Humanity pushed its way to the stars - and encountered the Gbaba, a ruthless alien race that nearly wiped us out.
Earth and her colonies are now smoldering ruins, and the few survivors have fled to distant, Earth-like Safehold, to try to rebuild. But the Gbaba can detect the emissions of an industrial civilization, so the human rulers of Safehold have taken extraordinary measures: with mind control and hidden high technology, they've built a religion in which every Safeholdian believes, a religion designed to keep Safehold society medieval forever.
800 years pass. In a hidden chamber on Safehold, an android from the far human past awakens. This "rebirth" was set in motion centuries before, by a faction that opposed shackling humanity with a concocted religion. Via automated recordings, "Nimue" - or, rather, the android with the memories of Lieutenant Commander Nimue Alban - is told her fate: she will emerge into Safeholdian society, suitably disguised, and begin the process of provoking the technological progress which the Church of God Awaiting has worked for centuries to prevent.
Nothing about this will be easy. To better deal with a medieval society, "Nimue" takes a new gender and a new name, "Merlin." His formidable powers and access to caches of hidden high technology will need to be carefully concealed. And he'll need to find a base of operations, a Safeholdian country that's just a little more freewheeling, a little less orthodox, a little more open to the new.
And thus Merlin comes to Charis, a mid-sized kingdom with a talent for naval warfare. He plans to make the acquaintance of King Haarahld and Crown Prince Cayleb, and maybe, just maybe, kick off a new era of invention. Which is bound to draw the attention of the Church...and, inevitably, lead to war.
It's going to be a long, long process. And David Weber's epic Off Armageddon Reef is can't-miss sci-fi.
1. Off Armageddon Reef
2. By Schism Rent Asunder
3. By Heresies Distressed
4. A Mighty Fortress
5. How Firm A Foundation
6. Midst Toil and Tribulation
7. Like A Mighty Army
8. Hell's Foundations Quiver
9. At the Sign of Triumph
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About the Author
David Weber is a science fiction phenomenon. His popular Honor Harrington and Honorverse novels—including Mission of Honor, At All Costs, and Torch of Freedom—are New York Times bestsellers and can't come out fast enough for his devoted readers. He is also the author of the Safehold series, including Off Armageddon Reef, By Schism Rent Asunder, By Heresies Distressed and A Mighty Fortress. His other top-selling science fiction novels include Out of the Dark, the Dahak books and the Multiverse books, written with Linda Evans. He has also created an epic SF adventure series in collaboration with John Ringo, including We Few. His novels have regularly been Main Selections of the Science Fiction Book Club. Weber has a bachelor’s degree from Warren Wilson College, and attended graduate school in history at Appalachian State University. He lives in South Carolina.
Read an Excerpt
Off Armageddon Reef
By David Weber, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Tom Doherty Associates, LLCCopyright © 2007 David Weber
All rights reserved.
The Temple of God, City of Zion, The Temple Lands
The Temple of God's colonnade soared effortlessly against the springtime blue of the northern sky. The columns were just over sixty feet high, and the central dome which dominated the entire majestic structure rose higher yet, to a height of a hundred and fifty feet. It shone like a huge, polished mirror in the sunlight, plated in silver and crowned with the gem-encrusted, solid-gold icon of the Archangel Langhorne, tablets of law clasped in one arm, the scepter of his holy authority raised high in the other. That icon was eighteen feet tall, glittering more brilliantly even than the dome under the morning sun. For over eight centuries, since the very dawn of Creation, that breathtakingly beautiful archangel had stood guard over God's home on Safehold, and it and the dome under it were both as brilliant and untouched by weather or time as the day they were first set in place.
The Temple sat atop an emerald green hill which lifted it even further towards God's heavens. Its gleaming dome was visible from many miles away, across the waters of Lake Pei, and it glittered like a gold and alabaster crown above the great lakeside city of Zion. It was the city's crown in more than one way, for the city itself—one of the half-dozen largest on all of Safehold, and by far its oldest—existed for only one purpose: to serve the needs of the Church of God Awaiting.
Erayk Dynnys, Archbishop of Charis, strolled slowly towards the Temple across the vast Plaza of Martyrs, dominated by the countless fountains whose dancing jets, splashing about the feet of heroic sculptures of Langhorne, Bédard, and the other archangels, cast damp, refreshing breaths of spray to the breeze. He wore the white cassock of the episcopate, and the three-cornered priest's cap upon his head bore the white cockade and dove-tailed orange ribbon of an archbishop. The fragrant scents of the northern spring wafted from the beds of flowers and flowering shrubs the Temple's gardening staff kept perfectly maintained, but the archbishop scarcely noticed. The wonders of the Temple were a part of his everyday world, and more mundane aspects of that same world often pushed them into the background of his awareness.
"So," he said to the younger man walking beside him, "I take it we still haven't received the documents from Breygart?"
"No, Your Eminence," Father Mahtaio Broun replied obediently. Unlike his patron's, his priest's cap bore only the brown cockade of an upper-priest, but the white crown embroidered on his cassock's right sleeve marked him as a senior archbishop's personal secretary and aide.
"A pity," Dynnys murmured, with just a trace of a smile. "Still, I'm sure Zherald did inform both him and Haarahld that the documentary evidence was necessary. Mother Church has done her best to see to it that both sides are fairly presented before the Ecclesiastical Court."
"Of course, Your Eminence," Father Mahtaio agreed.
Unlike the prelate he served, Broun was careful not to smile, even though he knew about the private message from Dynnys to Bishop Executor Zherald Ahdymsyn instructing him to administratively "lose" the message for at least a five-day or two. Broun was privy to most of his patron's activities, however ... discreet they might be. He simply wasn't senior enough to display amusement or satisfaction over their success. Not yet, at least. Someday, he was sure, that seniority would be his.
The two clerics reached the sweeping, majestically proportioned steps of the colonnade. Dozens of other churchmen moved up and down those steps, through the huge, opened bas-relief doors, but the stream parted around Dynnys and his aide without even a murmur of protest.
If he'd barely noticed the beauty of the Temple itself, the archbishop completely ignored the lesser clerics making way for him, just as he ignored the uniformed Temple Guards standing rigidly at attention at regular intervals, cuirasses gleaming in the sunlight, bright-edged halberds braced. He continued his stately progress, hands folded in the voluminous, orange-trimmed sleeves of his snow white cassock, while he pondered the afternoon's scheduled session.
He and Broun crossed the threshold into the vast, soaring cathedral itself. The vaulted ceiling floated eighty feet above the gleaming pavement—rising to almost twice that at the apex of the central dome—and ceiling frescoes depicting the archangels laboring at the miraculous business of Creation circled the gold and gem- encrusted ceiling. Cunningly arranged mirrors and skylights set into the Temple's roof gathered the springtime sunlight and spilled it through the frescoes in carefully directed shafts of brilliance. Incense drifted in sweet-smelling clouds and tendrils, spiraling through the sunlight like lazy serpents of smoke, and the magnificently trained voices of the Temple Choir rose in a quiet, perfectly harmonized a cappella hymn of praise.
The choir was yet another of the wonders of the Temple, trained and dedicated to the purpose of seeing to it that God's house was perpetually filled with voices raised in His praise, as Langhorne had commanded. Just before the morning choir reached the end of its assigned time, the afternoon choir would march quietly into its place in the identical choir loft on the opposite side of the cathedral, where it would join the morning choir's song. As the afternoon singers' voices rose, the morning singers' voices would fade, and, to the listening ear, unless it was very carefully trained, it would sound as if there had been no break or change at all in the hymn.
The archbishop and his aide stepped across the vast, detailed map of God's world, inlaid into the floor just inside the doors, and made their way around the circumference of the circular cathedral. Neither of them paid much attention to the priests and acolytes around the altar at the center of the circle, celebrating the third of the daily morning masses for the regular flow of pilgrims. Every child of God was required by the Writ to make the journey to the Temple at least once in his life. Obviously, that wasn't actually possible for everyone, and God recognized that, yet enough of His children managed to meet that obligation to keep the cathedral perpetually thronged with worshippers. Except, of course, during the winter months of bitter cold and deep snow.
The cathedral pavement shone with blinding brightness where the focused beams of sunlight struck it, and at each of those points lay a circular golden seal, two feet across, bearing the sigil of one of the archangels. Like the icon of Langhorne atop the Temple dome and the dome itself, those seals were as brilliant, as untouched by wear or time as the day the Temple was raised. Each of them—like the gold-veined lapis lazuli of the pavement itself, and the vast map at the entry—was protected by the three-inch-thick sheet of imperishable crystal which covered them. The blocks of lapis had been sealed into the pavement with silver, and that silver gleamed as untarnished and perfect as the gold of the seals themselves. No mortal knew how it had been accomplished, but legend had it that after the archangels had raised the Temple, they had commanded the air itself to protect both its gilded roof and that magnificent pavement for all time. However they had worked their miracle, the crystalline surface bore not a single scar, not one scuff mark, to show the endless generations of feet which had passed across it since the Creation or the perpetually polishing mops of the acolytes responsible for maintaining its brilliance.
Dynnys' and Broun's slippered feet made no sound, adding to the illusion that they were, in fact, walking upon air, as they circled to the west side of the cathedral and passed through one of the doorways there into the administrative wings of the Temple. They passed down broad hallways, illuminated by skylights and soaring windows of the same imperishable crystal and decorated with priceless tapestries, paintings, and statuary. The administrative wings, like the cathedral, were the work of divine hands, not of mere mortals, and stood as pristine and perfect as the day they had been created.
Eventually, they reached their destination. The conference chamber's door was flanked by two more Temple Guards, although these carried swords, not halberds, and their cuirasses bore the golden starburst of the Grand Vicar quartered with the Archangel Schueler's sword. They came smartly to attention as the archbishop and his aide passed them without so much as a glance.
Three more prelates and their aides, accompanied by two secretaries and a trio of law masters, awaited them.
"So, here you are, Erayk. At last," one of the other archbishops said dryly as Dynnys and Broun crossed to the conference table.
"I beg your pardon, Zhasyn," Dynnys said with an easy smile. "I was unavoidably delayed, I'm afraid."
"I'm sure." Archbishop Zhasyn Cahnyr snorted. Cahnyr, a lean, sparely built man, was archbishop of Glacierheart, in the Republic of Siddarmark, and while Dynnys' cassock bore the black scepter of the Order of Langhorne on its right breast, Cahnyr's showed the green-trimmed brown grain sheaf of the Order of Sondheim. The two men had known one another for years ... and there was remarkably little love lost between them.
"Now, now, Zhasyn," Urvyn Myllyr, Archbishop of Sodar, chided. Myllyr was built much like Dynnys himself: too well-fleshed to be considered lean, yet not quite heavy enough to be considered fat. He also wore the black scepter of Langhorne, but where Dynnys' graying hair was thinning and had once been golden blond, Myllyr's was a still-thick salt-and-pepper black. "Be nice," he continued now, smiling at Cahnyr. "Some delays truly are unavoidable, you know. Even"—he winked at Dynnys—"Erayk's."
Cahnyr did not appear mollified, but he contented himself with another snort and sat back in his chair.
"Whatever the cause, at least you are here now, Erayk," the third prelate observed, "so let's get started, shall we?"
"Of course, Wyllym," Dynnys replied, not obsequiously, but without the insouciance he'd shown Cahnyr.
Wyllym Rayno, Archbishop of Chiang-wu, was several years younger than Dynnys, and unlike a great many of Mother Church's bishops and archbishops, he had been born in the province which had since become his archbishopric. He was short, dark, and slender, and there was something ... dangerous about him. Not surprisingly, perhaps. While Dynnys, Cahnyr, and Myllyr all wore the white cassocks of their rank, Rayno, as always, wore the habit of a simple monk in the dark purple of the Order of Schueler. The bared sword of the order's patron stood out starkly on the right breast of that dark habit, white and trimmed in orange to proclaim his own archbishop's rank, but its episcopal white was less important than the golden flame of Jwo-jeng superimposed across it. That flame-crowned sword marked him as the Schuelerite Adjutant General, which made him effectively the executive officer of Vicar Zhaspyr Clyntahn, the Grand Inquisitor himself.
As always, the sight of that habit gave Dynnys a slight twinge. Not that he'd ever had any personal quarrel with Rayno. It was more a matter of ...tradition than anything else.
Once upon a time, the rivalry between his own Order of Langhorne and the Schuelerites had been both open and intense, but the struggle for primacy within the Temple had been decided in the Schuelerites' favor generations ago. The Order of Schueler's role as the guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy had given it a powerful advantage, which had been decisively strengthened by the judicious political maneuvering within the Temple's hierarchy which had absorbed the Order of Jwo-jeng into the Schuelerites. These days, the Order of Langhorne stood clearly second within that hierarchy, which made the Schuelerite practice of dressing as humble brothers of their order, regardless of their personal rank in the Church's hierarchy, its own form of arrogance.
Dynnys sat in the armchair awaiting him, Broun perched on the far humbler stool behind his archbishop's chair, and Rayno gestured to one of the law masters.
"Begin," he said.
"Your Eminences," the law master, a monk of Dynnys' own order, said, standing behind the neat piles of legal documents on the table before him, "as you all know, the purpose of the meeting of this committee of the Ecclesiastical Court is to consider a final recommendation on the succession dispute in the earldom of Hanth. We have researched the applicable law, and each of you has received a digest of our findings. We have also summarized the testimony before this committee and the documents submitted to it. As always, we are but the Court's servants. Having provided you with all of the information available to us, we await your pleasure."
He seated himself once more, and Rayno looked around the conference table at his fellow archbishops.
"Is there any need to reconsider any of the points of law which have been raised in the course of these hearings?" he asked. Heads shook silently in reply. "Are there any disputes about the summary of the testimony we've already heard or the documents we've already reviewed?" he continued, and, once again, heads shook. "Very well. Does anyone have anything new to present?"
"If I may, Wyllym?" Cahnyr said, and Rayno nodded for him to continue. The lean archbishop turned to look at Dynnys.
"At our last meeting, you told us you were still awaiting certain documents from Bishop Executor Zherald. Have they arrived?"
"I fear not," Dynnys said, shaking his head gravely.
Zherald Ahdymsyn was officially Dynnys' assistant; in fact, he was the de facto acting archbishop for Dynnys' distant archbishopric and the manager of Dynnys' own vast estates there. Charis was the next best thing to twelve thousand miles from the Temple, and there was no way Dynnys could have personally seen to the pastoral requirements of "his" parishioners and also dealt with all of the other responsibilities which attached to his high office. So, like the vast majority of prelates whose sees lay beyond the continent of Haven or its sister continent, Howard, to the south, he left those pastoral and local administrative duties to his bishop executor. Once a year, despite the hardship involved, Dynnys traveled to Charis for a monthlong pastoral visit; the rest of the year, he relied upon Ahdymsyn. The bishop executor might not be the most brilliant man he'd ever met, but he was dependable and understood the practical realities of Church politics. He was also less greedy than most when it came to siphoning off personal wealth.
"But you did request that he send them?" Cahnyr pressed, and Dynnys allowed an expression of overtried patience to cross his face.
"Of course I did, Zhasyn," he replied. "I dispatched the original request via semaphore to Clahnyr over two months ago, as we all agreed, to be relayed by sea across the Cauldron. Obviously, I couldn't go into a great deal of detail in a semaphore message, but Father Mahtaio sent a more complete request via wyvern the same day, and it reached Clahnyr barely a five-day later. We also notified Sir Hauwerd's man of law here in Zion of our requirements and informed him that we were passing the request along to his client."
"'Two months ago' doesn't leave very much time for any documentation to arrive from so far away. Particularly at this time of year, given the sort of storms they have in the Cauldron every fall," Cahnyr observed in a deliberately neutral tone, and Dynnys showed his fellow prelate his teeth in what might possibly have been called a smile.
"True," he said almost sweetly. "On the other hand, the message was sent over two months ago, which seems more than sufficient time for Zherald to have relayed my request to Sir Hauwerd and for Sir Hauwerd to have responded. And for a dispatch vessel from Charis to cross back to Clahnyr, weather or no weather, with at least a semaphore message to alert us that the documents in question were on their way. In fact, I've exchanged another complete round of messages with Zherald on other topics over the same time frame, so I feel quite sure the dispatch boats are surviving the crossing, despite any autumn gales."
Excerpted from Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2007 David Weber. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsMay, Year of God 890,
August, Year of God 890,
September, Year of God 890,
October, Year of God 890,
November, Year of God 890,
February, Year of God 891,
April, Year of God 891,
June, Year of God 891,
July, Year of God 891,
August, Year of God 891,
September, Year of God 891,
October, Year of God 891,
November, Year of God 891,
February, Year of God 892,
March, Year of God 892,
April, Year of God 892,
A Note on Safeholdian Timekeeping,
Tor Books by David Weber,