How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 21

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 21


The Temple,

City of Zion,

The Temple Lands


          And aren’t we four poor miserable looking sons-of-bitches for the most powerful men in the world? Vicar Rhobair Duchairn thought sourly, gazing around the conference chamber. None of the other faces were gazing back at him at the moment, and all of them wore expressions which mingled various degrees of shock, dismay, and anger.

          The atmosphere in the sumptuously furnished, indirectly lit, mystically comfortable chamber was like an echo of the bitter blizzard even then blowing through the streets of Zion beyond the Temple’s precincts. Not surprisingly, given the message they’d just received . . . and the fact that it had taken so long to reach them. Poor visibility was the greatest weakness of the Church’s semaphore system, and this winter’s weather seemed to be proving worse than usual. It certainly was in Zion itself, as Duchairn was all too well aware. His efforts to provide the city’s poor and homeless with enough warmth and food to survive had saved scores — if not hundreds — of lives so far, yet the worst was yet to come and he knew he wasn’t going to save all of them.

          At least this year, though, Mother Church was actually trying to honor her obligation to succor the weakest and most vulnerable of God’s children. And seeing that she did was eating up a lot of Duchairn’s time. It was also taking him beyond the Temple far more frequently than any of his colleagues managed, and he suspected it was giving him a far better perspective on how the citizens of Zion really felt about Mother Church’s jihad. Zhaspahr Clyntahn’s inquisitors circulated throughout the city and Clyntahn had access to all of their reports, but Duchairn doubted the Grand Inquisitor paid a great deal of attention to what Zion’s poorest inhabitants were saying. Duchairn’s own activities brought him into much more frequent contact with those same poor, however, and at least some of what they truly felt had to leak through the deference and (much as it distressed him to admit it existed) the fear his high clerical rank inspired. He might have learned still more if he hadn’t been continually accompanied by his assigned escort of Temple Guardsmen, but that was out of the question.

          Which says some pretty ugly things about how our beloved subjects regard us, doesn’t it, Rhobair? He felt his lips trying to twist in a bitter smile at the irony of it all. All he really wanted to do was reach out to the people of Zion the way a vicar of God was supposed to, yet trying to do that without bodyguards was entirely too likely to get him killed by some of those same people. And it would make sense from their perspective, I suppose. I don’t imagine some of them are differentiating very much just now amongst us, and given Zhaspahr’s idea of how to inspire obedience, somebody probably would put a knife in my ribs if only he had the chance. Not that there’s any way Allayn and Zhaspahr would let me out without my keepers even if everyone loved and cherished all four of us as much as Charis seems to cherish Staynair.

          Duchairn knew perfectly well why Allayn Maigwair and Zhaspahr Clinton regarded Captain Khanstahnzo Phandys as the perfect man to command his bodyguard . . . and keep an alert eye on his activities. As the officer who’d thwarted the Wylsynn brothers’ escape from the Inquisition — and personally killed Hauwerd Wylsynn when the “renegade” vicar resisted arrest — his reliability was beyond question.

          Of course, these days things like reliability and loyalty were almost as subject to change as Zion’s weather, weren’t they? And not just where members of the Guard were concerned. All he had to do was glance at the ugly look Clyntahn was bending upon Maigwair to realize that.

          “Tell me, Allayn,” Clyntahn said now. “Can you and the Guard do anything right?”

          Maigwair flushed darkly and started to open his mouth quickly. But then he stopped, pressing his lips together, and Duchairn felt a spasm of sympathy. As the Captain General of the Church of God Awaiting, Maigwair commanded all of her armed forces except the small, elite armed cadre of the Inquisition. That had made him responsible for building, arming, and training the Navy of God, and it had been commanded by Guard officers on its voyage to Desnair.

          A voyage which, as the dispatch which had occasioned this meeting made clear, had not prospered.

          “I think that might be a bit overly severe, Zhaspahr,” Duchairn heard himself say, and the Grand Inquisitor turned his baleful gaze upon him. Clyntahn’s heavy jowls were dark with anger, and despite himself, Duchairn felt a quiver of fear as those fuming eyes came to bear.

          “Why?” the inquisitor demanded in a harsh, ugly tone. “They’ve obviously fucked up by the numbers . . . again.”

          “If Father Greyghor’s dispatch is accurate, and we have no reason yet to believe it isn’t, Bishop Kornylys obviously encountered a new and unexpected Charisian weapon . . . again.” Duchairn kept his voice deliberately level and nonconfrontational, although he saw Clyntahn’s eyes narrow angrily at the deliberate mimicry of his last two words. “If that weapon was as destructive as Father Greyghor’s message suggests, it’s hardly surprising the Bishop suffered a major defeat.”

          “Major defeat,” he thought. My, what a delicate way to describe what must’ve been a massacre. It seems I have a gift for words after all.

The fact that Father Greyghor Searose, the commanding officer of the galleon NGS Saint Styvyn, appeared to be the senior surviving officer of Bishop Kornylys Harpahr’s entire fleet — that not a single squadron commander seemed to have made it to safety — implied all sorts of things Duchairn really didn’t want to think about. According to Searose’s semaphore dispatch, only seven other ships had survived to join Saint Styvyn in Bedard Bay. Seven out of a hundred and thirty. The fact that they’d been anticipating a very different message for five-days — the notification that Harpahr had reached his destination and united his forces and the Imperial Desnairian Navy into an irresistible armada — had only made the shock of the message they’d actually gotten even worse. No wonder Clyntahn’s nose was a little out of joint . . . especially since he was the one who’d insisted on sending them to the Gulf of Jahras in the first place instead of to Earl Thirsk in Gorath Bay.

“Rhobair has a point, Zhaspahr,” Zahmsyn Trynair put in quietly, and it was the Inquisitor’s turn to glare at the Church’s Chancellor, the final member of the Group of Four. “I’m not saying things were handled perfectly,” Trynair continued. “But if the Charisians somehow managed to actually make our ships explode in action, it’s scarcely surprising we lost the battle. For that matter,” the Chancellor’s expression was that of a worried man, “I don’t know how the people are going to react when they hear about exploding ships at sea! Langhorne only knows what Shan-wei-spawned deviltry was involved in that!

“There wasn’t any ‘deviltry’ involved!” Clyntahn snapped.  “It was probably –”

He broke off with an angry chop of his right hand, and Duchairn wondered what he’d been about to say. Virtually all of Mother Church’s spies reported to the Grand Inquisitor. Was it possible Clyntahn had received some warning of the new weapon . . . and failed to pass it on to Maigwair?

“I don’t think it was deviltry, either, Zhasphar,” he said mildly. “Zhamsyn has a point about how others may see it, however, including quite a few vicars. So how do we convince them it wasn’t?”

“First, by pointing out that the Writ clearly establishes that Shan-wei’s arts cannot prevail against godly and faithful men, far less a fleet sent out in God’s own name to fight His jihad!” Clyntahn shot back. “And, secondly, by pointing out that nothing else these goddamned heretics have trotted out has amounted to actual witchcraft or deviltry. Pressing and twisting the limits of the Proscriptions till they squeal, yes, but so far all of it’s been things our own artisans can duplicate without placing ourselves in Shan-wei’s talons!”

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39 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 21

  1. Piotr1600 says:

    And now we get to the “we have to do what those nasty heretics are doing” technological changes/improvements winding up sanctioned by the Church, which isn’t unexpected But funny enough I was sort of hoping that the G4 would (cleverly) play up the Shan-wei aspect just to (unintentionally) throw a wrench in Merlin’s clever plan…

  2. KenJ says:

    Which, if they were to say so would once again make even more people question the authority and “rightness” of the G4…. hastening the eventual collapse of their power base. As Merlin has said in essence: “Once the Church CHANGES, it has lost!”

  3. Aenea says:

    I still like how its a combination of “pressing and twisting the limits” and using Proscribed pre-Safehold tech. Since it is all for the most part information technology the Church can’t even see it.

  4. tootall says:

    None so blind as those who will no see.
    I have to say that this too brief snip will lead to all sorts of wonderful speculation. Like: Does our Mr. Clynthan have a secret weapon up his sleeve…

  5. bodrules says:

    Sooo, has our good friend Rev. Clynthan have access to pre Safehold knowledge? From the oh so brief comment, I’m of the opinion that the Schulerites have, and that the at least some of the power sources detected by Merlin are powering a computer from the Refuge Fleet. Why have a computer safely ensconced in the Temple? Insurance of course, just in case either the Gabba came a knocking or that some Safeholdian polity came up with a paradigm leap into technology (probably biological or chemical) that wouldn’t be recognised as leading to all sorts of other consequences – accidental disctovery of Nitrogen fertilisers or anti-biotics or indeed the germ theory after someone comes up with the microscope?

  6. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @4 (tootall), @5 (bodrules)

    This snippet could lead to speculation that Clyntahn has access to a pre-Safehold AI computer like OWL under the Temple. If he does, though, why isn’t he using it to get ahead of the curve with Charis in developing new weapons platforms and technologies?

  7. Olegreyowl says:

    Hmm there’s something I’ve never considered. That the Grand Inquisitor might be in the loop as it were. What if the power source is a simple AI that reads each new Grand Inquisitor in on the real story? Or at least part of it. Archangel Langhorne “saved” the remants of humanity from its Enemy and its own hurbris and brought them to Safehold in accordance to God’s will. But so you (Grand Inquisitor) will know what to be on the look out for here is the Tree of Knowledge (Library AI) full of stuff that’s forbidden. You must be on the look out lest the Enemy find us again. Hmmm

  8. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Or Clyntahn has received info from a Charis Temple Loyalist.

  9. PeterZ says:

    People, it may be simpler yet. The powerhungry SOB has systematized the study of proscribed tech or potential tech that is proscribed. Charis has already shown that they can put things together into useful but approved weapons. Why can’t Clyntahn put his intedants towards the same purpose? You saw how easily Father Paityr picked up the processes involved in the accumulator. Why not actively charge the coGA intendant to do the same thing? He’s turning his intendants and inquisition support staffinto his own R&D shop.

    Yes, he is killing the CoGA’s authority further, but I doubt he cares.

    On the other hand, Drak does have a point too.

  10. PeterZ says:

    Hot dang! It just occured to me that I may have lucked onto an accurate bit of speculation. I had guessed that Ducharin would be busy bribing the CoGA military or looking for disaffected souls within the military. I might just be correct on this one. What better material to work with than someone who has the strict sense of duty to kill an admired former commander.

    Quote-“Duchairn knew perfectly well why Allayn Maigwair and Zhaspahr Clinton regarded Captain Khanstahnzo Phandys as the perfect man to command his bodyguard . . . and keep an alert eye on his activities.”

  11. tootall says:

    #10– I’ve thought that Phandys was a good guy all along — sort of a Snape Dumbledore thing.

  12. DKCWong says:

    With Clyntahn stating to the Go4 that the Charisians are, “Pressing and twisting the limits of the Proscriptions till they squeal, yes, but so far all of it’s been things our own artisans can duplicate without placing ourselves in Shan-wei’s talons,” seems to me he’s just cut out from under his own feet his original premise that the Charisians were ‘breaking’ the Proscriptions and hence the reason for the original unprovoked attack on Charis in OAR. A lot of smart people (including some rulers say in Siddarma) will eventually pick-up on this (if they haven’t already) and start to question the reasons they are at war with Charis. They could use this as the basis to question the Holy War and eventually break with the Church or have some grounds for becoming neutral.

    I’m wondering if and when Cayleb and company will get around to sending a small fleet to neutralize the rather large (and sort of impotent) fleet that is sitting in Desnair and later the one under Thirsk’s command. I’m also wondering if and when that shell-armed fleet arrives in Howard Bay if the Desnarians don’t seriously consider it might be a good time to become neutral, but I suspect they won’t. In any event it would be a good opportunity to smash as much of the Church’s ship building infrastructure as Charisian shell-armed warships should be able to defeat shore defenses protecting the harbors and in general have free reign of the seas until the Church can manage to duplicate the technology.

  13. Let us recall that the Church of God Awaiting is the final heir — whether they know it or not — of the Solarian League, and therefore the Fleet of God was in fact the final incarnation of the Invincible Solarian League Navy. They’re getting better. Seven survivors of 130 (or 143) is almost a 6% survival rate.

  14. Drak Bibliophile says:

    DKCWong, from what David Weber said over on his site, Clyntahn isn’t worried about the Proscriptions themselves.

    Clyntahn is/was more concerned about the “Reform mindset” in Charis and elsewhere.

    Remember however, the “Holy War” has moved beyond the “Charis is violating the Proscriptions” into “Charis is against God’s Church”.

  15. PeterZ says:

    @13 George, that comment prooves that you are a Philliestine. Comparing the artistry of ignorance and arrogance that is the SLN to the simply misguided but competent NOG is….is…..there are simply no words for it. ;-)

  16. hank says:

    The other shoe yet to drop here: The less than stellar performance of the Harchongese contingent. Think Clyntahn might be just a little Po’d by that? OTOH, does he dare, and will Trynair allow him, to confront one of the Church’s most loyal suporters over their f**k-ups? Interesting times.

  17. Doug Lampert says:

    @16, no surviving senior officers. That means no CREDIBLE accusations of incompetence can be levelled.

    Without any record of the actual battle other than the reports of a handful of survivors you have to question anything the survivors say (and in the case of the Church and Harchongese the fact that the survivors aren’t high churchmen or nobles would also be significant).

    The survivors of a debacle like this will almost certainly overstate enemy numbers and power, and they weren’t the people at the cutting edge or fighting the most aggressively or they wouldn’t have gotten away. In fact, with such a small number of survivors it isn’t unreasonable to suppose that the survivors are the ones who ran first, that they really don’t know all that much about what happened in the battle, and that any allied force they blame is simply an attempt to scapegoat someone else.

    In the case of a serious debacle like this it’s not really bad practice to simply assume that those who died were fighting their best, blame the officer who was in command, and only worry about incompetence amoung the survivors.

    As supporting evidence (not available to the CoG): Note that their report indicates exploding ships, but someone who’d been closely engaged would know WHY those ships were exploding. They’d have seen the shell impacts and detonations. The survivors simply aren’t good or credible witnesses, certainly not good enough to risk further upsetting a major ally on their word.

  18. hank says:

    Assuming Charis eventually posts lists of prisoners and/or names of ships captured, it’s going to pretty obvious that most of the Harcongese struck without even attempting escape/evasion/combat(for those that were armed). And how seriously any report by the survivors is taken may be boosted if they had a high butcher’s bill or significant damage to prove they did engage. Look back to BSRA at the response of Nahrmann & Hector both to the surviours of Darcos Sound. Those officers got praise & promotion.
    Of course the treatment of White Ford & Thirsk was a bit different but they had fled(White Ford) or surrendered (Thirsk) and thus were obviously craven. (even tho twere the course of wisedom in both cases) Thirsk had domestic enimies to pile coal on the fire too. And neither of them were priests, and hence automatically more trustworthy to the Go4.

  19. hank says:

    I meant that Go4 will tend to trust priests more than secular officers in the above, btw.
    Also, speaking of White Ford, we haven’t heard much of him in the last few books. I’m wondering how/if he is going to slot into the ICN now that Tarot is joining the Empire.

  20. DKCWong says:

    Rats! I wish I had time to visit other websites and check on the info dumps. Thanks Drak for reminding me. You’re right the war has moved beyond that. Given Clynthan’s willingness to quickly replicate Charisian innovations to win the Holy War, he’s quite short-sighted, as the Church’s hold on Safehold will diminish. The social and economic changes will increase the power and wealth of certain secular rulers and their kingdoms and increase the level of dissatisfaction among the populations of kingdoms that adhere rigidly to Church doctrines.

    Of course there is the issue of the Kinetic Bombardment System. I’ve read all the previous threads on this website and I favor the arguments that the KBS is manually activated. Paityr Wylsynn (curse Weber for inflicting us with such spellings! :) has the activation key and I believe a human operator is required to target the KBS’ remaining salvo. I’m sure there’s some AI system that will teach or guide the operator how to work it. I’m stretching on this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at the end or near the end of this series it’s Zion that gets zapped.

    I’m likely wrong and this maybe simplistic, but it’s a way to convince the population of the world that God was really on the side of Charis without having to disclose for now (at least until humanity is ready to accept the truth of how they came to Safehold and the original reason for the deception) the true purpose of the Church of God Awaiting and all the nasty implications that would have. Merlin doesn’t want a full-scale religious war that lasts centuries delaying humanity’s return to the stars. Or worst, having lived one big lie all those centuries, future generations might not even believe in the threat of the Gbaba thinking it to be another lie despite any evidence otherwise. Then humankind ignorantly develops the level of technology that tips off the Gbaba before they are ready or able to fight them effectively.

    I’d love to know what Clyntahn didn’t finish saying at the end of the snippet. Guess we’ll find out eventually.

  21. @17 Eventually the prisoner officers on the surrendered ships will be heard from.

    I am curious if there will actually be any witnesses to exploding shells, as opposed to explosions. A full broadside of exploding shells detonating the ready powder stores may leave the world short on witnesses, let alone witnesses who are sure what detonated first. IIRC there was a surviving witness to the detonation of HMS Hood.

    @15 Truly bad pun. More are needed. I am, not confident that Admiral Sun Rising training his crews might not deserve more than he is credited with.

  22. Doug Lampert says:

    @21, not all shells hit, not all shells hit their primary target, as you point out, even devastating explosions leave survivors.

    Anyone really close to the center of the battle had a chance to observe shells exploding.

    Shells are typically 10% or less explosive by wieght, In our world they were typically 2/3rds or so the wieght of solid shot from the same guns. I don’t recall the broadside throw weight of a Carrisian Galleas, but let’s say it’s 24 guns of 36 pounds each. That’s only 50 or so pounds of black powder even if EVERYTHING hits and EVERYTHING detonates (yeah, right). Against a decently built galleon it should take quite a bit of luck for that to be an instant kill (contrawise it should almost always be a complete mission kill and wreck the vessel, which is plenty for military purposes and it may well eventually cause a fire to eventually reach the magazine).

    Charis was short on shells. If they were firing so many at every target in every broadside that everyone hit instantly went BOOM then they were being phenominally wasteful of a short resource (and also, DW is playing fast and loose with what they’re physically capable of).

    Thus survivors of close engagement should KNOW it was broadside fire where the balls then exploded. No such report, hence the guy who lived to make a report was not closely engaged by shell fireing ships (this is not exactly shocking news).

    If and when Charis starts returning prisoners the CoGA will know it was exploding shells.

  23. PeterZ says:

    DKCWong and Drak,

    Does this mean that Clyntahn acknowleges Charis is godly? Charis’ fleet of godly and faithful men surely did not lose. The fleet that did lose surely is NOT God’s own and does NOT fight His jihad. The second part of the quote defends Charis rather nicely, no?

    Quote-“First, by pointing out that the Writ clearly establishes that Shan-wei’s arts cannot prevail against godly and faithful men, far less a fleet sent out in God’s own name to fight His jihad!” Clyntahn shot back. “And, secondly, by pointing out that nothing else these goddamned heretics have trotted out has amounted to actual witchcraft or deviltry. Pressing and twisting the limits of the Proscriptions till they squeal, yes, but so far all of it’s been things our own artisans can duplicate without placing ourselves in Shan-wei’s talons!”

  24. Drak Bibliophile says:

    PeterZ, in context “Shan-wei’s arts” refers to “Dark Miracles” or “Black Magic” so Clyntahn is saying (IMO) that the Charisans may be “servants of Shan-wei” but they are using “methods” that Godly men can use.

  25. PeterZ says:

    Agreed, Drak. However, his argument can also mean what I suggested. Should our fearless Grand Inquisitor use that argument, he may be offering Charis left handed compliments.

  26. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @25 – PeterZ

    As a left-handed person, I am shocked and dismayed at the insensitivity of your comment!


  27. robert says:

    @26 Me too! I always thought that right-handed people were kind of sinister…er, oh, see!.
    @5 Sorry to be so late coming in, but I sorta got the idea from the sanitary stuff in the “writings” that the germ theory of disease was floating around anyway.

  28. Anthony says:

    I believe the “archangels” skipped on the whole germ theory and just said it was God’s will. It’s Gods’ will that you should wash your hands, if you don’t he will punish you with an infection.

    That leaves it open to discovering germs later, and seeing how God brings about his will at least in that case.

  29. robert says:

    @8 Hmm. An informant who is an insider, perhaps? And is also a PICA. And whose initials are NA? Nah!

  30. On re-reading the snippet, it appears they have heard from the few survivors who reached semaphore lines, and so far as I can tell have yet to learn that Charis captured a bunch of their ships. A bunch? More than half?

    When they learn about the captures and prisoners, they get to be unhappy again.

  31. @27 Someplace early in Book 1 is a specification that there are lots of exact instructions, and an explanation that the infection is due to the moral failing of the surgeon in not obeying Pasquale.

  32. PeterZ says:


    Might it be that Clyntahn truly believes that God actively approves the things he has done? If god disapproved, He would have punished Clyntahn just He or His archangels punish those with moral failings through sickness or curses. Apply this logic to my post @23 and Clyntahn may very well have his own R&D team within the Office of the Inquisition.

  33. hank says:

    @20 I sincerly doubt Merlin would support bringing a kinetic attack down of Zion because:
    1) Last thing he wants is “miracles,” even ones that support his side. He’s trying to get Safehold away from that kind of thinking.
    2) Much better, in the long run, to capture the Temple and show how all the features are actually jus (forbidden) tech.
    3) Merlin doesn’t seem the type to shrug off killing all the innocents in Zion as egg breakage.

  34. KimS says:

    There may have been surviving ships that had a ‘dud’ exploding shell lodged in their timbers. When that ship returned to port the shell was discovered and closely examined.

    I would advise against raiding the harbors and destroying the ships at anchor. There would be minimal loss of enemy crews and with the rate of innovation increasing the future quality might equal Charis. Charis has safe and expanding manufactories with a willing and able workforce. Most continental kingdoms have been trained to resist change and they have an undereducated or unwilling workforce.

  35. Brom says:

    KimS, if you’re thinking one of the NoG ships that managed to escape has an embedded dud shell, not likely. All the ships fired upon with shell were in the center of the NoG formation. The escapee ships were from the far edge of the formation, out of range of the shell-firing vessels.

  36. DKCWong says:


    1) True, can’t have convenient miracles, but was thinking more in the line of Paityr Wylsynn (or his equivalent) going to Zion and declaring God’s judgment on the wickedness of the Go4 or something like it. But, just getting near or into Zion without getting killed would be a problem.
    2) Still not sure how the general population will take to being told they’ve been ‘hood-winked’ all this time and I can imagine lots of folks unable to or unwilling to believe it’s just advanced technology plus there still maybe an issue with trust in ‘higher’ authority afterwards. I guess they would literally have to be shown the truth about the Terran Federation and the Gbaba. But, even thought Langhorn knew the threat, his solution was equivalent to an ostrich burying its head in the sand.
    3) You’re right about Merlin not willing to let innocents dies unnecessarily …perhaps advance warning that God’s Wrath was coming to punish Zion? Wonder about the accuracy of the Kinetic Bombardment System, is it an area weapon or can it be targeted more precisely…even so it would likely cause some collateral damage. I guess it also depends on how important it is to keep the Temple intact…hidden treasure grove of knowledge/technology?

  37. Anthony says:

    Even if warned it is not likely Zion could (or would) be evacuated. You have to believe the threat is real for that.

    The Kinetic system is probably as accurate (if not more so) than current day bombs. We can hit within inches of were we want with GPS, and a kinetic warhead would be similar to a nuke going off, without the radiation. Inches off target would be irrelevant. No likely about it, collateral damage in the extreme.

  38. ET1swaw says:

    Don’t forget the temple coating. IIRC in OAR Merlin said something about it be armored to withstand nuclear penetration bombing.

  39. FriarBob says:

    The temple coating could withstand an “old, pre-space forty-centimeter armor-piercing shell without a scratch”. It said nothing about nuclear bombardment. In fact, it specifically also mentioned elsewhere that Nimue was tempted to fire up the shuttle and nuke the Temple out of existence, but stayed her hand.

    No, if the orbital bombardment system took a shot at Zion, I’m pretty sure the temple would at LEAST be VERY badly damaged… if not flat out destroyed.

    I don’t actually expect that to happen. But I think it would be able to “get the job done” if it did.

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