A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 04

He shrugged again.

“Under those circumstances, what I was most afraid of was that the Chisholmians would automatically reject our advice about the new tactics. After all, what could a bunch of Marines know about the real conditions and requirements of fighting a war on land? In a lot of ways, that would only have been a reasonable question, too. For that matter, I imagine more than a few Charisian naval officers felt exactly that way where the Chisholmian Navy was concerned, when you come down to it. And the fact that it was our Marines who did all the actual fighting in Corisande — that their Army was completely left out, sitting here at home — could very well have fanned their resentment. Oh, they said they accepted the logistics arguments. That they understood we could only supply so many men across so many miles of ocean, which meant we couldn’t afford to take along anyone who wasn’t already equipped and trained with the new weapons. But I was afraid that, whatever they might have said, they would have resented being treated like some kind of farm team and left sitting in the dugout while the big-league players went off to war.

“As a matter of fact, that was what I expected to happen, and not just because of any petty concern about the Army’s ‘honor,’ either. You know as well as I do that prestige — and the ability to point to past accomplishments — play a big role in how big a budget an army or a navy can expect to see coming its way. This is a professional army, with a professional officers corps, Merlin. They have to have been worried that being left home while someone else did all the fighting was going to . . . adversely effect their career prospects, one might say. I’ve seen a distinct undertone of resentment out of quite a few civilian Chisholmian bureaucrats who seem to think Charis has gotten an unfair share of the power and advantages under the Empire, so I don’t think it would have been unreasonable for the Army to’ve felt that way.”

“I know.” Merlin nodded. “I’ve seen the same thing — from the bureaucrats, I mean — although, for some strange reason, they seem a bit more leery about showing their resentment around the Emperor or the Empress.”

“No, really? I wonder why that might be?” Green Valley mused with an innocent smile, and Merlin snorted.

“As I say, I really was concerned about the Army’s possible resentment over being ‘left out’ of the Corisande campaign,” Green Valley went on. “And I have seen a little bit of it, but not very much, thank Langhorne.”

“So they don’t seem to be upset about the sudden infusion of all the Marines, either?” Merlin asked.

He was watching Green Valley attentively. The baron had been chosen for his present assignment, despite his relative youth — he was still well short of forty — and painfully new elevation to the aristocracy, not simply because he was so good at his job, but because of the acuity of his insights. Now Green Valley gave the seijin a wry headshake, as if admonishing him for having asked a question to which they both so obviously already knew the answer.

“No, it hasn’t,” he said out loud. “Partly, I think that’s because of their professionalism. They’re more interested in learning how to do their jobs even better than in defending their reputation for how well they already do them. In that respect, they remind me a lot of our naval officers like Earl Lock Island and Baron Rock Point. They’re professionals first and prima donnas second, or even third.

“But, as I say, that’s only part of the reason.” Green Valley’s eyes were narrow, now, his expression intent. “I think probably an even bigger reason is that, aside from its very uppermost ranks, such a huge percentage of the Army’s officers are commoners. One of the things I think most frustrates the great nobles who are so unhappy with the Emperor and the Empress is the way they’ve been shut out of any real positions of power in the Army. It would be stupid of them to be surprised by that, I suppose, since the whole reason King Sailys and Baron Green Mountain — and Halbrook Hollow, to give the man his due — created the Royal Army in the first place was to restore the Crown’s prerogatives at the expense of the nobility. After the amount of fighting that took, I don’t think it should astonish anyone that they decided against handing out generalships to any noblemen whose loyalty to the Crown they weren’t totally sure of. And the fact that lowborn soldiers could– and have — risen to high rank in the Army helps explain how enthusiastically the commons support it. Here in Chisholm, the Army holds exactly the same position — as far as the commons are concerned, at any rate — as the Navy does in Charis, and it’s young enough and professional enough to be genuinely flexible.” He shook his head. “I honestly never expected just how flexible it really is.”

Merlin nodded in agreement. He’d been a bit more optimistic about the Royal Chisholmian Army’s willingness to adopt the new weapons and tactics than some Charisians had been, but even he had been pleasantly surprised by the Chisholmians’ enthusiasm for the changes.

And, the seijin thought, Green Valley had an even better point than the baron himself might realize about the Army’s importance in the eyes of the Empire’s Chisholmian subjects.

By and large, the majority of Chisholmians appeared firmly united behind the decision to fuse the kingdoms of Chisholm and Charis (now almost universally referred to as “Old Charis,” just to keep things straight) into the new Charisian Empire. Not all of them were, however. Some — and especially those who were most prone to think in terms of their own power and influence — doubted that the promised equality between Chisholm and Old Charis could (or would) truly be maintained. Old Charis boasted half again the population of Chisholm, and its economic wealth was at least four times that of Chisholm. Its manufactories and merchants had held a dominant position in Chisholm’s economy even before the two kingdoms had united, the Charisian merchant marine dominated all the seas and oceans of Safehold, and the Royal Chisholmian Navy had disappeared — almost without a trace — into the much larger Royal Charisian Navy, even if the resulting union was officially called the Imperial Navy.

Under the circumstances, it probably wasn’t unreasonable for at least some Chisholmians to nourish a few doubts about how long it would be before Chisholm openly became the junior partner — one might almost say the second-class partner — in the imperial relationship.

Cayleb and Sharleyan were determined to prevent that from happening. The fact that Sharleyan was Cayleb’s co-ruler, that she had governed the entire Empire in her own name from Tellesberg while Cayleb was off at war in Corisande, and that it was she — not Cayleb — who had overseen the creation of the new Imperial Parliament, had gone quite some way towards accomplishing that goal. The fact that the imperial capital would be located in Cherayth, the capital of the Kingdom of Chisholm, for half the year, and in Tellesberg, the capital of the Kingdom of Charis, for the other half of the year, went even further. It assured the citizens of Chisholm that Charisian viewpoints would not be allowed to dominate the imperial government simply because the people arguing for those viewpoints enjoyed a far better, far closer, and uninterrupted access to the Emperor and Empress.

The formation of the Imperial Army was intended to be yet another reassurance. The Chisholmian Crown’s two great supports under King Sailys and Queen Sharleyan had been the fierce loyalty of the Chisholmian Commons and the Royal Army. As Green Valley had just pointed out, it had been the Army, backed by the political and financial support of the Commons and with its ranks filled primarily by commoners, with which King Sailys had broken the arrogant power of the Charisian aristocracy’s great magnates. It was that same Army and the even fiercer loyalty — the love — of those same commoners for the dauntless courage of the child-queen who had succeeded Sailys after his untimely death which had allowed Sharleyan to survive. And those same deep reservoirs of support were what had carried them with her in her decision to wed Cayleb and create the Empire.