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Snippet #15

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Snippet #15
Post by runsforcelery   » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:54 am

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“After you make sure all our machine tools are accounted for, start thinking about the best way to crate them up for shipment.” Zhaspahr Mahklyn’s expression was unhappy, but his tone was calm.

“Yes, sir.” Tymythy Khasgrayv didn’t look a lot happier than Mahklyn felt. “Nengkwan’s people aren’t going to be very pleased about that, though,” he added.

“Not our problem.” This time Mahklyn’s voice was flat. “ItalicsWe’re[/i] not the ones whose emperor can’t pour piss out of a—”

Someone knocked on the frame of Mahklyn’s office door and he looked up.

“Yes?”

“Master Nengkwan is here, sir.” It was one of St. Lerys Foundry’s Harchongese supervisors, and his expression was substantially less happy than Mahklyn’s or Khasgrayv’s.

“I see.” Mahklyn glanced at Khasgrayv, then back at the Harchongian. “Ask him to join us, please, Zhyngchi.”

“Yes, sir.” The Harchongian disappeared, and Khasgrayv shook his head.

“Speak of Shan-wei and you’ll hear the rustle of her wings, sir,” he said in a tone that couldn’t decide whether it was wry or disgusted.

“Not his fault, Tym,” Mahklyn said. “Matter of fact, if he had his druthers—”

“Master Nengkwan, sir,” the Harchongese supervisor interrupted, and both the Charisians stood to greet the newcomer.

Zhwyfeng Nengkwan was fifty-two, nine years older than Mahklyn and twenty-two years older than Khasgrayv. He was also very richly dressed, portly, and dark-haired. That hair was turning white at the temples and there were matching white streaks in the dagger beard that always made him remind Mahklyn somehow of an overweight, dark-eyed Merlin Athrawes, although the seijin was a good eight inches taller than Nengkwan.

“Master Nengkwan,” he said, reaching across his desk to clasp forearms. The Harchongian’s grip was firm, but his eyes were worried.

“Master Mahklyn,” he responded, and nodded courteously to Khasgrayv, as well. “I apologize for arriving on such short notice.”

“I’m at your disposal, sir,” Mahklyn responded, forbearing to mention that no notice at all was even briefer than “short notice.”

“I’m afraid I bear unhappy tidings,” Nengkwan told him, coming to the point with un-Harchongese brevity. “The Emperor’s Council met in the Palace earlier today.”

“I see.” Mahklyn glanced at Khasgrayv, then back at Nengkwan. “Should I assume from your presence and what you’ve just said that the meeting concerned Saint Lerys?”

“Not specifically.” Nengkwan shook his head. “It will, however, have what I very much fear will be . . . significant repercussions for not only Saint Lerys but all of our other joint ventures with Duke Delthak.”

“I see,” Mahklyn repeated more slowly, then gestured for his visitor to take the chair in front of his desk. After Nengkwan was seated, Mahklyn and Khasgrayv resumed their own chairs.

“Please continue, Master Nengkwan,” Mahklyn invited.

“To put the matter as briefly as possible, His Supreme Majesty has instructed Grand Duke North Wind Blowing to prepare a proclamation condemning Baron Star Rising’s initiative in Boisseau,” Nengkwan said, and Mahklyn nodded. The odds of Zhyou-Zhwo’s accepting anything that even hinted at local autonomy had always been minute. Stupid of him, but that seemed to be what Harchongese emperors—and aristocrats in general, for that matter—specialized in being.

“At the same meeting,” Nengkwan continued, “the Emperor discussed his intentions and plans for the rearming of the Imperial Army. Which led to a discussion of our ‘industrialization’ efforts in general.”

Mahklyn could actually hear the quotation marks around the newfangled word, and he really didn’t blame the Harchongian. Mahklyn hadn’t understood—not at first, anyway—why Duke Delthak had started using that term instead of the original “manufactoryization” which had seemed so much more natural to most people, but he’d come to realize it made sense. It was an obvious play on the adjective “industrious” as a description of someone who worked hard and effectively, but the real reason the duke had begun referring to “industry” and “industrialization” was because in his grand vision—well, his and Their Majesties’—the ultimate objective was something which would extend far beyond simple manufactories.

“And that discussion was the source of the ‘repercussions’ you mentioned earlier?” he asked, and Nengkwan nodded.

“His Supreme Majesty wishes for the Empire’s industrialization to be more . . . organic. He made his feelings on the matter quite clear.”

“I see,” Mahklyn said yet again. He tipped back in his chair, elbows propped on the armrests, and steepled his fingers under his chin. No doubt Zhyou-Zhwo had used rather stronger terms to describe his anti-Charisian agenda.

“His Supreme Majesty hasn’t said so in so many words,” Nengkwan continued, and Mahklyn heard the unspoken “yet” in the portly banker’s tone, “but my sources strongly suggest he’ll shortly move to begin rescinding Charisian charters.”

He met Mahklyn’s eyes steadily, and the Charisian nodded. He had to respect Nengkwan’s fundamental integrity in warning him, giving him additional time to make his own plans. Of course, he’d been making them anyway, even before Duke Delthak’s last directives arrived, because it had been unpleasantly obvious which way the Yu-kwau wind was setting.

“I hope his advisers will point out the possible . . . unfortunate consequences of any such move,” he said after a moment.

“As do I, although I’m less confident of that than I was.”

There was a bitter edge in Nengkwan’s reply, Mahklyn noted. Interesting. One of Nengkwan’s silent partners in his extensive partnerships with Delthak and two or three other Charisian enterprises was the Duke of Summer Flowers, who happened to sit on the reconstituted Imperial Council. Imperial advisors didn’t come a lot more senior than that, and Summer Flowers stood to lose heavily—more in terms of future profits than in out-of-pocket costs, admittedly—if Nengkwan’s ventures failed. So if the banker was no longer confident of Summer Flowers’ backing, did that indicate the duke had lost favor with the emperor? Or might it indicate that Summer Flowers had smelled a political opportunity that outweighed mere money?

One never knew what might happen in Harchongese politics, he reminded himself, so it might well be both!

“His Majesty knows his own mind best, of course,” he said after another thoughtful pause. “But that step would be very hard to un-take. As I know you understand, Charisian investors take the sanctity of charters and articles of partnership—” and the rule of law, he added silently “—very seriously. If His Majesty and his Councilors decide to unilaterally dissolve those charters, Harchongese investors will find it difficult to attract future Charisian investment and participation here in the Empire.”

“Trust me, Master Mahklyn,” the bitterness in Nengkwan’s voice was much stronger, “I’m well aware of that. And I’m also aware that—”

He cut himself off, and Mahklyn hid a thin, bitterly amused smile. Of course Nengkwan was aware that Charisian financial investment was the least of Harchong’s needs.

Silence lingered in the office. Then Nengkwan stirred in his chair.

“As I said, nothing’s been officially decided or announced at this time, but I very much fear it’s only a matter of time, and not a great deal of it. My sources within the Council remain effective enough to give me at least some warning before it is announced, however. And I felt it was my duty to . . . alert you to these developments immediately. I’m sure there are preparations you would wish to make.”

“I’m deeply grateful, Master Nengkwan,” Mahklyn said with complete sincerity.

If word of Nengkwan’s warning to his Charisian partners reached the emperor, the consequences for the banker might be severe. Which didn’t even consider the financial side of things. If the Charisians pulled out their equipment and their technical manuals—if they had the time to pull those things out—in addition to their personnel, the consequences would be devastating. And as one of the consortium’s heaviest investors, Nengkwan’s losses would be heavy.

Too bad I can’t tell the poor bastard we’ve already been planning for something exactly like this, Mahklyn thought. On the other hand, maybe he already knew. Maybe he knows he’s not really telling us anything we didn’t already guess so he might as well bank as much Charisian goodwill as he can for the future.

He looked at Nengkwan’s expression and decided that last thought had been unfair. No, Nengkwan was that rarest of creatures: an honest man. One who was unhappy not simply because of his potential losses, nor even because of the consequences for his empire, which he foresaw, but because he, too, understood the importance of the rule of law. And the moral responsibility of keeping his own word.

“You and Duke Delthak and all of our other Charisian investors have always been honest and forthright in our dealings, despite the lingering enmity the Jihad engenders in far too many hearts and souls,” Nengkwan said, still meeting Mahklyn’s gaze steadily. “I can be no less in return.”

And there’s the proof of it, Mahklyn thought, because he means every word of that.

“If I may, I’ll say precisely the same thing about you in the Duke’s stead,” he said out loud, and rose to offer his hand across the desk again and smiled crookedly.

“Under the circumstances, sir,” he said, “I think we’re in agreement that the three of us all have better things to do than sit around talking.” Especially where word of it might get back to Zhyou-Zhwo and his toadies.

“I’m sure we do,” Nengkwan replied, clasping his forearm firmly. “May Langhorne bless you until we meet again.”

“And you.”

Mahklyn inclined his head courteously and waited until Nengkwan had left the office, then turned back to Khasgrayv.

“Adds a little point to our earlier conversation, doesn’t it, sir?” Khasgrayv observed. “But if Zhyou-Zhwo’s serious about unilaterally abrogating our charters, is he likely to let us pull out our machine tools?”

“Hard to say.” Mahklyn shrugged. “The articles are very specific about the fact that Delthak Enterprises owns the machine tools—all the heavy equipment we’ve been using to upgrade and expand the existing facilities—at least until the new foundry goes on line. But if he’s going to shitcan the entire consortium, who knows? I’d think even he would think two or three times about offending Their Majesties too blatantly at this point, given what he already has on his plate, but he’s Harchongese. So he might be fully capable of cutting off his nose and one ear to spite his face! We’ll proceed on the theory that he isn’t, though, and cross that bridge when we get to it if it turns out he is.”

“Yes, sir. In that case, I’d probably better get on it, hadn’t I?”

“I think that would be an excellent idea,” Mahklyn agreed, and settled back into his chair, his expression pensive, as Khasgrayv closed the office door behind him.

In the short term, losing the machine tools and other heavy equipment would be a significant blow to Duke Delthak’s Harchongese associates. In the longer term, however, that loss would pale beside the loss of the technical manuals and plans Mahklyn and his corps of Charisian experts had brought with them, and manuals and plans that couldn’t be removed could always be burned. Especially in a foundry, with all those puddling hearths so conveniently to hand.

Except. . . .

I wonder how Nengkwan’s going to react when he finds out I’m leaving all of that behind? Zhaspahr Mahklyn mused. For that matter, I wonder why I’m leaving it behind?

It didn’t make a great deal of sense to him, but Duke Delthak’s contingency instructions had been abundantly clear, and the truth was that it didn’t break Mahklyn’s heart.

Nengkwan tried to do right by us. The least we can do is return a little of the favor, he decided, and that was good enough for him.




.III.

Selyk,
Westmarch Province,
Republic of Siddarmark.


“What the—?!”

Shormyn Mahkluskee jerked upright on the freight wagon’s driver’s seat as the dragon in the traces squealed, crow-hopped with four of its six feet completely off the ground, and lunged sideways.

He had no idea what could have startled the creature that badly. Draft dragons were noted for placidity, not flightiness, and he and Grygory had made this trip often since his return from the Temple Lands. Certainly the dragon had grown accustomed to the normal noises and distractions of street traffic! Besides, Selyk wasn’t a huge metropolis. It had suffered heavily in the Jihad’s fighting—for that matter, most of its population had scattered. Some, like Mahkluskee himself, had sought refuge with Mother Church in the Border States and Temple Lands while others had fled eastward to escape the Sword of Schueler’s carnage. Many of those refugees had trickled home again and they’d been rebuilding ever since, but Selyk’s population was still only about half its pre-Jihad size. There wasn’t all that much street traffic, and especially not on a late winter’s morning.

In the end, it didn’t matter what had frightened the dragon, though.


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: Snippet #15
Post by Thendisnia   » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:55 am

Thendisnia
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runsforcelery wrote:

.III.

Selyk,
Westmarch Province,
Republic of Siddarmark.


“What the—?!”

Shormyn Mahkluskee jerked upright on the freight wagon’s driver’s seat as the dragon in the traces squealed, crow-hopped with four of its six feet completely off the ground, and lunged sideways.

He had no idea what could have startled the creature that badly. Draft dragons were noted for placidity, not flightiness, and he and Grygory had made this trip often since his return from the Temple Lands. Certainly the dragon had grown accustomed to the normal noises and distractions of street traffic! Besides, Selyk wasn’t a huge metropolis. It had suffered heavily in the Jihad’s fighting—for that matter, most of its population had scattered. Some, like Mahkluskee himself, had sought refuge with Mother Church in the Border States and Temple Lands while others had fled eastward to escape the Sword of Schueler’s carnage. Many of those refugees had trickled home again and they’d been rebuilding ever since, but Selyk’s population was still only about half its pre-Jihad size. There wasn’t all that much street traffic, and especially not on a late winter’s morning.

In the end, it didn’t matter what had frightened the dragon, though. :o



Oohhhh! It's a big one eh.
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Re: Snippet #15
Post by isaac_newton   » Mon Dec 03, 2018 4:17 am

isaac_newton
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Thendisnia wrote:
runsforcelery wrote:
SNIP

population was still only about half its pre-Jihad size. There wasn’t all that much street traffic, and especially not on a late winter’s morning.

In the end, it didn’t matter what had frightened the dragon, though. :o



Oohhhh! It's a big one eh.


I'm getting to hate these snippet endings of RFC's :lol:
sigh...

so what might the distraction be??
I guess its something that the dragon has seen, rather then heard?
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Re: Snippet #15
Post by Joat42   » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:29 am

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runsforcelery wrote:SNIP

population was still only about half its pre-Jihad size. There wasn’t all that much street traffic, and especially not on a late winter’s morning.

In the end, it didn’t matter what had frightened the dragon, though. :o

isaac_newton wrote:
Thendisnia wrote:Oohhhh! It's a big one eh.


I'm getting to hate these snippet endings of RFC's :lol:
sigh...

so what might the distraction be??
I guess its something that the dragon has seen, rather then heard?

Well, it may have picked up some lessons during the war - like buried gunpowder in the road is nasty or something like it.

---
Jack of all trades and destructive tinkerer.


Anyone who have simple solutions for complex problems is a fool.
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Re: Snippet #15
Post by Rogue10   » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:36 am

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Is it just me, or does it seem like we are missing the header information for this snippit? It doesn't seem to follow directly on from the last one...or maybe it does? I guess they are still in the same city.
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Re: Snippet #15
Post by Dauntless   » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:56 am

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western siddermark? well this will likely be more of the violence between those who left and have come back and those who stayed.

which means it is going to be almost as ugly as what is happening in northern Harcong
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Re: Snippet #15
Post by fallsfromtrees   » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:30 pm

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Rogue10 wrote:Is it just me, or does it seem like we are missing the header information for this snippit? It doesn't seem to follow directly on from the last one...or maybe it does? I guess they are still in the same city.

I think this was the Foundry mentioned in the header of the previous snippet. We then switched scenes from Harchong to Siddermark for about four paragraphs, just to provide a cliff hanger.
The only problem with quotes on the internet is that you can't authenticate them -- Abraham Lincoln
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Re: Snippet #15
Post by iranuke   » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:54 pm

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I am so looking forward to the release of the book in about a month, so that when I come to one of the cliffhanger points, I can just keep reading. I guess that's why rfc stops where he does isn't it.
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Re: Snippet #15
Post by Julia Minor   » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:58 pm

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Interesting hints about Delthak's contingency plans. I wonder if the inner circle's plot to get Harchong to industrialize involves their capture of Charisian equipment/manuals "before they can be destroyed"? (Followed by Cayleb reimbursing Delthak for his losses, of course.)

Hopefully Zhyou-Zhwo will settle for just capturing the equipment. We already know from earlier books that Harchong has enslaved workers along with their serfs; if he decides to chain the Charisian contingent to the machines to make sure they keep working it would get very ugly.
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Re: Snippet #15
Post by isaac_newton   » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:06 pm

isaac_newton
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Julia Minor wrote:Interesting hints about Delthak's contingency plans. I wonder if the inner circle's plot to get Harchong to industrialize involves their capture of Charisian equipment/manuals "before they can be destroyed"? (Followed by Cayleb reimbursing Delthak for his losses, of course.)

Hopefully Zhyou-Zhwo will settle for just capturing the equipment. We already know from earlier books that Harchong has enslaved workers along with their serfs; if he decides to chain the Charisian contingent to the machines to make sure they keep working it would get very ugly.


I would have thought that what happened to Desnair and then Dohlar would have been a very salutary lesson not to lay hands on Charisian citizens!
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