The scorching sun was hot high overhead as Empress of Charis hove-to outside the breakwater of the city of Carmyn.

Zebediah’s capital didn’t look especially impressive to someone who’d grown up in Tellesberg, Cayleb decided, but he had to admit that the anchorage itself was superb. Protected by the full extent of the Gulf of Talisman and Hannah Bay — not to mention the sheltering land masses of Grass Island and Shoal Island — it offered excellent security from the elements, which was a not insignificant reflection in these latitudes, especially during hurricane season. And the approaches to the port were just as good, with deep water and very few hazards to navigation until one got quite close to the city.
Of course, the fact that it was also barely fifty miles north of the equator produced a climate in which even a Charisian felt as if he were being roasted on a spit whenever he stepped out into the direct noon sunlight.
The harbor waterfront was reasonably well guarded by shore batteries, but Grand Duke Zebediah had sadly neglected the fortification of the islands dotting the approaches to his capital. There were several places where batteries would have seriously inconvenienced, at the very least, an attacking fleet, but no guns had been emplaced.
Which might not owe a thing to Zebediah’s neglect, now that I think about it, he reflected. After all, Hektor knows the Grand Duke even better than Nahrmahn does. He probably made damned sure his navy wouldn’t have to fight its way past those batteries if any little unpleasantness arose. And that might not be a bad thing for me to be remembering, either, I suppose.
The other ten galleons Cayleb had brought with him lay protectively about Empress of Charis, with their guns run out and manned. That might not be considered the most diplomatic stance possible, but Cayleb didn’t really care about that. His own flagship’s guns weren’t manned, and that was about all the concession to international proprieties he intended to make.
He watched the ornate barge pulling out of the harbor towards Empress of Charis, then glanced at Merlin, who was examining the same barge through a spyglass. The emperor suppressed a temptation to smile as he privately bet himself that Merlin’s eye was actually closed. After all, a mere spyglass would only get in the way of someone with Merlin’s “natural” eyesight. It did give him an excuse to ask the “seijin” questions. However.
“I take it the rowboat with all the gold paint is our friend the Grand Duke?”
“I believe that’s correct, Your Majesty,” Merlin replied gravely, never lowering the spyglass. “At any rate, there’s a fellow sitting in the stern sheets who’s got to be about ready to suffer heatstroke, given all the gold and embroidery he’s wearing.”
“That would be Zebediah,” Nahrmahn agreed from Merlin’s other elbow. “He’s always been insistent about maintaining the ‘proper appearance.'”
The Emeraldian wore tastefully embroidered and tailored garments, but, like Cayleb, they were as utilitarian as they were elegant, and their cotton silk and steel thistle silk were as light and cool as was physically possible. Despite the extra weight Nahrmahn was carrying about with him, he looked far more comfortable than the approaching grand duke could possibly feel.
“In that case, perhaps we should keep him here on deck while we talk?” Cayleb suggested with an evil smile. “If he’s about to melt down into a puddle of fat, he’ll scarcely be at his naturally treacherous best.”
“Tempting, Your Majesty,” Nahrmahn agreed with a smile of his own. “But not very practical, I fear. I’m sure he’s already memorized everything he intends to say, and I’d be extraordinarily surprised if anything as silly as rational thought or debate was likely to change any of it. That being the case, I think the advantages for your thinking of getting into the shade outweigh the remote possibility that he might suffer the seijin’s heatstroke.”
“It’s not my heatstroke, Your Highness,” Merlin remarked mildly, lowering the spyglass at last and turning to look at Nahrmahn. “I was merely offering an analytical statement, not expressing any sort of personal desire.”
“Oh, of course not,” Nahrmahn agreed.
“Stop it, both of you,” Cayleb half-scolded.
It was remarkable how well Merlin and Nahrmahn got along, he reflected. In fact, it was obvious they actually liked one another, which wasn’t something Cayleb would have been willing to place any wagers on. And, he admitted, he found the fact that Merlin did like Nahrmahn remarkably reassuring.
“Stop what, Your Majesty?” Merlin inquired innocently. “All I said was –”
“I heard exactly what you said,” Cayleb said severely. “And let me remind you, that it’s most unbecoming of a Charisian Imperial Guardsman to think it would be a good idea for a visiting nobleman to suffer a fatal heatstroke. Until after he’s signed the surrender terms, at least.”
“Surrender terms, Your Majesty?” Nahrmahn’s eyebrows rose. “Somehow I don’t recall that particular phrase having been used in any of the correspondence you’ve exchanged with Grand Duke Zebediah. Or, at least, in any of it which you’ve shared with your advisers.”
“That’s because it wasn’t used,” Cayleb said with another of those thin smiles. “Believe me, though, Your Highness. Before the Grand Duke gets back into his rowboat this afternoon, there’s not going to be much doubt in his mind about what he’s just signed. He can call them whatever he wants, but I don’t think he’s going to be left in any uncertainty over what they really are . . . or what’s likely to happen to him if he should chance to violate them.”
“That doesn’t sound extraordinarily ‘diplomatic’ to me, Your Majesty,” Merlin observed. The emperor looked at him, and the seijin shrugged. “Not that I have any problem with the desired outcome,” he added. “Personally, I think reasoned dialogue and fair-minded negotiation are overrated at times. I mean, yes, they have their place, and they can work. But sometimes a good, hard punch in the mouth is more effective than any number of diplomatic notes. Well, more enjoyable, anyway. And from all I’ve heard, this sounds to me like it might be one of those times.”

About Eric Flint

Author and Editor
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42 Responses to BY HERESIES DISTRESSED — snippet 30

  1. RobertHuntingdon says:

    *sigh*… back to the cruelly short snippets that only give you an (admittedly quite) enjoyable nibble instead of a good-sized bite to really chew on…

    July can’t come fast enough.


  2. Bret Hooper says:

    Gunboat diplomacy @ its best!


  3. Bret Hooper says:

    @2: & I agree fully with RH.

  4. Bret Hooper says:

    oops! that should have been @1

  5. Karina says:

    Fun little scene. I wonder if we’ll see any Nahrman’s reflections on any ‘oddities’ regarding Merlin.

  6. Mike says:

    I’m getting rather bored with this. I guess the subtitle should have been: “or how Cayleb and Merlin take the Grand Tour of the islands while they allow as much time as possible for Hector to prepare his defenses against them”.

  7. Bret Hooper says:

    @6: But Mike, picking off one of Hektor’s allies doesn’t exactly leave Hektor in a stronger position overall, does it?

  8. Elim Garak says:

    I hope Nahrmahn sticks around throughout the story, and doesn’t get pushed off to a secondary plotline. He brightens up the situation so much. Ambiguity is much more interesting. Not to mention that he appears to be the smartest guy there – with the possible exception of Merlin.

  9. Summercat says:


    I think Nahrmahn is perhaps one of the smartest men native to Safehold – and if we stripped Merlin of all his powers, I know who I would bet on.

    And it wouldn’t be the successor to Nimue Alban.

  10. Alistair says:

    Hi Mike

    I guess from previous statements you are getting a bit “passed DW” so that has probably coloured your comments a little here but the simple truth is that Cayleb and Friends had to go Zebedah first before moving on Corsinde both to secure there rear and as 7 noted to eliminate Hecktors Allies. Any other Move I would argue would be sub-optimal.

    Plus I for one are looking forward to the chat that we are about to see

  11. Virgil says:

    This kind of writing does not lend itself to good snipping. It slow, its subtle and easy to lose the point of. Imean we have spent over ten snippets getting from one island to another with no real action.

  12. saladin says:

    well we are in snippet territory
    so everything seems slooooow
    in the books this few pages will fly by and you´ll get your action in a second *g*
    beside i actually like this coloration of the world/nations :-)

  13. Bob G says:

    It seems to me that the difference between a 300 page book and a 600 page book is the fleshing out of all the details. One of the things I like about DW’s writing is that he _has_ thought out the details.

    I agree with @5. Having Nahrmahn in such close proximity to Ceyleb and Merlin together will undoubtedly allow him to figure out that the relationship isn’t quite what the public story says, and he will quickly realize that Merlin is much more than a mere bodyguard. Which could be very good, or it could be very bad – especially if Nahrmahn realizes things before Sharlayn does.

    I also agree with @1. Especially since this isn’t Baen, where we could buy the first third of the book by now.

  14. E says:

    “The Devil is in the details” Robert Jordan would say, and Stephen R. Donaldson too for that matter.

    Nahrman seems the kindof man who would be able to stomach the true history of humanity, and possibly even point out a few anomalous organizations or societies that exist in his own country.

  15. evilauthor says:

    13> Having Nahrmahn in such close proximity to Ceyleb and Merlin together will
    13> undoubtedly allow him to figure out that the relationship isn’t quite what the
    13> public story says, and he will quickly realize that Merlin is much more than
    13> a mere bodyguard.

    Hell, Nahrmahn might actually figure out that Merlin is the real source of Charis’ super intel. After all, Charis only started displaying signs of super spying capability after Merlin showed up, starting with Nahrmahn’s own assassination attempt.

  16. Peter Z says:

    @15. The only thing stopping Narmahn from already connecting the dots with Merlin and Charis’ techno leaps was his relationship with Cayleb’s cousin the Grand Duke. Hektor’s people had a better view of Charis’ military operations and they were fiendishly close to putting the pieces together (or at least Hektor was). Had Narmahn’s sources flipped with Hektor’s, I don’t doubt he would have twigged on to Merlin by now if not before Dracos Sound.

    Also, since Narmahn seems to like Sharleyan more than Cayleb, he will go to her with any suspicions about Merlin. That may well lead to a denoument Cayleb has wanted all along…..hmmmm. I wonder if Cayleb and Merlin planned it this way? Give Narmahn to opportunity to figure it out and take the decision away from those doddards of the Monastary of St. Zhermaine(pardon the allusion).


  17. DouglasWM says:

    “It did give him an excuse to ask the “seijin” questions. However.”
    It seems to me that this should be: “It did give him an excuse to ask the “seijin” questions, however.”

  18. JN says:

    This is a small bite, but they want to make sure it does not come up again. Clearly the Grand Duke intends to play both sides of the game, and the purpose of the visit is to lock him in his cabin.


  19. E says:

    A nice, comfortable cabin with a view, bay area for swimming, and possibly half a million subjects in the area. Cayleb conducting the negotiations on his ship is smart, and if he wraps things up in a day or two and heads to Corisande he’ll deny Hektor the opportunity to use his agents in Zebediah.

  20. laclongquan says:

    You think a 600 pages book is big, you should try your teeth on one of those Robert Jordan’s tomes. Heh. Sometimes I wish he would just kill off the silly twit , that blonde princess, just so we can have more action. Or the other silly twit, you know, that hyprocryptic so-called childhood girlfriend training to be Aes Sedai. Those two drive me nut. Nuttier.
    The good point of a Weber’s novel is that he didnt use too many threads for story. One main, and several secondaries quickly replaced each other (not co-exist, replace).

  21. robert says:

    @19 laclongquan, “several” secondary threads?
    Have you been following the the unraveling of the Harrington series into what seems like one thread for every human in the universe, plus one for the treecats (Storm From the Shadows sequel will do them, I bet)? I am sure DW is having fun with all those characters to play with, but I am getting lost in time sequencing everything.
    This series almost has too many characters because of the silly spelling of names Weber has devised. I get lost just trying to get the pronunciation right.

  22. Mike says:

    I’ve never read a Robert Jordan book, and have never been tempted to either. But the dude is dead now. How’s he supposed to “kill off the silly twit”?

    This “snippet” format does not create the slow, plodding pace of this story. But it does mercilessly highlight it.

    This Grand Duke fellow, like everyone else except for Charis, no longer has a navy. So how is he supposed to help Hector out, anyway? Whether or not Cayleb stops here and talks to him, surely he will just be sitting back and watching the fight between Hector and Cayleb, hoping they bloody each other enough to give him some advantage.

    And Bob (comment 13), it’s great that the author has thought out all the details. But he doesn’t have to drag us through them, does he?

  23. robert says:

    Mike, the Robert Jordan stuff is now being written by somebody else name of Sanderson. This is what happens when the protagonist outlives the author. However, I agree with you-I never want to start reading Jordan’s stuff. I am too prone to habit-forming series fiction. I was trying to limit myself to Weber’s and Flint’s endless series’. But I’ve failed now that Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are doing Liad for Baen.
    But why is it that Weber is the only one who goes into such excruciating detail WITH THE BAD GUYS?!

  24. Kenny says:

    @20, Yes the Honorverse is expanding into many threads, but at least DW keep it to one or two threads per book.

    Last Robert Jordan book felt like 20 snippets, and very little movement in any given thread

  25. Bewildered says:

    @24 I think was only about a dozen :)

    I agree with 11/12. The text of late has dragged. Interesting but given the delays sloooow. I think it might be easier reading larger but less regular snippets. Or do I mean frequent? Especially given that I do so in my lunchtime at work and that the release schedule seems to be Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday(Monday). Couldn’t it simply be Tuesday or Tuesday and Thursday? That way I could feed my weekly addiction and spend the other 3/4 lunchtimes out and about.

  26. robert says:

    @25 The release schedule here on the West Coast appears to be Mon., Wed., and Fri. Now I am bewildered, too. If you want to see chapters you should look at
    where the snippets are organized by chapter. There are also pre-release chapters of several other (Baen) books, just like on this site, and the forthcoming S.M. Stirling book in the “Change” series, and a bunch of other fun stuff. I can live with the snippets as they are but the rats at Amazon have informed me that the shipping date for my order of this book has been moved to November. By then I can have gotten it out of the public library!

  27. JVC says:

    On Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time the 12th book will be published in November (then there will be 2 more with about 1 year between publication).
    I must say that in my opinion (that of a 39 years old French guy) WOT is the best Fantasy series of all the one I have read (and I mainly read American SF and Fantasy).
    Before his death, Robert Jordan was blogging on ( and a lot of info can be found on that website about the WOT universe.
    After his death, his wife/editor chose Brandon Sanderson to finish the book.
    A very very good choice in my humble opinion because he was a fan of WOT and he his a great writer (read Elantris or the Mistborn Trilogy and you’ll be convinced).
    Brandon Sanderson keep his own blog ( where a lot of info can be found on his books and WOT. He even offer a free draft of a book to be published in a few days called Warbreaker (

    On David Weber, I bought OAR because I wanted to see what he had to offer after reading his collaborative book with Eric Flint in the 1632 series.
    I must say that I am quite pleased with what I have read so far.

    On the 1632 series I must say that I love it.
    I have always loved anything to do with time travel and the change in the timeline it brings and that series fulfill all my wishes.
    I love the fact that a lot of people bring their idea and develop part of the series through the Grantville Gazette (I am a CoC Member of since April 2007).

  28. Chuck S. says:

    13-It’s hell to get a book over 125,000 words past an editor today unless it is by an author with a track record that almost guarantees sales. Go figure, twice the paper, twice the ink, nearly twice the shipping weight and still won’t sell much above 25$ retail, with nearly 50% of the copies going for 17-20 at the discount retailers.

    23-I think well detailed bad guys are the key to a good book. The stronger and more realistic the bad guys, the more realistic the challenge for the good guys-after all, the bad guys are the challenge. Without them the book becomes a travelogue or a simple narrative that most people can (and will) put down and forget after the first ten pages.

  29. E says:

    I wonder what Weber will do when he finally runs out of local bad guys and has to import new ones from Harchong or Desnair. Can’t see a lot of action for future books if the schism war ends in a peace treaty after Cayleb is done with Corisande and Church Fleet 2. Maybe Weber’s going to be trying his hand at diplomatic books where the looming threat of war is the only thing to keep the pages turning (Harry Turtledove). That pretty much explains BSRA in a nutshell without the looming bit… I might actually appreciate a time-skip for a hundred years or so if he wraps up the Merlin-Ahrmahk saga in the next three books…

  30. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, why is Amazon claiming that it will be shipped in Novemeber.

    Every on-line site I’ve checked says it is a July 7th release.

  31. Drak @30:

            I was just at amazon, and they have July 7th too.

  32. JVC says: gave me the following estimate on my order:

    Date de livraison estimée : 3 août 2009 – 4 août 2009
    Date d’envoi estimée pour ces articles : 30 juillet 2009
    “By Heresies Distressed”
    David Weber; Relié; EUR 21,77
    Vendu par : Amazon EU S.a.r.L.

    Which means that they intend to send it on July 30, 2009 and that I should receive it on August 3 or 4, 2009.

  33. Paul says:

    I have this book on pre-order, and it shows a 7/30/09 release for me.

  34. robert says:

    @30, 31, 32, 33: Yes. Amazon shows July 7th. But here is what they did to me, after emailing to say they were doing it:
    Items not yet shipped:
    Shipping estimate: November 9, 2009

    * 1 of: By Heresies Distressed
    Sold by:, LLC
    * 1 of: Torch of Freedom
    Sold by:, LLC

    So I will put a hold on it at the local public library and if it comes before Nov. 9th or so, I will read the library copy and then re-read my copy after it comes. You are all just more fortunate than I, I guess.

  35. robert says:

    Oh, before I get more reasons why, let me say that this order is in 3 parts with part of it shipped on April 1st, another part due to ship on Sept. 14th and finally the last part on Nov. 9th. So combining shipments had nothing to do with it as far as I can see.

  36. Drak Bibliophile says:


    I’m holding off of ordering the hardcover since I want the ebook as well as a dead tree version.

    TOR charging HC price for an ebook encourages me to wait for the paperback.

    Hopefully, they’ll have a more reasonable price for the ebook.

  37. Paul says:

    Heh. When I preordered this book, I bundled it with a movie to get over the $25 Super Saver floor. However, that was before the book date got moved up. My movie shipped when that happened.

  38. robert says:

    @36 Drak, TOR charges the same price for their ebooks as they do for the hardcover. And the unabridged CD is $60.
    Check in at
    Maybe the Kindle edition will be less, if McMillan/TOR gives Amazon the right to publish it in that format. And the paperback will not be out for at least another year if there is a 4th volume in this series (ha,ha). Who can wait so long. But in about 6 months you ought to be able to get a “like new” used copy via Amazon for about $9 or $10.

    I wish I knew why Baen isn’t publishing this series.

  39. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, there has been serious talk for sometime now that TOR books will be publishing ebooks thru Webscriptions. The last we heard they were waiting for the paper work to be signed.

    As for why Baen isn’t publishing this series, apparently he got offered more money from another publisher but Jim Baen got in contact with TOR that resulted in a better offer from TOR.

  40. robert says:

    @39 That makes sense but TOR and Baen seem to be under different corporate umbrellas I think. Hard to know these days but Baen is not in McMillans list of publishers and TOR is.
    In any event, I think this will be released before it ever gets into webscriptions.
    Thanks for the info, though.

  41. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Jim Baen was close friends with the head guy at TOR. In fact, he had helped Jim Baen start Baen Books.

  42. Bewildered says:

    @26 – It’s a matter of geography. When the snippets get released (1am according to the top) it is about 3pm here – Too late for lunch :)

    It’s not that I need chapters so much as larger snippets 1/8 etc of a scene is too small a snippet :) Larger sections less often would be easier.

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