- 1 Name
- 2 Physical appearance
- 3 Biography
- 4 Character
- 5 Secondary Identities
- 6 References
Nimue's choice of name for her male persona carries deep meaning, symbolizing her role, her Welsh heritage and how she came to become Merlin. Merlin is the legendary magician who mentored and advised King Arthur - a legend with Welsh roots. Athrawes is Welsh for a female teacher, reflecting both his role and his original gender identity. Nimue must have been aware that in Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, it is Nimue who enchants Merlin and replaces him as Arthur's advisor. And as a further reversal of the legend, Nimue's 900 years in her cave reflects the legendary Merlin's fate to sleep eternally in a cave.
As a PICA, Nimue Alban possessed the ability to modify her physical appearance, sex, and basic outward attributes at will. Having decided to assume a male role, Athrawes manifested as a tall, dark haired man who retained Alban's deep blue eyes as a personal memento to her former self, who Merlin overall resembled in a "distant relative" fashion. Merlin also possessed highly stylized facial hair in the form of fiercely waxed mustachios and a dagger beard. To adopt a noticeable flaw, Merlin created a long, thin scar on his right cheek. He was recognized as very handsome and imposing. (OAR)
Throughout his existence Merlin retained the ability to modify his appearance at will. He first performed this feat to become Ahbraim Zhevons, from then on switching guises as the situation required. Zhevons had no official connection to Merlin Athrawes but shared some common "familial" characteristics with Nimue Alban's original appearance and Merlin. (AMF)
The PICA of Terran Federation Navy officer Nimue Alban awoke in Nimue's Cave some 900 years after the establishment of the colony of Safehold. A recorded message made by her mentor, Pei Kau-yung, informed her of the disastrous war between the "techies" led by Kau-yung's wife Pei Shan-wei and the "angels" led by the treacherous chief administrator Eric Langhorne. This conflict had resulted in Langhorne's attack on the Alexandria Enclave and the murder of Shan-wei and all of her followers. Kau-yung spoke of his impending retaliatory strike using a suicidal vest-pocket nuclear weapon, which he correctly expected to eliminate Langhorne.
Though retaining no memory of the death of the real Nimue Alban, a final sacrifice which had allowed Shan-wei to smuggle "him" to Safehold, the PICA that would become Merlin Athrawes now knew "his" great task: to restore the true history and technology of the Terran Federation and prepare civilization on Safehold for the inevitable re-encounter with the alien race that had murdered it: the Gbaba. To do this, Merlin had to destroy the Church of God Awaiting, Langhorne's legacy and "societal matrix" designed, in Langhorne's short sighted vision, to forever prevent rediscovery by the Gbaba with an iron-fisted, false religious prohibition of technological advancement.
Merlin awoke to a radically different world, where the Church of God Awaiting's influence was absolute and the source of power for all of the nation-states that had manifested on Safehold since its founding. Using the advanced technology left at his disposal by Kau-yung and Shan-wei, he conducted a general reconnaissance of the world and determined that, due to the genuine devout faith of Safehold's people, simply destroying the Temple of God at the Church's capitol in Zion and proclaiming the truth would only provoke mass chaos and war. Instead, he adopted a "virus" strategy, where he would gradually introduce change into one area and prompt the spread of new ideas and technology that would undermine the Church from within.
Arrival in Charis
After careful study of the political situation on Safehold, Merlin chose the Kingdom of Charis, led by King Haarahld VII as the best candidate for sponsorship. Relative to the rest of Safehold, Charis was prosperous and progressive, and also locked in a long term adversarial relationship with the Church's corrupt ecclesiastic leadership. Merlin also detected an imminent plot on the life of Crown Prince Cayleb organized by Charis's enemies in Emerald and a secret domestic foe. He sailed to Charis aboard the merchant ship Wave Daughter.
As Prince Cayleb participated in a hunting expedition targeting a slash lizard that had habitually begun attacking humans, he was attacked by a team of assassins hired by Prince Nahrmahn of Emerald. Though Cayleb and his Marine bodyguards fought valiantly, the bodyguards were killed to a man and Cayleb's death seemed nigh. At that point, a mysterious stranger attacked the party of assassins from the rear and systematically killed all but one of them. Introducing himself as Merlin Athrawes, the heroic stranger, though treated with suspicion by the sole survivor of Cayleb's bodyguards, offered his services to Cayleb.
The Tirian Crisis
Returning to the Royal Palace in Tellesberg, Merlin presented himself to King Haarahld, explaining that he believed himself gifted with some of the abilities traditionally ascribed to the seijin, divinely empowered warriors of Safeholdian fable. King Haarahld rewarded Merlin with a commission in the Royal Guard and assignment as Prince Cayleb's personal protector. Privately, Merlin began providing information, via his seijin visions, to Charisian intelligence, led by Baron Wave Thunder. Merlin then disclosed the identity of the most significant of these threats: Kahlvyn Ahrmahk, Duke of Tirian, and cousin of the king.
Earl Gray Harbor, First Councilor of Charis, and father to Tirian's wife, reacted with hostility and fear, as he held his son-in-law in very high regard. Though Wave Thunder, having been convinced of Merlin's reliability through the massive counterintelligence advantage he had provided up to that point, suggested that the claim be investigated fully, Gray Harbor rejected the notion, questioned Merlin, and stormed out of their meeting. Overcome with fear over what the accusation could mean, Gray Harbor went to the Duke's estate and confronted him. The Duke, who was indeed a traitor plotting to steal the throne from King Haarahld, attempted to kidnap the Earl.
Having observed the unfolding of events with his “visions,” Merlin then arrived just as Tirian had ordered a detachment of trusted men to arrest Gray Harbor. Releasing the limitations that he had imposed on his mechanical body to prevent the inconvenient witnessing of truly superhuman acts, Merlin quickly killed all of Tirian's men. Tirian attempted to flee, but Gray Harbor, realizing now the full extent of his son-in-law's treason, killed him with a thrown dagger. Knowledge of the events became public the next day. Though King Haarahld was greatly distressed at the treason and death of his beloved cousin, Merlin had now saved his son and neutralized a mortal threat to his throne. (OAR)
Preparation for War
Though he originally selected Charis as his host for purely strategic reasons, Merlin grew to admire the Ahrmahks and their approach to ruling their prosperous Kingdom. He became personal friends with Prince Cayleb, participating in various activities with him, including one awkward nude water polo game which required Merlin to take special precautions to hide his residual female sexuality. Merlin was nearly outed as a supernatural being when he unleashed his full abilities to rescue a group of children from predatory kraken, though Prince Cayleb, who began to accept Merlin's "special" nature, was the only real witness.
With permanent trust now established between himself and the government of Charis, Merlin began to introduce several key “innovations” into the Kingdom's military and practical resources. He made arrangements so that he would receive credit for none of the new technologies, to prevent discovery and targeting by Charis's enemies. He prompted massive improvements in efficiency in all sectors of life in the Kingdom with the introduction of concepts such as Arabic numerals and the abacus. More directly, tactical improvements such as new and safer gunpowder, more powerful, more rapidly-firing and accurate cannon, and the Navy's adoption of heavy war galleons instead of the traditional, lighter and swifter oared galleys conferred massive military advantages.
While great lengths were undertaken to ensure that Merlin's military innovations were not discovered by Charis's rivals, Arabic numerals and other strictly practical advances became rapidly known and adopted throughout Safehold. While the general recognition was that Charis's "new ways of doing things" were in full compliance with the Proscriptions of Jwo-jeng, they still prompted suspicion within the Church, which was worsened by a sustained propaganda campaign put out by the likes of Prince Hektor of Corisande, which claimed in concert with other attacks that the pace of innovation in Charis was far steadier than it seemed.
When pressure began to build on Archbishop of Charis Erayk Dynnys to clamp down on the culture of innovation in his diocese during his annual pastoral visit, Merlin sabotaged Dynnys's ability to comply by making a dangerous secret voyage into the heart of Zion, where he arranged for Dynnys to suffer a crippling injury. By the time Dynnys was healed and embarked for Tellesberg, the Church had already decided to act.(OAR)
Merlin's innovations were soon to be needed. The Church, led by the corrupt association of clerics known as the Group of Four, made a final determination that Charis had strayed too far away from “Archangel” Langhorne's vision of faith and traditional rejection of innovation and technology. At the urging of Grand Inquisitor Zhaspahr Clyntahn, the Group of Four decided to destroy Charis. Using a legal fiction in which the Vicars acted in their secular roles as “Knights of the Temple Lands," the Church ordered every naval power on Safehold to band their fleets together under Church command and attack. The plan immediately became known to Merlin.
With the unprecedentedly advantageous ability to track the Church fleets, which were composed of the full battle strength of Tarot, Dohlar, Emerald, Chisholm and Corisande divided into two forces, King Haarahld developed a plan to destroy each force in isolation. Merlin, with Prince Cayleb commanding, embarked with a force composed entirely of new war galleons to meet the Tarotsians and Dohlarans off Armageddon Reef. King Haarahld commanded a force to the north, adopting a domestic ruse to convince Church spies that Charis was not aware of the impending attack.
The Tarotsian and Dohlaran forces, which were not equipped for such a long range expedition, were encumbered with a great deal of tactical setbacks by the time Cayleb's force located them. Using new rapid-firing cannon broadside tactics that were a complete surprise to the Church fleet in the Battle of Crag Reach and the Battle of Rock Point, Cayleb's fleet annihilated their adversaries with virtually no significant casualties. With the surrender of the “southern” force, and the need to repair the battle damage that his fleet did sustain, Cayleb held position off Armageddon Reef. But, Merlin was aware that the engagement commanded by King Haarahld was not faring well.
King Haarahld had successfully convinced Admiral Duke Black Water of Corisande, in command of the “northern” force, that the new war galleons which Black Water had been made aware of were in his arsenal, prompting Black Water to be cautious. However, the ruse eventually failed, and Black Water began a full attack against Haarahld's outnumbered force of galleys. Realizing the grave danger the King faced, Merlin had a choice to make: use the technology at his disposal to reach and assist Haarahld, or do nothing in fear of discovery of his true nature.
As the battle became more pitched, he managed to sneak away from his position with Cayleb's fleet with only Cayleb's knowledge. However, despite personally cutting down dozens of Corisandian boarders (including Admiral Black Water) in the pitched battle that, with Cayleb's timely arrival, was salvaged for a complete Charisian victory, Merlin was unable to reach King Haarahld in time. To Merlin's great distress, the King died in the arms of the last surviving officer of his command aboard HMS Royal Charis. The Charisians returned home with a complete victory, and Prince Cayleb ascended the throne as King Cayleb II. (OAR)
In one stroke, Charis had taken absolute naval superiority over Safehold – all rival naval powers had seen the bulk of their fleets completely wiped out. The war was far from over, however. Recognizing that the attack had been provoked by the Church all along, Bishop Maikel Staynair assumed the role of Archbishop of Charis and, in a public letter addressed directly to Grand Vicar Erek XVII, declared a schism between the Archbishopric of Charis, henceforth to be known as the Church of Charis, and the Church of God Awaiting. Open confrontation, Holy War, between the Church and Charis was now an inevitability.
Despite the common knowledge that the Church had organized the massive, unprovoked attack which had sought to destroy Charis, many Charisians chose to reject the schism and remain loyal to the Church. These Temple Loyalists would prove to be a serious domestic threat for the future and one of Merlin's primary concerns as a protector of King Cayleb and his followers. Extremist groups within the Temple Loyalist community began to form, the most dangerous of these led by Bishop Mylz Halcom, who had fled from the Earldom of Hanth on Margaret's Land after his sponsor, the pretender lord that had been installed by the Church, fled in the wake of the schism.
Halcom started with indirect acts of unrest and vandalism, but soon adopted outright terror tactics. Men under his authority burned the Royal College in Tellesberg, destroying the archives of scientific research that had been collected there and nearly killing Dr. Rahzhyr Mahklyn, the chief academician of the institute, but for Merlin's last-minute rescue. Halcom grew bolder, and ordered the assassination of Archishop Maikel at the Cathedral of Tellesberg during a Wednesday mass. Merlin once again prevented complete disaster at the last moment and gunned down the assassins as they ambushed Staynair in the pews. These events prompted Charis to step up domestic security.
Despite his best efforts, Merlin's true nature was eventually uncovered, although in a favorable way: during a private meeting, Archbishop Staynair revealed himself to be a member of the Brethren of Saint Zherneau, a secret order which had uncovered proof of humanity's true history centuries earlier. King Haarahld had been a member of this group, as had most of his ancestors, and they had made it their goal to model Charisian society on the principles of the past, and eventually reveal the truth to the world. Using a message contained in the diary of the "Adam" "Saint Zherneau," the Brotherhood was able to identify Merlin as the prophesied "second string" of Pei Shan-wei's great plan to destroy the Church and uplift Safehold.
After Merlin and Staynair decided to inform King Cayleb, an Inner Circle began to form composed of the highest ranking and most trusted members of the Charisian government. Though the temptation to spread the Truth to all who would listen was high, the decision was made to retain the centuries of absolute caution and discretion the Brethren had maintained. For this reason, Earl Gray Harbor, among others, was kept ignorant of the full truth. All new Brethren and Inner Circle inductees were to be put through a significant and lengthy process of vetting and consideration before they could learn of the diary and its secrets. Such was to be the way of spreading the Truth for the foreseeable future, until the people of Safehold were ready.
A New Empire
Meanwhile, as Charis took the offensive against the Temple, using fast-moving fleets of privateers to clean the seas of enemy shipping,allies, wherever they might be found, were sought. Sensing, through the window into her court that Merlin's “visions” provided, that Queen Sharleyan of Chisholm had been a very reluctant pawn for the Group of Four, the decision was made to seek an alliance. After returning all captured Chisholmian vessels and crew from the Battle of Darcos Sound, Charis sent Earl Gray Harbor to Cherayth.
At Merlin's suggestion, Gray Harbor, rather than negotiating an alliance, delivered King Cayleb's proposal for a political marriage that would unify the realms of Charis and Chisholm into a new Empire. After overcoming her considerable shock and taking time to weigh the consequences of the offer, Sharleyan accepted. Though the decision provoked great dismay within certain political circles in the Kingdom of Chisholm, the marriage went forward, and Sharleyan journeyed to Tellesberg. As Merlin had predicted might occur, the match between King Cayleb and Sharleyan was a very good one, producing a genuine romance.
As King Cayleb concluded affairs with Prince Nahrmahn of Emerald, offering his previous mortal enemy generous terms of surrender and preservation of his royal status with a separate political marriage, Charis's attention then turned to Corisande. Shortly after his marriage to Sharleyan, now-Emperor Cayleb took command of a massive invasion fleet and sailed for the League with Merlin in tow.
The Corisande campaign
Embarked aboard HMS Empress of Charis, Merlin traveled with Cayleb to Chisholm, where the fleet took on the support and supplies it would need for the coming invasion of Corisande. The fleet then proceeded to Zebediah. Partly due to the history of Corisande's conquest of the island that formed the League, partly through the efforts of Prince Nahrmahn, but mostly because of his scheming, mercenary nature, the Grand Duke of Zebediah surrendered his fief and swore allegiance to Cayleb. The island was taken without a fight, though Nahrmahn predicted, and Cayleb agreed, that the Grand Duke would betray Charis at the first opportunity. Merlin began to develop respect for the Emeraldian.
The fleet launched an amphibious invasion of the island of Corisande at the port city of Dairos, which was quickly captured and served as the beachhead for Cayleb's army of Marines under the command of General Hauwyl Chermyn. The main body of the Corisandian Army under General Koryn Gahrvai regrouped and intercepted the Charisians en route to their main objective of Manchyr in the Battle of Haryl's Crossing.
Though the Charisians were badly outnumbered and possessed virtually no cavalry, prompting Gahrvai to cautiously press his apparent advantage, Gahrvai marched right into Cayleb's trap. After Imperial Marine scout snipers, a unit of special forces created by Merlin, swept the Corisandian ranks of their command structure, the main body of Marine line infantry, all armed with rapid-firing rifles, commenced firing with the support of equally advanced artillery. Badly outranged and outgunned in every respect, Gahrvai barely managed to salvage a part of his army through his own significant command ability. He retreated to a redoubt at [[Talbor Pass] which Gahrvai managed to fortify against the new Charisian tactics and weapons, bringing the Imperial assault to a halt.
Using his SNARCs for reconnaissance, Merlin helped Cayleb organize an undetected flanking maneuver that forced Gahrvai to surrender. The Charisians then proceeded to Manchyr and began to lay siege to the city. Prince Hektor of Corisande decided to have his children smuggled out of Manchyr by his spymaster the Earl of Coris. Merlin detects the plan but is unable to get word via natural means to the Imperial Charisian Navy that is blockading the island. Posing as a Harchongese courier, the ship carrying Hektor's children passes an ICN search and escapes to the Kingdom of Delferahk, which has a reason for enmity with Charis and is also where Prince Hektor's cousin reigns as the consort to King Zhames.
Ambush at Saint Agtha's
Meanwhile, back in Old Charis, Empress Sharleyan made an official visit to the Convent of Saint Agtha's, an isolated monastic community dedicated to a Chisholmian nun who was canonized for a lifetime of charitable work in Charis. Sharleyan had decided to make the journey at the suggestion of her uncle, the Duke of Halbrook Hollow. The Duke, a temple loyalist who had vehemently and publicly opposed Sharleyan's marriage to Cayleb in spite of his past role as a key adviser to her, ostensibly made the suggestion to try to heal the damage that his falling out with his niece had caused. In actuality, he made it at the direction of Bishop Mylz Halcom, leader of a terrorist Charisian temple loyalist sect, who plotted to assassinate the Empress.
Due to Halcom's extreme caution, Merlin remained ignorant of the plot until Sharleyan was already at Saint Agtha's. Finally, as they were heading to the monastery, Halcom's large force of assassins were picked up by a SNARC. Merlin was forced to make a decision; either use the advanced technology at his disposal to reach Sharleyan and rescue her, or do nothing in fear of being discovered to be what any Safeholdian could only recognize as a supernatural being. His situation was further complicated by his requirement to remain at Cayleb's side as his bodyguard in Corisande while the war was ongoing, and the fact that Sharleyan, in a decision of the Brethren of Saint Zherneau that he had opposed, did not yet know of Merlin's true nature and mission. Determining that Empress Sharleyan's life had to be preserved at all costs, he raced back to Charis aboard his recon skimmer.
The temple loyalist assassins launched an attack on Saint Agtha's and Sharleyan's detachment of Imperial Guard. The crack troops of the Guard, despite being caught completely by surprise, managed to hold for an extended period of time, but the assassins' determination and far superior numbers, especially after a large portion of the Guardsmen were killed in the initial assault, proved too much. By the time Merlin arrived, only Sharleyan and her personal bodyguard Edwyrd Seahamper remained. Unleashing the full force of his PICA body, Merlin rapidly annihilated the remaining assassins. Confronting Halcom personally, Merlin declared his vow to destroy the Church of God Awaiting and everything it stood for, and mocked Halcom's faith in Eric Langhorne, before cutting the terrorist down.
Merlin went to Sharelyan and Seahamper's holdout in the convent and revealed himself, to their considerable surprise and amazement. He was constrained by time, but promised to reveal the full truth later, as Seahamper looked on with suspicion. Merlin also withheld the fact of Halbrook Hollow's treason, as Sharleyan was very close to her uncle, and the Duke had been killed by Halcom after he had ceased to be useful. Merlin returned to Corisande, and reflected on the now obvious fact that he alone, supported only by his relatively incapable Ordoñes-Westinghouse-Lytton RAPIER ("Owl") tactical computer that had proven persistently lacking in natural intuition, was not able, despite all of his abilities, to continually maintain Charis's security.
Merlin returned to Corisande and told Cayleb what had happened, increasing his great distress over Merlin's unexplained sudden departure. To put the Emperor's mind at ease, Merlin conveyed Cayleb secretly back to Tellesberg to meet up with Sharleyan, marking the first time that a native Safeholdian had traveled aboard an aircraft. To allow them to stay in contact with each other while Cayleb returned to Corisande, and to permit members of the Inner Circle to take on some of his workload in reviewing SNARC data and other information collected by his technology, Merlin provided Cayleb and Sharleyan with hidden communicators that interfaced with special contact lenses. 
By this time, Corisande had lost its entire army and the city of Manchyr had endured a prolonged siege. Realizing that his situation was hopeless, Prince Hektor decided to offer his surrender to Cayleb. Unfortunately, word of the decision was picked up by the Inquisition leaders in the city, who had standing orders from Vicar Zhaspahr Clyntahn to assassinate Prince Hektor if his surrender seemed imminent. Hektor and his son were murdered by a group of assassins in the city shortly before the surrender was to be announced. The killings were pinned on Cayleb, and the Church, acting through a variety of temple loyalist agents, fanned the flames as much as possible.
Cayleb managed to convince a group of senior Corisandian nobles led by the Earl of Anvil Rock to form a Regency Council in the name of the absent next-in-line to the Corisandian throne, Prince Daivyn. He appointed Hauwyl Chermyn "Viceroy General" of Corisande to serve as his personal representative as the ruler of Corisande by right of conquest. After receiving the oaths of fealty of most of the Corisandian nobility, some of whom gave their vows in bad faith, Cayleb departed for Chisholm with Merlin. Over time, Merlin became aware of the increasingly complex organization of resistance to Charisian rule in Manchyr and amongst a group of nobles that had returned to their estates to plot an uprising.
Despite the increasing violence of protests organized by the resistance in Manchyr, the Inner Circle decided to allow the organization to develop as much as can be allowed, before moving against it, so as to remove as many threats to the occupation as possible. But Merlin is compelled to act when a reformist Corisandian priest named Tymahn Hahskans is kidnapped by a cell of Temple Loyalists, led by the same Inquisition priests who assassinated Prince Hektor, and is subjected to the Punishment of Schueler. Greatly angered by his inability to protect the man, Merlin supplied General Koryn Gahrvai with the evidence necessary to arrest the Inquisition cell members at their secret hideaway inside a Schuelerite monastery. They are summarily tried and executed.
In time, SNARC intelligence gathering allowed Merlin to provide Gahrvai with the information he needed to locate damning evidence of the treason of the members of the "Northern Conspiracy," which included a mole in the Chisholmian Army in the service of Grand Duke Zebediah. Organizing a series of simultaneous raids in the cover of darkness with Gahrvai, the Charisians capture virtually all of the resistance leaders and mortally wound its cohesion. Concurrently, Charis's fair and just rule of Corisande began to tamp down the anger that was triggered by Prince Hektor's assassination. Hahskan's murder backfired from the perspective of his killers and the reformists in Corisande continued to build positive sentiment towards the Empire's overall cause. While still resentful of the occupation by Chermyn's Marines and still hosting a general belief that Cayleb was responsible for Hektor's death, over time Corisandians became less and less inclined towards future resistance.
Having learned of the existence of the Circle and made preparations to purge the Church of all opposition, Vicar Zhaspahr Clyntahn finally made his move against it in the Year of God 894. Merlin desired to save as many of the reformist clerics and their families as he could, but was required to publicly remain in Charis. This led to the creation of a new PICA personality, Ahbraim Zhevons. Officially a rogue and trader from the Grand Duchy of Silkiah, "Ahbraim" journeyed to Zion and visited the brothel owned by Ahnzhelyk Phonda. He revealed his true nature as an agent of Charis to Phonda, and offered his assistance to her plan to extract to safety as many Circle members' immediate family as possible.
However, Merlin/Ahbraim quickly discovered that Phonda, also not who she seemed to be, had the situation well in hand long before his arrival, and that she possessed a fiendish ability as a covert operative. Immediately before Clyntahn's purge began, Phonda and Merlin/Ahbraim successfully escape Zion with all their targeted charges in tow, to Clyntahn's considerable consternation. In retribution for the purge, which killed thousands of people they could not save, and all his other crimes, Merlin vowed to kill Clyntahn at the first opportunity, though he was stymied by the Grand Inquisitor's habitual residence within the Temple of God, where Merlin could not venture or place SNARC remotes, as he was wary of detection by the advanced technology left behind there. (AMF)
In the wake of the purge, Zhamsyn Trynair's puppet Grand Vicar Erek XVII declared Holy War on Charis, a step that had been avoided up to that point because of the amount of opposition that it would have triggered. As defined in the Holy Writ, the declaration triggered a general lifting of the rules of war and the Accepted Laws of Nations relative to the Church's prosecution of it. All of the atrocities and abuses committed in the past by the Church were now legal, as were any means required to put Charis and all of her people to the sword. While Merlin predicted that the Church would later come to regret the full consequences of the action, it still represented the definitive step into total war and a mortal threat to the Empire's continued progress and Merlin's mission.
That war was soon prosecuted with the Group of Four's decision to put the new Navy of God to sea. The massive fleet of war galleons, which consisted of a branch directly controlled by the Temple Guard and designed to operate with the support of similar builds commanded by Desnair, Dohlar, and Harchong, had been delayed by persistent Charisian privateer operations and sabotage, but now represented the largest naval force in the history of Safehold. Having decided to put their fleet to immediate action, Temple Guard Captain General Vicar Allayn Magwair was also wary of the record of Charisian intelligence and devised a clever ruse that managed to throw even Merlin off of his true intent.
Orders were sent via semaphore for the NOG to sail to Dohlar and link up with the Dohlaran Navy under the command of Lywys Gardynyr, who the Charisians considered to be the Temple's most effective sea commander, having recently delivered the Temple their most significant victory against a Charisian expeditionary force under the command of Admiral Sir Gwylym Manthr sent to keep him pinned to the Gulf of Dohlar. Merlin made a mistake and accepted the apparent destination of the Temple forces, failing to account for both the ruse and for Clyntahn's precipitous mistrust of Thirsk. By the time SNARC remotes discovered the NOG's actual location near the Gulf of Tarot, it was too late to recall the bulk of Charis's fleet, which had been sent to the west of the mainland to intercept the NOG.
After putting together an emergency force of roughly 30 galleons under the command of Admiral Rock Point and High Admiral Lock Island, and equipping as many ships as possible with new explosive shells to give them an edge against otherwise impossible odds, the Imperial Charisian Navy confronted the NOG in the Gulf of Tarot. Launching a daring surprise night attack, Lock Island managed to destabilize the cohesion of the NOG force, which was hampered by a large number of unarmed and poorly commanded Harchongese ships. However, sheer numbers began to overwhelm him, and the battle turned for the worse just as Rock Point deployed Charis's powerful new weapon. After watching many of their ships suddenly explode, the NOG fleet surrendered. But, High Admiral Lock Island was killed in a fierce boarding action.
Emperor Cayleb was despondent over the loss of his cousin and close personal friend the High Admiral, whose death he witnessed live via Merlin's SNARCs. However, the immense strategic and tactical victory at the Gulf of Tarot once again left Charis in uncontested domination of the seas of Safehold, and the introduction of explosive shells gave the Empire an absolutely unassailable tactical edge. Merlin reassured the Emperor while accompanying him and Sharleyan in Chisholm, remaining confident that the fortress of Charis would survive.
With the beginning of the Holy War, Merlin knew that Charis would need to widen its technological advantage in order to survive. To that end, he conceptualized the introduction of steam technology in the Empire. Aware of the possibility that the Rakurai kinetic bombardment platforms in Safehold orbit were programmed to strike on detection of any industrialization, he staged a test on the Castaway Islands, the most isolated in Safehold he was able to find. With a series of experiments involving stationary and mobile "steam" generators, Merlin was able to rule out the presence of such automatic programming. However, the danger of the platforms remained.
Merlin accompanied Empress Sharleyan to the island of Zebediah, where the Grand Duke had been arrested for his involvement in the Northern Conspiracy. Stripped of title, Tohmys Symmyns was sent to the chopping block as the remaining aristocracy of the island reaffirmed their loyalty to Charis. Merlin and Sharleyan then went on to Corisande where the bulk of the rebel conspirators awaited her judgement.
After ordering the execution of all of the involved nobles, Sharleyan awarded a merciful pardon to several individuals who participated in the conspiracy but had no role in organizing it. Using Merlin's advanced technology Sharleyan was able to recall specific details of each case as if from memory and she greatly impressed the people of Corisande. Her court was then interrupted by would-be assassin Paitryk Hainree, who managed to hit Sharleyan with a concealed pistol before being shot down by Merlin. The Empress was saved by the bullet resistant clothing Merlin had made for her, and actually managed to conceal the wound while she continued to preside over the remaining cases. The combination of Sharleyan's conduct as a judge, her mercy, and her "miraculous" survival caused the last sentiments of resistance in Corisande to be quelled.
The Inquisition had ordered Charisian prisoners of war in Dohlar, held by Sir Gwylym Manthyr, remanded to their custody for transport to Zion and execution via the Punishment of Schueler. Without knowing how the Inquisition would transport the prisoners, the Inner Circle debated Merlin's proposed use of advanced technology to give the prisoners a quick death and spare them the Punishment. Ultimately the decision was made to not interfere, and Manthyr and his men were successfully conveyed overland to Zion, where they suffered the cruelest fate the Inquisition can mete out. Merlin vowed that for its complicity in this atrocity, Dohlar will suffer his personal retribution.
Unbeknownst to the Inner Circle, however, the Inquisition had been organizing a devastating attack on Charis codenamed Operation Rakurai. Using freight wagons stuffed with high potency gunpowder stolen from Charisian magazines, teams of Inquisition suicide agents systematically assassinated several key Charisian figures and inflicted high casualties in Charisian urban areas. Among those killed were Earl Gray Harbor and Prince Nahrmahn. Nahrmahn, who had detected the attempt on his life just in time to save his wife, had been mortally wounded and could not be saved by Merlin in time. Merlin sorrowfully provided Nahrmahn and his wife a device designed to control the pain of Nahrmahn's wounds which allowed them to spend their final moments together without physical suffering.
Determined to discover how the Rakurai evaded his intelligence net and how to prevent recurrent attacks, Merlin started an intensive search of the Empire for any signs of the Inquisition. After a SNARC remote found an additional gunpowder wagon bomb and driver set to attack Father Paityr Wylsynn, Merlin captured the Inquisition agent. The threat of additional Rakurai attacks remained and Charis was forced to greatly step up domestic security.
Rescue from Delferahk
Prior to the Rakurai bombings, Merlin, under the guise of Ahbraim Zhevons, had secretly journeyed to the Kingdom of Delferahk, the increasingly involuntary refuge of the Corisandian royal party under the care of Earl Coris, to attempt to convince the Earl to defect with his charges to Charis. Smuggling in special long-range carrier wyverns provided by Prince Nahrmahn, the plan, involving the careful coordination of events that was only possible with Merlin's necessarily secret ability to travel, had been tentatively agreed to. Earl Coris had begun to suspect that Prince Daivyn's usefulness to Zhaspahr Clyntahn was beginning to expire and that an attempt would be made on their lives by "Charisian" agents to re-kindle the Corisandian resistance.
After Clyntahn did in fact order a party of Inquisition assassins masquerading as Charisians to proceed to Delferahk, amidst the Inquisition's imminent expansion of the Holy War to Siddarmark, Merlin returned as Ahbraim, eager to get the first blow of revenge on the Inquisition for the damage caused by the Rakurai. To Coris's considerable surprise, "Ahbraim" informed the Earl that none other than Merlin Atrhawes himself, the now-famed extraordinary "bodyguard" of the Charisian Imperial Family, would be coming to extract them from Delferahk. As expected, Merlin arrived at the Corisandian residence in Talkyra a few five days later with his typical seijin flair, climbing through a window no mortal would have the ability to reach. Coris also was shocked to find that Merlin had arrived prepared for battle in the full livery of the Charisian Imperial Guard.
Under orders to ensure that the Corisandians would not be able to escape the incoming assassins, the local Inquisition leadership led a detachment of Delferahkan Royal Guard to the Corisandian residence. After a brief exchange with one of Coris's armsmen, the Royal Guard officer in charge of the Inquisition force was confronted personally by Merlin. Informing the Delferahkans openly that Charis would be extracting the Corisandians from Delferahk, Merlin offered the officer and his men a chance to escape with their lives, but was refused amidst the direct presence of Inquisition priests. Merlin then opened fire on the Inquisition forces with his personal pair of repeating revolvers, the first of their kind on the world of Safehold, routing the Delferahkans. Merlin and his charges then stole horses from the Delferahkan royal stables and fled to the river.
Simultaneously, an Imperial Charisian Navy task force under the command of Admiral Sir Dunkyn Yairley assaulted Sarmouth Keep, a Delferahkan secondary port. Obtaining quick supremacy over the city, the task force sent boats commanded by Lieutenant Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk and others, up the Sarm River to meet up with Merlin and the Corisandians. On the way, Aplyn-Ahrmahk's unit came under fire from Delferahkan militia dragoons, and successfully defended against an assault, though they took considerable casualties.Now the senior commanding officer, Aplyn-Ahrmahk seemingly abandoned the mission and sent his boats back to Sarmouth Keep. Meanwhile, Merlin and his charges proceeded to the scheduled rendezvous point, but came under fire from a Delferahkan Army unit. Merlin volunteered to "distract" the Delferahkans while the Corisandians proceeded onward.
Arriving at the rendezvous point, the Corisandians were nonetheless intercepted by an Inquisition force which had managed to guess the most likely location that Aplyn-Ahrmahk's boats, if they had not turned back as reported, would meet up with them. All appeared lost as the Inquisition priest in charge of the force determined that it was not possible for Clyntahn's original plan to be executed. The priest murdered the Delferahkan commander and then accused the Corisandians of the act, attempting to provoke a massacre. At that moment, Aplyn-Ahrmahk's men, who had proceeded on their mission in one boat, flanked the Inquisition forces and rescued the Corisandians. Aplyn-Ahrmahk then executed the murderous Inquisition priest, citing Maikel Staynair's God's Day Decree rendering the lives of all active servants of the Inquisition forfeit upon capture by Charisian forces.
Merlin returned to Charis while Yairley, the Corisandians embarked with him, also made the return journey. In the wake of the disastrous "Sword of Schueler" in Siddarmark, the complete success of which had only just been prevented by Aivah Pahrsahn, the Inner Circle weighed their options to deliver aid. Merlin assured his friends that despite all of the setbacks which had occurred, the foundation of Charis would remain strong.
Even though he became physically a male, Merlin retained most of Nimue's character traits, including her sexual attraction to men, which proved a bit of a problem in his new environment. (OAR) He did, however, engage in sexual relations with women on occasion. (AMF)
Merlin also began to see himself more as a person of his own, realizing that, as Empress Sharleyan put it, even though he possessed Nimue Alban's memories, he was a being worthy of a soul that was his alone. (AMF)
While on Safehold, Merlin has found it necessary to assume several secondary identities, these have included:
- Upon awakening as a PICA, Alban determined that assumption of a male role would be required, as society on Safehold had devolved back to a patriarchal system.
- Blue eyes had become a rare trait on Safehold and Merlin's were so deep and prominent that they became one of his best known traits.
- Focusing, infamously, on vessels flying a Church pennant as an indication of being in the Temple's direct service
- From this point on, Charis' highest-ranking leadership also gained the ability to hold councils of war and state irrespective of the individual leaders' locations and other commitments. This conferred an invaluable advantage in the ongoing war.
- After meeting Phonda, "Ahbraim" spent an extended period of time with one of the prostitutes in her employ. This leaves his sexual orientation, as a developing separate personality from Nimue Alban, undefined.
- Due to the amount of power the Inqusition gained in the purge, at this juncture, Trynair himself began to be subservient to Clyntahn