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TFT Snippet #11

This fascinating series is a combination of historical seafaring, swashbuckling adventure, and high technological science-fiction. Join us in a discussion!
TFT Snippet #11
Post by runsforcelery   » Wed Oct 24, 2018 9:54 pm

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I don't promise that I will get them out on a regular schedule, given what my schedule looks like right now, but here's the next one!

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.IX.
City of Yu-kwau,
Kyznetzov Province,
South Harchong


“I want that fool dead.”

His Celestial and Consecrated Highness Zhyou-Zhwo Hantai’s voice was iron-hard and colder than Bedard ice as he glared after the withdrawing prelate.

“Your Celestial Highness,” Grand Duke North Wind Blowing began, “I understand your feelings, but Archbishop Bau—”

“I want him dead,” Zhyou-Zhwo repeated even more flatly, glaring at his father’s first councilor. “See to it. Unless you want to join him, Your Grace.”

North Wind Blowing had been a courtier for over fifty years. Despite that, his face tightened as he heard the utter sincerity in the crown prince’s voice.

“If that’s what Your Celestial Highness wishes, then of course it will be done,” he said, forcing his voice to remain level despite the ice water suddenly flowing through his veins. “I would, however, be derelict in my responsibility to Your Celestial Highness if I did not point out that he is an archbishop of Mother Church. Executing someone who wears the orange is likely to precipitate a conflict with the Church—with the Church, not simply The Temple—at a time when Your Celestial Highness can ill afford to . . . fight on additional fronts.”

He met Zhyou-Zhwo’s furious eyes steadily.

“I point this out,” he continued, “because I wish to know if Your Celestial Highness could be content with his assassination rather than his official execution.”

The crown prince’s expression relaxed ever so slightly. He looked at the grand duke for several breathless seconds. Then he nodded.

“How he dies is unimportant, so long as he dies soon,” he said. “He and those like him who abandoned their posts at the first sign of danger—who allowed this to happen in the first place—will pay. And however he dies, I think those who we wish to understand will recognize whose hand struck the blow.”

“As Your Celestial Highness says,” North Wind Blowing murmured, and bowed deeply as Zhyou-Zhwo rose from the throne and stalked out of the audience chamber. The first councilor remained bowing until the boot heels of the crown prince’s personal guards had accompanied him and the door had closed behind them. Then he straightened slowly, conscious of the increasing stiffness of his spine, and drew a deep breath.

Zhyou-Zhwo was forty-one years old, and he’d never been noted for his gentle temper. Nor had it been much of a secret in Shang-mi that he’d been impatient for his own time upon the throne. But now—

North Wind Blowing shook his head, profoundly grateful no one else had been present. It was unfortunate that Zhyou-Zhwo was probably right that everyone would realize who’d ordered Baudang Zhynchi’s murder, but no one would be able to prove it unless the grand duke’s assassins were far clumsier than usual. And at least Zhynchi was probably the most expendable of the Harchongese prelates. For that matter, it was at least possible his death might encourage even greater dedication to the Crown’s needs among the Empire’s archbishops, which could scarcely be a bad thing. That was, after all, one reason North Wind Blowing had encouraged the crown prince’s fury to focus on Zhynchi in the first place. The fact that focusing it there had helped divert it from North Wind Blowing had been an even more important factor, of course.

The first councilor crossed to the audience chamber’s window, looking out across the tropical color of Yu-kwau and the sparkling water of the Bay of Alexov. They really should have moved the imperial capital here long ago, he thought, and not just because of the climate. There were fewer serfs in the South, and those that existed were less . . . refractory. There was little chance—so far, at least—of seeing the sort of madness that was spreading from Shang-mi all across Tiegelkamp. Still, these Southerners were an arrogant and presumptuous lot, too conscious of their own wealth and insufficiently aware of the deference they owed their betters. That could prove . . . regrettable down the road, if North Wind Blowing failed to keep their influence in Zhyou-Zhwo’s court trimmed back. Fortunately, few understood that game better than he.

And they’d be here for a while, he admitted grimly, eyes tracking the white sails of a schooner as it headed towards the open bay. The crown prince had so far refused to officially accept his father’s death. It was only a matter of time until he had to, and North Wind Blowing wasn’t entirely certain why he’d resisted so long. Despite his rage and his fear—however fiercely he might refuse to admit it—of the spreading violence in the North, the first councilor never doubted Zhyou-Zhwo wanted the Crown just as ferociously as he ever had. Perhaps he simply didn’t want to appear overly eager? Didn’t want to create the impression that he’d scarcely been able to wait for Emperor Waisu’s death? That could be a particularly unfortunate conclusion for people to draw, given how much truth it contained.

His reasons scarcely mattered. There was ample confirmation Waisu was dead, although the exact details of that death might remain unclear. Within the next few days—the next few five-days, at the latest—Zhyou-Zhwo would be forced to “accept” the Crown, if only to maintain continuity of the imperial authority. If he continued to be coy about it, North Wind Blowing would have to insist upon that himself. Which, now that the first councilor thought about it, might be exactly why Zhyou-Zhwo had refused to make the suggestion himself. If he could place the first councilor in the role of suppliant rather than mentor and guide. . . .

That was a thought, and not necessarily a happy one.

If that was what was happening, it indicated that the crown prince was capable of greater political subtlety than North Wind Blowing had assumed he was. The first few years of any new emperor’s reign were always the most . . . problematical. Too many emperors had come to the Crown with the mistaken intent of exercising personal rule. Sometimes it took longer than others for the professional ministers and the imperial bureaucracy to reassert the proper flow of the Crown’s business. Under the present circumstances, when so many of those bureaucrats had failed to escape the sack of Shang-mi, that process could be even more extended than usual, and the Empire could ill afford a power struggle between the Crown and its ministers.

No, best to keep a king wyvern’s eye upon the situation. And, in the meantime, it would be wise to watch his own flanks, as well. For that matter, it would be equally wise to redirect Zhyou-Zhwo’s anger and hatred onto someone or something external to the Empire.

Anything that focused His Celestial and Consecrated Highness’ ire at non-Harchongese enemies would simultaneously direct it away from the imperial ministers who’d failed to prevent the fall of Shang-mi.






.X.
Imperial Palace,
Desnair the City,
The Crown Lands,
Desnairian Empire


“So that’s the size of it, I’m afraid, Sire,” Symyn Gahrnet said. “Unless we improve the Osalk-Sherkal Canal and extend it into Hankey—which would require significant improvements on the Sherkal River, as well—we just don’t have the transportation access we need. I’m sorry. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but—”

Gahrnet raised his hands shoulder high, palms uppermost, and Mahrys Ahldarm, Emperor Mahrys IV of Desnair, scowled.

That was all he did, however, which owed a great deal to the fact that Gahrnet was his cousin. It might also indicate an awareness of pragmatic reality, the Duke of Traykhos thought, which would be good. At fifty-nine, Mahrys was in the prime of his life. With only reasonable good fortune he could look forward to at least two more decades on the throne, and he’d learned some hard lessons as a younger man during the Jihad.

“Symyn’s right, Sire,” Traykhos said now, and the Emperor transferred his unhappy expression to his first councilor . . . who was also his uncle. In Desnair, even more than most mainland realms, government was very much a family affair.

“We didn’t make sufficient allowance for how much heavy transport this will require,” Traykhos continued. He shrugged. “We should have, if only from our experience during the Jihad, but it’s not really Symyn’s fault we didn’t. None of the rest of us did any better.” It was his turn to scowl. “It’s not the sort of thing a gentleman spends a lot of time thinking about.”

“Then we damned well better start thinking about it,” Mahrys growled.

He looked around the council table at his most trusted advisors—Traykhos; Anzhelo Styvyns, the Duke of Pearlmann and Desnair’s Chancellor of the Exchequer; Zhules Estayben, the Duke of Sherach, the Army Minister (whose responsibilities included the Navy once more); Sir Rhobair Gahrnet, the Duke of Harless and Symyn’s older brother, who’d become the imperial Foreign Minister; and Symyn himself, who held no official council position but was nonetheless one of its more influential members. They looked back at him with remarkable aplomb, given what had happened to some of their predecessors. Some might have thought it was due to the inexperience and overconfidence of youth—at sixty, Traykhos was the oldest councilor present by almost twenty years—but Mahrys knew that wasn’t the reason.

“I’d like it if we never made any mistakes,” the Emperor continued, “but we all know that’s not going to happen. So instead we’ll just have to learn from them and do better next time. Having said that, do we have any suggestions about how to do better? Symyn?”

“Improving the canals would be the simplest solution,” Gahrnet replied after a moment’s consideration. “It wouldn’t be the fastest, we can’t build them everywhere I’d really like to, and I’m not sure it would be the cheapest approach, but it’s something our engineers already understand how to do. Having said that, there could be . . . other options.”

Mahrys cocked his head, eyebrows knitting ever so slightly, at the words “other options.” He clearly suspected he knew where his cousin was headed, and equally clearly he wasn’t enthralled by the thought.

Gahrnet kept his own expression firmly under control. It wasn’t that he disagreed with what he knew the Emperor was unhappy about, but despite their close relationship and despite the lessons both of them had learned in the Jihad, Mahrys IV remained a man of passions even more than one of judgment.

Although he wasn’t about to say so, Gahrnet knew he was considerably smarter than the Emperor. For that matter, he was considerably smarter than his older brother, as well. On the other hand, much as he loved Rhobair, that was a lower bar to clear than many, he acknowledged. And whatever their relative intellectual attainments might be, all three of them—indeed, every man in this council chamber—were united in their unwavering hatred for the Empire of Charis and all things Charisian.

Which was the real problem with what he needed to suggest.

“As I say, the canals are something we understand how to do.” He chose his words carefully. “From the viewpoint of efficiency and, probably, cost-effectiveness, though, I don’t think it’s the best solution. Much as we all detest Charis, no form of land transportation currently available can compete with the efficiency and scale of transport by water. Or, at least, that’s been the case until very recently.”

“You’re thinking about those . . . ‘steam automotive’ things, aren’t you?” Traykhos observed sourly.

“I am,” Gahrnet acknowledged. What he’d really have liked to suggest was that they needed to hire some of the Charisian experts who genuinely understood the new manufactory processes. That, unfortunately, would have been going too far. As Traykhos had pointed out, that wasn’t the sort of thing a gentleman thought about. The implied corollary, however, was that anyone who did think about it wasn’t a gentleman, and the last thing in the world Mahrys IV was prepared to contemplate was the sort of mobocracy so disgustingly on display in Charis.

Which left the automotives as a sort of halfway step.

Possibly.

“I don’t like that thought.” The Emperor’s tone was a lot sourer than his first councilor’s had been, but at least it fell short of the blast of outrage the notion of recruiting Charisian advisors would have provoked. “It opens the door to Cayleb and Sharleyan and all those other Shan-wei–damned Charisian notions!”

“I understand that, Sire,” Gahrnet said, “and I don’t make the suggestion lightly. But you’ve charged me to acquire the capability to match Siddarmark’s and Charis’ manufacturing ability, and I’m afraid that means adopting at least some of their innovations.”

“The guilds would scream bloody murder,” Pearlmann put in.

“They’re already screaming bloody murder,” Traykhos pointed out in grudging support of his nephew.

“Yes, they are,” Gahrnet agreed, “and no wonder! If we adopted the Charisian model as it stands, it would destroy them. That’s why I’ve stressed how important it is to involve them in the process. Obviously, we have to find our own way, and I’d never suggest just jumping into the cesspool with Cayleb and Sharleyan, Sire. But whatever we think of their methods, we need at least some of their tools.”

Mahrys scowled some more, but then he nodded, however grudgingly.

His uncle Ahlvyn, Gahrnet and Harless’ father, had died in the Kyplyngyr Forest disaster which had destroyed the flower of the Imperial Desnairian Army. If there were any two people in the entire Empire who hated both Siddarmark and Charis more than they did, Mahrys had never met them, and he knew how utterly both of them detested anything that smacked of the Church of Charis or Charisian attitudes in general.

Despite their father’s death, both of Sir Ahlvyn Gahrnet’s sons had been part of the faction urging Desnairian . . . disengagement from the Jihad after the Kyplyngyr, but not because they didn’t want revenge. They’d urged that policy because they’d understood—as Mahrys himself had—that once the Church had been defeated, Siddarmark would be free to turn its new-model army upon its traditional Desnairian enemies. Only Mother Church’s intervention had saved Desnair after the last war between it and the Republic. With her defeat there would be no check on Siddarmark’s actions, and the consequences of a new-model invasion would have been dire, to say the very least. So it had clearly been time to husband Desnair’s resources and rebuild as powerful a defensive army as possible in hopes that Lord Protector Greyghor would decide he’d lost enough lives and decline to spend more of them in a war of vengeance.

The strategy had worked. Or, at least, Siddarmark hadn’t invaded Desnair after the Church’s military collapse, although the reasons for that were debatable. What wasn’t debatable was that Desnair and its poverty-stricken neighbor Delferahk hadn’t even been invited to the negotiating table where the Jihad was ended. Technically, both of them were still at war with the Charisian Empire, although no one on either side had been crude enough to say so. The recognition of the Grand Duchy of Silkiah as a sovereign realm, paying tribute to no one, was an extra fishbone to stick in Mahrys’ craw, but being simply ignored by the victors had been far more infuriating.

And it had left Desnair—and Delferahk—in an unenviable position in terms of the new manufactory techniques. They were outside the tidy, comfortable Charisian-Siddarmarkian system and nobody inside it was interested in inviting them aboard. Mother Church hadn’t exactly strained herself coming to the Empire’s assistance, either. In his fairer moments, of which he had as few as possible, Mahrys acknowledged that Desnair’s effective desertion of the Jihad at the moment of Mother Church’s greatest need made that pretty much inevitable. Rhobair II had more than enough slash lizards chasing his sleigh, and he clearly felt a greater sense of obligation to those who hadn’t abandoned the Jihad, like the two million men of the Mighty Host of God and the Archangels marooned in the Temple Lands, than he did to anyone in Desnair.

Understanding the reasons didn’t make Mahrys a bit happier with the consequences, however. Nor was he going to overlook the debt he owed Charis. But if he meant to collect that debt, he needed the military wherewithal to face Charis and its allies, and that meant he needed to hugely increase the capacity of his own manufactories and acquire the same sort of new-model weapons.

And he had to do it without eroding the authority of the Crown and without permitting base born men to replace the men of blood who made Desnair what it was.


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: TFT Snippet #11
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:03 pm

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Quote

And he had to do it without eroding the authority of the Crown and without permitting base born men to replace the men of blood who made Desnair what it was.

End Quote


Right, the "men of blood who made Desnair a mess". :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: TFT Snippet #11
Post by Cartref   » Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:09 pm

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Interesting, very interesting. Can't wait for it to be released :D
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Re: TFT Snippet #11
Post by evilauthor   » Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:36 pm

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DrakBibliophile wrote:Quote

And he had to do it without eroding the authority of the Crown and without permitting base born men to replace the men of blood who made Desnair what it was.

End Quote


Right, the "men of blood who made Desnair a mess". :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:


Ha! Good catch.
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Re: TFT Snippet #11
Post by PeterZ   » Wed Oct 24, 2018 11:24 pm

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Thank you, David, and Happy Birthday!

Ok, the new Emporer of Harchong appears to be as angry about his father's death as I suspected he might be. He won't tolerate anything resembling accommodation with the rebels. With Charis' help to the rebels, I don't see what remains of the Northern Empire defeating the MH's "deserters". For those nobles it's either accommodate or die in a series of ever greater uprisings.

The bureaucracy is going to start putting the squeeze on the trading houses in an effort to regain their rightful place of power. That will leave some of the manufacturing houses looking to augment their income either to fund their political endeavors or offset the greater take the bureaucrats manage to impose. The former for successful houses that manage to ascend in power and the latter for those that fail to ascend.

Desnair will look to build their own industry without destroying their way of life or cow towing to Charisian perversions. The needs of Desnair and the Harchong trading houses can satisfy each other. Desnair gives the Harchong manufactories license to run those shops and at the same time not provide a corrupting influence by teaching Desnari commoners the new techniques. Relying on Harchong expats that may have reached a glass ceiling at home provides some security for Desnair.

Whatever bastardized industrialized system the Desnari construct won't be nearly as efficient as that adopted by Silkiah, Dohlar, the Temple Lands and eventually Northern Harchong. That doesn't mean the output will be negligible. Only that their output per man-hour will be lower than those other nations.

Delfahrahk will come on bended knee to Irys and she will help them.
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Re: TFT Snippet #11
Post by Dilandu   » Thu Oct 25, 2018 1:32 am

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PeterZ wrote:
Whatever bastardized industrialized system the Desnari construct won't be nearly as efficient as that adopted by Silkiah, Dohlar, the Temple Lands and eventually Northern Harchong. That doesn't mean the output will be negligible. Only that their output per man-hour will be lower than those other nations.

Delfahrahk will come on bended knee to Irys and she will help them.



This depend. Japanese Empire was also pretty much aristocratic, but mabaged to became world's fifth-to-sixth industrial power by 1930s (fifth until USSR outpreformed them by mid-1930s)
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- Who would won in battle between strawman Liberal-Democrat and strawman Conservative-Republican?
- Scarecrow from Oz; he was strawman before it became political.

P.S. - And he have Russian twin, to watch his back)
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Re: TFT Snippet #11
Post by Randomiser   » Thu Oct 25, 2018 3:17 am

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Dilandu wrote:
PeterZ wrote:
Whatever bastardized industrialized system the Desnari construct won't be nearly as efficient as that adopted by Silkiah, Dohlar, the Temple Lands and eventually Northern Harchong. That doesn't mean the output will be negligible. Only that their output per man-hour will be lower than those other nations.

Delfahrahk will come on bended knee to Irys and she will help them.



This depend. Japanese Empire was also pretty much aristocratic, but mabaged to became world's fifth-to-sixth industrial power by 1930s (fifth until USSR outpreformed them by mid-1930s)


Yes but it depends on the quality of the aristocrats and their willingness to learn and work hard at new things that are non-traditional for aristocrats. If anyone who thinks much about 'Trade' is not a gentleman, it makes it hard for the aristocrats to effectively boost a manufacturing economy while keeping their leadership position.
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Re: TFT Snippet #11
Post by Randomiser   » Thu Oct 25, 2018 3:26 am

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Lots of the North Harchongese Aristocracy are going to find themselves in very straightened circumstances, now that they have effectively lost much of their land and it's income. Maybe not this year, but next year ... and even that depends on how much gold they managed to bring with them. Power and influence may be a substitute for a while, but for those not at the very top who need to grease a few palms in the so traditional Harchongese manner there is trouble ahead. Together with all the holes in former power networks caused by those who have died, there is going to be a big shake-up in the Court and bureaucracy, whatever North Wind Blowing might want.
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Re: TFT Snippet #11
Post by isaac_newton   » Thu Oct 25, 2018 3:56 am

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Dilandu wrote:
PeterZ wrote:
Whatever bastardized industrialized system the Desnari construct won't be nearly as efficient as that adopted by Silkiah, Dohlar, the Temple Lands and eventually Northern Harchong. That doesn't mean the output will be negligible. Only that their output per man-hour will be lower than those other nations.

Delfahrahk will come on bended knee to Irys and she will help them.



This depend. Japanese Empire was also pretty much aristocratic, but mabaged to became world's fifth-to-sixth industrial power by 1930s (fifth until USSR outpreformed them by mid-1930s)


very good point.

BTW when they mentioned Steam automotives - do you think that they ment trains or road vehicles?
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Re: TFT Snippet #11
Post by Weird Harold   » Thu Oct 25, 2018 4:57 am

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isaac_newton wrote:BTW when they mentioned Steam automotives - do you think that they ment trains or road vehicles?


Thus far only trains have been mentioned. It is a fairly short step from Locomotives with steel wheels on rails to traction engines with broad iron wheels on dirt.
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Answers! I got lots of answers!

(Now if I could just find the right questions.)
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