How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 43

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 43


HMS Dawn Star, 58,

Hannah Bay,


Ducal Palace,


Grand Duchy of Zebediah


          It was even hotter than the first time he’d been to Hannah Bay, Merlin thought. And while that might be of primarily theoretical interest to a PICA, it was of rather more pressing relevance to the flesh-and-blood members of Dawn Star‘s still breathing ship’s company. Particularly to those — like Empress Sharleyan herself — who’d been born Chisholmians and not Old Charisians.

          “Dear God,” Sharleyan said, fanning herself as she stepped out onto the awning-shaded quarterdeck with Sergeant Seahamper, “you warned me it would be hot, Merlin, but this — !”

          “I’ll admit I didn’t expect it to be quite this warm,” Merlin said. “On the other hand, you are almost directly on the equator, Your Majesty.”

          “A point which has been drawn rather sharply to my attention,” she replied tartly.

          “At least you’re not the only one suffering from it,” Merlin offered helpfully, eliciting a glare of truly imperial proportions.

Crown Princess Alahnah had been a happier baby since the stormy weather had eased, but it would appear she had not yet developed her father’s tolerance for warm temperatures. “Cranky” was a frail description of her current mood, as Sharleyan was better aware than most.

          “Perhaps I’d better rephrase that, Your Majesty,” he said, and heard something suspiciously like a chuckle from Seahamper’s direction. He glanced at the grizzled sergeant, but Seahamper only smiled back at him blandly.

          “Perhaps you had,” Sharleyan agreed pointedly, reclaiming his attention from her personal armsman. “Unless you’d care to go see if you can get your goddaughter into a more cheerful mood yourself, that is.”

          “It’s always my honor to undertake even the most difficult of tasks in your service, Your Majesty,” Merlin replied with a bow. “Impossible tasks, however, are beyond the abilities even of seijins.”

          “Don’t I know it!” Sharleyan said feelingly.

          The empress walked to the rail and the officers and seamen whose station was the quarterdeck moved back to give her space as she stood gazing out across the bay’s blue waters. They looked seductively cool as they sparkled and flashed in the relentless, brilliant sunlight, and she wished fervently that she could take advantage of that coolness. Unfortunately, she had other things to deal with, and her mouth tightened as she looked at the six Imperial Charisian Navy galleons anchored in company with Dawn Star. Twenty more galleons — transports flying the imperial banner — lay between them and shore, with lighters and longboats ferrying their cargo of Imperial Army troops ashore. She doubted very much that those reinforcements were going to be necessary, given Thomas Symmyns’ unpopularity with the people of Zebediah. In fact, she’d argued against bringing them along, but that wasn’t an argument Cayleb or the Duke of Eastshare, the Army’s commander, had been willing to entertain, and Merlin had voted with them. Rather enthusiastically, in fact, if her memory served.

          “I hope none of the Zebediahans are going to take the wrong message from this,” she said now, quietly enough that only Merlin’s ears could hear her.

          “I’m not sure there is a wrong message they could take from it,” he replied sub-vocally from behind her, and she smiled slightly as she heard his voice over the com earplug. “I think it’s as important for the lesser nobility and the commoners to understand you and Cayleb aren’t going to put up with any more nonsense as it is for any of Zebediah’s more nobly born confidants to get the same message. Nobody in a place like Zebediah is going to stick his neck out in support of what may be a simply transitory regime. Unless they’re pretty sure you plan to hang around — and to enforce the new rules — people are likely to keep their heads down. Especially when you add in the fact that coming out in favor of Charisian rule is going to get them on the wrong side of the Inquisition and Mother Church, as well.”

          “I know,” she murmured back. “I just can’t help thinking about Hektor’s efforts. These people haven’t had a lot of good experiences with foreign troops, Merlin.”

          “No,” he agreed, enhanced vision watching the first squads of Army troops debarking onto Carmyn’s wharves. “It’s time we changed that, though, and Kynt is just the man to make a good start in that direction.”

          Sharleyan nodded. Kynt Clareyk, the Baron of Green Valley, was an ex-Marine. Although only a recent addition to the inner circle, he’d cherished his suspicions for some time where Seijin Merlin’s role in the innovations which had made Charis’ survival possible were concerned. He was also one of the new Imperial Army’s most highly regarded officers. Even his Chisholmian-born fellows, who tended to regard Marines as excellent for boarding actions and smash and grab raids but fairly useless for extended campaigns, listened very carefully to anything Green Valley had to say.

          “I can’t help wishing we had something which more immediately demanded his talents, though,” she said after a moment. “Or perhaps I should say I hope nothing happens here which immediately demands his talents.”

          “Until we figure out how somebody with an army our size invades something the size of the mainland, I think this is probably the best use for his talents we’re likely to find,” Merlin said philosophically. “Thank God. For a while there I was afraid we might really need him in Corisande after all.”

          “That could still happen,” Sharleyan pointed out.

          “Not with Koryn Gahrvai and his father sitting on the situation,” Merlin disagreed. “The only real chance Craggy Hill’s lot had was to convince the Duke of Margo and the Temple Loyalists to support them against the Regency Council’s ‘traitorous ambition to replace our rightful Prince with their own tyrannical despotism in the service of traitors, blasphemers, and heretics.’ When that appeal fell flat, I knew we had them. For now, at least.”

          “I wish you hadn’t felt compelled to add the qualifier,” she said dryly.

          “To quote a truly ancient aphorism from Old Terra, ‘Nothing’s sure but death and taxes,’ Your Majesty.” Merlin smiled as the Empress’ straight, slender shoulders quivered with suppressed laughter, then cleared his throat.

          “Excuse me, Your Majesty,” he said out loud, “but I believe Master Pahskal is trying to attract your attention.”

          “Thank you, Merlin,” she said, turning from the rail and smiling at the sandy-haired young midshipman who’d been shifting his weight uneasily from one foot to the other.

Faydohr Pahskal had just turned thirteen and he was the son of a family of Cherayth fishermen who’d never imagined he might come into such proximity of his queen and empress. He’d obviously been torn between whatever instructions he’d received from Captain Kahbryllo and an acute uncertainty over the wisdom of disturbing Empress Sharleyan when everyone else had obviously withdrawn to the far side of the quarterdeck to give her privacy.

          “Should I assume the Captain’s sent you with a message, Master Pahskal?” she asked with a smile.

          “Ah, yes, Your Majesty. I mean, he has.” Pahskal blushed hotly, although it was difficult to tell, thanks to how severely his fair skin had burned under the last couple of days’ intense sunlight. “I mean,” he continued, rushing the words a bit desperately, “Captain Kahbryllo sends his compliments and asks if you would be pleased to go ashore in about one hour, Your Majesty.”

          “That would suit me quite well, Master Pahskal,” Sharleyan said gravely. “Thank you.”

          “You’re welcome, Your Majesty!” Pahskal half-blurted, touched his chest in salute, and dashed away, obviously relieved at having discharged his mission without being incinerated by the imperial disfavor.

          “It’s hard to believe Hektor was even younger than that at Darcos Sound,” Sharleyan said, her smile turning a bit sad, and Merlin nodded.

          “It is, although I doubt even Master Pahskal seems quite that young when it’s simply a matter of life or death, Your Majesty.”

          “Am I really that terrifying?”

          “To a thirteen-year-old?” Merlin laughed. “Your Majesty, the thought of facing you and Cayleb can turn strong men’s knees to water. When a mere midshipman finds himself trapped between the doomwhale of his captain’s instructions and the deep blue sea of an empress’ potential unhappiness, the only thing he wants to be is somewhere else. Preferably as quickly as possible.”

          “Do you think he’ll get over it eventually?” Sharleyan asked, trying very hard not to laugh herself.

          “Oh, probably, Your Majesty. If he spends enough time in your vicinity, that is. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was why Captain Kahbryllo sent him instead of coming to speak to you himself.”

          “You may be right,” Sharleyan said. Then she snapped her fingers and gave her head a half-shake.

          “What is it, Your Majesty?” Merlin asked.

          “I should have asked young Pahskal to pass the word to Spynsair and Father Neythan, as well.”

          “I doubt Captain  Kahbryllo forgot to include your personal clerk and your senior law master in the message queue, Your Majesty.”

          “No, but I should have made certain.”

          “Will it put your mind at ease if I go and personally bend all the sinister power of my fearsome reputation on making certain they got the word too, Your Majesty?” Merlin inquired, sweeping her a deep bow, and she giggled. Unmistakably, she giggled.

          “I suppose that’s not really necessary, Captain Athrawes,” she said gravely, then sighed, her expression much less humorous than it had been a moment before. “And I also suppose I’m thinking about minor details as a way to avoid thinking about more momentous ones.”

“It happens, Your Majesty,” Merlin said with a small shrug. “But I’ve noticed you usually get around to facing up to all of them in the end. It seems to be a habit you share with Cayleb.”

“I’d better!” she said in a considerably tarter tone. “And I imagine I’d better go and get ready for a boat trip, too. Under the circumstances, though, I think it would be wiser to leave Alahnah on board with Sairaih and Glahdys. Assuming of course” — she rolled her eyes — “a mere empress can convince Sairaih to stay aboard herself!”

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39 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 43

  1. Nimitz13 says:

    Argh! So we learn nothing further about what Paityr Wylsynn does in the snippets.

    It’s the first time we see the imperial army being used though. And Merlin’s observation that the army is too small to attack the mainland points a HUGE finger at Siddarmark.

    Green Valley in the inner circle! I didn’t expect that to happen this quickly. Those old men in Tellesberg are getting off their duffs!

    Now if they can just get to Ninian…

    Bets on whether we see the hanging before the snippets end?

  2. andy says:

    I am anxiously waiting for something to happen in this book…

  3. tootall says:

    With only two more snips- I wager not. (Bleek- you forgot)

  4. Anonymouse says:

    It’s going to take the last two snippets just to get Sharleyan off the ship.

    Not to be greedy, Drak, but do we have a title and snippets arrival date for Book Six? And, of course, thnk you for all your work.

  5. Nimitz13 says:

    Bets on a long drop or a short drop in the hanging? Short drop is actually harder on the victim. So Sharly gets to be merciful by selecting the length of the rope!


  6. Maggie says:

    @4 Of course too long a drop is a rightful mess….

  7. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Anonymouse, no word on the next Safehold book yet. Sorry about that. [Smile]

    By the way people, while Safehold isn’t 17th Century Europe, in 17th Century Europe Nobles weren’t hung. They literally lost their heads. [Wink]

  8. Doug Lampert says:

    Which also provides lots of opportunities for merciful and quick or rather slow and painful.

  9. Drak Bibliophile says:

    True, but David Weber’s “Good Guys” aren’t likely to go the “slow and painful” route.

  10. Bret Hooper says:

    @5 Nimitz13: Remember Tom Dooley:

    When he fell thru that gallows,
    Something, he knew, was wrong:
    There on his toes he balanced;
    They had the rope too long!

    Raise up your head, Tom Dooley . . . .

  11. robert says:

    Is the part where Sharleyan’s (attempted?) assassination occurs? That girl ought to just stay home and see to the administration of the Empire and keep out of harm’s way!

  12. Anonymouse says:

    @7 Thanks Drak.

  13. FriarBob says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me if ONE of those snippets were to show up in the next few days… but I would highly doubt for both. And it’s also possible that neither of them does. And even if one does, there’s no way to guarantee that the attack would actually happen before we have to run to the store to get the book because there is no other option.

  14. Nimitz13 says:

    @11 The presumed assassin Paitryck Hainree is a Corisandian Temple Loyalist. (Or “patriot” at least.) So we’ll see him when Sharly gets to Corisande. Not in the snippets I’m afraid…

    I’m pretty sure she’ll have her bullet-proof undies on when the moment of truth arrives.

    Mandatory Bleek!

  15. PeterZ says:

    I shall wish you all so long until A Rolling Thunder. Barnes and Nobel has graciously sold me HFaF early.
    I now have a date with a glass MacAllan’s, a quiet corner and the MWW latest release.

    So long, y’all. May your conversations be as pleasant going foreward as it has been these past weeks.

  16. PeterZ says:

    Ballocks! that’s A Rising Thunder.

  17. dave o says:

    Now that we’re coming down to one set of Weber snippets, how about something from Flint. I WANT FLINT. I WANT FLINT!

  18. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Sorry Dave O, but Drake will be next.

    I’ll start the next RCN book on the 14th.

  19. PeterZ says:

    Wohoo! Another RCN! I take that back. I’ll see y’all in a week.

  20. PeterZ says:

    Drak, what’s the title on this new RCN book? Is it Into the Hinterlands? Yes, I know the ItH is not RCN.

  21. Drak Bibliophile says:

    PeterZ, it’s _Road Of Danger_.

  22. Anonymouse says:

    @18 Thank you, thank you, Drak.

  23. Maggie says:

    @10 I was just in Tom Dula country last month. Interesting case. In fact, the rope was too short and the poor guy strangled fairly slowly. The Kingston Trio song was catchy, but got just about all of the facts wrong…

  24. Bret Hooper says:

    @23 Maggie: Thanks for your comment. I don’t doubt you are right, technically, (your previous comments show that you are quite knowledgeable about music) but as I think you really know, the KT song was intended as a joke, a takeoff (using the same tune) on the then-popular “Hang down your head, Tom Dooley,” not revisionist history. But it seemed apropos of the preceding discussion.

    Your comments are always worth reading. Thank you and keep them coming!

  25. @4

    I believe they use “hoist” not “drop”.

    And we miss Kynt Claryk’s reaction to being told what is going on.

  26. PeterZ says:

    Thanks, Drak.

    This is tough. Real tough not snerking and so I shall depart quickly.

  27. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Tell me about it, PeterZ. [Wink]

  28. Rod says:

    sigh, I know they are the “good guys” and all so they’ve sworn off the Scheulerites more inventive methods, but just once, couldn’t they be more inventive! Hangings just so boring……….Unless your the one to be hung I suppose.

  29. Maggie says:

    @24 Spot on, Bret! Please forgive my nitpicking: I probably would have fussed at Mozart for his Masonic inaccuracies in “Magic Flute”…

    @26 PeterZ, you are cruel to eat your entree in front of the whole table when we are still making do with breadsticks! Just wave a little of the aroma our way…

  30. MTO says:

    @28 so killing a man is entertainment? You want some dancing girls to go with your murder?

  31. Cobbler says:

    @ 28

    “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

    Samuel Johnson

  32. Drak Bibliophile says:

    MTO, there’s a saying that some people deserve killing.

    I took Rod’s comment as some people do not deserve an easy death.

  33. robert says:

    So long, PeterZ. See (read?) you for the Drake.

    I just spent several days re-reading Off Armageddon Reef. Call it a refresher course because it has been a looong time between books. It is a good read indeed.

    @29 As my mother used to say after the show, it was only a movie, and when I got older I learned about artistic license. Inaccuracies? I say pa-pa-pa-pa! Artistic License! It is only an opera.

  34. MTO says:

    “I took Rod’s comment as some people do not deserve an easy death.”

    Drak, I’m mixed emotions about what you say. I much prefer the light you choose to view Rob’s comments in, at least he’s not reveling in the death… but then wishing a dawn-out, complex and/or painful death on someone is just sadism. Like Clyntan.

  35. Drak Bibliophile says:

    MTO, yes and no.

    IMO it is possible to believe that somebody doesn’t deserve an easy death without taking pleasure in that non-easy death.

    Plenty of otherwise good people can wish painful deaths onto people who have harmed them or people close to them.

    On the other hand, there is the danger of becoming a Clyntan.

    On the Gripping Hand, we need to be careful in our discussions so that we do not attack the person making a comment we dislike. We don’t need flamewars here.

    Now Rod hasn’t said anything about your comment but I could see him taking offense at it.

  36. Rod says:

    no offense taken, I suppose my comment was made more in the sense of, It seems as if in showing the charisian side/Merlins little buddies, they seem to almost always choose the lawful/ less emotional/ stait-laced response, despite what ever emotions they may actually be feeling. More interested in Justice, then Vengeance if you will. Personally I tend to gravitate towards that choice myself. It just seems to me that people involved in the sort of fierce, and increasingly violent conflict that they are facing would not find that so easy. I don’t mean they should automatically descend into barbarian status just cause they are in a religious war. But it seems to me as if they are making that choice too easily, almost always doing what I think most of us would consider the “right thing”. Certain execeptions in Corisande withstanding, I just think they are finding it entirely too easy to walk the moral path, instead of going through the agonizing conflict of choosing whether to do the right thing, when many of those who oppose you, are continually descending into lower depths and crueler actions to enforce their will on you and change your way of life, or end it. I guess it comes down to, if someone tried to invade my homeland and destroy everyone and everything we have, I just wouldn’t find it so easy to continually treat them so well in return. Just my opinion. oh and yes some people by their actions, don’t really deserve in easy death, I agree. Didn’t say i’d enjoy giving to them though.

  37. TimC says:

    Too easy! We have had X refs to ‘The gripping hand’ and Gregor Vorbarra. How about something a bit more challenging. Like whether Merlin will learn to control the Rakurai as Mahasamatmen did. Or if Merlin playing Lord Kalvan will lead to intervention by the Paratime police.

  38. justdave says:

    but he preferred to be called Sam

    love it!

  39. PeterZ says:

    Dear Maggie, the entrees are truly scrumptious! I hope you ordered some of that excellent chicken. Really worth the hardcover price in case anyone is wondering.

    And robert, I never miss the RCN. Trade words with you there good sir.

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