How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 33

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 33


Siddarmark City,

Republic of Siddarmark


“One would have expected God’s own, personal navy to fare better than that, wouldn’t one?” Madam Aivah Pahrsahn remarked, turning her head to look over one shapely shoulder at her guest.


A slender hand gestured out the window at the broad, gray waters of North Bedard Bay. Madam Pahrsahn’s tastefully furnished apartment was on one of the better streets just outside the city’s Charisian Quarter, only a block or so from where the Siddarmark River poured into the bay. Its windows usually afforded a breathtaking view of the harbor, but today the normally blue and sparkling bay was a steel-colored mirror of an equally steel-colored sky while cold wind swept icy herringbone waves across it.

          A bleaker, less inviting vista would have been difficult to imagine, but that delicate, waving hand wasn’t indicating the bay’s weather. Instead, its gesture took in the handful of galleons anchored well out from the city’s wharves. They huddled together on the frigid water, as if for support, managing to look pitiful and dejected even at this distance.

          “One would have hoped it wouldn’t have been necessary for God to build a navy in the first place,” her guest replied sadly.

He was a lean, sparsely built man with silver hair, and his expression was considerably more grave than hers. He moved a little closer to her so that he could look out the window more comfortably, and his eyes were troubled.

“And while I can’t pretend the Charisians deserve the sort of wholesale destruction Clyntahn wants to visit upon them, I don’t want to think about how he and the others are going to react to what happened instead,” he continued, shaking his head. “I don’t see it imposing any sense of restraint, anyway.”

          “Why ever should they feel ‘restraint,’ Your Eminence?” Madam Pahrsahn asked acidly. “They speak with the very authority of the Archangels themselves, don’t they?”

          The silver-haired man winced. For a moment, he looked as if he wanted to argue the point, but then he shook his head.

          “They think they do,” he said in a tone which conceded her point, and her own eyes softened.

          “Forgive me, Your Eminence. I shouldn’t take out my own anger on you. And that’s what I’m doing, I suppose. Pitching a tantrum.” She smiled slightly. “It would never have done in Zion, would it?”

          “I imagine not,” her guest said with a wry smile of his own. “I wish I’d had more of an opportunity to watch you in action, so to speak, then. Of course, without knowing then what I know now, I wouldn’t truly have appreciated your artistry, would I?”

          “I certainly hope not!” Her smile blossomed into something very like a grin. “It would have meant my mask was slipping badly. And think of your reputation! Archbishop Zhasyn Cahnyr visiting the infamous courtesan Ahnzhelyk Phonda? Your parishioners in Glacierheart would have been horrified!”

          “My parishioners in Glacierheart have forgiven me a great deal over the years, ‘Aivah,'” Zhasyn Cahnyr told her. “I’m sure they would have forgiven me that, as well. If anyone had even noticed a single lowly archbishop amongst all those vicars, that is.”

          “They weren’t all venal and corrupt, Your Eminence,” she said softly, sadly. “And even a lot of the ones who were both those things were more guilty of complacency than anything else.”

          “You don’t have to defend them to me, my dear.” He reached out to touch her forearm gently. “I knew them as well as you did, if not in precisely the same way.”

He smiled again, squeezed her arm, and released it, then gazed out the window at those distant, anchored ships once more. As he watched, a guard boat appeared, rowing in a steady circle around them, as if to protect them from some shore-based pestilence.

          Or, perhaps, to protect the shore from some contagion they carried, he thought grimly.

          “I knew them,” he repeated, “and too many of them are going to pay just as terrible a price as our friends before this is all ended.”

          “You think so?” The woman now known as Aivah Pahrsahn turned to face him fully. “You think it’s going to come to that?”

          “Of course it is,” he said sadly, “and you know it as well as I do. It’s inevitable that Clyntahn, at least, will find more enemies among the vicarate. Whether they’re really there or not is immaterial as far as that’s concerned! And” — his eyes narrowed as they gazed into hers — “you and I both know that what you and your agents are up to in the Temple Lands will only make that worse.”

          “Do you think I’m wrong to do it, then?” she asked levelly, meeting his eyes without flinching.

          “No,” he said after a moment, his voice even sadder. “I hate what it’s going to cost, and I have more than a few concerns for your immortal soul, my dear, but I don’t think you’re wrong. There’s a difference between not being wrong and being right, but I don’t think there is any ‘right’ choice for you, and the Writ tells us no true son or daughter of God can stand idle when His work needs to be done. And dreadful as I think some of the consequences of your efforts are likely to prove, I’m afraid what you’re set upon truly is God’s work.”

          “I hope you’re right, Your Eminence. And I think you are, although I try to remember that that could be my own anger and my own hatred speaking, not God. Sometimes I don’t think there’s a difference anymore.”

          “Which is why I have those concerns for your soul,” he said gently. “It’s always possible to do God’s work for the wrong reasons, just as it’s possible to do terrible things with the best of all possible motives. It would be a wonderful thing if He gave us the gift of fighting evil without learning to hate along the way, but I suspect only the greatest and brightest of souls ever manage that.”

          “Then I hope I’ll have your prayers, Your Eminence.”

          “My prayers for your soul and for your success, alike.” He smiled again, a bit crookedly. “It would be my pleasure, as well as my duty, to commend a soul such as yours to God under any circumstances. And given the debt I owe you, it would be downright churlish of me not to.”

          “Oh, nonsense!” She struck him gently on the shoulder. “It was my pleasure. I only wish” — her expression darkened — “I’d been able to get more of the others out.”

          “You snatched scores of innocent victims out of Clyntahn’s grasp,” he said, his tone suddenly sterner. “Women and children who would have been tortured and butchered in that parody of justice of his, be they ever so blameless and innocent! Langhorne said ‘As you have done unto the least of God’s children, for good or ill, so you have done unto me.’ Remember that and never doubt for one moment that all that innocent blood will weigh heavily in your favor when the time comes for you to face him and God.”

          “I try to remember that,” she half-whispered, turning back to the window and gazing sightlessly out across the bay. “I try. But then I think of all the ones we had to leave behind. Not just the Circle, Your Eminence, all of them.”

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49 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 33

  1. robert says:

    She’s baaack!
    A one woman CIA spreading dissention and confusion among the baddies.

  2. Elim Garak says:

    Bloody hell – is there a wiki which lists all the characters, and where they appeared? I vaguely remember this guy, but only barely. And the names are sheer horror. They make it even more difficult to remember who the hell these people are. And don’t get me started on people with two or three names that are used interchangeably – Baron Mauve Rock vs. Steeweee Smyyythth.

  3. Shadowsword says:

    Gah, I just can’t get over the names. DW changed normal names to make them sound more exotic, but it makes memorizing who is who difficult, and that’s irritating.

  4. tootall says:

    Didn’t expect her to show up in Siddarmark. Nice move MWW.

  5. Ed T. says:

    God spelled backward is man’s best friend!

  6. Bret Hooper says:

    @4 Ed: But be careful not to say “mad dog” backwards! Actually, Marx said that “outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.” And he went on to say, “Inside the dog, it’s too dark to read.” I just wish I knew a communist or two that I could quote that to, neglecting to mention that the Marx who said it was not Karl, but Groucho.

  7. Summercat says:


    This guy is the guy who gave cofmort to the Archbishop of Charis in his last days of imprisonment, and was one of the targets for being killed by Clinton.

  8. Kevin says:

    I wonder what these two are doing in Siddarmark. Payter’s family has already arrived in Charis, and as they were traveling with Ahmzhelyk then these two have probably already been to Charis. I guess she’s here because it affords better and less conspicuous access to her network in the temple lands and Zion. Cahnyr is probably in Siddarmark because it’s as close as he can get to Glacierheart without falling into Clyntahn’s hands. If memory serves, the coal from Glacierheart floats down the canal and ends up in Siddar City. Of course, any correspondence to his former Archbishopric would be insanely risky. However, I’m sure he still feels responsible for those souls and would be more than willing to run that risk.
    He’s not just going to accept assylum in Charis and forget about all he did in the Circle.

  9. Tim says:

    Sigh, at what point will he actually start telling a story? A highly detailed world with well developed characters who do MAYBE one thing in a 600 page book.

  10. @2 Yes, there is the Safehold wiki website, not complete, and most of the work is being done by the sole maintainer. I used to pitch in back when I had alot of free time. What info is on there is very well done, however.

  11. Valinor says:

    What a wonderful birthday present, thanks. I really wanted to know about Ahmzhelyk. And Cahnyr was a good character.

  12. WP says:

    It’s too bad she didn’t go on to Charis – she literally doesn’t know what she’s missing. After “The Merlin Treatment” she could keep in touch with her network just fine. But, of course, she can’t be recruited while she’s in Siddermark.

  13. Paul Breed says:

    I finished my ARC, its for resale on ebay on a short auction.(24 hrs, it currently has zero bids)

    If the winner pays before 2pm today it will go out today via UPS ground.
    I paid 25.oo for it and anything over that price will be donated to charity.


  14. justdave says:

    OK, let’s give the ‘name’ thing a rest

    the MWW has already admitted his mistake in trying a ‘graphic’ demonstration of how spoken language will shift w/o recordings to maintain pronunciation

  15. Dave R says:

    Still, the names are the main reason I wish the MWW would wrap up this arc and skip forward a few generations.

  16. robert says:

    @16 Will there be recordings or will pronunciation get worse in a few more generations? Can it get worse?

    Someday, in about 30 or 40 years, Baen will republish this whole series, as they are doing for other authors of the “Golden Era” nowadays, and the person equivalent to Eric who edits it will have to normalize all the names. Gaaa!

  17. tootall says:

    #7 Bret- lol – actually snickering o l- thanks

  18. JeffM says:

    @17 If I were to guess, I would say that as the centuries progress, the Church has fallen by the wayside and the true history of humanity becomes common knowledge and technology progresses, that future generations of Safeholdians will subtly begin to reshape their pronunciations to the “authentic and original”.

  19. @19 Especially once they come across HBO and Showtime archives and want to understand what the hell
    everyone is saying!

  20. Damon says:

    Wow! 76.99 for an ARC copy. Someone must REALLY want to read this book!

  21. Ed T. says:

    And some pirate in Houston has a buy it now price of 475.00. Probably an ex-Enron trader, maybe even a relative of the great Ken Lay hisself!

  22. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Think of the good publicity for Tor and David Weber that people paying that much for an ARC will make.

    I’m sure David Weber thinks of it as good publicity. [Smile]

  23. FriarBob says:

    Compared to $450, that’s nothing.

  24. Robert H. Woodman says:

    — from the snippet

    “It’s inevitable that Clyntahn, at least, will find more enemies among the vicarate. Whether they’re really there or not is immaterial as far as that’s concerned! And” — his eyes narrowed as they gazed into hers — “you and I both know that what you and your agents are up to in the Temple Lands will only make that worse.”

    What do you think she is up to in the Temple Lands? I suspect that she is disseminating the truth about illegal and immoral activities in the Vicarate? Does anyone else have other ideas?

  25. Jeff Ehlers says:

    You know what would really make sense? An index in the back of “How Firm a Foundation” with a pronunciation guide to character names. Trying to wade through phonetic pronunciations is a pain, to say the least.

  26. robert says:

    @25 Robert.
    She is suborning Temple Guardsmen of course. Now what I don’t understand is why her people who (may) have access to the Temple can’t report back on what is in the Temple so Merlin knows about it.

  27. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @27 – robert

    That may happen. I would not be surprised if that is how Merlin learns what is under the Temple. Either a spy tells him or he is able to sneak in a passive snoop. The spy is more likely, though. A passive snoop would likely have a detectable power source that would give it away.

  28. Drak Bibliophile says:

    IMO whatever is hidden under the Temple is very unlikely to be easily found by anybody inside the Temple.

    It is very likely that you need Father Paityr’s Key to even find it.

  29. Paul Breed says:

    I just finished the book (ARC) and it was a good read.
    I’ve really enjoyed snipiting with all of you, but my snerk collar does not work as well as Drack’s
    and now, I really have to go. I’m really sad DW decided to kill off .

  30. JeffM says:

    Merlin? He killed off MERLIN ALREADY?!!!! AUUGGHHHH!!!!

    (sneaking away

  31. MTO says:

    Low, Paul, very low.

    BTW: do you build rockets?

  32. Paul Breed says:

    Yes I’m Paul Breed(Sr/Dad) of Unreasonable Rocket infamy.


  33. KIMs says:

    The Firm Foundation under the Temple is alluded to multiple times in the various books, IMHO. The Wylsynns said the key was given to the by Schueler (alive) with specific instructions. I don’t believe the key needs to be in the Temple to be activated. That wouldn’t be smart and the Archangels weren’t dumb. Schueler is in cryo sleep in the Temple, old and wearing out as his nanos can only do so much. Could he have originally been a sympathizer of Shan-wei when the group left Earth, only to reluctantly join Langhorne later? What would he do, if it is him? They would recognize him by his statues and ‘Archangel’ persona. How would he react to how corrupt the chuch has become? Could they ‘refuse’ to obey an ‘Archangel’?

  34. Drak Bibliophile says:

    KIMs, there is definite text evidence in _A Mighty Fortress_ that the Key can only be used in the Temple.


    He’d wept when he opened that letter the evening before. Wept for his father and his friends, and for Mother Church…and for himself. Not for his father’s death—all men died—but for the manner of the death his father would die. For the fact that his father would die with the great task of his life unfinished.

    And for the fact that with his father’s death, that great task fell to Paityr Wylsynn, who was exiled forever to a land far from the Temple. He was the only living man on Safehold—or would be, all too soon—who held the Key, and he would never be in a position to use it unless, somehow, the Church of Charis could actually defeat Mother Church and all the vast power she wielded in the world.

    End Quote

  35. Bewildered says:

    @28. Ooh there’s an irony. Merlin sneaks in a snoop, the temple detects it and kablooie Clyntahn and co suffer the full wrath of the rukurai. :)- Probably too quick an ending for the series, plus a little bit deus ex machina.

  36. Randy N says:

    @36 – Not if they are in the temple itself. As I recall in OAR Merlin describes it as being a literal fortress with inches of very strong armor. I’m on the road so I can’t find the reference right now, but the only reason I can see to do that is to allow it to survive a hit by the orbital system.

    Because of that I’ve often wondered if the key was designed to let the Church’s enemy’s surround the Temple then it would call down the lightning on them. Poof, all the church’s enemies are gone and the Temple still stands as a sign of the support of god. Of course, all the innocents in the city would die too, but I’m sure the archangels would consider it a worthy sacrifice.

  37. Mike says:

    It seems obvious that the Temple, which was built by the people who installed the orbital system, would be programmed as being off-limits to the orbital system. IIRC, Merlin was worried about waking up whatever was there, not about inadvertently making it a target.

  38. “…He was the only living man on Safehold—or would be, all too soon—who held the Key…”

    That line is not consistent with the Key being a single material object. At this moment, it has several holders, says that sentence.

  39. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @40 – George

    Nothing in the text has ever stated that the Key must be a single material object, has it? The Key could consist of a single material object plus activation/initiation commands passed around among members of the Wylsynn family who have been secretly trained in the activation/use of the Key and knowledge of where in the Temple to use the Key. In the hands of the uninitiated, the Key may be nothing more than an inanimate object. In the hands of a person who knows how to use it and/or who has been initiated in its use, the object may “wake up” (i.e., activate) and respond to various commands.

    @29, 35 – Drak

    When I wrote (@28), I had completely forgotten about the Key, so likely you are correct. OTOH, the book blurb tells us that Merlin does find out what is under the Temple, and I have been inferring (perhaps incorrectly) that he somehow gets something or someone under the Temple to tell him what is there. Is Merlin’s learning of what sleeps beneath the Temple a simple act of Father Paityr telling him what is under the Temple??? We will find out when the book comes out.

  40. @40 There appear from the sentence to be several keyholders at the moment, which appears to exclude the possibility that the key is a single material object. There could be copies. The material object could be something commonly available, plus a catch phrase.

  41. Maggie says:

    What if the Key is a riddle code of some sort? Could MWW be going all Musgrave Ritual on us??

  42. Drak Bibliophile says:

    George, it could also mean that Paityr Wylsynn is the current holder but others (including his father) held it in the past.

  43. Joseph says:

    Or the Key could be a gene-scanner…

    It’s speculated (by the Wylsynns) that they might be descended from Schueler himself. Why not put together an authentication module that, in addition to voice/passcode authentication, has to be operated by one of his descendants (y-chromosome descent being a popular choice)?

  44. Tim says:

    Or the key could be that truth scanner that Paityr Wylsynn used in the first book to assure himself that Merlin was working for the “light”

  45. @45 I believe that possibility is excluded by the statement that there are several keyholders.

    @42 Very clever. Something like going to a specific point on the walkable world map, in the middle of Watch, and saying a couple of sentences. In Latin. At this point the floor becomes immaterial in a circle around you, and tractor rays lower you to the hidden basement.

  46. robert says:

    I peer into my crystal ball. I see a mist, a heavy mist. Cough, cough. Not so heavy on the mist.
    –Foodini the puppet, Foodini and Pinhead, c. 1949-51

    Held (hold) has several meanings including at least one that has nothing to do with holding a physical thing, like a belief. So Maggie is right, I think. It is what he holds in his head (knows), not in his hands. And he needs to get into the Temple to activate something using what he knows. And what he would activate is…still obscured by the heavy mist. Hope it is not a heavy trap door.

  47. Drak Bibliophile says:

    There is more info about the Key later in this book.

  48. Nimitz13 says:

    Sorry folks, but Merlin isn’t going to learn EVERYTHING that’s in the basement of the Temple in this book. To quote the MWW:

    “He does find out a bit more — just a bit — about the Temple’s basement in the next book.”

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