How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 16

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 16


Year of God 895



Edwyrd Howsmyn’s foundry,

Barony of High Rock,

Kingdom of Old Charis


          The blast furnace screamed, belching incandescent fury against the night, and the sharpness of coal smoke blended with the smell of hot iron, sweat, and at least a thousand other smells Father Paityr Wylsynn couldn’t begin to identify. The mingled scent of purpose and industry hung heavy in the humid air, catching lightly at the back of his throat even through the panes of glass.

          He stood gazing out Ehdwyrd Howsmyn’s office window into the hot summer darkness and wondered how he’d come here. Not just the trip to this office, but to why he was here . . . and to what was happening inside his own mind and soul.

          “A glass of wine, Father?” Howsmyn asked from behind him, and the priest turned from the window.

          “Yes, thank you,” he agreed with a smile.

For all his incredible (and steadily growing) wealth, Howsmyn preferred to dispense with servants whenever possible, and the young intendant watched him pour with his own hands. The ironmaster extended one of the glasses to his guest, then joined him beside the window, looking out over the huge sprawl of the largest ironworks in the entire world.

It was, Wylsynn admitted, an awesome sight. The furnace closest to the window (and it wasn’t actually all that close, he acknowledged) was only one of dozens. They fumed and smoked like so many volcanoes, and when he looked to his right he could see a flood of molten iron, glowing with a white heart of fury, flowing from a furnace which had just been tapped. The glare of the fuming iron lit the faces of the workers tending the furnace, turning them into demon helpers from the forge of Shan-wei herself as the incandescent river poured into the waiting molds.

Howsmyn’s Delthak foundries never slept. Even as Wylsynn watched, draft dragons hauled huge wagons piled with coke and iron ore and crushed limestone along the iron rails Howsmyn had laid down, and the rhythmic thud and clang of water-powered drop hammers seemed to vibrate in his own blood and bone. When he looked to the east, he could see the glow of the lampposts lining the road all the way to Port Ithmyn, the harbor city the man who’d become known throughout Safehold as “The Ironmaster of Charis” had built on the west shore of Lake Ithmyn expressly to serve his complex. Port Ithmyn was over four miles away, invisible with distance, yet Wylsynn could picture the lanterns and torches illuminating its never-silent waterfront without any difficulty at all.

If Clyntahn could see this he’d die of sheer apoplexy, Wylsynn reflected, and despite his own internal doubts — or possibly even because of them — the thought gave him intense satisfaction. Still . . . .

“I can hardly believe all you’ve accomplished, Master Howsmyn,” he said, waving his wine glass at everything beyond the window. “All this out of nothing but empty ground just five years ago.” He shook his head. “You Charisians have done a lot of amazing things, but I think this is possibly the most amazing of all.”

“It wasn’t quite ‘nothing but empty ground,’ Father,” Howsmyn disagreed. “Oh,” he grinned, “it wasn’t a lot more than empty ground, that’s true, but there was the village here. And the fishing village at Port Ithmyn. Still, I’ll grant your point, and God knows I’ve plowed enough marks back into the soil, as it were.”

Wylsynn nodded, accepting the minor correction. Then he sighed and turned to face his host squarely.

“Of course, I suspect the Grand Inquisitor would have a few things to say if he could see it,” he said. “Which is rather the point of my visit.”

“Of course it is, Father,” Howsmyn said calmly. “I haven’t added anything beyond those things you and I have discussed, but you’d be derelict in your duties if you didn’t reassure yourself of that. I think it’s probably too late to carry out any inspections tonight, but tomorrow morning we’ll look at anything you want to see. I would ask you to take a guide — there are some hazardous processes out there, and I’d hate to accidentally incinerate the Archbishop’s Intendant — but you’re perfectly welcome to decide for yourself what you want to look at or examine, or which of my supervisors or shift workers you’d care to interview.” He inclined his head in a gesture which wasn’t quite a bow. “You’ve been nothing but courteous and conscientious under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, Father. I can’t ask for more than that.”

“I’m glad you think so. On the other hand, I have to admit there are times I wonder — worry about — the slash lizard you’ve saddled here.” Wylsynn waved his glass at the fire-lit night beyond the window once more. “I know nothing you’ve done violates the Proscriptions, yet the sheer scale of your effort, and the . . . innovative way you’ve applied allowable knowledge is disturbing. The Writ warns that change begets change, and while it says nothing about matters of scale, there are those — not all of them Temple Loyalists, by any stretch — who worry that innovation on such a scale will inevitably erode the Proscriptions.”

“Which must put you in a most difficult position, Father,” Howsmyn observed.

“Oh, indeed it does.” Wylsynn smiled thinly. “It helps that Archbishop Maikel doesn’t share those concerns, and he’s supported all of my determinations where your new techniques are concerned. I don’t suppose that would make the Grand Inquisitor any more supportive, but it does quite a lot for my own peace of mind. And to be honest, the thought of how the Grand Inquisitor would react if he truly knew all you and the other ‘innovators’ here in Charis have been up to pleases me immensely. In fact, that’s part of my problem, I’m afraid.”

Howsmyn gazed at him for a moment, then cocked his head to one side.

“I’m no Bédardist, Father,” he said almost gently, “but I’d be astonished if you didn’t feel that way after what happened to your father and your uncle. Obviously, I don’t know you as well as the Archbishop does, but I do know you better than many, I expect, after how closely we’ve worked together for the past couple of years. You’re worried that your inevitable anger at Clyntahn and the Group of Four might cause you to overlook violations of the Proscriptions because of a desire to strike back at them, aren’t you?”

Wylsynn’s eyes widened with respect. It wasn’t really surprise; Ehdwyrd Howsmyn was one of the smartest men he knew, after all. Yet the ironmaster’s willingness to address his own concerns so directly, and the edge of compassion in Howsmyn’s tone, were more than he’d expected.

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30 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 16

  1. Bret Hooper says:

    Edwyrd Howsmyn’s foundry, . . . . . . [in title]
    Ehdwyrd Howsmyn’s office window . . . [in second paragraph of text]

    Are they, perhaps, father and son?

  2. Elim Garak says:

    Yay! We are out of the bloody sea and are coming back to the industrial revolution! It’s about time!

  3. I can’t wait for all the juicy descriptions of the innovations in this book…

    I’m also holding out for another nice engagement using the shells, or perhaps we’ll jump even further out to rifled shells, armor plating and perhaps steam engines on the boats.

    …although, I surmise that’ll probably be something we’ll be seeing at the end of the book – rather than witnessing in an actual engagement.

    I will say I was worried those shells weren’t even going to get use in the last book.

  4. Elim Garak says:

    @3 – do we know how long the book series is supposed to be? I am guessing that the first steam engines and/or ships will only start to be built at the end of this book.

    While there isn’t much point in creating rifled shells for most naval battles, there is an excellent reason if you need field artillery. The other side is not going to be able to produce any effective ironclads since they won’t be able to keep up with anything once steam engines are introduced. They won’t be able to build an effective steam engine fleet, and probably will refuse to do that even if they can figure out how because of religious reasons. Therefore, most naval battles will still be fought against wooden ships with extremely limited range, and explosive shells should be more then sufficient for that.

    On land however Charis will need an edge. They won’t have the numbers that their enemy does – which means that they will have to use quality over quantity. That will require better and longer-ranged artillery, rifled muskets, organ guns, etc.

  5. John Samford says:

    “do we know how long the book series is supposed to be? I am guessing that the first steam engines and/or ships will only start to be built at the end of this book.”

    It is a Tor series. That means until Weber dies. Google Robert Jordan.
    There is a saying in Hollywood. Talent can, genius MUST. Tor figures that as long as Webers muse forces him to write, they might as well make some money off him.
    I consider Weber and Flint the best plotters in the business. That is why I was surprised by Weber hooking up with Tor. Tom’s minions wouldn’t know a plot if it chewed their leg off. The typical Tor book is 800 pages of characterization with no plot. Part of a series of books that is pretty much never ending. Remember Tor doesn’t tell stories, they sell books.

  6. Joe Cozart says:

    I’ve read in the past the Mr. Weber intends at least eight novels in the series, and that he imagines that in the end, human beings will take on the Gbaba once more. Therefore, I am encouraged to think that in the end, despite any seeming setbacks, the good guys will win.

  7. Jeff McCulley says:

    Since I am reasonably sure that Charis won’t be able to take out Zion in the near future (but did Siddarmark have one of Shan-wei’s re-educated sleeper cells???), I’m wondering when the burden will fall to the next generation. Will Cayleb and Sharleyn die, and the duty pass to their daughter? Or will it be like The General series, and there is a sudden leap ahead to the far future in the epilogue?

  8. Owen says:

    The Group of Four will be perfectly willing to use steam engines as soon as they can come up with an excuse to do so. They don’t care about the religion, except as a tool to enforce their power. Now as to what that will do to their support, I don’t know, but Clyntahn has already shown that he jumps first and ignores the bad side effects later.

  9. Nimitz13 says:

    WooHoo! After 80% of the snippets covered one ship sailing in bad weather, we finally move on! :D

    It does look like Wylsynn would LIKE to stretch the proscriptions if only to give the grand inquisitor a coronary and get back at the Group of Four for his father & uncle’s deaths. That’s nice to see. But his conscience is still alive and well unfortunately. Not gonna be the pushover we’d hoped for. So I’d bet we shouldn’t hold our breath for steam engines anytime soon, as much as we’ve been lead to expect them by the first 3 snippets.

    It looks like the COGA needs to break the proscriptions first, then Wylsynn can give Charis the go-ahead with a clear conscience. Perhaps Merlin will have to give the COGA a simple but promising application of steam to get the ball rolling. Hate to see them get a head start though, even though it may be necessary.

  10. @9

    From Merlin’s perspective, it does not matter which side wins so long as the winner is the side unleashing the developing engineering and physical science.

    There might be a difficulty that Nimue’s background is not in science, and therefore she might actually believe in the Baconian ‘scientific” approach. However, perhaps it works in this universe.

  11. Steve A says:

    I wish this snippet was longer.

  12. robert says:

    @4 It has been previously mentioned that the series was supposed to be 10 books (give or take) but as stated in @5 it IS a TOR book. I do not think that the series has the legs for more than 10 books, but there is no telling what could happen if DW gets infected with the TOR virus: there was a post that indicated he was considering continuing the series beyond that number. I can’t see how that would result in anything worth reading, but I am not an author. However, this is NOT the 163x universe where the number of plots and stories is potentially infinite, as we see in the latest Ring of Fire book. DW already has too many series going and too many fans of some of the duller series who clamor for more. Another one, especially a TORing one like this could be were it stretched to beyond one author’s life span, makes me sad. I sat down to re-read the last Safehold book and could not get beyond the first 30 pages. Instead I picked up, and began re-reading Shadow of Saganami, and became totally engrossed in minutes.
    PS I liked the last several snippets! I like all the scenes at sea much more than the long yada yadas on shore.

  13. Elim Garak says:

    I do hope that eventually the books get out of this medieval age, and get to space travel. I don’t care that this will require a huge time jump – that’s fine with me. Nimue’s goal is to make sure humanity survives and prospers. Defeating the church is only half the battle here. The other half is actual defeat of the Gbaba.

    This is somewhat similar to one of the Bolo stories, where after a Ragnarok event, humans escape in a colony ship and settle on a planet with primitive technology. They also get a Bolo with a human mind stuck inside of it. The Bolo then fights some of the aliens that followed the human colony ship. But the story ends hundreds of years later, with humans launching out into space armed with brand new Bolos, etc. – there is no conclusion. I hope this series does better in that respect.

  14. @12 I just had to mention that actually, I am dreadfully bored when reading any Saganami books (which I read with the same listless boredom that comes from having nothing else to read on a plane flight other than some pulp sci-fi or fantasy) .. however, I’ve re-read all of the Safehold books many times.

    As others have pointed out, there are alot of similar plots in other series’ by other authors (like #13 stated), but this particular twist (particularly using a Merlin-archetype) just “clicks” well together IMHO.

  15. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @10 – George Phillies

    I do believe that Nimue does care a great deal who wins. She does not want CoGA to survive. She is personally very fond of Calyb and Sharelyn. And if you remember when Merlin talked to King Haarhald in OAR, he told the King that his service was not to the King nor to the Prince but to Charis and what Charis could become. That sounds very much like Nimue cares who wins.

  16. Ed T. says:

    Hey, Israel, Safehold is middling well to pass the time but give me Honorverse any time.

  17. KenJ says:

    I’m a big fan of some of Weber’s “lesser” series; specifically War God and Fury. Both of them have so much room to grow and enormous potential. I truly hope he has the chance to “finish” those series and not get bogged down in a TOR swamp of a 30+ book series. Even the Honorverse is starting to get a little old… which does not mean I won’t read it ;)

  18. Drak Bibliophile says:

    KenJ, at last report David Weber is working on the next War God novel. [Very Big Grin]

  19. WP says:

    I am tired of the endless detailed specifications in the HH series. I am not excited about the differences between Ghost Rider Mk 1 and Ghost Rider Mk 2. The strokes here are a bit broader. Also, the issues here are more important to me personally. I want to torture Clynton -slowly- myself.

  20. Scott says:

    More War God? Yes! Yes! *happy dance*
    I wasn’t sure if the sales figures for the series were low or Weber’s muse had lost interest. He is one of a very few authors who I will buy everything he writes.

  21. kari says:

    I hope that someday Weber will have a scene where either Caleb or Sharlyan stumble across the Authurian legends. I think their reactions to what they find considering that Caleb used to call Merlin his pet wizard would be fun.

  22. Bret Hooper says:

    @16 Ed T.: Let’s agree to disagree: I love Honorverse, but I love Cayleb and Sharleyan (and Nimue) more. I am waiting for Nimue’s PICA, Merlin, to be supplemented by an Externally Linked, Independent, Telecommunicating Embodiment, preferably of the Female variety. She could perhaps infiltrate Zion, becoming, perhaps, the mistress of one of the Group of Four

  23. KenJ says:

    @18 EXCELLENT!!! Can’t wait until it snips. (That would allow me to post some of my outrageous “plot” ideas for that series too.)

    Any idea what the title will be?

  24. PeterZ says:

    Nonsense Bret! I also enjoy Safehold a bit more than the Honorverse, but would be disappointed with anything so ELITE-ist. Try again, perhaps we could inlist Mr. Woodman’s help. For the life of me I can’t come up with one now.

  25. PeterZ says:

    KenJ, he had to trash almost 2 months work of the project and began again about 2 weeks ago.

  26. Bret Hooper says:

    @24 PeterZ: Thank you! But my comment was like one of DW’s sly references; are you old enough to know what ELITE was referring to?

  27. PeterZ says:

    Old enough? Likely..properly informed? Likely not.

    WAG the computer game?

  28. Rick Thomas says:

    I enjoy all of Weber’s books going all the way back to the Dahak series. Fury would be great to continue, as would Prince Roger’s.
    The best thing about reading snippets, IMHO, is that I get to read all the comments from other fans. A great experience, and one I enjoy immensely.

  29. Mike says:

    @Robert, who said: “I do not think that the series has the legs for more than 10 books”

    Personally, I don’t believe the series actually has the legs to support the number of books already written. This is clearly more of a model train set for Weber than it is any particular story he is trying to tell.

  30. TimC says:

    Time writing War Gods is time wasted from Safehold and the Honorverse, lots of authors write fantasy about beings with pointy ears talking to Gods- no one writes military or alt history mixtures like DW.
    (just an opinion! but I won’t be buying any more Bahrzak (sp)novels

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