How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 20

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 20

          “I appreciate the compliment, Your Majesty,” Nahrmahn said. “All the same, I can’t help thinking how much more comfortable it would have been to provide all that assistance from a nice, motionless bedroom in Cherayth.”

          “Coms are all well and good,” Sharleyan replied, “but he’s going to need someone to obviously confer with instead of just listening to voices out of thin air. And having another warm body he can send out to do things isn’t going to hurt one bit, either.”

          “I have to agree with that,” Cayleb said. “Although trying to picture any Charisian’s reaction to the notion of using Prince Nahrmahn of Emerald as an official representative and emissary a couple of years ago boggles the mind.”

          “I’m sure it boggles your mind less than mine,” Nahrmahn replied tartly, and it was Cayleb’s turn to chuckle. “On the other hand, it’s worked out better — and a lot more satisfyingly — than several alternatives I could think of right off hand,” the Emeraldian continued a bit more seriously.

          “I’d have to agree with that, too,” Cayleb acknowledged. “Although I wish to hell you and I didn’t have to go home and assist each other with this mess.”

          “I wish you didn’t have to either,” Sharleyan agreed somberly, “but this mess is a lot less ugly than the one we could’ve had.”

          Cayleb nodded, his expression sober, at the accuracy of her remark.

          The Navy of God had outnumbered the Imperial Charisian Navy by a terrifying margin when they met in the Gulf of Tarot barely two months ago. Of the twenty-five Charisian galleons who’d engaged, one had been completely destroyed, eleven had been reduced to near-wrecks, five more had lost masts and spars, and only eight had emerged more or less intact. Charis had suffered more than three thousand casualties, more than half of them fatal . . . including Cayleb’s cousin, High Admiral Bryahn Lock Island. Yet hideously expensive as the victory had been, it had also been overwhelming. Forty-nine of the Navy of God’s galleons had been captured. Fourteen had been destroyed in action, another seventeen had been scuttled after their capture as too damaged to be worth keeping, and only nine had actually managed to escape. Forty-one Harchongese galleons had been captured, as well, and the blow to the Church’s naval power had been devastating.

          Cayleb Ahrmahk had never felt so useless as he had watching that titanic engagement through Merlin’s SNARCs. He’d seen every moment of it, including his cousin’s death, but he’d been the better part of eight thousand miles away, unable to do anything but watch the death and destruction. Almost worse, there’d been no acceptable way for him and Sharleyan even to know the battle had been fought. They’d had to pretend they knew nothing about it, had no idea how desperate it had been or how many men had died obeying their orders. Even when Admiral Kohdy Nylz had arrived with the reinforcements dispatched to Chisholm when they’d anticipated the Church was sending its ships west to join Admiral Thirsk in Dohlar instead of east to the Desnarian Empire, they’d been unable to discuss it with him in any way.

          It had taken another full two and a half five-days for a weather-battered schooner to arrive with Admiral Rock Point’s official dispatches, and the only good thing was that their inner circle had had plenty of time by then to confer and make plans over their coms. Which was why Cayleb was already on his way back to Tellesberg, despite the fact that he and Sharleyan had been scheduled to remain in Cherayth for another month and a half. And it was also the reason Sharleyan wasn’t headed back to Tellesberg with him.

          One of them had to return. In theory, they could have used their coms to coordinate responses with Rock Point, Archbishop Maikel Staynair, Baron Wave Thunder, and the inner circles’ other members in Tellesberg from Cherayth. In fact, that’s what they’d been doing, in many ways. But there were limits to what their subordinates could do on their own authority, which meant either Cayleb or Sharleyan had to be there in person. For that matter, the entire world would be expecting one or both of them to return to Old Charis after such a cataclysmic shift in naval power. They couldn’t afford the sort of questions not returning might arouse, and the truth was that Cayleb wanted to be there. Not that he was going to get there in any kind of hurry. This time of year, they’d be lucky if Royal Charis could make the crossing in less than two months, although Cayleb expected they’d be able to shave at least a five-day or so off of the time anyone else might have managed.

          Unfortunately, Sharleyan couldn’t come with him. He was just as glad to spare Alahnah the roughness and potential hazards of this particular winter voyage, but that wasn’t the main reason she and her mother had remained in Cherayth. Nor was it the reason Merlin had remained with them. Sharleyan would be making a voyage of her own soon enough, and Cayleb didn’t envy the task she was going to face at the end of it.

          Well, no one ever told you it was going to be easy . . . or pleasant, he reminded himself. So stop thinking about how much you envy Nahrmahn and Ohlyvya for at least being together and concentrate on getting your job done. Sharley will handle her part of it just fine, and the sooner she does, the sooner she will be joining you.

          “I agree things could be a lot worse,” he said in a deliberately more cheerful tone, then smiled wickedly. “For example, I could be just as bad a sailor as Nahrmahn!”

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44 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 20

  1. Bret Hooper says:

    And Cayleb still doesn’t know about what has happened to H.M.S. Destiny, does he? (Or did a snark report it?) At least he doesn’t know officially, so he can’t send help to the Destiny, but he might could find a way to send a small fleet to check out the area around Scrabble Shoal and “if you can find a place where it’s worthwhile, establish a gun emplacement” or some such mission. ?

  2. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Bret, the Destiny got to its home port safely.

  3. Nimitz13 says:

    You mean we went through 15 snippets of Sailorese for NOTHING? ;)

  4. Bret Hooper says:

    Thanks, Drak. I didn’t realize that “as their ship forged towards safety.” necessarily meant that they actually reached safety. Was their home port that close to Scrabble Shoal?

  5. Jeff McCulley says:

    So, are we foreshadowing Sharleyn traveling to Corisande?

  6. PeterZ says:

    Hello, my name is PeterZ and I am addicted to speculating wildly on snuippets. Its been a year and a half since my speculations came close to being accurate.

    I will try to shut up now.

  7. John Driver says:

    @6 – PeterZ, a year and a half? That’s not bad. I was just trying to remember the last time I got close on a Weber prediction. Then I got to trying to remember IF I had gotten close on a prediction. It’s in my mind that I have, but I can’t remember what it was or when it was. Of course it’s possible that a pending speculation could hit the jackpot, but I’m not holding my breath. In the mean time cheer up! Don’t lose heart, if everyone who missed a Weber speculation decided to stop, these forums would be mighty thin. If you keep it up, then one of them is bound to be right sooner or later. I mean law of averages and all that. (Smile)

  8. Maggie says:

    Hi PeterZ!

    We feel your pain. Keep the dialog going.

  9. PeterZ says:

    Sob!…sob!..thank you for your support, Maggie and John. -deep breath-

    I wonder what type of problems the prisoners are causing? We know they cannot be trusted to honor their parole, so they will be housed in a prison camp. What else is there to discuss or sort out?

  10. John Driver says:

    I’m still not sure what mess they are talking about in this snippet. Oh the horrors of overwhelming lopsided victories. Why does the Group of Four get to be spared these sorts of agonies? What to do with the prisoners? Lock them up until either the war’s over, a prison exchange is negotiated (good luck there!), or said prisoners decide they want to switch sides. There’s been some past speculation about educating prisoners and winning them over. In any case why does that necessitate a trip to Tellesburg? The POWs might care what’s decided, but I couldn’t see any big political struggle over it in Charis. Who’s going to be the top admiral in the Imperial Navy, replacing Admiral Lock Island? Cayleb points to someone and says “you’re it”. Why? Because I’m the Emperor and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and I say so. Well, actually, Sharley and I are, but we’re both in agreement on this so it’s a moot point. Again, why the big political struggle? Granted lots of people will care about the answer, but it’s not like it’s the sort of thing people expect a vote on. What to do with the captured ships? If they’re any good incorporate them in the Imperial Navy, otherwise sink them. It’s not like there’s any other navy in the empire to stick them in. Deployment decisions should be military decisions, not political decisions. In any case there seems to be a surfeit of ships at present. I speculated on the Weber Forum that the mess was the arrival of the Tarotisian representatives for the Imperial Parliament, but the text of this snippet seems to point away from that. I’m scratching my head right now, and no it’s not dandruff.

  11. Kevin says:

    My guess would be that Sharleyan is headed for Zebediah. The Grand Duke has been proven guilty of treason, and there’s no way that his removal and execution won’t be mentioned in the series. That would also explain why Cayleb doesn’t find the end result of her voyage at all pleasant, necessary, but not pleasant.

  12. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @10 — John Driver

    Your first three sentences put me in mind of this quote:

    “Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.” — Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

  13. robert says:

    @6 Peter, I do not remember you doing any speculating. I only remember well written. cogent, intelligent and incisive comments. No, really!

    @11 Bad guess. She’s off to Chisholm and a (maybe) fatal encounter with…
    “”Death to all heretics!” Hainree shouted, and his hand came out of his tunic.”

  14. Bret Hooper says:

    @13: Come now, Robert. Sharleyan can’t die so soon. But of course, she can be threatened; as I recall, there has already been one nearly-successful plot to assassinate her, foiled by Merlin.

  15. PeterZ says:

    Lesse….Destiny would end up in Silk Town….the storm was not a hurricane…..we would go the G4 in Zion next…you see in all honesty my guesses have been awful, Robert.

    So not knowing why Cayleb is going top Charis is a bit vexing right now. The literary reason for his going elsewhere is to ensure that Sharley goes to Zebediah and Corisande alone. I get that. I don’t get what is so important with those NoD prisoners and IHN bozos of war. I also thought the reason for Cayleb’s trip was the Tarotisian integration.

    @10&12 I enjoyed that bit of prose as well, John.

  16. John Driver says:

    I just thought of a use for my astounding powers of wrong prognostication. I hereby predict that MWW will cut to the next scene without revealing what the mess in Charis is. (Ominous hum as fundamental forces of the universe clash in a stupendous display of pyrotechnic delight)

  17. Dan says:

    Just finnished a Hornbower book. POWs had a choise. Go to prison and starve to death or sign up with the British and the missory of the 18th centry British Navy. Most though prison was a better deal.

  18. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @16 – John Driver

    IIRC, there were very high-ranking nobility and/or royalty on board the Harchong Navy ships. That would create serious diplomatic and procedural problems for Charis that would need to be straightened out in person by the Emperor or the Empress or both. That’s why Cayleb is returning. That’s my prognostication, and if it turns out to be wrong, oh well. I don’t have a very good track record of prognostication either.

  19. PeterZ says:

    RHW, that might well be the case. I wonder if cowtowing to those over sensitive popinjays is wise? Is it not better to say P!$$ off! and toss them in the prison (secured housing). If future aristocratic POWs know they can scream loud enough and bring themselves to the attention of the Emporer, they will be much harder to manage.

    Now, what happens if the IHN Admiral of the Wide Ocean died of natural(?) causes. He is old. Could that be the complication? Perhaps it is that the Admiral is dying? I hope that Cayleb and Sharley do not easily fall into the habit of jumping to those ijuts’ demands.

  20. Jeff McCulley says:

    Maybe I’m missing it. Where does it say that Cayleb’s return has anything to do with the prisoners?

  21. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @20 – Jeff McCulley

    It doesn’t say it explicitly anywhere. We all are simply using our knowledge of the books, our scintillatingly genius minds, and our awesome powers of prognostication to anticipate what MWW is going to do next.


  22. PeterZ says:

    RHW, “our scintillatingly genius minds and awsome powers” of prevaricatory prognostication? Considering our admitted inaccuracy, this may be the more proper statement.

  23. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @22 — PeterZ

    I know you couldn’t see it when I typed the entry @21, but my tongue WAS planted firmly in my cheek.

  24. PeterZ says:

    NO! Say it isn’t so, Joe! ;-)

    (I should use emoticons more to avoid such misunderstandings, Robert.)

  25. PeterZ says:

    @23 Robert, I recall that you enjoy plays on words and so my post #22. Your post 21 was very funny and adequately suggested ironic humor. Sometimes I do not provide enough hints at where my humor is directed.

  26. jgarland says:


    I would think what to do with 4 score plus odd galleons might also be an administrative problem worthy of calling in the top level admins.

  27. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I’m sure the crews of the galleons were odd, especially the ones from Harchong, but are you sure the galleons themselves were odd???

  28. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @25 – PeterZ

    I got it after the fact. I was posting from work, and I was wearing my “serious scientist” persona. I didn’t take it off in time, so I didn’t catch the humorous wordplay before I hit the submit button.

  29. Richie97 says:

    I think the reason for the return is not about ability it is about authority. Whilst all those in the inner circle can agree on what to do everyone left behind has limits on the real authority they have and so some things can only be done by the Monarch. Its a division of power issue and those not “in the know” so to speak will not accept instructions outside of this.

    Additionally they need to keep the appearance of the information delay. So as DW just pointed out they have to pretend they don’t know until someone arrives with dispatches and then they have to be sent back. Given this snippet the delay for both trip is somewhere in the region of 20 – 25 days. So whilst he could conceivably still run things from where he is he would need to build in a 25 day delay to all actions. This is going to be an issue going forward and I bet at some stage there is a noticeable slip by someone who acts before they should and others notice.

    Getting back to why he had to go back. There was an agreed division of the armed forces. The Navy is based out of Old Charis and the Army out of Chisholm. To that end they are without a High Admiral and those don’t get replaced by anyone other than the Monarchy in person and with a big shindig to boot. Unless they want to wait for the Summer one of the rulers has to be there for the swearing in and so on. For my money they can’t afford to wait for summer to replace Lock Island who, from memory, was either the leader of the navy or close to it. They need his role to be filled immediately.

    Besides who else is going to win over our doubting patent registrar.

  30. PeterZ says:

    Why yes, Robert. Did you not read between the lines? Only the odd numnbered ships were captured and the odd even numbered ship. NOG 2,4,6 and 8 were in the first column Lock Island demolished.

  31. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @30 – PeterZ

    Groan! Good one.

  32. Kevin says:

    The presence of such high nobility within the officer corp of the Harchong Navy is going to present a problem for the Group of Four, not to mention any clergy within the Church’s navy as well. The Harchongese are going to want to negotiate for prisoners and there is no way that Clynthan is going to be open to the idea. Not only does he believe that every heretic should die, but in his calculating mind he will argue that losses are easily sustainable for the Church and not so for the Charisians. I don’t know if Trynair has enough sway at this point to push him in the direction of an exchange. The cooperation of the Empire is going to dwindle quickly if the relatives of both royalty and nobility aren’t involved in an exchange, and so Trynair will try to push him if possible. The same feelings, of course, hold true in regard to relatives of the high clergy who are prisoners. In that case, however, Clynthan has the vicarate so cowed with fear that I imagine resentment will be kept in check until his power base has worn down.

  33. ET1swaw says:

    From what I get from map above, wouldn’t going to the Charisan Empire Navy base establiished in Tarot be easier than transversing the Sea of Justice, the Throat, and Howell Bay; and rounding Charis either north or south? Tellesborg is on Howell Bay internal to Charis Island. Old Charis is the Empire’s Navy’s home as Chisholm is the Army’s, but that is a lot of sea time to take prizes and prisoners. Then again Chisholm’s ports, even Port Royal, are even farther away.

    As for the replacement for Lock Island, he was equivalent to: Secretary of Defense, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of Naval Operations, and an active duty five star Admiral not to mention a member of the Royal Family (ancester was elevated just like Midshipman Armahk?sp?). His replacement definately requires crown action.

  34. ChrisD says:

    seem to remember that Merlin can cause a SNARC to self-destruct, explosively. (I believe that he was considering the possibility of using this facility on Prince Hector?)

    If this is the case then surely he could introduce a few SNARCs into the magazines of NoG warships, either in the heat of action or, even better, occasionally while they are at anchor in their home ports. The effect of a few unexplained explosions could well undermine the faith of the crews in the stability of their ammunition and cause a lot of unnecessary (to us) investigation and waste a lot of time for Earl Thirsk and his officers plus the rest of the NoG. (Unexplained explosions of the magazines, possibly due to mishandling, at anchor happened to a couple of Royal Navy warships in the early 20th century and caused a lot of effort to be misapplied on suspicion of “Fenian sabotage”)

    (I was taught a similar trick, of “doctoring” ammunition by substituting blasting explosive for the normal propellant and allowing it to be stolen or captured for the use of the “opposition” – we were shown the effect of a “gelignite” round in the breech of a Lee-Enfield .303″ ! ! )

  35. jgarland says:


    .303 !!! Just how old are you??? They’ve been out of service since the year Sputnik was launched! As standard issue anyway.

  36. ChrisD says:

    I’m 67. We certainly used the SMLE in CCF @ School and in my early years in the TA immediately thereafter.

    The “demo” was a film, but with th wrecked rifle there for examination.

  37. Jeff McCulley says:

    Possible reasons for Cayleb to return to tellesburg:

    A. Replacements for Bryan Lock Island, both as High Admiral, AND as the Earl responsible for for, well Lock Island. No previous mention of his heir, that I recall.
    B. the prisoners, not only the aged nobility, but a whole bunch of Harchongese serfs who may not be too sure of this “freedom” thing.
    C. Tarot, because the sea victory will have ramped up the pressure on Gorjah, and what King wants to formally surrender to an Earl, rather than an Emperor?

    Anything else? Who knows what he’s going to turn Nahrmann loose on!

  38. PeterZ says:

    One hopes that Nahrmahn is likely going to do get acquainted with Mdme Ahnzhelyk.

  39. tootall says:

    Clynthan–Just back from Great Britain– everyone I knew there was literly dancing at the trouble R. Murdock is in. They all think he’s been way too influencial for way too long. I understand Fox has under played what’s going on there, but his trouble is real. The corruption even at Scotland Yard is unbelievable. The Brit reaction is amazing. And unlike our favorite inquisitor, he only USED his influence. Can’t wait to see how DW deals with Clynthan’s house of cards when it begins to topple.

  40. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @38 – PeterZ

    Princess Ohlyvya may look askance at that turn of phrase “get acquainted with” where it pertains to the former madame of a house of ill repute. :-)

    @39 – tootall

    The fall of the house of Clynthan will likely be an epic story of unravelling power.

  41. jgarland says:

    The next snippet is already up on the board in the Honorverse section. I much prefer the commentary here, however.

  42. jgarland says:


    I agree, Nahrman better be careful “becoming acquainted” with Ahnjalyhk (sic) if Ohlyvya is around!

  43. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Nope Jgarland, the only way for Nahrman to become better acquainted with Ahnjalyhk is with Ohlyvya present. [Very Big Grin]

  44. jgarland says:


    I think that would be “yup”, actually.

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