How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 04

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 04


HMS Destiny, 54,

Gulf of Mathys


          “Well, Master Aplyn-Ahrmahk?” Lieutenant Rhobair Lathyk called through his leather speaking trumpet from the deck far below. “You do plan on making your report sometime today, don’t you?”

          Ensign Hektor Applyn-Ahrmahk, known on social occasions as His Grace, the Duke of Darcos, grimaced. Lieutenant Lathyk thought he was a wit, and in Aplyn-Ahrmahk’s considered opinion, he was half right. That wasn’t something he was prepared to offer up as an unsolicited opinion, however. And, to be fair, whatever the lieutenant’s failings as a wellspring of humor, he was one of the best seamen Aplyn-Ahrmahk had ever met. One might not think a young man not yet sixteen would be the best possible judge of seamanship, but Aplyn-Ahrmahk had been at sea since his tenth birthday. He’d seen a lot of sea officers since then, some capable and some not. Lathyk definitely fell into the former category, and the fact that he’d had an opportunity to polish his skills under Sir Dunkyn Yairley — undoubtedly the finest seaman under whom Aplyn-Ahrmahk had ever served — hadn’t hurt.

          Nonetheless, and despite all of Lieutenant Lathyk’s sterling qualities, Aplyn-Ahrmahk thought several rather uncomplimentary thoughts about him while he struggled with the heavy spyglass. He’d heard rumors about the twin-barreled spyglasses which had been proposed by the Royal College, and he hoped half the tales about their advantages were true. Even if they were, however, it was going to be quite some time before they actually reached the fleet. In the meantime youthful ensigns still got to go scampering up to the main topmast crosstrees with long clumsy spyglasses and do their best to see through haze, mist, and Langhorne only knew what to straighten out a midshipman’s confused report while impatient seniors shouted putatively jocular comments from the comfort of the quarterdeck.

          The young man peered through the spyglass, long practice helping him hold it reasonably steady despite HMS Destiny‘s increasingly lively motion. A hundred and fifty feet long between perpendiculars, over forty-two feet in the beam, and displacing twelve hundred tons, the big, fifty-four-gun galleon was usually an excellent sea boat, but there seemed to be something about the current weather she didn’t care for.

          Neither did Aplyn-Ahrmahk, when he thought about it. There was a strange quality to the air, a sultry feeling that seemed to lie heavily against his skin, and the persistent, steamy haze over Staiphan Reach made it extraordinarily difficult to pick out details. Which was rather the point of Lieutenant Lathyk’s inquiry, he supposed. Speaking of which . . . .

          “I can’t make it out, either, Sir!” He hated admitting that, but there was no point pretending. “I can barely make out Howard Island for the haze!” He looked down at Lathyk. “There’s a couple of sail moving about beyond Howard, but all I can see are topsails! Can’t say whether they’re men-of-war or merchantmen from here!”

          Lathyk craned his neck, gazing up at him for several moments, then shrugged.

          “In that case, Master Aplyn-Ahrmahk, might I suggest you could be better employed on deck?”

          “Aye, aye, Sir!”

          Aplyn-Ahrmahk slung the spyglass over his back and adjusted the carry strap across his chest with care. Letting the expensive glass plummet to the deck and shatter probably wouldn’t make Lathyk any happier with him . . . and that was assuming he managed to avoid braining one of Destiny‘s crewmen with it. The way his luck had been going this morning, he doubted he’d be that fortunate.        Once he was sure the spyglass was secure, he headed down the shrouds towards the deck so far below.

          “You say the haze is building?” Lathyk asked him almost before his feet had touched the quarterdeck, and Aplyn-Ahrmahk nodded.

          “It is, Sir,” he replied, trying very hard not to sound as if he were making excuses for an unsatisfactory report. “I’d estimate we’ve lost at least four or five miles’ visibility since the turn of the glass.”

          “Um.” Lathyk gave the almost toneless, noncommittal sound which served to inform the world that he was thinking. After a moment, he looked back up at the sky, gazing south-southwest down the length of Terrence Bay, into the eye of the wind. There was a hint of darkness on the horizon, despite the relatively early hour, and anvil-headed clouds with an odd striated appearance and black, ominous bases were welling up above that dark line. Back on a planet called Earth which neither Lathyk nor Aplyn-Ahrmahk had ever heard of, those clouds might have been called cumulonimbus.

          “What’s the glass, Chief Waigan?” Lathyk asked after a moment.

          “Still falling, Sir.” Chief Petty Officer Fhranklyn Waigan’s voice was unhappy. “Better’n seven points in the last hour, and the rate’s increasing.”

          Aplyn-Ahrmahk felt his nerves tighten. Before the introduction of the new Arabic numerals it had been impossible to label the intervals on a barometer’s face as accurately as they could now be divided. What had mattered for weather prediction purposes, however, was less the actual pressure at any given moment than the observed rate of change in that pressure. A fall of more than .07 inches of mercury in no more than an hour was a pretty high rate, and he found himself turning to look the same direction Lathyk was looking.

          “Master Aplyn-Ahrmahk, be kind enough to present my compliments to the Captain,” Lathyk said. “Inform him that the glass is dropping quickly and that I don’t like the looks of the weather.”

          “Aye, Sir. Your compliments to the Captain, the glass is dropping quickly, and you don’t like the looks of the weather.”

          Lathyk nodded satisfaction, and Aplyn-Ahrmahk headed for the quarterdeck hatch just a bit more swiftly even than usual.

* * * * * * * * * *

          Lieutenant Lathyk’s sense of humor might leave a little something to be desired; his weather sense, unfortunately, did not.

          The wind had increased dramatically, rising from a topgallant breeze, little more than eight or nine miles per hour, to something much stronger in a scant twenty minutes. The waves, which had been barely two feet tall, with a light scattering of glassy-looking foam, were three times that tall now, with white, foamy crests everywhere, and spray was beginning to fly. A seaman would have called it a topsail breeze and been happy to see it under normal conditions. With a wind speed of just under twenty-five miles an hour, a ship like Destiny would turn out perhaps seven knots with the wind on her quarter and all sail set to the topgallants. But that sort of increase in so short a period was most unwelcome, especially with the barometer continuing to fall at an ever steeper rate. Indeed, one might almost have said the glass was beginning to plummet.

          “Don’t like it, Captain,” Lathyk said as he and Captain Yairley stood beside the ship’s double wheel, gazing down at the binnacle. The lieutenant shook his head and raised his eyes to the set of the canvas. “Don’t usually see heavy weather out of the southwest this time of year, not in these waters.”

          Yairley nodded, hands clasped behind him while he considered the compass card.

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35 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 04

  1. KenJ says:

    This can’t be good….

    With no safe harbor, Destiny will have to try to ride it out at sea, or risk being captured if they attempt to find an anchorage.

    Somehow, I don’t think Safehold’s equivalent of “safe harbor” laws would apply to those nasty heretics from Charis.

    I think that young Master Aplyn-Ahrmahk is about due for a spot of trouble.

  2. Willem Meijer says:

    I do not understand why changing from one system of numerals to another increases the accuracy of a barometer. ‘Inventing’ something like a nonius-scale (or a vernier-scale for those who have English as a native language) would. 17th century inches were (in Holland and France certainly) subdiibvided in ‘lines’. How many would depend on local custom. 0,07 of an inch would be 14 or 15 lines to the inch.

  3. Nimitz13 says:

    Still, it’s worth wondering if there will be any ships left to pursue the remnants of the HMS Destiny after what seems to be a hurricane. Presumably Charisian ships are better built than others (certainly military galleons)and the lieutenant is one of the best sailors around. In this case, probably good enough to pilot them all the way to the site of the shipwreck!

    I agree, our young master Aplyn-Ahrmahk is about to find out the dark side of being a Charisian heretic, and especially an adopted member of the royal family! (Methinks I hear the mad wizard laughing…) Merlin may have to use the skimmer to perform yet another rescue and the young master may become a member of the inner circle by default…

    Or I’m way off base as usual.

  4. Nimitz13 says:

    @Willem Meijer
    Ever tried doing decimals in Roman Numerals? That’s a week of math that I REALLY didn’t enjoy! Still I’d expect sailors would have been counting the lines and not calculating the number they represent. So the barometer dropping 7 “lines” quickly would be enough information.

  5. Fractions in Roman numerals — decimals are an unnatural extension — are challenging.

    Once you are between the numbered units 1 2 3 an even spacing of the lines as opposed to natural fractions may not have been so obvious a choice..

    Contemplate spacing the lines in musical notes, which are not integral or even-spaced in frequencies, but which are almost nice as fractions.

  6. Maggie says:

    Um, maybe I’m just being picky. I thought that a superior officer sent “compliments” to a subordinate, whereas a subordinate sends “respects” to a superior.

  7. PeterZ says:

    Will this be the opening movements to Weber’s “Hektor and Irys: the Triumph of Young Love”? This classic space opera runs along the lines of “Carmen” and “Taming of the Shrew”. It has been rumored that the male principle needed to mature a bit from messo soprano to his current tenor.

    Shall it begin now, a full book later than I had envisioned? I hope so.

  8. Maggie says:

    @7 More likely from bargain counter tenor to mezzanine soprano. Even though I favor a Hektor-Zhanayt pairing over Hektor-Irys, I would certainly hope it’s more on the lines of L’Eliser D’Amore where everyone ends up married, as opposed to Carmen where the principals end up stabbed and garrotted…

  9. PeterZ says:

    Maggie, David tweeted that he did something really nasty to a character he liked. My gut clentched for Hektor right away.
    I hope you are right. Heck, I hope the consolidation of the Empire runs along “7 Brides for 7 Brothers”. Unfortuinately, there may very well be themes of “Carmen” in this one.

  10. Willem Meijer says:

    @4 Nimitz13, I did not, but looking at a barometer and counting is not really higher math.

    There are ways to do the simpler math (adding and subtracting) by circumventing the problem: use more than one column to write things down. For my masters in mediaeval history (Amsterdam, 1986) I had to analyze the accounts of a hospital. 16 penningen in a stuiver, 20 stuivers in a guilder. One guilder, five stuivers and three and a half penning would be written down as ‘Fl.I.V.IIIhalf’. (Fl = florin = guilder) I used a little adaptation to a chinese abacus. The moment you reached 16 (or double eight), or 20, you carried one over to the next column. Mind you, I always found the pound-shilling-pence logical and normal too, so doing math the way the old bookkeeper did (three columns as separate entities with carry-overs) the whole thing was easy. Converting it to modern decimals would have been a bitch. The sum I mentioned earlier would be 1.26093735 guilder. Mediaeval merchants used counting boards on which they placed counters until a carry-over was needed. And where does the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer derive his title from? From the cloth used for the same purpose.

    Mind you, he made a lot of errors adding up and carrying over.

  11. KenJ says:

    Maggie, I just hope the nastiness doesn’t end up permanent. Or if it is, it turn’s out to be more along the lines of the In Enemies Hands sequence in Honor where, yes, good people got hurt and died but in the end, the bad guys ended up with a whole hen house on the face…(Including the sweepings)

  12. Maggie says:

    Jeez, KenJ and PeterZ you’ve got me worried. DW does have this unhappy tendency to dispose of characters I’ve taken a liking to (especially my favorite Graysons!)

    Keeping to our opera theme, I just hope this doesn’t end up all Forza del Destino with EVERYONE dead!

  13. Maggie says:

    Or Le Coq D’Or where no one existed to begin with…

  14. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Regarding the possible fate of Hektor Applyn-Ahrmahk, for willing suspension of disbelief in a story to work, the story has to track real life enough that we are willing to suspend our disbelief where it doesn’t track real life. Also, the story has to be consistent. This is a war — a grapple to the death — between the Charisian Empire and the CoGA. In a war, very bad things happen to very good people. Rape, torture, murder, brainwashing, treason, and the like all happen. While I would regret the loss of Hektor, as he is a very likeable character, it would not surprise me, and it would make the story appear more “real life” for a likeable fellow like Hektor to meet a nasty end because he ended up in the hands of evil people who are in a death match with the government Hektor serves.

    Whether or not Hektor marries Irys, I would not even begin to speculate. It doesn’t seem to me to be realistic, though.

  15. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Agree Robert.

    For a story to be “real”, death has to be “real” as well.

    If an author keeps “saving characters at the last minute” or only the “bad guys” die, the story gets dull.

    Does Hektor die?

    I’m not saying.

  16. KenJ says:

    That having been said, Weber does not hesitate to kill off important characters: Book 1 King Haarald. Book 3 Most of Sharley’s body guard. Book 4 The admiral (can’t remember the name and my books are all boxed up at the moment.) It goes over to other series too; Tamman in the Daahk series, Oodles in Honor, esp when Manticore was attacked (both times.) While it would be a tragedy to loose Hecktor, it would not be out of Character.

    That having been said, I suspect that in stead this will end up being a trial for him and a bridge into his future destiny in the book. It may also eventually prove to be a means to get in contact with a possible resistance movement (purely theoretical at this point, no textual evidence yet.)

  17. Maggie says:

    Agreed Kenj. Once DW wiped out the entire Terran Federation in OAR, it’s hard to keep things from getting anticlimatic. I suspect Merlin will be faced with some tough decisions as to where and when he will be able to use his medical assets.

  18. PeterZ says:

    The one saving grace about Hektor in CoGA captivity, assuming he ends up in their hands in the first place, is that he is a member of the royal household. He is worth much more alive than dead. So, his capture does not automatically mean his death.

    I recall speculating that Destiny would be ambushed in a prior book and Hektor captured then. One of the reasons I thought so then was to get another PoV inside the enemy camp. A PoV that could bridge what Jhoe Loyalist thinks to what Zhan CoC does. We really haven’t seen a PoV of what commoners think on the Mainland. That may not be important to the story, but I think it is somehow.

    So, if events do shake down that way, the results would be both believable and essential to the plot progression. Regradless, whatever happens to Hektor will be poignant indeed.

  19. summertime says:

    Whatever Hektor’s immediate fate, he will likely remain a continuing character and play an important role on into the future. Other posters have commented about important characters in this series, and other Weber books, who met an unfortunate fate. It is true that some major names have fallen by the wayside, but, in my view, no one essential to the overall story. Many times their deaths served a purpose for the ongoing action or served as a bridge to bring someone else into prominence. In this series several prominent religious figures have met their demise, and served to highlight the Church’s corruption. I could be wrong, but I believe Hektor has an important role to play and will win through whatever trials (pun intended) he is forced to endure.

  20. Alistair says:

    My guess…

    Hecktor lives rescued by merlin who than is forced to reveal himself to him. But maybe it is the very likeable Captain that dies.

    I hope the both live… though and be darned if it’s predicatable and boring!!

    Also…Hecktor is young he could be a character that lives through most of the book series including possibly when they start planning to head back into space.

  21. KenJ says:

    It wouldn’t necessarily have to be “Merlin” who rescues Hektor you know… There are all those other “sejin’s” supposedly out there.

  22. KenJ says:


    Destiny goes down in the storm, almost all hands are lost. Hektor somehow survives and get stranded on a deserted island. After he recovers somewhat and is exploring the island, he discovers that it actually has a church garrison on it maintained by slaves/serfs. He secretly joins up with the slaves and converts them to Charisism. There is a slave revolt, destroying the garrison. They take over a supply galleon and sail home to Charis.

    Yeh, Right :)

  23. PeterZ says:

    What?! Is the island called Cehrbherus by chance?

  24. PeterZ says:

    OK, how about this reason for the shipwreck. Rumors in the armed forces are that Merlin is the source of Cayleb’s military prodigy. If Hektor requires Merlin’s help to escape, then Cayleb can takle Thrisk on his own. The point of the shipwreck (besides satisfying my hopes for an Irys-Hektor match) then, is to separate Merlin and Cayleb during a military campaign.

    That way Cayleb’s reputation does not turn into that of an Imperial drone.

  25. KenJ says:


    Merlin is off on a rescue mission in an alternate persona. While gone “Something Bad” happens.(An assassination attempt that almost succeeds and would have if not for the “Magic” clothing that the intended victim was wearing or something.) An almighty $#!+ storm of controversy takes off, some calling a miracle, others calling demonic intervention. Meanwhile, Hektor and Merlin have made it to Siddarmark and hook up with the technorevolutionaries in that country, helping change their pike-men into a modern infantry…

  26. PeterZ says:

    All we need is Maggie’s fertile imagination to chime in and we will have decent entertainment until the next snippet, Ken.

  27. White Tallon says:

    If you look back at most of Webers books…. yes main characters do get killed off. However, IIRC, he has never SET THEM UP to be killed like many of the posters here seem to think he has been. IMO its more likely that Hektor is more likely to find him self in command of the Destiny then being killed off. Miss Midshipwoman Harrington? Miss Midshipwoman Abigail Hearns? Both very young officers who were thrust into command and ended up doing a FANTASTIC job.

    But… all that aside… we are talking about David Weber and his eternal rasberries.

  28. KenJ says:

    WT, I agree that MWW doesn’t just set ppl up to die, generally. Usually if they do, it serves a purpose. So, that being said, if Hektor *DOES* die, I am sure it won’t be in the storm. More likely, He’ll get captured or stranded.

  29. Maggie says:

    @27 Your wish is my command PeterZ!
    Who needs additional seijins when Hektor can be rescued by an attack craft masquerading as Madame Phonda’s Floating Pleasure Palace? This rescue will be supported by the entire Dohlaran navy (now in full revolt against the CoGA and Gang o’Four).

    The triumph will culminate with a rousing chorus of:
    Wait for It.

    How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em
    Down on Dohlar
    After They’ve Seen

  30. KenJ says:


    (Or is that Merci?)

  31. KenJ says:

    stoopid post edited .
    out the “mercy” between the lines.. Wonder why

  32. KenJ says:

    ***Note to self:***
    do not use angle brackets(greater/less than signs) in posts; they take themselves and all contained content down the nearest wormhole.

  33. PeterZ says:

    LOL! Ask and Maggie shall deliver!
    So that’s what is under the Temple, the power generation and transmission systems for Madame Anzhelique’s floating pleasure palace of doom! I should have guessed, it was so obvious!

  34. PeterZ says:

    @28 White Tallon.
    David set up a Midshipman to die in Shadow of Saganami. He flat out said as much. Yes, that death served a puspose, but he knew one of them had to die from the beginning of the book.

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