How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 08

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 08


HMS Destiny, 54,

Off Sand Shoal,

Scrabble Sound,

Grand Duchy of Silkiah


           “Master Zhones!”

          The miserable midshipman, hunched down in his oilskins and trying as hard as he could not to throw up — again — looked up as Lieutenant Symkee bellowed his name. Ahrlee Zhones was twelve years old, more horribly seasick than he’d ever been in his young life, and scared to death. But he was also an officer in training in the Imperial Charisian Navy, and he dragged himself fully upright.

          “Aye, Sir?!” he shouted back through the howl and shriek of the wind.

          “Fetch the Captain!” Zhones and Symkee were no more than five feet apart, but the midshipman could barely hear the second lieutenant through the tumult of the storm. “My compliments, and the wind is backing! Inform him it –”

          “Belay that, Master Zhones!” another voice shouted, and Zhones and Symkee both wheeled around to see Sir Dunkyn Yairley. The captain had somehow magically materialized on the quarterdeck, his oilskins already shining with rain and spray, and his eyes were on the straining staysails. Despite the need to shout to make himself heard, his tone was almost calm —  or so it seemed to Zhones, at any rate.

          As the midshipman watched, the captain took a turn of rope around his chest and attached it to one of the standing lifelines, lashing himself into place almost absently while his attention remained focused on the sails and the barely visible weathervane at the mainmast head. Then he glanced at the illuminated compass card in the binnacle and turned to Symkee.

          “I make it south-by-west, Master Symkee? Would you concur?”

          “Perhaps another quarter point to the south, Sir,” Symkee replied, with what struck Zhones as maddening deliberation, and the captain smiled slightly.

          “Very well, Master Symkee, that will do well enough.” He turned his attention back to the sails and frowned.

          “Any orders, Sir?” Symkee shouted after a moment, and the captain turned to raise one eyebrow at him.

          “When any occur to me, Master Symkee, you’ll be the first to know!” It was, of course, impossible for anyone to shout in a tone of cool reprimand, but the captain managed it anyway, Zhones thought.

          “Aye, Sir!” Symkee touched his chest in salute and carefully turned his attention elsewhere.

* * * * * * * * * *

          Despite his calm demeanor and deflating tone, Sir Dunkyn Yairley’s brain was working overtime as he considered his ship’s geometry. The wind had grown so powerful that he’d had no choice but to put Destiny directly before it some hours earlier. Now the galleon scudded along with huge, white-bearded waves rolling up from astern, their crests ripped apart by the wind. As the wind shifted round towards the east, the ship was being slowly forced from a northeasterly to a more and more northerly course, while the seas — which hadn’t yet adjusted to the shift in wind — still coming in from the south-southwest pounded her more and more from the quarter rather than directly aft, imparting an ugly corkscrew motion. That probably explained young Zhones’ white-faced misery the captain thought with a sort of detached sympathy. The youngster was game enough, but he was definitely prone to seasickness.

          More to the point, the change in motion had alerted Yairley to the change in wind direction and brought him back on deck, and if the wind continued to back, they could be in serious trouble.

          It was impossible even for a seaman of his experience to know exactly how far east he’d managed to get, but he strongly suspected it hadn’t been far enough. If his estimate was correct, they were almost directly due south of the Garfish Bank, the hundred and fifty-mile-long barrier of rock and sand which formed the eastern bound of Scrabble Sound. Langhorne only knew how many ships had come to grief on the bank, and the speed with which the wind had backed was frightening. If it continued at the present rate, it would be setting directly towards the bank within the hour, and if that happened . . . .

* * * * * * * * * *

          The wind did continue to swing towards the east, and its rate of change actually increased. It might — possibly — have dropped in strength, but the malice of its new direction more than compensated for that minor dispensation, Yairley thought grimly. The rapid change in direction hadn’t done a thing for the ship’s motion, either; Destiny was corkscrewing more violently than ever as the waves rolled in now from broad on her larboard quarter, and the pumps were clanking for five minutes every hour as the ship labored. The intake didn’t concern him particularly — every ship’s seams leaked a little as her limber hull worked and flexed in weather like this, and some water always found its way in through gun ports and hatches, however tightly they were sealed — but the wild vista of the storm-threshed night’s spray and foam was even more confused and bewildering than it had been before.

          And unless he missed his guess, his ship’s bowsprit was now pointed directly at Garfish Bank.

          We’re not going to get far enough to the east no matter what we do, he thought grimly. That only leaves west. Of course, there are problems with that, too, aren’t there?

          He considered it for a moment more, looking at the sails, considering the sea state and the strength of the howling wind, and made his decision.

          “Call the hands, Master Symkee! We’ll put her on the larboard tack, if you please!”

* * * * * * * * * *

          Sir Dunkyn Yairley stood gazing into the dark and found himself wishing the earlier, continuous displays of lightning hadn’t decided to take themselves elsewhere. He could see very little, although with the amount and density of the wind driven spray, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if he’d had better light, he admitted. But what he couldn’t see, he could still feel, and he laid one hand on Destiny‘s bulwark, closed his eyes, and concentrated on the shock-like impacts of the towering waves.

          Timing, a small corner of his brain thought distantly. It’s always a matter of timing.

          He was unaware of the white-faced, nauseated twelve-year-old midshipman who stood watching his closed eyes and thoughtful expression with something very like awe. And he was only distantly aware of the seamen crouching ready at the staysails’ tacks and sheets in the lee of the bulwarks and hammock nettings, taking what shelter they could while they kept their eyes fixed on their officers. What he needed to accomplish was a straightforward maneuver, but under these conditions of wind and weather even a small error could lead to disaster.

          The waves rolled in, and he felt their rhythm settling into his own flesh and sinew. The moment would come, he thought. It would come and —

          “Starboard your helm!” he heard himself bark. His own order came almost as a surprise, the product of instinct and subliminal timing at least as much as of conscious thought. “Lay her on the larboard tack — as close to south-by-west as you can!”

          “Aye, aye, Sir!”

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23 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 08

  1. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I wonder if Ahrlee Zhones is going to play an important role in this part of the story.

  2. Maggie says:

    As in, “I have not yet begun to fight!” ?

  3. Maggie says:

    Or “Sink the Monitor!”?

    Hard to keep up with all of those Zhones’s.

  4. PeterZ says:

    Boy, this must be a central or even the central story arc in the book. I would have sworn the next scene was elsewhere.

    So, they are making to Silk Town after all. Will they make it? Will Master Zhones surplant Master Alpyn-Ahrmak in the affections of our readers? Will the Captain continue his marvelous rendition of Horatio Hornblower? Most importantly…will we survive the excrutiating torture of this literary waterboarding?

    Tune in Wednesday for the next installment of Snippets from Safehold!

  5. Drak Bibliophile says:

    PeterZ, don’t forget the “Tum, te, tum, te, tum . . . .” [Wink]

    Seriously, this segment is going to take a few more snippets and while I enjoyed reading the full segment, I understand some may prefer other actions.

    Of course, reading it in snippets is harder than reading the full segment. [Smile]

  6. PeterZ says:

    Goooooody! Hektor is entering the forefront! Irys and Hektor here we come!

    Thank you, oh large and draconic one!

  7. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Yes, MUCH harder, Drak. Still worth it tho, because it helps stave off the withdrawal pangs we’ve been going through with NOTHING from the MWW for so many months. But eventually that will fade and the annoyance of short snippets will resume. I really wish he’d release longer snippets less frequently, truth be told, but I doubt he’s going to change his pattern at this late date after so long. Here’s hoping we get the e-ARC of the next Honor book soon enough that I don’t have time to get too pissed off at the snippet patterns of this book…

  8. Peter says:

    Re @5 –
    Drak, you are both kind and cruel in stunning measure. Kind, to help enable this satisfaction of our thirst for Safehold. Cruel, savagely cruel, to taunt us with the knowlege of what must come next. I must shower you with praise and abuse! Lots and lots and lots of praise and abuse! (And I must also curse the strength of your snerk collar.)
    Peter S

    (BTW, don’t stop!)

  9. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Well Peter S, think of my problem.

    I know what’s going to happen, can’t tell what’s going to happen and have to listen to people’s “crazy guesses” about what’s going to happen.

    I’ll be glad when this book is available so I can post my “crazy guesses” about what David Weber is going to do in the *next book*. [Grin]

  10. Maggie says:

    Sorry, but the image of Cap’n Yairley lashed in place has my mind going all “Wreck of the Hesperus”…

  11. PeterZ says:

    Maggie, please more inspiration and hope! Think instead of “Admiral Hornblower and the West Indies”. Nice Hurrican scene there and both he and his wife survive. If you must refer back to peotry think about Odyseus and the Sirens.

  12. Maggie says:

    (Deep Breath)

    Thanks for getting me back on track PeterZ!

  13. Bret Hooper says:

    @7 Robert: These snippets are somewhat like much more intelligent, commercial-free, print analogs of the five snippets each day M-F that used to keep me glued to WAGE (now WHEN) radio (ABC) between 4:45 and 6:00 pm during and just after WWII (Captain Midnight, Hop Harrigan, Jack Armstrong, Sky King, Terry and the Pirates). If you, too, listened to such back then, then think how much better these snippets are (albeit not nearly as good as having the whole book(s) right now).

  14. RobertHuntingdon says:

    Sorry, Bret, I’m a good bit too young for that. One of my grandfathers served in WWII, but he wasn’t even married yet, much less had either of his sons.

    Still, I can sympathize with you. That would be far worse.

    That doesn’t, however, mean I can’t wish for better.

  15. PeterZ says:

    I have to agree with Bret, Robert. Because these snippets are incomplete, they present easy topics of conversation with wide lattitudes for what may be contributed. The same as probably was Bret’s experience with his boyhood serials and for those that first read “Around the World in 80 Days” as a serial.

    Absent these conversations, the snippets are more than a bit torturous.

  16. Drak Bibliophile says:

    One difference between the snippets and the old “serials” is that each of the ends of the serial episodes were written to “make you want what happens next”.

    With the snippets, I’m splitting apart something that is written as a whole based solely on the number of words.

  17. summertime says:

    Those old radio serials were great, and a good way to expand your imagination. I fondly remember lying on the floor, in the dark, in the early 1950s, listening to THE SHADOW, THE GREEN HORNET, BOBBY BENSON AND THE B BAR B RIDERS, and others. And yes, Drak, they often ended with a “cliffhanger”, sometimes a literal one!

  18. RobertHuntingdon says:

    True, Drak, but addicts like us are the only people who come here anyway. So we’re already going to want more regardless of how well (or not) you split the snippets with malice aforethought. :)

    I have to agree with PZ that there IS some advantage to discussion after the snippets. It’s the waiting for two or three days after each one that makes it torturous in my opinion.

    But IMO it’s not the length of the wait, its the CONSTANCY of the wait. I think that if we had one snippet about 3x as long once a week we’d actually have more discussions (because we’d have more to discuss) for a day or two, and then we could all get on with our lives for five days until the next Monday morning dump.

    Then again, I could be wrong about that. But I had to at least throw the idea out there for the rest of you chew on.

  19. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Well Robert, I suspect there would be “gripes” even if I posted longer snippets more often. [Evil Grin]

    Of course, I could do David Weber’s “thing” of posting a sentence out of context and see how wrong people are. [Very Big Evil Grin]

  20. Of course, you could post the whole thing, with the individual letters in neat alphabetical order.

    You know: “aaaaaaaaaaa(repeat 91,236 times) etc.
    Then the whole thing would be there, and no one could complaint that the suspense was spoiled.

  21. PeterZ says:

    Thanks for making me feel at home, George. Here I thought MY mind twsited in odd directions. ;-)

  22. Charlie says:

    Glad to make landfall here among like-minded compatriots. It’s been a score or two of seven-days I’ve been waiting – now I can share my suffering with the rest of you!

  23. RobertHuntingdon says:

    @GP Didn’t Jim Baen himself do something vaguely like that once? I thought one time he posted every single punctuation mark from a book or something silly like that.

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