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By Schism Rent Asunder: Section Two

       Last updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 07:09 EDT




Royal Palace,

City of Manchyr,

Princedom of Corisande

    Hektor Daykyn's toe caught on the splinter-fringed gouge a Charisian round shot had plowed across the deck of the galley Lance. It was one of many such gouges, and the Prince of Corisande reached out to run his hand across a shattered bulwark railing where the mast had come thundering down in splintered ruin.

    "Captain Harys had his hands full bringing this one home, Your Highness," the man walking at his right shoulder said quietly.

    "Yes. Yes, he did," Hektor agreed, but his voice was oddly distant, his eyes looking at something only he could see. The distant focus in those eyes worried Sir Taryl Lektor, the Earl of Tartarian, more than a little bit. With the Earl of Black Water's death in battle confirmed, Tartarian had become the senior ranking admiral of the Corisandian Navy –such as it was, and what remained of it — and he didn't much care for the way his prince seemed to occasionally . . . wander off into his own thoughts. It was too unlike Hektor's normal, decisive manner.

    "Father, can we go now?"

    Hektor's eyes blinked back into focus, and he turned to look at the boy beside him. The youngster had Hektor's dark eyes and jawline, but he had the copper-bright hair of his dead northern mother. He was probably going to favor his father in height, too, although it was a bit early to be sure about that. At fifteen, Crown Prince Hektor still had some growing to do.

    In more ways than one, his father thought grimly.

    "No, we can't," he said aloud. The crown prince frowned, and his shoulders hunched as he shoved his hands into his breeches pockets. It wouldn't be quite fair to call his expression a pout, but Prince Hektor couldn't think of a word that came closer.

    Irys, you're worth a dozen of him, the prince thought. Why, oh why, couldn't you have been born a man?

    Unfortunately, Princess Irys hadn't been, which meant Hektor had to make do with his namesake.

    "Pay attention," he said coldly now, giving the boy a moderately stern glare. "Men died to bring this ship home, Hektor. You might learn something from their example."

    Hektor the younger flushed angrily at the public reprimand. His father observed his darkened color with a certain satisfaction, then reminded himself that publicly humiliating the child who would someday sit on his throne and rule his princedom was probably not a very good idea. Princes who remembered that sort of treatment tended to take it out on their own subjects, with predictable results.

    Not that the odds of this particular crown prince having the opportunity to do anything of the sort were particularly good. Which had quite a lot to do with the damage to the battered galley on which Hektor stood.

    He turned in place, looking up and down the full length of the ship. Tartarian was right, he reflected. Getting this ship home must have been a nightmare. Her pumps were still working even now, as she lay to her anchor. The long, crawling voyage home from Darcos Sound — almost seven thousand miles — in a ship which had been holed at least a dozen times below the waterline, and a third of whose crew had been slaughtered by the Charisian artillery, was the stuff of which legends were made. Hektor hadn't even tried to count the shot holes above the waterline, but he'd already made a mental note to have Captain Zhoel Harys promoted.

    And at least I have plenty of vacancies to promote him into, don't I? Hektor thought, looking down at the dark discoloration where human blood had soaked deeply into Lance's deck planking.

    "All right, Hektor," he said. "We can go, I suppose. You're late for your fencing lesson, anyway."



    Some hours later, Hektor, Admiral Tartarian, Sir Lyndahr Raimynd, Hektor's treasurer, and the Earl of Coris, his spymaster, sat in a small council chamber whose window overlooked the naval anchorage.

    "How many does that make, My Prince?" Earl Coris asked.

    "Nine," Hektor said, rather more harshly than he'd intended to. "Nine," he repeated in a more moderate tone. "And I doubt we're going to see many more of them."

    "And according to our latest messages from the Grand Duke, none of the Zebediahan-manned galleys have made it home even now," Coris murmured.

    "I'm well aware of that," Hektor said.

    And I'm not very surprised, either, he thought. There never were many of them, and despite anything Tohmys may have to say, I'll wager his precious captains surrendered just about as quickly as Sharleyan's Chisholmians. He snorted mentally. After all, they love me just about as much as Sharleyan does.

    Actually, that probably wasn't quite fair, he reflected. It had been over twenty years since he had defeated and deposed — and executed — the last Prince of Zebediah. Who hadn't been a particularly good prince before the conquest even when he'd had a head, as even the most rabid Zebediahan patriot was forced to admit. Hektor might have displayed a certain ruthlessness in rooting out potential resistance and making sure the entire previous dynasty was safely extinct, and he'd been forced to make examples of the occasional ambitious noble since then. But at least they'd gotten honest government since becoming Corisandian subjects, and their taxes weren't actually all that much higher than they had been. Of course, more of those taxes were spent in Corisande than in Zebediah, but if they insisted on losing wars, they couldn't have everything.

    And whatever the common folk might think, Tohmys Symmyns, the Grand Duke of Zebediah, and his fellow surviving aristocrats knew which side of their bread the jam was on. Symmyns' father, for example, had been a mere baron before Hektor elevated him to the newly created title of grand duke, and the current grand duke would retain the title only as long as he retained Hektor's confidence. Still, there was no denying that his Zebediahan subjects were somewhat less enthusiastic than his nativeborn Corisandians about shedding their blood in the service of the House of Daykyn.

    Something about how much of their blood had been shed by the House of Daykyn over the last few decades, probably.

    "Frankly, Your Highness," Tartarian said, "I'll be astonished if we see any more of them, Corisandian-crewed or Zebediahan-crewed. Lance is the next best thing to a wreck. Given her damage and casualties, it's a miracle Harys got her home at all, and he didn't set any record passage doing it." The admiral shook his head, his expression grim. "If there were any of them with worse damage, they almost certainly went down before they could reach Corisande. Either that, or they're beached on an island somewhere between here and Darcos Sound, at any rate."

    "That's my opinion, as well," Hektor agreed, and inhaled deeply. "Which means that whenever Haarahld gets around to us, we're not going to have a navy to fend him off."

    "If the reports are accurate, no conventional galley fleet would be able to stop him anyway, Your Highness," Tartarian said.

    "Agreed. So we're just going to have to build ourselves a 'new model' galleon fleet of our own."

    "How likely is Haarahld to give us the time to do something like that, My Prince?" Coris asked.

    "Your guess is as good as mine, Phylyp. In fact –" Hektor's smile was alum-tart "– I rather hope your guess is better than mine."

    Coris didn't quail, but his expression wasn't particularly happy, either. Phylyp Ahzgood, like his counterpart in Charis, had not been born to the nobility. He'd received his title (following the unfortunately deceased previous Earl of Coris' involvement in the last attempt to assassinate Hektor) in recognition of his work as Hektor's spymaster, and he was probably the closest thing Hektor had to a true first councilor. But he'd slipped considerably in the prince's favor as the devastating degree to which Haarahld of Charis' naval innovations had been underestimated began becoming painfully clear. It was entirely possible that his head was still keeping company with the rest of his body only because everyone else had been taken equally by surprise.

    "Actually, I think we may have at least a little time in hand, Your Highness," Tartarian said. The admiral seemed blissfully unaware of the undercurrent between his prince and Coris, although Hektor rather doubted he truly was.

    "As a matter of fact, I think I may agree with you, Admiral," the prince said. "I'm curious as to whether or not your reasoning matches mine, though."

    "A lot depends on Haarahld's resources and how focused he can keep his strategy, Your Highness. Frankly, from the reports we've received so far, it doesn't sound as if he lost very many — if any — of those damned galleons. On the other hand, he didn't exactly have a huge number of them before the battle, either. Let's say he has thirty or forty. That's a very powerful fleet, especially with the new artillery. In fact, it could probably defeat any other fleet on the face of Safehold. But as soon as he starts splitting it up to cover multiple objectives, it gets far weaker. And despite what's just happened to all of our navies, he has to take at least some precautions to cover his home waters and protect his merchant shipping.

    "As I see it, that means he probably only has the capability to launch one effective offensive at a time. I'd love for him to try to conduct multiple campaigns, but I don't think he's stupid enough to do that. And while we're thinking about the sorts of campaigns he can fight, let's not forget that he doesn't really have an army, at all, and Corisande isn't exactly a small piece of dirt. It's over seventeen hundred miles from Wind Hook Head to Dairwyn, and more like two thousand from Cape Targan to West Wind Head. We may be a lot less densely populated than someplace like Harchong or Siddarmark, but that's still a lot of territory to cover. He can raise an army big enough to meet his needs against us and Emerald both, if he really tries, but that's going to take time and carry Shan-wei's own price tag. And it's going to cut into his ability to continue his naval buildup, as well.

    "Even in a best-case situation — best-case from his perspective, I mean — it will be five-days, or even months, before he's prepared to launch any serious overseas attacks. And even when he is, Emerald is much closer to him than we are. He's not going to want to leave Prince Nahrmahn unneutralized in his rear while he sends the majority of his fleet and every Marine he can scrape up to attack us. That probably means he'll deal with Emerald first, and while I don't think much of the Emeraldian army, it does exist. If it decides to fight, it's going to take him at least another couple of months, minimum, to take just the major ports and cities. Subduing the entire island, assuming Nahrmahn's subjects decide to remain loyal to him, is going to take even longer.

    "So, if he pursues a conventional strategy, I doubt very much that he's going to be able to get around to us at all this year."

    "Cogently argued," Hektor said. "And, overall, I find myself in agreement with you. But don't forget that Haarahld of Charis has already demonstrated that he's perfectly prepared to pursue unconventional strategies, Admiral."

    "Oh, I won't, I assure you, Your Highness. No one associated with the Navy is likely to forget that any time soon."

    "Good." Hektor smiled frostily, then waved one hand.

    "For the moment, though, let's assume your analysis is reasonably accurate. Even if it's not, we undoubtedly have at least a month or two before Haarahld's going to be able to come calling. Oh, we may see some cruisers prowling around the coast, snapping up any merchant shipping foolish enough to cross their paths, but it's going to take him longer to put together a serious expedition. And if it takes him long enough, we may have a few nasty surprises of our own for him when he gets here."

    "What sort of surprises, My Prince?" Coris asked.

    "At least Black Water's dispatches with the sketches of the new Charisian guns got here safely," Hektor pointed out. "It's a pity the actual prize ships managed to end up in Eraystor for some mysterious reason, but thanks to his sketches and Captain Myrgyn's accompanying report, we know about the new gun mounts and carriages and the bagged powder charges. I'd love to know more about this new gun powder of theirs, as well, but –"

    Hektor grimaced amd shrugged slightly. That was the one part of Myrgyn's report which had been less than rigorously complete.

    "I think we can still take advantage of what we do know about their artillery improvements even without that, though," he continued after a moment. "The question is how long we'll have to put them into effect."

    "I've already discussed the new guns with the master of artillery, Your Highness," Tartarian said. "He's just as upset as I was that the same ideas never occurred to us. They're so damned simple that –"

    The earl stopped himself and shook his head.

    "Sorry, Your Highness." He cleared his throat. "The point I was going to make is that he's already making the molds for his first pour of new-style guns. Obviously, he's going to have to do some experimenting, and the new guns are going to have to be bored and mounted. All the same, he's estimating that he should be able to deliver the first of them within a month and a half or so. I told him –" Tartarian looked Hektor in the eye "– that I understood it was only an estimate and that there'd be no repercussions if it turned out that, despite his best efforts, his estimate was overly optimistic."

    Hektor grimaced again, but he also nodded.

    "While the master of artillery is working on that," Tartarian continued, "I've already started looking at ways to modify galleons to mount the new weapons. I don't think it's going to be as simple as just cutting ports in their sides, and I'm not prepared to even guess at this point how long it's going to take to actually refit a ship with them. We'll do the best we can, but we're not going to be able to build a fleet to meet Haarahld at sea in less than at least a year or two, Your Highness. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is."

    "Understood. I'm not any happier about the numbers than you are, Admiral, but we'll just have to do the best we can in the time we have. What I think that's going to mean, at least in the short term, is that as the new guns come from the foundry, they'll go first to our more critical shore batteries, and only then to new naval construction."

    "If I may, Your Highness, I'd prefer to modify that slightly," Tartarian said. "I agree that the shore batteries have to have immediate priority, but every gun we can put afloat to support the batteries will be well worthwhile, as well. I'm of the opinion that we could probably build floating batteries — I'm talking about what would basically be nothing but big rafts, with bulwarks to protect their crews against small arms fire and light artillery — relatively quickly to help cover our critical harbors. And every galleon we can fit out with the new guns will be very valuable in terms of harbor defense."

    "I see."

    Hektor pursed his lips, considering the argument carefully, then shrugged.

    "You may well be correct, Admiral. I rather suspect that the point is going to be moot, initially, at least, though. Once you begin producing galleons to put the guns aboard, we'll have to reconsider our priorities, of course."

    "Yes, Your Highness."

    "Which brings us to you, Lyndahr," Hektor continued, turning to his treasurer. "I'm fully aware that we don't begin to have the money to pay for an entirely new navy. On the other hand, buying a new navy will probably be cheaper than buying a new princedom. So I need you to be creative."

    "I understand, My Prince," Raimynd replied. "And I've been giving some thought to that very point. The problem is, there's simply not enough money in the treasury to begin to pay for an armaments program on this scale. Or perhaps I should say, there's simply not enough money in our treasury to pay for it."

    "Ah?" Hektor cocked an eyebrow, and Raimynd shrugged.

    "I believe, My Prince," he said in a rather delicate tone, "that the Knights of the Temple Lands aren't going to be . . . excessively pleased by the outcome of our recent campaign."

    "That's putting it mildly, I'm sure," Hektor said dryly.

    "I assumed that would be the case, My Prince. And it occurred to me that, under the circumstances, the Knights of the Temple Lands might recognize a certain commonality of interest with the Princedom, let us say. Indeed, I believe it would be quite reasonable for us to request them to help defray the costs we've incurred in our common endeavor."

    Raimynd, Hektor reflected, should have been a diplomat rather than a coin-counter.

    "I agree with you," he said aloud. "Unfortunately, the Knights of the Temple Lands are some distance away. Even with the assistance of the semaphore system and Church dispatch boats, it takes five-days to pass simple messages back and forth, much less gold or silver. And if Haarahld gets wind of actual shipments of bullion, I know precisely where his cruisers will be deployed."

    "You're correct, My Prince. However, Bishop Executor Thomys is right here in Manchyr. I believe that if you were to approach him properly, explaining the exact nature of our need, you might be able to convince him to bolster our efforts."

    "In exactly what fashion?" Hektor asked.

    "I believe that if the Bishop Executor were willing, he could issue letters of credit against the Knights of the Temple Lands' treasury. We might have to discount their face value slightly, but it's more likely they'd circulate at full value, given the fact that everyone knows the Temple Lands' solvency is beyond question. We could then issue our own letters of credit, secured by the Bishop Executor's, to finance our necessary armaments program."

    "And if the Bishop Executor is unwilling to commit the Knights of the Temple Lands?" Tartarian asked. Raimynd looked at him, and the admiral shrugged. "I agree with the logic of every single thing you've said, Sir Lyndahr. Unfortunately, the Bishop Executor may feel he lacks the authority to encumber the Knights of the Temple Lands' treasury. And, to be perfectly honest, if I were a foundry owner or a shipbuilder, I might find myself a little nervous about accepting a letter of credit on the Temple Lands which hadn't already been approved by the Knights of the Temple Lands themselves, if you take my meaning."

    "An understandable point," Hektor said. "But not, I think, an insurmountable one. Lyndahr, I think this is a very good idea, one that needs to be pursued. And if Bishop Executor Thomys proves reluctant when we speak to him, I believe we should point out that while he can't legally commit the Knights of the Temple Lands, he does have the authority to commit the resources of the archbishopric. He has the assets right here in Corisande to secure a large enough letter of credit to cover our first several months' expenses. By that time, we'll undoubtedly have heard back from the Knights of the Temple Lands themselves. I think they'll see the logic of your argument and approve the arrangement. If they don't, we'll simply have to come up with some alternative approach."

    "Yes, Your Highness." Raimynd dipped his head in a sort of half-bow.

    "Very well," Hektor said, pushing back his chair, "I think that concludes everything we can profitably discuss this afternoon. I want reports — regular reports — on everything we've talked about. I realize our position is rather . . . unenviable, shall we say, at the moment." He showed his teeth in a tight grin. "However, if Haarahld will just take long enough munching up Emerald, I think we ought to be able to accomplish enough to at least give him a serious bellyache when he gets around to Corisande!"

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