Shine Cycle Précis: A Wall Against the Tide

A Wall Against the Tide is the tentative title of the eighth planned novel in the “Alternate Universes” sub-series of the Shine Cycle. This story will be set in a world where the Carolingian dynasty lasted longer. Today’s post is a brief introduction to this planned work.

In the alternate Earth of A Wall Against the Tide, Charlemagne’s son and successor Louis the Pious had only one legitimate son, and his (first) wife lived a decade longer. As a consequence of this, his reign was disrupted by fewer rebellions, beginning later and gathering less support, and he was better able to thwart incursions by Vikings and from the east.

A Wall Against the Tide is set in the next generation, in the reign of Louis’s son. (Probably Lothair, though I haven’t thought much on which of the sons should be the one to exist in that world yet. In the rest of this post I’ll assume Louis’s son and successor is Lothair without further comment.) The Vikings again menace the coastlands, but unlike in our world, he has few if any close relatives to call on for support.

The Quester arrives near Lothair’s court just long enough before a major Viking raid, or minor invasion, to get his bearings and introduce himself to some members of the court. News of the invasion reach the court, and he joins the king and court in marching to the relief of the ravaged countryside. They drive off the invaders, and the Quester stays there to help rebuild.

When he returns to the capital to report on progress, and to propose building up a navy and land-based defenses to guard against future Viking raids, the king is distracted and the court is exercised by a rebellion in one of the eastern provinces, so Lothair absently approves the general plan but is not willing to send much money, manpower, or materiel to support it.

So the Quester returns to the coast with authority and a plan, but few resources to carry it out. With that authority, the personal reputation he has accumulated, and mostly rhetoric and oratory, he gathers workers to cut the necessary timber and mine the necessary stone, build the towers, walls, and ships, and man the infant navy, and then he sets them to work, undertaking long days of hard labor himself to lead by example.

Some of the men, and more dangerously some of the materiel, are called for mid-way through the project by the king’s order, to stiffen Lothair’s response to another rebellion. However, the most important defensive works are finished by then, and the first naval training is underway.

Before too long, a group of Viking longships comes in from the sea and tries to sail up the river on which the Quester’s plan had placed the strongest, but not the most obvious, defensive works. And the defenders soundly defeat the Viking invaders, sinking or capsizing several of the longships outright before they can land, constraining the landing sites open to the remainder, and then all but wiping out the landing parties.

After accompanying a party bearing the jubilant report to Lothair’s court, the Quester departs again for where he will be needed next.

The central characters will, I think, be the Quester, Emperor Lothair, and the leaders and chief workers of the coastal region subject to Viking attacks.

Do you have any thoughts about my plans for A Wall Against the Tide?


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