How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 05

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 05

As the acting commodore of the squadron keeping watch over the Imperial Desnairian Navy’s exit from the Gulf of Jahras, he had quite a few things to be worried over. Just for starters, his “squadron” was down to only his own ship at the moment, since Destiny‘s sister ship Mountain Root had encountered one of the Gulf of Mathyas’ uncharted rocks three days before. She’d stripped off half her copper and suffered significant hull damage, and while her pumps had contained the flooding and she’d been in no immediate danger of sinking, she’d obviously needed to withdraw for repairs. To make bad worse, HMS Valiant, the third galleon of his truncated squadron (every squadron had been “truncated” in the wake of the Markovian Sea action), had reported a serious fresh water shortage two days before that, thanks to leaks in no less than three of her iron water tanks, and Yairley had already been considering detaching her for repairs. Under the circumstances, little though any commander in his place could have cared for the decision, he’d chosen to send both damaged galleons back to Thol Bay in Tarot, the closest friendly naval base, for repairs, with Valiant escorting Mountain Root just in case her hull leaks should suddenly worsen in the course of the three thousand-mile voyage.

Of course, a single galleon could scarcely hope to enforce a “blockade” of the Gulf of Jahras — Staiphan Reach was over a hundred and twenty miles across, although the shipping channel was considerably narrower — but he was due to be reinforced by an additional six galleons in another five-day or so, and that wasn’t really his true task, anyway. It wasn’t as if the Desnairian Navy had ever shown anything like a spirit of enterprise, after all. In point of fact, the Imperial Charisian Navy would have welcomed a Desnairian sortie, although it was highly unlikely the Desnairians would be foolish enough to give the ICN the opportunity to get at them in open water, especially after what had happened to the Navy of God in the Markovian Sea. If, for some inexplicable reason, the Duke of Jahras did suddenly decide to venture forth, it wasn’t Yairley’s job to stop him, but rather to report that fact and then shadow him. The messenger wyverns in the special below-decks coop would get word of any Desnairian movements to Admiral Payter Shain at Thol Bay in little more than three days, despite the distance, and Shain would know exactly what to do with that information.

In the extraordinarily unlikely eventuality that the Desnairians decided to move north, they’d have to fight their way through the Tarot Channel, directly past Shain’s squadron. That wasn’t going to happen, especially since Yairley’s warning would ensure Shain had been heavily reinforced from Charis by the time Jahras got there. In the more likely case of his moving south, down the eastern coast of Howard to swing around its southern end and join the Earl of Thirsk, there’d be ample time for the ICN’s far swifter, copper-sheathed schooners — once again, dispatched as soon as admiral Shain received Yairley’s warning — to carry word to Corisande and Chisholm long before the Desnairians could reach their destination.

In effect, his “squadron” was essentially an advanced listening post . . . and better than three thousand miles from the nearest friendly base. All sorts of unpleasant things could happen to a small, isolated force operating that far from any support — as, indeed, what had happened to Mountain Root and Valiant demonstrated. Under the circumstances, the ICN had scarcely selected that squadron’s commander at random, particularly in light of the delicate situation with the Grand Duchy of Silkiah. Silkiah Bay opened off the Gulf of Mathyas just to the north of Staiphan Reach, and dozens of “Silkiahan” and “Siddarmarkian” merchantmen with Charisian crews and captains plied in and out of Silkiah Bay every five-day in barely sub rosa violation of Zhaspahr Clyntahn’s trade embargo. Anything so blatant as the intrusion of a regular Charisian warship into Silkiah Bay could all too easily inspire Clyntahn to the sort of rage which would bring a screeching end to that highly lucrative, mutually profitable arrangement, and Yairley had to be extraordinarily careful about avoiding any appearance of open collusion between his command and the Silkiahans.

          In theory his single galleon was sufficient to discharge his responsibilities in the event of a Desnairian sortie, but in the real world, he was all alone, totally unsupported, and had no friendly harbor in which he could take refuge in the face of heavy weather, all of which had to be weighing on his mind as the implacable masses of angry-looking cloud swept closer. If he was particularly perturbed, he gave no sign of it, however, although his lips were pursed and his eyes were thoughtful. Then he drew a deep breath and turned to Lathyk.

          “We’ll alter course, Master Lathyk,” he said crisply. “Put her before the wind, if you please. I want more water under our lee if this wind decides to back on us.”

          “Aye, Sir.”

          “And after you’ve got her on her new heading, I want the topgallant masts sent down.”

          Someone who knew Lathyk well and was watching him closely might have seen a small flicker of surprise in his eyes, but it was very brief and there was no sign of it in his voice as he touched his chest in salute.

          “Aye, Sir.” The first lieutenant looked at the boatswain’s mate of the watch. “Hands to the braces, Master Kwayle!”

          “Aye, aye, Sir!”

* * * * * * * * * *

          The glass continued to fall, the wind continued to rise, and lightning began to flicker under the clouds advancing inexorably from the south.

          Destiny looked oddly truncated with her upper masts struck. Her courses had been furled, her inner and middle jibs struck, storm staysails had been carefully checked and prepared, and single reefs had been taken in her topsails. Despite the enormous reduction in canvas, she continued to forge steadily northeast from her original position at a very respectable rate of speed. The wind velocity was easily up to thirty miles per hour, and considerably more powerful gusts were beginning to make themselves felt, as well. Large waves came driving towards the ship from astern, ten feet high and more and crowned in white as they rolled up under her quarter to impart a sharp corkscrew motion, and lifelines had been rigged on deck and oilskins had been broken out. The foul weather gear was hot and sweltering, despite the rising wind, although no one was optimistic enough to believe that was going to remain true very much longer. Their current position was less than three hundred miles above the equator, but those oncoming clouds were high and the rain they were about to release was going to be cold.

          Very cold.

          Aplyn-Ahrmahk would have been hard put to analyze the atmospheric mechanics of what was about to happen, but what he saw when he looked south from his station on Destiny’s quarterdeck was the collision between two weather fronts. A high pressure area’s heavier, colder air out of the west was driving under the warmer, water-saturated air behind a warm front which had moved into the Gulf of Mathyas from the east three days earlier and then stalled. Due to the planet’s rotation, winds tended to blow parallel to the isobars delineating weather fronts, which meant two powerful, moving wind masses were coming steadily into collision in what a terrestrial weatherman would have called a tropical cyclone.

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39 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 05

  1. Alistair says:

    Yep they are deep “do do!”

  2. Nimitz13 says:

    So we get the expected hurricane and the Destiny has to face it in open water. Not a good option, and the odds of the ship surviving are dropping by the hour. I’m guessing they’ll end up shipwrecked on the coast of the Desnairian Empire, assuming that a hurricane that forms north of the equator rotates counterclockwise and thus will have initial winds from the west, forcing them landward. Had it formed south of the equator, it would rotate clockwise, and initially they’d be forced east, then west but would probably remain in the open ocean if they survive.

    Too bad they can’t make a run for Silkiah Bay, but that’s off the table for political reasons. They’d be sheltered and near sympathetic shores, although their presence wouldn’t be welcomed. A shipwreck there would probably have the crew smuggled out on “Siddarmarkian” ships and returned safely home.

    So young Aplyn-Ahrmahk is likely to find himself shipwrecked and at the tender mercies of the Desnarians, who will be more than happy to turn the heretics (and a member of the royal family at that!) over to the inquisition. This is not looking good…

  3. Robert Krawitz says:

    Not much of a meteorologist, I see…

  4. Maggie says:

    Dramamine, anyone??

  5. justdave says:

    ‘Robert’, his other west, lol

  6. cool says:

    Now Merlin can start doing research about tropical cyclone and other weather happenings and explain them.

  7. PeterZ says:

    Unless I misread badly, Destiny is headed north by north-east running with the wind directly behind them. Since they could see Howard Island, that’s not very far away from Silkiah Bay and headed closer.

    Ride out the lively wind and wave or head for shelter and political turmoil, some choice. Any guesses? I say they end up heading for shore toward Silkiah Bay. Won’t make harbor but they will try.

  8. KenJ says:

    ♪♫♪♫Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky,

    Stormy Weather♪♫♪♫

  9. Nimitz13 says:

    It appears that DWW doesn’t mean hurricane when he says typhoon, so my entire analysis is probably invalid. I should have said “initial winds from the EAST” with a storm rotating counter-clockwise.

    The winds “parallel to the isobars” of the two fronts to the south would run North or South, the Destiny is being blown NE which should be towards the southern shores of South March Lands or East Haven I believe – NOT a good places for Charisian nobility.

    Any experts in meteorology, typhoons, etc. feel free to correct me. The map on doesn’t show a connection from the Gulf of Mathyas to Silkiah Bay, the Gulf of Jahras, or Staiphan Reach, so without a better map all I can tell is that the Destiny is somewhere in the Gulf of Mathyas.

  10. PeterZ says:

    Nimitz13, use the map on AMF describing the Gulf of Jahras. All the landmarks are on that. If you don’t have the hard copy follow this link.

    This leads to the maps on an AMF copy on amazon.

  11. Captain Steve says:

    “She’d stripped off half her copper and suffered significant hull damage, and while her pumps had contained the flooding and she’d been in no immediate danger of sinking, she’d obviously needed to withdraw for repairs.”

    Minor nit but pumps don’t “contain” anything, pumps may maintain the trim of the ship but you need watertight bulkheads to contain flooding.

    It ought to read more like “She’d stripped off half her copper and suffered significant hull damage, and while here watertight bulkheads had contained the worst of the flooding and she’d been in no immediate danger of sinking, she’d obviously needed to withdraw for repairs.”

  12. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Captain Steve, this is snippet is from a rough copy of the book so the published version will be different.

    In any case, the intent was to say that the pumps were keeping ahead of the flooding problem which is how I read that passage. [Smile]

  13. PeterZ says:

    A hurricane is non-frontal and this weather system defintely has a front. This front is blowing straight towards the Siddermark coast. Getting into Silkiah Bay should shield them some so long as the wind doesn’t shift. Riding this one out means surviving some very high seas as the wind will have a lot of open sea to build waves. If they can’t make landfall, its toss out the sheet anchor and hope to keep the bow to windward.

  14. jgarland says:

    I think he may be trying to describe a “perfect storm” like the one that hit near here (Newfoundland) in 1993:

    (from wiki) …In 1991, journalist and author Sebastian Junger planned to write a book about the 1991 Halloween Nor’easter storm. In the course of his research, he spoke with Bob Case, who had been a deputy meteorologist in the Boston office of the National Weather Service at the time of the storm. Case described to Junger the confluence of three different weather-related phenomena that combined to create what Case referred to as the “perfect situation” to generate such a storm:

    –warm air from a low-pressure system coming from one direction,
    –a flow of cool and dry air generated by a high-pressure from another direction, and
    –tropical moisture provided by Hurricane Grace.

  15. Maggie says:

    Well folks, I don’t know whether we’ve got a hurricane or a red-neck divorce, but ONE THING IS CLEAR:

    Someone’s gonna lose the double-wide.

  16. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Maggie, “double-wide”?

  17. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Double-wide trailer if it’s a red-neck divorce.

    Not sure how that applies to the ship in question, but I’ll bet there’s a way to twist it into applying… somehow…

  18. Maggie says:

    Just saying that there’s bound to be a major casualty loss at the end of the day…

  19. jgarland says:

    Is this the part where Merlin pulls out the assault shuttle???!!! :-)

  20. PeterZ says:

    Well they did just built out a massive shipbuilding infrastructure. Lots of people and likely not very solid housing. The desnarian equivilent of a double-wide in tornado alley.

  21. Doug Lampert says:

    They are near equatorial, so probably not a huricane or cyclone or any other sort of rotating storm. Those typically start in the mid-latitudes and move away from the equator. As described this is probably just a nasty storm front. Given that DW is a naval historian I strongly suspect he has an actual storm that he’s using as a model, but I don’t recognize anything to isolate a particular storm as the model.

    @14, Lots of really major storms come from a warm humid air mass meeting a cold air mass coming the other way. The tornadoes that killed my power for a week earlier this year came from almost exactly that also. Equatorial the storm action won’t match a Newfoundland “Perfect storm” particularly well in detail, but some of the basics are still the same.

    Warm air rises as it’s forced over the denser cooler air (ditto for humid air being denser than dry air). As it rises it cools due to the pressure drop, that makes water condense out, which releases heat which actually further warms the air and drives the air higher, which makes more even water condense out AND also draws in more air from the sides in a major wind-flow and into an already existing up-draft. There’s a positive feedback loop here which ends in really high winds and lots of rain, it can become a self-sustaining storm front, especially as clouds cool lower air by blocking sunlight and rain cools lower air by bringing in ice cold water from above, this now cooler lower level air drives out to the sides forcing more of the higher warm air up and the proccess repeats. The whole storm front moves forward preceeded by a blast of low level high winds coming ahead of the storm front even while the high level winds are going the other way toward the storm driven up-drafts.

    A hurican or typhoon gets most of its growth from the same sorts of mechanisms (the updraft creating a low pressure area and also drawing in humid air to feed the cycle) but the rotary motion traps the system into a self-sustaining concentrated storm rather than into a more diffuse front. But the front can still be devastating, 100mph straight line winds with no cyclonic action at all can happen. They wouldn’t be fun on a sailing ship with a hostile lee shore not too far away.

  22. Doug Lampert says:

    Miss statement. I meant humid air is less dense than dry air.

  23. PeterZ says:

    That’s just it the wind is straight and Silkiah Bay will protect them a bit, if they can get ashore.

    So, odds of running for shore? I say 3:1 they run for shore.

  24. Brom says:

    While humidity does have some affect, the primary factor in atmospheric density is temperature, which is why any cold front will push under and lift any warm front, regardless of respective humidity. (A cold, more humid, front is very rare – cold air has lower condensation point, thus less ability to hold water vapor.)

    The primary wind structure is from west to east, when we add a storm moving south from the Gulf of Mathyas, the surface winds and waves are most likely from the northwest, so DESTINY is most likely heading SE into the open Sea of Justice. Also, while near-equatorial cyclonic storms are rare, they are not unknown.

  25. Nimitz13 says:

    Ok, I checked the MUCH more accurate maps from Amazon, (Thanks Peter Z!) and the Destiny was just south of Silkiah Bay when the chapter began, so escaping into its protection should have been possible. Not an available option for political reasons, so the captain has elected to sail NE into the more open waters of the Gulf of Mathyas. On this course are several hundred miles of open ocean, ending in the coast of Siddarmark, which is better news than we feared for any survivors, especially young Aplyn-Ahrmahk.

    To survive the logical thing to do is head for Silkiah Bay regardless of the political implications. It’s part of Siddarmark, but as mentioned, the presence of a Charisian naval galleon would pluck the fig leaf from the “Silkiahan” and “Siddarmarkian” merchant ships with Charisian crews and bring on Clyntan’s wrath.

    So save themselves or take one for the team? Which advances the plot more?

  26. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Sorry Nimitz, Silkiah is NOT part of Siddarmark, no matter what the maps may appear to say. That was well established in the previous book, how the CoGA had interfered with things in a treaty that prevented Siddarmark from annexing or otherwise “acquiring” the Grand Duchy of Silkiah. I doubt either side would seriously object if there was a merger, but Silkiah is independent by church fiat.

    Beyond that, I have very little clue what’s going to happen next. On one hand, I kinda like the kid. On the other, he’s already lived far beyond however long he was really “supposed” to. He really should have died instead of Haarold, but there was good plot reason for that not to happen as well. Still, the guy’s served his usefulness. If he has to go, it’s not the end of the world.

  27. Alistair says:

    He will live… but many on the ship won’t – my guess

  28. Willem Meijer says:

    There is always the chance that the captain has an accident, then the first lieutenant, etc. until we find the yougster in charge of a badly damaged ship….

  29. Nimitz13 says:

    Blasted maps! Thanks #26

    I’ll bet Aplyn-Ahrmahk survives – the entire chapter seems to be a setup to place him somewhere to advance the plot.

    One possibility is a shipwreck in Silkiah and his subsequent capture. Since Silkiah owes their independence to COGA interference, this would enable the inquisition to get their hands on him. DWW tweeted that he did something really nasty to a character he liked, and this could be it.

  30. Matthew says:

    I’ve always thought that merlin is not taking advantage of the assault shuttle. I know it would kill the dramatic effect, but he keeps marshalling fleets to intercept and surprise the enemy, when it seems like it would be a lot easier to just fly over the enemy fleet when it’s on one of the 6000 mile journeys in open water and destroy it from the sky. No one else is around and the only people who’d see it are about to die. Or if exploding fiery death is too ostentatious, deploy probes with drills and bombs to sabotage and sink the ships. Of all the things at his disposal to attack the enemy fleets, massed gun batteries are probably the least efficient and the most dangerous for his side.

  31. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Matthew, from the beginning David Weber has operated on the idea that Merlin/Nimue will not play Archangel.

    Mysterious disappearances of Enemy Fleets would be seen as “Acts Of Archangels or Demons”.

    Charis has enough problems without the Gang of Four having strong evidence of Charis having Demonic Support.

    Now, the Assault Shuttle and the stockpile of “modern weapons” *will* be used (based on David Weber’s own words), but IMO they won’t be used against against Church Forces.

    IMO the likely use of the Shuttle and the modern weapons will be against whatever is hidden under the Temple but that will not happen in this book.

  32. Matthew says:

    Well, he could be creative with it. You can play a David Weber drinking game with how many times “Murphy’s Law” is mentioned. Even if you don’t sink the whole fleet, you can corrode hulls, foul the water, unsecure some knots, let some cannons get loose etc. One guy with a pair of shears could cripple a warship if he had half an hour to do it. There are so many things that can go wrong for a fleet under sail, and Merlin is in a position to make sure that they always do or do in slightly higher proportion than normal if he wants to be subtle. So far he’s been willing to tilt the playing field only by pushing the Chariseans up when he should also be exerting a similar sort of downward pressure on the church forces at the same time.

  33. jgarland says:


    No nothing major like sinking a fleet at sea can be done. Yes, probably there are subtle things that could be done. We saw one when Nimue broke Eyrak;s leg. Bur a sabotage campaign is unlikely.

    I was joking when I mentioned the shuttle! I just want to see it pulled out, that’s all!

  34. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Two problems.

    First, how much fun is it for a reader when the “good guys” can’t lose? If “Murphy’s Law” only “bites” the Bad Guys, then where’s the tension?

    Second and IMO most important, this is a world that *knows* Archangels and *Demons* exist. It’s not just a matter of Church teachings but a matter of historicial fact. They have thousands of written documents of witnesses to the Archangels existance.

    The people of Safehold aren’t stupid. If everytime (or even most of the time) Church forces and Charis forces met in combat “Bad Luck” happens only to Church forces then even the Charis forces will be begin to wonder “how is this happening?”. Of course, according to the beliefs of Safeholdians only Demons would hide their presences. If Archangels were active on Safehold, they’d act openly. Even Charians would begin to wonder if Shan-wei was acting to support them.

  35. jgarland says:

    @34 Yes. That’s why a sabotage campaign is unlikely, I agree. But we know 2 things about sabotage where Merlin has/would make an exception: breaking Eyrak’s leg and killing Clynthan should he ever leave the temple precincts. Forget the reference for #2, but I’m sure I’ve read it.

    Also it may even get fishy about how healthy the top leadership in Charis begins to be.

  36. Robert H. Woodman says:

    There is also the point made in OAR that Merlin wanted to develop native technology on Safehold so that when humanity again faced the Gbaba, the people of Safehold would not be dependent on Merlin/Nimue to guide them. Instead, having rediscovered all of their lost technological history, humans could venture out into space and have a realistic chance of destroying the Gbaba. If they were dependent on Merlin/Nimue, that chance would be greatly dimnished, if it existed at all. I don’t have the reference at hand, but I’m pretty sure I’ve remembered Merlin/Nimue’s line of reasoning correctly.

  37. PeterZ says:

    Well, if the leadership keeps dying in their major battles, that issue of a healthy leadership is moot. King Haarald at Dracos Sound and Bryan Lock Island at the Markovian Sea.

    Cayleb looks to be sailing against Thirsk without Merlin which makes me nervous.–no texev just speculation–

  38. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Jgarland, you’re correct about Merlin planning “to take out” Clynthan if he gets the chance.

    Of course, don’t forget the “magic” clothing that Merlin has given some of the Good Guys.

    “What! You shot him/her at close range and he/she lived?” [Very Big Grin]

  39. Ron W says:

    RE: Location of HMS Destiny during storm. Weber and Joe Buckley have updated the Safehold world map to show the shoals and coastline areas referred to in the story. If someone else stumbles on this discussion trying to find the places mentioned in the book where Destiny was in trouble (i.e. Tabbard Reach, Scrabble sound, Garfish Bank) those have now been added to the updated map at:

    It is linked from with the comment:

    Okay, people have been whini— er, complaining, yes COMPLAINING, that’s what I meant, for some time about the lack of a current Safehold map. Joe Buckley has been good enough to help me rectify that problem, and you can now view a zoomable version of it at: … hold/338/1. Joe, as always, has come through for me nicely on this, and we all owe him a vote of thanks for it.

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