Safehold Wiki
How Firm A Foundation
05 - How Firm A Foundation 01.jpg
Author David Weber
Abbreviation HFAF
Publication date 2011
Published by Tor Books
Publication Order
Preceded by
A Mighty Fortress
Followed by
Midst Toil and Tribulation

How Firm A Foundation is a science fiction novel written by David Weber and to be published by Tor Books. It is the fifth book of the Safehold Series.

It was released on September 13th, 2011.

Timeframe: February, Year of God 895 - February, Year of God 896


As the Year of God 895 dawns on the world of Safehold, Merlin Athrawes conducts a test to find out if the kinetic bombardment platforms in orbit of the planet will react to him introducing the merits of the steam engine to the Empire of Charis. Meanwhile, the Charisian galleon Destiny under the command of Sir Dunkyn Yairley makes her way through a violent storm in the Gulf of Mathyas.

Back in Old Charis, industrialists Ehdwyrd Howsmyn and Father Paityr Wylsynn, head of the newly created patent office, are working on enhancing technology without breaking Writ law. Various factions all over Safehold, including Emperor Cayleb and Empress Sharleyan, Grand Inquisitor Zhaspahr Clyntahn, and Princess Irys of Corisande, are planning their moves. In the Republic of Siddarmark, the woman once known in the Temple Lands as Ahnzhelyk Phonda has established herself in the high society of the Siddarmarkian capital, and is starting to make plans against the Church of God Awaiting.

Empress Sharleyan arrives in the Grand Duchy of Zebediah with Merlin, to sit in judgement over the treacherous former Grand Duke Tohmys Symmyns: for his part in the Northern Conspiracy, he is stripped of all his ranks and titles and beheaded for treason.

As word of the Navy of God's crushing defeat in the Battle of the Gulf of Tarot reaches Zion, the Group of Four discuss their options, and the Grand Inquisitor proposes to deliver Charisian prisoners taken early in the war to the Punishment of Schueler. He also prepares to put a secret plan called "Operation Rakurai" into action.

As Emperor Cayleb returns to Tellesberg, Father Paityr Wylsynn is formally welcomed into the Brethren of Saint Zherneau, and learns the truth about humanity's ancient history. In turn, he reveals to them the existence of what he calls the Key, a small object that serves as a "repository of visions" and was given to the Wylsynn Family along with the Stone of Schueler. Merlin realizes that this Key is a memory module containing data from the archangels' time. Wylsynn further tells them about a secret chamber underneath the Temple of God that contains an altar, to be used if the Temple is in direct danger from enemies. The Inner Circle quickly deduces that this "altar" is the control station for the orbital weapon platforms. But Wylsynn has one more startling revalation: according to the Vision of Schueler stored in the Key, the archangels will return to Safehold after a thousand years. Worried by the realization that something sleeping beneath the Temple -- an AI, a PICA, or something else -- will awaken within a couple of decades, Merlin decides to have Owl create another backup of Nimue Alban's memories.

Some time later, Admiral Thirsk of the Royal Dohlaran Navy is appalled when orders from the Temple arrive concerning the Charisian prisoners of war. He also learns of the Charisians new explosive shells, and suggests to find a way to keep them frem penetrating their own ships' hulls. Back in the Charisian Empire, the Inner Circle discusses their options in aiding the prisoners who are about to be delivered to the Inquisition, but Cayleb decides with a heavy heart to do nothing, as it could compromise their secret. Admiral Manthyr and his fellow prisoners of war are given over to the Order of Schueler, to be taken to Zion. As Merlin watches the brutality with which they are treated through one of his SNARCs, he vows that Gorath will pay an even heavier price than Ferayd.

Sharleyan makes her way to the Corisandian capital of Manchyr, and announces that the Crown will uphold law and justice in Corisande, and will never allow Charisian rule to become as corrupt as the Group of Four. Days later, she sits in judgement once again, this time over the leaders of the Northern Conspiracy. After hearing the guilty verdicts of the courts, the Empress sentences the first six lords to death by beheading within the hour.

On the next day in court, four lower-ranking members of the Conspiracy are sentenced to death, but Sharleyan decides to show mercy and pardons all of them. However, as the crowd applaudes, Paitryk Hainree, a fanatical Temple Loyalist, charges forward and fires a shot at her. Merlin is able to kill the assassin and save the Empress, who quickly recovers thanks to bullet-proof clothing provided by Owl, calms down the crowd, and orders the trial to continue. The combination of Sharleyan's merciful handling of the lower ranking conspirators and demonstrated knowledge of the cases she handles, and her decision to continue even after Hainree's attempt, greatly impresses the people of Corisande, and causes general genuine loyalty to Charis to develop.

King Gorjah III of Tarot arrives in Tellesberg to swear fealty to the Imperial Throne of Charis. Cayleb indicates that he intends to treat Gorjah and Tarot as equal constituents of his Empire. Meanwhile, back in Corisande, Sharleyan creates General Hauwyl Chermyn Grand Duke of Zebediah to replace Symmyns.

In Zion, Vicar Rhobair Duchairn continues his charitable activities under the watchful eye of Inquisition agents. Archbishop Rayno reports the Inqusition's continued frustration in attempts to establish agents in Charis, only managing to maintain singular deep-cover sleeper cells. Clyntahn learns through his network that Corisande may be effectively lost as a political weapon against Charis after Sharleyan's political accomplishments there. He orders Rayno to prepare to assassinate the Corisandian royal party under the stewardship of Earl Coris in Delferahk, plotting to pin the murder of Prince Daivyn on Coris and Charisian agents.

Manthyr and his fellow Inquisition prisoners continue their deliberately delayed journey through the mainland, so as to permit abuse from Temple fanatics as they pass through various cities. After several of his comrades are killed in these uprisings, the Inquisition is forced to take measures to hold the crowd back.

In Tellesberg, Wylsynn and Rahzhyr Mhaklyn, now both Inner Circle members, discuss how the imminent introduction of Steam Power will be justifiable under the restrictions of the proscriptions. They plan to introduce a few aspects that Clyntahn will be forced to copy and endorse, which will open the door wide for future applications. At the King's Harbor gunpowder magazine on Helen Island, Urvyn Mahndrayn, Baron Seamont's second, discovers a discreprancy in the record of gunpowder storage. Not suspecting foul play, he visits his cousin Trai Sahlavahn, responsible for the accounting, to run down a "clerical error." Sahlavahn, an Inquisition agent, lures Mahndrayn to a gunpowder storage area to "investigate" the "error," and then detonates the explosives, killing himself, Mahndrayn, and destroying all evidence of missing gunpowder. The Inner Circle learns of the event immeadiately, but mistakenly believes it to be a singular Inquisition attempt to sabotage the Empire's gunpowder supplies. Meanwhile, high quantities of gunpowder remain unaccounted for.

In August, Earl Coris, now certain that Charis was not responsible for the death of Prince Hektor, begins to suspect that an Inquisition attempt to dispose of Prince Daivyn is imminent. Back in Tellesberg, the final letters of Admiral Manthyr's party are smuggled into Charis by agents of Admiral Thirsk. On God's Day, Archbishop Staynair delivers a sermon announcing an edict denouncing and criminalizing the Office of Inquisition. In retribution for Manthyr's fate, Staynair authorizes all captured agents of the Inquisition to be executed without trial, promising the same fate upon Zhaspahr Clyntahn.

In the Gulf of Jharas, off the coast of the Desnarian Empire, newly-minted Admiral Yairley leads a Charisian naval detachment to a crushing victory over the Desnarian Navy using explosive shell weaponry. Introudcing the new "high angle guns" developed by Baron Seamount, Yairley's force easily reduces the heavy fortresses guarding the Desnarian port of Iyhtria. After forcing the Desnarian military into surrender, Yairley imposes highly punitive terms including the destruction of all naval warfare material in the Desnarian Empire's primary anchorage. Knowing that they will face the Inquisition's wrath for accepting these terms, the Desnarian commanders defect.

In September, Clyntahn's Operation Rakurai finally comes to pass, using the gunpowder stolen from King's Harbor. In a well-organized campaign of suicide terror bombings using gunpowder-packed wagons, Earl Gray Harbor, Prince Nahrmahn, and several other high ranking Charisian officials are killed. Nahrmahn manages to detect the attempt on his own life just in time to save his wife by covering her with his body, but later succumbs to his wounds. Another gunpowder wagon nearly reaches its target at the Patent Office and Paityr Wylsynn, but its presence is discovered by a SNARC remote and Merlin intercepts it. Under interrogation, the driver provides details about Operation Rakurai. In the wake of the losses, Prince Nahrmahn's son assumes his father's crown, and Nahrmahn's chief adviser Earl Pine Hollow replaces Gray Harbor as Imperial First Councilor.

Manthyr's date of execution via the Punishment of Schueler finally arrives, after most of his men had died under the Question torture rather than confess falsely to the "crimes" assigned to them by the Inquisition. Manthyr could not defy the Inquisition publicly as his tongue had been cut out, but as the Grand Inquisitor confronted him before the Punishment was carried out, Manthyr managed to spit in his face. The act, captured by SNARC remotes, is used by Charisian propaganda throughout the mainland.

In October, Merlin, having previously posed as Ahbraim Zhevons to establish contact with Earl Coris, arranges through correspondence to rescue the Corisandian royals from an imminent Inquisition attempt on their lives. Admiral Yairley sails to Delferahk.

In November, Clyntahn launches the Sword of Schueler, a plot to overthrow the government of the Republic of Siddarmark. Temple Loyalist mob armies organized by the Inquisition rise up throughout the Republic and attack government forces, Charisians and other reformists. Many Charisian residents of Siddarmark die after the mobs target the Charisian quarters in various cities. The Inquisition nearly succeeds in toppling the government of Lord Protector Greyghor Stohnar, but then Ahnzhelyk Phonda, as Aivah Pahrsahn, puts her plan into action. Units of men trained as Charisian Marines and armed with new model rifles flank the mob and put down the rioting, proceeding to the Protector's Palace and saving Stohnar.

Yairley attacks the city of Sarmouth Keep in the Kingdom of Delferahk as part of a plan to send a force led by Lieutenant Aplyn-Ahrmahk up the Sarm River and meet Earl Coris and his wards, who are retrieved from Talkyra by Merlin himself. Merlin uses the opportunity to introduce new percussion cap technology, annihilating an Inquisition force sent to prevent them from leaving with heavy caliber revolver pistols. The group rides hard for the river to meet Aplyn-Ahrmahk. Merlin leads their pursuers on a diversion, but Coris' people are still intercepted by an Inquisition force on the banks of the river. The Schuelerite priest in charge of the force realizes that the original plan to frame Charis for Prince Daivyn's assassination was now impossible to execute, and he personally kills a member of the Delferahkan detachment with him to provoke a massacre. Just before he succeeds, Aplyn-Ahrmahk, who had been delayed by Delferahkan Army dragoons while coming upriver, leads a charge into the fray. The Scheulerite priest is captured, and after citing Staynair's God's Day decree as authority, Aplyn-Ahrmahk executes him.

In February of the Year of God 896, Merlin communicates remotely with Cayleb and Sharleyan, reviewing everything that had happened. Destiny is returning to Charis with Earl Coris, Prince Daivyn, and Princess Irys and their retinue. Siddarmark remains heavily destabilized amidst mass casualties, though Pahrsahn's actions have enabled the government to hold on to most of the country, as Stohnar struggles to survive the winter amidst a general uprising. Cayleb and Sharleyan are concerned that if Siddarmark falls, Charis loses the prospect of a mainland ally for years, but Merlin expresses his belief that Charis will ultimately prevail.

Publishing data[]



Raif AhlaixsynAlahnah AhrmahkCayleb II AhrmahkSharleyan Tayt AhrmahkHaarahld VII AhrmahkZhanayt AhrmahkZhan AhrmahkPhylyp AhzgoodHektor Aplyn-AhrmahkAlyk AhrthyrMerlin AthrawesTairaince BairzhairNahrmahn II BaytzOhlyvya BaytzZhon ByrkytZhasyn CahnyrZhaspahr ClyntahnDaivyn DaykynHektor DaykynIrys DaykynCharlz DobynsRhobair DuchairnStyvyn ErayksynBahrtalam FauyairKoryn GahrvaiSairaih HahlmynPaitryk HainreeKornylys HarpahrZhoel HarysHarysynWahlys HillkeeperAhlfryd HyndrykAhstell IbbetKeelhaulZytan Kwill‎‎Parsaivahl LahmbairRhobair LathykAdulfo LynkynGaram MahgailStywyrt MahlykAllayn MagwairHenrai MaidynStaiphan MaikRahzhyr MairwynSamyl NaigailRholynd NyouKohdy NylzOwlZhulyis PahlmahnAivah PahrsahnFaydohr PahskalDaryus ParkairGlahdys ParkyrArchangel PasqualeKhanstahnzo PhandysPraidwynOwain QwentynSylvyst RaiglyTobys RaimairByrk RaimahnClaitahn RaimahnSahmantha RaimahnZhames II RaynoArchangel SchuelerGreyghor SearoseAhntahn SelkyrBryahn SelkyrShan-weiPayter ShainAhlyssa SharghatiSymyn ShaumahnFranz ShumahnDomynyk StaynairMaikel StaynairZher SumyrsTobys SuwylLainsair SvairsmahnMaikel SymmynsTohmys SymmynsMyrahm TrahskhatSailys TrahskhatSahlahmn TraigairTohmys TymkynBryahn UshyrByrtrym VeldamahnFhranklyn WaiganHainryk WaignairYairdahnDunkyn YairleyZhaksynAhbel ZhastrowAhrlee Zhones



Ahna's PointBedard BayCarmynCastaway IslandsCharisian QuarterCheraythLake ErdanGarfish BankGorath BayGulf of JahrasGulf of MathyasHannah BayHelen IslandKing's HarborNorth Bedard BayRound TheatreAbbey of Saint EvehlainScrabble SoundSilkiah BaySilk TownGaraith SymkeeSiddarSiddarmark RiverTabard ReachTalkyraTelithaTellesbergTemple LandsWeavers GuildhallWest Isle ChannelZebediah SeaZion



Class I AIBarony of BarcorOrder of BédardbeerChisholmian whiskeyEarldom of Craggy HillFlower MaidengalleonGrand InquisitorGroup of FourHoly WritHospice of the Holy BédardImperial Charisian Navymemory moduleNavy of GodOperation RakuraiPICAHouse of Qwentynrecon skimmerRoyal CollegeSeneschal of SiddarmarkRepublic of SiddarmarkseijinSNARCsteam engineStone of SchuelerEarldom of SwayleTellesberg KrakensThe Way of the Widow-Maker

External links[]

Safehold Novels
Off Armageddon ReefBy Schism Rent AsunderBy Heresies DistressedA Mighty FortressHow Firm A FoundationMidst Toil and TribulationLike A Mighty ArmyHell's Foundations QuiverAt the Sign of TriumphThrough Fiery Trials