Topic Actions

Topic Search

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 10 guests

HFQ Snippet 27[?] a

This fascinating series is a combination of historical seafaring, swashbuckling adventure, and high technological science-fiction. Join us in a discussion!
HFQ Snippet 27[?] a
Post by runsforcelery   » Thu Jul 09, 2015 2:38 pm

runsforcelery
First Space Lord

Posts: 2425
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:39 am
Location: South Carolina

Part two!

__________________________________________________________


“Now that we’ve attended to that pressing concern — and thank you for asking, by the way — I suppose we should get some business done. Since Vicar Allayn may not join us after all, why don’t you and I go ahead? If he does get here, we can bring him up to date on anything we’ve already covered. In the meanwhile, I’m sure there are things you and I need to discuss from the Treasury’s viewpoint, anyway.”

“Of course, Your Grace.” Fultyn inclined his head in a sort of half-bow across the desk.

It wasn’t as if the foundry was so busy that finding time for meetings was difficult. The tempo in Zion’s manufactories always slowed, along with all the rest of the city, during the winter, but this year it had slowed much further than the winter before. The shipments of coal and iron ore which Mother Church’s capital city and its foundries routinely stockpiled each autumn against the coming winter’s needs, especially since the outbreak of the Jihad, had been hugely curtailed last year by the chaos in Siddarmark. As a consequence, Fultyn found himself with entirely too much time in which to do entirely too little, so making reports, even knowing he’d have to do it all over again whenever Vicar Allayn did arrive, was something of a relief from boredom. Besides, Vicar Rhobair was a frighteningly intelligent man. He was no mechanic or artificer, yet many of his questions had sent Fultyn questing down highly profitable avenues which might never have occurred to him otherwise.

“I realize it may not look like we’re getting much accomplished just at the moment here at St. Kylmahn’s, Your Grace,” he began, waving one hand at the ice frozen into the corners of his office windowpanes. “But we got quite a bit done before we froze over, and our shops are still turning out gauges and jigs to the new patterns. Of course, things are more lively at our less icy manufactories, but Brother Tahlbaht’s taking advantage of our own lowered tempo to tweak his production circles’ arrangements. The slower conditions let him move his workers around hunting for ways to increase their efficiency still further, and we’re sending his suggestions out by semaphore whenever weather permits. I understand they’ve increased productivity by another three or four percent at the manufactories that are still operating at peak levels.”

“Believe me, I’m fully aware of that, Brother.” Duchairn smiled briefly. “The bills arriving at the Treasury would confirm it even if the letters coming back from the front didn’t. Bishop Militant Bahrnabai’s praises have been especially loud, and I assure you I’m equally well aware — probably even more aware — of how much the entire Church owes you and Lieutenant Zhwaigair.”

Fultyn smiled back at the sincerity of the vicar’s last sentence. He’d read many of the same letters from the Army of God’s frontline officers, but the approval of a man like Vicar Rhobair was always welcome.

“Well,” he said, “I have to admit I’ve been happily surprised myself by the production numbers. They’re much higher than I’d anticipated, to be honest. And the conversion kits are working out better than expected, as well.”

Duchairn’s lips twitched on the edge of another, broader smile. He and Fultyn hadn’t had this conversation previously, but Allayn Maigwair had waxed almost poetic making the same points to him, and never more so than about the modifications Lynkyn had made to Zhawaigair’s original rifle design.

The sheer brilliance of the Dohlaran’s deceptively simple concept had started the process, but the final design was as much Lynkyn’s brainchild as Zhwaigair’s. The lieutenant had designed an entirely new receiver as a separate unit that threaded onto the breech end of a rifle’s barrel. The receiver was considerably broader than the rest of the barrel, and not just to accommodate the new breech and the multi-start screw which opened and closed it. The extra width allowed for a firing chamber, slightly larger in diameter than the rest of the rifle’s bore, that tapered smoothly to meet the rifled portion of the barrel. It also meant the well in which the plug traveled was wide enough to admit the tip of a thumb. The idea was to load a paper cartridge through the well at an angle, using the tapering chamber to guide it, then push it fully home with a thrust of the thumb. That allowed the lieutenant’s original design to be fired much more rapidly than any muzzle-loader, but the loading motion was still a little awkward, and burned thumbs were inevitable, given how fiercely the breech heated in firing. The first experiments with the original design had demonstrated that very high rates of fire could be maintained once a rifleman was trained, yet Zhwaigair himself would have been the first to suggest there was room for improvement.

Lynkyn had provided that improvement, and his modification had been just as brilliant — and almost as simple — as Zhwaigair’s initial concept. He’d simply observed that the screw sealed the breech when the threads on the front and sides of the screw engaged the threads cut into the face and sides of the breech. . . and that there was more than enough metal to either side — and above and below the axis of the bore — to hold the screw securely when it was closed. That meant metal behind the screw could be cut away. Or, put another way, the bore could be extended clear through the receiver and, with the breech screw dropped to the loading position, a cartridge could be inserted from the rear in a straight-line, natural path, exactly the same way the heretics loaded their rifles. The new receiver was a sturdy block of metal which contained the breech screw and trigger group, with the caplock mounted on its right side. It also formed a bridge joining the shoulder stock to the forestock and handguard without weakening the stock’s wrist the way Zhwaigair had feared it might. In fact, the new rifle was even stronger than the old one had been.

“I wish we had more of the kits than we do,” Fultyn continued, and his own smile vanished as his brain returned to a familiar frustration. “They’re working better than trying to ship rifles back to the manufactories for conversion, but they’re not working enough better.”

“No one could possibly accomplish any more than you are, Brother Lynkyn. Vicar Allayn and I know that, even if you don’t.” Duchairn allowed a hint of sternness into his own tone. “And judging from his correspondence, Bishop Militant Bahnabai clearly shares our opinion in that respect!”

Fultyn looked rebellious, but then he inhaled and nodded in agreement.

The field conversions were less sophisticated, both because of the armorers’ limited facilities and because every St. Kylmahn receiver was going straight into a new-build rifle or into converting a muzzle-loading rifle which had not yet been shipped to the front. There simply wasn’t sufficient foundry capacity to produce enough of them to convert weapons which had already been issued, as well. The best Fultyn had been able to do was send the field armorers breech screws, taps, and cutting heads. An armorer used the cutting head — essentially a half-inch drill bit — to bore a vertical hole through an existing rifle barrel, then used the taps to cut the female threads inside the hole to match those of the prefabricated screws.

Because the hole was so narrow, it was impossible to load a proper cartridge as Zhwaigair had originally envisioned. Instead, the rifleman had to insert the bullet and load loose powder behind it, which slowed his rate of fire badly. On the other hand, he could still fire twice as rapidly as he’d been able to manage with a muzzle-loader. Even more importantly, he could reload in a prone position, which had proven to be one of the heretics’ greatest tactical advantages.

“I’m glad the Bishop Militant feels that way, Your Grace,” Fultyn said after a moment. “That doesn’t mean anyone here at St. Kylmahn’s is satisfied, though.”

“Of course you aren’t, but Vicar Allayn tells me that between a quarter and a third of Bishop Militant Bahrnabai’s older rifles should have been converted by the time the weather makes campaigning possible again.”

“That’s true, Your Grace. But Bishop Militant Cahnyr won’t be able to say the same.” Fultyn sighed. “We’ve gotten some new production rifles to him, but only five or six thousand, and all the conversion kits are going to the Army of the Sylmahn. We had to prioritize somehow, and Vicar Allayn instructed us to give precedence to Bishop Militant Bahrnabai.”

“I know.”

Duchairn understood the logic behind that decision. He wasn’t sure he agreed with it — and he knew damned well Allayn Maigwair didn’t! — but the logic in question, unfortunately, was Zhaspahr Clyntahn’s.

By every normal rule of warfare, Cahnyr Kaitswyrth’s Army of Glacierheart was likely to be attacked sooner than the Army of the Sylmahn, simply because the snow would melt so much earlier in Cliff Peak. Despite all that had happened to the Army of the Sylmahn, however, it remained little more than nine hundred miles from Siddar City itself, and the Sylmahn Gap was the only direct invasion route to the Siddarmarkian capital. If Wyrshym could hold his position against the heretics— if he could hold — the Army of God would be well placed to resume Mother Church’s inexorable advance. Of course, it was entirely possible, perhaps even probable, Wyrshym wouldn’t hold his position. What had happened at Esthyr’s Abbey last five-day suggested the Charisians were much more winter-mobile than anyone had expected. Worse, the Church had no firsthand report on the battle because not one defender had escaped death or capture, which had to cast doubt on Wyrshym’s ability to hold his other positions. But no one could expect Clyntahn to admit that, and he’d demanded that every possible resource be used to bolster the Army of the Sylmahn, no matter how problematical its chance to hold or how badly those resources might be needed somewhere else.

On the other hand, even Zhaspahr can be right sometimes, can’t he? Duchairn reminded himself. It may be more a matter of spleen and bile than logic, but that doesn’t necessarily make him wrong.

Even a rational human being could justify running serious risks to sustain Wyrshym’s army. The strategic advantages were obvious, and the sheer number of men under his command was another argument in favor of straining every sinew to preserve it. Although the Army of the Sylmahn had shrunk to little more than half its original strength, sixty thousand men were still sixty thousand men, and if Wyrshym couldn’t hold his ground, his losses as he retreated were likely to rival those the Duke of Harless had suffered in the South March.

For that matter, we could afford to lose Cliff Peak a lot better than we could afford to lose Hildermoss. And Kaitswyrth’s supply lines are in better shape. We could move fresh troops more rapidly to respond to an attack there than anywhere else. So if we have to run a risk somewhere — which, obviously, we do — risking Kaitswyrth probably does make more sense. I only wish I had more faith in his ability to hold his ground. After what Eastshare did to him last summer, though . . .

The Treasurer gave himself a mental shake. Maigwair, he knew, shared his doubts about Kaitswyrth’s mental state. The bishop militant’s former brash confidence had been replaced by a querulous anxiety which saw a heretic hiding under every leaf and rock. It was bad enough when the soldiers of an army felt half defeated before the first shot was fired; it was far worse when the commander of an army felt that way, and Maigwair had tried repeatedly to ease Kaitswyrth out of command. Unfortunately, Kaitswyrth continued to enjoy the confidence of Sedryk Zavyr, the Army of Glacierheart’s intendant, and the Inquisition because of his fiery devotion to purging the Republic of all heresy. Replacing him with someone else would have required a knockdown, drag-out fight with Clyntahn, who valued fervor even more than competence.

“One advantage of converting Bishop Militant Bahrnabai’s rifles is that it gives him a degree of standardization the rifles we’ve been delivering to the Mighty Host don’t really have yet,” Fultyn offered after a moment. There was probably a little sourness in that, Duchairn thought, given what a huge percentage of new rifle production had been poured into the task of rearming the vast Harchongese army wintering along the Holy Langhorne Canal. “The Host’s rifles come from every manufactory with a rifle shop, whereas all the screws and all the taps and dies going to the Army of the Sylmahn are from right here at St. Kylmahn’s or from St. Greyghor’s. So if it’s necessary to replace one of the screws, the Bishop Militant’s armorers should find it a fairly simple task. For that matter, they’ll have the dies to cut new replacement screws of their own, if they have to.”

“That’s good to know,” Duchairn said, with a degree of understanding which would never have occurred to him before the last five or six months.

Of course, that had been before Brother Lynkyn explained the huge edge the heretics enjoyed because of the interchangeability of their parts. He and Lieutenant Zwaigair had reached many of the same conclusions about those advantages independently, and ever since Fultyn had explained them to Duchairn and Maigwair, he and Tahlbaht Bryairs, his assistant, had bent the their minds on ways to offset some of the enemy’s advantages.

At least they’d had a few plusses of their own to help. The largest and most immediate was a massive increase in manpower — and womanpower — thanks to Duchairn’s non-discretionary directive that the great orders release at least twenty-five percent of their ordained members, lay members, and employees to the Jihad’s needs. Those orders were by far the biggest employers in all of Safehold, yet even the Treasurer had been startled by the sheer number of warm bodies his order had produced. And to be fair, the orders had sent their fittest, healthiest people in almost every case. He hadn’t really counted on their doing that without a little . . . encouragement from himself and the Inquisition, and the size of the workforce it had produced was one of the Jihad’s happier surprises.

A large chunk of that workforce — much to its disgruntlement — had found itself assigned to the fields, to Duchairn’s quartermaster’s corps, or even to the canal repair crews, but even more had been assigned to the manufactories. Hands which had been soft from years of office work (or no work, really, in too many cases) had become hardened to actual toil in Mother Church’s service, and Duchairn suspected it was doing their owners’ spiritual health a world of good. Not that all of those owners would have agreed with him.

It had certainly done Mother Church’s manufactories good, however. The influx of workers had found themselves incorporated into more of Bryairs’ “circles of production,” which were rapidly spreading beyond foundries like St. Kylmahn’s to other areas of manufacturing, as well. Not without resistance. The Gunmakers Guild continued to protest (despite all evidence to the contrary) that so many “new and untried methods of manufacture must inevitably reduce our ability to arm Mother Church’s defenders in the field,” and some of the other guilds had joined them as they recognized the threat to their member’s prestige and income. Unfortunately for the guildsmen, Zhaspahr Clyntahn found himself in the rare position of actually agreeing with the Treasurer and Captain General.

None of the new workers could have been considered masters of their new trades — the new “gunmakers,” for example, each knew how to make only a single part, using gauges and jigs provided to them — but that was fine with Bryairs. He’d built his “circles” around numbers of workers calculated to produce each of a rifle’s parts in the quantities needed to allow the circle’s other workers to assemble complete weapons as rapidly as possible. None of them could have built an entire rifle, the way trained gunsmiths could, but each circle could turn out several times as many rifles as the same number of individual gunmakers could have produced using traditional techniques.

Not content with that achievement, Fultyn and Bryairs were now pushing to supply every circle, wherever it might be, with uniform gauges and jigs for as many parts as possible. They’d all been manufactured solely at St. Kylmahn’s and St. Greyghor’s, initially, but each shipment to one of the other manufactories was accompanied by a member of Fultyn’s staff to oversee the fabrication on-site of still more of them from the master patterns. It would take time, but once the process was completed the parts made using those patterns should be interchangeable with parts from any other source. Not to the same degree or with the same precision as the heretics managed, unfortunately. All too often, they would still require some adjustment, some filing and shaping to fit. Overall, however, the improvement would be enormous.

They’d already achieved an unprecedented degree of standardization in the three central arms manufactories around Zion: St. Kylmahn’s, St. Greyghor’s, and St. Marytha’s. All receivers, breech screws, trigger groups, and caplocks produced by those three manufactories were fully interchangeable. The bulk of the rifles being manufactured outside Zion — which, unfortunately, meant the majority of all rifles at the moment — still used locally produced and cut screws and breeches, but the new gauges, jigs, and dies were spreading more rapidly than Duchairn had allowed himself to hope they might. There was no way Mother Church’s manufactories were going to match the heretics’ ability to swap any parts between rifles, wherever they’d been made, yet if they could match that capability for the most critical components, that might be good enough.

And, in the meantime, they’d adopted yet another heretic innovation and every manufactory had begun stamping every part it made with its own identifying cartouche. At the very least, an armorer at the front would be able to identify the source of the original part at a glance, which would significantly speed repairs by telling him where to look for a replacement that would fit with the least possible adjustment.

“I think —” the vicar began, then paused as the office door opened once more and Brother Zhoel reappeared.

Fultyn’s secretary was accompanied by another lay brother, pushing a wheeled cart covered by a snowy linen cloth and bearing two tall steins of beer, two large covered plates, a loaf of crusty brown bread, napkins, and silverware. The lay brothers bustled about, whipping off the covers to reveal two more loaves of bread which had been hollowed out to contain generous servings of clam chowder, rich with fresh cream, potatoes, and corn and dusted with grated cheese. By this time of year, the clams were canned and the corn had been desiccated for preservation, but it still smelled heavenly. One bowl was deposited on Brother Lynkyn’s desk while the cart itself was wheeled over and parked conveniently in front of the vicar. Brother Zhoel whipped another cloth off the butter dish, took one more critical look at the food, then bowed to Duchairn and Fultyn before he and his fellow withdrew as wordlessly as they had arrived.

“I believe some of your staff might have futures in restaurant careers after the Jihad, Brother Lynkyn,” Duchairn observed, and Fultyn chuckled.

“As long as the restaurant doesn’t try to steal Brother Khalvyn or Sister Tabtha from our kitchens, Your Grace. I think you’ll find the soup palatable.”

Duchairn bent his head in silent blessing for a moment, then signed himself with Langhorne’s Scepter and picked up his spoon. He tried the chowder cautiously, then smiled in delight.

“You don’t need to worry about any restaurants raiding your kitchens, Brother,” he said. “I’ll cheerfully anathematize anyone who tries! Now my kitchen, on the other hand . . . .”

Fultyn smiled back, pleased by the compliment — which, he admitted, was well deserved — and applied himself to his meal with gusto. He and Duchairn ate in a companionable silence which was made more peaceful and intimate by the increasingly angry wind-whine outside the office windows. By the time they finished, only crusts remained, and they sat back, nursing their beer steins as they returned to the matters which had brought the vicar to St. Kylmahn’s.

“If I might ask, Your Grace,” Fultyn said after a moment, “how well are the foundries outside Zion converting to the new steelmaking processes?”

His tone was wistful, and despite the gravity of the situation, Duchairn smiled. Winter had closed in too quickly for any of the foundries in the northern Temple Lands to construct the new “open hearth” furnaces before everything froze solid.

“The work’s coming along well, Brother — thanks largely to your efforts. There’s been some resistance, but most of our ironmasters are kicking themselves for not having come up with the same concepts themselves. As you pointed out to me, many of them are refinements of things we already knew — very clever, but not radically new inventions — that the heretics came up with before they occurred to anyone else. And where there has been resistance, Vicar Zhaspahr’s overcome it handily. Five new furnaces will go into production in the Episcopate of St. Grovair, on Fairstock Bay in Hayzor, and at Malantor in the Duchy of Malansath early next month, and a dozen or so more will be beginning operations a few five-days after that in Kyznetzov and Shwei. By May, we’ll have several producing in Queiroz and even a few in Tiegelkamp and Stene. And, of course, once the thaw sets in, we’ll be able to begin expanding and converting St. Kylmahn’s and the other northern foundries. By the end of May, according to my inspectors’ reports, we ought to be producing almost as much steel each month, just in the new hearths, as we produced each month in all the crucibles in the Temple Lands combined last year. Actually, that’s in addition to the crucibles’ production, since they’re staying in full operation until we can switch over to the new hearths completely, and output’s going to increase steadily as we get additional furnaces into operation.”

Fultyn’s nostrils flared as he drew a deep breath of satisfaction. And quite probably of relief, now that Duchairn thought about it. He’d been the one ordered to produce the plans and directions from the captured heretic documents, and Lynkyn Fultyn was fully aware of the ambivalence with which Zhaspahr Clyntahn and the Inquisition regarded someone like him. Mother Church might need his ability to think outside the bounds of tradition, but that didn’t mean the Proscriptions’ guardians had to like it. Had those plans not worked . . . .

“That probably means we won’t need to continue with the banded artillery designs,” the Chihirite said after a second or two. “In fact, if we can produce steel in sufficient quantities, we may be able to abandon iron guns entirely, the way the heretics have. That’s good.”

“Possibly, but we’ll have to see how that works out,” Duchairn cautioned. “In the meantime, Vicar Allayn tells me reports from the artillerists who’ve been issued the new guns are highly favorable.”

“The majority of them have been,” Fultyn agreed. “Not all, though.” He took a sip of beer and frowned, eyes focused on something only he could see. “Some of the guns are shedding the reinforcing bands, so obviously our present technique doesn’t attach them as securely as I’d hoped. Brother Sylvestrai and I have had a few thoughts on ways to improve that, but without the ability to cast more guns and work on them here at St. Kylmahn’s, we can’t test them properly.”

“What sort of thoughts?” Duchairn asked curiously.

“Brother Sylvestrai’s suggested that instead of cooling the reinforcing band of wrought iron from the outside after it’s been fitted to the gun, we should pump cold water down the gun tube’s bore and cool it from the inside while the band is being slipped over the breech,” Fultyn replied. “The idea is to prevent the tube itself from heating excessively when the band is applied, and he’s also suggested covering the reinforce with sand to insulate it once the inner layers have bound to the tube. That ought to keep the outer layers of the band from cooling more quickly than its middle layers, which is probably what’s been causing the cracks we’ve observed. I think he’s quite right about that, and while I was considering his suggestions, it occurred to me that if the gun is rotated on its axis — with the band in place but not turning with it, you understand — we could prevent the reinforce from binding first in a single place. The rotary motion would prevent any adhesion until the entire band shrinks enough to “grab” and it welds all around its circumference simultaneously. I think that should provide a far better weld and a stronger reinforce, and I’ve sent those recommendations to the foundries where the guns are actually being made.”

Duchairn nodded wisely. He doubted Brother Lynkyn thought for a minute that he really understood what the Chihirite was talking about, in which case he was completely correct. But that was fine, because what the vicar did understand was more than enough. What mattered to him — and, he was pretty sure, to Allayn Maigwair — was that the new guns (already named Fultyn Rifles by the gunners who’d received them, although Zhaspahr Clyntahn seemed less than enthused by that) fired heavier projectiles to far greater ranges. The initial models had been built on altered twelve-pounder tubes, with the same bore dimensions but about a foot more length than the smoothbore weapons. With a thirty-pound solid shot fired at fifteen degrees elevation, they’d ranged to almost thirty-five hundred yards, twice the range of the standard twelve-pounder, and to forty-five hundred yards with a lighter twenty-pound shell carrying two and a half pounds of powder. Larger field guns, with bores of up to six inches and firing shells of up to two hundred pounds at even greater elevations were under development as well, with ranges which might go as high as eight thousand or even ten thousand yards. Concerns about guns which shed their reinforcing bands, split, or even blew up occasionally were secondary in the minds of gunners when they were suddenly gifted with that increase in performance after being so mercilessly pounded by the longer-ranged heritc guns. And even larger and more powerful weapons were being developed for coastal defense, with an urgency driven by the heretic ironclads’ apparent invulnerability to existing artillery.

“We’re working on improving the shells’ reliability, as well,” Fultyn continued a bit fretfully, obviously unaware of the vicar’s thoughts. “The new fuses give more consistent detonation times, but simply coating the projectiles in lead doesn’t work as well as I’d hoped it would. Quite a few seem to strip out of the lead jackets on their way down the barrel, and they don’t do it uniformly. Some of the lead stays attached on one side or the other, which unbalances them badly, at which point they actually become less accurate than smoothbore shot. I’ve come up with a possible solution — well, actually, Brother Sylvestrai and I have — but I’m afraid it’s going to make them more expensive.”

“Why?”

Duchairn tried not to sound wary, but he knew he’d failed when Fultyn’s unfocused eyes narrowed and sharpened. There might even have been the slightest of twinkles in their brown depths, the Treasurer reflected.

“The cost increase won’t be huge, Your Grace,” the Chihirite soothed. “In fact, it’ll cost less than the improvement Brother Sylvestrai originally suggested to me, although it will add an additional stage to shell manufacture.

“I think we’re going to have to abandon my proposed lead jackets and go back to a variant of the heretics’ practices. I’d hoped the jackets would let us avoid those ‘gas checks’ of theirs, but it’s clear I was overly optimistic. We’ll have to cast our projectiles with the same grooved bases and fit them with a seal, after all, but Brother Sylvestrai suggested we could still dispense with the rifling studs the heretics rely on if we used a wrought iron skirt or shoe the same diameter as the shell but stamped around its rim to take the rifling. I suppose you’d call it ‘pre-rifling, and his idea was to combine the seal and the rifling in a single shoe. I think he’s on the right track, but the additional wrought iron — though I suppose we could use steel, once it becomes available in quantity — would increase both cost and manufacturing time considerably. So I want to try using a more elastic material — bronze, probably — that expands when the propelling charge detonates. What I’m thinking is that bronze is tough enough it won’t deform and strip the way lead does, especially if it takes the total initial force of the powder charge and transfers it to the projectile, instead of the other way around. On the other hand, it’s enough softer than wrought iron that it should expand into the shallower rifling grooves we’re using without the need for the pre-rifling Brother Sylvestrai’s suggested or the heretics’ studded shell bodies. It should actually produce a tighter seal, as well, which ought to drive up muzzle velocity and give us somewhat better range. Either way, it should be simpler than producing studded shells, and considerably less expensive than using wrought iron.”

“I see.” Duchairn frowned down into his stein, then shrugged. “I can’t say I’m in favor of spending any more than we have to, but I’ve noticed most of your innovations work out even better than expected. I’ll want to talk to Vicar Allayn about it, but if he agrees, the Treasury will just have to find the marks we need. And by the strangest coincidence,” the vicar smiled suddenly, “you and Brother Tahlbaht are saving enough on the new rifles that I just happen to have quite a store of unanticipated marks on the books.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Your Grace,” Fultyn said slowly, “because I’m afraid I may’ve come up with yet another way to spend some of them, too.”

“Oh?”

Duchairn’s eyes narrowed — more speculatively than repressively — and Fultyn nodded.

“Some of the alternatives my artisans have suggested as answers to the heretics’ portable angle-guns work, but none of them work as well as the angle-guns do. The spring-loaded catapult works best, but that’s not really saying a lot, to be honest. It’s badly outranged by the heretics’ weapons, and slower firing, to boot. On the other hand, it’s almost silent and there’s no smoke to give away its position when it fires. Vicar Allayn assures me those are important advantages, but I have to confess that none of our original answers come close to matching the performance of the heretics’ weapons.

“The estimates of steel production you’ve just given me make me more optimistic about our ability to produce the same sorts of angle-guns, eventually at least. On the other hand, a thought occurred to me last five-day. There might be a way to provide an even greater capability for the kind of . . . indirect fire, for want of a better term, the heretics are using on our own men. Something closer to the capabilities of their regular artillery’s heavy angle-guns, but a lot more portable.”

“How portable?”

“Less so than the heretic infantry’s portable angle-guns, I suspect, Your Grace, but much, much more portable than most regular artillery pieces.”

Duchairn frowned again, wishing Maigwair could have been present after all. The last time he’d spoken to the Captain General, Maigwair had waxed eloquent in his enthusiasm for the full-sized rifled angle-guns Fultyn had designed for the Army of God. Frankly, Duchairn doubted Fultyn’s initial efforts would match the performance of the heretics’ weapons, yet Maigwair obviously expected them to compensate for much of Church’s present inferiority. At the same time, it was unlikely more than a few score of the new weapons could be gotten to the armies in the field before the spring thaw, and even if they could, the heretics and their infantry angle-guns had delivered a pointed lesson in the advantages of mobility.

“What do you have in mind, Brother Lynkyn?” he asked finally, and the Chihirite opened a desk drawer and extracted a circular disk of what looked like bronze. It was about four inches in diameter, Duchairn estimated, and perhaps a half-inch thick, and pierced by a series of angled slots or holes.

“This is part of one of the heretics’ rockets, Your Grace.” Fultyn laid it on his desktop and slid it across to Duchairn. “One of the Inquisition’s agents managed to . . . acquire specimens of two or three of their new devices, including a signaling rocket and one that’s probably what they used to illuminate Bishop Militant Cahnyr’s troops on the Daivyn River. I’m not certain about that, but the top portion of it was packed with some compound I didn’t recognize and fitted with a sort of folded parasol. I’ve experimented with it a little, and I think the parasol is what keeps the burning compound suspended as it drops down towards the ground, sort of like a dandelion seed.

“There are several other interesting aspects of their design,” he continued in a very careful tone — one, Duchairn supected, which was intended to make it very clear that while those aspects might be “interesting,” they weren’t “fascinating.” The latter was the sort of word the Inquisition found unacceptable when applied to the heretic’s demonically inspired devices.

“What sort of aspects?” the vicar asked in an almost equally careful tone.

“Well, I’ve wondered ever since I first heard about the heretics’ rockets how they obtained such uniform performance. Our own efforts to duplicate them have been much more unpredictable and erratic in flight. Some of them have actually come around in complete circles to land right back where they were launched from, in fact! Initially, I assumed that was because our gunpowder burns less consistently than theirs, which means it delivers its pushing power more unevenly, and I still believe that’s probably part of the problem. But when I started looking at this —” the Chihirite tapped the disk on his desk “— I realized that what it does is to . . . focus and direct the gasses spitting out of the back of the rocket. It shapes and regulates them, and I suspect the reason is to impart a spin to the entire rocket, the way rifling grooves spin and stabilize a bullet or an artillery shell. I’m virtually certain this is the main reason their rockets fly so much farther and so much straighter than ours do.”

“And what exactly does that mean, Brother?” Duchairn picked up the disk and weighed it in his hand. It was heavy, although it still seemed preposterously light for something that could do what Fultyn had just described.

“What that means, Your Grace, is that if I’m right, and if we can duplicate this, we can produce rockets of our own . . . and not just for signaling purposes. I understand how important signaling and illumination are, but what I’m thinking about would be an actual weapon in its own right. I’ve sketched out a design for a rocket that would be five inches in diameter. All of my calculations are very rough, of course, because I haven’t had an opportunity to actually try them, but if I’m right, we could put as much as ten pounds of powder into its head and fire it to as much as five or six thousand yards. Possibly even farther. They’d be two or three feet long, and they’d probably weigh somewhere around twenty-five or thirty pounds apiece, so an individual soldier couldn’t carry more than three or four of them, and each of them could only be used once. But I think the rocket bodies could be made out of wood, which would make them much cheaper than any artillery shell. I might be wrong about that, but even if we needed to make them out of iron, they’d still use less of it and require much less labor than any other artillery weapon we have.”

“I see,” Duchairn murmured. “And how accurate would they be?”

“Even if I’m right about what the holes in that do,” Fultyn replied, gesturing at the disk in Duchairn’s hand, “and we can produce rockets as stable in flight as the heretics’ are, they wouldn’t be what anyone might call precision weapons, Your Grace. As individual projectiles, they’d be considerably less accurate than the new angle-guns’ shells, for example. But they’d also be much more destructive, and we could produce a great many of them for the cost of a single angle-gun. That would let us use them in greater numbers, and if they were fired at a target in groups — twenty or thirty at a time, let’s say — they could blanket its position even if none of them individually was all that accurate. In fact, a little inaccuracy might actually help by giving us more dispersion to cover a wider area. And if their heads were loaded with shrapnel and equipped with reasonably reliable fuses, they could provide the same sorts of aerial bursts the heretics’ angle-guns are providing but over even larger areas. So if a few hundred of them were fired simultaneously and caught a heretic army in the open . . . .”

The lay brother’s voice trailed off, and Duchairn tried not to shiver in a reaction which had nothing at all to do with the snow outside Fultyn’s office as he attempted to envision what the Chihirite had just described. His imagination was unequal to the task, and he discovered that he was just as happy it was.

“I think I’ll definitely avail myself of St. Kylmahn’s hospitality tonight, Brother Lynkyn,” he said after a moment, laying the bronze disk back on the desk. “This is clearly something Vicar Allayn and I will need to discuss, and obviously we need you to be part of the conversation.”

“Of course, Your Grace,” Fultyn murmured, sliding the disk back into his drawer and closing it. There was something a bit odd about his voice, and when he looked up and his eyes met Duchairn’s, the vicar realized what that oddity was.

He’s been thinking about this longer than I have. That means he’s probably come a lot closer to imagining what those rockets of his might be capable of . . . and he doesn’t like it one bit more than I do.

It was strange, the Treasurer thought. The Inquisition would undoubtedly have all manner of reservations about Fultyn’s proposal, since its most important design feature was copied directly from yet another heretical device, but it wouldn’t matter. And the reason it wouldn’t matter was that the one man in Zion who definitely wouldn’t flinch from what the Chihirite was proposing — the one man who would positively exult in the slaughter it might produce, be its origins however heretical — was the head of that Inquisition.

Oh, yes. Allayn and I won’t have any problem at all convincing Zhaspahr to endorse this one . . . no matter how many dispensations he has to issue.

.XII.
Daivyn River,
Twelve miles east of Stantyn,
Cliff Peak Province,
Republic of Siddarmark.


The wind gusted down the long, frozen surface of the Daivyn River in a sullen roar of leafless branches, bitter enough to steal a statue’s breath.


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
Top
Re: HFQ Snippet 27[?] a
Post by yatesps1   » Thu Jul 09, 2015 3:25 pm

yatesps1
Midshipman

Posts: 3
Joined: Sat May 16, 2015 3:19 pm

So, the CoG has missiles in its back pocket. Not modern versions, surely, but still. The ease of making these weapons, combined with the huge numbers of soldiers the Cog has, will make these dangerous weapons.
.
Looks like the ICA is about to get an unpleasant surprise.
Top
Re: HFQ Snippet 27[?] a
Post by Undercover Fat Kid   » Thu Jul 09, 2015 3:38 pm

Undercover Fat Kid
Commander

Posts: 202
Joined: Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:20 pm

Excellent! The sacrifice worked!
.
.
Death is as a feather,
Duty is as a mountain
This life is a dream
From which we all
Must wake
Top
Re: HFQ Snippet 27[?] a
Post by JeffEngel   » Thu Jul 09, 2015 4:07 pm

JeffEngel
Admiral

Posts: 2074
Joined: Mon Aug 11, 2014 5:06 pm

yatesps1 wrote:So, the CoG has missiles in its back pocket. Not modern versions, surely, but still. The ease of making these weapons, combined with the huge numbers of soldiers the Cog has, will make these dangerous weapons.
.
Looks like the ICA is about to get an unpleasant surprise.

On the other hand, an ICA formation isn't likely to be found often packed in the open.

I wonder how well one of them could be put together from smuggled parts in Siddar City and pointed at the Emperor and/or Lord Protector in public or a specific building though. Granted, chances are good a SNARC would catch it, but good chances aren't totally comforting, it may be hard to cover up discovering it, and there's a lot of other damage that can be done by "Rocket Rakurai".
Top
Re: HFQ Snippet 27[?] a
Post by isaac_newton   » Thu Jul 09, 2015 5:14 pm

isaac_newton
Rear Admiral

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

What had happened at Esthyr’s Abbey last five-day suggested the Charisians were much more winter-mobile than anyone had expected. Worse, the Church had no firsthand report on the battle because not one defender had escaped death or capture, which had to cast doubt on Wyrshym’s ability to hold his other positions


Well, that answers that long discussion about the outcome of the fight at St E's and how many would escape.

Am I right in thinking that Merlin et all can eavesdrop in St K's on Fultyn & Duchairn? I guess that they have to have been well aware of those planned weapons developments...
Top
Re: HFQ Snippet 27[?] a
Post by tootall   » Thu Jul 09, 2015 5:36 pm

tootall
Captain (Junior Grade)

Posts: 349
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2011 12:23 am

JeffEngel
I wonder how well one of them could be put together from smuggled parts in Siddar City and pointed at the Emperor and/or Lord Protector in public or a specific building.


What a nasty idea that is.
Top
Re: HFQ Snippet 27[?] a
Post by Alistair   » Thu Jul 09, 2015 5:37 pm

Alistair
Rear Admiral

Posts: 1280
Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2009 4:48 am

Thanks DW
Top
Re: HFQ Snippet 27[?] a
Post by lyonheart   » Thu Jul 09, 2015 5:53 pm

lyonheart
Fleet Admiral

Posts: 4838
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:27 pm

Wow!

Thank you so very much RFC!

Hi Yatespsi,

Welcome and please enjoy your favorite simulated beverage on the simulated forum. ;)

Given OWL and Nahrmahn are watching Lincoln like a hawk, NTM Rhobair, I doubt very much this is a surprise to the inner circle.

Rather the question might more accurately be phrased as which allied army gets to use their rockets first? :D

Given Charis has been using rockets for around 2&1/2 years, I suspect that various Charisians starting with Cayleb if not Alfred, have been thinking about explosive rockets far sooner than Brother Lincoln, and have developed at least a couple of varieties, but haven't used them yet to avoid letting the Go4 copy them as quickly as they could, besides not having the proper kind of targets that such unguided rockets prefer.

Its still going to take month's to test, perfect and produce reliable rockets, NTM send them to the front, wherever that is by then; which will be plenty of time to ship large lots of the ICA's rockets from Charis to Siddarmark and use them before the Go4 does, if they haven't already, plus Siddarmark could probably produce many more after the Go4's committed to their design.

The main problem for the Go4 armies besides finding the ICA's first since they don't have scout snipers, is figuring out the indirect fire mathematics then systematizing it so soldiers can do it.

Which will take a little algebra and trigonometry they don't have, and may not get unless Clyntahn being so eager to fulfill his visions of such carnage puts all of the best CoGA mathematicians, astronomers, engineers and surveyors etc on the project.

Even then how long will it take them to come up with several centuries of mathematical and military concept breakthroughs?

Merlin is probably laughing up his sleeve after viewing the imagery; all that research and innovative thinking is just what he wants!

Edwyrd is probably saying finally, now we get to use ours!

While Rock Point can use the incendiaries to set fire to all the Desnari schooner yards!

Then there's the question of where Nahrmahn and OWL might interfere if he/they thought the Go4 were making advances too quickly; ie changing their blackboard notes, corrupting the fuel formula and experimental data and or production and transportation accidents...

Given how good Nynian and Merlin's spies are, I doubt the ICA won't be warned and ready when the time comes.

L


yatesps1 wrote:So, the CoG has missiles in its back pocket. Not modern versions, surely, but still. The ease of making these weapons, combined with the huge numbers of soldiers the Cog has, will make these dangerous weapons.
.
Looks like the ICA is about to get an unpleasant surprise.
Last edited by lyonheart on Fri Jul 10, 2015 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
Any snippet or post from RFC is good if not great!
Top
Re: HFQ Snippet 27[?] a
Post by RHWoodman   » Thu Jul 09, 2015 6:17 pm

RHWoodman
Captain (Junior Grade)

Posts: 386
Joined: Tue Mar 30, 2010 10:06 am
Location: Columbus, Ohio USA

Thanks for the great snippet, RFC! :D

If the CoGA is able to get its production numbers up the way this snippet suggests and can also produce rockets, the ICA is going to get hurt worse than they've been so far in the Siddarmark campaign.
Top
Re: HFQ Snippet 27[?] a
Post by Castenea   » Thu Jul 09, 2015 6:55 pm

Castenea
Captain of the List

Posts: 667
Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2012 4:21 pm
Location: MD

RHWoodman wrote:Thanks for the great snippet, RFC! :D

If the CoGA is able to get its production numbers up the way this snippet suggests and can also produce rockets, the ICA is going to get hurt worse than they've been so far in the Siddarmark campaign.

Yes and No, Rockets are area effect weapons and Charis is already adopting looser formations reducing the effects of any individual warhead, and the warheads that the church will be using are on the small side with less than ideal effects (black powder filled). This is one area where if Charis chooses to go we can do it better, I believe that dynamite would work.
Top

Return to Safehold