A cotton silk plantation,
Barony of Dairwyn,
League of Corisande

“So, they’re finally on the move,” Sir Koryn Gahrvai murmured.

He stood on the shady veranda of the cotton silk-planter’s house his staff had commandeered for his headquarters. The house — obviously that of a wealthy man — was finely furnished, if on the small side for the headquarters of an entire army. On the other hand, a back corner of his mind reflected, his “army” was on the small side for anything one of the great mainland realms like Harchong or Siddarmark would have used that particular noun to describe.

And at least Cayleb’s army seems to be even smaller than mine is. That’s something, at any rate.

“How reliable are these reports, Alyk?” he asked in a louder voice, looking up at the handsome, splendidly dressed man standing beside him.

Gahrvai had known Sir Alyk Ahrthyr, the Earl of Windshare, since boyhood. They’d been good friends for many years, and there was no one Gahrvai would rather have at his side in a fight. Unfortunately, for all of his pugnacity and undeniable courage, Windshare wasn’t the most brilliant man Gahrvai had ever met. He took his responsibilities seriously, he had a seemingly boundless store of physical energy, and he was the most superb horseman Gahrvai had ever seen. Give him an enemy across an open field, a saber in his hand, and a troop of cavalry at his back, and he was invincible. He was a little shakier where the reconnaissance and screening aspects of the cavalryman’s profession were concerned, however, and his natural preference when faced by an enemy position was to attack first and figure out what the odds had been for his after-battle report. On the other hand, he’d taken enough hard knocks to be aware of his own weaknesses.

“I think they’re very reliable,” he said now. “My lead regiment’s had them under observation since they left Dairos. We haven’t been able to keep scouting parties operating along their flanks since they headed into the woods, but we’re still falling slowly back in contact with their advance guard. From the route they’ve taken so far, they’re definitely headed for Talbor Pass. And you were right, they don’t seem to have much cavalry of their own.” Windshare sniffed. “If it came down to a straight fight between my troopers and theirs, we’d be done before lunch.”

“But it isn’t going to do that, is it, Alyk?” Gahrvai asked, and Windshare shook his head gloomily.

“Probably not. Although,” the earl brightened noticeably, “if you and Charlz manage to break their formations, my lads and I will be delighted to finish them off for you.”

Gahrvai smiled, but the smile faded into a frown as he considered one, in particular, of the dispatches Windshare’s cavalry screen had sent back to him.

“What do you make of this, Charlz?” he asked the man lounging back in a commandeered chair on the other side of the improvised map table. Gahrvai tapped the offending dispatch with an index finger, and the other man shrugged.

“Pretty much what you do, I expect,” Sir Charlz Doyal said.

He was several years older than Gahrvai or Windshare, and he owed his present position to the fact that he was one of Prince Hektor’s favorites. On the other hand, he’d become one of the prince’s favorites because of his penchant for accomplishing difficult tasks. The tall, rangy, dark-haired Doyal was more noted for indolence than physical hardihood, but he had all of the intellectual sharpness Windshare often seemed to lack. His role as Gahrvai’s senior artillery officer suited him well, and between the two of them, he and Windshare normally formed a remarkably effective sounding board for Gahrvai’s strategy sessions.

He was also, however, unfortunately fond of the occasional cryptic comment, and Gahrvai made a rude gesture in his direction.

“Perhaps you’d care to be a bit more specific?” he suggested.

“It’s exactly what your father discussed with us,” Doyal said with a shrug. “We went for the short-barreled guns; from what Alyk’s scouts are telling us, the Charisians went for longer tubes. It doesn’t sound like their field guns are built to exactly the same pattern as naval guns; the barrel length is too short for that, assuming the scouts’ estimates are accurate. But they’re longer than ours are, and that means they’re going to outrange us, that’s for sure. Whether that range advantage is going to make up for how much lighter their shot are going to be is more than I could tell you at this point, though. There’s simply no way to know before we start actually shooting at one another, unfortunately.”

“You’re right; that is what I was thinking,” Gahrvai admitted.

“Koryn, I know I always prefer going straight ahead and damn the consequences,” Windshare said. “And I know that more than once I’ve managed to land myself up to my arse in slash lizards by doing just that. But I’ve got to say, they’re coming to us on our terms. I think we’ve got to hit them, and hit them hard.”

Gahrvai nodded. Windshare’s awareness of his own weaknesses, as well as his strengths, was one of the better things about him. And he was right — his tendency to charge straight ahead had led him to the very brink of disaster more than once. Not just on fields of battle, either, and Gahrvai’s lips tried to twitch into a smile despite the seriousness of the current moment as he recalled some of the dashing earl’s other misadventures. Windshare’s rakish good looks, added to his . . . impetuosity and taste for the ladies, had led to at least one duel (fortunately without any fatalities on either side) and generally kept him in constant hot water for as long as anyone could remember. Indeed, there’d been occasions in their shared youth when he’d very nearly taken Gahrvai into amorous disaster with him, as well.

But this time Alyk had a point, Gahrvai thought. The whole reason for advancing this far from the Dark Hills was to attack the Charisian invaders as quickly and as vigorously as he could and, if possible, drive them straight back into the sea.

Of course, another reason for attacking them is to find out just how badly we’ve underestimated whatever new capabilities they’ve developed for their Marines, as well as their navy, he reflected.

He looked back down at the map. He’d advanced with no more than a third of his total force, and he wondered again if he’d been wise to do so. The problem was that the roads through the Dark Hill Mountains weren’t very good. That was especially true of the smaller, flanking roads, and while the royal highway itself wasn’t too bad, there was a distinct limit to the number of troops which could be moved rapidly along it without using those flanking roads. Worse, that cramped cluster of roads was his only really reliable supply line, as well, now that Dairos was firmly in Charisian hands. He could probably have gotten a larger percentage of his forces forward, but only at the expense of making it extraordinarily difficult to keep them fed and supplied with ammunition and weapons once he had them deployed.

Not to mention just how ugly things could get if that many men suddenly found themselves trying to retreat simultaneously. He gave a mental shudder as he imagined the scenes of chaos, congestion, and panic which were all too likely to ensue under those circumstances. But does worrying about what would happen if I have to retreat mean I’m going into battle already half-defeated in my own mind? Is thinking about it prudence or cowardice?

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33 Responses to BY HERESIES DISTRESSED — Snippet 50

  1. Bret Hooper says:

    Thinking about it is definitely prudence, but has he thought of the possibility that the Charisians know about Windshare’s scouts? Who is going to be surprised, and how badly? We’ll soon find out, or at least I will, because Amazon has shipped my copy and it should arrive in today’s mail! Yippee!


  2. God bless enemies who think before taking a swan dive into the meat grinder. It makes the story so much more interesting.

  3. Karina says:

    While they think that they are fighting on their terms, they are really fighting on Caylebs terms thanks to Merlin’s snarks. I presume that this guy would be bugged.

  4. NewAgeOfPower says:

    i now have read my physical copy of By Heresies Distressed 4 times. It is an amazingly well written work.

  5. D says:

    @4 Another 3 weeks before it’s released here.

  6. Lars says:

    oh my gosh.. stop teasing, snippets are cruel enough

  7. Chuck S. says:

    Recieved my copy from Amazon yesterday. Too busy to get more than 1/2 way through. I’m beginning to think DW is trying to imitate Verne-lots of detail and characterization expands a hundred page book into a four hundred page book. The detail is great, well written and internally consistent, but the story is being dragged down and suffocated by swarms of killer fluff.

    Still a good read, but, IMHO, not as good as it could be.


  8. Maggie says:

    Ummm. Does this remind anyone of Balaclava??

  9. DouglasWM says:

    “He stood on the shady veranda of the cotton silk-planter’s house his staff had commandeered for his headquarters.”

    Shouldn’t that be “He stood on the shady veranda of the cotton-silk planter’s house his staff had commandeered for his headquarters”?

  10. Peter Z says:

    @8 Which battle, Maggie? The Erol Flynn version or what actually happened? Sir Alyk Ahrthyr could be Flynn’s double as described here.

  11. Jake says:

    i agree; it was fun to read but not enough actually happens between the first page and the last……

  12. Jake says:

    i shouldn’t say ‘not enough’; i meant to say that i wish ‘more happened’

  13. robert says:

    @10 I hope she doesn’t mean the George MacDonald Fraser version.

    I don’t know about Balaclava. The Russians withdrew before the battle actually finished, right?

  14. Peter Z says:

    @13 Perhaps the George Bernard Shaw version as alluded to in “Arms and the Man”? No, that would be too farcical.

  15. Maggie says:

    @10,13 & 14: Actually, I was thinking about the actual battle. There seems to be so much concentration on guns, guns GUNS.
    “There is the enemy! There are your guns!” Will Raglan and Cardigan get their wires crossed? Will Nolan live this time and tell us what he actually meant? Will Maggie get her copy of BHD and stop driving Peter and Robert to throw emoticon boots at her virtual head?

  16. Peter Z says:

    @15 Maggie, your posts are a pure joy! If the arrival of your copy means fewer such posts, I anticipate the event with very mixed emotions and their attendant emoticons. :-)


  17. Ian Darley says:

    With Merlin’s electronic spies I can’t help but think that Gahrvai is seeing just what Cayleb wants him to see. I suspect that road Gahrvai is so worried about is about to get cut…

  18. When I complained previously about abbreviations, I was referring to commenters who did not spell out book titles, not about abbreviations in the text, of which there are very few.

  19. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Ian, just remember that Merlin may ‘see all’ but acting on that knowledge is much harder. Arranging for Gahrvai to be fooled would be difficult and would IMO require Merlin to ‘see the future’.

  20. Maggie says:

    Bless you, Peter, and all who sail in you!

  21. Summercat says:


    I am now sick from my ride in the SS Peter.

  22. Peter Z says:

    Sorry Summercat, we J Class racing schooners are know for our speed, not necessarily for our placid ride.

  23. Bret Hooper says:

    looking ahead a bit, does Kynt Clareyk = Clark Kent?


  24. Peter Z says:

    @23 Yes, if you recall in Off Armaggedon Reef his exec was named Luys Layn (sp?).

  25. TimC says:

    Since I expect the snippets will end soon now the book is published (tho not here in the UK) Would anyone like to speculate on the longer future of the series?
    ie- will it be in Cayleb’s lifetime that the Group of 4 fall and the truth about Langhore is revealed?
    How will Merlin destroy the Rakurai?
    Will Merlin come back as Nimue ? (incidentally i think the word Athrawes is Welsh for a female teacher!)
    Will they get into space in permitted vehicles (pournelle’s King John’s spaceship anyone?)
    How will they defeat the Gbaba?

  26. Drak Bibliophile says:

    TimC, the last snippet will be the Wednesday one.

    As for the future books, the Gang of Four may fall within Cayleb’s lifespan but from everything David Weber has said and what is mentioned later in the book, it may be generations before the truth about Langehorne comes out.

    There are too many good people who believe in the Holy Writ for the truth to come out at this time. If it is revealed too soon, these people will honestly see it as the “Words of the Evil One”.

    Also, David Weber has said that this series is only about the rebirth of Safehold. The renewed war against the Gbaba will be a seperate series.

    By the way, I suspect that sometime in this series Merlin will ‘die’ and be replaced by a female Seijin. She might not call herself Nimue.

    Based on what I’ve heard, Nimue may have to take several identies over the years. It will take several lifetimes to complete her task.

  27. John Driver says:


    I think you’re probably right about Merlin having to eventually “die”. I suppose he could retire and disappear, and it might be nice to have the option of resurrecting the role if the need should crop up, but I’m inclined to think that Merlin/Nimue would probably prefer to cement the notion that Merlin was just an ordinary seijin. If the possibility of his being a demon never even occurs to anyone, so much the better. I’m also inclined to think that Nimue’s next role will be female to further cement the notion that she’s a completely different person. However, I don’t think she’ll be a seijin. A female warrior might be too radical a concept for most Safeholdians to wrap their minds around. Nimue is trying to not attract attention, such a role would be about as inconspicuous as a nearby star going supernova. That’s not to say that such a role wouldn’t work. It would also be useful in promoting the idea of equality of the sexes and shifting social parameters to something more suited to the innovating, inquiring mindset that needs to be fostered. I’ve thought about the possibility that Merlin might shift a bit sooner to a female caregiver/nanny/teacher role for Cayleb and Sharleyan’s children. Such a shift wouldn’t take place until the current crises have been resolved to the point where Merlin doesn’t need to play such a continual and active role. Nimue’s next role would probably include her seijin blue eyes, and she could be the niece or cousin of Merlin. Of course David Weber could surprise us all and do something completely different. He’s done it before. Oh well, I look forward to seeing what he has in store for us. I just wish it wasn’t so long between books.

    John Driver

  28. robert says:

    @26 So this series is, as the very beginning of it was, really about Nimue. And the follow-on series of the defeat of the Gbaba has the ring of the series he did way back with Steve White; Insurrection, In Death Ground, etc.

  29. Drak Bibliophile says:

    John, IIRC not all seijin were warriors. Many were teachers. So Merlin’s ‘replacement’ may be a female seijin who is mostly a teacher/seer not a warrior.

  30. Peter Z says:

    @26 and @29 So form King Arthur we go to Mary Poppins?


  31. Robert Krawitz says:

    @26, there are already a number of insiders who know what (not just who) Merlin really is, and Sharleyan is obviously going to follow, and probably Narhmann. I could see the next iteration being female, but the insiders will certainly know very well what’s going on.

    @28, 1632 was originally supposed to be just one little piece of the Assiti Shard universe…but with just one mainline exception (and a handful of slush pile partial exceptions), it has stayed completely in the 1632 setting. It wouldn’t entirely surprise me if we never see the Gbaba again.

    I wonder if the Wylsynn brothers (who already seem to have something up their sleeve) will figure out that Merlin isn’t quite what he seems to be. Surely they know about the seijin in Zion…

  32. E says:

    I wonder if Merlin’s example might not prompt a few Safeholdians to move to the Mountains of Light… it would certainly be inconvenient to have tourists poking around near the most advanced cave humanity has… I don’t think they’ll be able to get in if Merlin left the cave full of nitrogen, but it would be funny to see more “I trained at the Mountains of Light, ergo, I’m a Seijin” characters and charlitans pop up.

  33. Bret Hooper says:

    @24: That was Zhim Layn, not Luys, but thank you anyway.


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