The following is more of a story outline than a story at this point. Since I came up with a fun idea that went a bit far, I am choosing flesh it out as fanfic rather than just post a minor possibility that will be over come by canon as soon as Mr Weber releases book 6 to the world. I selfishly wanted to get my ideas online before reading what the 'real' Safehold is going to do, and plan to flesh this out (possibly into a small novel!) as time permits, sticking with the Alternate Universe I am splitting off here.
Obligatory Legal Stuff and Disclaimer: While the most of the material from this is mine, any place, character, or ship mentioned in cannon, belongs to David Weber.
The characters and universe belong to Mr Weber. It is a pity that the legal system has become so skewed that he cannot enjoy other people's attempts at writing without risking lawsuit for stealing the amateur's ideas, or losing his own copyrights. I would be willing to sign away my ideas, story elements, new characters if an agreement could be reached that would allow him to share this story, including signing a Mercedes Lackey fanfic form. I hope that were he able to read this story, he would enjoy reading of his characters in new adventures without the writers work of turning the crank to generate the prose rather than recoil in horror that some else would dare to write in 'his world', but that choice would ultimately by his. For now, I copyright the sequence of words, and request that this not be printed or reproduced, electronically or in any other form, unless I should get permission from Mr Weber. For everyone else, I hope this 'left turn at Siddar City' becomes an enjoyable read while waiting for the next release form Mr Weber.
A World Divided
(c) copyright 2012 Michael Bushroe
Once communication times allow for the EoC to 'know' of the rebellion fomented by the evil CoGA. They ask Merlin to send his 'associate' Zhevons to more rapidly negotiate with Stohnar. His instructions: offer substantial food and military aid in feeding his people and retaking his lands in exchange for ceding a Duchy's worth of land a deep water sea port to EoC. This will be a biter pill for Stohnar, but much less than being forced to join the Empire as a Vassal State or be chewed up by the forces of CoGA, so he eventually agrees, even as the first food and medical supplies from the 'just in case' shipments suggested by Maikel are being gratefully received by the people of Siddar City around him.
The choices best for Cayleb would be The South March lands, either Sandfish Bay and Thesmar, or Shreve Bay. However, it will easier to convince Stohnar to cede the land if it is currently wholly held by rebel, read CoGA hands and the South March Lands are still contested. For Cayleb this would a closer to home port, open year round, and deep through Siddarmark towards the Temple Lands, but also right next to Dohlar, who would mount a counter offensive quickly and with many troops. And for Stohnar, it has the advantage of being far from Siddar city, and with few of his lands between him and CoGA's counter attack. But he may refuse to grant such a powerful and central beach head, so that pushes the choices north.
The northern choices are all much closer to Siddar, and therefore more threatening to Stohnar that Cayleb violate his mutual support treaty (part of Zhevon's negotiation package) and overthrow him latter, after Cayleb finishes the Church off. On the other hand, that is in the far future and not that likely, so he may prefer ceding a lesser port. The two best are Tampah in the contested Midhold Province, or Ranshair. Mr. Weber has not made clear yet whether Ranshair is a year round cold water port, or if it too freezes each winter. Having Ranshair freeze over right when Tellesburg is in the bustle of summer will make less suitable as a trade port in the future, but makes sense for the opening stages of this part of the War. Ranshair is not clearly wholly within the CoGA's hands, but it is also where the previous northern armada sailed from, and so far from Siddar that it is likely to have followed the majority of the northern provinces.
For my Fantasy War, I am going to assume that Stohnar refuses to give Cayleb the Southern Marches, and deeds the city and bay of Ranshair and surrounding areas to the Empire. The War to recover Siddarmark will begin from there. Cayleb decides that despite the risk and difficulty in maneuvering troops in the north-lands in the winter, he will anyone to catch the opposition by surprise and while the harsh winter bottles up Zion and makes it almost impossible for the leaders of the Church armies to be able to communicate, let alone control their forces. Having discovered that the Church has played dirty by burning fields and graineries to starve the Protector loyalists, they instruct their troops to turn the tables on the Church. Instead of burning the food, they send detachments out to every grainery and major food store, capture it, and use waiting sea transports to move it back down to Siddar. Then, as the winter grinds on and the rebels grow hungry, they must beg for food from their Lord Protector, or hope that the Church, which has a bad history of feeding its own hungry each winter, can somehow get them enough food now that they have burned half and lost the rest because they picked up arms in the first place. No matter how the Church tries to spin that, they people will most remember the ones who feed them when they are cold and hungry, and it WON'T be the Church!
In the coming battles, since there have already been many atrocities and counter atrocities, Cayleb and Sharleyan may decide that to minimize generations of hate crimes, the areas totally overthrown would be attacked by EoC forces, while the areas still disputed would be mixed forces 'led' by Siddarmakians. Then, once the dust has settled and the Republic restored, the foreign occupied areas would be 'handed over' to Republic peacekeeping forces, so they would feel like they are being liberated, rather than subdued. The exception would be for speed, 1/4 of the deployed EoC army would land at Tampah and restore order there first. The main force would be rushed to Ranshair to take the port and establish a beach head before the bay freezes. A few of the EoC army would be sent to Siddar City to train Stohnar's forces in use of the new weapons and tactics, then reinforce them as they sweep west and south.
After rather quickly overwhelming the rebel forces there, they would circle southwest and join a detachment of Siddarmarkians reinforced with rifled weapons, high angle artillery, and Charisian Marines to head to Gleacerheart. There they would repatriate Archbishop Cahnyr, who would then assemble the militias and hosts of volunteers to fight back. Since they are already determined, hardworking, and accustomed to rough conditions, they are already halfway to being fighting soldiers already. They just need weapons and training, and their winter mountain skills will make them formidable skirmishers. After some training and practice with the long bore rifles, they march on Mountain Province and attack the rebel forces in the Ice Ash mountains from the east. With the long sight lines from ridges and peak tops (when the weather is clear), the rifles allow them a huge advantage or the rebels with smooth bores. And in the deep, winding valleys, the high angle artillery also gives them a great advantage. Because the mountain terrain does not allow for large groups, the fighting is prolonged and more of attrition that decisive battles. Some of the experts in cold weather work are sent north to Ranshair to help convert wagons to sleighs and train the EoC army in even colder weather fighting than the Chisholmians have experienced.
The EoC Navy arrives in force with exploding shells and quickly destroys all resistance. Merlin and Cayleb lead these landing forces, and with the help of one or two commanders that have been let into the inner circle, they make good use of the SNARC data to coordinate attacks, and find food stores to ship back to Siddar. They land as many troops and supplies as possible to make it their northern resupply point. The first overland push is not south to the Ice Ash Mountains, but southwest to New Northland. In the first open field, open range battle of new weapons and well trained troops against poorly equipped and trained rebels and are simply rolled over. Then the army splits, sending a small portion to resolve Hildermoss. Once they have completely isolated Mountaincross Province, they detachment sweeps in to take all the cities and towns, while the rebel forces, drained badly by this time fighting mountain pass skirmishes, meet them on the field with what little they have left, or surrender outright. The main force then turns west and marches on Tarikah Province. Since this is the closest Siddarmarkian Province to Zion, it was most heavily equipped with weapons and trained men, and knowing what it coming longer than anyone else, they are well dug in. But despite their best, they fall and the army of EoC moves on. During this time, Icewind has been mostly ignored, but a small group army scouts join the loyalists and with their help defeat the rebels themselves. Having won back their own freedom, seemingly without outside support, they become staunch loyalists in the future, and as a consequence of giving Ranshair to the Charisians, Salyk rapidly grows in size and importance as Siddarmark's northern port. Oh, and throw a few random blizzards and major storms in to make the worst of the fighting even worse, and the SNARC's imagery more important.
After the battle of Sairmeet and the defeat of the Tarikah rebels, all the northern army elements reform again. By now, spring is coming, the snows are melting and the sleighs must be converted back to wagons. The recombined army marches on Westmarch, and for the first time meet professional troops mustered by the Church as well as rebels. With time, Church resources, and the experienced Church Guard leaders, they are well prepared and well dug in. The fighting is longer and more intense then any so far, and more men on both sides get to show their true mettle by volunteering to do what no sane commander would ask of them. The Charisians have finished reequipping their troops with all breech loading rifles, and the first of the long bore, rifled, high angle field artillery with exploding shells. This, combined with well seasoned troops, superior intel from the SNARC's and allow the smaller EoC forces to defeat the CoGA forces, but at significant cost.
After receiving food and marines from EoC, Stohnar restores order and loyalty in Siddar. The offices of the Archbishop and and his Executor, plus the Intendant's office and all of the Shuelerite churches and monasteries are seized and search for incriminating files and records. Despite the lessons of Ferayd, Pahtkovair was equally guilty of pride in thinking no one would DARE profane his person or offices, and more very revealing files are found giving direction to subvert the government of Siddarmark, kill the Protector and throw the Republic into such turmoil that the Church could justify taking over in the name of law and order. And of course, to kill, torture, rape every Charisian they can catch along the way. This feeds into the propaganda war to show all the other Kingdoms and Principalities on the mainland that Group of Four's lust for destruction is no longer limited to just faraway, unimportant island nations.
Once Siddar is secured he sends me out to secure the surrounding communities and all the remaining food stores for rationing throughout the winter. Word is also sent to the loyal lands of Trokhanos, Malitar, and Windmoor to replant as much winter crops as they. Being so close to the equator that they have nearly year round growing seasons, Stohnar is converting all his farms from growing silage for livestock to replacing the burned food for hungry people. The livestock wouldn't survive the winter anyway, as they will be slaughtered early for food.
Stohnar assembles as many of pike men as he can and is joined by a detachment of EoC army. They are resupplied with flintlock rifles and trained to use them as they march on Shiloh Province to retake that area. Unaccustomed to the new weapons and tactics, and not believing that well prepared infantry with fast loading rifles and bayonets can stop a cavalry charge, and end up losing more men then necessary. But once passed Shiloh, they have learned to trust their new allies, as well as the new weapons and tactics, and do much better rescuing the besieged loyal troops in Fort Tairys. From there they roam the Southern March Lands, where running battles, scattered skirmishes, and lack of key towns or mountain passes spreads out the fighting until they reach Thesmar. All this time the rebels and loyalists in Thesmar have been fighting back and forth in the streets, and after Stohnar and his troops arrive it takes much dirty fighting and more atrocities to finally restore order. When he has garrisoned enough troops to keep the peace, he takes his remaining troops and is joined by many more who have been called up from the now secured southern and middle lands, and turns west to join the EoC army which has just finished Westmarch, dropped of some of the militia men from Glacierheart, and marched south, for while all this was happening, the Group of Four had pressured king Zhames to muster the army of Dohlar, and they were finally ready to invade Siddarmark to 'kill the heretics'.
The Duke of Thorast was finally about to get the honor and respect he deserved, rather than that annoying Earl of Thirsk, who clearly did not know his place but kept coming up roses where the Navy was concerned. Now the ARMY was finally going to bring the heretics within its grasp, and so doing destroy it once and for all. And they would be launching from HIS Duchy! The two armies at Ft Sheldyn, but he outnumber his opponents so much that he was secretly sending flanking forces north and south get into his enemies rear and not only secure his victory, but prevent any of them escaping. One mounted force would swing north to Alykberg, take the mountain pass, then cut the northern supply chain and close from the rear. The other force would take small boats and sneak across the Sandfish Bay at night. Because they could not travel as fast on foot and could take few horses, it was decided to take the shorter overland route crossing at Sandfish Marsh rather than all the way around Sandfish Bay. The main forces then proceeded more openly to Ft Sheldyn and stop to draw the enemy into the trap.
Cayleb, however, was not deceived by any these maneuvers. Knowing that the marshes were much more impassible than Duke Thorast thought them, he sent a small group of scout/rangers to harass the whole way. They shot enough officers and leaders, holed enough boats, ruined enough food and water, and helped get the invaders so thoroughly lost that the demoralized, dispirited group never did make it to the fight. On the other side, he sent Merlin and a group of Charisian riflemen to take up hiding around St Alyk's Abbey to first ambush, then later prove again the well set infantry can stop a cavalry charge. When the survivors finally surrendered, the horses were taken to help in the last step of the offensive.
After setting the ambush at St Alyk's, Merlin is surprised when the monks invite him to to meet the Abbot. There, he finds the abbey has been teaching the Temple's scribes and librarian, keeping a large library themselves. After careful verbal exchanges to see what the other knows, the Abbot reveals all by saying "We the People . . . ", and Merlin replies "of the United States of America". The Abbot then takes him to an ancient part of the library, pulls out a secret door behind shelves of ancient books, leads him down narrow stairs, presses the surface of a grey object, and a hologram appears. "Nimue! I thought your PICA was destroyed along with you and your ship!". The limited function, librarian AI runs off of power cells recharged by thermal converters hidden in the main fireplaces. Merlin finds a second cache of human history, hidden almost next door to the Temple itself, and must now balance his obligation to the future of mankind and it's second ally with the goals and needs of Charis.
The main battle was old school with old weapons (the Church was hesitant to leave Dohlar in possession of so many of the new, rifled flintlocks and thought the overwhelming numbers would be enough) against the new school and new weapons. And when ever such an imbalance in tactics, let alone weapons collides, the end is foreordained. Even with the hordes of Shuelerite Priests spread throughout the Dohlarnen army egging the fighting on 'to the last man', defeat still came. And after, the hangings of every priest there sent shock waves throughout the mainlanders on both sides. But it didn't stop there. The Empire of Charis, and the Emperor himself, had a score to settle with Dohlar and King Zhames. His men had been fighting since the coldest, darkest reaches of northern winter, down across a continent and into spring, and there were not many who started then who were still with him. But they all had but one goal, one purpose, to avenge the betrayal, torture and murder of the men captured by Earl Thirsk and handed over to the Inquisition suffer the horrors of the Book of Shueler. Stohnar wanted no part in what was to come, and pulled back his forces kept watch over the prisoners.
With most of Dohlar's army defeated and held prisoner behind, Cayleb advances quickly through Dohlar towards Gorath. While his army is marching on Gorath, his navy has arrived in force to destroy the remaining portion of the Church's navy, and attach Gorath from both directions. The well trained Dohlarnen Navy fights well, but with out exploding shells and barrage ships, even his greater numbers and home port advantage prove insufficient, and a wounded Earl Thirsk is once again a Charisian prisoner. With marines landing from the port and the army firing over his walls with exploding shells from the north, and King Zhames's forces soon surrender. The King and all the members of the Inquisition are rounded up, and tried in open court on charges of murdering honorably surrendered combatants. Despite protests of immunity and royal or church protection, all are convicted and executed. After hearing that his King has died, and died because he had turned the prisoners over to the Inquisition, Earl Thirsk finally chooses a better King, or Emperor, to follow. That, plus knowing Clyntahn would put him to the Question for losing the last of the Church's Navy. But Cayleb's forces have suffered too many losses, and fought too long to be able to hold Dohlar, and he must decide what to do next.
Temple of God
During the long, frozen winter, nothing but bad news and unbelievable tales of battles fought in winter reach the Group of Four. They can barely have any effect on their own forces, let alone the rebels and the battles being fought and lost, and Clyntahn grows more and more berserk with anger. When Cayleb's plan to capture all the food and grain and send it back to Siddar forces the northern rebels to come begging the church for food, he can endure it no longer. Enraged both by their continuing failures to bring him victories, and their demeaning begging, which Duchairn has warned him about all winter and championed in defiance of Clyntahn's will this winter and last, he finally loses it and denounces Duchairn. As spring comes he flogs Maigwair and Trynair to assemble the Church Guard and all the armies of the Border States to counter attack.
All of Safehold stands on a knife edge, as the over extended, tired and war weary troops of the Empire of Charis face the mounting armies of the Church of God Awaiting, which finds itself once again without a navy, but for the first time not needing one.