How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 19

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 19


HMS Royal Charis, 58,

West Isle Channel,


Imperial Palace,


Kingdom of Chisholm


          The cabin lamps swung wildly, sending their light skittering across the richly woven carpets and the gleaming wood of the polished table. Glass decanters sang a mad song of vibration, planking and stout hull timbers groaned in complaint, wind howled, rain beat with icy fists on the skylight, and the steady cannon-shot impacts as HMS Royal Charis‘ bow slammed into one tall, gray wave after another echoed through the plunging ship’s bones.

          A landsman would have found all of that dreadfully alarming, assuming seasickness would have allowed him to stop vomiting long enough to appreciate it. Cayleb Ahrmahk, on the other hand, had never suffered from seasickness, and he’d seen heavy weather bad enough to make the current unpleasantness seem relatively mild.

          Well, maybe a bit more than relatively mild, if we’re going to be honest, he admitted to himself.

          It was only late afternoon, yet as he gazed out through the stern windows at the raging sea in Royal Charis‘ wake it could have been night. True, by the standards of his own homeland, night came early in these relatively northern latitudes in mid-winter, but this was early even for the West Isle Channel. Solid cloud cover tended to do that, and if this weather was merely . . . exceptionally lively, there was worse coming soon enough. The front rolling in across the Zebediah Sea to meet him was going to make this seem like a walk in the park.

          “Lovely weather you’ve chosen for a voyage,” a female voice no one else aboard Royal Charis could hear remarked in his ear.

          “I didn’t exactly choose it,” he pointed out in reply. He had to speak rather loudly for the com concealed in his jeweled pectoral scepter to pick up his voice amid all the background noise, but no one was likely to overhear him in this sort of weather. “And your sympathy underwhelms me, dear.”

          “Nonsense. I know you, Cayleb. You’re having the time of your life,” Empress Sharleyan replied tartly from the study across the hall from their suite in the Imperial Palace. She sat in a comfortable armchair parked near the cast-iron stove filling the library with welcome warmth, and their infant daughter slept blessedly peacefully on her shoulder.

          “He does rather look forward to these exhilarating moments, doesn’t he?” another, deeper voice observed over the same com net.

          “Ganging up on me, Merlin?” Cayleb inquired.

          “Simply stating the truth as I see it, Your Grace. The painfully obvious truth, I might add.”

          Normally, Merlin would have been aboard Royal Charis with Cayleb as the emperor’s personal armsman and bodyguard. Circumstances weren’t normal, however, and Cayleb and Sharleyan had agreed it was more important for the immediate future that he keep an eye on the empress. There wasn’t much for a bodyguard to do aboard a ship battling her way against winter headwinds across nine thousand-odd miles of salt water from Cherayth to Tellesberg. And not even a seijin who was also a fusion-powered PICA could do much about winter weather . . . except, of course, to see it coming through the SNARCs deployed around the planet. Cayleb could monitor that information as well as Merlin could, however, and he was just as capable of receiving OWL’s weather predictions from the computer’s hiding place under the far distant Mountains of Light.

          Not that he could share that information with anyone in Royal Charis’ crew. On the other hand, the Imperial Charisian Navy had a near idolatrous faith in Cayleb Ahrmahk’s sea sense. It he told Captain Gyrard he smelled a storm coming, no one was going to argue with him.

          “He may not mind weather like this,” a considerably more sour voice inserted. “Some of the rest of us lack the sort of stomachs that seem to be issued to Charisian monarchs.”

          “It’ll do you good, Nahrmahn,” Cayleb replied with a chuckle. “Ohlyvya’s been after you to lose weight, anyway. And if you can’t keep anything down, then by the time we reach Tellesberg you’re probably going to waste away to no more than, oh, half the man you are today.”

          “Very funny,” Nahrmahn half-growled.

Unlike Cayleb, who was gazing out into the dark the better to appreciate the weather, the rotund little Prince of Emerald was curled as close as he could fold himself into a miserable knot in his swaying cot. He wasn’t quite as seasick as Cayleb’s rather callous remark suggested, but he was quite seasick enough to be going on with.

          His wife, Princess Ohlyvya, on the other hand, was as resistant to motion sickness as Cayleb himself. Nahrmahn found that a particularly unjust dispensation of divine capriciousness, since she’d said very much the same thing the emperor just had to him that very morning. At the moment, she was sitting in a chair securely lashed to the deck, knitting, and he heard her soft chuckle over the com.

          “I suppose it really isn’t all that funny, dear,” she said now. “Still, we all know you’ll get over it in another five-day or so. You’ll be just fine.” She waited half a beat. “Assuming the ship doesn’t sink, of course.”

          “At the moment, that would be something of a relief,” Nahrmahn informed her.

          “Oh, stop complaining and think about all the scheming and planning and skullduggery you’ll have to keep you occupied once we get home again!”

          “Ohlyvya’s right, Nahrmahn,” Sharleyan said, and her voice was rather more serious than it had been. “Cayleb’s going to need you to help sort out the mess. Since I can’t be there to help out myself, I’m just as happy you can be.”

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22 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 19

  1. Bret Hooper says:

    Joy to be back with Cayleb & Sharleyan, but why only a half-size snippet?
    And especially so with a 72- instead of a 48-hour wait!

  2. KenJ says:

    The better to annoy you with m’Bret. ;)

  3. Elim Garak says:

    I do hope Nahrmahn gets more prominence in this book – he is one of the more interesting characters in the series. Cayleb and Sharleyan are so perfect and sweet that they make my teeth hurt. Perfect characters are boring and lend the story a certain flavor of cardboard. You can usually predict what they are going to do a mile away – they are going to do the most perfect and logical thing possible.

    Nahrmahn has so much potential – not only is smarter, but his various imperfections and contradictions make him far more fascinating.

  4. Scott says:

    Which is why he should kill one of them off. I mean they have an heir now. The line is secure. Well, a spare would be nice but let’s be nasty about this. Yes, perfect people annoy me too.
    It wouldn’t be out of the normal for Weber, look what he did to Honor, killed off her first love Paul.

  5. Maggie says:

    Don’t let anything happen to Nahrmahn! I adore every pudgy perspicacious particle of him…

  6. PeterZ says:

    Nah! Nahrmahn is just going to spank some Tarotisian dupah. I suspect that comingling the representatives from Tarot with their more entrenched counter parts from the rest of the Empire will require that emeraldian’s deft touch…..and an Imperial boot.

    I would like our reformed blackgaurd to backslide a bit, though. I would also like our fearless leaders to get over this matrimony induced europhia. Both Cayleb and Sharley have a nasty streak or at least nasty streaks have been ascribed to them. Let it out a time or two and allow us the pleasure and entertainment of reading about how the mess was cleaned up.

  7. robert says:

    @4 Scott
    Well, the snerk/snippet on the Bar of Patrick Henry (oh, I misspelled his name–sorry) shooting (at) the Empress, combined with Weber’s snerk about killing off a favorite character, leads me to think that you may get your wish.
    Where is that snippet, you ask? See
    Baen’s Bar » Honorverse » Advance Safehold snippet from David
    as posted by Duckk.

  8. FriarBob says:

    @4/7… Or you can find that snippet on the Weber Forums as well.

  9. Johnny says:

    It would be nice to have a Cachat-like character on the front lines. A little darker, with some internal doubt. It would also have been interesting to see a darker Nimue, less Paladin for the right and more anti-hero who wants to prepare Safehold for the Gbaba, regardless of the cost.

  10. FriarBob says:

    I’ll admit I never understand why people call Cayleb and Sharleyan (or Honor for that matter) “perfect”. Granted, I’m a fairly intelligent guy so maybe that changes my perspective, but they don’t seem that unbelievably smart to me. They’re smart, yes, but not “genius” smart or anything. They don’t always do the “perfect” thing. They failed to think through the Church’s deception at the end of the last novel. Cayleb could have handled the attacks on Thirsk better. Yes they had logical reasons for their mistake, but they knew they needed to send more ships and an officer with a com and they didn’t do it. And there were plenty of other mistakes they have made. They aren’t “perfect”, not by a long shot. They aren’t even “genius”. They are very smart, and they are smart enough to know they must listen to their advisers and honestly consider their advice even when they disagree, but they aren’t “genius” or “perfect”.

    Heck even some “genius” smart characters have to exist in any “universe” or the series isn’t realistic. Now granted, the genius characters do tend to be the “good guys” in Weber’s novels, but that’s not even always the case. For example, Shannon Forraker is just flat genius, and she doesn’t actually start out as a “good guy”. Yes she is one NOW, but she wasn’t one when she was first introduced. Nor was Tourville or Theisman or any of the others that have grown on us over time. Heck even Sonja Hemphill was very much a “necessary evil” when she was first introduced, and now she’s become quite likable after all (especially once she and White Haven learned to compromise and work together), and she’s also very much a “genius”. Thirsk is another guy who’s VERY smart, while probably not actually “genius”, and he’s most definitely NOT (yet, at least, and possibly never) a “good guy”. Duchairn is also very smart. He wasn’t a good guy, and even now we don’t really know WHAT he actually is, we just know he sees that Clyntahn MUST be stopped. Heck even Clyntahn is actually quite smart, he’s just twisted, evil, and venal. That doesn’t make him STUPID. He’s just wrong. There is a difference.

    The Nature vs. Nurture debate always makes me chuckle, because it’s such a stupid debate. The answer is blindingly obvious — it’s both. Genetics WILL play a part, but training and advisers (and the humility to actually LISTEN to those advisers) will play a nearly equal role in whether a character (or real person) turns out to be “smart” or not. And if a ruler is NOT smart, he will find his line deposed and somebody else will take over. Hell that’s how Narhmann’s family came to power in the first place. And if it weren’t for the outside interference of the Church, I’ll bet good money King Rahnyld would never have come to power in Dohlar at all, much less still have it.

    But there is NOBODY in any Weber series I have ever read who was “unbelievably” smart. There are a lot of characters who stretch the bounds of incredulity in the Ringo/Taylor collaborations in the Looking Glass series… and even those characters I still like. Maybe that just makes me weird. But Cayleb and Sharleyan aren’t even CLOSE to “perfect”, much less “unbelievable”.

  11. FriarBob says:

    @9… if anti-hero is the type of character you like, Weber’s works aren’t for you. You should be reading Ringo’s “Paladin of Shadows” bilge instead. That stuff made me just about puke, frankly, but I know there are people who like that crap. If that’s you…….

    Anyway, Ringo is really good at the anti-hero type of character. Prince Rodger is, frankly, in many ways such an anti-hero. I really wish they’d get over their insistence on prequels there, but I understand — even if still completely and totally disagree with — their reasoning there. His Council Wars series has some “nice” anti-heroes as well. I’ve never gotten around to reading it, but it would completely and totally surprise me if his “Legacy of the Aldenata” series did NOT have those as well.

    Weber isn’t. It’s just not his style. And that doesn’t bother me, because I don’t actually LIKE the anti-hero that much. But if it bothers you, I’d suggest you look at Ringo and/or Flint instead.

  12. PeterZ says:

    @9 Johnny, Cachat having doubts about anything other than women? Only once in all the books that I recall. That was when he decided not to whack the gama line spy in CoS2. Other than that he is pretty much certain of everything besides whether his amorata of the moment (prior to Thandi) actually likes him.

  13. robert says:

    @10 You are almost right: first comes the selection of good advisers. Bad ones come in penny lots, good ones are precious jewels and the ability to find them & recognize them is just as rare.

  14. Scott says:

    Maybe perfect was the wrong word. Annoyingly sweet?
    @7 I haven’t read the snerk/snippet and won’t. But thanks for the info. I prefer to read in sequence. Jumping that far forwards in the story seems to much like torture.

  15. robert says:

    @14 And snippets are not torture?
    They are the closest thing to a water torture…

  16. Scott says:

    The HH series snippeting is verry much like torture which is why I don’t join you fine folks for them. I like to get my HH hit in one maybe two sittings. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy this or other series but HH is the finest grade.

  17. Jeff McCulley says:

    I’m just about done peeking at snippets. Lat time, it felt like I had lost the joy of the first third of the book.

    I am wondering about what problem Cayleb needs to deal with alone, and why oh why Merlin isn’t accompanying him. Seriously, while Cyleb might not be at risk in Tellesberg, I cannot imagine Sharleyn being at risk in Cherayth.

  18. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Well Jeff, what if Sharleyn isn’t going to stay in Cherayth? [Wink]

    All should be clearer in the following snippets. [Smile]

  19. The stray snippet is clearly set someplace in Corisande, or perhaps Zebediah.

  20. Randy N says:

    Caleb is at sea, in a storm, and Merlin (and more importantly his skimmer) are miles and miles away.

    Could a rouge wave wipe out HMS Royal Charis and drown Caleb before Merlin could get out there to save them? Lots of storm have rouge waves that can do massive damage. A couple of ships sank quickly in OAR from storm damage.

    Hmmmm… let’s see:

    Caleb is everything you’d want for a leader for this little rebellion, male, young, smart, navy trusts him, etc. A perfect hero. But what happens if he dies in a storm and *Sharley* becomes ruler of the Empire? A woman who’s already had problems at home in the past is now Empress of Charis also?

    Might be an interesting twist. Has Caleb outlived his usefulness to the story?

    It would make the attack on her later in the book much more critical to Merlin’s mission.


  21. Elim Garak says:

    @10 They are perfect not because they are intelligent. They are perfect because they are nice, happy, beautiful, always make the right decisions or almost the right decisions based on their current knowledge, sure in their actions when they need to be, think about their subjects all the time, etc. To them the world is black or white, and they are always white. They have no internal conflicts, are always sure of themselves, etc.

    There is more to perfection then intellect. They are of average intelligence, and that’s about it.

    Contrast that with Norman (or Narhman or whatever). He is not that good a character in fiction in absolute terms, but he is far better Cayleb. He is devious, a glutton, unsure of his actions, willing to play dirty when he needs to, curious, unsure that he is doing the right thing, willing to ally himself with evil, and so on. He lives in the gray world, and recognizes it.

  22. FriarBob says:

    Elim, Elim. If you truly believe they make the “perfect” decisions all the time, you need a new dictionary.

    Good decisions? Yes. Perfect? Almost never.

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