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Frequently Asked Questions

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

If you have a question that you would like to see considered as a FAQ, please e-mail us at Responses will be posted if and when David can get to them. We'd love to hear from you! 

Series Question Posted
Safehold The River-class ship seems too heavy for it's stated dimensions. Can someone tell me where I am going wrong here? (Asked Fri Apr 06, 2012) December 2013

Couple of points. Well, three points, actually. [G]

First, the hull is very nearly rectangular. This is a converted canal/river barge, not an oceanic hull, which is the main reason such an absurdly overpowered hull isn’t capable of more than 17-18 mph in calm water.

Secondly, 951 metric tons is 1,048.3 short tons, which are the only tons available on Safehold, courtesy of Eric Langhorne, and it was short tons I was citing, so the difference in tonnage from my figures to your “rectangular hull” is only 151 tons, or roughly 7.5%, which very probably occurred in my original rounding and is close enough for me to feel perfectly happy using.

Third, the 6” BL gun you cite is a heck of a lot bigger than the gun I am citing. Your gun was a 6”/44 — that is, it was 44 calibers long, making the tube right on 22’ long; the 6” for the river class are black powder weapons, and longer tubes don’t give black powder cannon the same velocity advantage they give with nitro cellulose propellants because of the difference in burn time. A black powder weapon gives all of its acceleration almost instantly; after that point, friction with the barrel liner becomes a factor (especially in rifled guns, with their reduced windage) which actually reduces muzzle velocity in a longer tube. The 6” BL for the River class is a 6”/18, with a 9’ tube, just over 40% the length of your weapon, and a muzzle velocity of roughly 1,350 fps compared to the 2,700+ fps of the 6” you cite. Total weight of the gun on a wooden truck carriage is only about 2.5 tons and the new mount is based on the Marsilly carriage with a very simple hydro-pneumatic recoil system, so total weight per piece is only going to be in the 4-ton range. I also gave you 2 too many gun ports per broadside in my original notes (I forgot I’d shifted 4 broadside guns to bow and stern positions when I went with a homogenous 30-pounder/6” armament on a 140’ hull rather than having a single 8” fore and aft on a 160’ hull as in my original rough design), so the actual total armament is 22 guns, not 26, giving a weight of around 104 tons, not 195.

Armor (I’m shooting from memory here, rather than going back and hunting up my exact calculations) works out at about 280 tons, hull structure works out at around 250 tons, guns come in at about 100, and machinery (with all liquids aboard) is about 250 tons, for a total of 880 tons, or 1,360 with 480 tons of coal on board. I allowed myself the extra 160 tons as a wiggle-room number, given that all of the figures are approximations. (Besides, I thoght “twelve hundred tons” sounded better than “thirteen hundred and sixty tons,” so I exercised a little authorial license. [G])

If the weight of the machinery seems low, I would point out that the triple-expansion machinery of USS Maine (6,650 long tons [7,448 short tons]; 1895; fire tube boilers; 135 psi steam; trial speed 17.45 Old Earth knots [20.08 Safeholdian knots]) weighed about 700 short tons, whereas these ships have double expansion machinery, small water tube boilers, and 290 psi steam, so the 250 tons number is actually probably high. The third cylinder — the one these ships don’t have — is usually around 3 times the diameter of the first cylinder, so the weight of the engines themselves is cut approximately in half, while Maine had 8 boilers, all of which were bigger and heavier than any of these ships’ 4 boilers.

As another indicator of the difference between water tube and fire tube boilers, the weight of HMS Invincible's machinery (1907) was about 20% of her total displacement, or around 3,925 short tons, and developed 41,000 shaft horsepower. HMS Hood (designed 1917) devoted only 13% of her much greater displacement to machinery (around 6,800 short tons) but developed 144,000 SHP. This means that the earlier ship (with 31 fire tube boilers) developed 10.44 SHP per ton of machinery, whereas Hood (with only 24 water tube boilers and higher pressures) generated 21.22 SHP per ton of machinery, better than twice the efficiency. Both of these ships used turbines rather than reciprocating machinery (as in the River class or the Maine), but the decrease in weight per SHP (which was really pretty astonishing in only a decade) was due to the greater efficiency of the water tube boilers. That same efficiency curve, only greater, would be in play in comparing Maine's machinery weights to the River class'.

For anyone interested in real esoterica, USS Iowa's machinery weight in 1943 was 4,423.8 long tons (dry) and 4,815.8 long tons (with liquids) and generated 212,000 SHP. That comes to 39.3 SHP per short ton weight of machinery, which explains why a ship with a standard displacement 116% that of Hood was 10% faster than Hood's highest attained speed and 16% faster than her best speed in 1941. I don't know what Hood's steam conditions were, but Iowa's plant operated at 600 psi, which was 210% of the 280 psi of the Colorado class, the last USN BBs built before the Washington Naval Disarmament Treaty.

Returning to Safehold, one recurrent problem people seem to be having when they look at Safeholdian technology is an effort to pick a period of Old Earth technology and then use it as a yardstick for Safehold. The difficulty is that they appear to be picking the wrong periods rather than looking at the numbers I’m actually giving them, as when it was assumed in another post that Empress of Charis was basically a 16th century galleon with all guns on a single deck instead of, effectively, a 19th century double-banked frigate design. In this instance, for example, you were selecting guns which are much more advanced than (and more than twice as heavy as) the ones actually being mounted, while I suspect most people are looking at machinery weights in terms of around 1850-70 tech when they are actually far more comparable to those of around 1915 (USN service) in terms of steam pressures and weights and hence efficiency.

Safehold Comparative Ship Analysis Part 2 (Posted Sat Apr 14, 2012) December 2013

Since there's been some discussion about exactly how Charisian warships might stack up against "real world" counterparts, here are some statistics to think about. All tonnages are "burden" not "displacement," and all are in long tons (despite the fact that long tons don't exist on Safehold; I'm using similar units so they can be properly compared to one another)

USN Ships:

USS Philadelphia: (1799): length 157'; beam 39'; 1,240 tons; gundeck 28 long 18-pounders; spar deck 16 32-pounder carronades; weight of broadside 508 pounds.

USS President (1799): length 175'; beam 43'8"; 1,576 tons; gundeck 30 long 24-pounders; spar deck 22 42-pounder carronades; 2 long 18-pounder chasers; weight of broadside 840 pounds.

USS Columbia (1813): length 175'; beam 44'6"; 1,511 tons; gundeck 30 long 32-pounders; spar deck 20 42-pounder carronades; 2 long 18 pounder chasers; weight of broadside 918 pounds.

USS Columbus (1816): length 193'3"; beam 52'; 2,480 tons; lower gundeck 30 long 32-pounders; upper gundeck 32 medium 32-pounders; spar deck 24 32-pounder carronades; broadside 1,376 pounds. (Notes: over-gunned for her displacement; despite her size she had no more than 5' or 6' freeboard between the waterline and the sills of her lower deck gun ports.)

USS Ohio (1817): length 197'2"; beam 53'10"; 2,725 tons; lower gundeck 30 long 32-pounders; upper gundeck 32 medium 32-pounders; spar deck 24 32-pounder carronades; broadside 1,376 pounds. (Notes: considered one of the finest two-decked ships-of-the-line ever built; carried her armament easily with almost twice Columbus' freeboard to her lower deck port sills.)

USS Pennsylvania (1822): length 210'; beam 56'9"; 3,105 tons; lower gundeck 30 long 42-pounders; middle gundeck 32 long 32-pounders; upper gundeck 32 long 32-pounders; spar deck 30 42-pounder carronades; weight of broadside 2,284 pounds.

Royal/Imperial Charisian Navy:

HMS Hurricane: length 108’; beam 35’; 750 tons; gundeck 14 35-pounder carronades; upper deck 14 35-pounder carronades; weight of broadside 490 pounds. (Notes: this is fairly typical of the Royal Charisian Navy's smaller converted merchant galleons. She does not have warship-grade scantlings or planking and carries only carronades to reduce weights, which limits the range at which she can engage. Even so, she has very limited freeboard.)

HMS Gale: length 115'; beam 35'; 840 tons; gundeck 18 35-pounders; upper deck 14 35-pounder carronades; 4 long 14-pounder chase guns; weight of broadside 588 pounds. (Notes: this is fairly typical of the Royal Charisian Navy's larger converted merchant galleons. She does not have warship-grade scantlings or planking, but her greater tonnage lets her carry long guns on the gundeck and gives her slightly better freeboard.)

HMS Dreadnought: length 154'; beam 42'6"; 1,200 tons; gundeck 30 long 30-pounders; spar deck 20 30-pounder carronades; 4 long 14-pounders; weight of broadside 828 pounds. (Notes: the first purpose-built war galleons of the Royal Charisian Navy. Approximately the same burden as Philadelphia but beamier to carry her heavier battery. Freeboard to lower port sills only about 10' — better than anyone else's, but still about 3'-4' short of what a proper blue-water frigate really needs. From this ship on, Charisian warships are as heavily built as — or more heavily built than — their USN counterparts.)

HMS Empress of Charis (original): length 168' 11"; beam 40'3"; 1,400 tons; gundeck 32 long 30-pounders; spar deck 30 30-pounder carronades; 4 long 14-pounders; weight of broadside 958 pounds. (Notes: if anyone is looking, in my original post about a matchup between this ship and Constitution, I think I forgot to divide by two when calculating Empress' weight of broadside. [G])

HMS Empress of Charis (final): length 168'11"; beam 40'3"; 1,400 tons; gundeck 30 long 30-pounders; spar deck 18 57-pounder carronades; 4 long 14-pounders; weight of broadside 991 pounds.

HMS Royal Charis: length 174'; beam 40'; 1,520 tons; gundeck 30 long 30-pounders; spar deck 24 30-pounder carronades; 4 long 14-pounders; weight of broadside 834 pounds. (Notes: 30-pounder carronades later replaced by 20 57-pounder carronades, at which point weight of broadside became 1,048 pounds. She carried her guns higher than the original Empress, and showed 12' of freeboard to her port sills. This was the immediate follow-on class to Empress.)

HMS Sword of Charis: length 178'6"; beam 45'4"; 1,725 tons; gundeck 30 long 30-pounders; spar deck 20 57-pounders; 4 long 14-pounders; weight of broadside 1,048 pounds. (Notes: An improved Royal Charis. Her greater displacement gives her 14' of freeboard to her port sills.)

HMS Thunderer: length 194'6"; beam 52'3"; 2,500 tons; lower gundeck 30 long 30-pounders; upper gundeck 32 long 30-pounders; spar deck 24 57-pounder carronades; 2 long 57-pounders; weight of broadside 1,728. (Notes: This ship, which would have been the Imperial Charisian Navy's first true ship-of-the-line, was designed by Sir Dustyn Olyvyr before the Battle of the Gulf of Tarot, when no one was really thinking in terms of shell-firing guns or ironclads and the ICN hadn't captured so many prize ships from the Navy of God. The long 57-pounders are basically long 7.5" smoothbores on pivot mounts which allow them to fire in either broadside or directly ahead as chase guns.)

When comparing the tonnage costs of these ships' batteries, remember that: a USN 32-pounder weighs just over 6,000 pounds; a USN 24-pounder weighs 5,376 pounds; a Charisian 35-pounder weighs about 5,000 pounds; and a Charisian 30-pounder weighs about 4,800. This means, for example, that Empress of Charis' 30 long 30-pounders actually weigh 11% less than President's 30 long 24-pounders. Charisian "long" guns would have been considered "medium" guns by the USN, which gives them slightly shorter range than their USN counterparts might have had. On the other hand, they have more range than their Safeholdian counterparts.

And I'm not going to tell you about the ironclads which are going to be built instead of Thunderer.

Safehold Grab Bag 2 of Questions, Part 2 (Posted Sun Apr 15, 2012) December 2013

You guys are being very enthusiastic about what Charis should be doing, aren't you?

I'm not going to give away any details about what actually happens, but if you're going to speculate on what may happen in the next book, let's toss out a few numbers — some of which you already had, many of which you didn't — which are going to constrain what both sides can do.

First of all, the isthmus connecting Haven and East Howard is, at its narrowest, 252 miles across. That's a fairly long front to hold in a continuous line.

Second, a few sea distances:
Tellesberg to Siddar City:..................8,000+ miles
Port Royal to Siddar City:..................9,830+ miles
Port Royal to Gorath Bay:..................14,270+ miles
Border States to Siddar City:...............2,400+ miles

Third, available shipping tonnages (burden; short tons):
Total Safeholdian oceanic tonnage......4,900,000 tons (rounded)
Total Charisian oceanic tonnage........3,580,000 tons (rounded)
Food required per day per man.............3 pounds
Food required per day per horse..........30 pounds
Food required per day per dragon........580 pounds

Total Safeholdian oceanic galleons: 4,162
Total Charisian oceanic galleons: 2,753

Charis has a lot more coastal shipping and a lot less canal shipping than the mainland realms.

NOTE: the fact that someone has oceanic galleons doesn't necessarily mean those galleons can get to sea and survive there.

Fourth, population numbers (rounded to nearest million):
Old Charis...................14,000,000
Windswept Island................150,000

Border States...............102,000,000
Follos, Duchy...................463,000
Temple Lands.................89,000,000

Barren Lands*.................1,000,000
Raven's Land....................123,000
*Includes Green Tree Island and Westbreak Island.

Fifth, troop strengths:

Siddarmark's pre-Sword standing army: 1,200,000

Siddarmark's post-Sword standing army: 394,550
Siddarmark's post-Sword loyal militia: 496,420
Imperial Charisian Army: 450,000
Total post-Sword good guys: 1,340,970
Militia as % of total: 37%

Siddarmark post-sword Temple Loyalist militia: 473,900
Desnair + Dohlar invasion force: 360,000
Army of God invasion force: 500,000+
Harchong invasion force: 1,500,000+
Total post-Sword bad guys: 2,833,900
Milita as % of total: 16.7%

NOTE: the majority of the Imperial Charisian Army is in Chisholm (see voyage distances, above), and the Charisian Empire can't completely strip its rear areas of security forces (remember Corisande?).

Sustained daily movement rates by canal: 50+ miles per day.

Subtle hint: This is all going to be about logistics.

And I don't want to hear any whining about "but that's not what you told us before!" [G]

And one more thing, if anyone gets too anal, I won't give you any more info. So there. Take that.

Safehold What kind of piracy was going on on Safehold, and why didn't it affect the Church tithes? (Asked Tue Apr 24, 2012) December 2013

I think I've just explained (at least I've tried to) why the waters concerned weren't considered "waters dominated by the ICN" at that time, and I also don't recall ever having said that no one ever considered stealing "some of the tithe passing by in 800 years." Even leaving aside the religious convictions to which Friar Bob quite rightly alluded, no nation (and no sane individual — even a Safeholdian athiest [although that’s a concept — pre-jihad, at least — to boggle my mind!] who imagined for one instant that he might be identifiable, for that matter) would ever even have considered it because of the penalties which would have attached and the fact that the Church and every other secular nation on the face of the planet would have come after them, of course, but I never said that no one at all considered pilfering from the tithe. In fact, one of the problems Duchairn has to address in MT&T is how to deal with putting an end to the margin of graft and corruption — embezzlement, if you will — which the Church had previously been willing to put up with in certain places. And I'm quite sure that more than one desperate individual, over the course of Safeholdian history, was willing to hit a Church tithe gatherer over the head to relieve him of the tithe . . . which is why tithe gatherers are normally accompanied by armed guards. And also one reason the tithe is not normally sent any farther by sea than it has to be.

Even without the threat of piracy or thieves, there's always the possibility of shipwreck, after all, and a "ship" that sinks in a canal is much more readily salvaged than one that sinks in a couple of thousand of feet of seawater. Hence, again, the reference to the fact that sending the shipment from Khairman Keep to Silk Town represented an unusual change which the loss of Archangel Chihiro and Blessed Warrior brought to a screeching stop.

Finally, I don't know that I ever suggested (a) that piracy was "apparently endemic" to Safehold or (b) that "only the top and bottom of Safehold's society show[ed] any signs of corruption in those ~800 years." Certainly piracy was a problem prior to the jihad, but does the fact that piracy is rife in the waters off Somalia mean that piracy is "endemic" to 21st-century Earth? In certain areas, piracy was a known and even severe problem; in other areas, it was an occasional problem; in still others, maritime traffic was considered secure prior to the current unpleasantness. And I'm not sure what you mean about only the top and bottom of Safeholdian society showing any signs of corruption. Exactly what signs of corruption are they supposed to be showing in those theoretically "middle portions" of society? I think it's been pretty evident throughout the course of the books that there are criminal elements at just about every level of Safeholdian society, just as there are here on Earth, but you'll have to give me a little more guidance as to exactly what sort of "corruption" in what portion of society seems to be missing before I can address the point. You really need to stop assuming that just because I haven’t made some specific aspect of an entire literary world critical to the storytelling that that aspect doesn’t exist. If you really need me to show you a mid-level bank clerk skimming the accounts going past him, or a dishonest store clerk deliberately making the wrong change, or a plumber committing adultery to make it clear that there is routine, run of the mill corruption and human weakness at all levels of society, the story is really going to bog down, you know.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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