- Off Armageddon Reef
- By Schism Rent Asunder
- By Heresies Distressed
- A Mighty Fortress
- How Firm a Foundation
- Midst Toil and Tribulation
- Like a Mighty Army
- Hell’s Foundations Quiver
- At the Sign of Triumph
- Through Fiery Trials
After the initial chapters which set up the story, the series is set about a thousand years in the future, on the planet Safehold. The people have forgotten their origins on the planet Earth, and returned to a lower level of technology. This had been a deliberate direction by leaders of the original settlers, to prevent the colony world being found by an alien race called the Gbaba.
The Church of God Awaiting has a strong influence across the nations of Safehold, ruling from a central location called the Temple. But the leadership of the Church is corrupt, more interested in power than spiritual guidance. In particular, the power is in the hands of a sinister group of vicars called the “Group of Four”.
The island nation of Charis is a progressive nation, geographically far from the Temple, and a great sea power. The Group of Four feel threatened by Charis, and plan to destroy it.
There had been some dissenting members among the original settlers, who had believed that suppression of technology was wrong, and that the inhabitants of the planet should know about the alien threat, and plan to counter it. This group had brought an android from Earth, intending that this android might return the world to the correct path.
This android has the memories and personality of a woman, Nimue Alban, who had died in space near Earth, fighting the Gbaba. The android remains deactivated in a hidden base until about 1000 years after settlement. Then once she wakes up, and learns of the current situation, she decides to take on a male persona (the android body has the capability of significantly changing its appearance), and becomes Merlin Athrawes. Merlin had been provided with a great deal of high technology. He decides that his best strategy is to help Charis in its conflict with the Church, and to encourage the nation’s development of technology.
The series is very detailed. It includes lots of details about manufacture of weapons and ships, and details of sea and land battles. There are many characters, and their names are spelt strangely (although many of these are familiar names, spelt and pronounced slightly differently). There are maps at the beginning of each book, and list of names and a glossary at the end of each book, which are necessary to consult to keep things straight. (The list of names disappears from “At the Sign of Triumph” onwards. Supposedly David Weber is going to include them on his website, but I haven’t found them there yet. But there are characters listed on the Safehold Wiki.)
Even so, some of the locations mentioned in the books are difficult to find on the maps. The map you need to refer to is not always in the book you are currently reading. It may be useful to download the maps from the author’s website.
And the list of names can be confusing to use: characters are listed in order of surname, although in some cases they are also listed by title. But, characters within the books can be referred to by surname, first name or title, and these can sometimes be hard to find in the list. There are also errors in the list, for example, in “Midst Toil and Tribulation”, some characters are listed as Desnairian, when they are in fact Dohlaran.
Except for the first book in the series, the titles of all the others are taken from Christian hymns.
Reference: Safehold Wiki – Safeholdian Calendar
The Safehold year is 301.32 local days in length. It consists of the 10 months February to November. So a normal calendar year is 301 days. Every third year is a leap year, with an extra day inserted into the middle of February. This day is called “Langhorne’s Memorial.”
Each month consists of 6 “five-days” (that is, 30 days). An extra day, called “God’s Day” is inserted into the middle of July.
A five-day is the Safehold equivalent of a week, and consists of the days Monday to Friday. Wednesday is the day of worship.
A Safehold day is 26 standard (Earth) hours and 31 standard (Earth) minutes long. The 31 extra minutes are placed before midnight, and called “Langhorne’s Watch”.
The Year of God dating system specifies the number of Safehold years since the end of the War Against the Fallen.
A length of time expressed in Safehold years (which includes people’s ages) is a shorter period than the corresponding number of Earth years. A Safehold year is approximately 0.9 times the length of an Earth year. A person who is 20 Safehold years old is 18 Earth years old.
(I have added the dates in which each book is set, in August 2019. But since I have borrowed most of the books from the local library network, I don’t have easy access to some of the earlier books. I have relied on information in the Safehold Wiki for clues for some of these dates.)
In the 24th Century, Earth and its colonies are attacked by an alien race called the Gbaba, who seem determined to wipe out the human race. The war continues for years, but eventually a fleet of spaceships, containing the remaining humans, escape and travel far into space, hoping the Gbaba will not find them.
They settle a planet called Safehold. Most of the colonists have been in cryogenic suspended animation until landing.
The leaders of the Administrative Council, Eric Langhorne (Chief Administrator) and Adorée Bédard (Chief Psychologist) wipe the memories of the colonists before reviving them. (The revived colonists are referred to as Adams and Eves.) By wiping their memories, the leaders argue, the world will not have advanced technology, so will not be discovered by the Gbaba. They establish a religion, the Church of God Awaiting, with the members of the Council as angels and archangels, representatives of God, and a holy book called the Holy Writ, part of which (the Proscriptions of Jwo-jeng) specifies the types of technology which are forbidden.
Pei Shan-wei, of the Council’s Techies faction, argues that humanity will eventually develop technology anyway, and it is better that they be warned about the Gbaba threat.
Pei Kau-yung, Shan-wei’s husband, is in the Moderates faction, and has retained the position of military commander of the planet. Kau-yung and Shan-wei are ostensibly estranged, but they have done this as a strategy to retain some influence close to the leadership.
However, in response to Shan-wei’s opposition, Langhorne bombards the Alexandria Enclave, killing Shan-wei and all of her faction. (Henceforth, Shan-wei and other members of her faction are known as Fallen Archangels, and Shan-wei’s name used in much same way as “the Devil” or “Hell” is used in our world.) The bombardment weapon, from a platform in orbit, is henceforth referred to as Langhorne’s Rakurai (lightning bolt), a word which is often used as a metaphor for a sudden destructive force.)
Kau-yung retaliates by wiping out most of Langhorne’s and Bédard’s faction with a suicide-bomb.
[May, Year of God 890 – April, Year of God 892]
About 900 Safehold years later, Nimue Alban wakes up, in a hidden base in the Mountains of Light on Safehold. This base is later referred to as Nimue’s Cave.
The original Nimue had been killed in battle against the Gbaba, back in space near Earth. This later Nimue is actually a PICA, a Personality-Integrated Cybernetic Avatar – an android into which the memories and personality of the original Nimue had been copied. Kau-yung, Shan-wei, and others of their group, realising the possible direction things were going, had smuggled the android onto one of the spaceships, with the hope that she could set Safehold back on the correct path. They had programmed the android’s activation for this time. A recording of Kau-yung’s voice gives her a briefing.
Nimue’s Cave has all sorts of high technology equipment. She has a computer with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) called Owl, a skimmer, and surveillance devices called SNARCs (Self-Navigating Autonomous Reconnaissance and Communication platforms).
Humanity at this time has spread throughout the planet, and consists of several nations. The Church of God Awaiting exerts its influence across the world. The Church has much of the characteristics of the Catholic Church of our world, but with the Archangels – especially Langhorne – taking the place of Christ. The clergy form a hierarchy of priests, bishops and archbishops, with the top level being the vicars (corresponding to the cardinals of the Catholic Church) with the Grand Vicar being the titular head of the Church. (Priests are however allowed to marry.) The Church governs from the Temple in the city of Zion in North Haven, in the central region between the continents of East and West Haven. (The mainland of Safehold consists of the continents of East and West Haven, and Howard.)
But the leadership of the Church is corrupt, more interested in power than spiritual guidance. The Grand Vicar is a mere figurehead. The real power is in a group of vicars called the “Group of Four”, the most sinister member being Zhaspar Clyntahn, the Grand Inquisitor. The other members are: Zahmsyn Trynair, the Chancellor; Rhobair Duchairn, the Treasurer; and Allayn Maigwair, Captain General of the Church’s armed forces.
The island nation of Charis is geographically far from the Temple. It is a progressive nation, it is the main sea power, has been developing “innovations”, and has abolished slavery. The Group of Four feel threatened by Charis, because of its developing power, and its distance from the Church’s influence.
Two of Charis’s neighbouring nations – Emerald and Corisande – are potential enemies of Charis, having ambitions to take over its territory.
Nimue, recognising the patriarchal nature of Safehold’s society, modifies the android body to become male, taking the name Merlin Athrawes, and the role of a seijin, a legendary holy man and warrior. Merlin chooses the progressive Charis for his involvement. He arrives in time to rescue Charis’s Crown Prince Cayleb from an assassination attempt, and is thus accepted into the palace as Cayleb’s personal bodyguard.
Merlin is able to use SNARCs to discover threats to Charis, which he explains to Charis’s King Haarahld and Prince Cayleb as “visions” which he, as a seijin, receives. And his android strength and fighting skill are also attributed to the powers of a seijin. And recognising that eventually Charis’s enemies will attack, he provides advice on how to improve Charis’s industry, weapons and ships. Charis shifts over from galleys (with its teams of rowers), to galleons, making better use of sails, and with more guns, making them more effective for sea battles.
The Group of Four acts more quickly than expected, ordering all of the sea-faring nations – Emerald, Corisande, Chisholm, Tarot, and Dohlar – to attack and destroy Charis. But Merlin’s surveillance forewarns Charis’s Naval forces, which engage Tarot and Dohlar off the coast of Armageddon Reef (the former site of the Alexandra Enclave), and the other enemy forces in Darcos Sound, closer to home.
[Title comes from the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation”.]
[April, Year of God 892 – November, Year of God 892]
Charis has won the sea battles against the five nations warring against it. However King Haarahld has been killed, and Cayleb succeeds to the throne.
Archbishop Maikel Staynair of Charis recognises that the Group of Four had been responsible for the war against his country. He denounces Mother Church for its corruption, and declares the Church of Charis to be separate from Mother Church, thus creating a schism. When they hear of this, Mother Church declares Cayleb and Staynair to be heretics.
However there are many people in Charis who are opposed to the break with Mother Church, (these people are called Temple Loyalists,) and some of these take violent action. There is an attempt on the archbishop’s life, which Merlin defeats.
Cayleb realises that the Church will attempt to attack Charis again, and it will be necessary to build up military strength. He sends his First Councillor, Earl Gray Harbor, to Queen Sharleyan in the Kingdom of Chisholm with a proposal of, not just an alliance, but marriage. (Chisholm had been reluctant participants in the recent conflict.) After some consideration, Sharleyan accepts, and comes to Tellesberg, the capital of Charis, where Cayleb and Sharleyan are married. Thus Charis and Chisholm are combined into a new Charisian Empire, with Cayleb and Sharleyan as co-rulers. (The Kingdom of Charis is now referred to as “Old Charis”.) They will reside in each of Old Charis and Chisholm for part of each year.
Charis has blockaded the main port of the Princedom of Emerald, and attacked another harbour. Prince Nahrmahn, ruler of Emerald, surrenders to Cayleb, and Emerald is incorporated into the Charisian Empire. Cayleb makes Nahrmahn his Imperial Councillor for Intelligence.
Archbishop Maikel takes Merlin to the Monastery of Saint Zherneau, and introduces him to the Abbott, Father Zhon Byrkit. There are ancient documents there, in particular, the Journal of Saint Zherneau (or Jeremiah Knowles), one of the original colonists, who had been taught the truth by Shan-wei, of humanity’s origins, its technological past, and the true nature of the “archangels”. Thus the truth is known by the Brotherhood of Saint Zherneau. Merlin reveals his true identity to Maikel, and later to Cayleb.
Charisian privateers are sailing the seas, capturing ships and cargo of the enemy nations. The Group of Four retaliate by closing all ports to Charisian ships.
Many Charisian merchant ships are docked in the harbour of Ferayd, in the kingdom of Delferahk. The Delferahkan troops receive orders from the Inquisition to take possession of them all. But this turns into a massacre of the Charisians, including women and children, as many of the ships are family businesses.
When the news gets back to Tellesberg, the Charisian Navy attack and destroy the Ferayd port.
[Title comes from the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation”.]
[November, Year of God 892 – September, Year of God 893]
In Ferayd, the Charisian admiral orders the hanging of several priests – the members of the Inquisition who had ordered the troops to massacre the Charisian merchants. This goes against the Church law that only the Church can punish priests, and when the word gets back to the Group of Four, they are not pleased.
Cayleb and the Charisian Navy head off to Corisande to wage war with it. Merlin is with Cayleb. The Grand Duke of the island Duchy of Zechariah, part of the League of Corisande, makes peace with Charis without a fight. The Navy arrives at the Corisandian port city of Dairos, and takes possession of it.
From there the Charisian Marines fight on land against the Corisandian troops. The war is long, but ultimately the Charisians win; this is due to their improved weapons and strategy, but also because Merlin is providing surveillance information to Cayleb, who makes suggestions to the Marines, taking care to disguise the origin of the intelligence.
In the Corisandian capital Manchyr, the ruler, Prince Hektor, decides to send his daughter Irys and his younger son Daivyn out of the country, for safety’s sake, in the care of Phylip Ahzgood, Earl of Coris. Hektor keeps his oldest son and heir, Crown Prince Hektor, with him. Earl Coris and the two children leave Corisande secretly, and eventually arrive at the palace of King Zhames in Talkyra, the capital of Delferahk. (Zhames’s wife, Queen Hailyn, is Hektor’s cousin.)
In Old Charis, Empress Sharleyan makes a visit to the Convent of Saint Agtha, taking a large number of guards with her. But this visit had been anticipated by a former bishop, Mylz Halcom, leader of an underground group of Temple Loyalists. Halcom has brought a large number of armed men to assassinate Sharleyan, and they proceed to attack the guards. In Corisande, Merlin has picked up the potential attack on his surveillance equipment, and quickly flies his skimmer to Old Charis, which takes a few hours. He arrives in time to save Sharleyan and wipe out the remaining attackers, but most of the guards are dead. Merlin must then reveal his true nature to Sharleyan, to explain his presence when he was supposed to be far away in Corisande.
Prince Hektor realises he has lost the war, and decides to surrender to Emperor Cayleb. However, before he can do so, he and his son are assassinated by a member of the Inquisition. But the Corisandians generally believe that Cayleb had ordered the assassination.
The members of Hektor’s council surrender to Cayleb, and form a Regency Council, representing Prince Daivyn, whom they recognise as Corisande’s new ruler, subject of course to the rule of the Charisian Empire. (The boy prince is of course in exile in Delferahk.)
Cayleb leaves an occupation force in Manchyr, and returns to Chisholm, where he meets up with Sharleyan. They will now rule in Sharleyan’s home kingdom for several months.
[Title comes from the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God”.]
[September, Year of God 893 – November, Year of God 894]
In Corisande, the Church of Charis becomes the official church. Many churches willingly become part of the Church of Charis. However, Temple Loyalists are allowed to worship in their own churches as long as they don’t break the law.
There are protests and riots in Manchyr against the Charisian occupation, the murder (as they see it) of Hektor on Cayleb’s orders, and the schismatic church. These protests are spurred on by members of the Inquisition present in Corisande. But the Corisandian Guard put the riots down, and generally peace returns.
In the north of Corisande, a group of noblemen form the “Northern Conspiracy”, plotting against the new regime – the overlordship of the Charisian Empire, and the Regency Council. They communicate with the Grand Duke of Zebediah, who, although he had made peace with the Charisian Empire, is willing to smuggle Charisian-made guns to the Northern Conspiracy.
On the mainland, the Church orders the various nations to build ships and weapons in preparation for the war against the Charisian Empire. This war will be a Holy War, or Jihad. This includes the nations Dohlar (who had previously been defeated by Charis), the Temple Lands, the Harchong Empire, and the Desnairian Empire.
Merlin gradually increases the “inner circle” of people (especially the advisers to the Charisian Emperor and Empress) who know Safehold’s true origins and Merlin’s true nature, and as people are added, they get access to Owl and its surveillance equipment and data banks, and communicators to talk with each other, including across long distances. (Images from the surveillance devices are projected onto their contact lenses, and sound provided via earplugs. Merlin himself has inbuilt communication devices.) However, people are only added when it is agreed by the Brotherhood of Saint Zherneau, because of the danger of betrayal. This use of advanced technology often enables the inner circle to know about distant events long before everyone else around them, but they have to keep their knowledge secret.
There is a priest in Manchyr, Father Tymahn Hahskans, who has always had Reformist tendencies, but had been warned against being critical of the Church leaders. Now that he is part of the Church of Charis, he feels free to preach on his true thoughts. People flock to his church to hear his sermons. But a member of the Inquisition kidnaps him and tortures him to death. (Such torture of heretics is called the “Punishment of Schueler”, and is authorised by the Book of Schueler in the Holy Writ.) Merlin receives the surveillance too late to rescue Hahskans, but he sends information to the Corisandian Guard about where the inquisitors are hidden, so the Guard can arrest them, eventually to be executed for their crimes. Contrary to the Inquisition’s expectations, the Corisandians generally have sympathy for the murdered priest.
In Zion City, there is a secret group of Reformist vicars and other clergy, called the Circle, headed by Vicar Samyl Wylsynn, and assisted by his brother Hauwerd. The group has existed for many years, and hope to fight against the corruption of the rest of the vicarate and the Group of Four. But they realise that Zhaspar Clyntahn has found out about them, and will soon take action against them. Samyl Wylsynn tries to get as many as his members out of the Temple Lands as he can without raising suspicion.
Ahnzhelyk Phonda runs a brothel in Zion City – in fact many of the vicars are her customers. Ahnzhelyk also has an extensive secret business network. She is in touch with the Circle, and is helping smuggle the families of members of the Circle out of the Temple Lands. (This is important, since, when the Inquisition captures and tortures a supposed heretic, they also torture his wife and children.) Merlin changes his appearance and, taking on the persona of Ahbraim Zhevons, a seijin who is supposedly an associate of Merlin, he visits Ahnzhelyk, warning her that the time has come to close down operations, and evacuate everyone.
Zhaspar Clyntahn moves to arrest the remaining members of the Circle, and any of their families who hadn’t escaped, and any other vicars and priests of whom he is suspicious. Hauwerd Wylsynn kills his brother Samyl to avoid him falling into the Inquisition’s hands, and then fights the Temple Guard until he dies. The arrested priests are imprisoned in preparation for being tortured to death.
Zhasyn Cahnyr, Archbishop of the Province of Glacierheart, in the Republic of Siddarmark, is a member of the Circle. He is warned in time and flees to Siddar City, the capital of Siddarmark. (Siddarmark is in East Haven, on the Safeholdian mainland, and only the Border States separate it from the Temple Lands.)
The other members of the Group of Four are shocked at what Clyntahn has done. Trynair and Maigwair feel they have to go along with it. But Rhobair Duchairn, having undergone a renewal of faith, makes his displeasure apparent, but he feels trapped in a situation he cannot change. Instead he increases his charity work for the poor in the city, which has been very much neglected. Clyntahn sees Duchairn as a weakling, but so far no threat to him.
King Gorjah of the island Kingdom of Tarot feels isolated. Tarot is not getting much assistance from the Temple to rebuild their ships. The Temple suspects that Tarot had been responsible for leaking information to Charis during the previous attack. So Charis begins exerting pressure on Gorjah to switch over to Charis’s side, by placing ships in nearby waters, by letters from Charis’s First Councillor, Earl Gray Harbor, and finally a visit from Merlin, in his persona of Ahbraim Zhevons. Tarot joins the Charisian Empire.
Father Paityr Wylsynn is intendant to the Kingdom of Charis. Intendants are the local representatives of the Inquisition; they are appointed as advisers to all important people, such as rulers, archbishops and military leaders; this way the Inquisition exerts its control across the world. But with his Reformist leanings, Paityr has willingly accepted the Church of Charis. Paityr is the son of Samyl Wylsynn. He learns about the deaths of his father and uncle. He receives a letter from his stepmother saying that the family has escaped from Zion, but doesn’t know their current whereabouts, and worries about whether they are safe.
A squadron of Charisian naval ships, under Admiral Gwylym Manthyr, arrives at the islands in the disputed territory between Dohlar and Harchong, which had not been fortified. They make their bases on Claw Island and Trove Island. They raid any merchant ships from Dohlar and Harchong, capturing ships and supplies, thus hindering the enemy in their ship building, as well as adding to their own supplies.
Admiral Lywys Gardynyr, Earl of Thirsk, is in charge of building up the Dohlaran naval fleet, and training its crews, and is doing a good job of it.
While attacking a convoy of supply ships near Dohlar, Manthyr discovers that they are escorted by Dohlaran naval vessels, and a sea battle ensues. The Dohlarans are better fighters than the Charisians expected, and there are many casualties on both sides.
Back in Tellesberg, Sharleyan gives birth to a daughter, Crown Princess Alahnah.
Manthyr’s ships get caught in a storm while attempting to return to Claw Island. They get blown off course and end up in the Gulf of Dohlar, where they encounter the Dohlaran fleet. Most of Manthyr’s ships are too damaged to escape, so they engage in battle, giving the less damaged ships a chance to escape. In the end, the survivors surrender to the Dohlarans.
Merlin sends a message to Koryn Gahrvai, head of the Corisandian Guard, providing the location of the Northern Conspiracy. (Merlin has told Gahrvai and the Regency Council that he has a network of seijins. This explains how he can deliver messages using remote devices while not physically present.) The Corisandian Guard and the Imperial Marines raid the northern city of Telitha and arrest the conspirators.
The ships built by the Temple Lands and the Harchong Empire are stationed in Hsing-Wu’s Passage, to the north of the continents of East and West Haven. They need to be deployed before the winter freeze. These countries have not been able to produce enough ships’ guns. The Group of Four consider whether to send the ships to the west, and then south to Dohlar, or to the east, and then south to Desnair, either of which countries have manufactured sufficient guns.
Charis learns through Merlin’s surveillance devices that the captains have been given orders to head for Desnair, but that this is a ruse, and they will be redirected to Dohlar at the last minute. From Dohlar, the most logical targets will be Chisholm and Corisande. So Charis sends most of their naval vessels off to defend Chisholm and Corisande.
But then when the Temple Lands ships (called the Navy of God) and the Harchong ships set off, Merlin realises that they are heading for Desnair after all. (The Group of Four had concluded that Charis must have an extensive spy network, and had planted the story of redirection to Dohlar as misdirection.) The Charisian Empire do not have enough ships in position to attack the enemy fleet or to defend Old Charis. Some of the available ships head out to meet the enemy, while others head back to Old Charis to collect the newly developed explosive shells. Charis is badly outnumbered and will have to rely on luck and their better naval skills.
[Title comes from the hymn “How Firm a Foundation”.]
[February, Year of God 895 – February, Year of God 896]
Merlin had previously noticed energy sources underneath the Temple. These may be high technology detection devices from the original settlement. (For this reason he hasn’t dared to plant surveillance devices inside the Temple.) He is also aware of the kinetic platform in orbit which had bombarded the Alexandria Enclave, and wonders whether evidence of advanced technology might set it off again. He performs an experiment in the remote Castaway Islands, setting up several steam engines. So far there is no reaction from the kinetic platform, or the devices under the Temple, but he decides to wait.
Steam power would be beneficial to Charisian industry. Another potential obstacle is Father Paityr Wylsynn, responsible for ensuring that new inventions do not violate the Proscriptions of Jwo-jeng. (In this capacity, he has been appointed head of the Patents Office.) He has not yet been included into the inner circle, and the truth about the Archangels could destroy his faith, and make him turn away from the Church of Charis.
Paityr Wylsynn arrives to inspect the foundry of Ehdwyrd Howsmyn, where all the iron smelting occurs for ships and ships’ armaments. All the new inventions used by the foundry had previously been submitted to, and approved by, Wylsynn, as being acceptable under the Proscriptions. But the massive scale these innovations have been put to disturbs him – these would not have been acceptable to Mother Church. He finds himself in something of a crisis of faith: by being part of the Church of Charis, and opposed to Mother Church, is he still being faithful to God?
In Zion City, the Group of Four, but especially Clyntahn, are upset about the Navy of God’s defeat in the Markovian Sea and the Gulf of Tarot (in the battle at the end of “A Mighty Fortress”). The Church had poured millions of marks into the shipbuilding, and now they have to rebuild. They will need to increase taxes and sell off Church-owned property. They also need to figure out the secret weapon Charis used to cause ships to explode.
Sharleyan, with baby Alahnah, and Merlin, travels by ship from Chisholm to Zebediah, to administer justice to the treasonous Tohmys Symmyns, Grand Duke of Zebediah.
In Talkyra, Delferahk, Irys and Phylip Ahzgood (Earl of Coris) are starting to think that Cayleb may not have been responsible for Prince Hektor’s death, and that Charis may not be as black as Mother Church is painting them. Coris has a group of Corisandian guards who are faithful to him, who have the responsibility for protecting Irys and Daivyn. He warns Tobys Raimair, the commander of his guard, to watch out for assassins, not necessarily from Charis. The Group of Four might be inclined to stir up resentment in Corisande against Charis.
Ahzhelyk Phonda has arrived in Siddar City, in the Republic of Siddarmark. She has reinvented herself as Aivah Pahrsahn, a wealthy society lady. She meets with Archbishop Zhasyn Cahnyr, to plan their encouragement of the Reformist movement.
Greyghor Stohnar is the Lord Protector, the elected ruler of the Republic of Siddarmark. He is not popular with Zhaspar Clyntahn, who considers the Republic not sufficiently under the Church’s control. But Siddarmark is one of the world’s wealthiest nations, important to the economy of Safehold, so until now Clyntahn hasn’t taken action against it. The embargo is in place preventing Charisian vessels arriving in Siddarmarkian ports, but this is being circumvented by Charisian merchants arriving aboard ships registered to other nations, another factor which irritates Clyntahn. Also there is a growing Reformist movement in the Republic.
In Tellesberg, Paityr Wylsynn visits Archbishop Maikel Staynair, tells him about his crisis of faith, and wonders whether he should leave the priesthood. Staynair reassures him and recommends he take a retreat at Saint Zherneau’s.
Wylsynn finds the experience at Saint Zherneau’s restful. Meanwhile, the monks of the monastery are considering whether to include him in the inner circle. It seems specially a risk since Wylsynn is a member of the Order of Schueler, that is, the Inquisition.
Cayleb and Nahrmahn return by ship from Chisholm to Old Charis to address the problems arising from their recent victory: large numbers of prisoners of war, captured enemy ships, etc. The captured ships will be added to the Charisian Navy, and more men need to be recruited to crew them.
Paityr Wylsynn meets again with the Archbishop. Cayleb is present, and Merlin arrives; he has come by skimmer from Sharleyan’s ship near Corisande. They tell Wylsynn the truth about Safehold’s origins; he finds it overwhelming, and a blow to his faith.
Wylsynn tells them that his family has a tradition that they are descended from the Archangel Schueler. He possesses two artifacts: the Stone of Schueler (a lie detector) and the Key. When combined they project images and play back sound (including the voice of Schueler). Merlin concludes that the Key is a data storage device. The Key can be used on an altar in the Temple to call for help from the Archangels if Safehold is in danger. The Wylsynn family also have a tradition that the Archangels will return after 1,000 years.
The voice of Schueler recorded on the device charges the Wylsynn family to always remember Mother Church’s duty to protect and nurture God’s children. But the character of Schueler here is nothing like that of the author of the Book of Schueler in the Holy Writ, which describes the horrendous punishments for heretics. They seem to be two completely different people.
After this, Wylsynn spends a further period of time at Saint Zherneau’s to think through his new understanding. This leads to acceptance, and freeing up his insistence that inventions should comply with the Proscriptions.
In Siddar City, Siddarmark, Byrk Raimahn lives with his grandparents, expatriate Charisians, who had moved to Siddarmark because they didn’t agree with the Charis’s break with Mother Church. Byrk is one of the young men who are admirers of Aivah Pahrsahn, who gather round her at her parties. But Byrk is also secretly a Reformist, and a follower of Aivah.
There is a sizable Charisian community in Siddar City. Some have been there for some time, as merchants. Others arrived when Charis broke with the Temple. There are divisions amongst the Charisian community: some are Temple loyalists, some Reformists. Some disagree with Charis’s break with the Temple, but are also unhappy with what the Group of Four are doing.
Many of the Siddarmarkians are antagonistic towards the Charisians living in their country. They see them all as heretics, and also think they are taking the jobs of local people. Sailys Trahskhat, an expatriate Charisian who has a labouring job, has had locals throw stones or rotten fruit at him, calling him a heretic. Ironically Trahskhat is a Temple Loyalist, although he disagrees with what the Group of Four are doing.
In Dohlar, Gwylym Manthyr and his men are imprisoned in hulks in Gorath Bay. They are treated badly, and although Earl Thirsk has done his best to treat them honourably, their guards regard them as heretics, and undeserving of proper treatment. They are suffering ill health, injuries, poor diet, and some of the men are dying.
Then Thirsk is ordered to deliver the prisoners to the Inquisition. This means of course that they will be tortured to death. Thirsk is not happy about this, and believes it dishonourable to treat prisoners of war, who have surrendered, like this. But Bishop Staiphan Maik, intendant to the Dohlaran Navy, who sympathises with him, warns him that if he does not obey, Thirsk and his family could receive the same punishment. Thirsk apologises to Manthyr, but complies with his orders. Gwylym Manthyr and his men are delivered to the Inquisition, to be transported across country to the Temple in uncomfortable wagons. The Inquisition and guards treat the prisoners badly: they are already sick, injured and starved, and the guards beat them. They are displayed to residents of towns along the way, as an example of what happens to heretics.
Sharleyan has continued on from Zebediah to Corisande. She sits in judgement on the members of the Northern Conspiracy and their supporters. They have already been tried and convicted in Corisandian courts; she only has to sentence them. The main group are sentenced to death. Some of the supporters are pardoned when there are mitigating circumstances.
A radical Temple Loyalist makes his way into Sharleyan’s courtroom, and fires a gun at Sharleyan. Merlin shoots him dead, but had delayed slightly because of confusion due to the size of the crowd. Sharleyan is only saved by her high tech clothing (produced by Owl) which had deflected the bullet, but she has bruising and broken ribs. But the Corisandian Regency Council and Captain of Guard do not know this, and think the shot must have missed. Sharleyan continues with the day’s sentencings, although she is in some pain. Afterwards Merlin escorts her back to her bedchamber. (After the sentencings are complete, she heads back to Tellesberg, to join her husband.)
Clyntahn believes he needs to stir up resistance in Corisande to the Charisian regime and plans the assassination of Prince Daivyn, intending to blame it on Charis. He believes Earl Coris will go along with this plan.
Without warning, Gunpowder Mill #3 in Old Charis blows up, killing 100 staff members. In Tellesberg, Cayleb and his advisers try to work out what happened. Owl’s SNARCs had only been positioned to observe the explosions from afar. But from the timing of the explosions Nahrmahn believes that it was sabotage rather than an accident. But how had a Temple Loyalist got into the Mill through the tight security?
The palace of Talkyra, Delferahk, takes delivery of a cage of 6 wyverns, intended as a birthday present for Daivyn, from Earl Anvil Rock in Corisande. (Wyverns are indigenous creatures to Safehold, similar to birds, and occur in many varieties. Many occur in the wild, and some are domesticated and used for hunting or to send messages.) The delivery man is a smuggler called Ahbraim Zhevons (yes, this is actually Merlin, in his alternative persona). Earl Coris discovers a note hidden in a hollow bar of the cage. The wyverns are ostensibly for use by Daivyn for hunting; in actual fact they are for sending messages to Tellesberg.
The great holy day called God’s Day comes, and Archbishop Maikel Staynair preaches in Tellesberg Cathedral. He tells the people how Manthyr and his men had been delivered to the Inquisition, which everyone realises will lead to their torture and death. He declares that he and the Emperor and Empress have agreed that any member of the Inquisition in direct service to Zhaspahr Clyntahn may be put to death immediately.
The Charisian Navy attack the Desnairian Empire. So far Desnair has not engaged in battle with Charis. But they have built a large fleet of ships in their shipyards in Iythria. The Desnairian ships take up a defensive position in the Inner Harbor of the Port of Iythria. There are fortresses on the shoals on either side of main channel. But, besides the explosive shells, Charis has a new weapon, specially built ships with high-angled guns, able to fire shells over the fortress walls. There is a long-fought battle, but eventually Charis wins. Duke Kholman surrenders the city, and the Charisians destroy the shipyards and all military facilities.
An agent of the Inquisition explodes a wagonful of gunpowder as the Archbishop’s carriage passes, in Gray Wyvern Avenue in Tellesberg. The Archbishop wasn’t in it, but Earl Gray Harbor and Bishop Hainryk Waignair were, so they are killed, as well as hundreds of people nearby. The many injured are treated at the nearby Saint Marzhory’s Hospital.
Previously Baron Wave Thunder, the Councillor for Intelligence, had broken up all the Inquisition’s spy networks in Old Charis. Cayleb and his advisers conclude that there must be agents of the Inquisition working alone, with instructions from the Temple, who don’t communicate with each other in the field. The gunpowder must have been taken from the Powder Mill which exploded, and that explosion must have been an inside job.
In the days that follow, there are several additional explosions of wagons of gunpowder in the Charisian Empire, killing many people. Nahrmahn is killed in his home city of Eraystor, Emerald. The Charisian government puts in place security measures and inspections, and all carriers of freight must be licensed. Merlin captures a man about to set off another explosion, and the man is questioned. He reveals that he is part of “Operation Rakurai”, with orders from the Temple to set off explosions to kill key people in the Charisian government and the Church of Charis.
In Siddar City, news is coming to Aivah Pahrsahn and Zhasyn Cahnyr of violent action by extreme Temple Loyalists throughout Siddarmark. Some of these seem to be supported by the Inquisition’s representatives in Siddar City. Maybe this is part of a Republic-wide operation by the Inquisition.
The Lord Protector and his advisers are coming to a similar conclusion. In fact he wonders whether the Grand Inquisitor is planning a coup against the Siddarmarkian government.
Nahrmahn Gareyt, son of Nahrmahn, a young boy, becomes the new Prince of Emerald, and swears allegiance to the Emperor and Empress of Charis.
In Talkyra, Delferahk, Earl Coris tells Irys he believes Zhaspar Clyntahn, not Cayleb, ordered Prince Hektor’s murder, and gives his reasons. Coris has received orders from the Inquisition to clear the way for a team of assassins (Charisian-born) to kill Daivyn.
In Tellesberg, Merlin has picked up the surveillance of the Coris and Irys’s conversation, and that they have sent a messenger wyvern to seek asylum from Charis.
Admiral Sir Dunkyn Yairley, on the Charisian ship Destiny, receives secret orders. His squadron must head to Sarmouth Keep in Delferahk and destroy it. In actual fact, this is intended as cover for a party of men travelling by boat up the Sarm River to rescue Coris, Irys and Daivyn.
Merlin receives surveillance reports from Owl of the team of assassins travelling across country; they are moving quicker than expected. He pays a visit to Earl Coris, in his persona of Ahbraim Zhevons. He tells Coris that he is a seijin, an associate of Merlin, rather than a smuggler as he had appeared on his last visit. Charis will accept their request for asylum, provided they “go public” on Clyntahn’s involvement in the effort to assassinate Daivyn, and hand over any evidence they have on implicating him in Prince Hektor’s assassination. He tells Coris about the rescue party who would be coming up the Sarm River. Coris, Irys and Daivyn would have to ride on horseback across country to meet them.
In Siddarmark there is a sudden uprising of the Temple Loyalists, attacking Charisians and Reformists, killing and destroying property. This is Clyntahn’s “Sword of Schueler” operation. Byrk Raimahn and his grandparents flee from their home. Sailys Trahskhat, and his wife and children, are attacked by three men. Trahskhat fights back with his baseball bat (from his time in the Tellesberg Krakens team) and kills them all.
Greyghor Stohnar, Lord Protector, waits at the Palace for the attack to come. The uprising had been a surprise, both in timing and size, and his guard seems inadequate.
A group of Charisians, including the Raimahns and the Trahskats, flees through Siddar City. Byrk sends the women, children and elderly men on to Aivah Pahrsahn’s address, while the able-bodied men prepare to defend against the attackers. But then another group of men arrive to attack the Temple Loyalists, a group with military precision and bayoneted rifles, shouting the Charisian Marine war cry. The Temple Loyalists in Siddar City are defeated, and the Lord Protector is saved.
Aivah Pahrsahn emerges from the troops to meet the Lord Protector. She had recruited several former Charisian Marines, who had been secretly training up men loyal to the current regime. She had been providing funds for the latest weapons and a commercial farm as a location for the training.
The rescue party from Destiny‘s squadron travel up the Sarm River. They’re attacked by Delferahkan troops. Some of the Charisians are killed or injured. Lieutenant Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk finds himself in charge. (Hektor has appeared quite a few times in the series, mostly as a crewman on Destiny. He had been adopted into the Charisian Royal Family for his services to King Haarahld before the king’s death in “Off Armageddon Reef”, and given the title of Duke of Darcos.) Aplyn-Ahrmahk sends the wounded men back down the river.
In Talkyra, Delferahk, Coris’s guardsmen have received indications of unusual movements between the office of Colonel Sahndahl, commander of the Royal Guard, and the office of the Inquisition’s representative to Talkyra. Then Merlin arrives on the scene (as himself this time) dressed in his Charisian guard uniform. Merlin has learned that the Bishop has ordered Colonel Sahndahl to take Coris’s guards into custody and replace them with the King’s guard, under the command of the inquisitor, as supposed protection for Irys and Daivyn.
Sahndahl arrives at the tower, where the Corisandians are staying, with 45 Royal guardsmen and 5 inquisitors. Merlin kills about half the guard, with guns enhanced by Owl. The others flee.
The Corisandians plus Merlin flee on horseback. But the word is out for Delferahkan troops to capture them. Merlin takes the spare horses and acts as a decoy.
But one Delferahkan colonel suspects a diversion, and sends a detachment of men to wait at the river. The ambush would have been successful, except that Aplyn-Ahrmahk and his men had previously arrived and are in hiding, and ambush the Delferahkans in turn. So Coris, Irys and Daivyn and their guards escape and are taken down river in the boats, to Destiny, to be delivered to Tellesberg.
Siddarmark is in a state of civil war. Old Province, which contains the capital, is retained by the Lord Protector. Some of the provinces are held by Temple Loyalists, some by forces loyal to the Lord Protector, some are in dispute. The harvest was lost due to the fighting, and winter is coming. Outside the capital, the Charisian communities are effectively wiped out. Reformist churches have been burned.
[Title comes from the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation”.]
[March, Year of God 896 – July, Year of God 896]
Winter in Siddarmark is severe. People are starving because of the loss of the harvest. The two sides of the conflict – Temple Loyalist and Reformist – are raiding and killing each other, just to get food to survive.
In the Temple, Duchairn asks Clyntahn what he thought he was doing, triggering the uprising in Siddarmark, causing chaos, death, and starvation. But Clyntahn is unrepentant, arguing that the Temple Loyalists were performing their righteous duty, and that the Lord Protector had brought it on his own country. Clyntahn is only sorry the revolution was not completely successful.
In all the churches loyal to Mother Church, the priests are announcing the propaganda that Irys and Daivyn were kidnapped by Charisians from the Talkyra Palace in Delferahk, and that most likely the Charisians will force them to say that they went willingly. And that this kidnapping had been timed to coincide with the Lord Protector’s selling out of his nation to Shan-Wei (“the Devil”).
Irys and Daivyn are enjoying their time on Destiny, en route to Tellesberg. Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk has been appointed their protector, and he and Irys are becoming quite friendly. Daivyn is enjoying fishing, surrounded by the ship’s sailors.
Archbishop Zhasyn Cahnyr heads back to his archbishopric in Glacierheart. The province is in chaos because of the civil war, and Cahnyr feels he is needed there. The people had deposed the archbishop that the Temple had appointed in his place. At the Lord Protector’s and Aivah Pahrsahn’s insistence, Cahnyr is accompanied by several attendants and a sizable military escort, headed by Byrk Raimahn. (Sailys Trahskhat is also in the military escort.)
In Siddarmark, the official Church has become Reformist, although there has been uncertainty whether they want to go as far as the Church of Charis. This has resulted in many upper-level priests leaving and going over to the Temple Loyalists, leaving many vacancies, which have been filled by quite junior priests.
In Maikelberg in Chisholm, Ruhsyl Thairis, the Duke of Eastshare, receives a message from Ahbraim Zhevons (supposedly from the mainland), telling him about the uprising in Siddarmark instigated by the Temple. (Eastshare is not in the inner circle, so this device is used to avoid explaining how a message could have reached Tellesberg and then come to Chisholm so quickly.) He consults with Kynt Clareyk, the Baron of Green Valley (who is in the inner circle), who confirms the message is legitimate. Rather than wait for orders from the Emperor and Empress, who are still in Tellesberg, Eastshare starts planning to mobilise the Army to go to Siddarmark’s assistance. It is expected that after the winter, all the nations loyal to the Temple will be attacking Siddarmark. The Charisian Army is essentially the former Chisholmian Army, with a proportion of the Charisian Marines transferred to it, so is based in Chisholm. (The old Kingdom of Charis had not had an army as such, just Marines.)
A fleet of ships heads off from Tellesberg to Siddarmark, loaded with food and supplies to alleviate the starvation of the Republic’s people.
There will not be enough troop transport ships to carry the Charisian Army all the way from Chisholm to Siddarmark, so the Army will have to go most of the way overland. They will have to travel through Raven’s Land, which requires permission from the Raven Lords. Raven’s Land is sparsely populated by a number of warrior clans, the heads of which make up the Council of Raven’s Land. The Lords eventually agree to this in exchange for adequate monetary compensation.
Destiny arrives at Old Charis. Irys meets and becomes friendly with Lady Mairah Breygart, the Countess of Hanth. Mairah had come from Chisholm as Sharleyan’s companion, and had since married the Earl of Hanth, Sir Hauwrd Breygart. She has a few stepchildren.
In Glacierheart: There had been a long running feud between Wahlys Mahkhom’s family (now on the Reformist side) and Zhan Fyrmahn’s family (Temple Loyalists). The Sword of Schueler operation has legitimised the conflict in Fyrmahn’s mind, and he and his clan have performed atrocities in this cause. Now Byrk Raimahn and Sailys Trahskhat and their men set up an ambush for Zhan Fyrmahn and his men, and manage to kill some of them, but not Fyrmahn himself. (Trahskhat had changed over from being a Temple Loyalist to a Reformist after seeing what the Temple Loyalist extremists had done in the capital.)
At Tellesberg Palace, Cayleb and Sharleyan welcome Daivyn and Irys to Charis. They acknowledge Daivyn as the rightful Prince of Corisande. Irys and Daivyn will be staying in Archbishop Maikel’s palace. They are free to travel around the country, with the appropriate security. However, returning to Corisande will be a problem for the time being.
Paityr Wylsynn visits Ehdwyrd Howsmyn’s foundry, the Delthak Works, to approve his latest development: a huge steam engine. Howsmyn has now set up a few other industrial plants in Old Charis and Chisholm.
Irys has been spending time with Lady Mairah Breygart. Mairah is a botanist and has been discussing botany with her and the two of them have visited the Royal College. (Dr Rahzhyr Mahklyn, Chancellor of the college, is in the inner circle.) Irys is attracted to the learning and research engaged in there, and feels conflicted because these are discouraged by Mother Church.
Cayleb and Sharleyan have not required Irys and Daivyn to attend mass at the Tellesberg Cathedral, but have provided them with access to a (law-abiding) Temple Loyalist priest who is permitted to come and perform mass for them at the Archbishop’s Palace. (Temple Loyalists in the Charisian Empire are still permitted to worship in their own churches.) However Irys has attended the Cathedral a few times; she has found Archbishop Maikel Staynair a pleasant person, not typical of a heretic at all, and has found his messages attractive.
Daivyn is still quite young, and Irys hasn’t taken him to the Cathedral, feeling the conflict between Mother Church and the Church of Charis would confuse him. He spends a lot of his time playing sports with Haarahld Breygart and Prince Zhan, Cayleb’s brother.
A high level meeting is held on Helen Island, with Cayleb and Sharleyan, the heads of the Imperial Charisian Navy and the industrialist Ehdwyrd Howsmyn. New ships are planned with steel frames and steam engines. Also, ironclad riverboats with steam engines will be required for navigating the rivers and canals of the mainland, for the expected land war in Siddarmark.
In Manchyr, Corisande, Earl Tartarian and Earl Anvil Rock of the Regency Council learn about Irys and Daivyn’s rescue from Delferahk, and that they are now in Tellesberg. They start planning the diplomatic process of requesting that they be returned to Corisande.
The mainland regimes loyal to the Temple are now developing the new weapons that they have seen Charis use, such as the improved artillery and exploding shells, which the Inquisition has now approved as acceptable under the Proscriptions. In particular, this development is occurring in Dohlar, under Earl Thirsk’s direction. A young Lieutenant Dynnys Zhwaigair presents a few innovative ideas to Thirsk, in particular a new kind of ship – a galley with men operating a crankshaft driving a propeller. (Thirsk is a bit worried that the Inquisition might object to Zhwaigair’s innovative ideas.)
In Tellesberg, Cayleb, Sharleyan and their advisers meet to work out the shipping for transporting the army from Raven’s Land to Siddarmark – making use of the captured Navy of God ships. And the delivery of the improved rifles to Siddarmark for when the army arrives. They also discuss the deployment of forces in Siddarmark to combat the enemy.
Merlin makes the following comments to the council:
- Lord Protector Stohnar’s forces are concentrated in Old Province and New Province, but it will also be necessary to hold the provinces of Glacierheart, Shiloh and Trokhanos.
- The enemy forces will include:
- the Army of God, from the Temple Lands and Border States. They would come via provinces Westmarch, Tarikah, New Northland and Mountaincross. (The western and northern parts of the Republic.)
- Dohlar and Desnair, who will approach from the south.
- plus the Temple Loyalists within Siddarmark
- and eventually Harchong.
- The enemy forces will outnumber the Charisian forces plus the Siddarmarkians loyal to the Lord Protector. (Charis has to keep part of its forces back to protect its own Empire, and maintain the occupation of Corisande.)
- The Temple’s disadvantages: Dohlar and Desnair don’t like each other, and are unlikely to cooperate. Harchong is old-fashioned and ill-disciplined. The enemy are using muzzle-loading guns as opposed to Charis’s breech-loading ones (“Mahndrayns”). Charis has better tactics and training.
It is decided to send the Charisian Army to Siddar City to support the Lord Protector, and the Marines and armed seamen (under Earl Hanth) to Trokhanos (Eralth Bay), in the south of Siddarmark. Cayleb will go to Siddar City to formalise the treaty with the Lord Protector.
In Glacierheart, Byrk Raimahn’s force has been sent to hold the pass in the Gray Wall Mountains. Against Raimahn’s advice, Archbishop Zhasyn Cahnyr is accompanying them to minister spiritually to the communities of the area. He is frail and is weak from the starvation rations which everyone in that part of the world is on. Sahmantha Gorjah is also along as a healer. They are ambushed by Zhan Fyrmahn and his men. Fyrmahn and his men are all killed in the shootout. One of Raimahn’s men is killed, and Cahnyr, Sahmantha and another man are injured.
Irys and Daivyn are on board Destiny as part of Sharleyan’s party heading from Old Charis to Chisholm. Mairah Breygart and her stepchildren are also on board. Sharleyan and Mairah observe that Irys is very friendly with Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk. They agree that this would be a desirable match, but decide not to pressure Irys into it.
In Zion, Duchairn and Trynair discuss the progress of preparations for the attack on Siddarmark. It is difficult and is costing a lot. They have had to swap over from navy building to army building. Clyntahn of course had precipitated things before they were ready. Now that Siddarmark is the enemy, the Temple is not getting tithes (the Temple tax) from there. It will be necessary to increase the tithes from Harchong.
As Prince Nahrmahn had lain dying (in “How Firm a Foundation”), Merlin had taken a recording of his memories. He had used this to create an Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Owl’s computer, with Nahrmahn’s memory and personality, in a similar way to how Merlin was a copy of the original Nimue. But Nahrmahn can only exist within a virtual reality environment in Owl’s computer. Now Nahrmahn’s AI is activated, as Merlin comes to Nimue’s cave, and appears within the virtual environment to explain things to him. Nahrmahn will have access to all of Owl’s computer facilities, including the remote devices such as the SNARCs, and will be able to communicate with people in the inner circle. He will be valuable for his skills in intelligence.
In Siddar City, the Lord Protector holds a council of war with his advisors. Also present are Aivah Pahrsahn, and Brigadier Mahrtyn Taisyn, leader of the Charisian Marines and armed seamen in Siddar City.
Siddarmark has raised the pikemen regiment to a high art. Whereas other nations use pikemen as a static defensive line, Siddarmarkians form a square of pikemen which can move rapidly in any direction. But will they be effective now that the Temple have rifles and explosive shells?
Over the winter there has been fighting in the Sylmahn Gap between the forces loyal to the Protector and the Temple Loyalist militia. This is the main route between the Border States and Siddar City, a route which the Army of God would hope to be taking.
It is also important that the pass at Gray Walls in Glacierheart be defended. Brigadier Taisyn volunteers to take his Marines and armed seamen there.
Cayleb arrives in Siddar City, accompanied by Merlin, to sign the treaty of alliance with the Lord Protector.
Destiny has reached the Chisholm Sea. Irys has followed the practice of meeting with Sharleyan and Mairah for needlework each afternoon.
Daivyn and the Breygart boys, Haarahld and Trumyn, had been getting into mischief during the voyage. But now they are included in the midshipmen’s lessons. (Irys has sat in on the lessons on a few occasions.) These lessons are in arithmetic using arabic numerals and abacuses (techniques which Merlin had introduced to Charis). And trigonometry, which is useful for determining latitude and longitude – although so far the sea captains prefer their technique of dead reckoning, and following the documented sea routes.
Irys considers the attraction she has for learning, which she experienced at the Royal College, but which is discouraged by Mother Church. But surely there is no contradiction between the search for knowledge and the concept of God’s creation. She contrasts this with the nastiness of Zhaspahr Clyntahn. Irys experiences an epiphany. She withdraws to her cabin to think.
With the coming of spring in Siddarmark, the snow melts and the Sylmahn Gap becomes flooded. Normal practice is to clear the culverts so the water drains away. But neither side has been able to do that this year – it would have made them vulnerable to attack. But since this will be an essential route for the Army of God, the Siddarmarkian Army has deliberately dammed the Gap to make it difficult for the Army of God to follow this route. On the other hand, the Temple Loyalists (Siddarmarkian militia and Siddarmarkian Army regulars who have gone over to the other side) want to open the dam.
Major Hahlys Cahtair of the Temple Loyalists advances with his company along the Sylmahn Gap. (Cahtair’s company is particularly brutal, and has been burning farms and villages, and committing rape and torture.) The 2nd company of the 37th Infantry Regiment of the Siddarmarkian Army are holding this position, and manage to deceive Cahtair about how strong their forces are, luring his company into an ambush, where they find themselves under fire from riflemen. Cahtair’s company retreats, but the 37th detonate explosives they have planted, wiping out most of Cahtair’s company. The survivors are spared as long as they surrender – and do so quickly.
Cayleb and Merlin are based in the Charisian Embassy in Siddar City. On this particular day, Merlin is on guard, cleaning his revolvers, but also observing various parts of Siddarmark via the SNARCs. Seeing such incidents as the events in the Sylmahn Gap, he becomes depressed about the conflict and loss of life.
Nahrmahn contacts him from his virtual environment. Merlin switches his attention to this virtual environment, which he can see has the appearance of the palace in Nahrmahn’s home city of Eraystor in Emerald.
Nahrmahn has been in “hyper heuristic mode”, in which he is able to experience things at a much faster rate than living people. There is another avatar in the scene: Nahrmahn introduces Merlin to him; it is Owl, the AI which runs the computer! Nahrmahn felt it more convenient to talk to an avatar than empty air, and so has organised that the Owl AI has his own avatar. Owl has androgynous facial features, and a family resemblance to Merlin. Nahrmahn’s continual interaction with Owl has increased Owl’s imagination, so Owl now reacts in more of a human manner.
Nahrmahn doesn’t want the people of the inner circle to know about his existence yet – especially his wife Ohlyvya – until he can explain to her properly.
Because of his analytical skills, and the use of hyper heuristic mode, Nahrmahn is able to work out things more rapidly. He can examine Owl’s data banks and pick up clues which other people have not been able to – for example, he has worked out who had blown up Powder Mill #3 (in “How Firm a Foundation”), and how that person had been passing information to the Temple.
On Destiny: Irys meets with Archbishop Maikel about her crisis of faith.
Maikel points out the main difference between Mother Church and the Church of Charis: Mother Church dictates to the people what they must believe, and enforces it. The Church of Charis gives people freedom: a person’s belief is between that person and God.
But Irys has a special role as a princess of Corisande, and older sister and adviser to Prince Daivyn, ruler of Corisande. Maikel does not want to force Irys’s decision. But he tells her that if the Church of Charis ultimately wins, the Church of God Awaiting will be drastically changed.
Irys returns to Sharleyan and Mairah (having discussed the matter with her guardian, Earl Coris, in the meantime) and announces that she has decided in favour of the Church of Charis.
In Siddar City, the Lord Protector holds a council of war with his advisors. Cayleb and Merlin are present. The Dohlaran forces, approaching from the south, are advancing faster than expected. They also seem to be cooperating well with the rebels (that is, the Siddarmarkian Temple Loyalists). (Also, the enemy have been destroying semaphore stations, and killing the operators, which means that information is slower to arrive.) (Merlin later realises his mistake in comparing the speed of advance with the corresponding situation on Earth at the same technological level. The Safehold mainland has a comprehensive and well-maintained canal system, which facilitates the transport of supplies. Also, the Safeholdians have domesticated the indigenous hill dragons to use as draft animals: these elephant-sized creatures can pull supplies, equipment and field weapons.)
The Dohlaran forces are divided into two groups. The vanguard, under the command of General Sir Fahstyr Rychtyr, has crossed the Siddarmarkian border. It consists of two thirds cavalry. The second group, under Sir Rainos Ahlverez, will cross in a few days time.
The Desnairian forces are lagging behind the Dohlarans. The Charisian navy ships along the coast are preventing their advance by sea, forcing them to come by land, and pass through the Grand Duchy of Silkiah.
In Tellesberg, a convoy of galleons is leaving, loaded with weapons for the Charisian and Siddarmarkian Armies. Also setting out to sea are four steam-powered ironclad riverboats: Delthak, Saygin, Tellesberg and Hador.
Meanwhile, the Charisian Army have reached Ramsgate Bay in Raven’s Land, and the first group is boarding the transport ships, along with draft animals (horses and dragons) and more food supplies for Siddarmark.
In the Temple, Archbishop Wyllym Rayno (adjutant of the Order of Schueler) discusses with Zhaspahr Clyntahn the fact that five vicars have been murdered in the last seven months. Rayno’s investigations haven’t revealed the murderers. (Rayno thinks it wise not to point out to Clyntahn that the murdered vicars had been involved in questionable activities, such as visiting brothels and pederasty.) But it appears that the murders are part of a long term conspiracy – possibly by the same people who helped the families of the heretical priests escape. Maybe the conspirators had infiltrated the vicarate, or even the Inquisition. Rayno suggests they start the investigation again, without their previous assumptions, and with only investigators they can trust. And since so far there have been no attacks in the Temple itself, vicars should be resident within the Temple, and be protected by bodyguards.
Destiny arrives in Cherayth, the capital of Chisholm.
Sharleyan meets with her councillors and discusses the establishment of industries within Chisholm, which will require involvement of industrialists from Old Charis, such as Ehdwyrd Howsmyn. Her councillors explain to her that the noble landowners (especially those with Temple Loyalist leanings) have been putting obstacles in the way of this – either not permitting access to their land, or charging tolls for access. Manufactories need to be located near rivers, so that power can be generated, and access is needed to the source of raw materials such as coal and iron ore.
The question is raised of tariffs on imports from Old Charis. But Sharleyan declares that it is policy of the Charisian Empire that there will be free trade between the nations of the empire.
She then announces that there will be tax incentives for Chisholmians who form partnerships with investors from Old Charis. And there are solutions to their difficulties: with the new steam engines, it is not necessary for manufactories to be near rivers to generate power. And there is a new invention which Ehdwyrd Howsmyn is developing, which will help with transport: a “steam automotive”.
Merlin flies from Siddar City by skimmer to the Royal Palace in Eraystor, Emerald, to visit Ohlyvya, Nahrmahn’s wife. (This is one of the secret trips that only people of the inner circle know about.) He tells Ohlyvya about Nahrmahn’s continued existence as an AI in Owl’s virtual environment, and that it is possible for her to be in contact with him, if she wishes it. Ohlyvya is shocked: after all, she had seen Nahrmahn dead and buried. But she agrees to talk to Nahrmahn.
Irys, Daivyn and Earl Coris are conducted into Sharleyan’s private rooms in the Royal Palace in Cherayth.
Sharleyan tells them she is encouraged by Irys’s change of heart, and has decided that they can now be returned to Corisande. She advises them that Corisande cannot become independent of the Charisian Empire. But if Daivyn, as ruler of that nation, agrees, Corisande can become a willing partner in the Empire, rather than an occupied nation. In that case, Corisande would have representation in the Imperial Parliament, its military forces would be integrated into those of Charis, and the Church of Corisande would be integrated into the Church of Charis.
But Sharleyan insists on one more thing – a marriage alliance. Irys must marry Sharleyan’s stepson, Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk. (And at that Irys experiences a sudden joy.)
Arthyn Zagyrsk is the archbishop in Lake City, Tarikah Province, in the northwest of Siddarmark. He remains loyal to the Temple, but is dismayed about the conflict. The Army of God had been quartered in the city, but have now moved on.
With their departure, the province seems somewhat empty. With the severe winter, people had fled and abandoned their homes and farms. And then there had been the uprising.
Father Ignaz is Zagyrsk’s intendant, but is less hardline than other inquisitors, and is not happy with Clyntahn’s direction. He makes the suggestion to Zagyrsk that they gather the remaining people of the province closer to Lake City and the other cities, so they can manage the abandoned farms closer to the cities. This will make it easier to provide for them. The archbishop considers there may be some merit in the idea.
Back in Siddar City, Merlin reflects on the fact that by concentrating the Sword of Schueler operation in the northwest of Siddarmark, Clyntahn has facilitated the Army of God’s advance: from Zion, through the Border States and eastward through Siddarmark towards the capital.
However Clyntahn has managed to deceive the Charisian/Siddarmarkian forces again. He is unaware of the SNARCs, but is assuming a comprehensive spy network, and has changed his orders at the last moment. Now half of the Army of God, under Bishop Militant Cahnyr Kaitswyrth, are heading southwards from Westmarch province instead of eastward.
In the South March Lands province of Siddarmark, Colonel Phylyp Mahldyn is holding Fort Sheldyn, with his 110th Regiment, plus remnants of three other pre-revolt regiments. Their numbers have been greatly reduced by mutiny. With the approach of the Dohlarans, it is now necessary to evacuate the fort and head north.
The Dohlaran General Rychtyr sends Sir Nathan Byrgair, commander of the lead cavalry regiment, to intercept the Siddarmarkian regiment leaving Fort Sheldyn.
The attack by the Dohlarans, some distance to the north of the fort, takes Mahldyn’s force by surprise. The Siddarmarkian regiment is unfamiliar with the field artillery used by the Dohlarans. The Siddarmarkians themselves are on foot, armed with pikes and arbalests (crossbows). But they have no choice but to charge the Dohlarans. The Siddarmarkians are wiped out, except for some wounded survivors, but their ferocity surprises the Dohlarans, and quite a few of their own soldiers are lost.
According to the Church’s directive, the Siddarmarkian wounded (who are regarded as heretics) should be handed over to the Inquisition for the Punishment of Schueler (that is, to be tortured to death). But Byrgair instructs the priest/surgeons to give them Pasquale’s Grace – that is, mercy killing, used when a person is too badly injured to survive.
Temple Loyalist militia are holding Fort Darymahn on the Taigyn River estuary, on the southern coast of Siddarmark. They are being bombarded by Charisian ships at sea.
They conclude that the Charisians are trying to open up Taigyn River; this would enable them to advance up the river and open the way to move troops from the sea to Glacierheart. They send a message to their Temple Loyalist allies by semaphore.
But in fact the bombardment had been a diversion from the Charisians’ real goal, which is for their ships (under the command of Earl Hanth) to make their way through the sea passage to Thesmar – further to the west – where they join forces with Siddarmarkian General Kydryc Fyguera.
The town Thesmar is crowded with Siddarmarkian refugees, with Fyguera and his men protecting the town. Earl Hanth leaves some of his seamen defending it with field artillery, while he and the rest of his Marines and armed seamen march north on the road to Cheryk.
In Siddar City, the Lord Protector holds a council of war. Cayleb and Merlin are present. The following points are discussed:
- The weapons from Charis, and the Charisian Army will be arriving soon.
- However, the Army of God is advancing rapidly. A small part of it has entered Icewind Province to the north of Tarikah. The civilians are fleeing, and being evacuated by Charisian ships at Spinefish Bay.
- The main part of the Army of God has split in two: one part, under Bishop Militant Bahrnabai Wyrshym, is heading towards the Sylmahn Gap. The other part, under Bishop Militant Cahnyr Kaitswyrth, is making its way through Cliff Peak Province, towards Glacierheart. In the meantime, the Dohlaran Army are advancing to join up with the Army of God, and the Desnairians are not far behind. Eventually the Harchong Army would be joining them.
- Merlin points out to the Lord Protector that Cliff Peak Province is essentially lost to the enemy.
- When the Charisian Army arrives, they will need training with the new weapons before heading out into the field. The forces will then have to split up to defend the Sylmahn Gap and Glacierheart.
- But Merlin suddenly thinks of a way to slow the Army of God down.
Colonel Sir Zhadwail Bryngair is leading a cavalry regiment of the Dohlaran Army towards Thesmar. They encounter a regiment of Siddarmarkian militia: stupidly out in the open on a crest, armed with pikes. Bryngair orders his regiment, and nearby cavalry and infantry regiments, to attack. The Siddarmarkians drop their pikes and run, with the Dohlarans in pursuit over the crest and downhill. But the “Siddarmarkians” are actually Charisian Navy seamen, and lead the Dohlarans into an ambush. Many more seamen are there, and they fire on the Dohlarans with rifles. When the Dohlarans try to retreat, Charisian Marines emerge from the nearby woods and also fire. The Charisians’ breechloading rifles can be fired by men from prone positions, as opposed to the Dohlarans’ flintlock rifles. A good proportion of the attacking Dohlarans are wiped out.
The Dohlarans’ advance toward Thesmar has been stopped. The remaining Dohlarans under General Traylmyn retreat to the town Trevyr and dig in. General Rychtyr (Traylmy’s superior officer) and his men join them there. Earl Hanth’s Charisians besiege the town.
In Siddar City, the first of the Charisian Army arrive by ship, to cheering crowds of Siddarmarkians. The steam-powered ironclad riverboats have also arrived. Merlin delivers orders from Emperor Cayleb: the riverboats must be ready to leave on their mission in three days. Troops – seamen, gunners, Marines and Siddarmarkian riflemen – will be boarding the boats. The boats will be towing six additional barges between them, for personnel, supplies and fuel, with guns mounted on the riverboats and two of the barges.
While Traylmyn had been leading his forces towards Thesmar, Sir Rainos Ahlverez had been leading the main body of the Dohlaran Army northwards into Cliff Peak Province. They are now besieging the fortress city of Alyksberg, which occupies a significant position within province. The siege had lasted five days before Ahlverez learned that the garrison commander, Clyftyn Sumyrs, had departed with most of his men before the Dohlarans had arrived. Only a few Siddarmarkian soldiers had remained, voluntarily, and these were the weak and sick who wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the others.
Ahlverez orders his men to storm the fortress. But as they do, the defenders set fire to the gunpowder magazine, killing themselves and a fair number of the attackers. Ahlverez now has possession of the city, but at great cost.
In Lake City, Tarikah Province, Archbishop Zagyrsk receives orders from Bishop Wylbyr Edwyrds, who has been appointed Inquisitor General for the territories occupied by the Army of God. Zagyrsk must supply labourers from the archbishopric to build camps for accused heretics awaiting trial and punishment. He is not happy about this, but by complying, he avoids persecution of his archbishopric from the Inquisition.
The 37th Infantry Regiment of the Siddarmarkian Army have continued to hold their position in the Sylmahn Gap against the Siddarmarkian rebels. The dam at Serabor, at the south-eastern end of the Gap, has been improved, and the valley remains flooded, to hinder the enemy’s advance. The road alongside the valley is still broken from the explosions that killed Cahrtair’s company.
But now that the vanguard of Wyrshym’s half of the Army of God has reached the Gap, the Siddarmarkians will find it harder to prevent the advance. The Army of God navigate the flooded valley on rafts with guns mounted, and there is gunfire exchanged between the warring parties. The Army of God bring their engineers to repair the road. Then there is fierce fighting between the Army of God and the Siddarmarkians: the 37th Infantry is virtually wiped out.
Kaitswyrth’s half of the Army of God is advancing rapidly through Cliff Peak Province towards Glacierheart. It is making good use of barges, drawn by draft-dragons on the Daivyn River. But suddenly the leading barges are fired on by field guns (actually naval guns serving the purpose), sinking them and blocking the river, effectively stopping the Army’s advance. The attack is coming from Brigadier Taisyn’s forces of Charisian Marines and Navy men, and Siddarmarkian soldiers, who have taken over the defence of Glacierheart from Byrk Raimahn’s volunteers.
Baron Green Valley and 2nd Brigade of the Charisian Army arrive at Serabor, at the end of the Sylmahn Gap. There had been fierce fighting between the Army of God and the Siddarmarkians along the Gap, and many casualties on both sides, but the Army of God hadn’t managed to destroy the dam. The Siddarmarkian General Trumyn Stohnar (cousin of the Lord Protector) is quite happy to hand over to the Charisian forces.
The Charisian Army attacks that part of the Army of God within the Sylmahn Gap, taking them by surprise – they hadn’t even realised the Charisians had arrived – and with unfamiliar weapons: mortars being fired from the mountaintop, and angle guns, able to fire high from four miles away. The Army of God is bombarded, with field guns destroyed and men and horses killed. Then after the mortars and angle guns stop firing, the Charisian soldiers emerge with their camouflage uniforms and breech-loading rifles – not in the traditional line or column, but in a looser formation, able to fire and reload from a prone position. The Army of God are pushed back out of the Gap.
Merlin’s plan, the “Great Canal Raid”, is about to go into operation. This involves the ironclad riverboats travelling along Siddarmark’s canals. But it has one serious potential flaw. If the locks either side of a riverboat are destroyed, the boat will be stranded. The Holy Writ prohibits destruction of the canal system, and this is deeply ingrained in the minds of the mainlanders; it would require a directive from the upper hierarchy of the Inquisition to countermand this. But this is still a possibility, and Merlin sets out in his skimmer to destroy five key semaphore stations, to ensure the message is not passed on about what is happening.
The four riverboats, towing their barges, have sailed around the coast from Siddar City to Ranshir Bay. But only Delthak and Hador will be involved in the Great Canal Raid. Saygin and Tellesberg transfer their barges to the other two boats, and set off on their own mission, to help hold the city of Salyk.
Delthak and Hador set off along the canals of that part of Siddarmark occupied by the enemy. As they come to each lock, the Marines go ashore and capture the Canal Service personnel, operate the locks to let the riverboats through, then destroy the locks and the pumping stations. Initially the Canal Service personnel are taken by surprise. The big black boats, belching steam and moving rapidly are a fearsome sight. But eventually the word gets out, and the Temple Loyalist townsmen are ready for them with field weapons. But the ironcladding on the riverboats protects them from the enemy’s fire. And the riverboats’ gunners fire back and are able to overcome the resistance.
At the Daivyn River, Brigadier Taisyn’s forces find themselves surrounded by Kaitswyrth’s forces, with no way to retreat. They fight to the end and are wiped out.
Merlin, in his persona of Ahbraim Zhevons, visits Duke Eastshare, who is commanding the Charisian Army’s 1st Brigade at Ice Lake in Glacierheart Province. He tells the duke about the loss of Taisyn’s forces, and gives him advice on the best location to engage Kaitswyrth’s half of the Army of God.
Delthak arrives at the city of Guarnak, the forward staging base for Wyrshym’s half of the Army of God. Delthak fires on all the Army of God’s barges and warehouses, destroying them.
In the Temple, Zhaspahr Clyntahn demands to know what had happened. The canal locks have all been destroyed, which wrecks the Army of God’s supply lines. For once Allayn Maigwair stands up to him: the Charisians have been using powerful and unfamiliar weapons, and the ironclad riverboats have been using an unknown method of propulsion, moving more rapidly that anyone could have anticipated. And someone had destroyed several semaphore stations, so there was no warning of the boats coming. The Army won’t be able to advance for several months, until the locks are replaced.
[Title comes from the hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers”.]
[July, Year of God 896 – March, Year of God 897]
Narmahn discusses with Owl the possibility of unlocking the locked computer files on “the Key”, the device inherited by Paityr Wylsynn (refer “How Firm a Foundation”). Owl tells him there is a high probability that the files would be destroyed in the attempt. There is also a high probability that the Owl AI itself will be destroyed if Owl attempts it.
Kaitswyrth’s half of the Army of God has been renamed the Army of Glacierheart, and Wyrshym’s half has been renamed the Army of the Sylmahn, in each case designating its intended target.
Kaitswyrth tells his senior officers that despite the instructions from Captain General Allayn Maigwair (his commanding officer), the Army of Glacierheart is not in the same difficulties as the Army of the Sylmahn, and should take the opportunity during the period before winter to attack the Charisians again. The Army of Glacierheart has a more secure line of supply than the Army of the Sylmahn.
Merlin, listening in via a surveillance device, believes that Kaitswyrth is responding to prompting from the Inquisition, including the new designation of his army, which indicates what its purpose is.
Merlin, again in his persona as Ahbraim Zhevons, pays another visit to Duke Eastshare at Ice Lake. He tells the duke about Kaitswyrth’s impending attack. Eastshare is grateful for the warning, and believes they can counter the attack.
One of Kaitswyrth’s platoons makes its way through Ahstynwood Forest in Westmarch. A platoon of Charisian scout snipers is hidden amongst the trees. A private of Kaitswyrth’s army spots movement up in one of the trees, and the Army of God soldiers start firing. The Charisians proceed with their planned ambush, and set off a series of “Shan-wei’s sweepers” (equivalent to Earth’s claymore mines), which wipes out the Army of God platoon.
Review to be continued.
[Title comes from the hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers”.]
[March, Year of God 897 – October, Year of God 897]
[Title comes from the hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers”.]
[October, Year of God 897 – February, Year of God 899]
[Title comes from the hymn “How Firm a Foundation”.]
[November, Year of God 899 or 900? – March, Year of God 916. (The text has 890 as the starting date, but this does not fit the sequence. Assuming November is correct, it has to be either 899 or 900.)]