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Series Question Posted
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Why shouldn't Charis induce atrocities to further erode the Group of Four's authority (e.g., throwing rocks through windows, stealing/destroying food supplies, etc.)? (Asked Fri May 04, 2012) December 2013

(1) If you start throwing rocks with remotes and someone sees them, you have demons coming out of the woodwork, thereby validating the Inquisition's claim to be representing God's will.

(2) If you start throwing rocks through windows, then the Inquisition will start posting watchmen round-the-clock, at which point you either have to use remotes (demons), human beings (who will be arrested and tortured to death), or Merlin himself (who can only be in one place at a time), or else stop.

(3) Same for stealing food from grainaries or other storage facilities.

(4) The Inqusition has no fields of its own, so if you steal their food, you're stealing every one else's.

(5) If you begin having random acts of sabotage, Clyntahn (as I have suggested elsewhere) will begin making examples of people living in the vicinity. He doesn't believe in demons (or, at least, that God will allow them to operate against Mother Church) so any deliberate sabotage has to be the work of human hands. If the locals weren't part of it, they should be sources of information about who was behind it. If they aren't sources of information, then they probably were involved. And even if they weren't, making salutory examples of folks in the neighborhood should inspire other folks in the neighborhood to start keeping their eyes open so they can provide the Church with clues in future. Defeating such sabotage is God's work and theefore, however distasteful we may find it, we have no option but to do whatever is required of us (with due considration for the provisions of the Book of Schueler) to accomplish that end. Please make plans to attend the auto-da-fe at the end of the street next Wednesday after mass. Thank you very much, the Inquisition,

Now, from a coldblooded perspective, I could easily make a case for Merlin deliberately inspiring Clyntahn to begin conductions barbaric, atrocity-generating "reprisals" against innocent civilians for his own [Merlin's] actions. It would, after all, be a way to accelerate the Temple Loyalists' . . . disenchantment with the Grand Inquisitor and the Go4. It is, however, a cynical maneuver of the kind Merlin (and Cayleb and Sharleyan) despise in Clyntahn himself. And, assuming the Go4 is ultimately defeated and the truth about Merlin (and his capabilities) comes out, then all the people who lost family members to (or themselves suffered from) atrocities which Merlin deliberately induced Clyntahn to commit are not going to be particularly enamored of the "good guys," and rightly so.

Just pointing out that it is nowhere near as simple as some people seem determined to assume that it is. I genuinly have considered most of the possibilities which have been presented and rejected them for reasons which --- in my opinion (but I'm only the author, so what do I know about it?) --- make excellent sense from the perspective of the main characters' morality, ethics, view of their mission, and pragmatic awareness of ultimate consequences for their overarching ojectives.

EDIT: I forgot to add the observation that throwing rocks and open acts of defiance usually only work when (1) the bulk of the population already agrees with those who are doing the defying and is willing to rally en masse to their rescue/assistance in sufficient numbers to offset the "authorities'" preponderance of military power; (2) there is an outside force which can and will intervene on the side of the troublemakers in time to keep them all from being killed; or (3) the people you are defying are the civilized ones, and so hamstrung by their own professed values where truly effective repressive tactics are concerned.

Regimes are seldom overthrown for being too repressive; they're overthrown when, for whatever reason, they are no longer willing/able to adopt effective repressive techniques. Brutality can generate people willing to rebel; it seldom generates successful rebellion as long as the people administering the brutality are free to continue to do so. Mahatma Gandhi would not have fared well against Heinrich Himmler; the Libyan rebels would not have succeeded against Kadhafi without outside air support; and the Syrian opposition will not succeed against Assad as long as someone is willing to sell him bullets and he can find soldiers willing to fire them (or the Western powers miraculously develop the cojones to do to him what they were willing to do to poor, isolated, not-connected-to-Iran-or-Russia Kadhafi).

There are enough moral ambiguities involved in attacking clearly military targets in a way which is going to cause collateral damage and deaths to a putatively friendly civilian population, as in Allied bombing of targets on French soil during World War II. Britain's Bomber Command is demonized in many circles for area bombing of German cities — i.e., cities full of enemy civilians — and then there's that little matter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet even Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki could be justified as attacks on military objectives which inflicted those "collateral" casualties on enemy civilian populations. How much worse does the West feel about Stalin's refusal to advance to the liberation of the Warsaw Ghetto when it rose against the Germans? If Merlin & Co. are responsible for actions which cause the Inquisition to respond by punishing people innocent of any complicity in those actions, then they (in my opinion, deservedly) will carry a stigma as indelible as Stalin's from Warsaw.

Safehold Why can't Merlin just use Terran Federation weapons to quickly overthrow the Church? (Asked Mon Apr 30, 2012) December 2013

I have to write the stories the way I feel they should be written, however, and Merlin's high tech goodies are not going to turn into god weapons or panaceas in the course of the books for a whole bunch of reasons. Some I have already spelled out in terms of moral consequences to his actions. Some I have spelled out in terms of the damage they would do if they became known to the other side. Some have to do with the problems of charges of devil-worship and demon familiars which he has been at such pains to avoid. Some have to do with his refusal to replace one forcibly imposed set of technology guidelines and religous proscriptions and diktats with what amounts to another. Some have to do with story telling constraints. Some have to do with things you may not have yet thought about, but which I have . . . like how the Inqusition under Clyntahn is going to react to any town or settlement anywhere near to an "inexplicable" act of non-divine sabotage. (You do realize how likely he would be to start assigning "collective responsibility" and punishing the local inhabitants who were obviously assisting the saboteurs . . . whoever they were, don't you?) Some have to do with Merlin's own moral qualms and ethics. Some have to do with . . . .

I'll stop there. I hope this is enough of an explanation. I hope the readers will trust me with the books and with the characters, and that the characters' actions (and attitudes) will be consistent with who they are and what they've been shown to be. In the end, however, the stories will be written the way I think they need to be written. No doubt some readers will be upset and will voice their unhappiness with characters' actions (or inactions) as vociferously as thousands of Monday morning quarterbacks have second-guessed real lilfe military and political decision makers for as long as I can remember. If that happens, it will probably indicate that I got it right.

I'll leave you with one last thought. I could have had Nimue trot out her recon skimmer three days after she woke up in the cave, nuke Zion and all the major sources of the Church's military capabilities, then appear as "the Archangel Nimue," decree that the Church had fallen into corruption (as it had) and that she had been sent by God with the new dispensation, completing the teaching which had been interrupted by Shan-wei's "rebellion" when those claiming to be Langhorne's true followers had actually perverted the historical record of what had happened. In fact, Shan-wei was the first victim of the rebellion against Langhorne, to whom she was loyal to the moment of Armageddon Reef's destruction, and the true trator was Chihiro, who proceded to pervert and twist everything Langhorne had intended as his full teaching. That triumph of the Dark in the War of the Fallen established a thousand years of darkness on Safehold, making the Church's corruption inevitable, but the time has come to right the wrong which was done so many centuries ago and return humankind to the paths of righteousness, including the responsible use of technology which Shan-wei, as Langhorne's true, loyal lieutenant had been entrusted to reveal and teach before Chihiro the Foul's sinful, ambitious betrayal and revolt.

Now, obviously, I would have had to deal with the bombardment platform, but I can think of a couple of ways to do that right off the top of my head (one of which may yet be used), or I could simply never have inserted it into the mix in the first place. And what I've sketched out above is only one possible iteration of the many, many, many ways I could have allowed use of advanced technology to solve Nimue/Merlin's problems.

Would have been a damned boring book, too, and the entire war would have been over in about 12 minutes, with no moral growth or exploration of any of the characters. Ho-hum.

If you want that story, you'll have to go find it somewhere else, though, because I have no intention whatever of writing it.

Safehold With the way that the Clinton is breaking the writ laws such as with the Canals for example won't this in the end undermine the churches authority? (Asked Thu Apr 26, 2012) December 2013

dis-pen-sa-tion: noun 1.a The act of dispensing. b. Something dispensed. c. A specific arrangement or system by which something is dispensed. 2. An exemption or a release from an obligation or a rule, granted by or as if by an authority. 3.a An exemption from a church law, a vow, or another similar obligation granted in a particular case by an ecclesiastical authority. b. The document containing this exemption. 4. Theology. a. The divine ordering of worldly affairs. b. A religious system or code of commands considered to have been divinely revealed or appointed.

I would direct your attention to 3.a and to 4.b.

Zhaspahr Clyntahn is the "ecclesiastical authority" charged with enforcing the Proscriptions and Church doctrine. He is also the individual who has the authority, under the Writ, to grant dispensations allowing departures — temporary or permanent — from the Proscriptions and doctrine . . . after, of course, prayerful consideration of the Writ and God's will. Remember that it's the Intendant in each archbishopric, invariably a Schuelerite, who passes on the acceptability of new innovations under the Proscriptions of Jwo-jeng, but the Intendant can only approve of innovations which are acceptable under currently interpreted Church law. He can't grant an attestation for something entirely new or novel; that sort of decision would have to be referred up the chain to the Office of the Inquisition, and even his decisions to allow something on the basis that it reflects only already approved technology are always subject to review at a higher level. Remember also, however, that Erayk Dynnys couldn't simply overrule Paityr Wylsynn; he could pressure Wylsynn, but only the Office of the Inquisition would have had the authority to overrule him. And the Office of the Inquisition is headed by the Grand Inquisitor, who happens to be Zhaspahr Clyntahn.

(Things are just a little different in the Church of Charis, obviously, but we're not talking about the Church of Charis in this instance.)

So far, Clyntahn is well within the official, legal sphere of his authority in granting dispensations for the use of new weapons, the adoption of new techniques, and even for things like the temporary sabotage of canal locks. There are other things he's doing in which he is at the very least . . . creatively reinterpreting the Writ, such as his imposition of a worldwide embargo against Charisian commerce and his deliberate destabilization of entire realms. Then there's the little matter of assassinations and terrorism, so I think it can certainly be argued that he is far, far outside the spirit of the Writ in terms of meeting his pastoral responsibilities.

(And despite what's currently going on on Safehold, the Writ is really very clear about the "pastoral responsibilities" the Church's clergy are supposed to meet. It's important to remember that the Church of God Awaiting wasn't really established for the purpose of providing the vicarate with cushy, comfortable lifestyles and opportunities for graft.)

Nonetheless, even granting that Clyntahn is off the reservation in several contexts under the normal reading of the Writ, one should also remember what Dunkyn Yairley had to say to Duke Kholman following the Battle of Iythria about how the Writ's rules change in the event of a jihad. It would be very difficult — so far, at least — for any Temple Loyalist to argue that he's exceeded his or the Church's authority or done anything other than what the Writ itself authorizes (where dispensations are concerned, at any rate) in time of jihad.

If anything is going to undermine Clyntahn's authority with the faithful, it's going to be the realization that he's acting in his own self-interest and not in the interest of Mother Church. As long as the Temple Loyalists remain convinced that the things that he's doing, however horrible, are required by the Book of Schueler and the Holy Writ, his actions are unlikely to undermine the Church's authority. Once that tipping point is reached, however, and the Temple Loyalists begin agreeing with the Reformists about the need to rectify the Church's corruption and abuses, everything that he's done will be looked at through a very different set of prisms. As far as the Temple Loyalists are concerned, his actions are unlikely to undermine the Church's authority even then, but at that point, the Counter Reformation will set in, and it will be interesting to see if Church doctrine becomes more or less authoritarian after the corrupt men in Zion have been dealt with.