A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 02

Eric got me the snippets to post.

A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 02

Duchy of Eastshare,
Kingdom of Chisholm

“So,” General Sir Kynt Clareyk, Imperial Charisian Army, late Brigadier Clareyk of the Imperial Charisian Marines and recently knighted and ennobled as the Baron of Green Valley, said as he poured wine into his guest’s cup, “what do you think, Seijin Merlin?”

“Of what, My Lord?” the tall, blue-eyed Imperial Guardsman in the black and gold of the House of Ahrmahk asked mildly.

He picked up his cup and sipped appreciatively. Clareyk’s taste in wine had always been good, and his promotion hadn’t changed the ex-Marine in that respect. Or in any other respect that Merlin Athrawes could see. He was still the same competent officer he’d always been, with the same willingness to roll up his sleeves and dig into a new assignment. The tent in which they currently sat while icy autumn rain pounded down against its (nominally) waterproofed canvas canopy was evidence of that. The day after tomorrow would be Cayleb and Sharleyan Ahrmahk’s first anniversary, which also made it the anniversary of the creation of the Empire of Charis, and Merlin couldn’t help comparing the chill, wet misery outside Green Valley’s tent to the brilliant sunshine, tropical heat, and flowers of that wedding day.

The difference was . . . pronounced, and while Green Valley might be a mere baron, and one of the Empire’s most recently created peers to boot (he’d held his new title for less than four five-days, after all), it was no secret Emperor Cayleb and Empress Sharleyan both thought very highly of him. In fact, it was no secret that he’d been hauled back to Chisholm from the newly conquered (more or less) Princedom of Corisande precisely because of how highly they regarded him. Given all of that, one might reasonably have assumed that a man with his connections could have found comfortable quarters in the nearby city of Maikelberg rather than ending up stuck under canvas with winter coming on quickly.

And a northern winter, at that, Merlin thought dryly, glancing at the large, dripping spot in one corner of the tent where its roof’s theoretical waterproofing had proved unequal to the heavy rain. He’s a southern boy, when all’s said and done, and he’s not going to enjoy winter in Chisholm one bit. The rain’s bad enough, but there’s worse coming. Snow? What’s that?!

Which, as Merlin understood perfectly well, was the real reason Green Valley had taken up residence in this tent instead of a luxurious townhouse, or at least a comfortable room in one of the city’s more respectable inns. An awful lot of other Charisian ex-Marines were about to spend a Chisholmian winter under less than ideal conditions, and Green Valley wouldn’t be moving out of his tent until the last man under his command had been provided with dry, warm space of his own in the barracks being hastily thrown up.

“‘Of what,’ is it?” the general repeated now, sitting back in his folding camp chair beside the cast-iron stove which was doing its best — successfully, at the moment — to maintain a fairly comfortable temperature inside the tent. “Now, let me see . . . what could I possibly have been asking about? Hmmm . . . .”

He frowned in obvious, difficult thought, scratching his chin with his eyes screwed half- shut, and Merlin chuckled. There weren’t all that many people on the planet of Safehold who felt comfortable enough with the fearsome Seijin Merlin to give him grief, and he treasured the ones who did.

“All right, My Lord!” He acknowledged defeat with a grin, then let the grin fade slowly. “Actually,” he went on in a considerably more serious tone, “I’ve been impressed. You and Duke Eastshare seem to be managing the integration process even more smoothly and quickly than Their Majesties had anticipated. It’s my impression that you’re basically comfortable with the emerging command relationships, as well.”

His tone made the final sentence a question, and Green Valley snorted.

“I’d expected a somewhat more . . . visionary comment out of you, Merlin,” he said. “In fact, I’m a little surprised His Majesty felt it was necessary to send you all the way up here to look things over with your own eyes, as it were.”

Merlin managed not to wince, although that was coming to the point with a vengeance. On the other hand, it was a reasonable enough observation, given that Green Valley was one of the relatively small number of people who knew Seijin Merlin was far more than merely Emperor Cayleb Ahrmahk’s personal armsman and bodyguard.

Over the last few years, virtually everyone in what had become the Empire of Charis had learned that all of the old fables and fairytales about the legendary seijin warrior-monks were not only true, but actually understated their lethality. There was absolutely no question in anyone’s mind that Seijin Merlin was the most deadly bodyguard any Charisian monarch had ever possessed. Given the number of assassination attempts he’d thwarted, and not just on the emperor, it was no wonder he was kept constantly at Cayleb’s back, watching over him, protecting him both in the council chamber and on the field of battle.

But what Green Valley knew — and very few of his fellow Charisians even suspected — was that Cayleb and Sharleyan had another and very special reason for keeping Merlin so close.

The seijin had visions. He could see and hear far distant events, know what was happening thousands of miles away even as it happened. His ability to literally sit in on the war councils and political deliberations of Charis’ enemies was a priceless advantage for the beleaguered empire, and his role as Cayleb’s bodyguard was a perfect cover. He truly was the deadly and efficient guardian everyone thought he was, but that very deadliness provided ample reason for his permanent proximity to Cayleb and Sharleyan. After all, not even a seijin could protect someone from an assassin if he wasn’t there to do the protecting, now could he? And so any potentially suspicious souls understood exactly why Captain Athrawes, with his eyes of “unearthly seijin blue,” was constantly at the emperor’s elbow, and it obviously had nothing at all to do with visions. Merlin was a bodyguard, not an adviser and an oracle. Any village idiot could figure that much out!

Green Valley knew better than that. Indeed, he’d come to suspect that Merlin was as much mentor as adviser. That most of the radical innovations which had provided the margin — so far — for Charis’ survival in the face of its enemies’ overwhelming numerical advantages had come from the seijin’s “suggestions” to the Charisians who had actually developed them into workable propositions. The baron suspected that for the excellent reason that he’d been one of those Charisians. It had been Green Valley, as a major in the Royal Charisian Marines, who’d played the lead role in developing revolutionary new infantry tactics built around the field artillery and rifled flintlock muskets which had “just happened” to appear in Charis shortly after one Merlin Athrawes’ arrival. He’d worked closely with Merlin in the process of accomplishing that task, and they’d worked even more closely together, in many ways, during the Corisande campaign. In fact, the victory which had won Green Valley his title (and his knighthood) and sealed Prince Hektor of Corisande’s defeat had been possible only because Merlin had revealed his ability to see visions to him.

And, so, yes — Baron Green Valley knew far more than the vast majority of his fellow subjects about Merlin Athrawes. But what he didn’t know — what Merlin devoutly hoped he didn’t even suspect — was how much more Merlin truly was.

I’d really like to get him added to the inner circle, the seijin reflected, and I know Cayleb and Sharleyan both agree with me, too. In fact, I think we have to get him added. It simply doesn’t make sense not to bring him all the way inside, and I don’t think we have to worry about any crises of religious conscience on his part.

That last thought really did almost make him wince, given its direct bearing on the reason he was here.

“Their Majesties actually sent me for several reasons, My Lord,” he said. “One of them, in many ways probably the most important, was to let me evaluate your progress — yours and Duke Eastshare’s, I mean — firsthand. When I can actually ask questions, maybe even make a few suggestions in His Majesty’s name. It’s hard to do that if all you’re doing is watching a vision.”

“I can see where that would be true,” Green Valley agreed. He didn’t seem at all upset by the notion of Merlin’s “evaluating” his progress in his new assignment, the seijin noted.

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38 Responses to A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 02

  1. Robert Woodman says:

    The newly-minted Baron Green Valley seems like an all-around competent soldier and commander. I like the way his character has developed over the previous books. That said, though, this snippet doesn’t seem to move the story forward. All we learn is that Brigadier General Klareyk has been promoted to a full General, knighted as Baron Green Valley, and moved to the Army. That’s important, but the rest of what follows is just informational filler, IMO, that we could have deduced ourselves.

    I’m already salivating for the book to come out in print, though!

  2. Karina says:

    I like these informational things as this one helped me remember who he was and I suspect it’s setting things up for some revelations in the next snippet. I also like some of these quiter moments when we see inside the head of other characters. I like knowing more about how people are thinking and feeling about Merlin and the changes that are happening in their world. Learning about the tech advances that are happening is interesting, but the changes in the people are more interesting to me.

  3. We are in chapter the Second.

    There are a stack of readers who picked this up as their *first* book,and need to be brought up to speed on what is going on.

  4. SoSD says:

    Honestly, I’ve always found the inevitable “let’s explain things to new readers/old readers who may have forgotten what’s going on” bits at the beginning of each new novel in a series to be rather tiresome.

    I am left wishing that the author had provided a section at the beginning of each work for new readers or those who wished for a refresher to quickly fill them in, and not try to cram all the requisite information in to the narrative. It’s not unusual for the “let’s recap!” sections filled with internal monologues and so on to be the worst part of an otherwise excellent novel.

    A bit of a pet peeve, perhaps.

  5. Bob G says:

    Also remember that the early introduction is necessary for someone who picks this book up without reading the 3 preceding books. While I don’t recommend that, the introduction at least fills in some of the context and lets people get enough into the story to decide to get the book (or all the books).

  6. Peter Z says:

    A speculative epiphany or simply a brain-fart has just struck me. I leave it to you all to decide.

    Is superman (Kynt Cleryk) Merlin’s next cover? Merlin has to go away at some time. He is simply too visible. Could it be that Nimue will stay around as a woman, perhaps as the Baroness Green Valley? We know Nimue thinks he is cute and this exchange cements that Nimue also finds him admirable, will the relationship progress? If so, how this particular twist will be interesting indeed.


  7. efg567 says:

    this is a great start. thank GOD febuary is a short month.

  8. Robert Krawitz says:

    This is a classic David Weber infodump — he does this all the time in the Honorverse.

  9. justdave says:

    you’ll always get a fair amount of summary material in the opening chapter(s) providing a brief review to bring those who haven’t read the previous books up to speed

    from what I’ve seen of the publishing schedule I’ll be starting a reread of the whole series the middle of next month to include the mmpb of BHD which is supposed to be available 1 mar, looks like I’ll be collecting them in pb as I refuse to pay Tor’s price for the e-book and won’t touch a DRM copy regardless of price

    baen leads the way!!!!

  10. robert says:

    @6 Peter, are you forgetting that she/he is a PICA? The PICA Nimue may think he is “cute” but if Green Valley wants an heir, especially now that he is a Baron, forget it!

    @4 Even if a separate Introduction were provided, you’d read it anyway. What is annoying about it is that it is done as part of the narrative instead of “Previously…” which would be much more useful to everyone.

    But let’s see where this meeting is going and what bearing it has on the happenings in snippet 1. Duh!

  11. It is inapparent to me that it has been established that PICAs are sterile. Does someone remember the textev on this point? Using ultratech to arrange for an heir may be entirely manageable.

  12. Drak Bibliophile says:

    George, it is an assumption with no text evidence (so far) but is IMO a reasonable one.

    PICAs were designed for dangerous activities and would be unlikely to be designed to “tube a child”.

    For that matter, it is unlikely that any of Nimue’s original body is around for a sample of ‘her’ DNA to be available.

    Now it is remotely possible that a device in Nimue’s cave could exist for carrying a child to term, but there would still be too many questions to be answered if “Nimue” tried to fake bearing a child.

    By the way, this question came up much earlier when people were trying to ‘hook up’ Nimue and Cayleb.

    Finally, mild spoiler.


    Later in the snippets there will be a conversation about Nimue/Merlin not being able to have a child.

    Nimue/Merlin comments that she can’t.

  13. Olegreyowl says:

    @ Robert, Concerning Nimue’s possible lack of reproductive equipment please remember she has a fully functional medical sickbay in her cave to call upon. Perhaps some “tubing” equipment could be used. Not that I think that is probable in the story line but with DW anything is possible. :)

  14. Peter Z says:

    Sterile or not, can the speculative prospective couple not adopt? After all DW would have first hand knowledge about adoption. The only reason I focussed on Merlin’s next incarnation being female is that no one without knowledge of his/her nature would ever guess. If he returns as another male, suspicions would arise.

    In an case DW is probably beginning to devise Merlin’s exit and return strategy. Mine was simply the first bit of speculation on how DW will accomplish this.


  15. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Peter Z, there has been tons of speculation about Merlin’s exit and return.

    It started with the first Safehold novel.

    I’m one of the people who has thought that the new “Seijin” will be female.

    IMO David Weber ‘set up’ the possible ‘sex change’ by his ‘immortal Seijin’ being a female who takes a male form.

    I suspect he believed that the readers would accept a female character who changes into a male more than the readers would accept a male character who changes into a female character.

  16. robert says:

    @15 Drak, let us give the readers some credit. Females playing males or posing as males are common enough in literature, theater and opera. Shakespeare did it, Mozart/DaPonte did it in Marriage of Figaro, as well as Strauss in Der Rosenkavalier, and, and…
    But the reverse can only happen when Merlin says “time to go” however he/she manages it. Then a female seijin could appear, to Cayleb’s and Sharly’s great grandchildren.

  17. Peter Z says:

    I do recall that now, Drak, mea culpa.

    I just wanted to suggest that in her next incarnation, Nimue may not be another Seijin at all. Instead some woman may rise from obscurity to make enormous contributions to the Charisian cause. Next time it may be a man and so on and so forth. It seems more plausible to have remarkable individuals sprouting like grass from fertile soil where ever Charisian values take hold, than to have an unending line of superhuman warrior monks (male or female) appear out of nowhere to serve the Charisian throne. The latter situation simply oozes supernatural influence.

    Since Charis probably has a greater proportion of its common citizens rise from obscurity to prominance, Nimue would be the most striking example of a not too uncommon phenomena. An example which may inspire yet others to repeat such a rise and create a reinforcing ethos where anyone can rise from rags to riches with enough effort.


  18. Chris B says:

    This is the first time I have posted on here and I have read many different snippets from past books.I have always been a big fan of DW and I really liked the first of the Safehold books. I’ve suppected after his 2nd (safehold) book and now the start of his 3rd, that this is going to be a very long series of books. I mean, he (seijin) has a whole planet to make his way through before defeating the temple Zars and ULTIMATELY getting the human race, back into space. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 or 20 books to a series, I would still buy and read each one.

  19. hank says:

    has anyone considered that the next appearance of Merlin/Niume say, for arguments sake, 100 years or so from “now” might not even be in Charis? The hot action on moving Safehold forward to meet the gabada threat might be elsewhere by then…

  20. Jerry says:

    I would think that coming back will require a much more carefully prepared background in order for him/her to accomplish a lot. Rumors of Merlin and his abilities will survive long after he “leaves”. Also, the new “Merlin” would still have to be a formidable person in order to defend him/herself. Seijin makes so much of that easy, including a lot less preparation.

    We also have yet to hear from/about the other 212 anomalies!


  21. Robert Krawitz says:

    By the time Merlin leaves the scene, Charis may be advanced enough that he can take on an entirely different role. Perhaps some kind of research scientist or even (highly placed) technician might work.

  22. Damon says:

    I wanted to thank Eric & David for providing these snippets in advance of the book publishing!! Just in case David is wondering if it is worth the effort, based upon the snippets from the last book I went out and bought all three then available.

    I look forward to reading all of the rest of the snippets until the book comes out. Thanks again.

  23. robert says:

    Seems to me that everything depends on what happens with the current bad church, the war, the space-based weapon platform, etc. We have no inkling of any specific future plan that Merlin/Nimue has devised, so I expect that flexibility in the face of change is what will drive her toward her ultimate goal. She has picked the best option available to get to her goal, and if that fails (ha, ha) she will have to start over. If it succeeds she will figure out the next thing to do when it is time to do it.

  24. evilauthor says:

    It occurs to me that if some descendent of Cayleb and Sharly happens to be a tyrant and makes it to the throne… well Merlin could find him/herself FIGHTING a declining Empire of Charis no matter how much it pains him/her to do it.

  25. Peter Z says:

    “In fact, I think we have to get him added. It simply doesn’t make sense not to bring him all the way inside, and I don’t think we have to worry about any crises of religious conscience on his part.

    That last thought really did almost make him wince, given its direct bearing on the reason he was here.”

    So, why is Merlin there? Its not to share his true story. What could be going on that Green Valley is central to that may spark a crisis of conscience? Any ideas from those of us who are still ignorant of the next few snippets?


  26. Grant says:

    @23: Well… if I had to guess and we assume it has anything to do with the opening I would think Merlin is here because someone needs to deal with the budding insurgency in Corisande before it gets it’s legs under it and that’s going to mean dealing with the members of the church who appear to be responsible for clandestinely fomenting it and Merlin is about to take certain actions in that direction.

    At least I hope so. I would rather enjoy the church agent provacateurs all suddenly coming to an abrupt and mysterious end all at once… of course it’ll probably be something a bit more subtle than Merlin personally conducting his own night of the long knives or something.

  27. Olegreyowl says:

    About the further incarnations of Nimue. I don’t remember if she chose to not change her eye color or whether she couldn’t. If she couldn’t wouldn’t that mean that all of her further identities would also have “unearthly seijin blue eyes”? It might be easier to explain if the new identities were simply “descendants” of Merlin and that the line of Merlin has enter hereditary service to the that of Cayleb and Sharleyan. Can’t wait to see how DW solves the problem. :)

  28. Grant says:

    Considering the technological capabilities already demonstrated to exist in Nimue’s cave in the mountains (like the ability to custom manufacture kinetic resistant perfect duplicates of people’s clothing for example) there is absolutely no chance that she does not have access to, at a bare minimum, eye-color altering contact lenses if she really needs them.

  29. Peter Z says:

    You know, Grant(@24), now that Sharley and Cayleb have communicators, do you suppose that Merlin will accompany Baron Green Valley? Corisande looks like it will turn into a real sticky wicket. Dealing with that situation may require both a deft touch and a much shorter decision/control loop. With Merlin on the ground and the sovereigns in contact with him they may be able deal with the insurrection without too much more bloodshed.

    Cayleb may use the same excuse as he used prior to the battle of Green Valley, send Merlin as his eyes and ears. Besides Baron Green Valley will have more need bodyguards in Corisande than Cayleb will need in Chisholm.

  30. robert says:

    Reading a book blurb leads me to believe (can one give a book blurb credence?) that the Corisande business is minor and peripheral to the main problem: the launching of the church’s fleet. I give you the blurb:

    Young Cayleb Ahrmahk has accomplished things few people could even dream of. Not yet even thirty years old, he’s won the most crushing naval victories in human history. He’s smashed a hostile alliance of no less than five princedoms and won the hand of the beautiful young Queen Sharleyan of Chisholm. Cayleb and Sharleyan have created the Charisian Empire, the greatest naval power in the history of Safehold, and they’ve turned Charis into a place of refuge for all who treasure freedom.

    Their success may prove short-lived. The Church of God Awaiting, which controls most of Safehold, has decreed their destruction. Mother Church’s entire purpose is to prevent the very things to which Charis is committed. Since the first attempt to crush the heretics failed, the Church has no choice but to adopt some of the hated Charisian innovations for themselves. Soon a mighty fleet will sail against Cayleb, destroying everything in its path.

    But there are still matters about which the Church knows nothing, including Cayleb and Sharleyan’s adviser, friend, and guardian — the mystic warrior-monk named Merlin Athrawes. Merlin knows all about battles against impossible odds, because he is in fact the cybernetic avatar of a young woman named Nimue Alban, who died a thousand years before. As Nimue, Merlin saw the entire Terran Federation go down in fire and slaughter at the hands of a foe it could not defeat. He knows that Safehold is the last human planet in existence, and that the stasis the Church was created to enforce will be the human race’s death sentence if it is allowed to stand.

    The juggernaut is rumbling down on Charis, but Merlin Athrawes and a handful of extraordinary human beings stand in its path. The Church is about to discover just how potent the power of human freedom truly is.


  31. Grant says:

    (@ Peter, #27)… I don’t know, anything other than very short term detached duty would send too many signals that are just designed to get people questioning how much more than a personal bodyguard Merlin really is. They might figure the risk is worth putting someone with Merlin’s capabilities in the middle of things in Corisande, but it doesn’t really go along with their attitude on that subject so far. If they stay consistent Merlin needs to publicly maintain his status as just “that really really deadly seijin bodyguard” and rather obviously sending him off to ride heard on a Baron who then, coincidentally, suddenly becomes unbelievably effective at his assignment… that’s probably pushing their luck.

  32. Peter Z says:

    Perhaps, Grant. However, recall Cayleb’s setting up Grand Duke Zebediah. Should he send Merlin away in a fit of petulence, perhaps accompanied by Nahrmahn, say, under the cover story that he doesn’t need them. That he can do just fine without some his babysitters…er advisors. This accomplishes two things; he sends a good team out to deal with trouble and reinforces the misimpression that he is subject to youthful flights of overconfidence and muleheadedness.

    I would agree that the set up is important. How they set up such a mission and who goes. I suspect we will find out tonight. Oh, Joy!!

  33. Maria says:

    @12. So, Drak. Merlin/Nimue mentions that s/he can’t have children. Really? I wonder in what context =that= subject came up. My, my. I think I just saw a glimmer of a clue, seeing how the royal couple are spending the winter together. No doubt, we’ll see if I know what I’m talking about later on in the book. Speaking of clues, it occurred to me that Green Valley’s entry into the inner circle just might be one about who is going to ultimately make use of those two hundred assault rifles in Nimue’s Cave, although =that’s= probably for another book entirely. He =would= be the first to know the whole truth to be a member of the military and probably in a position to recommend others.

  34. Drak Bibliophile says:

    I’ll just say that a certain person is getting sick in the morning and Merlin takes that person to Nimue’s cave for a checkup. [Evil Grin]

  35. Maria says:

    Well, darn. Now you’ve gone and spoiled the whole story for me. ;-P

  36. Peter Z says:

    Temptation offered and resistance overcome (sorry Drak, I just came back from KratSkeller and his Trinity thread). Thank you for that bit of weakness, Drak.

  37. Maggie says:

    I don’t see a female persona succeeding Merlin for a few centuries.
    Remember, PICA’s can’t alter their height and one of the reasons Nimue created the male Merlin persona was because a female would be too tall for the current state of Safeholdian evolution.

  38. Summertime says:

    As this book begins is Merlin, in the Australian word, on “walkabout”?

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