed up to reinforce Rychtyr are equipped with the new St. Kylmahns,” he wondered if his subordinates found that name as ironic as he did, given who’d actually designed the new rifle, “so at least they’ll have breechloaders of their own. And if he can hang on for another few five-days, he’ll have at least a couple of batteries of the new rifled angle-guns, too. Combined with the weather and his entrenchments, he ought to be able to hold his position fairly well. Certainly against anything Hanth can throw at him.”

The others nodded, as if he’d just said something hopeful, and he bit his tongue against an unworthy temptation to point out that the Army of Shiloh’s disaster had revealed that unlike the Republic of Siddarmark Army or the Earl of Hanth’s force of Marines and seamen, the Imperial Charisian Army was amply provided with the sort of cavalry — and highly mobile, new model field artillery — needed to work around a fortified position and cut the canal in its rear. Once the forces no doubt pursuing Ahlverez at this very moment reached Evyrtyn, Rychtyr was going to find himself in an even more unenviable position than the rolling disaster which had enveloped the Army of Shiloh. Unless, of course, he had both the wit and the intestinal fortitude to fall back along the Sheryl-Seridahn Canal faster than they could cut it behind him.

From what he knew of Rychtyr, he certainly had the wit, and he might well have the moral courage. Unfortunately, he might not have it, either. And even if he did, that was the sort of decision which could have fatal consequences. Lywys Gardynyr had had a little personal experience of his own in that regard, and the Inquisition had grown even less patient with faint-heartedness in the service of Mother Church over the last few years.

“Sir Rainos always was a bit . . . heedless, My Lord,” Baiket said. “You might say that runs in the family.”

Thirsk’s lips quirked in a sour smile at his flag captain’s none too oblique reference to Rainos Ahlverez’s cousin, Sir Faidel Ahlverez, the deceased Duke of Malika. Malikai had also been a cousin by marriage of Aibram Zavyr, the Duke of Thorast, who — like Ahlverez — held Thirsk personally responsible for Malikai’s disastrous defeat off Armageddon Reef. It wasn’t hard to follow Baiket’s logic, and the truth was that much as Thirsk regretted what had happened to the Army of Shiloh, he was far from blind to the way in which any damage to Ahlverez’s reputation and standing had to reflect upon the men who’d made themselves his patrons. And anything that weakened Thorast’s grip on the Navy had to be a good thing from Lywys Gardynyr’s perspective.

“I think we can all agree Sir Rainos was . . . overconfident before he set out for Alyksberg,” he said out loud. “And if I’m going to be honest, I suppose I should admit the thought of his coming a cropper personally doesn’t fill my heart with dismay,” he added with a generous thousand percent understatement. “But I’ve read some of the dispatches he sent home to Duke Fern and Duke Salthar. On that basis, I have to say that however overconfident he may’ve been before Alyksberg, he did his damnedest to prevent most of Duke Harless’ . . . questionable decisions, shall we say.”

He decided not to mention the letters he’d received from Shulmyn Rahdgyrz, the Baron of Tymplahr. He hoped his old friend was still alive somewhere out there in the muddy, bloody wilderness of the South March, but according to Tymplahr, Sir Rainos Ahlverez had turned out to be remarkably unlike certain of his kinsmen. He’d actually learned from experience.

“Whatever part Sir Rainos may have played in bringing all this about, what’s happened to his army’s far too serious for me to take any satisfaction from how it may have damaged his reputation,” he went on more soberly. “And not just because of the human cost. He had over half the Army’s total field strength under his command, Stywyrt. That’s probably entirely gone, for all practical purposes. Even if we get some of the regiments back, they’ll have to be completely brought back up to strength, reorganized, and — undoubtedly — reequipped before they can possibly be effective fighting units again. And where do you think they’re going to look for the manpower — and the weapons — for that?”

Baiket’s blue eyes darkened and he nodded soberly. The Navy had been reduced to a much smaller slice of the kingdom’s available resources in order to equip and field the army the Temple had demanded be launched into Siddarmark. Now that so much of that army had been destroyed and the threat of an enemy counterattack across Dohlar’s eastern frontiers had become real, the Navy was only too likely to find itself on even shorter rations.

“My Lord,” Khapahr said carefully, “they can’t reduce our priorities too much. Not on the new projects, especially.”

“They may decide they don’t have any choice,” Thirsk disagreed grimly. “When there’s a slash lizard breaking down your front door, the great dragon raiding your neighbor’s pasture has to take second priority, don’t you think?”

“My Lord, the Charisians aren’t loose in our neighbor’s pasture; they’re loose in our pasture, or they damned well will be soon enough. The Harchongians’re going to be hit hard enough if they start operating raiding forces in the western Gulf again, but surely the Army has to understand the consequences if we lose control of the eastern Gulf!”

Thirsk nodded unhappily. His reports on the new armored galleons the Charisians had used to retake Claw Island were far short of complete. Out of Admiral Krahl’s entire garrison, less than a dozen men — the most senior an army lieutenant — had escaped the debacle by commandeering a sixteen-foot sailing dinghy, somehow evading the Charisian pickets, and crossing the six hundred and seventy miles of stormy salt water between Claw Island and the Harchongese province of Kyznetzov.

In the winter . . . in an open boat . . . without a single trained naval officer to get them through it.

He was astounded they’d survived and profoundly grateful for what little they’d been able to report, but it would have been ever so much more useful if one of the naval officers had gotten away. All the actual escapees had been able to tell anyone was that at least two of the Charisian galleons had been invulnerable to the defending artillery. Obviously, they must have been armored, like the ‘smoking ships’ the Charisians had sent rampaging through the canals and rivers in Bishop Militant Bahrnabai’s rear last summer. The good news was that they’d been galleons, propelled by the masts and sails he understood, not whatever deviltry the river ironclads used. But to offset that smidgeon of sunlight, the artillery they’d ignored had been naval guns equipped to fire not only explosive shells but red-hot round shot — heavy ¬ round shot, not the lighter projectiles of the field artillery which had failed to stop the ironclads along the canals.

At least there were only two of them, he reminded himself. So far, at least.


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: HFQ Official Snippet #7
Post by OlorinNight   » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:49 am

OlorinNight
Lieutenant (Senior Grade)

Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2014 6:10 am
Location: Bruxelles (Belgium)

Woaw!!

Thank you very much for this snippet!! As brilliant as always!
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Re: HFQ Official Snippet #7
Post by ksandgren   » Mon Sep 29, 2014 2:53 am

ksandgren
Captain (Junior Grade)

Posts: 342
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2011 5:54 pm
Location: Los Angeles, California

Thanks again for the snippet, RFC. Let the guesses and commentary begin again.
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Re: HFQ Official Snippet #7
Post by isaac_newton   » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:16 am

isaac_newton
Rear Admiral

Posts: 1095
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:37 am
Location: Brighton, UK

Ahhhh - what a nice way to start the week. :D

So, the Dohlarens found out both bits of bad news at once
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Re: HFQ Official Snippet #7
Post by isaac_newton   » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:24 am

isaac_newton
Rear Admiral

Posts: 1095
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:37 am
Location: Brighton, UK

runsforcelery wrote: Obviously, they must have been armored, like the ‘smoking ships’ the Charisians had sent rampaging through the canals and rivers in Bishop Militant Bahrnabai’s rear last summer. The good news was that they’d been galleons, propelled by the masts and sails he understood, not whatever deviltry the river ironclads used. But to offset that smidgeon of sunlight, the artillery they’d ignored had been naval guns equipped to fire not only explosive shells but red-hot round shot — heavy ¬ round shot, not the lighter projectiles of the field artillery which had failed to stop the ironclads along the canals.

At least there were only two of them, he reminded himself. So far, at least.


smidgeon of sunlight soon to be gone!
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Re: HFQ Official Snippet #7
Post by John Prigent   » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:36 am

John Prigent
Captain of the List

Posts: 592
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 7:05 am
Location: Sussex, England

Thank you, RFC!
Cheers
John
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Re: HFQ Official Snippet #7
Post by cdieter20   » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:43 am

cdieter20
Ensign

Posts: 10
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2014 10:12 pm

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

That being said it looks like Dohlar is caught between a rock and a hard place so to speak. It will be interesting to see what decisions are made when they have an army and a navy knocking at their front door
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Re: HFQ Official Snippet #7
Post by BarryKirk   » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:57 am

BarryKirk
Captain of the List

Posts: 403
Joined: Sat Aug 11, 2012 1:27 pm
Location: York, PA

Thank you RFC for another most excellent snippet.

Sounds like Thirsk is going to be wondering what happens when he runs into a steam powered armored blue water ship.
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Re: HFQ Official Snippet #7
Post by XofDallas   » Mon Sep 29, 2014 5:17 am

XofDallas
Commander

Posts: 156
Joined: Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:50 pm

Thank you, RFC! I am already loving how this story is unfolding.
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Re: HFQ Official Snippet #7
Post by 6L6   » Mon Sep 29, 2014 5:35 am

6L6
Commander

Posts: 165
Joined: Sat Apr 26, 2014 7:37 pm
Location: Sourthern Md. USA

Thanks RFC, Can't wait till next week.
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