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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 drew the Gbaba attack in the first place, and how is the Rakurai supposed to prevent it from happening again? (Asked Sun May 13, 2012) December 2013

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "disbelief problems" in this instance. They may, however, result from misunderstanding the purposes of the original Langhorne and then trying to project him back onto the Federation as a whole.

The Federation knew exactly what first brought them to the Gbaba's attention: interstellar expansion into an area the Gbaba had already swept of competing sentient (or, at least, advanced) lifeforms. They had no way of knowing whether it was because they'd blundered across some stealth sensor system that had been left behind to report to the Gbaba, or because the Gbaba ran patrols through the area on some sort of regular schedule, or whatever, but first contact with the Gbaba followed decades of survey ships turning up evidence of destroyed alien civilizations. Until the Gbaba actually attacked, there was disagreement over how and why those civilizations had been destroyed, but after the Gbaba attacked, the debate was generally considered to have been settled. So while they might not have known exactly what level of technology triggered Gbaba interest in the other civilizations which were destroyed, they had pretty conclusive evidence that it was their own expanding high-tech presence in interstellar space which had brought them to the Gbaba's attention.

The original purpose of Operation Ark was not for the human race to permanently dig a hole, climb into it, and then fill it in behind them. The original ban on high technology — including interstellar travel — was intended to last only long enough to evade any Gbaba scouts deliberately searching for possible human "hidden colonies." The intention at that point was to not radiate telltale signals which might attract a scout to Safehold's star system in the first place and to maintain that "you can't see me" anonymity long enough for the search for them to have died down. At that point, humanity, knowing about the Gbaba's existence would begin reestablishing technology as carefully as possible and use the tech base which had been brought with them in knowledge form (which is precisely what Shan-wei and the others in the Alexandria Enclave wanted to maintain) as a starting point for a civilization which had almost been able to defeat the Gbaba as it stood to advance to one readily capable of dealing with the threat when it was encountered a second time.

Clearly, the ultimate intent was for the human race to return (eventually) to interstellar space loaded for bear and deal with the Gbaba once and for all because the Gbaba had left humanity no option through their own previous actions. That is clearly how Pei Shan-wei and Commodore Pei understood their mission orders, and it was the fear that someone like Langhorne would attempt to . . . modify those orders which led to the plans which placed Nimue Alban's PICA in a cave on Safehold a thousand years later.

Langhorne's solution to the problem, however, was to dig a hole and pull it in after him. He'd basically decided that the best way to deal with the Gbaba was to hide from them permanently, and his technique for doing that was to forbid the re-creation of a tech base which could ever permit humanity to expand beyond a single planet or draw the Gbaba's attention a second time. In other words, the Proscriptions — unlike the original plan to "go dark" until after the Gbaba scouts were done looking for fugitives — are intended as a permanent solution to the "Gbaba problem." As a consequence, they aren't so much concerned with preventing telltale electromagnetic or neutrino signatures per se as they are with killing the fundamental building blocks that might ever permit those signatures to be radiated in the first place. This doesn't indicate any ignorance on the part of the Terran Federation as to how/why the Gbaba initially discovered humanity's existence; it indicates an intention to prevent humanity from running into the Gbaba again anywhere, under any circumstances.

The deliberate imposition of Roman numerals in place of Arabic numerals, as a means to prevent the development of advanced mathematics, is one example of how that was supposed to work. The structure of a cosmology in which as many natural laws as possible are explained as divine dispensations rather than simply ignored is another. The Holy Writ not only describes the "miraculous dispensation" of gravity as a means to provide a constant "down" anywhere on the surface of a spherical planet, but also describes celestial phenomena in a way which accounts for Copernican observations within a basically Ptolemaic context, once again by describing what might be seen by the unaided human eye or through a telescope (and remember they have telescopes) in terms of "and this, too, is the mighty work of the Archangels' hands." In other words, the Writ sets forth internally consistent, comprehensive descriptions of observable phenomena in terms of divine dispensation in a way intended to prevent questions from arising in the first place. If we ever get to it (that is, if it ever becomes significant to the storyline), you will discover that most things which could be observed through magnifying glasses or simple microscopes — that is, microscopes which can be constructed without advanced technology — are also described in the Writ and explained in those same consistent cosmological terms. The entire objective was to create a situation in which the conflict between science and religion never arises because anything that the tools of a low-tech civilization can produce have already been satisfactorily explained/described by religion. There's no need to find a solution to the problem of new discoveries, because everyone already "knows" why things work the way they do. The Achilles heel of the Writ lies in the fact that the Writ doesn't specifically forbid efforts to expand upon the descriptions/answers already provided. There is a reason that it doesn't (which I may or may not go into at some point in the books; it was a judgment call on the part of the Writ's authors on the question of how specifically they wanted to try to nail things down at the risk of inadvertently contradicting themselves internally at some point), but that remains to be seen. It is, however, one of the reasons the Royal College in Tellesberg never quite crossed the line into anathematized knowledge before the Group of Four's attack on Charis. They weren't positing new, heretical knowledge; they were simply collecting, collating, and systematizing observations of how the permitted "knowledge" worked and attempting to derive still deeper insight into the "divine laws" established by the Archangels obedient to God's will.

On the basis of the Proscriptions, Merlin and the inner circle can actually form some pretty fair conclusions about what won't set off the Rakurai; the problem is that they can't be positive what will (beyond one point, discussed below). Essentially, the Proscriptions are very simple: instead of defining what technology is, they are intended — by defining what is permissible — to create conditions under which the evolution of an advanced tech base is not possible. In essence, the Proscriptions list the three elements of "Langhorne's Trinity" of acceptable power sources: wind, water, and muscle. Paityr Wylsynn explained in the last book how, working within those limitations, he can approve steam power. In his attestation, he simply points out that the generation of steam has always been allowed (see his reference to pressure cookers) and that all a steam engine really is is a wind-powered device. The steam simply represents wind generated where it's needed, just as Howsmyn's hydro-accumulators were simply a way to generate/provide waterpower where it was required.

The problem comes with an effort to step beyond steam into electricity, which is not part of Langhorne's Trinity. Moreover, the Writ makes it very clear that one of Shan-wei's worst offenses against God was to lay impious hands on Holy Langhorne's divine Rakurai. The deluded mortals who followed her during Shan-wei's War and The War of the Fallen were anathematized in part for their acceptance of her blasphemous desecration of the Rakurai, which is specifically set forever beyond human touch. From that, Merlin and the inner circle can be pretty clear in their own minds that a generating plant is going to catch a kinetic bombardment is anything is. Indeed, they have inferred (correctly) that the connection between the Rakurai and damnation was made so explicit to be sure that electricity stayed "off the table" once some Safeholdian Benjamin Franklin demonstrated that it and the Rakurai were the same thing.

One thing that needs to be borne in mind is that at this point that the readers of this forum know far more about what went on during Shan-wei's War and The War of the Fallen than Merlin or the inner circle know. Until the Key of Schueler came on the scene, they couldn't know what was under the Temple. In fact, even now they don't "know" a thing about what's under there; they can only surmise. By the same token, at this point they have no way of knowing exactly what the kinetic platform was put up there to do or what might trigger it.

Because of the rigor with which the Rakurai is forbidden to humans or to anyone except Langhorne Himself (remember, he's not "dead;" he's simply no longer "of this world," which means that the Writ specifically provides for his ongoing supervision of and influence in the world), Merlin is confident that building a generating station would be A Bad Idea. He was careful to set up his steam power experiment in a place where no one would be injured if things went badly and were (almost to support) there would be no human witnesses to a "Rakurai strike" if the kinetic bombardment platform disapproved of steam power. By the same token, he's not particularly concerned about the platform having been set up to essentially nuke Safehold back into the Key age, either, however. He strongly suspects (again, correctly) that if a electrical generating plant, for example, were to be struck by the Rakurai, it would not set off a general bombardment of Safehold. That, in fact, the people behind the Proscriptions would want witnesses to "Langhorne's divine wrath" to survive and spread the word of what had happened.

So the Federation was never in much doubt as to what drew it to the Gbaba's attention; the Proscriptions are intended less to prevent "betraying spoors" which will attract the Gbaba to Safehold than with ensuring that no technology capable of taking humans beyond Safehold ever emerges; and Merlin and the inner circle, by a careful reading of the Writ and the Proscriptions can definitely rule out at least some technologies as virtually certain to activate the "Rakurai" (assuming, of course, that anything will do so).

Safehold Origin of the Border States (Posted Sun May 20, 2012) December 2013

You are suffering under a misapprehension in at least one respect: the Border States were not specifically created as a buffer between the Temple Lands and the Republic of Siddarmark. They are a buffer zone, which is why they are collectively referred to as the "Border States," but they were not created to serve as one. Rather, they are states which existed before the Republic expanded to its current borders and which the Siddarmarkians went to some pains to avoid threatening. The Republic has been aware of the "Knights of the Temple Lands" . . . nervousness over the "Siddarmarkian threat" to the Temple Lands for a long, long time. At no time — prior, at least, to the last few years and Siddarmark's pointed exclusion from the Church's preparations for the jihad against Charis — has the Republic ever actually contemplated going to war against Mother Church, however. Not only would it have been impious and almost certainly blasphemous, but the huge preponderance of force the Church is in a position to concentrate against Charis, despite five years of reverses (and the fact that virtually all of the secular rulers of Safehold understand that the Church was actually the initial aggressor in the current war), would always have been available against Siddarmark, especially if the Republic had been so foolish as to attack Mother Church, rather than the reverse.

The Church's anxiety over Siddarmark represents something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Concerned about potential aggression from Siddarmark because of their worry over its perceived Reformist sympathies and the Republic's success against secular adversaries, the Group of Four and the last several decades of its predecessors among the Church's policymakers, have been unremittingly hostile towards the Republic. In the process, they have convinced the last few lords protector and their administrations that the Church sees the Republic as an enemy, despite the fact that the Republic has never intentionally threatened the Church, her territorial possessions, or her security. That being the case, those lords protector have had no choice but to shape their own policies in light of that perceived hostility, and that fact has generated an answering cynicism, distrust, and — yes — defensive hostility towards those policymakers, rather than towards the Church itself. Since those policymakers, like the Group of Four prior to the current unpleasantness, made no differentiation in their own minds between themselves and the Church as a whole, that hostility towards them equated in their view to hostility against Mother Church and thus a potential secular threat to the security of the Temple Lands. This despite the fact that any quick-and-dirty analysis of the potential balance of power between the Church of God Awaiting and any single secular realm ought to have led them to exactly the same conclusion the Republic's leaders had drawn: that any act of aggression against Mother Church would have been one of suicidal lunacy.

A huge part of the Church's current problems stem from the fact that as the Church's leadership has become increasingly involved in expanding and protecting its wealth and secular power, it has systematically undermined the security of the very things it sought to protect. The attitudes the Group of Four so feared among the Out Islands and the Republic are, in fact, a reaction against the perceived corruption of the Church leadership in question, but, even more, a response to the pressures and threats being brought to bear against them by that selfsame leadership.

In other words, to use an ancient cliché, the Group of Four and its predecessors having made their bed, the Church now has no option but to lie in it.

Safehold Why doesn't Merlin just nuke the Temple? (Asked Wed May 23, 2012) December 2013

I think you and I have a difference of opinion about what constitutes moral/acceptable behavior in this instance. Nor is that the only reason why nuking Zion is not an option for Merlin. Taking the many reasons for that in no particular order:

Merlin feels personally responsible for the deaths which have already occurred. He is, however, among other things, a product of a Terran Federation Navy which was sworn to the preservation of human life in a war it knew it was losing — a conflict which could have only one outcome. Nimue spent her entire life in that environment, with that overriding imperative. When Merlin says that Nimue was sworn to protect human life, he is telling nothing but the truth, and the number of people he's already personally killed in relatively small groups already weighs heavily enough upon him. By the same token, he knows — when he's willing to look at it logically and listen to the testimony of the native Safeholdians on "his" side — that the war which is currently ongoing between the Church leadership and those who believe in freedom of conscience (or at least adherence to the spirit of the Writ as they understand it) was inevitable. In point of fact, aside from the delay he caused an Archbishop Erayk's pastoral visit (which, arguably, delayed him long enough for the ground fire in Charis to get beyond the point where he could have hoped to re-exert any sort of control), Merlin had very little to do with Clyntahn's decision to launch the attack on Charis. Arabic numerals? That (along with the abacus) was really the only major innovation to have come out of Charis — and reached the Group of Four's attention — which was Merlin's handiwork. Clyntahn had been planning his "final solution" to the Charisian problem for quite some time; he scarcely needed anything Merlin might have done as an excuse.

Despite that, Merlin does feel responsible, even though Cayleb, Sharleyan, Maikel, Nahrmahn (when alive), and many others have told him that it would have happened anyway and that his "guilt" consists primarily of giving Charis an opportunity to survive, thereby lengthening the war and extending the massacre to somewhere else instead of basically allowing Clyntahn to simply depopulate Charis and be done with it . . . until the next secular realm pissed him off.

At the same time, as other readers have pointed out, his primary mission is not the survival of Charis or even of his friends and loved ones. His primary mission is to make sure that the Church is permanently and totally discredited as a "thought control" mechanism, that the orbital bombardment platform doesn't blast Safehold back into the equivalent of the dark ages, and that humanity is ready the next time it runs into the Gbaba. From that perspective, and speaking totally cold-bloodedly, the more thoroughly the Group of Four discredits itself with the human race — the more and greater the excesses and atrocities Clyntahn is allowed to perpetuate without being stopped by the rest of the Church hierarchy — the more the Church's legitimacy is undermined and, eventually, destroyed. I'm not saying that Merlin is deliberately attempting to provoke additional atrocities, because he isn't — his mind doesn't work that way — but he is aware of that side of the equation . . . and so are Cayleb and Maikel Staynair, quite possibly to an even greater extent than Merlin is. Moreover, Merlin most definitely is aware that he has to get the innovation/invention genie as thoroughly as possible out of the bottle before the Church is defeated. Nimue was a sufficiently astute student of history, and has had long enough to think about this, to realize that even when the Church is defeated militarily, it is extraordinarily unlikely that the Reformists and the Church of Charis are going to succeed in destroying the existing Church (unless, of course, it has succeeded in wreaking sufficient havoc and atrocities to generate the sort of universal revulsion Nazism and Hitler’s "Final Solution" generated after World War II and we have the equivalent of the Nuremberg trials and denazification on a planetary scale). The Church of God Awaiting is almost certainly going to survive the current jihad, one way or the other, and that means that the habit of thinking outside the Writ's limitations and the Proscriptions of Jwo-jeng has to become so widespread, so pervasive, that even a Church which has a successful Counter Reformation won't be able to fence it around with new restrictions and turn it back off at the tap. From that perspective — again, speaking cold bloodedly — he doesn't want to end the jihad tomorrow. Please note that that doesn't mean he'll deliberately delay a Charisian victory or sabotage Siddarmarkian armies in the field, because he won't; he'll fight like hell for Charisian victory. But it is a fundamental, underlying strand of his strategy and his mission.

Leaving all of that aside, however, there is the question of his personal morality, how it plays into that oath Nimue swore (and his own feelings of guilt over the fact that, despite all it can do, the TFN was unable to fulfill that oath), and exactly where direct (as opposed to indirect) responsibility for the atrocities actually lies.

Merlin is not prepared, is not willing, is morally unalterably opposed, to murdering a couple of million people who would never have any opportunity of defending themselves simply because they have been controlled by a monstrous lie and exploited by a corrupt institution headed by four greedy men, one of whom is a certifiable megalomaniac. He simply won't do it. He can't do it, and he is not prepared to salve his conscience with the argument of "expediency" or that "the ends justify the means." It would be a monstrous act, and while he might be willing to accept the blood guilt for it even if it condemns the soul he firmly believes in to hell if he felt it was the only solution to the problem of the Church of God Awaiting and the bombardment platform, that doesn't change the fact that he would regard it as utterly morally reprehensible and a sin against God Himself. In fact, Merlin would argue that if he does indeed still have a soul at this point, and he carried out such an act, he would deserve to spend the rest of eternity in hell. Nimue's oath to the Terran Federation Navy, her sense of having failed in that obligation, Merlin's conviction that it is his duty to protect rather than to destroy — all of those things factor into the psychology of his decision, but only to reinforce the fundamental bedrock of his conviction that it would be an act of evil and that if he could convince himself otherwise there would be no difference between him and Zhaspahr Clyntahn aside from their objectives.

It can be argued — indeed, I have seen it argued in posts on this site — that by not wiping out a couple of million innocent human beings in an eye blink, he is actually facilitating the evils which are being done. That it is somehow his fault that Zhaspahr Clyntahn and the Inquisition are able to commit the atrocities they are committing because he has the power to stop them and he refuses to use it. I'm sorry, but this is the same sort of logic — in reverse — which makes a terrorist's victims responsible for what happens to them. Merlin believes in freedom of will. So does the Church of Charis and the Reformists in general. So, in many ways, does the Church of God Awaiting, which is one reason for the Punishment of Schueler — men have the freedom to choose to do evil, which means that some of them inevitably will, and when they do, it is Mother Church's responsibility to deal with that evil. Merlin is not responsible for what others choose to do, any more than the Western Allies were "responsible" for Hitler’s and Himmler’s decision to implement a full bore extermination policy towards the Jews when they began to realize they were likely to lose (or at least not win) the war.

One of the striking aspects, for me, of the debate over moral responsibility and choices in warfare comes out of World War II and is too often lost in the shadows of the Holocaust. Who actually bears the moral responsibility for the millions of dead civilians killed in places like Hamburg, Dresden, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima? Was it the Germans, who first began the practice of bombing civilian centers of population from the air and therefore, in a sense, reaped what they had sowed? Was it the Japanese, who after all were responsible for the Rape of Nanking, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Batan Death March, and whose distortion of the code of bushido led to the horrendous casualties suffered by both sides in places like Tarawa and Okinawa and to the introduction of kamikaze attacks which convinced the US that an actual invasion would have resulted in over a million military totality's alone? Or was it the political and military leaders who dispatched the bombers that actually killed the civilians in question? Can men like Winston Churchill, Frankloin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, “Bomber” Harris, Carl Spaatz, and Curtis LeMay be let off the hook because the other side "made them do it," or should they be held accountable for their own actions and decisions? In many cases, there most definitely were other choices, other options, and people at the time who pointed those options out. Those other options were ignored, however, and surely that means that the military and political leaders who chose to ignore them must bear responsibility for that decision, if no other.

My point here is that Merlin is not responsible, whatever he may think, for a single atrocity the Church has committed. It is because Merlin is not a psychopath that he thinks he is responsible, but the truth of the matter is that the people ordering and carrying out the atrocities are responsible, and no one else. Would Merlin, therefore, be justified in personally killing a couple of million human beings to prevent what the Inquisition and the Church of God Awaiting under Zhaspahr Clyntahn's leadership is currently doing? Does he have the moral right to murder other innocent civilians in order to prevent someone else from killing innocent civilians?

Merlin doesn't believe he does, and the true difference between him and Zhaspahr Clyntahn isn't the fact that Clyntahn is a self-serving, megalomaniac, sabyrite who believes that as God's anointed champion he can do whatever he wants, but rather that Merlin will not use the argument that "the ends justify the means" to excuse himself for doing something he knows — knows, deep down at the core of what makes him who he is — is not simply wrong but an abomination in the eyes of God.

Having said all of the above, I should also point out that the numbers being thrown around at this point for the deaths and suffering being inflicted by Clyntahn and the Inquisition certainly aren't based on anything I've given you. Starvation, privation, atrocities — all of that is, indeed, happening on a vast scale, but 130,000,000? The combined population of Safehold is a whisker over 1,000,000,000, so this number is a full 13% of the total population of the planet! How are that many human beings supposed to be being killed, tortured, and starved simultaneously?

Remember that the western provinces of the Republic of Siddarmark were the most lightly populated ones, and that the entire population of the Republic amounts to only 129,000,000 and change. You can't seriously throw the entire population of Siddarmark into the scales for Merlin to balance against murdering the entire population of Zion any more than you could argue that the entire population of the Soviet Union in 1940 was directly and immediately threatened and subjected to atrocities by the German Army between 1941 and the Battle of Kursk in 1943. I admit that the numbers of Siddarmarkian's who have died, suffered, or been displaced — or who will have been by the time the invasion of Siddarmark is over — greatly outnumber the total population of Zion, but not by anywhere near the scale which is being suggested by using the number 130,000,000.

Even the Nazi extermination machine, with all the advantages of mid-twentieth century technology, was unable to get anywhere near that figure. Estimates for the total number killed in the Holocaust range from 10,000,000 to 26,000,000, and the death toll for the entire war ranges from a low of 40,000,000 to a high of around 78-80,000,000, or about 1.5-3% of the then-current world population. World War I killed between 15,000,000 and 65,000,000 (and the high end number includes the death toll of the Spanish influenza epidemic, not just the direct casualkties inflicted as a result of military operations) or roughly 1-4% of the current world population. To get to higher percentages of the world population than that, you have to go to wars like the Mongol invasions, or the domestic warfare of China prior to the 19th century, where I would submit that the very best records available are likely to be . . . unreliable, at best. Lord knows there's enough dispute today about numbers in current, ongoing humanitarian tragedies to make me dubious about records that are four and five hundred years old. My point, however, is that Zhaspahr Clyntahn isn't even in shouting range of that kind of number at this point, and all indications are that the curve of Charisian innovation is sufficient that the Church of God Awaiting isn't going to be able to inflict that kind of death toll before its armies are eventually crushed by the Empire of Charis. It's valid to point out that Merlin's "inaction" is leaving Clyntahn alive to add to his box score, but I think we ought to at least restrict ourselves to numbers that bear a passing resemblance to the numbers the Inquisition and the Church of God Awaiting and its forces have already or are actually in a position to inflict at this time.

Safehold What level of literacy is supported on Safehold? (Asked Thu May 31, 2012) December 2013

The Church provides five years of basic education, but the nature of that "basic education" is not uniform.

The critical thing that the Church teaches is doctrine. Initially, when Safehold was first colonized and the Church was first set up, the Church's teaching role was specifically designed to instill literacy, as well as doctrinal soundness, in order to permit every Safeholdian to read The Writ, The Commentaries, and The Testimonies for himself, the better to understand the Archangels' teachings. It was also essential because they were still very much in the terraforming mode and they needed to be able to read the instructions buried in The Writ. In addition, the literate Adams and Eves wanted and expected their offspring to become literate.

As population expanded beyond the original enclaves and — even more importantly — as individual reading of the holy books began to encourage a small number of independent thinkers, the Church's emphasis shifted from teaching literacy as a primary goal to teaching it as a secondary goal, with increased emphasis on doctrinal reliability as the overriding objective. Doctrinal reliability had become the primary, quintessential, absolutely necessary aspect of the Church's teaching during the War Against the Fallen, following Shan-Wei's Rebellion, so it wasn't a very difficult step for the Church to take to decide that too much literacy was a dangerous thing. Coupled with the expansion of the population, the creation of more "frontier settlements" where being good with your hands was more important than "book learning," literacy began a steady decline which became a drastic decline when the Adams and Eves started dying off.

This suited a significant portion of the Church's hierarchy just fine, since the closer the clergy had to a monopoly on literacy, the tighter its monopoly on doctrine and theology became. That portion of the clergy wanted to create a "closed shop" in which nothing like the Fallen could ever again emerge. Another, smaller, portion of the clergy — centered, ironically, in the Bédardists — argued forcefully against that view, pointing out that Langhorne himself had insisted that God's children had to be literate and that it was the job of the Church to teach right behavior, not simply to dictate right behavior. The Order of Jwo-jeng was mostly on the Bédardists' side; the Order of Schueler was not. As the order directly charged with teaching and guiding Mother Church's children, the Order of Schueler took the position that what mattered most was that right behavior was attained, not necessarily how it was inculcated, and experience had demonstrated that those who read the most also tended to ask the most questions. Admittedly, questions could lead to further enlightenment, but they were also Shan-wei's portal into the minds of believers and so they had to be handled very carefully, on Mother Church's terms, and controlling literacy helped Mother Church control the terms of the discussion.

Opinion was not uniform even within the Order of Schueler, but the view of the Order's senior clergy was strongly against aggressively pushing literacy, and that tended to predominate. A period of competition between the various great orders of the Church began about 150-225 years after the end of the War of the Fallen. It ended, eventually, with the Order of Jwo-jeng being merged into the Schuelerites and the Order of Langhorne losing its primacy to the new, consolidated Order of Schueler, in large part because the Inquisition was firmly in the hands of the Schuelerites. Maikel Staynair's origins in the Order of Bédard actually have quite a lot to do with the high degree of open-mindedness and the belief in teaching and in the individual's responsibility to take charge of his own relationship with God which he's persistently demonstrated. He's moved well beyond the Order of Bédard's official positions, of course, but the order helped create the mindset which made him open to the revelations of the Brethren of Saint Zherneau when the time came.

To return to the matter of literacy, however. In the Out Islands, literacy was always relatively high among the classes for whom it was useful — merchants, lawyers, bankers, skilled artisans, physicians, etc. — although rather more restricted in the lower classes where the manual labor of a muscle-powered society was concentrated. Even there, however, literacy was more prevalent than it was in most of the mainland realms at their nadir and the view persisted that it was a Safeholdian's right to be literate.

In those mainland realms, literacy was most common among the urban classes and least common among the rural classes. It was customary, in most of the mainland realms, for there to be at least one or two literate individuals attached to any large farmstead or small village, with an increasing percentage of literacy as population density went up and the classes for whom literacy was a requirement became more numerous. In addition, of course, the local clergy were always literate, although the extent to which a village under-priest in the Harchong Empire used his literacy skills probably didn't compare too favorably to the extent to which a law master of the Order of Langhorne in Zion used his.

The general uptick in literacy over the last couple of centuries has been largely the result of the steadily increasing density of the urban populations and the economic expansion of which Charis is the face. I use the term "is the face" because although Charis is way out in front, virtually all of Safehold has been participating in a general upward flow of economic activity and prosperity. The Levelers' current activity levels are a reflection of the inevitable disparities involved in an economy which is changing and evolving. However, the view that a good education is a doorway to opportunity has begun to emerge more and more strongly during this period, just as the increasing populations of cities like Tellesberg, Siddar City, Gorath, etc., have increased the need for literate specialists to provide the necessary services to manage those populations' economic affairs, see to matters of public health, provide engineering services, etc.

The general uptick in literacy over the last couple of centuries has also (precisely as the Schuelerites of 600 years or so ago feared) contributed to the Reformist movement. Not so much in terms of questioning doctrine, although there's obviously at least some of that going on, as well, so much as in the Reformists' sense that Mother Church is not living up to the obligations set down in black and white in The Writ as the Vicarate has become more and more enamored of secular power and cliques like the Group of Four have emerged to dominate Church policy.

The poorer and sparser a population, the less likely it is to have a high degree of literacy. This is what Cahnyr was thinking about in terms of Glacierheart. The economy there is so hardscrabble that families can neither afford the cost of providing additional education to their children, nor afford the lost income holding the child out of the labor force would cost them. And literacy, like any other skill, is lost when it isn't exercised, so especially among the lower classes — farmers, coal miners, foresters, etc. — functional illiteracy is still very common because they have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue reading. This is one of the reasons why the Sword of Schueler was more successful in Western Siddarmark. Not only were the western provinces closer to the Temple Lands and therefore more susceptible to infiltration (and strategically more important, leading to a greater concentration of effort in them), but there were far fewer bastions of literacy to help fuel the Reformist movement. As a result, the citizens of those provinces were much more conservative doctrinally and far less likely to be "infected" with schismatic or heretical notions, making them a tool more apt to the Inquisition's hand.

(It should not, however, be assumed that loyalty and support for the Church are the monopoly of "backwoods hicks." Illiteracy makes it easier for the Church to control the thinking of its parishioners, but this is an institution with close to a thousand years of doctrinal and theological writing and study. Some very, very smart people who have spent lifetimes acquiring knowledge and understanding of that doctrine are fully supportive of it, with their belief buttressed by their intelligence and study rather than undercut by them.)

Harchong is a special case. In Harchong, the Church and the local aristocracy have been joined at the hip to an even greater extent than elsewhere on the mainland. Harchong — or what eventually became the Harchong Empire, at least — was the focus of the early population and expansion of Safehold for several reasons, despite the fact (if you look at the map) that its internal communications are relatively poor. Tiegelkamp, Boisseau, Stene, Kyznetzov, and Shwei were primarily grassland and particularly fertile. They required much less in the way of terraforming and land clearance, which made them the heart of Haven's early population growth. The emergence of a strong dynasty in Tiegelkamp which succeeded in uniting all of those separate enclaves into provinces of the same name into Safehold's first true empire during the War of the Fallen — and which put its new, imperial strength behind Langhorne's successors — explains a lot about both Harchong's size and power and its "special relationship" with the Church and with the forces of doctrinal reliability, in particular.

East Haven and Howard — like Charis, Chisholm, and Corisande — had enclaves of their own, and the original canal network constructed by Shan-wei had assumed that East Haven would take the lead in population growth because of the superior possibilities of its river systems where transport was concerned. That's why the original canals built by the Archangels tend to be concentrated in that region, although at least some of those canals (no, I'm not going to tell you which ones) were built after Shan-wei's death in order to provide Zion with better communications rather than to promote eventual economic and population growth. Howard's natural river connections aren't as good as East Haven's, but the climate in what became Desnair was very good, lending itself to a strong agriculture-based economy. Sodar's internal communications are really, really bad, which helps to explain why you haven't heard very much about the mighty Kingdom of Sodar.

Siddarmark grew out of the enclaves scattered through Old Province, Mountaincross, Midhold, Hildermoss, and Markan. There was also an enclave in what became Shiloh Province, but it was not associated with the early growth of Siddarmark. Unlike Harchong, which grew into a centralized empire very early, the "proto-Siddarmarkians" developed more as city states, independent of one another, which turned into the Republic some centuries before our story (and I'm not going to tell you that part of it now, because this thing is already much too long). However, the city states always laid a greater emphasis on individual liberties, participatory democracy, and rivalry with one another (which, however, usually stopped short of military rivalries), and generally emerged as the antithesis of Harchong. The fact that Siddarmark is almost a reverse image of Harchong helps to explain why those in the Church who regarded Harchong as Mother Church's faithful bulwark were more inclined to see Siddarmark as a threat, especially after it began aggressively expanding southward following its initial confrontation with the Desnairian Empire. (You'll get at least some details on the Siddarmark-Desnair . . . relationship in Toil and Tribulation.)

Anyway, the Harchongian aristocracy discovered that an illiterate peasantry and serf class was much easier to control than one which could read. After all, if they could read The Holy Writ, they might also be able to read things like, oh, contracts. For that matter, they might figure out that their beloved overlords weren't exactly living up to the Writ's instruction as to how they were to treat their brothers and sisters in God. As a result, they took steps to actively discourage literacy outside the ranks of the aristocracy and the bureaucratic class which actually manages the Empire, and Mother Church was willing to go along because (1) Mother Church owed the Empire for its support during the War Against the Fallen; (2) it was understood that this was a quid pro quo, under which the Harchongian aristocracy would always have the Church's back; and (3) peasant and serf illiteracy would make it easier for the Church to ensure doctrinal reliability among them.

So, while I apologize for the rather rambling way I got here, the point of my discourse is that literate serfs and peasants are very, very few and far between in Harchong. The village priest and the local Order of Schueler provide not simply what rudimentary education a common born Harchongian gets but also what literate services he requires, which means that while Reformism may be getting a new lease on life in Siddarmark, it has fallen upon almost totally barren ground in Harchong.

At that, of course, my children, explains why Zhaspahr Clyntahn thinks so highly of Harchong. Whatever its other shortcomings, he views the Harchong Empire as an almost bottomless reservoir of religiously reliable manpower, and smart as he is — and he is smart in a lot of ways — his awareness of how the advances Charis has been introducing trump sheer manpower remains sufficiently imperfect for him to fail to recognize that Harchong's sheer size is no longer enough to carry all before it. Or it might actually be fairer to him to say that he does understand that if he doesn't nip the Charisian schism in the bud quickly the genie is going to get thoroughly out of the bottle, destabilizing the system upon which Mother Church's primacy rests, which means he has to employ the Harchongian manpower trump card now to take Charis out before that destabilization devalues his hole card. But he hasn't figured out yet that his hole card's already ultimately devalued if he can't wipe Charis completely out within the next 5 to 10 years. It may even be that he's simply unwilling to recognize that fact because victory — and the extermination of Charis — is the only outcome acceptable to him and that automatically means it is the only outcome God will permit.

Safehold Is there a second string human colony out there? (Asked Mon Sep 10, 2012) December 2013

(1) Do you not think that a species which has genocided several advanced species wouldn't know about looking for hidden bunkers, hideouts, stealthed ships, etc., etc., within the confines of any solar system it decides to kill and taking the time to do the job right?

(2) Do you not think that wshen the time for the final assault came the Gbaba would not bring a crushing superiority to bear, sufficient to close in and destroy the system installations and populations while simultaneously maintaining the same blocklade it took Admiral Pei's entire fleet to break through, thereby assuring sufficient overkill to take care of any fleeing ships?

(3) Do you not think it likely that if any such sole survivor might have survived (somehow) to run for it and managed (somehow) to evade Gbaba pursuit it would have been way too short of food, fuel, water, air, spare parts, tech base, and/or genetic material to provide a viable population somewhere else? (Note that I ddn't even ask if you thought it would "just happen" to have sufficient cryo facilities to place its complement in stasis until/if it reached a viable world somewhere without being reacquired by the Gbaba.)

Just asking. [G]

Safehold Could the war have been averted, or at least the scope and depth? (Asked Sun Sep 09, 2012) December 2013

If I may . . . .

Safehold is not Earth. The fact that people keep trying to find historical parallels for events and conditions on Safehold anyway sometimes distracts them from the overwhelming nature of the differences between our own history and that of Safehold.

The primary difference between the situation on Safehold and any situation that ever existed on Earth is that there genuinely is a worldwide faith, subordinated to a single church hierarchy, and accepted without question by virtually every living human being (other than those who had been corrupted by the Brethren of Saint Zherneau). The sheer breadth and depth of the Church of God Awaiting's authority is utterly without parallel in the history of Earth, where even the most extensive empire and/or theocratic state has had neighbors who didn't necessarily subscribe to the same belief system. It is literally impossible to over emphasize the consequences of that difference when it comes to evaluating diplomatic and political decisions in a Safeholdian context.

If the political situation on Safehold were remotely comparable to any political situation which has ever existed here on Earth, this argument that Cayleb should have played for time before declaring his open opposition to and defiance of the Church might — might — make sense. In a Safeholdian context, it almost certainly would have been suicidal.

There are many reasons I say that, beginning with — but certainly not limited to — the observation someone else has already made that under Safeholdian planetary law, Cayleb's accession to the throne had to be ratified by the Church, which was completely under the control (as everyone in Tellesberg knew) of the Group of Four. That confirmation was not going to be forthcoming, and anyone who had the remotest shred of an understanding of Zhaspahr Clyntahn and of the power of the Inquisition knew that. At best, the Group of Four would have immediately denied Cayleb's right to inherit his father's throne. It wouldn't have needed to provide a reason for that; such a denial would have been completely within the Church's prerogatives without the requirement for any secular justification.

The Group of Four could, however, have come up with any number of justifications if they had been needed. The fact that nothing Charis was doing had violated the Proscriptions — in the opinion of Paityr Wylsynn meant diddly in Zion, especially if the Grand Inquisitor himself chose to override the local Intendant's findings. Does anyone think for a moment that Clyntahn would not have chosen to do just that? Even if Clyntahn had not immediately overridden Wylsynn's attestation, he could very easily have announced that a review of the youthful Intendant's findings was in order, particularly given the fact that Charis had managed to devastatingly defeat the combined navies of five other nations. Surely it would have been reasonable for the Church to make certain that such a completely and totally unprecedented victory — and scale of victory — was not, in fact, due to some infringement of the Proscriptions which Shan-wei had managed to sneak past Father Paityr? After all, that would only be the path of caution.

Given that Clyntahn had the bit between his teeth, what would almost certainly have happened would have been what did happen, even without Cayleb and Staynair's open defiance. Had Trynair been allowed to call the shots, however, a rather more subtle — and probably even more dangerous — policy would probably have been pursued. Trynair would have played for time. Rather than rejecting Cayleb's right to inherit outright, he would have set up panels and committees to fully examine the circumstances . . . and he would have demanded a regency to oversee the Kingdom of Charis while everything was sorted out. (Echoes of the Hanth succession from Off Armageddon Reef, anyone?) And, of course, that Regency Council would have obediently followed Mother Church's instructions to stand down its active operations and military preparations against Hektor Corisande during the review process.

Cayleb would then have had only two choices:

(1) Immediately defy Trynair and reject the notion of a regency or a review of the circumstances, at which point his actions would be cast in a purely political view, demonstrating to the Group of Four's satisfaction (for the rest of Safehold) that Haarahld had, indeed, been the true instigator of the imperialist confrontation which had led to the war and that Cayleb, out of pure, unsullied, secular ambition, was defying Mother Church's efforts to heal the conflict which had already inflicted so many deaths upon Safehold and was willing to defy the Writ, the Archangels, and God Himself in the name of that secular ambition.

(2) Accede to Trynair's imposition of a regency and a review of the circumstances, accepting a regency council whose membership was acceptable to the Group of Four, at which point his life would not have been worth a plug nickel and the fate of Charis would have been sealed.

Even if Clyntahn hadn't immediately arranged Cayleb's arrest on some suitably serious religious charges as soon as the Regency Council was in place (or had him assassinated, probably by some "heretic" Charisian, thereby once again justifying Clyntahn's "Permanent Solution to the Charisian Problem"), Trynair would have strung the process out for months or even years, aided by the slow speed of communications (which would become even slower when it suited his purposes), during which the legitimacy not simply of Cayleb but of the entire Ahrmahk Dynasty would have been increasingly undermined in the eyes of the Charisian people. (And, of course, during that same time period, Prince Hektor and King Rahnyld, at the very least, would have been building their own fleets of galleons while Charis wasn't.) Moreover, one of the very first things that would have happened would have been that Maikel Staynair would have been removed as Bishop of Tellesberg and the entire Charisian church would have undergone a thorough housecleaning under the direction of Clyntahn's inquisitors. The very best result of that housecleaning (from a Charisian perspective), would have been that the Reformists would have been purged from the Church and that a degree of orthodoxy probably rivaled only by that of Harchong would have been imposed upon it and through it upon the Kingdom as a whole. A more probable result would have been that the Brethren of Saint Zherneau (possibly along with Jere Knowles’ journal) would have been discovered and destroyed and that Clyntahn would have gone ahead and burned Charis to the ground and sown the soil with salt to destroy the cancer once and for all.

From the perspective of Church preparations, the Church didn't get around to declaring Holy War until well after it had commenced its own massive naval buildup against Charis. There is absolutely no reason to believe for a moment that the Group of Four wouldn't have gone ahead and begun that naval buildup anyway, particularly given the fact that Charis had already flouted the Group of Four's collective will by surviving and that Charis could only continue to survive by eliminating its rivals among the Out Islands — Emerald, Corisande, Tarot, and (presumably) Chisholm. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the original confrontation, whether it was Haarahld's vaunting ambition which had led to the war or not, those four realms (plus Dohlar) were clearly Church allies/clients. The Church had to support and protect them against Charis, both because she had a perceived responsibility to do so and because the Group of Four could not allow an alliance it had created to be defeated by the single secular kingdom it had specifically set out to destroy in the first place. From the Group of Four's perspective, and especially from Clyntahn's perspective, that blow to the Church's prestige, power, authority, and perceived omnipotence would have been completely and totally unacceptable. It would, in effect, have created the very situation he'd proposed Charis's destruction to avoid. So pretending it was simply a war between secular powers would have done absolutely nothing to decrease, limit, or slow the Church's military preparations.

From Charis' perspective, on the other hand, there was no downside at all to Cayleb and Staynair's defiance.

First, bear in mind that they never bade defiance to Mother Church or the Archangels in their original communication to the Group of Four. They specifically accused the Group of Four of corruption, abuse of power, and the perversion of Mother Church. Their defiance of the Grand Vicar was predicated on the accusation that the Grand Vicar was the Group of Four's tool . . . and that situation existed only because of the Group of Four's progressive corruption and perversion of Mother Church. In other words, they were not defying God's plan for Safehold, nor were they rejecting the primacy of Mother Church; instead, they were accusing a specific clique within Mother Church of having connived at Charis' destruction without even first allowing Charis the opportunity due to all of God's children of defending herself against accusations of wrongdoing or seeking clarification of where and how she might have transgressed so that those transgressions could be correct.

From that perspective, Cayleb and Staynair were defending the Church against her internal enemies. They were not defying God; they were being answerable to God in coming to the defense of His Church against those who would have perverted it into something He had never intended it to be.

Second, by declaring their position so forthrightly, they avoided the delays and possible interregnum Trynair might have imposed and which would have absolutely prevented them from taking the steps necessary to fight their other purely secular enemies, far less preparing to defend themselves against the Church's fresh assaults.

Third, every informed political observer on the planet knew that, in fact, the Group of Four had been directly behind the attack on Charis. The "Knights of the Temple Lands" were a political fiction which the Church had used before, and everyone recognized that was what had happened this time, as well. Whatever the consequences might have been at the "grassroots level," the rulers of Safehold all knew who had been calling the shots in the attack on Charis. Bringing that out into the open made the choices clear for all of those other secular rulers . . . and outside Siddarmark, Chisholm, and Charis itself, the "grassroots level" didn't matter a hill of beans. By taking the position they took, Cayleb and Staynair deliberately stripped away any mask the Group of Four might even have attempted to hide behind as far as the important decision-makers of Safehold were concerned. Moreover, by making it a direct confrontation between Tellesberg and Zion, they underscored what Nahrmahn and Sharleyan, at the very least, had already clearly understood: once Clyntahn had destroyed a realm for irritating him, no ruler's crown would ever have been safe from him again. If you think that wasn't a factor in King Zhorj's thinking in Tarot, you are mistaken. (And if you think the realization that Chisholm would be next on Clyntahn's list wasn't a part of Sharleyan's calculations when she considered Cayleb's proposal, I suggest you go back and reread the books! [G])

Fourth, and most importantly of all, it united Charis behind Cayleb in a way nothing else could have. Bear in mind that he wouldn't have been confirmed in the crown at all by the Church under the Group of Four's control, and that he, Staynair, and Gray Hill all knew that as well as Merlin did. His choice was between being denied the crown, facing (and attempting — somehow — to survive) Trynair's delaying tactics, or openly defying the Group of Four. Since both of the first two possibilities would inevitably have led to his defeat and death, it was really a binary decision. But by embracing that decision, he presented himself as the champion of the Church and (although it wasn't harped upon at the time) freedom of conscience. In the end, of course, freedom of conscience and Mother Church's paramount authority over every living human being were fundamentally at odds, but that was not immediately apparent, since everything Staynair was saying emphasized the importance of God and an understanding of His will. The fact that he was already subtly dividing or at least distancing God from "His" Church was far from obvious. In fact, Cayleb's message emphasized the necessity of standing up for God against the corruption of evil and ambitious mortal men who had perverted everything the Church was supposed to stand for. That position, coming on the heels of King Haarahld's heroic death, the fact that virtually every Charisian understood that their kingdom would have been destroyed had the other side won, and the knowledge that the "Knights of the Temple Lands" had been behind the attack, forced Charisians to choose between becoming Temple Loyalists or Reformists in the church of Charis and firmly — one might say fiercely — united those Reformists behind Cayleb and Staynair. It was, for all intents and purposes, the exact opposite of the circumstances which would have obtained had Trynair's probable strategy been applied, complete with Regency Council and "delays" in confirming Cayleb as king.

As for the notion that the people of the Temple Lands "quarrel with each other just like any group, or groups of people in power" — oh, please! The "people" of the Temple Lands don't matter squat; the Knights of the Temple Lands matter. They are the rulers, they collect the taxes, they make the decisions, and they don't answer to anything remotely like a parliament. And who are the "Knights of the Temple Lands"? The Council of Vicars, that's who. You know — the people the Group of Four control and dominate? They are going to somehow "quarrel" with Zhaspahr Clyntahn at a time like this? And SWM is correct anyway; the Knights were simply the conduit for funds coming directly from the Church's treasury under the control of the Treasurer . . . who happens to be a member of the Group of Four and would have been covered, anyway, by the instructions the Grand Vicar would have given him, since the Grand Vicar was under control of the Chancellor, who also happens to be a member of the Group of Four. The degree to which the "Knights of the Temple Lands" could have inhibited the Church's cash-flow seems to me to be misunderstood by this argument, as well. The Knights didn't pay taxes or tithes, anyway. The best they could have done would have been to try to somehow prevent the Church tax gatherers from collecting the tithes their subjects paid directly to the Church. I'll let you calculate for yourself how likely they would have been to succeed in that with Clyntahn's Inquisition standing behind Duchairn's Treasury agents. No matter how ardent the Reformists might have been, all they would have achieved by attempting to hamper the Church's collections would have been to give Clyntahn the pretext he needed to move against the Wylsynns' Circle and other Reformists even sooner. Not that there would have been the most remote chance that the Reformists would have tried to impede the collection of tithes.

As far as comparing the threat of Charis to the threat of Siddarmark as a means to dissuade the Group of Four from whatever policy it chose to follow, this too is a nonstarter. Until after the events in A Mighty Fortress, there was never any thought on the part of the Group of Four that Charis might seriously threaten the mainland realms in any military sense. For that matter, the Group of Four's consensus even after the destruction of the Navy of God's fleet en route to Desnair was that Charis could not build both a navy sufficient to control the seas and provide for its own security and an army remotely large enough to threaten the mainland or the Temple directly. The Church could always build — or rebuild — a navy, no matter how expensive that might be or how many times it had to be done; Charis literally didn't have the manpower to build a mainland-sized army, and that was all there was to it.

Because of that, there is no way that the "threat" of a powerful Charisian fleet would have dissuaded the Church from pursuing any policy the Group of Four chose to pursue, and to think otherwise is to completely misunderstand the thinking and perceived military realities of Safehold. Indeed, one of Clyntahn's primary reasons for mounting the Sword of Schueler against Siddarmark was his belief — based primarily on his own, personal longtime suspicion of Siddarmark — that Siddarmark might move from "clandestine" economic cooperation with Charis to open military cooperation. By the time he took action, that suspicion of his had actually taken on a degree of legitimacy . . . but that was due solely to his own actions after Charis' open — and successful — defiance of his authority. Neither he nor any other member of the Group of Four (with the possible exception of Duchairn, who, if you will recall, was consistently outvoted on a three-to-one basis) would have allowed their calculations to be affected in any way by the military threat potential of Charis to their own or the Church's position on the mainland. It was the threat to the Church's (i.e., their own) authority in the Out Islands which had prompted the other three to agree with Clyntahn's "final solution" in the first place; absent a realistic land threat on the mainland (which, as I've just demonstrated, didn't exist in their minds at that time), they would — they could — only act even more strongly to prevent Charis from securing hegemony over all the Out Islands and thus strengthening the danger against which they had acted originally.

In short, there is no way that a delay on Cayleb and Staynair's part in proclaiming their defiance of the Group of Four — and setting forth morally, religiously, and spiritually compelling reasons for that defiance — could possibly have offered them anything like the advantages that accrued from an immediate declaration of war against the Group of Four and its corruption. It was not simply the correct thing for them to do from a moral and an ethical perspective, it was also the best thing they could have done from a pragmatic political, military, and economic perspective.

That's my analysis of the situation, at any rate. And while my natural modesty hesitates to point this out, I probably know more about the internal and external politics of the Church and Safehold's secular realms than anyone else. [G]

Safehold What were the Siddarmark Generals thinking, trying to engage in melee combat against a rifle armed foe? (Asked Thu Sep 20, 2012) December 2013

First, in response to "I just think it was almost criminally inept how they allowed many of those soldiers to be slaughtered because they didnt realise how suicidal it was to try and fight a melee against a rifle armed foe," they never "allowed" any of their soldiers to be slaughtered against a "rifle armed foe" until after the Army of God and the Royal Dohlaran Army had invaded the Republic. Even then, the “melees” they fought were fought because the troops involved didn't have any other option. Aside from the Army's initial losses to the mutinies involved with the original Sword of Schueler uprising, the Siddarmarkian Army kicked ass any time it engaged the enemy on anything remotely like equal numbers until the actual invasion armies were able to come forward. The melees that resulted in the slaughter of Siddarmarkian troops occurred only after the enemy had crossed the frontier, with armies with radically new and different organizations and weapons mixes, and — in the case of Cliff Peak Province — in enormous strength from an unexpected direction. Aside from critical choke points (usually fortified) the Republican Army didn't try to stand its ground against those forces. Instead, it gave ground, retreating in front of them or attempting to do so. As an example, when the senior Siddarmarkian general in Cliff Peak realized what was coming at him, he correctly deduced that he could neither hold his position nor fight his enemy in the open. So he ordered his troops to fall back immediately; he simply couldn't fall back fast enough to break contact, and once his command was brought to action every man in it knew what was going to happen to him if he surrendered. With no choice but to fight to the death, he and his men did, but they certainly didn't choose the time or place and they knew going in that they couldn't win. Or you might look at what the commander of Alyksberg did when he realized that the Dohlarans were coming at him from the west by the Army of God was coming down from the north. He left a sacrificial rearguard to hold the fortress as long as possible while he got as many as possible of the rest of his men out.

It is incorrect to say that (1) the Siddarmarkian Army had "several thousand" rifles with which to experiment or (2) to conclude that they had or should have had detailed reports about what had happened in Corisande.

To take the second point first. You think there were Siddarmarkian Army observers in Corisande? You think that communications on Safehold are as rapid and have as much bandwidth as communications on Earth? Even if there had been Siddarmarkian observers on the ground, how comprehensive and valuable could their observations have been? If they'd had observers embedded embedded with the Charisians, sharing the Charisian experience with complete input from Cayleb's officers, they might well have gathered the sort of information you seem to think they ought to have had. Of course, that would also have brought the Inquisition down on themselves two years earlier, longbefore they could have had any time to profit from the knowledge. But they didn’t have that sort of access. The best they could have done would have been to send agents into Corisande to collect information after the fact, which is a very different proposition. You think that reports compiled after the fighting, from the anecdotal accounts of people who (even if they’d been personally involved in the fighting) generally would have only an unclear understanding of exactly what had happened, are going to be so crystal clear that only a "criminally inept" general could (a) fail to realize that the combat paradigm which has obtained for centuries has suddenly been completely invalidated and,(b) not figure out how to fix it in a handful of months?

To address the first point from above. The number of rifles available to the entire Siddarmarkian Army was well under 6,000 as of November of 895. While that probably could be said to equate to "several thousand" that was the total production available to the Army at the time the Sword of Schueler struck. Those weapons had come in gradually, beginning only about six months prior to Clyntahn’s attack, produced in low volume and numbers for the Army in foundries which the Republic and the Lord Protector knew perfectly well were under observation by the Church . . . as were the shipments of weapons from them and what the Army was doing with those weapons once they had them. They came in gradually, in numbers that built only slowly to a useful total and had to be carefully accounted for, and the generals receiving them knew that the ranks of the Army were certainly riddled with agents of inquisition and Temple Loyalist spies. So precisely how were the "criminally inept" generals supposed to conduct field exercises to evaluate the new weapons' effectiveness or even begin to project new tactics for them in that maximum four or five-month window without pushing Clyntahn into doing precisely what he did even sooner? I can assure you that the generals in question were only too well aware of how the Inquisition and the Group of Four would have reacted had the Siddarmarkian Army not simply obtained the weapons the Church was determined to keep out of its hands in quantity but also begun experimenting with them and radically altering its tactical doctrine as a result. And they were also aware that if they could get through the autumn, they would have the winter months in which they could have done quite a lot of that evaluating and thinking while major invasion forces would have faced a logistical nightmare trying to advance against them. They ran out of time because Clyntahn got in quicker and with a far harder blow than Stohnar's own agents had believed was possible.

You also seem to feel that somehow Siddarmark should not only have properly extrapolated the new tactics based on reports out of Corisande but adopted them. How? Who is supposed to do the extrapolation, and once it's been accomplished, how are the conclusions of that extrapolation to be propagated to the Army at large when the only means of communication are semaphore, carrier wyvern, or mounted messenger? Who works out the new doctrine, the new manual of arms, the new formations, the new TO&E? How does he accomplish that without field exercises that will tell the Church exactly what he's up to and simply accelerate Clyntahn's plans for the Republic? Assuming he somehow manages to pull off that miraculous feat, how does he get the new manuals — and the handful of officers involved in his experiments — into the hands of garrison forces in South March Province or Cliff Peak? You do remember how long Kynt Clareyk worked at evolving new tactics for the Charisian Marines even with Merlin's direct input, don't you? To make the sort of change you're talking about on an institutional level in an organization as large as he Republican Army takes months or years, even with outside instructors available in large numbers. Where was Siddarmark supposed to get those outside instructors? From the Charisian Empire? I think the Inquisition might have had just a little to say about that, don’t you?

Moreover, it is — or ought to be — self-evident from the tactics that Siddarmarkian officers adopted in the field that they fully appreciated that the new weapons mix was, quite literally, revolutionary. They had only incomplete information and they’d never had the opportunity to experiment with the new weapons, yet they knew they were at a fatal disadvantage against new model armies. There just wasn't anything they could do about it . . . except die gallantly. These were men who, in their hundreds of thousands, had never seen new model artillery or even a flintlock smoothbore musket, yet they'd heard stories, they'd had reports, there’d been rumors, and the officer corps of the Siddarmarkian Army did its very best to choose its strategy and its tactics based on a comprehensive realization that they could not meet rifle-armed opponents in the open field and win.

You suggested that they should instead have evacuated their noncombatants from the frontiers, destroyed as much as possible of the communication and transportation system, and then (if I understood you correctly) either withdrawn from the frontiers completely and/or disbanded their standing forces, split up into partisan bands and raided the enemy's communications and logistics.

First, they did encourage the evacuation of everyone they had the capacity to evacuate. If you go back and look at the lead up to the one and only time in the book that you see pike-armed Siddarmarkians charging artillery — and only artillery, not rifles — in the book, their commander specifically reflects before he pulls out of his HQ fort that at least he'd been able to get as much of the population who remained loyal to the Republic out of his command area as possible. The one town they pass through on their way to the battle site is held entirely by Temple Loyalists. Millions of Siddarmarkian civilians had been moving steadily east since the Sword of Schueler's beginning attacks; transportation facilities were limited, especially because food was so scarce, and hundreds of thousands of those refugees died of starvation or exposure during the evacuation. There were — as there will always be, in similar situations — some civilians who were too stubborn or too foolish to refugee out when the going was good, but that is not because the Army didn't encourage them to do just that. The Army stayed behind to protect those who could not, or would not, get out; it didn't stay behind to encourage those civilians to stay in place and get killed.

You also apparently have an exaggerated opinion of how much destruction they could have done to the transport system in their area before they withdrew. How were they supposed to accomplish this when it was all they could do to protect loyal citizens of the Republic long enough for those citizens to flee and when destroying the transportation system would have prevented those citizens from fleeing? This is a primarily muscle-powered civilization. They had limited quantities of gunpowder. They couldn't afford to disperse their manpower into small forces. The canals are deep, wide, and made of stone and cement that will be very resistant to destruction with anything except large quantities of very strategically placed gunpowder. The high roads are much the same. They could probably burn wooden bridges, they could probably drop even stone bridges, although it's highly unlikely they could destroy the stone piers and arches which had supported those bridges (and which army engineers would use as the basis for new bridges within, say, 24 hours of reaching the rivers they crossed). They could smash pumping controls and pipes with sledgehammers, but guess what? The Sword of Schueler had already done most of that on Zhaspahr Clyntahn's orders. The only damage they had the resources to inflict would have been essentially superficial and repairable, and that damage had already been inflicted, which is the entire reason the invaders' forward movement into the Republic was delayed as long as it was.

If you were also suggesting (I'm not sure that you were, but that was my impression) that after getting the civilians out their frontier forces should have split up to operate in dispersed groups to sabotage logistics behind the advancing enemy, rather than simply in front of him, how might they have gone about that? This is an infantry army, with an extremely limited number of cavalry, who would be operating in hostile territory, where food and supplies are virtually nonexistent, against enemies with superior weapons who also happen to have the local civilian population on their side rather than the defenders' side. There were already militia forces operating in ambush mode in many places, but the effective sabotage of the canals would have required resources which neither those militia nor the Republican Army's regulars possessed. Light damage might have been inflicted, semaphore towers might have been burned, but the folks doing the light damage and burning the semaphore towers would rapidly have been hunted down by the cavalry with which the Army of God and the Dohlarans were well-equipped. As I pointed out above, without large quantities of explosives, the canals could not have been significantly damaged, even if that hadn't been specifically prohibited by the Holy Writ . . . which it was. You expect your bands of partisans to trundle wagonloads of gunpowder around with them when only strictly limited quantities of gunpowder were available anyway for an army which had never had field artillery and whose missile troops consisted of limited numbers of matchlock-armed musketeers and arbalesteers?

Finally, had any such strategy been adopted, it would have been futile for many reasons, the two most immediate of which would be the relative immobility of the foot bound saboteurs as opposed to the high mobility of their mounted pursuers, on the one hand, and the "scorched earth" retaliatory policy the Temple Loyalists would have enacted in response. Heck, they'd already effectively instituted a scorched earth policy before they ever invaded the Republic! Your partisans would have had precious little upon which to subsist; once the Army of God and its attached inquisitors figured out what was going on (which they would have done quite rapidly) they would have burned out everything that was left, moved out the people they figured were on their side, and slaughtered everyone they figured was on the other side. In short, the strategy wouldn't have worked but it would certainly have made things even worse for any non-Temple Loyalists in the region.

I'm not trying to argue that the Siddarmarkian generals performed feats of superhuman foresight and put together the very best strategy possible. It is highly inaccurate and unfair, however, to accuse them of criminal ineptitude when, in fact, they had quite a clear perception of the problem they faced and of the fact that without massive Charisian assistance they had neither the means nor the time to defeat it. The men you are describing as inept saw very clearly what they were up against yet had been systematically denied the opportunity to do anything about it by the Church and by the threat of the Inquisition in the couple of years leading up to the Sword of Schueler. As someone else has already pointed out, we're looking at literally centuries of advance in weapons capabilities from the model which had existed only two years prior to the Sword of Schueler. Corisande was defeated in late 893; Hektor was killed in September of that year. The Sword of Schueler was launched in November of 895, barely 2 Safeholdian years (21 months) later. That's 630 Safeholdian days, or about 690 Earth days. Apparently, to suit your definition of generals who aren't criminally inept, in that time, they had to get reports from Corisande (voyage time eating up about three of those months one way, please note), accurately determine what had happened from those reports, recognize how what had happened was going to impact/invalidate their existing tactical doctrine, devise new tactics, and get them promulgated sufficiently down the chain for frontier commanders (cut off in many cases from direct communications with hgigher authority, struggling to hold their commands together well enough to protect civilians in their areas of responsibility in the face of insurrection, mutiny, atrocities, and excommunication) to realize that they had no option but to do their best to destroy the Writ-protected transportation infrastructure and retreat. To be perfectly honest, the amazing thing is that they managed to accomplish so much of the things you seem to think they didn't manage to accomplish in the time frame available to them.

Please note that the Charisians on the ground are deeply impressed by the extent to which the Army of God and the Dohlarans, with a two-year head start on the Siddarmarkians, managed to integrate the new weapons and concepts into their doctrine. And even so, both Maigwair and the Dohlarans are the equivalent of decades (at the least) behind Charis . . . despite the last-minute integration of smoothbore field artillery with exploding shells courtesy of an Inquisition spy in Charis.

Safehold Wouldn't the design of the Mahndrayn rfile lead to more accidents? (Asked Mon Sep 24, 2012) December 2013

While I am primarily a shooter of smokeless powder, I have fired black powder — a lot — during my years upon this mortal coil (I’ve been a shooter for almost 50 years, come October), and I’m well aware of the ember problem. I’m also aware of the fouling problem and the fact that black powder is simply one hell of a lot less stable than more modern propellants.

Mahndrayan discusses the need to stiffen the cartridge to give it the strength needed to push the felt wad out of the way. And I think you are over estimating the combustibility of the paper “case” he’s developed. The basic breech sealing system used is essentially that of the Calisher and Terry Carbine of 1860, where it worked quite well. IIRC, the system was tested by the Brits aboard one of their warships and fired something over 1,500 rounds without failures or prematures. Combustion for the C&T was at the midpoint of the cartridge, not the rear (which is also the case for Mahndrayn’s design), and (again if I recall correctly without consulting my notes, which are on a different computer as I write), the C&T used an interrupted screw to close the breech, rather than camming and locking lugs.

The Mahndrayan uses two really big and massive front-locking lugs that engage in machined grooves which are (frankly) the biggest cost (in both time and money) of making the weapon and also sets up against a locking ledge at the rear of the receiver (see below). These costs are a big part of the reason the Charisians don’t have more of the things when the war brreaks out in the Republic and why the quantities they can manufacture between November 895 and July 896 are not a lot higher. It’s also a huge reason (in response to a point which was raised some months ago) they hadn’t manufactured scads of these things and kept them in storage on the offchance that someday they would need to equip a standing army much larger than the one they intended to field. A Mahndrayan costs damned near ten times what a muzzleloader costs, even in Charis, and the tolerances involved are quite demanding . . . which is the real reason only Howsmyn has the tooling and capacity to build the things right now. (And that’s not exactly an accident from Merlin’s perspective, either.)

I never attempted to imply that this was a perfect design — only that it worked and that it had been devised by Mahndrayn, a Charisian from outside the Circle, and that its tactical advantages were sufficient that the Imperial Charisian Army (and a certain couple named Cayleb and Sharleyan) felt it was well worth the costs involved in putting it into service.

Also, some people still seem to be misunderstanding the track the breech block follows in closing. This may be my fault for not describing it adequately, but it also emphasizes the problems inherent in an author sharing too much information with his readers: they fasten on specific detalis, which they may or may not have understood correctly, to decide (a) whether or not the design is workable and (b) whether or not the characters in the novel are smart enough to avoid obvious defects as they test the concepts.

The two biggest drawbacks of the Mahndrayn are that it requires a lot of machining time and operations and that the breech closure has to be over-engineered to stand the strains. In many ways, Merlinwould have preferred something more like the rolling block action, but that wasn’t what Mahndrayn came up with and he (Merlin) went with it both to encourage Mahndrayn and his like to come up with their own ideas and also, frankly, because he didn’t see the Sword of Schueler coming that far in advance any more than anyone else did. He was concerned with giving the Charisians a breechloading capability and, to be honest, he got bitten on the butt a bit by his own cleverness. One of the things which appealed to him was the complexity of the design, because the Mahndrayn’s basic design is beyond mainland manufacturing capacity. He figured Charis would eventually lose some of the weapons in action and he wanted something which would lie within the bounds of what Howsmyn could manage but the Church’s gunsmiths would be unable to produce in quantity. The interrupted-screw design is available to him as a fall back (now that the Charisian artillerists are playing with the concept, and so are several others I can think of right off hand) if it turns out Charis needs a lot more non-cartridge designs for some reason, but the Mahndrayn worked and had the advantage of being impossible for the Church’s artisans to duplicate in quantity.

The actual breechblock is contained in a solid housing in the locked up position. It is about an inch and a half long, and it moves on an angled path, dropping down and then moving to the rear along an angled trajectory. When the activating lever is in the locked position, the breech block is anchored at the front by rotating lugs and the rear rests against a solid steel housing at the rear of the receiver that is essentially an extension of the barrel. It literally cannot move to the rear until the cocking lever drops it a fraction of an inch on the angled track, but it is neither a classic vertically dropping falling block nor the semi-circular block of the rolling block, since it doesn’t rotate on a central pin. The felt wad at the base of the cartridge is heavily lubricated, which keeps the end of the barrel lubed (and has the same effect on the bullet) and also helps to extinguish any lingering sparks when the new round is inserted and pushes the remnant of the old wad in front of it (this is an important part of the design, people). Assuming sufficiently good grades of steel (and Howsmyn’s current steels are very good), this action could stand up to the recoil of a nitro express elephant gun, as long as the breech is safelt sealed, which is what the cartridge design is for.

As I say, it was never intended to be a perfect design. You guys need to bear in mind — more than I think some of you do, honestly — that just because what Charis has come up with hugely outclasses what the opposition has, and just because it may seem remarkable against the tech standards of what I think a lot of you continue to think of as a medieval society, it must be the best possible solution to the problem within the constraints of the available manufacturing capabilities of Safehold. That is deliberately not necessarily the case, just as the Royal Manticoran Navy doesn’t necessarily come up with the optimum design for a new ship type, despite all of its testing and modeling. Both Charis and Manticore tend to get the essentials right, and both of them are fiercely innovative, but that doesn’t mean they get [ieverything[/i] right . . . or that the other side can’t also surprise them from time to time.

Safehold How are the various armies organized? (Asked Sat Sep 29, 2012) December 2013

Okay. What follows is not completely worked out in all details, but it should serve to give you a general idea.


Army of God organization:


An Army of God platoon consists of twenty-four men divided into two 12-man squads, each commanded by a sergeant, plus a lieutenant assisted by a platoon sergeant. Total manpower = 28: 24 enlisted, 3 noncommissioned, 1 commissioned.

An army of God company consists of four platoons, a captain as the company commander, a company sergeant, a standardbearer (colors sergeant), and a bugler (considered enlisted). Total manpower = 116: 97 enlisted, 14 noncommissioned, 5 commissioned.

An Army of God battalion — there are no Army of God battalions at this time.

An Army of God regiment consists of four companies, a colonel as CO, a major as his executive officer, a regimental sergeant; a surgeon (non-line commissioned) and 3 assistants (noncommissioned), a bugler, 4 runners/couriers, a regimental supply officer (non-line commissioned) and 3 noncommissioned assistants, and a standardbearer (color sergeant). Total manpower = 481: 393 enlisted, 64 noncommissioned, 24 commissioned.

An Army of God division consists of four regiments, a general, a colonel as his executive officer, a division sergeant major, a surgeon and assistant surgeon (both non-line commissioned) and 9 noncommissioned assistants, a division supply officer and assistant (both non-line commissioned) and 9 noncommissioned assistants, 2 divisional standardbearers (color sergeants), 8 runners/couriers, a bugler, and the divisional band (1 commissioned, 2 noncommissioned, 12 enlisted) which also acts as stretcher bearers. Total manpower = 1,975: 1,593 enlisted, 279 noncommissioned, 103 commissioned.

Because they are as yet inexperienced with rifles, the Army of God's planners have adopted basically the same approach the Corisandians did in their initial confrontation with the Charisians. Each company has two platoons of pikemen and two platoons of riflemen, so the entire division is half pikes and half rifles. Doctrine calls for a pike line to hold the cavalry at bay while the riflemen either fire over the pikemen's heads, form on the flanks, or skirmish.


An Army of God cavalry platoon consists of 12 enlisted, 2 sergeants, 1 lieutenant, and 1 bugler. Total manpower = 16: 13 enlisted, 2 noncoms, 1 commissioned.

An Army of God cavalry company consists of 4 cavalry platoons, 1 company sergeant, 1 captain, 2 buglers, and 3 couriers. Total manpower = 71: 57 enlisted, 9 noncoms, 5 officers.

An Army of God cavalry regiment consists of four cavalry companies, one company sergeant, one standardbearer (color sergeant), 2 buglers, 1 colonel, 1 major (as XO), one regimental sergeant (non-line commissioned) 6 assistant surgeons, 1 regimental farrier (non-line commissioned) and 12 assistants, 6 couriers, and the regimental band (1 non-line commissioned, 1 sergeant, 6 enlisted). Total manpower = 324: 260 enlisted, 39 noncommissioned, 25 officers.

There are no formal Army of God cavalry formations larger than regiments. Army of God cavalry regiments are still thought of as pure shock formations, equipped with lances and swords, but each trooper has now also been equipped with a pair of pistols. In order to save time (and money) these are smoothbore pistols on the assumption that they're going to be inaccurate fired from horseback anyway and that they will be used at very short range. They do give Army of God cavalry a limited fire capability.


Army of God is organized into artillery regiments, each consisting of four batteries of six guns each, roughly 12-pounders.

An Army of God artillery section consists of two guns, each with a crew of 11 — 1 sergeant and 10 enlisted, commanded by a lieutenant with a sergeant to assist him. Total manpower = 26: 22 enlisted, 3 noncommissioned, and 1 officer.

An Army of God artillery battery consists of 3 sections commanded by a captain, with one commissioned supply officer attached, a sergeant, and 4 runners/couriers. Total manpower = 79: 70 enlisted, 4 noncommissioned, and 5 commissioned.

An Army of God artillery regiment consists of four batteries, commanded by a major, with a lieutenant as his XO, a commissioned supply officer, a battery sergeant major, and 6 runners/couriers.

He has attached to his battery a maintenance officer (usually a captain or a major), with 3 sergeants and 30 enlisted, who also drive the four repair wagons and portable forge (six horses or one dragon, each) and are responsible for repairs and maintenance the gun crews themselves can't provide. Total manpower = 35: 30 enlisted, 3 noncommissioned, 2 officers.

Each artillery regiment also has an attached surgeon and assistant surgeon (both noncommissioned line) and 8 assistants. Total manpower = 10: 8 enlisted, 2 commissioned.

In addition, each gun has a limber (6 horses or one dragon) and each section has a caisson/ammunition wagon (6 horses or one dragon). The limber crew consists of a sergeant (the driver) and 3 assistants (who normally ride horses or the draft dragon). Total manpower (per regiment) = 96: 72 enlisted, 24 noncommissioned.

The ammunition wagon is driven by a "civilian" crew provided by the Church, which consists of five men per wagon.) Total manpower (per regiment) = 60.

So an Army of God artillery regiment, with supports, consists of:
24 12-pounders,
24 limbers, and
12 ammunition wagons
527 men: 472 enlisted, 54 commissioned, 46 commissioned.
36 horses or equivalent in dragons.


The Royal Dohlaran Army's Organization


An infantry platoon consists of two sections (not called squads) of sixteen men, each commanded by a corporal, a platoon sergeant, a standardbearer (color sergeant), and a lieutenant. Total manpower = 37 men: 32 enlisted, 4 noncommissioned, and 1 officer.

An infantry company consists of six infantry platoons commanded by a major, with a captain as his XO. He is assisted by a company sergeant, a standardbearer (color sergeant), a bugler, and 2 noncommissioned clerks assigned to the color party in battle. Total manpower: 229: 192 enlisted, 29 noncommissioned, and 8 officers.

An infantry regiment consists of six infantry companies commanded by a colonel with a major as his XO. He is assisted by a regimental sergeant, a standardbearer (color sergeant), a bugler, and 6 noncommissioned clerks assigned to the color party in battle. Also attached to the regiment is the regimental surgeon, with 3 assistant surgeons and 12 noncommissioned assistants. Total manpower: 1,398: 198 noncommissioned, and 53 officers.

The infantry regiment is the primary maneuver unit of the Royal Dohlaran Army. Divisions are primarily administrative rather than maneuver formations, and a divisional commander usually is the senior regimental commander of the division. Normally, two infantry regiments are grouped together into a division; the Royal Dohlaran Army is not organized on a brigade system. One company in each regiment is equipped as pikemen. In the majority of infantry regiments, 3 companies are armed with rifles and 2 companies are armed with muskets. Rifles remain in short supply (as of the beginning of the 896 campaign), however, and approximately 1 third of all regiments have 2 companies of rifles and 3 companies of muskets, in some few cases still matchlocks. The Royal Dohlaran Army has not been equipped with grenades.

Note: clerks attached to color parties are also utilized as couriers/runners.


The Royal Dohlaran Army is "infantry heavy" by the standards of most mainland armies outside the Republic of Siddarmark. Approximately 1/2 of its pre-Jihad manpower is organized into cavalry units, in which the nobility is heavily represented. Dohlaran cavalry is organized primarily for shock combat, although approximately 1/4 of all Dohlaran cavalry units are medium cavalry, or dragoons, armed primarily with arbalests or horse bows with sabers as their primary melee weapon. Dohlar has as yet made no effort to produce cavalry carbines or rifles, but the majority of their heavy cavalry is equipped (largely out of its own resources) with a pair of horse pistols, many of which are double-barreled, virtually none of which are rifled.

A cavalry platoon consists of 3 sections, each of 10 troopers commanded by a corporal, a platoon sergeant, a standardbearer (color sergeant), and a lieutenant. Total manpower = 36: 30 enlisted, 5 noncommissioned, and 1 officer.

A cavalry company consists of 4 sections, commanded by a major with a captain as his XO. He is assisted by a company sergeant, a standardbearer, 2 buglers, and 4 noncommissioned clerks (attached to the color party). Total manpower = 154: 120 enlisted, 28 noncommissioned, and 6 officers.

A cavalry regiment consists of 4 companies, commanded by a colonel with a major as his XO. He is assisted by a regimental sergeant, 2 regimental standardbearers (color sergeants), two buglers, and 8 noncommissioned clerks (attached to the color party). Also attached to the regiment is the regimental surgeon, with 3 assistant surgeons and 12 noncommissioned assistants. Total manpower = 646: 480 enlisted, 137 noncommissioned, and 29 officers.

As with infantry, there are no permanent Dohlaran cavalry divisions. Cavalry regiments are organized into "pure" dragoon or heavy cavalry. Two companies in each heavy cavalry regiment are lancers; the other two are saber-armed.

Dohlaran cavalry regiments do not have permanently assigned farriers. This is dealt with at the army/corps level (although the concept of a "corps" is not yet part of Dohlaran thinking on anything except an administrative level).


The Dohlaran artillery is organized on the same pattern as the Army of God's artillery, but the Dohlarans have deployed 6-pounder pieces with their cavalry units. These guns are not equipped with exploding shells. They have the same number of horses (dragons are not used for the horse artillery) as the infantry's 12-pounders, in order to provide them with the ability to keep up with the cavalry in the field.

In addition, at the instigation of the Earl of Thirsk (and despite a certain amount of spinal reflex opposition from his superiors), the RDA is in the process of fielding a 6-inch and a 4-inch howitzer (actually more like a mortar, given the shortness of the barrel). The 6-inch weapon is organized as the 12-pounder batteries, while the 4-inch weapon is the horse artillery equivalent.

Artillery is not permanently attached at the regimental level but assigned from the central army reserve as is deemed necessary.


The Imperial Desnairian Army


The Imperial Desnairian Army is traditionally heavily biased towards its cavalry. Infantry has always been more or less an afterthought, which has been compensated for to some extent by the Desnairian cavalry's willingness to fight dismounted. The infantry units described below are new for the IDA and have not (pre-896) been tested in combat.

An infantry company consists of 5 platoons, each of 25 enlisted men, commanded by a lieutenant assisted by a company sergeant, 4 corporals, a standardbearer (color sergeant), 2 noncommissioned company clerks, and a bugler. Total manpower = 135: 125 enlisted, 9 noncommissioned, 1 officer.

An infantry regiment consists of 5 infantry companies, commanded by a major with a captain as his XO, assisted by a regimental sergeant major, 5 regimental sergeants, 1 standardbearer, 4 noncommissioned company clerks, and 2 buglers. Total manpower = 690: 625 enlisted, 58 noncommissioned, and 7 officers.

As in the Royal Dohlaran Army, the infantry regiment is the primary maneuver element. Only about half of the IDA's infantry is equipped with firearms, but the remaining pikemen have been transitioned to arbalests, so there are no pure melee infantry units in the IDA. About 1/3 of all Desnairian infantry firearms are still matchlock muskets; the remaining firearms are all "modern" muzzleloading rifles with socket bayonets, and similar bayonets have been manufactured for the matchlocks.

All medical services in the IDA are centralized at the army/corps level. Sick and wounded are expected to get themselves back to central aid posts or, in encampments, are visited in rotation by healers from headquarters.


Traditionally, the cavalry have been the elite arm of the IDA. This is one reason the Church created the Grand Duchy of Silkiah, because otherwise Siddarmark's pikemen would have kicked the Desnairians' butt.

Desnairian cavalry are either heavy, medium, and light. All are organized on the same pattern, but the heavy cavalry is armored in half-plate and armed with classic shield and lance. Medium cavalry wears chain with a smaller shield normally slung across the trooper's back to free his hands for a composite horse bow. One third of the cavalry in any medium cavalry regiment is not armed with a bow, however, and carries a lance instead. The light cavalry wears leather buff, a light breastplate, and a helmet. They are armed with composite horse bows, swords, and around a quarter of them may carry small shields slung across their backs, as well. There are no light Desnairian lancers.

A cavalry company consists of 10 sections, each of 5 enlisted men and headed by a corporal, and is commanded by a captain, with a lieutenant as his XO, and assisted by a company sergeant, a standardbearer (color sergeant), 2 buglers, and 3 noncommissioned clerks (who join the color party in combat). Total manpower = 69 men: 50 enlisted, 17 noncommissioned, and 2 officers.

A cavalry regiment consists of 10 cavalry companies, commanded by a colonel with a major as his XO, assisted by a regimental sergeant major, 2 regimental sergeants, 2 standardbearers, 2 buglers, and 6 noncommissioned clerks (who join the color party in combat). Total manpower = 705: 500 enlisted, 183 noncommissioned, and 22 officers.

There are no permanent cavalry formations larger than a regiment, although the IDA does occasionally brigade 2 regiments together, at which time the senior colonel commands the brigade. Multiple brigades may be combined tactically under a single officer's command, but there is no provision for this on a permanent basis.

Although the IDA's medical support is concentrated at the army/corps level, it is not unusual for special mounted medical detachments to be assigned to cavalry forces sent on independent missions.

Desnairian cavalry units are supported by centralized farriers and veterinarians, but each regiment will normally have one officer and two or three noncommissioned clerks who are designated as being in charge of the regiment's mounting.


The Desnairian artillery is organized on much the same basis as that of the Army of God and the Royal Dohlaran Army. However, the Desnairians, with their greater number of cavalry, have adopted an even higher percentage of horse artillery than the Dohlarans. This represents, in part, a failure on their part to fully appreciate what the range and accuracy of rifles mean for light, smoothbore artillery. It also does represent an appreciation of the mobility of light guns, however, and they have actually tinkered up a 9-pounder heavy horse gun which is capable of firing a (very light) explosive shell.

The Desnairians have shown no interest in howitzers at this time.


Imperial Charisian Army

The Imperial Charisian Army, having possessed rifles and artillery longer than anyone else, having the first breech-loading rifle in production, and having the advantage of advice from Merlin and Owl, has adopted a doctrine and an organization radically different from that of its opponents. Recognizing that rifle-armed lines which stand in the open and blaze away at one another aren't going to lead primarily to mutual slaughter, they have embraced the concept of skirmishers and open-order combat, which places a far higher premium on the abilities of junior officers and noncoms, since senior officers cannot control such dispersed forces.

An infantry platoon consists of 4 squads, each consisting of 12 enlisted and 1 corporal, commanded by a lieutenant assisted by a platoon sergeant and 3 lance corporals to serve as runners and clerks. Total manpower = 57 men: 48 enlisted, 8 noncommissioned, and 1 officer.

An infantry company consists of 4 platoons and is commanded by a captain, assisted by a company sergeant, a company color sergeant (who may or may not actually carry a standard in the field), and five lance corporals to serve as runners and clerks. In addition, each company is assigned 1 surgeon with 4 assistants (enlisted). Total manpower = 241: 196 enlisted, 39 noncommissioned, and 6 officers.

Each platoon lieutenant in the company is assigned a staff function under the system adopted by Duke Eastshare and Baron Green Valley.

An infantry support platoon consists of 4 squads of mortars of 3 mortars each. Each mortar has a crew of 6 (mortar captain, loader, spotter, and three assistant gunners/loaders) commanded by a corporal (serves as gun captain), and each squad is commanded by a sergeant. The platoon is commanded by a lieutenant, assisted by a platoon sergeant. Total manpower = 74: 60 enlisted, 13 noncommissioned, 1 officer.

An infantry battalion consists of 4 infantry companies and one attached infantry support platoon, and is commanded by a major, with a captain as his XO/adjutant, assisted by a battalion sergeant major, a battalion color sergeant (who may or may not actually carry a standard in the field), and 10 lance corporals to serve as runners and clerks. In addition, each battalion is assigned 1 surgeon, 3 assistant surgeons, and 12 enlisted surgeon's assistants. Total manpower = 1,071: 856 enlisted, 181 noncommissioned, and 31 officers.

An infantry regiment consists of four infantry battalions and is commanded by a colonel, with a major as his XO/adjutant. He has an additional surgeon and 3 assistant surgeons, and an additional 12 enlisted surgeon's assistants. He is assisted by a regimental sergeant major, a regimental color sergeant (who may or may not actually carry a standard in the field), and 10 lance corporals to serve as runners/clerks. Total manpower = 4,314: 3,436 enlisted, 748 noncommissioned, 130 officers.

An infantry brigade consists of two infantry regiments and is commanded by a brigadier with a colonel as his XO/adjutant. He is assigned a formal staff of 5 captains and/or lieutenants. The brigade surgeon has 3 assistant surgeons and 12 enlisted surgeon's assistants. The brigade noncommissioned staff consists of a brigade sergeant major, a brigade color sergeant, and 10 lance corporals to serve as runners/clerks. Total manpower = 8,662: 6,884 enlisted, 1,508 noncommissioned, and 270 officers.

An infantry division consists of two infantry brigades commanded by a general with a colonel as his executive officer/adjutant and 5 captains or majors as staff. The brigade surgical group and noncommissioned staff repeat at the divisional level. Total manpower = 17,358: 13,780 enlisted, 3,028, and 550 officers.

In addition, each brigade has its own permanently assigned, integral artillery battalion (see below).


The Imperial Charisian Army’s cavalry is organized tactically as the infantry into platoons, companies, battalions, and regiments. Cavalry brigades are primarily administrative units, although an entire brigade can be assembled at need. There are currently (896) no Charisian cavalry divisions, however. Note that cavalry battalions have integral mortar companies, just as infantry, with the tubes and ammunition packed on horse and/or mule back.

All Charisian cavalry are armed with sabers in addition to rifles and bayonets. In addition, one platoon in each company (i.e., 1/4 of all cavalry in a formation) is also armed with a lance. Charisian cavalry are also armed with 2 twin barreled, rifled pistols at this time (896). Revolvers will be issued as they become available.

A Charisian cavalry bridage is normally permanently assigned a battalion of horse-drawn field guns.


Charisian field artillery is divided into field guns and "angle guns" (or howitzers). The field guns are all (896) either 12-pounder Napoleon smoothbores or 4" muzzleloading rifles. The angle guns are 6" weapons and all of them are rifled muzzleloaders.

An artillery section consists of 2 guns, regardless of type. Each gun is crewed by 12 men commanded by a sergeant. An additional sergeant commands the section. So an artillery section consists of 27 men: 24 enlisted and 3 noncommissioned.

An artillery battery consists of 4 sections, regardless of type. It is commanded by a captain, assisted by two lieutenants, a battery sergeant major, and 4 lance corporals to serve as runners/clerks. So an artillery battery consists of 116 men: 96 enlisted, 17 noncommissioned, and 3 officers.

An artillery battalion consists of four batteries, regardless of type. It is commanded by a major, assisted by two lieutenants or captains, a battery sergeant major, and 8 lance corporals to serve as runners/clerks. So an artillery battalion consists of 476 men: 384 enlisted, 77 noncommissioned, and 15 officers.

An artillery regiment consists of four artillery battalions, regardless of type. It is commanded by a colonel, assisted by two captains, a regimental sergeant major, and 12 lance corporals to serve as runners/clerks. So an artillery regiment consists of 1,920 men: 1,536 enlisted, 321 noncommissioned, and 63 officers.

Charisian artillery is not normally organized into higher formations than this, which, after all, would amount to 64 pieces. An artillery regiment may consist of mixed types, field guns and angle guns, but strenuous efforts are made to avoid mixing smoothbores and rifles.

Charisian artillery has no organic medical support; it depends upon the infantry and/or cavalry with which it is deployed.

Charisian artillery does not use separate limber and caisson drivers and gunners; the gun crew is responsible for the caisson and the gun itself and each gun details one man to assist with driving the artillery wagons. Charisian draft is provided by dragons for guns assigned to the infantry and by teams of horses and/or mules for those assigned to the cavalry. Horse artillery uses 8-horse teams for guns and ammunition wagons; foot artillery normally uses one dragon per gun and one dragon per ammunition wagon.

The ICA's mortar is a 3" weapon. It has the following specifications:

Caliber in inches 3.0
Projectile weight in pounds 10.0
Bursting charge HE 2.0
Bursting charge AP 1.0
Barrel length in feet 4.0
Barrel weight in pounds 65.0
Baseplate weight in pounds 115.5
Bipod weight in pounds 27.5
Elevation unit weight in lbs. 26.0
Total weight of piece in lbs. 234.0

Muzzle velocity in ft/sec 650.0
Minimum range in yards 300.0
Maximum range in yards 2,500.0
Lethal radius in feet HE 30.0
Lethal radius in feet AP 50.0

It is a rifled weapon, with studs engaging in rifling. The end of the projectile terminates in a short rod into which a percussion cap is inserted and around which the propelling charge, a circular cloth "donut" of gunpowder, is wrapped. The round is indexed into the rifling and dropped down the tube, at which point the firing pin on the base of the rod detonates the percussion cap which, in turn, fires the propelling charge.

The HE round is fitted with an impact fuse and its case sides are thinner than those of a conventional shell because of its lower muzzle velocity, which allows its charge to be proportionately heavier, coming close to the effectiveness of a 4" smoothbore shell's. The antipersonnel round is a shrapnel round with a timed fuse. It normally takes at least a couple of rounds to judge fuse settings properly, and they are not completely reliable. As an antipersonnel weapon, however, the shrapnel round is superior to the HE round because the black powder charge tends to shatter the case into very lethal but relatively few fragments.


Republic of Siddarmark Army

A Siddarmarkian regiment, pre-Sword of Schueler, consisted of 1,800 pikemen and 450 light infantry for a total of 2,2500 men.

The pikes are divided into 4 companies (considered battalions by anyone else) consisting of 15 sections of 30 men each. Fourteen of the sections are formed into 7 60-man companies; the 15th section is the company HQ section under the direct command of the company commander. In battle formation, each full platoon forms a double line with one section in each. Since each man requires twice the depth that he does width in formation, 15 sections formed directly behind one another would make a formation 30 men across and 15 men deep, which would be 30 yards square.

A Siddarmarkian regiment forms for battle with two of its pike companies abreast and the other two formed directly behind it, producing a formation which is 60 men across and 30 men deep, or a square 60 yards on a side.

During an approach march, a regiment's light infantry (arbalesteers or musketeers) areformed into 5 lines, each 3 sections (90 men) wide, which overlaps the front of the pikes square by fifty percent, in order to screen the pikes against enemy missile fire. They can also be pulled back into the intervals between the squares and once the squares advance into melee, they fall back to clear the field. The light infantry are armed with swords in addition to their missile weapons.

Siddarmarkian cavalry is less numerous and less heavily armored than, say, Desnairian cavalry, but is armed with a lance and a sword. About 20% of all Siddarmarkian cavalry is equipped with a horse bow, rather than a lance.

Siddarmarkian couriers attached to HQs wear red brassards to indicate their assignments (and prevent them from being stopped if it looks like they might be running for the rear when they’re actually delivering a message).

Safehold Grab Bag of Questions, Part 3 (Asked Thu Oct 11, 2012) December 2013

A few points in response to this entire thread (or the last several posts in it, at any rate), and not all directed to you, FriarBob. Your post just happened to be where I dived in, so you're the one who got quoted. [G]

First, railroads and telegraphs.

FriarBob is correct that most of the early railroads are going to be relatively short-haul, which, after all, was what happened right here on Earth. Cayleb and Sharleyan are going to be pushing for longer-ranged lines as quickly as they can get them, however, and they're going to be a lot more practical than some people seem to assume.

The semaphore system would be perfectly suitable for any daytime requirement. It transmits at an average speed of 600 miles per hour (that allows for message transcription at each intervening station) which is more than enough to control each block of track for a train system whose engines are unlikely to move at speeds in excess of 40-50 mph for a long time to come. Not all of the semaphore chains have the ability to transmit through darkness, especially at the present, but many of them do, and it would certainly be possible to build that capability into more closely spaced stations along the routes of the central rail lines.

Moreover, someone (either in this thread or another one) commented on the need for arc lights (which would imply electricity) for really powerful signaling lamps to provide reliable nighttime semaphore capability. This is not necessarily true, and, in fact, Howsmyn is currently experimenting with an alternative to arc lights to illuminate his factories during the after-sunset shifts. It's called calcium or limelight, and it does not require electricity and is capable of providing some very powerful searchlights and/or signal lamps.

The actual "reach" of the communications systems necessary to make rail traffic work safely is much shorter than a lot of people seem to be assuming. If schedules are set ahead of time and adhered to, and if each line is divided into blocks of track which are, say, 50 miles long (at least 1 hour travel time for any train, 5 minutes transmission time for the existing semaphore system), safety would not be an issue. Double track the line, put in a traffic control station every 50 miles (i.e., at each end of each lock of track) with a red/green/yellow signal light for night use, install a siding at each of those stations so that a train can be shunted off the mainline to let someone with higher priority through, and "failsafe" the system so that traffic is allowed in only one direction on each of the twin tracks, and you could maintain a high level of safe and efficient rail service. The fact that the electric telegraph coincided with the introduction of railroads on a large scale and that its availability made it the logical, most efficient way to control rail traffic most assuredly does not mean that it was the only method of control which could have been used. The availability of rails, engines, and rolling stock will be a far greater obstacle for construction and expansion of railroads them the ability to safely manage their traffic.

BTW, someone commented on the fact that railroads are more efficient than barge traffic. That's true only for certain definitions of "efficient." In our experience here on Earth, rail nets have been denser and more diversified than canals. You can ship things to more places by rail then you can by canal, and for a time, industrial development and the mass distribution of goods were largely tied to where the rails went. Then along came internal combustion and the advent of the trucking industry. All of a sudden, secondary rail lines became less important because trucks could collect the goods from nodal points and deliver them hundreds of miles away by highway. In fact, however, it remains far more "efficient" in terms of load size, manpower, and fuel-per-ton to transport goods by rail than by truck over equivalent distances assuming the rail line is available .

Railroads bear the same relationship to canals that trucks bear to railroads; that is, it is more economical to transport goods by barge than by rail over equivalent distances assuming that the barge is available. The mainland on Safehold has a relatively dense canal network, and it has draft dragons filling something of the same transportation niche as the transfer truck does in the 20th and 21st—century US, so it's something of a false argument to assert that railroads are more efficient. For that matter, it would be interesting to see how the maintenance costs on a couple of thousand miles of railroad trackage, including all of the trestles, tunnels, mountain cuts, etc., compared to the maintenance costs on the same length of canals. I have no idea how the ratio would work out, but I wouldn't be too surprised to find out that the canals — despite a greater initial capital investment in construction costs — might compare favorably to railroads which are being constantly beaten up by hundreds or thousands of tons of traffic rolling over them.

Second, cross country steam powered transport.

Guys, they are years away from having this kind of capability. Useful numbers of APCs or tanks would require a huge output in relatively small steam engines, and steam engine output is going to be dedicated to industrial, maritime, and rail applications (in that order of priority) for the foreseeable future. So, no, we're not going to see the Imperial Charisian Army rolling towards Zion in steam powered M113s anytime soon.

Some of the objections raised to the use of steam, however, are fairly readily overcome. I think it was PeterZ who commented that the waste heat from a steam power plant would make it impractical in an APC or a tank. When considering that, however, one might want to consider that the operating temperature of a modern internal combustion engine is often above the melting point of the materials from which it's built. An oil fired steam engine (or one fed by powdered coal) in a separate, heavily insulated engine compartment (which is where APC and tank designers routinely put internal combustion engines) with proper exhaust and ventilation would be thoroughly workable. Don't forget that the M1A2's exhaust gas temperature is 930° F. The temperature from any practical steam plant would probably not be much if any higher than that and, in fact, would far more likely be lower (the USN didn't go to 850° steam until the North Carolina-class), and using a Doble spiral boiler tube would hold down the quantities of live steam being produced considerably. Coupled with an engineering compartment equivalent of the Abrams’ blowout ammunition compartment, the dangers of the power plant would be almost entirely obviated. I'm not saying that anyone's going to do that anytime soon, however, if only for the reasons cited above, but the technical objections to the plan, as opposed to the industrial capacity objections to it, are not the reason they won't.

Third, poison gas is going to be a nonstarter for several reasons.

One is the problem of manufacturing it in quantity, although that could probably be overcome. A second reason not to use it would be the question of how you deliver it to the enemy . . . without delivering it to yourself. The prevailing winds on the mainland are from west to east, which is going to be just a bit of a problem where the use of an atmosphere-borne lethal or incapacitating agent is concerned. A third reason would be the incredible difficulty which even Charis would encounter (anytime in the next five years or so, at any rate) with providing gas masks even to its own troops (far less its civilian population) in anything like adequate/sufficient numbers. A fourth reason is that introducing such a weapon would absolutely validate the Church's claims that Charis is in the service of Shan-wei. That would be partly because of the horrible nature of the weapon itself, but it would also play from the Holy Writ's descriptions of the Fallen Archangel Grimaldi and his works. And a fifth reason (which would trump all the others) is that neither Cayleb nor Sharleyan would ever countenance its use . . . unless, of course, they could somehow figure out a way to deliver it only to the inquisitors attached to the Army of God.

Fourth, trench warfare and the need to overcome it.

The trench warfare paradigm isn't necessarily going to apply on Safehold, even should breech-loading rifles, and/or magazine rifles and machine guns (whether gas-operated, recoil-operated, or externally powered) become available to both sides. One of the false lessons learned from World War One was that trench warfare was the norm, rather than the exception, without armored fighting vehicles. That's probably not too surprising, given the slaughter on the Western Front, but you might want to take a look at what happened on the Eastern Front.

Trench warfare happens when the attacker has only one or only a limited number of easily predictable approaches to his objective. Logistics are often a limiting factor when it comes to approach routes, which is what happened to the Germans’ plans in 1914; their turning movement outran the speed of their horse-drawn logistics at the very time that the French (rail) lines of communication were being shortened and compressed, which led to Joffre’s ability to re-concentrate troops in the German’s path. And that, in turn, allowed him to launch the counteroffensive that pushed the Germans back and forced them onto the defensive. At that point, the Germans dug-in, and the "race to the sea" began as both sides attempted to get around the other side's field fortifications. Unfortunately, the North Sea got in their way at one end, the Swiss frontier got in the way at the other end, and the industrialized states going to war had sufficient population — and sufficient industrial and agrarian efficiency — that they could put literally multiple millions of men into military service. It was the ratio of combat power to the limited length of the front (only about 700 miles, if I remember correctly), coupled with (a) the lethality of the infantry weapons and artillery available, (b) the ability of the industrial plant behind the lines to supply ton after ton of ammunition, (c) the ability of rail transport to move the mountains of supplies and replacement manpower required to sustain the field armies in place, and (d) the ability of both sides to replace both manpower and equipment losses on such a scale because they were industrialized, which created trench warfare on the Western Front. That didn't happen on the Eastern Front, mostly because neither side produced anything like the same ratio of manpower to space. There was always room to get around the other side's flank and both sides had to operate at the end of fairly long logistics pipelines.

Not even Charis has anything like 1914 levels of industrial capability at this time; certainly the Church doesn't, and even if either side had it, the ratio between the space available for military operations and the numbers of men either side will actually be able to put into the field, would greatly favor mobile operations along of the lines World War I's Eastern Front or Sherman’s March to the Sea. To be perfectly honest, the only reason that Grant and Lee hammered it out in what amounted to trench warfare in the final phases of the American Civil War was the proximity of the two national capitals. The Confederacy couldn't afford to lose Richmond; the Federals couldn't afford to lose Washington; and Grant had grasped the essential fact that as long as he kept attacking, Lee had no choice but to defend. His entire job was to pin the Army of Virginia right where it was while Sherman devastated the Confederacy's rear areas, and he did it by wading straight into heavily dug-in Confederate positions in places like Cold Harbor and Petersburg. Take a look at how radically those tactics differed from the ones he had employed in the Western Theater, where the ratio of manpower to space was so much lower. There will always be times when the defender is able to heavily entrench knowing that the enemy has to come to him on his own terms — as in the Sylmahn Gap or when Brigadier Taisyn plugged the Church of God Awaiting's line of advance down the Daivyn River — and in those situations something very like trench warfare is going to occur, but that's been true for as long as organized warfare has existed (Battle of Thermopylae, anyone?) For that kind of a battle, tanks and/or APCs offer a potential solution, but tanks operating in the Sylmahn Gap wouldn't have found the terrain much more suitable to their proper employment than the Allied armor advancing through the Italian mountains towards Rome found their terrain. (Battle of Monte Casino, anyone?)

The one item from my list above of what allowed the combatants in the First World War to sustain their deadlocked troops on the Western Front for years on end which Safehold would probably come closest to possessing at this time is (c), the ability to transport supplies, courtesy of the existence of dragons. However, the existence of those dragons and their relatively high sustained cross-country speed would also contribute hugely to the ability to mount and sustain mobile operations.

What matters in mobile operations is less the absolute speed of either side than the ratio between their speeds. If one side has a marked advantage in the speed with which it can advance, maneuver, and supply its advanced troops, it is able to dictate the tempo, pace, and (generally) location of operations. Thus, mechanized armies can "march" rings around leg infantry relying on animal transport, as the German panzer divisions and corps demonstrated in the early phases of World War II. They weren't the first force to demonstrate that, of course, as Europe’s armored knights and heavy cavalry found out against the Mongols. Or, for that matter, as Alexander the Great demonstrated to his opponents. As long as the relative speeds of the opposing forces remain roughly equivalent, the defender usually has the advantage, because under normal circumstances he's going to be falling back towards that which he needs to defend, whereas the attacker is trying to either break through his position or somehow get around it, which is usually going to mean that his logistics chain is longer and that any flank marches he attempts are going to have farther to go. By no means, however, should it be assumed that the situation on Safehold, outside specific terrain areas like the Sylmahn Gap, the Green Cove Trace, and the line of the Daivyn River is going to lend itself to anything remotely like trench warfare, Western Front style. For that matter, bear in mind what happened to Brigadier Taisyn and his men in the end. They had a heavily fortified position, but they couldn't retreat and lacked the manpower to mount any sort of mobile opposition to Kaitswyrth's advance around their position. In other words, mobile warfare and numbers completely trumped fortified position and superior weaponry in the end.

And now I'm going back to work.