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Frequently Asked Questions

Perhaps it is because of the nature of the books that David writes, perhaps it is because David Weber's fans are unusually dedicated and inquisitive... but it seems that everyone has a question! Here are a few that David finds he gets asked most often.

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Series Question Posted
Safehold What powers does the Charisian Crown have? (First asked Tue Jun 14, 2011) December 2013

All right -- you guys asked for it, so don't blame ME for the length of this! And BTW, the reason I'm using all caps for emphasis rather than ital isn't to shout at you but because I composed this off-forum and didn't want to hunt through it to find and reformat each emphasized word. <G>

We haven’t discussed how Constitutional law works in Charis because it hasn’t really been important to the story. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been important to what’s happening (or to the characters in their off-screen lives), but that the actual mechanisms haven’t been crucial to the results the reader has had to see.

Unlike most medieval Terran monarchies, Charis has a written constitution which was promulgated by the House of Ahrmahk after Saint Zherneau’s journal had revealed the truth about the “Archangels.” It was intended to provide a basis which might later be transitioned into a constitutional monarchy (in our present sense of the term) while conserving the power of the Crown at the moment, and so it favors the Crown rather heavily over Parliament.

Essentially, the Crown can rule by decree, and its decrees need not be approved by Parliament to take effect. HOWEVER, Parliament can by a majority vote of both houses repeal and negate any royal decree within a half-year of its promulgation; after that, it requires a two-thirds super-majority of both houses to repeal a decree. This means (in effect) that Parliament has a collective veto power over the Crown, although the process is complicated enough that it’s not real likely to happen (especially since a smart monarch will withdraw or modify a decree which is generating that much resistance before Parliament gets into the habit of overruling him).

The Crown also controls fiscal policy and establishes tax law and Parliament cannot repeal Crown policy (except by a majority vote of both houses, as described above), but Parliament does have the power to ammend existing tax law. Because the Crown can (and normally does) rule by decree which (in effect) simply has to be approved by a majority of one house to remain law, the Council, as the Crown’s advisor and executor, is of special importance under the Charisian Constitution. The House of Commons’ biggest stick is that it has the responsibility of approving (and the right to recall) all members of the Council. The Crown determines which councilor holds which “portfolio” (including the First Councilor’s position), but the Commons (by majority vote) can control who SITS on the Council. The House of Lords doesn’t get to confirm members of the council, but it CAN move to remove a councilor. The process is sort of a mirror image of the US Constitution’s impeachment process (except that it can be exercised for any reason, not for specifically enumerated offenses against the Constitution) in that a simple majority of the Lords can call for a councilor’s removal but that the actual removal must be confirmed by a two-thirds majority of the Commons.

The House of Lords’ biggest stick is that it serves as the kingdom’s supreme court in constitutional matters (the King’s Bench is the supreme court in criminal matters, which has the potential to lead to a clash of authorities), which means that the Lords are the final determiners of what the Constitution actually says. In addition, the Lords must confirm the succession to the throne. The Constitution doesn’t specifically address the question of inheritance, but Charisian tradition enshrines male primogeniture. The Constitution DOES, however, provide that the House of Lords can refuse to accept the “proper” heir and move further down the line of succession. The Lords are required to approve an heir as soon as a new monarch assumes the throne, however. This means that the succession is always secured, by act of Parliament, without room for a disputed succession in the event that a monarch dies childless. The Lords can alter the succession at any time, but that requires a two-thirds vote rather than a simple majority, and they’d probably better be sure they REALLY want to get into a pissing contest with the Crown if they decide to do so without a damned good reason. <G>

The Crown determines foreign policy and negotiates treaties and alliances, but any formal treaty must be approved by both houses of Parliament. (This means that Cayleb’s proposal of marriage required parliamentary consent. As one may have noticed from reading the books, however, Cayleb didn’t say a word to Parliament until he announced what was effectively a fait accompli. That reflected not simply the absolute necessity of keeping the negotiations coompletely secret until they were concluded but also the fact that he knew damned well Parliament would accept it, in no small part because he had discussed it intensively with the critical members of his council (who tend to keep in touch with little things like the mood of Parliament). In addition, of course, there was the minor fact that it was a matter of national survival . . . and that no one in his right mind wanted to piss Cayleb off at that point in his reign.)

The Crown also makes and determines military policy (which includes procurement fiscal policy covering --- very specifically --- shipbuilding). The monarch is also commander-in-chief, and the military’s oaths are sworn to the CROWN not the CONSTITUTION. (A minor point, after all . . . which the Crown made darned sure was enshrined UNDER the Constitution. <G>) The Crown does NOT require a formal declaration of war from Parliament to commit the kingdom’s military forces, but Parliament can use its power to amend tax policy to starve the Crown of funds for military operations of which it does not approve. This is a time-consuming process, however, and leaves Parliament without EFFECTIVE control of the kingdom’s military operations. Nor has it ever actually been employed in Charisian history.

Parliament does have the power to initiate legislation. ALL bills must originate in the House of Commons but are amendable (and must be approved) by both houses. However, no act of Parliament can become law without the Crown’s assent, and Parliament does NOT have the power to override the Crown. (It would always be theoretically possible for Parliament and the Crown to get into the equivalent of a series of nuclear exchanges with both sides effectively vetoing the other side --- in Parliament’s case by repealing existing Crown decrees and “amending” tax laws out of existence before allowing them to pass --- until one side or the other gives up. This has not happened in Charisian history to date, however.)

There is a formal procedure for amending the Constitution. Amendments can be proposed by Parliament (simple majority of both houses) or by the Crown. To become law, an amendment must be approved by a two-thirds majority of both houses AND the Crown. An amendment can become law OVER the Crown’s objections only if it can be approved by a two-thirds majority of both houses in successive parliamentary sessions. The sessions in question need not be IMMEDIATELY successive to one another; that is, there is no limit on how much time can pass between the two parliaments which ultimately approve the amendment.

As far as the succession in Old Charis is concerned, the Lords had confirmed the succession before Haarahld’s death as : Cayleb, Zhan, Zhanayt. When Cayleb became king, the succession became Zhan, Zhanayt, Rayjhis Ahrmak (minor Duke of Tirian). The big problem with the succession at this point (of course) was that ALL the immediate heirs were minors, but Zhanayt wasn’t enough older than Zhan (in Parliament’s view) to alter the succession, and Parliament was not prepared to move beyond Cayleb’s immediate family to name a more distant adult relative as his heir although it COULD in theory have done so. Cayleb and his council had named Gray Harbor as his regent in the case of his death in order to provide the greatest possible ciontinuity iin the case of a minor reign.

Under the Constitution, Parliament must meet yearly and must sit for a minimum of four months a year. There is no maximum length on a session of Parliament, and the Crown cannot dissolve it against its will until it has sat for its minimum of four months in a year. In other words, the monarch can’t simply dismiss Parliament and rule by unchecked decree the way Charles I attempted to do in England and the French kings after Louis XIII did regularly up to the Revolution. Members of the House of Commons are elected for three year terms, NOT for the duration of a single Parliament, and elections are staggered, with one-third of the boroughs holding elections each year. The Crown is specifically prohibited under the Constitution from arresting or imprisoning any member of Parliament for any offense during sessions of the Parliament in which he serves. Even MPs or Lords who have been imprisoned for some other offense between sessions must be released to take their seats during the current session.

The Church, under the original Constitution, holds ultimate veto power over any purely political act in that the Church through the local archbishop and/or his intendant may rule any act is not in accord with God’s law as revealed through the Archangels. (This is the case for any Safeholdian rwealm, not simply Charis.) The Church also holds ultimate authority over the confirmation of any title of nobility, since the succession cannot become legal without the Church’s attestation. (This was the reason the Church had final authority in the disputed succession in Hanth.) It has historically been very rare for the Church to have to intervene that “crudely” in domestic political affairs because the Church is guaranteed a large percentage of the seats in the House of Lords in every Charisian kingdom and --- in most Charisian kingdoms --- the Lords dominate the Commons. (This was one reason the Chrch was prepared to whack Chisholm as soon as Charis was out of the way even before Sharley married Cayleb; Chisholm was giving the Commons too much power. The situation in Harchong, where a reactionary nobility is completely loyal to the Church, is the Temple’s ideal political equation. This, of course, is another reason the Church is unhappy with the Republic, where the Lord Protectorship is elective and the legislative authority lies in the hands of an elective senate rather than an hereditary nobility which can be seduced/coopted into serving the Church’s ends out of self interest.)

As part of the marriage contract with Sharleyan, Zhan (who had already been confirmed by Parliament as heir to Old Charis until Cayleb produced a child) was made their joint heir because Sharleyan HAD no siblings or children. Indeed, the succession question in Chisholm was a bit vague, and Sharleyan’s need to produce an heir (or to do an Elizabeth I tap dance about who she might marry as a diplomatic weapon) was a major policy issue for her and her council. The agreement to make Zhan their joint heir satisfied existing Charisian law and clarified the succession for Chisholm (and, of course, the Empire as a whole), while the provision that either partner became joint heir to both thrones in the event one of them died (and the relative youth of both of them, with the promise that additional joint heirs could --- and would --- be produced) went a long way towards quashing any lingering temptation to depose Sharley among the Chisholmian peers. It also solved the problem of minor heirs in Charis, since it provided Sharleyan (an adult and obviously VERY competent monarch in her own riight) as Cayleb’s heir if anything happened to him. When Crown Princess Alahna was born, she AUTOMATICALLY became first in line to the imperial crown because of the specification of the marriage contract (she is the ONLY “heir of their joint bodies” in existence), although Zhan remains next in line behind her. The Imperial Constitution, moreover, provides that the heir to the crown is the FIRSTBORN child, regardless of gender, since they could scarcely exclude female heirs with Sharleyan specifically named to succeed Cayleb if he should pre-decease her.

The Imperial Constitution differs from the Old Charisian constitution in several other minor particulars but follows it in general. The Chisholmian “constitution” was largely unwritten, with the power of the Crown waxing and waning (which was the problem Sharleyan’s father had in recouping the Crown’s power). Sharleyan, however, was a VERY strong monarch, which meant she and Green Mountain had near absolute power when Cayleb’s proposal arrived (and explains the reason she was able to announce to her Parliament that they WERE going to do things her way). By signing onto the imperial Constitution, she has in effect accepted a de jure limitation of her powers, although in a de facto sense she and Cayleb remain very nearly absolute monarchs under the current conditions.

Safehold I've just finished reading the most recent Safehold book, and I've got to know, what is the name of the next Safehold novel, and when is the publication date? July 2009

David is currently writing one per year. The next Safehold release is titled Hell's Foundations Quiver, with the release in November of 2015.

Safehold Okay, So I'm dying to long does David think that this series is going to be? And will the inhabitants of Safehold ever meet the Gbaba? August 2009

David is currently anticipating that the Safehold series will be a minimum of nine books. And, he is currently planning for the humans of Safehold to run back into the Gbaba at some point...but that's all the details I could squeeze out of him!

Safehold How did the current Group of Four come about? (Asked Mon Jun 20, 2011) December 2013

I was answering the original post in a hurry because I had to take my son to his baseball practice --- one reason we had some of the typos we had in it. <G> I was also responding specifically to the attitudes and beliefs of the Gof4, not the Church as a whole, and I think a more thorough discussion of where the Gof4 came from and what motivated its individual members might be in order. This is especially true of the Grand Inquisitor, since Clyntahn has been the driving force behind so many of the Gof4’s policies and actions.

Clyntahn had several driving motivations beyond simple pique at Charis or “fear” of Siddarmark, and he’s a firm believer in killing as many wyverns as possible with a single stone. Let’s look at some of the aspects of what the Gof4 is, how it came into existence, and exactly what Clyntahn’s role in all this is.

The Gof4 has ZERO official, legal standing as the determiners of Church policy. Its members didn’t exactly set out as a group to “seize control” of the Church; instead, these are the four men who wound up accumulating a terrific amount of personal power because each had risen to the head of one of the four primary bureaucracies of the Church. In effect, they were the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General AND Supreme Court (in one package) under a President with absolute power . . . and a lobotomy. That’s actually a little unfair to the current Grand Vicar, but not a lot, and the fault in that instance belongs to Trynair, yet it was actually a defensive maneuver on his part.

What may not yet be fully evident in the books to date (but should be clear at least by the end of FOUNDATION) is that the votes were cooked when Clyntahn was selected as Grand Inquisitor, and the guy who handled the tactical details of the ballot box stuffiing was our good friend Rayno . . . which has something to do with his present position. The true winner of the election (though no one actually knows this in the books) was Samyl Wylsyn, which is one reason for Clyntahn’s pathological hatred for the entire family. This was something like the equivalent of Heinrich Himmler taking over the SS, except that when Himmler first took over the SS, it was a very small cadre within the SA whereas the Inquisition was the SS at the height of its power when Clyntahn was “elected.”

The Inquisition was already corrupt (one reason Wylsyn was running for the Grand Inquisitorship; he wanted to reform the abuses he saw), which had a lot to do with how the election could be manipulated in Clyntahn’s favor, but Clyntahn took it to a whole new level. He took a corrupt institution (corrupt in the sense of individual abuse of power and a steadily increasing tendency towards arbitrary decision making, bribe-taking, and the use of the iron fist to suppress dissent and/or resistance to that power abuse) and gave it dynamic new leadership which took it in the direction of his own particular brand of intolerant zealotry. I’m not saying he completely created the “new” Inquisition in his own image or that the “old” Inquisition was somehow benign or “kinder and gentler.” What I’m saying is that the Inquisition (like the Church hierarchy as a whole) had been gradually slipping into a more decadent, power-and-wealth-loving, corrupt stew of political infighting and self-seeking cliques for a couple of hundred years and, in Clyntahn, the process met one of its poles. He was the consummate insider and manipulator of the decaying system, perfectly suited to seizing control of the most powerful and ubiquitous single arm of the Church, and reshaping it in accordance with his own vision. What made him especially dangerous was that he genuinely saw no divergence at all between his own narrow and intolerant views and the will of God. Worse, the cynical and pragmatic side of him recognized the power of terror as a means of discouraging or crushing opposition. Long before he moved against the Wylsyns’ Circle, he’d already decisively crippled their power base within the Vicarate (the only power base that really mattered) by essentially terrifying all of the “fellow travelers” into getting out of the Inquisition’s line of fire.

Trynair didn’t see Clytahn coming. He EXPECTED Wylsyn to win the election, and when he realized what Clyntahn was up to, he cast about for a counterbalance in order to preserve his own powerbase. Fortunately for him, the Grand Vicar died before Clyntahn had fully consolidated his own power. Trynair’s alliances within the Vicarate were enough for him to secure the election of his candidate, the current incumbent. That consolidated his own powerbase in the political side of the Church’s leadership and policymaking, which --- on the surface --- actually gave him more power, more ability to shape the Church’s agenda (at least in the traditional fashion), than Clynthan possessed. At the same time, however, he was aware that his power was more amorphous and indirect than Clyntahn’s . . . and that Clyntahn was still in the process of consolidating and strengthening HIS powerbase. At that point, Trynair made an alliance with Maigwair in order to bring in the Temple Guard as a balance for the Inquisition’s coercive power. It wasn’t that anyone expected there to be a direct confrontation between the Inquisition and the Guard; it was simply a matter of assembling offsetting powerbases with an eye towards distributing control of the Church and Church policy in accord with the de facto division of power.

In effect, Trynair brokered the Gof4 (only he originally envisioned it as a Group of THREE), reaching an accommodation with Clynthan and Maigwair. Initially, Trynair anticipated that Maigwair would be his ally against Clyntahn; in the event, Maigwair proved a weaker reed than Trynair had hoped and Clyntahn’s influence continued to expand.

The offset for that in Trynair’s eyes was Duchairn, who (because of his control of the Church’s finance) had a huge de facto powerbase of his own. Both Clyntahn and Trynair recognized that they would require Duchairn’s participation if their alliance was going to effectively control Church policy, but Duchairn had acquired his powerbase by being the consummate bureaucrat. Unlike Trynair or Clyntahn, he was a nuts-and-bolts kind of guy, a technocrat. He played the game of personal power, of course, and built his own empire in the Treasury, but he wasn’t remotely in Clyntahn’s league for megalomania or in Trynair’s for Machiavellianism. In a way, Duchairn and Maigwair were both technicians *although Duchairn, frankly, was a far more brilliant and CAPABLE technocrat), while Trynair and Clyntahn were both political operators, which left the Chancellor and the Grand Inquisitor as the poles of power within the Gof4.

Clyntahn, in his competition with Wylsyn, had identified the urge for Reformism (which was still very much below the surface) with his opponent in the race for the Inquisitorship. He hadn’t really identified all the components of the movement, nor did he realize how wide and deeply it had truly spread, but he was aware of its existence. Where Trynair was focused on Siddarmark as a potential (and fairly distant, long-term) secular threat to the Temple Lands (which, bear in mind, were OFFICIALLY secular states themselves), CLYNTAHN was concerned by the Republic’s potential to support Reformism. It wasn’t that there were openly “Reformist” congregations springing up everywhere or any organized movement in that direction, but the Republic’s social and political organization (in his view) LENT themselves to the POSSIBILITY of such movements, and he actually saw signs of drift in that direction in places like Glacierheart. His inability to get his hands around the Republic’s throat by threatening/coopting the aristocracy as the Inquisition did in most of the mainland realms made him automatically suspicious of it, just as the geographic distance between Zion and places like Charis (and the failure to cross-transfer so many of the local clergy, as was done in the continental dioceses) made him hugely suspicious of Reformist sympathies in those distant realms. Charis’ wealth and hugely disproportionate and ubiquitous influence (because of its merchant marine and the power of its navy) made it even more visible on his radar screen than the Republic and only reinforced his suspicion of and hostility towards Charis. (Rayno was Clyntahn’s man on the disputed Hanth succession, and the decision that panel handed down was really directed by Clyntahn as a move against Harahld BECAUSE of that suspicion and hostility).

Clyntahn is constitutionally incapable of recognizing what is driving the Reformist movement completely irrespective of anything having to do with Saint Zhernau’s journal. In his eyes, anyone who disagrees with him, who questions any aspect of HIS interpretation of the Holy Writ, or who dares to object to his harsh and arbitrary policies, is an enemy of God Himself. There is no distinction in his mind between himself and God; therefore, anyone who disputes his judgment (or MIGHT dispute his judgment) is a vile, willing servant of Shan-wei and deserves whatever happens to him. As Merlin himself observes, however, Clyntahn’s instincts did NOT play him false in Charis’ case: Harahld and Staynair WERE systematically working to undermine the Church of God Awaiting, to discredit the Archangels, and to embrace all the “heresies” of the historical Shan-wei. Clyntahn may have become suspicious for all the wrong reasons in Charis’ case, but his suspicions were fully justified.

From the perspective of Trynair and (especially) Duchairn, Clyntahn’s “Final Solution to the Charisian Problem” came out of left field and the decision was almost casually reached; from Clyntahn’s perspective, it was anything but casual. There was a reason he assigned his own agent to Archbishop Erayk’s staff, just as there was a reason for the way in which he presented that agent’s findings to the other three members of the Gof4. He wanted to do exactly what he accomplished: to panic them into accepting his deliberate destruction of Charis. And he intended that destruction to be just as spectacular and complete as the Charisians think he did, both to punish them for daring to rebel against him (oh, and against God, too, of course) AND to serve as a grim warning and horrible example to anyone else (like Siddarmark) who might be considering a similarly Reformist approach.

One point that needs to be understood, however, is that he did NOT react out of fear or out of any doubt of his own power or the coercive authority of the Inquisition and Mother Church. He was absolutely confident of his ability to destroy Charis, or he would never have acted in the first place, and the other members of the Gof4 were equally confident of their ability to destroy the kingdom and all its works. He managed to frighten them with the potential of what might happen if they didn’t act, and he rushed them into agreeing with his proposed plan of action (largely because he was the only one of them who brought a plan of action to the meeting, since he was the only one who knew how he intended to shape and push the discussion), but not a single one of them doubted for a moment that they would succeed in their efforts. And none of them really considered the implications for the people of Charis, either. It was a theoretical discussion and decision for them in many respects because they had become so divorced from the day-to-day realities of the Church at the level of local kingdoms and congregations as a result of their high office. That divorce is, in fact, the thing for which Duchairn is unable to forgive himself now that he has experienced a genuine regeneration of his personal faith.

As a consequence of their failure to destroy Charis as planned, the Church of God Awaiting and the Gof4 now face a battle for their very existence. By eliminating the Reformist Circle in Zion --- and using the hideous example of what happens to anyone who questions Clyntahn to completely cow the surviving vicars --- the Gof4 has consolidated its control over the Church. There is no trace of any sort of organized resistance to their policies in the rest of the Vicarate . . . and no new vicars have been named to replace those who were executed for “heresy.” No “new blood” which might dispute the Gof4’s policies (or grow the courage to resist them) is being permitted into the Vicarate, and every present vicar knows that he will survive only so long as Clyntahn is convinced that he is not a threat. The Gof4’s control in Zion is absolute at this point, and the other three members are finding it increasingly difficult to restrain Clyntahn, whose control of the Inquisition in time of jihad has made him unquestionably first among equals. Yet even as that happens, all three of the others are aware (though they aren’t all necessarily to admit it to themselves) that it is Clyntahn and his policies which have created the very real and very deadly threat to their existence and the Church embodied not simply in the Empire of Charis but in increasing Reformist sentiment in OTHER realms.

Where the Gof4’s internal dynamic will go is not (of course) something I’m going to tell you at this point, but that’s where it came from in the beginning and the reason for the actions it’s already taken.

Safehold How are Vicars distributed across Safehold? (Asked Thu Aug 11, 2011) December 2013

You do remember that 85% of the population of Safehold lives on the "mainland" continents, don't you? That means that only 15% of the entire population lives in Charis, Corisande, and Chisholm combined. The mainland countries have much higher populations, which means that they have much higher numbers of clergy, which means (surprise!) that they also have much larger numbers of — roll of drums — archbishops. In fact, most provinces of the mainland realms have their own archbishops, with the archbishop of the "capital province" serving as the senior prelate for the entire nation. Some of the most densely populated provinces actually have more than a single archbishopric. For example, the Republic of Siddarmark alone has something like 20 provinces, of which the majority actually have more than a single archbishopric. Glacierheart, Archbishop Cahnyr's archbishopric, is a mountainous, relatively thinly populated, poor province. As such, he was the entire province's single archbishop. Old Province, the province directly around Siddar City, has something like eight times Glacierheart's population with a proportionately higher number of archbishoprics. And you don't even want to get into the number of archbishoprics in the Empire of Harchong! Each of the small states between the Republic and the Temple Lands has its own archbishop, as well, and there are numerous archbishoprics in the Temple Lands themselves.

Charis, Corisande, and Chisholm were all "second-class" realms as far as the Church and the mainlanders were concerned. They were assigned single archbishops as much as 200 or even 300 years prior to the books, when their populations were still lower in both absolute and proportionate terms, and the Church doesn't worry about regular censuses and reapportionment of sees on the basis of population. Especially not when there's as much prejudice against being posted to the "out islands" as has been the case. For that matter, the various archbishops in those "out islands" have had a very strong vested interest in not having "their" archbishoprics broken up into more numerous, smaller archbishoprics, since doing so would have considerably diluted both their own wealth and the degree of power they wielded in Zion as the sole archbishops of their private domains. As a result, each "out island" archbishop represented a much greater total number of parishioners, despite the fact that all of the "out island" realms combined contained only 15% of the total population.

In addition, the number of vicars is not based upon or directly proportionate to the number of archbishops. The vicarate — which was intended from the beginning to be an effective planetary legislature, whereas you could think of the archbishops as district or territorial governors — is based upon the planetary population as a whole. The number of "seats" within the vicarate was set at 300 when "the Archangel Langhorne" first organized the Church, but the vicarate's composition has been reapportioned several times since the creation of the Church of God Awaiting in accordance with a formula Langhorne also set down. The number of vicars doesn't change; how those vicars are apportioned between the various secular realms does change, and that fact helps to account (in part) for Clyntahn's reliance upon Harchong. As the most densely populated realm, Harchong has the greatest number of vicars, who form quite a solid voting bloc within the vicarate. Those vicars, by and large, are not merely terrified into compliance with Clyntahn's policies but also actively support them because of their own reactionary orthodoxy. That same representational basis also helps to explain some of Clyntahn's antipathy towards Siddarmark; as the next most populous realm, Siddarmark has the next largest number of vicars, and while they form a less homogenous voting bloc than the Harchongian vicars (in part for reasons mentioned below), they were also substantially less supportive of Clyntahn even before the Group of Four launched the war against Charis. Losses among Siddarmarkian vicars in Clyntahn's purge of the vicarate were rather higher than among those of other realms, although not hugely so.

Vicars are chosen by the existing members of the vicarate on the nomination of the Grand Vicar. In fact, it is not uncommon for a weak Grand Vicar's nominations to actually be formulated by someone else, but under normal circumstances the process is for the Grand Vicar to solicit recommendations from the combined archbishops of the realm to be represented and then (after judicious horsetrading with his supporters and the various factions within the vicarate) to make his own selection from their recommendations. Under the current circumstances, any replacement vicars are going to be chosen by the Group of Four (which probably really means Clyntahn and Trynair), and then rubberstamped by the current Grand Vicar.

The Grand Vicar's nominations are not normally automatically seated in the vicarate. Each nominee requires a majority vote confirmation by the existing members of the vicarate, and it is not unheard of (although rare) for one of the Grand Vicar's nominees to be rejected. The possibility of that happening under the current circumstances (especially following Clyntahn's purge) is probably nonexistent, however.

Note that there are no Charisian, Chisholmian, Tarotisian, or Corisandian vicars. This represents a combination of sloth, inefficiency, corruption, and deliberate oversight on the part of several generations of vicarates and Grand Vicars. Initially, there was too little population in any of those realms to qualify them for membership in the vicarate, just as there was too little population to qualify them for multiple archbishoprics. As their populations increased towards levels which would have qualified them for their own vicars, the Church reapportioned the vicarate (in accordance with Langhorne's formula . . . more or less) by raising the population base necessary to qualify for a vicar. The truth was that the archbishops in those realms didn't want a vicar "joggling their elbows," the current vicars at any given moment didn't want to see one of their number reapportioned out of his seat in the vicarate to make room for some out island rube, and the growing distrust of the "out islands" orthodoxy lent additional force to arguments against creating, for example, a vicar for Charis.

In many ways, although for different reasons, being what I suppose you might call un-vicared suited both Haarahld of Charis and Hektor of Corisande quite well. Haarahld, for obvious reasons, didn't want someone sitting in Zion who might have a clue about the Brethren of Saint Zherneau and his own apostasy. Hektor's political ambitions and imperialistic ventures in places like Zebediah were easier to keep "under the radar" when he only had to worry about the oversight of a single archbishop and not someone seated directly in the vicarate. Not only that, but the necessary bribery cost him far less, and the single vicar for whom he might have qualified would have gained him virtually nothing in terms of influence within the vicarate. As such, both he and Haarahld benefited from the "benign neglect" of the vicarate, and neither of them saw any reason to press for a change in the status quo.

It's important to remember that while the vicarate was established as a planetary government, it was never intended to be a representative government in any present day, real life sense. That is, all of its members were to be elected internally, as part of a closed system and without any notion of those vicars being responsible to the citizens of the realm from which they were selected. The idea was that they would be representative of their realm only in the sense of being familiar with its strengths, weaknesses, needs, desires, etc., and bring that familiarity with them to the vicarate, but their function was to govern the entire planet (in the name of God and the archangels, of course) not to contend for the interests of "their" realm. As such, there was never a tradition of serving the interests of a particular constituency, and the average citizen didn't think of the vicars chosen from his nation as being "his" vicars. This is an important distinction, and one which is distinctly alien to our own notions of representative government, and it's another reason why Charisians didn't particularly worry about the fact that they didn't have a "Charisian vicar" seated somewhere in Zion.

In the last two or three centuries, the requirement that a vicar come from the realm whose population he "represents" (in the sense described above) has slipped considerably. It isn't quite a violation of the letter of Langhorne's directives, but it's definitely playing fast and loose with the intent of those directives in many ways. In essence, even though someone may technically be a "Siddarmarkian" vicar — that is, hold one of the seats in the vicarate based on Siddarmark's population — he doesn't necessarily have to come from Siddarmark at all. Langhorne never established a "residency requirement" as a qualification for the vicarate; he simply established that the Grand Vicar should solicit advice from the archbishops and senior clergy governing the population generating that seat in the vicarate. There was no specific requirement preventing them from recommending someone from outside their realm. For example, the Siddarmarkian clergy could have recommended someone from, say, Dohlar as a candidate for "their" seat in the vicarate. As the Church has grown increasingly corrupt, it has become increasingly common for vicars to be chosen more on the basis of reliability, orthodoxy, patronage (especially), and levels of bribery than on where those vicars may have come from. This is another reason Harchong is as heavily represented in the vicarate as it is. It is also one reason the "Siddarmarkian" vicars have been less homogenous; as the vicarate has become more concerned about Siddarmark, it's also become more likely to choose a vicar from someplace other than the Republic to "represent" Siddarmark.

Finally, Langhorne wanted to guarantee that the vicarate would be financially independent of the laity it was technically "representing" in order to prevent secular pressure on a vicar's pocketbook from influencing his actions and his vote. His original plan was for each vicar to be paid a stipend or salary out of Mother Church's central treasury, but over the centuries a practice evolved in which rather than paying the vicar directly, he was granted the revenues from specific territories to support him. The idea was that this would relieve pressure on the treasury; the result was to create, among other things, the Knights of the Temple Lands.

Now, not all Knights of the Temple Lands are created equal, and legally each vicar's right to the revenues he is assigned is solely a lifetime grant. That is, it isn't hereditary, can't be passed on to his descendents, and reverts to the Church to be reassigned when he dies or leaves office. Most of the "great families" of the vicarate — the families from whom vicars are chosen again and again and again (like the Wylsynn family) — have come over the centuries to hold land in the Temple Lands in their own right. In theory, the revenues of those lands could be assigned to a vicar from outside the family which actually owns them, in which case the landholder would pay "taxes" to support the vicar to whom they have been assigned. In fact, that never happens, because there's always a vicar from one of those families who — on the rare occasions when he is not the landholder himself — is conscious of the family interest and takes advantage of the other copious opportunities for a vicar to enrich himself.

The result of all of this has been to create a theocratic government which is actually an oligarchy whose membership is self recruiting, which is not subject to recall by those it theoretically represents, and whose financial security does not rest upon the support of those it theoretically represents. And the result of that has been that there's been no external corrective to the vicarate's internal decline into corruption, self-aggrandizement, and power seeking, which, in turn, accounts in no small part for the emergence of something like the Group of Four. The vicarate had become as venal and self-serving as the Roman Senate in its final days before Clyntahn came along, and it's entirely possible that Clyntahn would have used that venality and corruption, coupled with the coercive power of the Inquisition, to make himself virtual dictator of the Church even without the "external threat" of Charis. That was certainly what he had in mind, at any rate.

Safehold How did the Church slide into corruption so quickly? Shouldn't the command staff have held things together longer? (Asked Fri Aug 12, 2011) December 2013

You're getting into a degree of historical background I don't really want to give at this point. The short answer ("short" for me, at least) is that, first, the years of the Church of God Awaiting are counted from the suppression of Shan-wei's Revolt. This was regarded as a major victory, not a Pyrrhic victory, because neither Langhorne nor any of the other angels/archangels who fought on his side were actually killed. Remember, the theology of the Church of God Awaiting says simply that the physical bodies of the archangels — created on the same day as the rest of the world, and expected eventually to age and ultimately perish anyway (as all things of the mortal world do) — were destroyed, forcing them to return to the presence of God a little sooner than originally allowed for. The survivors were not above generating posthumous holograms of Langhorne and Bédard to bolster the notion that they had not in fact "died," and did so. At any rate, the years of Safehold are numbered not from the Day of Creation, but rather from the final victory of the forces of Light.

Second, Nimue Alban was actually quite young compared to the command staff of the expedition. I realize that Nimue herself reflects that many of the original command staff had been almost as young as she was, but the majority of the command staff was not, and for fairly obvious reasons when you think about it.

The colonists were all very young, for a society with the youth-prolonging technologies available to the Federation, because they needed to be young for the arduous conditions they were going to face and to provide the "breeding stock" needed to get Safehold's population off to a good start. But the command staff was picked for experience, knowledge, etc., and not for youth. The command staff was deliberately kept relatively small, and its median age was somewhere around 65 or 70 years. By the time the struggle against "Shan-wei's Revolt" was over (and, by the way, it took longer to suppress that "revolt" than some people seem to be thinking, even with the strike on Alexandria, in no small part because of certain things that happened that you don't know about among the surviving members of the command staff after Commodore Pei decapitated it), most of the survivors were in the vicinity of 150 years of age or so, which means they could expect to live about another century and a half. (Around another 160 Safeholdian years, getting them to around the Year of God 160, about 60 years earlier than you had calculated, and putting 247 years between that date and On Obedience.)

The assertion of the Grand Vicar's infallibility as expressed in On Obedience (and, by the way, since the doctrine of infallibility was only promulgated officially by the Catholic Church in 1870, the better part of 2,000 years into its history, I'm not sure I find myself in agreement with your observation that "most of the evil it has done can be directly traced to their foolish acceptance of that notion," but that's a subject for another debate) was thus made around 12 generations after the last of the archangels "returned to the presence of God. That's actually quite a lot of time. Moreover, the assertion of the Grand Vicar's infallibility (which — like the doctrine of papal infallibility — is actually quite restricted) was only one part of what On Obedience set out to accomplish as a response to a significant challenge to the Church and God's Plan as revealed by the Archangel Langhorne.

In the Roman Catholic Church, papal infallibility applies only to statements of a dogmatic teaching on faith contained in divine revelation (or, as I understand it, at least intimately connected to divine revelation); it does not preserve the pontiff from sin or error in his personal life, in his official life and discharge of his duties outside the dogma being set forth, or even in matters of "fallible doctrine." That is, a pope can make plenty of mistakes and even sin in his administration of the Church, his discharge of his office, his personal life, his decisions where something besides fundamental doctrine is concerned, etc., despite his infallibility as the promulgator of essential doctrine. The same is true in the case of the Grand Vicar, and, in fact, the current doctrine of the Grand Vicar's infallibility developed from an earlier tradition of infallibility, deliberately established by Langhorne when he created the Church.

The Grand Vicar was established as Langhorne's successor as the head of the Church. (This was deliberately modeled on the Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession.) Consequently, his pronouncements in doctrinal matters were those of the Church itself, ratified by Langhorne, and (as such) infallible. Under the original construction of the doctrine, however, that infallibility represented not the Grand Vicar's autocratic ability to declare whatever doctrine he chose at his own sole discretion, but rather his role speaking ex cathedra in the name of the entire vicarate, which under Church law was (and is) regarded as the corporate repository of God's and Langhorne's authority in the mortal world. Under the original formulation of the doctrine he enjoyed that infallibility only as the spokesman of the vicarate's collective understanding of doctrine based on The Holy Writ and such teachings as might have been added to the canon following the departure of the archangels. (That is, in the case of the Church of God Awaiting, the conflict in the Roman Catholic Church between the authority of the Pope and ecumenical councils had been resolved in favor of the ecumenical councils under Langhorne's original formulation.) In cases of conflict between the Writ and the later portions of the canon, the Writ was to govern. And no later "infallible teaching" could contravene or contradict an earlier infallible teaching. (Which has not prevented some . . . inventive reinterpretations of "infallible teachings" by later vicarates or Grand Vicars.)

At the same time, however, the Grand Vicar enjoyed enormous authority. Whereas he was expressly not preserved from sin or error in his personal life and the general discharge of his office (he was mortal, not Langhorne), he was in most respects an autocrat as the Church's chief executive, reflecting the autocratic structure Langhorne had created/adopted for his control of the command staff and, thus, of the early Church. The vicarate's "authority" over the Grand Vicar consisted of the fact that he was chosen by the majority vote of the vicarate and that the vicarate was supposed to have the ultimate authority in the declaration of matters of doctrine and faith. Aside from that, and the fact that Grand Vicars were usually fairly senior members of the vicarate themselves before they were selected (which meant that most Grand Vicarates were relatively short in duration simply because of the Grand Vicar's age when he was selected), the vicarate was little more than a rubber stamp for the Grand Vicar's decisions in the day-to-day and year-to-year administration of the Church.

Langhorne's death and the decimation (actually, a lot worse than simple decimation) of the original, small command staff had a lot of consequences, including the consequence that what Langhorne and Bédard had originally planned as a gradual transition to mortal control of the Church over the space of as much as 200-plus years was significantly accelerated. The surviving members of the command staff found themselves forced to work through "mortals" much earlier and much more comprehensively than had originally been intended, and as such the vicarate and (especially) the Grand Vicar found themselves inheriting a greater degree of personal power earlier on in the process than Langhorne and Bédard had ever envisioned. Worse (from Langhorne's perspective) it meant that there were no archangels around to help cope with certain later problems as they arose.

The biggest problem that the Church faced in the first two centuries after the archangels "returned to the presence of God" (that is, in the 250 or so years between the departure of the last archangel and the promulgation of On Obedience) was an enormous expansion in the planetary population. As that population grew and spread out further and further from the original enclaves, additional bishops were required. Under the original provisions of the Church of God Awaiting, Langhorne (or, at least, his successors on the command staff, and I'm not telling you exactly which it was) had always intended for the bishops and archbishops to be selected by the citizens of their bishoprics and archbishoprics. In a previous post I pointed out that the archbishops could be considered provincial or state governors in a theocratic government, and the original thought had been that since these were the prelates who were going to be in closest contact with their flocks, allowing the members of those flocks a voice in their selection would provide at least the rudiments of a genuinely representative government at the local level. (At what you might think of as the "federal level," the vicarate was specifically and deliberately detached from local selection, although the original assumption of the Church was that since the vicars would be selected from the ranks of the episcopate, there would be a sort of secondhand representative element in the creation of the vicarate.) Where this became a problem was that as the population of the planet spread further and further away from Zion and as communication became more and more arthritic, even with the semaphore and messenger wyverns, the archbishoprics began acquiring too much power. (It should also be pointed out that the institution of the office of bishop executor had its origins during this time period as archbishops found themselves spending more and more time traveling back and forth between the more distant archbishoprics and Zion.)

The Reformist tendencies which are emerging now (as of How Firm A Foundation) have always been at least potentially present within the Church. Put another way, there has always been a tension between the more humanist elements of the Church (frequently, as now, led, ironically, by the Bédardists and their allies) and those more focused on the preservation of doctrine and strict adherence to the Writ, and signs of that tension began to emerge as popularly selected bishops and archbishops began to push the direction of church doctrine at what might be thought of as the "grass roots" level. They weren't all pushing in the same direction, either, and the vicarate of the time faced the Church's first real challenge to its authority and to the overarching authority and absolute primacy of the Writ as understood by the vicarate.

On Obedience was an effort to deal with the perceived danger of the fragmentation of not simply the vicarate's authority but of Mother Church's authority . . . which was another way of saying the perceived danger of allowing Shan-wei to reestablish a toehold in the mortal world. Therefore, the vicarate in its collective role as the infallible arbiter of doctrine, fundamentally changed the process by which members of the episcopate were to be selected. At the same time, the current Grand Vicar, an especially able politician (as he had to be to bring about such a basic alteration in the process for elevating bishops), also pushed through a declaration that the Grand Vicar spoke infallibly ex cathedra — that is, specifically when exercising his office as the enunciator of official doctrine — both as the spokesman of the collected vicarate and in his own right when he promulgated doctrine which had been divinely revealed to him in the Writ or by the direct touch of God and the archangels upon his heart. He got it through because of the careful alliances he'd built within the vicarate and because the vicarate had been panicked by what it perceived as an ongoing disintegration of the Church and, hence, of God's plan for Safehold. Panic over the possible emergence of heresy and/or apostacy (and remember that they had the historical experience of an actual war between good and evil in Shan-wei's Revolt) led them into desiring an even more authoritarian, even more ironbound protection of orthodoxy, and the Grand Vicar managed to convince the vicarate of something he actually believed: that expanding his power as Langhorne's successor was, in fact, both directly in line with Langhorne's expressed desires and an additional and necessary safeguard of orthodox doctrine and theology. And since On Obedience had been issued ex cathedra, it became part of the "infallible doctrine" of the Church and, once done, could never subsequently be undone. In essence, it was an overreaction against the dissipation of the Church's central authority which went too far in the other direction. Indeed, the overreaction also paved the way for the eventual absorption of the Order of Jwo-jeng into the Order of Schueler and for the Order of Schueler to gradually supplant the Order of Langhorne as the "senior" order of the Church.

Although On Obedience made what turned out to be fundamental shifts in the Church's internal dynamic, it's important to understand that it wasn't seen as doing that by the vicars who endorsed it. Yes, they were restricting the "popular voice" in the selection of bishops and archbishops, but even under the new rules, the vicarate and the Grand Vicar were supposed to solicit the views of those the prelates were to govern. Inevitably, that solicitation of local input atrophied fairly rapidly (in a generational sense, at least), but that was not an intended outcome. Moreover, the Church had always been planned as a strictly hierarchical organization with top-down rule and an Inquisition specifically granted the authority to enforce doctrinal conformity by any means necessary. One of the other unintended consequences of On Obedience was that the vicarate's power actually increased, since the counterweight of the "popularly selected" episcopate had been removed. Yet another unintended consequence, however, was that a strong Grand Vicar now had the means to tyrannize even the vicarate in ways which had not previously been possible because of his ability to decree doctrine independently of the vicarate in the case of a fundamental disagreement between it and him. And that, frankly, was a reason why the vicarate began electing weak Grand Vicars. Because the office had become too powerful to be restrained in the hands of a strong Grand Vicar, they had to select for weakness in order to preserve their own authority . . . and, on more than one occasion, cabals within the vicarate eliminated Grand Vicars who proved stronger than they had expected. In some instances, that was actually an act of semi-legitimate self-defense, since one or two Grand Vicars had inclinations in Clyntahn's direction and there was no provision for the removal of a Grand Vicar except by death. Which, unfortunately, helped to legitimize the use of assassination, and thus made it steadily more acceptable.

It's important to bear in mind that the consequences I'm describing in the above paragraph didn't happen overnight. In fact, it took several centuries, and it really began to accelerate only in the last couple of hundred years, the period during which the Church has slipped steadily into greater and greater internal corruption. I hope, however, that this gives at least a little better understanding of how the Church originally got to the "tipping point" which provoked On Obedience, not to mention how it reached its current tipping point where the Reformists are concerned.

Another point which it is also important to emphasize (or perhaps reemphasize) is that the premature destruction of the command staff was completely unexpected when Langhorne and Bédard made their original plans for the creation and the nurturing of the Church of God Awaiting. They anticipated a much, much longer period of direct, "hands-on" control of the Church, and they fully intended to make adjustments during that time as experience indicated modifications were necessary. The conflict they got and the casualties they suffered after the Alexandria strike deep-sixed that part of their plans, and the fact that "repairs" to the original master plan had to be made more or less on the fly by the surviving members of the command crew — not all of whom had shared every aspect of Langhorne's vision — meant there was no one to deal with emerging failure points which might actually have been recognized and compensated for had the anticipated number of "archangels" been available for the anticipated length of time.

I'm not trying to make excuses for Langhorne or for the fundamental failures/weaknesses/blind spots inherent in his vision. I'm simply saying that his own plans got run over by a Greyhound bus called Pei Kau-yung, and that the factors within the Church leading to its present corruption and decadence got a quicker jump because of circumstances beyond his control.

Safehold Are there more secret brotherhoods out there which know the truth? (Asked Fri Aug 19, 2011) December 2013

Okay, I haven't read the entire thread about the possibility of additional "secret brotherhoods," but the dispute going on in it is one reason I said that I didn't really want to get into the history that I ended up giving you in response to another question. On the other hand, maybe it's a good thing I did, because you have pointed me at a couple of problems which I'm pretty sure (comparing my rough drafts to final versions) were introduced in the copy editing process. Mind you, one of them is at least partly my own fault.

I'm not going to talk here about whether or not there might or might not be other "secret brotherhoods" out there in the weeds somewhere. I will say that if there ever had been one and if it ever had come to the notice of Mother Church and been dealt with, Clyntahn certainly would have known about it and would undoubtedly already have labeled all of the Reformists as heretics who probably had been exposed to the same pernicious lies Grand Inquisitor Stomp Them out had been forced to deal with however many centuries earlier. IF any similar "secret heresy" had ever been discovered, the Church would be watching for others like a hawk.

Having told you what I'm not going to tell you, let us now continue.

One of the problems I've discovered as a consequence of the discussion about "secret brotherhoods "— and the one which wasn't my fault (except in as much as I failed to catch the change when I went through the copyedited manuscript — is the dating in Saint Zherneau's journal. I should clarify things a little bit by pointing out that I've had problems with my Tor copy editor on every one of these books so far. Part of the problem is that there are a lot of technical terms used in the books (as, for example, were sailing ships are concerned) and that Off Armageddon Reef was my first Tor novel. As a result, I didn't have a "history" with any of their copy editors, and their copy editors didn't have an "author's stylesheet" on me. For those not familiar with the editing process, a stylesheet is a set of notes for the copy editor telling him (or her) how the author's style differs from the "standard." All of us differ at least somewhat, and in fairness, I'm rather less "standard" than most. I won't say that that explains all of the problems I've had, because, frankly, it doesn't, and the process has been very frustrating for me in some respects. (For example, in one of the books the copy editor decided that I couldn't possibly be speaking of "white horses" sweeping across a bay. The fact that a "white horse" describes a very specific type of wave formation obviously eluded him. So he changed it to "white houses" sweeping across the bay. Exactly how having a house float across the bay was better than having a horse do the same thing eluded me, so I went ahead and changed it back, but this is the sort of thing I've been dealing with.) Mind you, they've caught a lot of things which were errors, and I won't pretend that they haven't. At the same time, the irritation quotient for some of the more . . . less than brilliant changes, shall we say, has been high. At any rate, all of my manuscripts have come back with a lot of copy editor marginal notations, queries, "corrections" (the majority of which I've reversed), etc. My point here being that there are so many of them that they have a tendency to blur together and things get lost in the underbrush.

One such thing which got "lost" was the fact that the copy editor had taken it upon himself (or herself) to "reconcile" the dates in Saint Zherneau's Journal, and I didn't notice it until after the book was printed. He assumed (or she assumed; I don't know who it was) that if Jeremy Knowles was writing in the 140th year since the Creation, that he also had to be writing in the 140th Year of God, or vice versa, and made the dates "fit." That is the reason for the discrepancy in the journal's internal dating. So far, you guys have seen only a handful of words out of his entire journal, none of which include his version of the extended fighting lumped together as "Shan-wei's Rebellion" by official Church rheology and history. If I'd included more of that information at that time the copy editor might not have taken it upon himself to "reconcile" the dates, since it would (hopefully) have injected an awareness of the times and dates involved in the process. On the other hand, given some of the other things that have been changed, I wouldn't want to bet anything important on the possibility.

Okay, the discrepancy in the dating on Nimue's "wake-up call" is more complicated than that, and reflects two errors, one mine and one the copy editor's. The book as published says that Nimue is set to wake up 750 years after Pei Kau-yung's decapitation of the command crew. It then has her waking up in the Year of God 890. Now, 750 standard years is approximately 824 Safehold years so, if we assume that we're dating from the beginning of Shan-wei's Rebellion, not the end, and that it took approximately 60 standard years after the Creation for that rebellion to begin, the number 890 is about right. After all, 60 standard years are about 66 Safehold years, and 66 plus 824 equals 890.

The problem is that in my original manuscript (checked from my file copy on the hard drive) Pei Kau-yung says to her "I've set the timer to activate this . . . depot, I suppose, eight hundred and twenty-five standard years after I complete this recording." Originally, I had intended to date from the Creation; I changed my mind about that when I was around 75% of the way through the first book. At that point, I decided that there'd been a war of succession among the surviving members of Langhorne's command group, that there needed to be more time for that to take place, and that the Church would begin dating from the end of that war. It seemed to me that adding 75 standard years or so to my timeline would cover things.

(As an aside, some people seem to be assuming that the aforesaid war of succession started as soon as Langhorne was killed; actually, it took a few years for the tensions among the survivors to reach the point of open conflict, at which point a very complicated situation [which I am not going to go into at this time] came about in the various enclaves. Those of you who are assuming the general use of advanced weapons are mistaken. As far as the command crew were concerned, there was a lot of "taking to the hills," hiding from each other, ambushing each other, etc., but all of the surviving command crew were dedicated to the notion that the Church of God had to be preserved, at least in the short term, and they were very careful about the terms in which they couched the conflict among the "mortal" factions in the enclaves and about using "divine weapons" even against other mortals. I'm not saying there wasn't any use of advanced weapons; only that those weapons weren't in general use.)

Getting back to the dating conflict.

At any rate, there I was, having changed my original plan three quarters or so of the way through the first book. As I say, I had originally had Commodore Pei set the timer for 750 standard years before I decided to add the additional 75 years and have him set it for 825 standard years, instead. I changed the text to reflect that change. Unfortunately, I apparently didn't remember to change the standard year dating on Nimue's "wake-up scene." I had intended to move it up from 3249 to 3324 to reflect the extra 75 years of Nimue’s nap, but checking my file copy of the rough draft, I found that I actually left it at the original 3249. When the copy editor came along, he "checked my math" using the unchanged header dates for the two scenes and came up with the original 750 years between them. He then changed the "eight hundred and twenty-five standard years" in Kau-yung's final message to Nimue to match the header dates. Now, in fairness to the copy editor, 750 is a much "rounder" number than 825; I'd originally used that number (before the change) and it worked very well with the rest of the text; he did have the interval between the dates I had changed to indicate that there was a problem between the text and the dates; and he probably specifically noted and queried the change on the manuscript. Unfortunately, probably largely because he didn't have that stylesheet I mentioned above, he was also marking everything else in sight, querying word choices, querying nonstandard grammatical usages, changing completely correct grammar that apparently didn't match his usage manual, even rewriting some of the sentences entirely (remember those white houses?). My point is that while there isn't any excuse for my not having noticed if he did, in fact, note the change from 825 to 750, it's very probable that I simply "lost it in the underbrush."

The way that it actually works is that approximately 70 standard years (around 77 Safehold years) elapsed between the Day of Creation and the end of Shan-wei's Rebellion. As of How Firm a Foundation, the date is Year of God 895, and it's been 979 Safehold years since the Creation. Nimue's last update was in year 54 after the Creation (16 years before the end of the Rebellion, if any of you are counting), and she woke up in Year of God 890, 906 or so Safehold years later, which is roughly the 825 standard years to which I had changed the date in the first book. The fact that my change got "corrected" back to 750 in the copy editing process accounts for the confusion. Unfortunately, I wasn't aware of the problem until you people started checking the math. I had to go back and reconstruct what had happened by comparing my electronic file of the original draft for Off Armageddon Reef against the printed version to figure out what had happened. And, since I already have the 70 year interval between the Creation and the end of Shan-wei's Rebellion in How Firm A Foundation and it's too late to adjust it at this point, I'm going to have to figure out how (or if) to deal with it for the general readership who might/might not pick out what you eagle eyed . . . people have picked up on.

Safehold The Sword of Schueler were able to have a conspiracy of tens of thousands and no one in government had a real clue what was going to happen? There was nothing Merlin could have done to warn/prevent? The whole thing seems slightly incredulous. December 2013

No, you don't mean that the events are "incredulous," you mean that you are "incredulous." I believe the word that you actually wanted was "incredible," as in impossible/difficult to credit. [G]

If you do, then you do, and there have been events in books I have otherwise very much enjoyed over which I have been incredulous, or at least left considering that they represented major plot holes. In this case, though, I don't think that "no one in government had a real clue what was going to happen" is precisely accurate. They knew perfectly well that something — and something they weren't going to like one bit — was going to happen. They knew that the Temple loyalists were organizing an anti-Stohnar movement, they knew it was aimed at the overthrow of the Republic, and they knew the basic structure and shape of the agit-prop being used to fuel it. They even knew enough about the nature and shape of the Sword of Schueler to have deployed more of their available strength in the capital than it turned out they could afford to protect the Charisian Quarter. What they didn't know was exactly when/how soon the attacks would kick off, although they clearly had enough warning for Stohnar and the seneschal to have coordinated plans for reinforcements to enter the city. Remember that Stohnar wasn't thinking "it may be days before the troops get here;" he was simply thinking that it was going to take time that he and the defenders of Protector's Palace were going to turn out not to have for the seneschal to complete the troop movements which had already been ordered and that they had underestimated the forces available to the attackers. There was, of course, an additional problem (which I'll probably address below) about how preemptive they could afford to be about what they did see coming.

As the situation in Siddarmark progresses, you may very well get a better look inside the admitted intelligence failure which led to the extent to which Stohnar and his most trusted allies in government were taken by surprise on The Day. You may not, too. I know what they were and why they occurred, but the reader won't find out about them unless the characters find out about about how they happened.

Now, as far as what Merlin and Charis knew and did not know.

Merlin was aware of what was going on in Siddarmark. He was also aware that the Lord Protector was aware of what was going on in Siddarmark. Neither Merlin nor the Lord Protector were aware of many of the details . . . including — and, indeed, especially — the execution date of the operation. And the reason they didn't that particular minor fact was that the folks on the ground responsible for carrying the operation out didn't know the execution date. I will give you a hint (and this may or may not be brought out in the books eventually) but if you'll recall there was another operation that Clyntahn wanted to correspond in time with the uprising in Siddarmark. And when he told Rayno that, Rayno pointed out that the schedule might have to be adjusted slightly. Until Rayno transmitted the actual execution order, the troops on the ground hadn't been told exactly when they would be ordered to move but it had been clearly (and deliberately) implied to them that it would not be until after winter had closed down the ability of the Lord Protector to move troops around to counterattack their successes. They were to be ready to rise against the "apostate traitors and Charisian lackeys" any time from late summer on, but the emphasis was placed on a rising later in the year as a cover against those infernally effective Charisian (and Siddarmarkian) spies Clyntahn and Rayno have been worrying about for quite some time now. (Hmmmm . . . I see I'm giving away some of those things the characters may/may not learn the books after all.)

There were, obviously, instructions in the pipeline that had to reach all of the various groups before they acted. One thing which I see I did not make sufficiently clear in Cayleb's mental summarization of what happened in Siddarmark, however, is that not all of these risings and attacks occurred simultaneously with one another. Looking at Cayleb's reflections on what happened, I can see where it could be reasonably assumed that they did, since Cayleb never reflects specifically that they didn't. In fact, however, the uprising in the capital was the first, and the order was transmitted to the Inquisition's agents in place using the Church's semaphore system (which is faster than anything on Safehold except Owl's coms . . . which, of course, Stohnar and his subordinate, local military commanders didn't have access to). As a result, the insurrectionists were inside Stohnar's communications loop, and would have been no matter what Merlin might or might not have been able to pass on to him the instant in which that order was transmitted from Rayno in Zion, inside the bubble which is closed to Owl's remotes, to the agents in place in Siddarmark. The orders to the other Inquisition "cells" which had been set up for the Sword went out in a cascade at the same time, which put all of them inside Stohnar's communications loop. In addition, there were standing orders about how cells were supposed to react when news of "spontaneous uprisings" elsewhere reached them. And, you may recall, at the very moment that all of this was happening, Merlin was rather occupied down in Delferahk. His ability to go gadding about in Siddarmark — even as Zhevons — was . . . restricted.

The bottom line, however, is that Merlin and Co. were focused on the consequences of the Rakurai and Charis, on operations against Desnair, and on getting Irys and Daivyn out of Delferahk. They knew that Stohnar knew Clyntahn and Rayno were using the Inquisition and the Levelers to foment unrest/rebellion/insurrection. There really wasn't anything they could have told him (that he didn't already know) without at the very least raising questions they couldn't answer about how they might have come to know it and how they could conceivably be moving information around that rapidly. Don't forget their problems communicating with Coris in Delferahk in some explainable fashion. And, of course, they knew Aivah Pahrsahn also had an eye on the situation and was making plans of her own. I suppose I could've dwelt on that awareness of theirs at an earlier point at I did. For example, I could've actually shown you Aivah training her riflemen on her various farming operations. I could have actually shown you a discussion between members of one of the Inquisition's cells. There were a lot of things I could have shown you, but I decided I'd rather have the reader wondering about the same things Stohnar and his henchmen were wondering about.

To be honest, from a writer's perspective, Merlin's ability to find things out can be a distinct liability, not so much from a plot perspective as from a storytelling perspective. It's hard to legitimately blindside (I mean, of course, "surprise") the reader when one of the characters in the story, not simply the narrator, becomes effectively omniscient. If I write a scene in which I deliberately distort what Merlin "knows" in order to . . . misdirect the reader's attention, I'm not playing fair with the reader. In effect, I'm lying to him, and he has every right to feel cheated when he realizes that I did. At the same time, if I tell him everything that's coming before it happens, then I'm shortchanging him. So sometimes what has to happen is that I simply don't tell the reader at all before the event takes place. In some cases I may go back and explain to the reader how that happened, what people actually knew or didn't know that the reader wasn't told about at the time, or how something fell through the cracks without being picked up upon at all. Sometimes that doesn't happen, either.

I will say this. Even if Merlin had had access to Clyntahn's entire playbook, and even if he'd handed that information over to Stohnar (assuming there was some way he could possibly explain how he'd come into possession of it . . . and how he could expect Stohnar to believe that such an incredible treasure trove of information wasn't deliberate disinformation on Charis' part, designed to draw him into an open break with the Church), Stohnar could not have prevented very much what happened from happening anyway. He couldn't openly challenge what the Inquisition was doing ahead of time without an open breach with the Church. In fact, he couldn't be positive that that wasn't what Clyntahn was really after: creating a situation in which Stohnar became the aggressor against Mother Church, exactly as Clyntahn had been warning his colleagues in the vicarate was inevitably going to happen one day. That's the main reason he had to be so cautious about troop movements and warning orders before the nickel actually dropped; the last thing he could afford was to give Clyntahn a plausible (or even semi-plausible) provocatory pretext. So there was very little he could do prophylactically that he hadn't already done, and as long as he wasn't in a position to take powerful, suppressive action — with an army he could be certain would take his orders to move preemptively against Mother Church in the middle of Mother Church's first true jihad — there was no way he could take the initiative away from Clyntahn. When you add to that that Clyntahn and Rayno had succeeded in confusing him as to the actual timing of the Sword, perhaps you begin to see how the situation could go as far south as it went.

I deliberately structured the book so that all of this came at the reader fast and hard — and so that the extent of Clyntahn's success clearly came as a surprise both to Stohnar and his supporters and to Charis. Hopefully, as the conflict in Siddarmark comes to be more fully developed in the next book, some of the factors leading up to the deliberately administered shock factor at the end of this one will become fully developed, as well.

Safehold Where did the myths of Seijins come from? Are there more out there? December 2013

Or it might — might, I say — have been a case of some of the mortals who fought on the side of the archangels against Shan-wei's demonic hordes having been given mystical weapons by the surviving archangels and angels before being sent forth to smite the ungodly. For that matter (who knows?), perhaps some of those mystical weapons might have persisted, remained available, for a generation or two after Shan-wei's defeat. (Do you suppose, for example, that Merlin's katana might not be the very first battle steel blade ever issued on Safehold? Makes you go "hummmm," doesn't it?)

I'm not saying that was what happened, or even anything remotely like it, you understand. Simply tossing out another possibility for consideration.

[Walks away, hands in pockets, whistling tunelessly]

Safehold I actually think [David] is painting a too pessimistic picture, vis-à-vis the overall strategic picture. (Asked Tue Sep 27, 2011) December 2013

I'm sorry? I'm painting too pessimistic a picture? Gosh, and here I thought I was the one person who actually knows who's building what, where, and why! [G]

More seriously, I don't know why you think I'm painting too pessimistic a picture. What I'm saying is that Charis does not have an unlimited cornucopia of production capacity; that the Church's capacity is higher than some people seem to be assuming; and that the Church's strategists are not all idiots who are going to fail to recognize (a) strategic opportunities and (b) strategic necessities (as in "necessary for our survival, you idiot!" necssities). I don't believe I ever indicated that the Church wasn't going to experience some of those ugly times in Siddarmark of her very own, either.

The Church is not going to drop dead tomorrow; there is still a huge reservoir of religious and political loyalty to the Church even in the provinces which remained loyal to Stohnar; between them, the continents still have an enormous aggregate productive capability (which may or may not be in the process of being successfully tapped); and no matter how qualitatively superior your forces may be, you still need a sufficient quantity of them if you intend to maintain sufficient force density for a strategy of persistence to work.

It might be worthwhile to consider just what Charis' strategic options ultimately are.

Most satisfying to the reader and to Charisians in general, undoubtedly, would be Cayleb and Sharleyan dictating terms to the Church of God Awaiting in the smoldering ruins of Zion, surrounded by their victorious army. Of course, the question is where they get an army big enough to do that.

There are two basic strategic approaches: raiding and persistence. You can apply either a raiding or a persistent approach to almost any strategic equation; the one a successful strategist chooses is dictated by his tactical tools, his strategic resources, the exact nature of his objective, and how well the force he can project matches up with the opposition he faces.

In a raiding strategy, you operate by launching attacks (which are hopefully carefully targeted) on your opponent's critical resources, thus weakening him to the point at which he collapses or at least is forced to accede to your demands. In this type of strategy you don't seek to occupy your enemy's territory on a permanent basis. Instead, you're concentrating on in-and-out operations as precisely aimed as you can manage to inflict crippling damage. A strict naval blockade which cripples your opponent's economy or starves your opponent's population is also an example of a raiding, rather than a persisting, strategy, despite the fact that it requires a long-term commitment of your forces.

In a persisting strategy, you physically occupy enemy territory, either to compel him to counterattack you to regain critical resources (population, oil, food, whatever), or to establish your permanent control over it by replacing the government or groups which previously controlled it (the English policy in building castles all over Wales would be an example of that sort of strategy).

The two types of strategy can be combined. For example, the Union was waging a persisting strategy against the Confederacy, since its objective was ultimately to physically occupy (or reoccupy, if you want to adopt that terminology) the states which had seceded. Grant pursued a persistent strategy in his Western campaigns and in his drive into Virginia with the Army of the Potomac in the last months of the war; his operational objective was the Army of Northern Virginia, but only because its destruction would give him his ultimate strategic objective of conquering the Confederacy's critical territory. Sherman, on the other hand, pursued a raiding campaign in his March to the Sea. Arguably, he was pursuing a persisting strategy until he actually took Atlanta, although I think even then he was basically following a raiding strategy, but his march from Atlanta to Savannah was clearly a raiding strategy, aimed at destroying the logistical support base for Lee’s army and also at destroying Confederate morale, rather than remaining in place and permanently occupying the territory upon which his army stood at any given moment.

The problem with a persisting strategy is that you have to be able to achieve a favorable ratio between the area to be persistently occupied and the forces available to occupy it. Put another way, you have to have sufficient density of force to cope with opposition to your presence, which may come in the form of organized hostile armies, or simply a hostile presence conducting either organized or freelance guerrilla warfare against you, or (even more ominously) a combination of the two.

The Group of Four hoped for a situation in which Corisande would become a hotbed of resistance to Charisian occupation. That was a major factor in Clyntahn's assassination of Hektor and his older son — the hope he could so inflame the Corisandian population by murdering a popular monarch that popular resistance would lead to Charisian overreaction which would, in turn, lead to still more resistance. The way he saw it, if everything worked properly, Charis' military "conquest" of Corisande would become a deadly trap from which it could not extract itself (à la Napoleon in Spain). At the very least, he hoped for a "quagmire" situation which would impose a steady, debilitating drain on Charisian resources. It was only Cayleb's and Sharleyan's careful management of the situation, coupled with the existence (in Anvil Rock and Tartarian) of a power bloc with Corisande's best interests (as opposed to the Group of Four's best interests) at heart, which prevented that from happening.

(As an aside, it also forced a situation in which no one in Corisande has yet sworn loyalty to the Crown of Charis as Charisians. They have sworn loyalty to Prince Daivyn as Hektor's heir, and they have sworn obedience to the Crown of Charis, but they are still Corisandians and not Charisians, which was not what Cayleb had in mind when he invaded. If Hektor had lived, he would have been required to swear the same oath Nahrmahn had sworn and which Gorjah was later required to swear, but Daivyn has not yet sworn that oath, leaving Corisande's relationship with the Empire unresolved. That may ultimately actually prove beneficial to both Corisande and Charis, but it could also still very well go the other way. And Cayleb's intention of extracting that oath of fealty from Hektor, by the way, was another reason why it would have been remarkably stupid for him to have Hektor killed before he could swear it . . . a point Earl Coris is going to be making to Irys and Daivyn in the not too distant future, I suspect.)

To return to my main thread, however. If the Corisandian situation had not been handled with extraordinary care, by a viceroy who'd been carefully selected, and if there hadn't been a competent, sane group of candidates for a Regency Council (and candidates who strongly doubted that Cayleb had actually ordered Hektor's assassination in the first place), Clyntahn would have gotten what he wanted. He very nearly got it anyway, only it came not in the form of the general uprising and insurrection he'd hoped and aimed for, but rather in the form of an aristocratic plot and cabal . . . which, in turn, lent itself to being identified as such when the conspirators were arrested, tried, and executed. Sharleyan and the Regency Council managed to accurately portray it as a top-down plot orchestrated by self-seeking opportunist, rather than a popular uprising. Another factor which worked critically in Charis' favor in Corisande, was the strength of the underlying Reformist attitudes of a significant percentage of the Corisandian population. In regard to that factor, it's also worth noting that despite Clyntahn's best efforts, the "religious fervor" quotient of the jihad hadn't been cranked up in Corisande to anywhere near the strength he desired before Charis was able to get in and defeat Hektor in what just about everyone recognized was actually the final stage of a secular conflict which had been initiated by Hektor. (It has been ratcheted up to very nearly those levels in most of the mainland realms by now, however; also a factor in Our Heroes'™ thinking.) If those factors hadn't broken in Charis' favor, then even with the advantage of Merlin's SNARCs, it is highly unlikely that Charis could have found the manpower to hold down Corisande in the face of a general resistance while simultaneously continuing the buildup of its navy and an army which could possibly afford to divert any of its deployable strength to the mainland.

What would have been a serious problem in Corisande (whose population was roughly 49% that of the combined populations of Old Charis, Chisholm, and Emerald) would become a nightmare on the mainland, where the population (even excluding Siddarmark from the equation) would be 10.6 times the entire population of all the territory currently controlled by Charis. (As a relative yardstick, Germany in 1941 had a population of 110,000,000 in all of its home and occupied territories while the USSR's population in all of its home and occupied territories was 181,000,000, or a ratio of only approximately 1.65-to-1, and we all know how well that worked out. The ratio for a Charisian Empire trying to occupy the mainland would be 6.5 times worse than that, although a Siddarmarkian alliance would help those numbers somewhat.)

From a combat perspective, Charis might well be able to hack numbers like that, if it can stay sufficiently far ahead of the mainland in terms of quality of weapons and if the evolving nature of its industry allows it to free up a significantly higher proportion of its far lower overall manpower totals. From a persisting perspective, however, Charis is hopelessly outnumbered. It doesn't matter if you have Abrams tanks and M-16s while the opposition has only 1903 Springfields and horsed cavalry if you cannot deploy your forces in sufficient density to prevent those mounted troops from using those Springfields to shoot up your supply convoys and massacre anyone in the countryside who show signs of supporting The Heretical, Demon-Worshiping, Baby-Eating Occupation™. You just can't be in enough places at once.

That's the real problem Charis faces with imposing any sort of permanent, lasting peace on the Church. Unless Clyntahn's excesses become sufficiently blatant, and/or unless the propaganda being distributed by Merlin's remotes can (a) succeed in distinguishing between the Group of Four and the Church in the minds of a majority of Safeholdians outside the Empire and (b) actually convince the majority of Safeholdians outside the Empire that the propagandists are telling the truth in the first place, the level of bone-deep resistance from the bulk of the mainland population will be widespread, powerful, and probably inextinguishable. As a case in point, I give you British efforts in Ireland, which was an island surrounded (and isolated from outside support) by the most powerful navy in the world, rather than the entire continent of North America and Europe and Asia and India and — well, perhaps you see my point. [G]

Even if Charis succeeds in toppling the Group of Four, or even if the Group of Four is removed from power by some internal faction within the Church, so long as faith in the archangels persists, the Church, and not Charis, holds all the trump cards in creating and sustaining the sort of moral authority and support which can (and will) inevitably defeat any Charisian effort at occupation or the installation of "puppet regimes" which can be delegitimized by the Church. The Brits couldn't defeat Gandhi in India without resorting to tactics which would have delegitimized Great Britain in the eyes of the world and — even more importantly — its own population. Charis would face very much the same situation on the mainland, following even a crushing outright military victory, despite the fact that readers would realize that, ultimately, it was actually Charis which held the moral high ground.

Cayleb, Sharleyan, Merlin, and their advisers are all aware of this. At the moment, while they are absolutely dedicated to the defeat and destruction of the Group of Four, they recognize that in the long-term they're fighting for survival and to provide a base from which an effort to eventually successfully debunk the entire theology of the archangels can be waged. Ultimately, they recognize that they cannot defeat the Church of God Awaiting by force of arms. They may be able to defeat the Group of Four and hopefully clear the way for a Reformist takeover of the main Church, but that's really the best they can shoot to accomplish militarily.

In the long term, a Charisian Empire which is able (thanks to its access to Merlin and Owl) to stay ahead of the curve of industrialization and technology uplift would probably present a challenge to the Church's more moribund technology which would result in the gradual decay of the Church's authority to forbid change and control thought. Of course, that supposes that the kinetic bombardment system can somehow be taken out of play.

I'm not saying that there aren't factors that could dramatically change the strategic realities of Safehold in a relatively short timeframe. For example (and I'm not saying this is going to happen), if it should happen that a handful of "archangels" were to awaken under the Temple and ride out to smite the ungodly in their kyousei hi only to be shot down by Merlin's recon skimmer, the archangels' prestige would be severely dented. Even then, however, the Church might not be turned against them, since according to the Church's own history of Shan-wei's Rebellion, many angels and archangels were "slain" in the fighting.

Nor am I saying that the removal of the Group of Four wouldn't bring the present war to a conclusion, because it almost certainly would lead to at least a temporary break in the fighting. But what happens then? If the Church of Charis immediately denounces Langhorne and his fellow archangels, the war begins again instantly, and on a far more ugly basis, with the Reformists who might have thought reasonably well of the Church of Charis faced with the incontrovertible truth that Clyntahn was right all along in denouncing the Charisians as heretics of the worst possible stripe. And, if the Church of Charis doesn't immediately denounce Langhorne and his fellow archangels, the presumably Reformed Church gradually reasserts its control over the faithful since the Holy Writ itself defines the proper state of affairs as a theocracy in which the secular realms are controlled by the Church. It may well be that the Church of Charis is recognized as equally holy, possibly even a recognized branch of Mother Church, when the smoke clears, but the pressure for the schism to be healed and the ascendancy of Mother Church will still gradually regenerate a level of hostility between the Empire and the mainland realms.

To attain Merlin's goals, Charis has to sweep the board. It has to militarily defeat the Group of Four; it has to permanently defang the bombardment platform's threat to re-emergent technology; and it has to permanently and effectively destroy the theological and doctrinal basis of the Church of God Awaiting. Even having the Republic of Siddarmark fully restored to pre-Sword of Schueler status and firmly allied with the Charisian Empire won't accomplish any of those goals. A Siddarmarkian alliance, even with a grievously wounded Republic, may be a major step in the direction of those goals, but there is a very, very long road between where Charis is right now and where it needs to be to redeem Merlin's promise to Pei Kau-yung and Pei Shan-wei's memories.