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Snippet #13

This fascinating series is a combination of historical seafaring, swashbuckling adventure, and high technological science-fiction. Join us in a discussion!
Snippet #13
Post by runsforcelery   » Sun Nov 11, 2018 2:45 am

First Space Lord

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* * * * * * * * * *

“My Lord, My Lord Bishop, I understand how important this is,” Mayor Yingcho said, looking back and forth between Baron Star Rising and Bishop Yaupang Lyauyan. “And I know how important the Charisians’ offer is. Don’t think I don’t, and don’t think I’m not in favor. But we all need to be aware of how His Majesty’s bound to react when he hears about it.”

The mayor had a point, Baron Star Rising reflected. In fact, he had a very good one. The problem was that this was a classic case of damned-if-they-did-and-damned-if-they-didn’t. And the pressure wasn’t getting any lighter.

“You’re right, Faizhwan,” he said, turning away to gaze out the office window across the square at Bishop Yaupang Lyauyan’s palace on the other side of Cathedral Square. It was a very modest palace for one of Safehold’s oldest dioceses. For that matter, even the cathedral was decidedly “modest” by the Harchongese Church’s standards.

“We do need to be aware of that,” he continued, “especially because the best word for how he reacts is going to be ‘poorly.’”

“Ever the master of understatement, my son,” Lyauyan observed in a dry tone. The bishop was six years younger than Star Rising, but the baron felt no patronization in the younger man’s choice of address. Yaupang Lyauyan was one of the unfortunately few Harchongese clerics in whom personal piety always trumped political considerations. In fact, he regarded politics, and especially political expediency, secular or temporal, with unmitigated loathing. What he cared about were people and souls . . . which was how he found himself up to his neck in the bitterest political struggle to wrack Harchong since the Creation.

“Well, that’s how he and the Court have reacted to everything else we’ve done, My Lord,” Star Rising pointed out, “and none of the rest of it approaches this.”

“It’s an act of open rebellion,” Tahnshwun Zheng-chi, Baron Crystal Fountain, said. The other three looked at him, and he shrugged. “I didn’t say I’m against it. I only said it’s an act of open rebellion, and let’s be honest—it is.”

“Trying to prevent the complete collapse of central authority in His Supreme and Most Puissant Majesty’s western provinces is scarcely an act of rebellion, My Lord,” Bishop Yaupang retorted. “Only the most benighted and shortsighted of individuals could think it was!”

“Forgive me, My Lord,” Crystal Fountain said, cocking his head, “but don’t you think that rather describes the people around His Majesty at this moment?”

“Of course I do,” the bishop replied, although all of them were perfectly well aware it was actually a more accurate description of Emperor Zhyou-Zhwo himself than of most of his councilors. There were some things they weren’t yet quite prepared to say even to one another. That didn’t keep them from thinking those things quite loudly, however.

“We’ve explained as clearly as we can why we’ve taken the actions we have,” Star Rising said mildly.

Crystal Fountain nodded, but he also sat back in his chair at the long, polished table with a worried expression. His barony lay between Zhykau and Ti-Shan, only a few score miles from Star Rising, and he and Star Rising knew one another well. For that matter, they were related by blood. Star Rising’s wife, Fengzhou, was Crystal Fountain’s first cousin, and Star Rising had no doubt of the other baron’s commitment. Crystal Fountain was, however, understandably anxious at the not-so-veiled threats coming out of Yu-kwau.

“I know we have, Runzheng,” Crystal Fountain said, “and I know we don’t have a choice about what we do. I’m only suggesting we might want to consider very carefully how we describe what we’re doing.”

“Forgive me, my son,” Lyauyan’s tone was almost compassionate, “but I very much doubt that will matter in the end. Not where anyone in Yu-kwau is concerned, at any rate. And whether it does or not is really beside the point when it comes to doing our duty before God and our own consciences. What matters is preserving our people’s lives, and when it comes to accomplishing that, what our people here in Boisseau and Cheshire think is far more important than what the Emperor thinks. They have to believe in us if we’re going to expect them— ask them—to risk their own and their families’ safety by taking our word for what’s going to happen. And if they don’t—”

He shrugged, and Crystal Fountain’s expression tightened a bit more.

“The Bishop’s right, My Lord,” Sai-hwahn Tsaiyu said, entering the conversation for the first time. Socially speaking, he was junior to everyone else present, and he’d been hesitant to speak his mind at first. But he’d grown more confident as the crisis and his understanding of it deepened, and in the process, he’d demonstrated he had common sense by the dragon load. Now all the others looked at him, and he grimaced.

“I won’t pretend I’m happy about any of this, My Lords,” he said, “and all of you know why. But we’ve put our hands to the hammer because Baron Star Rising and the Bishop are right. None of us knows where this is going to end, but we all know where it’ll go if nobody gets a bridle on it damned fast. Pardon my language, My Lord,” he added with a nod in the bishop’s direction.

As usual, when Tsaiyu opened his mouth, he had a point, Star Rising thought. A blacksmith by trade, with the burly shoulders and massive arms of his craft, he was a senior member of the Blacksmith’s Guild in Boisseau. As such, at least a quarter and more likely a third of his fellow guild members considered his willingness to serve on the Emergency Council an act of treason, although probably not for the same reasons Emperor Zhyou-Zhwo did. None of them—including Tsaiyu—had much doubt what would happen to the privileged position of their guild if Charisian-style manufactories moved into Harchong. The difference between those other guild members and Sai-hwahn Tsaiyu was that he could look beyond the personal costs, recognize the inevitable when he saw it, and at least try to mitigate the oncoming shipwreck.

“I’ve never worried my head over politics outside the guild right here in Boisseau,” he continued. “Not until the entire world went to crap, anyway. But it’s only the peasants’ faith in the Bishop and, to be honest, in Baron Star Rising that’s kept a lid on things so far. We’re less than six hundred miles from Shang-mi as the wyvern flies, and there’s no sign the Army—or anybody else—can do a damned thing to tamp down the bloodshed in Tiegelkamp and Chiang-wu. It doesn’t sound to me like the fighting’s going to stop magically at the border, either. So if we want to keep it out of Boisseau, if we want to keep our families alive—my family, not just yours and the Baron’s, My Lord—then we have to convince the people right here that we know what we’re doing and our answer offers them something a hell of a lot better than just burning things down and getting their own back. Because the truth is, a lot of them would rather burn everything down to get their own back, and it’s hard to blame ’em. Couple that with how often they’ve been lied to in the past, and we’ve got a pretty steep hill to climb if we expect them to take our word for anything.”

Tsaiyu was not a great admirer of peasants or serfs. He’d looked down on them most of his life from his position as a well-paid artisan, Star Rising knew. He was scarcely alone in that, however. Star Rising had looked down on them, despite what he knew had been an unusual sense of obligation to impose as little misery as possible upon them. In fact, the only man in this room who probably hadn’t looked down upon them was the bishop. But whether or not he liked peasants and serfs, Sai-hwahn Tsaiyu understood resentment and he understood hatred. Just as he understood that while there might be less of those emotions in Boisseau and Cheshire than there were in provinces like Tiegelkamp, that wasn’t the same as saying there was none of them.

“Agreed,” Crystal Fountain said after a long, still moment. “Agreed. I’ll vote in favor. I just hope that if worse comes to worst your friends in Charis will get us out of the Empire before His Majesty comes to collect our heads, Runzheng!”

“I’m sure they’ll at least try,” Star Rising told him with a lopsided smile. Then he looked around the bishop’s office one more time. The five of them represented just under a quarter of the Emergency Council’s total membership, but they were its acknowledged leaders. If they presented a united front, the motion would pass. Probably not without a lot of noise and shouting, and at least four other council members were sure to vote against it, if only to cover their arses with the Emperor. Not that that particular bit of cover would do them any good in the end if, as Crystal Fountain said, “worse comes to worst.”

Despite that, there was no doubt in his own mind about what they had to do. The Bishop—and Tsaiyu—were right. They had to secure the support of their own people—a support willing enough and strong enough to defy even the Emperor, at least passively—and half measures simply couldn’t do that. Boldness, on the other hand, might, and he was more than a little surprised to realize that for the first time in the five months since the sack of Shang-mi, what he actually felt was optimism or something very like it.

He’d been stunned when the offer from Cayleb and Sharleyan Ahrmahk arrived. He’d hoped at best for troops to help maintain something like order along Boisseau’s coast and, perhaps, some of the same sort of relief effort which the Charisian crown had poured into Siddarmark in that horrible first winter after the Sword of Schueler. And, he acknowledged, he and Lyauyan had both possessed far more faith in the godly charity of the Church of Charis than either of them did in the Church of Harchong’s.

What they’d gotten back had gone so far beyond their expectations—their hopes—that he’d found it difficult to take in, initially at least. In fact, if not for the envoy they’d chosen to extend the offer, he probably wouldn’t have believed it. But when Merlin Athrawes said he spoke for the Emperor and Empress of Charis, that was pretty much that.

The offer still hadn’t been made public, for a lot of reasons, including the inevitable reaction of Emperor Zhyou-Zhwo and his court the instant any open provision of Charisian aid became known. Given the Hantai dynasty’s burning hatred for all things Charisian, there was no conceivable way the Emperor would accept or even tolerate Charisian assistance. After all, they were the ones responsible for this mess in the first place, weren’t they? And the only reason for their “generosity” was as part of Charis’ ongoing campaign to totally destroy the order God and the Archangels had decreed. And to get their hands on even more of the marks Charisians worshiped with far greater fervency than they’d ever shown God! What else could be expected out of an entire empire of lunatic, moneygrubbing Reformists?

And the truth was that if what Athrawes had dubbed “the Ahrmahk Plan” worked, the long-term advantages for Charis would be incalculable. If it succeeded, the people of Boisseau and Cheshire would never forget the way Charis had come to their aid. And Charisian manufactory owners and their newfangled “corporations” would make a dragon load of marks in the end. In fact, a part of Star Rising was tempted to see it all as a cynical act of doing well out of doing good, but he knew better. No one could look into Merlin Athrawes’ seijin-blue eyes and doubt the sincerity behind them.

But before the Ahrmahks were prepared to guarantee such enormous sums out of their privy purse, they needed at least some return guarantees. At the very least, they needed to know the Emergency Council was capable of maintaining order, and until the Council shook off the shackles of its obedience to the imperial court, it couldn’t do that. The very thing which made the peasantry—and even serfs—trust the Council was the fact that it was local. Bitter experience had taught those peasants and serfs the truth in the ancient maxim that “Only two things come out of Shang-mi: death and taxes.” They might not be any too fond of some of their own landlords, but they had enough faith in local aristocrats like Crystal Fountain or Star Rising himself—and, especially, in clerics like Bishop Yaupang—to take a chance on trusting them.

They would never trust the Imperial Crown—not really—and the village broadsheets had posted the tirades coming out of Yu-kwau. In a way, the Crown’s furious denunciations only made the peasants and serfs trust the Council even more, but that couldn’t last. Not if the Council persisted in attempting to walk the tightrope between doing what was necessary for the people who trusted it to survive and openly defying Zhyou-Zhwo. They’d done their best to convince Yu-kwau that they’d had no choice but to take every step they’d taken if they meant to maintain order in Boisseau and Cheshire, and the Emperor didn’t care. Either he didn’t believe them or else he truly rather would see his empire’s western provinces go down in blood and ruin rather than accept serious reforms, far less outright Charisian assistance. Anything that might conceivably convince him the Emergency Council had no intention of defying his authority could only convince the peasants and the serfs that the Council had no intention of making those reforms.

There were a lot of council members who didn’t want to make them. Sai-hwahn Tsaiyu was a case in point. But only a handful of them believed they or their families could survive if they didn’t make them. And so they’d come to this.

“What do we want to call ourselves?” Crystal Fountain asked after a moment. “‘Rebels United in Madness’?”

“Probably not the best choice, my son,” the bishop said with a deep chuckle.

“Well, we have to call ourselves something if we’re going to make this permanent, My Lord,” the baron pointed out. “Something with a little more . . . heft to it than ‘Emergency Council,’ at any rate.”

“Agreed,” Star Rising said. “And I don’t know about any of the rest of you, but I genuinely don’t want to try to set myself up as some kind of warlord, like some of those murderous bastards in Tiegelkamp! If this is going to work, we need something with a genuine, functional parliament—like the ones they have in Charis.”

Crystal Fountain’s eyes widened, and Star Rising snorted.

“I’m not proposing we hold elections and turn everything over to the serfs tomorrow, Tahnshwun! We’re going to need that level of reform in the end, though, and you know it. So I suppose I am proposing we transition to it as rapidly as we can. The temptation’s going to be to hang on to control because we obviously know best, and that temptation will be even stronger because I suspect we do, at least for now. But as the Bishop says, we have to convince the commons they’ll have a genuine voice going forward if we expect them to risk listening to us.”

“Agreed . . . I suppose,” Crystal Fountain said with manifest reluctance.

“For now, what about calling ourselves a ‘self-governing region’?” Yingcho suggested. The others looked at the mayor, and he shrugged. “That way we’re still not bidding open, deliberate defiance to the Emperor but we are making it clear we’re going to make our own decisions.”

“You don’t expect His Majesty to view it that way, do you, Your Honor?” Tsaiyu asked almost gently, and Yingcho barked a laugh.

“I look like I arrived on the morning’s turnip wagon?” He laughed again. “No, but I suspect at least a few of our fellow council members will assuage themselves with the hope that he might.”

“I hate to think anyone in the Council’s that stupid,” Star Rising sighed, “but you probably have a point, Faizhwan. So how does the ‘Western Self-Governing Region’ sound?”

“I’d vote for it in a heartbeat,” Crystal Fountain said, “if Rainbow Waters hadn’t already cribbed it for himself.”

Star Rising grimaced, but his fellow baron had a point. If the Emperor was livid with the Emergency Council, he was apoplectic over Earl Rainbow Waters’ decision to “invade” eastern Harchong from the Temple Lands. The earl had been scrupulous about proclaiming that his only intent was to secure public order and protect the imperial authority, but Star Rising doubted he’d expected Zhyou-Zhwo to believe it for a moment. For that matter, Star Rising didn’t believe it. He couldn’t when he found himself in such an analogous position in the west. But Rainbow Waters had proclaimed the provinces of Langhorne, Maddox, and Stene a “self-governing region” in the Emperor’s name. Whether or not he’d be able to make that stand up in the end, even backed by two or three hundred thousand veterans of the Mighty Host of God and the Archangels, remained to be seen, but his effort looked like succeeding, at least in the eastern halves of those three provinces. His name was one to conjure with where the peasantry was concerned, and his troops’ loyalty had so far been sufficient to prevent or at least severely limit the sorts of merciless atrocities wracking Tiegelkamp, Thomas, and de Castro Provinces.

Still, Crystal Fountain had a point about how Zhyou-Zhwo would react to a second “self-governing region”! On the other hand, they couldn’t allow themselves to be stymied by worries over the emperor’s probable reactions, since they knew he’d denounce them and sentence them all to death in absentia no matter what they called themselves. Selling it to the more delicate flowers on the Council suggested a modicum of tact at this point, however.

“So, what about just calling ourselves the ‘Provincial Council’?” he asked. “We stay away from terms like ‘self-governing’ entirely that way. But we also get rid of the ‘Emergency’ to suggest we’re something more permanent than that.”

“I don’t know if that would carry a sufficient connotation of permanence, my son,” Lyauyan mused. “That’s what we need to convince everyone we’re talking about, after all. If it’s a choice between that and . . . further irritating His Majesty, I’m afraid my vote would be to go ahead and irritate him.”

“Then suppose we call ourselves ‘the Provisional Council of the United Provinces of Boisseau and Cheshire’?” Star Rising said. All of them looked at him, and the bishop chuckled.

“Well, it does have the wordiness we Harchongians prize, but it doesn’t have enough adjectives, my son! Why not ‘The Ineffable and Celestial Provisional Council of the United Provinces of Boisseau and Cheshire’?”

The baron chuckled back, but he also shook his head.

“I’m serious, My Lord,” he said. “The ‘provisional’ bit is our cloak of respectability and loyalty to the Crown, but the whole thing’s so long you know everyone will shorten it. That’s what Harchongians do. And what they’ll shorten it to is ‘the United Provinces.’” His smile disappeared. “That’s the important bit, my friends. That’s what all of our people here in the provinces themselves will remember, what they’ll think about. The truth is Tahnshwun’s right when he calls this an act of open rebellion. It has to be if we’re going to survive, given that His Majesty won’t let us do what we need to do to survive. I don’t know if Rainbow Waters sees it the same way, but let’s be honest among ourselves. For us and the people we know and care about to live through this, we have to cut the chain between us and Yu-kwau. I don’t like it, and the thought of becoming actual rebels scares the hell out of me, but that’s where we are, and the truth is that it’s the Emperor himself, and his councilors, who’ve brought us to this point. Is anyone in this office really prepared to dispute that?”

He let his eyes circle the room. No one spoke, but no one looked away, either, and he nodded slowly.

“So if this is treason, let them make the most of it! We’ve just become the United Provinces of Boisseau and Cheshire, whether we wanted to or not. For that matter, I’d say there’s a damned good chance we’ll end up adding Omar and Bedard—maybe even the half-dozen caribou herders in Pasquale!—before we’re done. We almost have to, assuming we survive at all. And when we start that transition to a genuine parliament of our own and drop the ‘provisional,’ no one in the United Provinces will even notice, because they’ll already be thinking of themselves as an independent realm.”

He looked around the bishop’s office again, and this time—one by one—every head nodded back.

"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
Re: Snippet #13
Post by JBNL1972   » Sun Nov 11, 2018 4:10 am

Lieutenant (Junior Grade)

Posts: 30
Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2017 3:01 pm

So the Harchong empire is fracturing into regions ... a reverse Chinese unification sort of!

Wizard, thank you for another snippet to fuel the mind with all sorts of speculations!!
Re: Snippet #13
Post by RogueWarrior   » Sun Nov 11, 2018 4:55 am


Posts: 20
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:56 am

Thank You!
Re: Snippet #13
Post by PeterZ   » Sun Nov 11, 2018 6:08 am

Fleet Admiral

Posts: 6351
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Location: Colorado

JBNL1972 wrote:So the Harchong empire is fracturing into regions ... a reverse Chinese unification sort of!

Wizard, thank you for another snippet to fuel the mind with all sorts of speculations!!

And in keeping with that theme, we have a United Provinces that will be very defensible, large geographically and well populated, which rebelled against the largest Empire of their world. Now all we need is to find a translation of Runzheng Zhou that results in some variation of Orange.
Re: Snippet #13
Post by bigrunt   » Sun Nov 11, 2018 8:27 am

Lieutenant Commander

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Location: St Augustine FL

This is where the character Patrick Henry (however RFC spelled it earlier) should have been. Not trying to assassinate Sharrly.

Awesome way to start Veterans Day.
I am the runt of the litter (Granted it was a litter of really big pups)
Re: Snippet #13
Post by ksandgren   » Sun Nov 11, 2018 8:35 am

Captain (Junior Grade)

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

Thanks for the snippet RFC! Each one is increasing my desire to get my eyes on the whole book the day of release.
Re: Snippet #13
Post by JBNL1972   » Sun Nov 11, 2018 9:39 am

Lieutenant (Junior Grade)

Posts: 30
Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2017 3:01 pm

PeterZ wrote:
JBNL1972 wrote:So the Harchong empire is fracturing into regions ... a reverse Chinese unification sort of!

Wizard, thank you for another snippet to fuel the mind with all sorts of speculations!!

And in keeping with that theme, we have a United Provinces that will be very defensible, large geographically and well populated, which rebelled against the largest Empire of their world. Now all we need is to find a translation of Runzheng Zhou that results in some variation of Orange.

The mainland map is certainly changing a lot.

On the Havens, Harchong seems to be breaking apart into 4 regions (Star Rising's UP in the west, Rainbow Waters' Eastern Self-Governed Region on the temple border; Imperial Harchong to the south (Queiroz/Kytznetsov/Shwei), with Tiegelkamp, Chiang-Wu, Thomas and de Castro as disputed/frontier regions.

Siddarmark is recovering from economic KO, but will be lucky to pull together rather than split east/west into bitters rivals; I wouldn't be surprised if the Border States got pulled into this Western Siddarmark if it formed.

Going towards Howard, Dohlar will probably weather the storm, as will Silkiah (given Charis' guarantees and involvement) .. Desnair likely will have designs on its smaller neighbors (Delferahk, Sodar, Selkar and Myratha) and I don't think that's going to be a very pretty or very polite situation.

Damn. I'm really itching to dive into the new book now!
Re: Snippet #13
Post by Dauntless   » Sun Nov 11, 2018 9:47 am

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interesting. can't wait for the full book. 2 months to go!
Re: Snippet #13
Post by PeterZ   » Sun Nov 11, 2018 9:49 am

Fleet Admiral

Posts: 6351
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:11 pm
Location: Colorado

Desnair can't extract value from their smaller neighnors until the industrialize. They can't industrialize until they find a way to adopt Charisian techniques. This points to SH as the source. Those smaller Howard nations have a small window to industrialize faster. If they wait, they get eaten up SH-D Axis testing their war machine.
Re: Snippet #13
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Nov 11, 2018 9:54 am


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Very Very Good! :D
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]

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