A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 09
October, Year of God 893
Merlin Athrawes’ Recon Skimmer,
Safehold Low Orbit,
Above The Anvil.
Empress Sharleyan of Charis had been prepared for marvels — or she’d thought she was, anyway. But the reality was so far beyond what she’d expected that she’d discovered all her preparations had been in vain.
She sat in the “recon skimmer’s” passenger compartment, with her nose perhaps two inches from the inside of the clear “armorplast” which covered it like some perfectly transparent bubble, staring out at the night-struck sky. The moon rode high and clear, shining like a new, incredibly bright silver coin against the blackest heaven she had ever imagined, spangled with stars that were even more impossibly bright than the moon. They were odd, those stars, burning with pinprick clarity, without even the faintest trace of a twinkle. She’d never seen stars that sharp, that clear, even on the coldest winter night, and she shivered as she remembered Merlin’s explanation.
We’re so high there’s not even any air out there. Not enough to matter, anyway. She shook her head. It never even occurred to me that the only reason they “twinkle” is because we’re seeing them through so many miles of air that it distorts our view. I always thought “clear as air” meant really clear, but it doesn’t, really, after all. And now I’m up above all of that. I’m on the very threshold of what Merlin calls “space.”
No other Safehold-born human being, she knew, had ever been as high before. Not even Cayleb on his journey between Corisande and Charis. She stared down, down, to where the planet itself had become a vast, curved globe. To where the cloud tops so very far below the skimmer were silver and deepest black, drifting across The Anvil, that stormy sweep of water between Chisholm and Hammer Island. She couldn’t make out the surface from this height, not in the dark, not using her own merely mortal eyes. She knew it was there, though, and all she had to do was turn her head and look at the “visual display” to see that vast, wind-ruffled stretch of saltwater in perfect detail. Merlin had shown her how to manipulate the display’s controls, and the skimmer’s computer-driven sensors happily generated daylight-bright, true-color imagery of anything she cared to gaze upon. She could focus closer — “zoom in,” Merlin called it — until even the most distant objects below seemed little more than arm’s-length away, too.
And yet, as Cayleb had warned her would be the case, that marvel, that God’s eye view, paled beside what her own eye saw when she gazed out through the armorplast.
It’s because the “imagery” is magic, she thought. Merlin can call it whatever he wants, but it is magic, and my emotions know it, whatever my mind may be trying to tell them. It’s like something out of a child’s tale, something that’s not quite . . . real. But this — the moon, these stars, those clouds — I’m seeing them with my own eyes, and that means they are real. And I’m seeing them from thousands upon thousands upon thousands of feet in the air. I’m actually up here, flying among them, and they’re really, really out there, all above and about and beneath me.
She drew a deep breath, smiling more than a bit crookedly, as that thought reminded her of the previous evening . . . .
* * * * * * * * * *
Sharleyan finished throwing up (she hoped) and wiped her face with the hot, damp towel. Her mouth, she reflected, tasted as bad as she could remember anything’s ever tasting. Her stomach heaved again at the thought, but she suppressed the sensation sternly. Muscles hovered on the brink of revolt for a few precarious seconds, then subsided . . . for the moment, at least.
“Better?” a voice asked, and she looked up from the basin in her lap with a wan smile.
Despite both the fire crackling behind her husband and the embedded tile pipes circulating heated water under the bedroom’s tile floor, the air was chilly, to say the least, and the fresh towel he’d just taken from the kettle on the bedroom hearth steamed in his hand. Under the circumstances, it was understandable that the emperor had wrapped a blanket around himself as he stood beside their bed, however un-regal he might look at the moment. In fact, Sharleyan was of the opinion that it went beyond un-regal to something approaching silly.
On the other hand, she thought, he did climb out of bed and hand me a towel the instant he heard me throwing up. That’s got to count for something . . . even if the whole thing is his fault.
“Better . . . I think,” she said, adding the conditional when her stomach gave another tentative heave.
He whisked the towel with which she’d wiped her face — and which had already cooled markedly — out of her hand and replaced it with the one he’d just wrung out. The used towel went back into the kettle, and he carried the basin into the adjacent bathroom. A moment later, she heard the toilet flush. Then he returned, setting the basin carefully on the bedside table beside her before he climbed back into the bed himself and wrapped his arms around her.
“Ow!” she objected as cold feet wiggled their way under her.
“Well,” Cayleb Zhan Haarahld Bryahn Ahrmahk, Duke of Ahrmahk, Prince of Tellesberg, Prince Protector of the Realm, King of Charis, and by God’s Grace Emperor of Charis, said reasonably to Sharleyan Alahnah Zhynaifyr Ahlyssa Tayt Ahrmahk, Duchess of Cherayth, Lady Protector of Chisholm, Queen of Chisholm, and by God’s Grace Empress of Charis, “they got frozen in your service. The least you can do is help me thaw them out again!”
“And if the shock of being poked with two lumps of ice makes me throw up again?” she inquired darkly.
“At the rate you’re throwing up, whether I poke you with ice or not isn’t going to make any difference,” he told her philosophically. “Besides, you’re facing the other way.”
Some things could not be allowed to pass by any self-respecting empress, and Cayleb squawked as she whipped around and slender, vengeful fingers found his armpits. In one of the universe’s less fair dispensations, he was far more ticklish than she was, and she pressed her despicable advantage ruthlessly.
“All right! All right!” he gasped finally. “I surrender! I’ll thaw my own feet out, you ungrateful and unreasonable wench!”
“Ooooh! ‘Wench’ is it?” she retorted, and he shouted with laughter as she redoubled her attack. Then he rolled back over, caught her wrists, and pinned them down. She started to wiggle, only to stop as he bent over her and kissed her forehead.
“But you’re my very most favorite wench in all the world,” he told her softly, and she shook her head with a smile.
“You really need to work on your technique, Your Majesty,” she told him. “On the other hand, considering the source — and the fact that that’s probably the very best your poor, primitive male brain can do — I accept your apology.”
“Apology?” He quirked one eyebrow. “I don’t remember making any apol–”
She smacked her hip into him sideways, and he paused in mid-word, his expression thoughtful.
“What I meant to say,” he corrected himself in a dignified tone, “was that I’m gratified — deeply gratified — by your forgiveness.”
“Which is why you’ll live to see another dawn,” she told him sweetly.
“A consideration which did cross my own mind,” he conceded, and gave her forehead another kiss before he settled back.
Given the way her own mouth tasted, she couldn’t fault his kisses’ placement, she admitted as his right arm went back under and around her and he drew her head down on his right shoulder. She nestled close, treasuring the warmth of their blankets, inhaling the smell of him, and he raised his arm behind her in a hug which happened to let his right hand caress her hair.
“Seriously,” he said, “how long do you expect this to go on?”
“Too long, however long it is,” she said darkly, then shrugged. “I’m not sure. Mother says she was never morning sick at all, and neither was Grandmamma, as far as Mother recalls, so that’s no help. Or particularly fair, now that I think about it. And according to Sairaih, her mother was morning sick for at least ten months. Or was it an entire year? Two years?” The empress shrugged again. “Something like that anyway.”
She grimaced fondly, and Cayleb chuckled in sympathy. Sairaih Hahlmyn had been Sharleyan’s personal maid since she’d been a little girl, and she seemed to be enjoying the present moment rather more than the empress was. She was certainly hovering for all she was worth, and no matter what Father Derahk, the palace healer might say, Sairaih could be relied upon to think of one of her innumerable female ancestors who had experienced the same problem, only incomparably worse. No doubt she fondly imagined she was reassuring her charge by telling her how lucky she was that things were so much less bad than they could have been.
So. Is Merlin taking her for a high-tech pre-natal checkup with a little sightseeing along the way?
Mazeltauv! It’s a girl!
Well, we finally got a couple of paragraphs of actual science fiction. I hope there are more like this in the new book than in the previous ones.
One snippet but much information. The smartest human on Safehold is now fully (emotionally as well as intellectually) appraised as to what is going on, and also busy producing the leader who will take Charis to the space age.
they need more than one generation
It appears they are heading from Chisholm to Nimue’s cave, and the sick bay within (The Anvil is between Chisholm and Nimue’s cave). I don’t have a clue as to whether it is general precautionary checkup, or if something specific is wrong. Once they’re there, she can also get the anti-infection nanites that Cayleb has already received.
I wonder how her stomach is dealing with the flight. Do you think the recon skimmer is self-cleaning?
For some reason I suspect she has already had a minor gift of 28th century medicine. “…smartest human on safehold…” is an interesting point…though perhaps there is a tie with Irys?
Precautionary check up and preparing to fit the child with the doodads to hookup to Merlin’s NEAT (teaching device). I wonder if all the coming children of the “in crowd” will begin getting those implants? A new generation of smarter fast-learning kids to take Safehold into the 10th century. I wonder if they will get a superiority complex?
Wonder if Cayleb can try out the automatics when he visits the cave.
@8 I was thinking that Merlin would be intending to implant some children with NEAT interfaces, especially if they are not visible after the initial placement (which I would assume to be the case). Not only Cayleb’s kids, but also the kids and grandkids (and …) of the members of the “inner circle” as well. Possibly other people’s kids in Charis and Chisholm and Emerald as well, although implanting newborns without their parent’s permission is certainly questionable.
That leads to an interesting scenario with Merlin sneaking into the nurseries of many of the higher Nobles and Church families of Safehold, implanting many of the next generation’s leaders-to-be with NEAT interfaces. Setting up for possible use a decade or two later.
Finally, do you think Merlin will reconsider using the anti-aging drugs? The Adams were known to live >150 years, so having Cayleb and Sharleyan with an extended lifetime could be considered a mark of being in God’s favor (by some; demon worshippers by others).
Even if Merlin were to decide to use anti-aging drugs, there is some suggestion that they are no longer viable
The antiaging drugs may well have degraded by this time. Shall Merlin test them on some of his precious inner circle or unwarry subjects? Either option has serious draw backs. Suppose they work, this early in the struggle, how does the long lived ruler of Charis argue against demonic involvment in that longevity?
I suspect that any recipient of longevity treatments disapear into something like a global St. Zhernou’s or a reborn Circle.
Wait a sec…doesn’t the Arthurian legend suggest that Arthur will return at some future need? Might not Cayleb and Sharley do just that? Raise their passel of kids, set up Charis to survive and prosper then disapear. They return to help their progeny from the background. That way DW gets to keep the characters he likes so much and still progress Safehold futher into the future than is possible during a normal human life span.
Long life, a little facial reconstruction… BAM! Instant long-term change instigators. Knock down resistance one conspiracy at a time.
I like the idea of Cayleb and Sharley receiving anti-aging drugs, but it would have serios complications. The inner circle would have to be aware of this and it would snowball very fast, because it would be nearly impossible for Merlin to withhold the drugs from them and their children in case they become available. This would lead to an elite which would be very far above the average people. The result would be very much envy and division. The only possibility I see for DW to bring the anti-aging drugs into the story would be to limit it to not more than couple of people. And I mean it has to be for some reason impossible to bring more accross not only as a matter of policy, but as a matter of fact.
I look forward to learn why Sharleyan has been alowed to learn the truth.
I agree that it got to be some emergency situation which forces Merlins hand. From this snippet it would be logical that such an emergency would have something to do with the pregnancy, but it is not the only possibility.
Maxim, Sharley learned the whole truth in BHD. I doubt that this trip is more than purely precautionary. I can just see Cayleb; besotted with his wife who happens to be expecting their first child, he demands that Merlin provide the best care possible. Not that Merlin would object. Sharley would not be in such a whimsical mood otherwise.
Maxim: She learned the truth because it was impossible to hide it from her after Merlin had to arrive right in front of her to kill an assassination team when he was supposed to be a thousand miles away in Corisande and “Oh, didn’t I mention Seijin can magically teleport themselves?” wasn’t really a plausible explanation. Nothing happening now is telling her anything new that she didn’t already know, she was told about all of this in the last book.
And people thinking the kid’s getting a NEAT: IIRC Merlin has already stated to Cayleb that he does not have the medical facilities or capabilities required to implant one. He has a bunch of tech… a surgery bay + qualified neurosurgeon that could safely go poking around a kid’s brain? No.
What? If you are talking about the reason for Sharleyan being told the truth about Merlin and Humanity, than that already happened. In the third book.
I just hope that Merlin will introduce Sharley’s queasy tummy to the most sophisticated of all morning sickness remedies:
THE SODA CRACKER!!
Ok, she’s pregnant. I’ve been wondering since I read BHD, what happens if she got knocked up on Merlin & Caylebs secret visit to Tellesberg? How far off will that make the delivery date and will this result in everybody counting on thier fingers?
Boy do I hope it was after Cayleb arrived back in Chisholm and they were known to be together, not 1500 miles apart!
@18: Grant, that commentary was in response to Cayleb’s inquiry about adult implantation, IIRC. I don’t think he excluded children. It sounded like all children in the TF got those implants, as it would have been very difficult to participate in society without them. That would put the operation on the level of a circumcision today, not high-end neurosurgery. The colony was also originally supposed to lay low for a while then rapidly tech up to counter-attack the Gbaba, so they would have had to have brought the equipment necessary to implant the expanding planetary population base, even if Langhorn destroyed most of it.
Oooh, good point.
My sense of things based on my off the top of my head recollection of events is that there’s got to be at least a few weeks between then and any publicly known meeting after the campaign in Corisande was completed… I need to go back and read through that section again and see if there’s an identifiable timespan.
If it is in the few weeks range it should be easily manageable… if it was more like two months or something and that’s when the pregnancy started then they’re in trouble.
@22: It’s tying a computer processor directly into the neurological structure of the brain. That it had become routine does not mean it had become something a lieutenant commander in the military with no advanced medical training and a battleship computer can just knock off in their secret cave in the mountains.
Unless these chips are somehow self-implanting and are designed to do all the work themselves when they’re placed in a develloping brain or something through some kind of nanotech interface, which for some reason won’t take right if it’s tried on a fully devellloped adult brain… and “all” Merlin has to do is physically place it in contact with the brain matter (which is STILL something an amateur can botch spectacularly, and good luck talking Cayleb and Sharleyan into being comfortable with slicing their kids skull open to give her a cool upgrade she doesn’t actually need) I don’t see this happening.
The “magic” of the future is Simplicity. When one thinks of implants in a modern context, issues of surgery, healing, adjustment, etcetra arise because such brutish methods are closest to us. I call you to remember the first book in which, with a simple injection, Merlin warded Cayleb against all disease and illness. I would assume the attachment of bodily implants to be likewise simple but requiring something that Cayleb and Sharleyan don’t have: a body still in development that will not reject the implants.
Maggie, wouldn’t you think hat Merlin will set Sharleyan with her own nanite suite? Perhaps there is even a better-than-soda-crackers feature for dealing with the symptoms of her delicate condition. One would hope anyway.
Warding against illness is done with a simple injection NOW. The fact that they have better medicines/nanomeds to inject in the future is not analogous to adnances in medical tech that would allow any random person in society to be able able to perform do it yourself hardware implantations in people’s brains with the help of an instruction manual and a battlefield computer.
And implant rejection has relatively little to do with whether a body the implant is placed in is still develloping or not, it has to do with whether or not the body’s immune system can be made to accept the implant is not a foriegn invader so it doesn’t attack it, which is what rejection is. And even infants have immune systems. I can only assume that if there is a requirement for the implantation to be performed at childhood, rather than it simply being convention since it’s the most convenient and logical time for it to have been done (instead of forcing kids to go through school the hard way THEN give them learning implants which would be damn silly) it would have to do with the ability of the brain to form new connections to access the computational power that has been made available to it to the fullest possible extent.
The kid isn’t getting a neural implant… for all the various technical reasons, on top of the “there’s slim to no chance Cayleb and Sharleyan would let it happen” reason, on top of the “she seems to be in the early stages of pregnancy and fetal development won’t even have produced a functioning brain to attach an implant TO yet” reason.
If they’re going to the cave for medical purposes, which is the only reason I can think of for this particular pair to go there at this point, it’s probably for something considerably more mundane. Possibly to access some advanced imaging equipement for an ultrasound or it’s equivalent.
Oh… and also, since I forgot to mention it: if they really are heading for the cave, YAY!!!!
As I mentioned in the comments in a previous snippet, I’ve been waiting for a Safeholdian to get a look at that place since book 1.
Maggie, wouldnâ€™t you think hat Merlin will set Sharleyan with her own nanite suite? Perhaps there is even a better-than-soda-crackers feature for dealing with the symptoms of her delicate condition. One would hope anyway.
PZ: If so, I want one for my hot flashes!!!!
I thought Safehold didn’t have a moon?
As for the NEATs it seemed pretty clear that the interface has to grow within the developing brain of a child, which is why it cannot be implanted in an adult…………….. we shall see…
As to the anti-aging drugs issue mentioned above…in book 1, May Year of God 890 chapter 3, Nimue is inventoring the cave while waiting for Owl to process some data and she puzzles to herself about the fully equipped medical unit Shan-wei managed to smuggle down from one of the transports before it was destroyed.
It specifically mentions it has cryo-units and antigerone capability, but Nimue thinks to herself shes glad shes a PICA now as she would hesitate to use the drugs after 800 years in cryo-freeze, but she saw nothing wrong with the fully working nanotech portion of the antigerone equipment.
I believe that it was mentioned that the implants were provided at birth, as standard medical practice. Not before the birth. I would say it is for a medical check up using Merlin’s advanced equipment, ultrasound, DNA scanners, and probably to give here nanites to ward off infections.
@21, Sharlyne was still not pregnant when Cayleb got back from knocking heads in Corresand. That was several months after their visit. Sharly had to go on a boat ride of about 1-2 months I believe to get home and it was another month or 2 before Cayleb could meet up with her.
@29 Hey Maggie. Nannite crackers? And for you, nannite Evening Primrose Oil.
It is wonderful to read all the stuff that Weber wrote about even before it is snippeted. Isn’t it? Especially since what we KNOW is that she is pregnant and she is flying around like Cayleb did when he came to see her from Corisande. “I want a ride like he had, Merlin!”
I’m going to agree with most of the comments here. This is my favorite type of stuff.
Hmmmm. Just a thought. No family history of Morning sickness and Sharley seems to have it in spades. Can anyone say “Twins?”
Sorry if I’m off topic, this forum seems to be my last hope. Could anyone point me in the direction of a retailer that can sell me “By Heresies Distressed” as an ebook and will sell it into Australia, in a format that I can actually read? I buy a LOT of ebooks from Baen and have since 2000, I’ve got money, I want to buy the book but I can’t find any retailers that sell the ebook outside of the U.S. (except one site in India that I couldn’t quite figure out how to use or what the exchange rate actually was). There are literally hundreds of pirate sites (432 with the search terms I was using on Google) where I could get it, but I’ve got some major ethical and moral objections to pirating books or music, (or anything else for that matter), David deserves whatever he gets in the way of royalites, it’s a good series.
So can anyone help? By the way if David ever reads these comments, could you please!!!! make sure your next book publisher contract allows for international distribution in something other than some obscure proprietory format that doesnt’ restrict the sales to just a tiny piece of the planet? You are a lot more popular internationally than you might think and you are are losing potential customers (and the money). Big appologise for the off topic and thanks for anyone who can help.
After all this wonderful commentary on her pregnancy, I can’t wait to get to the good stuff at Nimue’s Cave. I think that setting would present a wonderful chance to frame the conflict beyond this book. Sharleyan will be thinking about the future and her child/children. She will begin to realize the promise that everything in that cave represents and the threat they pose to everything she knows. This would be a wonderful segue into a next steps discussion as well as general directions for future books. I can’t wait for these next few snippets.
@37: Can you not buy the physical book and just download the eBook from the pirate site? I don’t see how that could come with moral qualms at all, as the author gets paid.
@27: I see what you’re saying, but don’t agree the actual text supports it. Nimue noted she had a fully functional automated medical bay in the Bat Cave, and I can’t imagine that performing a neural implant would be anything but automated in a society that expected every infant would get one. Given the sophistication of the TF’s nanite science, I’d imagine the actual device would be smaller than cellular level, and build/connect itself as the infant’s brain grew. There’s no text on this, but I can easily imagine the neuro interface could be built by injected nanites just like the disease immunity. DW seems to have set the hard limit on the brain itself, not the tech. If the brain doesn’t develop from birth on with the device in there then putting it in later WOULD be a job for a team of neuroscientists.
This leads to @38’s very interesting observation of where Sharleyn and Cayleb will be in this. Assuming an extremely conservative reaction given their progressive leanings and very young age may be a mistake, and even better it may be a mistake that Merlin makes in the story. It would make a great plot element if the generational progression he envisions gets challenged by S&C who want a better future than that for their children. Going from religious ultra-conservatism to that in one generation isn’t likely possible at all, but Merlin has already risked compromising his mission for the sake of his personal attachments and allegiences.
@39 I hadn’t considered that S&C could push harder when they became parents. That makes sense as a plot element as well as maintaining the consistency of David’s underlying philosophy. That the future is created by choices made by individuals. Not all those choices will be optimal but will be driven by the individual’s commitment. In the end it will be that individual commitment that will carry the day, if the day is to be carried at all, not necessarily the wisdom of the choice.
Didn’t I read a comment on a snippet from an earlier that Weber said that everything in the cave had purpose, so it is possible that someone will get the anti-gerone drugs.
@39: Ok, if a NEAT is entirely a nanite constructed structure and its implantation consists of just giving the kid a shot, then I’ll accept the possibility that at some point some kids may get upgrades from Merlin.
If it happens on this trip however I’m still going to cry foul. There’s no way neural development has reached the point where there would be anything for such nanites to do unless they were basically *building* the kid’s brain so that they could then integrate a NEAT into it, and however the tech may have changed I doubt medical ethics altered so far that messing around with how people’s brains are structured while they’re still infants for anything beyond correcting detectable developmental defects became standard accepted medical practice.
Grant, of course it won’t happen on this trip. What may happen is getting a solid genetic baseline to develop the nanites. I assume that takes time and basic information. As to correcting detectable defects, that’s the kind of fix AI’s probably aren’t best suited for beyond some basic simple fixes. I doubt Merlin would be comfortable even making an attempt unless the defect was truly life threatening.
So sit back and enjoy, we are entering the good parts of the book.
The last physical ARC I bought was SoSAG. May have to start trolling eBay again… bloody Tor. :-(
@ Carrot In OAR August 890 VII there is an opening paragraph that could imply that there isn’t a moon. But it seems that the intent was to point out the difference in how lit the night time city was compared to the high tech socity Nimue comes from. The paragraph is “Merlin was more struck by the moonless night’s impenetrable blackness, which was one of the most alien aspects of Safehold for the man whose mind had been Nimue Alban’s. Nimue had been a child of a technological civilization, one of illumination, of light and energy that drove back the darkness and domed it’s cities in reflected cloud-glow on the darkest of nights. Tellesberg was well lit for a city of Safehold, but the only illumination on THIS planet came from the simple flames of burning wood or wax, of tallow or oil, far too feeble to drive out the night.”
Now I read this to mean that there was no moon. The last sentance seems to say that, but just 2 pages later in the infodump about the Writ and the Book of Hastings Weber writes “After all, did it not require an act of divine will and power to keep people from falling off the bottom side of the world and crashing into the moon?”
And finally in March of 892 IV Weber describes Merlin watching the moon while floating in the water waiting for the skimmer to pick him up.
But yea Carrot in my mind I always thought of Safehold as moonless because of that first paragraph. I guess it just shaped my mental picture of the world at that time and the other bits didn’t really sink in. Ah well.
@45, Yes there is a moon. It is named “Langhorn”…, just as the sun is named “Kau-Shi”. I’d have to re-read w/o skipping to find the reference but I believe it is in book 1
1. Go to the TOR website:
2. You will see the various forms in which the book is sold: haedcover, paperbound, digital audio, CD and eBook. The eBook is available for Kindle from Amazon and nook from B&N, and Adobe, ePub and eReader from TOR FOR $US27.95.
3. The rest is up to you, mate.
@47 I meant haRdcover, darnit.
@43 Peter: So the last few snippets were the bad parts? Or the not so good parts? I know you really mean the meaty parts, right? Actually this snippet was really good.
By the way, if anyone cares to look at the web page I cited in 47, it says “Safehold (Volume 3 of 10)” and
shows Volume 4 of 10 and the cover art depicting Merlin watching a sea battle. And the unabridged CD is $69.99. Just like Baen, huh? Not.
Only 6 more years, or so, to go.
Wow! I think we’re discovered some kind of space-time vortex in the comments section! Somehow comment 47 is talking TO comment 47 about a statement that doesn’t appear to exist yet… cool. :D