The Honor Harrington saga continues in At All Costs, book eleven in the acclaimed Honor Harrington series, available in a signed limited leatherbound edition for the first time.
David Weber is a master of science fiction, with over 8 million books in print and 30 New York Times Bestsellers. His Honor Harrington series is a landmark in modern military science fiction, with over 4 million books in print.
Now, Baen Books is proud to offer a leatherbound edition, limited to 1,000 copies, of the eighth book in this groundbreaking series, signed by the author. To date, all previous Honor Harrington novels reissued in this format have sold out, with secondhand copies commanding top dollar in the collectible market.
About David Weber and the Honor Harrington series:
“. . .everything you could want in a heroine.... Excellent ... plenty of action.”—Science Fiction Age
“Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!”—Anne McCaffrey
“Compelling combat combined with engaging characters for a great space opera adventure.”—Locus
“Weber combines realistic, engaging characters with intelligent technological projection . . . Fans of this venerable space opera will rejoice . . .”—Publishers Weekly
Honor Harrington Main Series:
On Basilisk Station
The Honor of the Queen
The Short Victorious War
Field of Dishonor
Flag in Exile
Honor Among Enemies
In Enemy Hands
Echoes of Honor
Ashes of Victory
War of Honor
The Shadow of Saganami
At All Costs
Storm from the Shadows
Mission of Honor
A Rising Thunder
Shadow of Freedom
About the Author
Best known for his spirited, modern-minded space operas, Weber is also the creator of the Oath of Swords fantasy series and the Dahak saga, a science fiction and fantasy hybrid. Weber has also engaged in a steady stream of best-selling collaborations: the Starfire Series with Steve White; The Empire of Man Series with John Ringo; the Multiverse Series with Linda Evans and Joelle Presby; and the Ring of Fire Series with Eric Flint.
David Weber makes his home in South Carolina with his wife and children.
Read an Excerpt
At All Costs
By David Weber
Baen BooksCopyright © 2005 David Weber
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe nursery was extraordinarily full.
Two of the three older girls-Rachel and Jeanette-were downstairs, hovering on the brink of adulthood, and Theresa was at boarding school on Manticore, but the remaining five Mayhew children, their nannies, and their personal armsmen made a respectable mob. Then there was Faith Katherine Honor Stephanie Miranda Harrington, Miss Harrington, heir to Harrington Steading, and her younger twin brother, James Andrew Benjamin, and their personal armsmen. And lest that not be enough bodies to crowd even a nursery this large, there was her own modest person-Admiral Lady Dame Honor Harrington, Steadholder and Duchess Harrington, and her personal armsman. Not to mention one obviously amused treecat.
Given the presence of seven children, the oldest barely twelve, four nannies, nine armsmen (Honor herself had gotten off with only Andrew LaFollet, but Faith was accompanied by two of her three personal armsmen), and one Steadholder, the decibel level was actually remarkably low, she reflected. Of course, all things were relative.
"Now, that is enough!" Gena Smith, the senior member of Protector Palace's child-care staff, said firmly in the no-nonsense voice which had thwarted-more or less-the determination of the elder Mayhew daughters to grow upas cheerful barbarians. "What is Lady Harrington going to think of you?"
"It's too late to try to fool her about that now, Gigi," Honor Mayhew, one of Honor's godchildren, said cheerfully. "She's known all of us since we were born!"
"But you can at least pretend you've been exposed to the rudiments of proper behavior," Gena said firmly, although the glare she bestowed upon her unrepentant charge was somewhat undermined by the twinkle which went with it. At twelve, the girl had her own bedroom, but she'd offered to spend the night with the littles under the circumstances, which was typical of her.
"Oh, she knows that," the younger Honor said soothingly now. "I'm sure she knows we're not your fault."
"Which is probably the best I can hope for," Gena sighed.
"I'm not exactly unaware of the ... challenge you face with this lot," Honor assured her. "These two, particularly," she added, giving her much younger twin siblings a very old-fashioned look. They only grinned back at her, at least as unrepentant as young Honor. "On the other hand," she continued, "I think between us we have them outnumbered. And they actually seem a bit less rowdy tonight."
"Well, of course-" Gena began, then stopped and shook her head. A flash of irritation showed briefly in the backs of her gray-blue eyes. "What I meant, My Lady, is that they're usually on their better behavior-they don't actually have a best behavior, you understand-when you're here."
Honor nodded in response to both the interrupted comment, and the one Gena had actually made. Her eyes met the younger woman's-at forty-eight T-years, Gena Smith was well into middle age for a pre-prolong Grayson woman, but that still made her over twelve T-years younger than Honor-for just a moment, and then the two of them returned their attention to the pajama-clad children.
Despite Gena's and Honor's comments, the three assistant nannies had sorted out their charges with the efficiency of long practice. Faith and James were out from under the eye of their own regular nanny, but they were remarkably obedient to the Palace's substitutes. No doubt because they were only too well aware that their armsmen would be reporting back to "Aunt Miranda," Honor thought dryly. Teeth had already been brushed, faces had already been washed, and all seven of them had been tucked into their beds while she and Gena were talking. Somehow they made it all seem much easier than Honor's own childhood memories of the handful she'd been.
"All right," she said to the room at large. "Who votes for what?"
"The Phoenix!" six-year-old Faith said immediately. "The Phoenix!"
"Yeah! I mean, yes, please!" seven-year-old Alexandra Mayhew seconded.
"But you've already heard that one," Honor pointed out. "Some of you," she glanced at her namesake, "more often than others."
The twelve-year-old Honor smiled. She really was an extraordinarily beautiful child, and for that matter, it probably wasn't fair to be thinking of her as a "child" these days, really, Honor reminded herself.
"I don't mind, Aunt Honor," she said. "You know you got me stuck on it early. Besides, Lawrence and Arabella haven't heard it yet."
She nodded at her two youngest siblings. At four and three, respectively, their graduation to the "big kids" section of the nursery was still relatively recent.
"I'd like to hear it again, too, Aunt Honor. Please," Bernard Raoul said quietly. He was a serious little boy, not surprisingly, perhaps, since he was also Heir Apparent to the Protectorship of the entire planet of Grayson, but his smile, when it appeared, could have lit up an auditorium. Now she saw just a flash of it as she looked down at him.
"Well, the vote seems fairly solid," she said after a moment. "Mistress Smith?"
"I suppose they've behaved themselves fairly well, all things considered. This time, at least," Gena said as she bestowed an ominous glower upon her charges, most of whom giggled.
"In that case," Honor said, and crossed to the old-fashioned bookcase between the two window seats on the nursery's eastern wall. Nimitz shifted his weight for balance on her shoulder as she leaned forward slightly, running a fingertip across the spines of the archaic books to the one she wanted, and took it from the shelf. That book was at least twice her own age, a gift from her to the Mayhew children, as the copy of it on her own shelf at home had been a gift from her Uncle Jacques when she was a child. Of course, the story itself was far older even than that. She had two electronic copies of it as well-including one with the original Raysor illustrations-but there was something especially right about having it in printed form, and somehow it just kept turning up periodically in the small, specialty press houses that catered to people like her uncle and his SCA friends.
She crossed to the reclining armchair, as old-fashioned and anachronistic as the printed book in her hands itself, and Nimitz leapt lightly from her shoulder to the top of the padded chair back. He sank his claws into the upholstery, arranging himself comfortably, as Honor settled into the chair which had sat in the Mayhew nursery-reupholstered and even rebuilt at need-for almost seven hundred T-years.
The attentive eyes of the children watched her while she adjusted the chair to exactly the right angle, and she and the 'cat savored the bright, clean emotions washing out from them. No wonder treecats had always loved children, she thought. There was something so ... marvelously whole about them. When they welcomed, they welcomed with all their hearts, and they loved as they trusted, without stint or limit. That was always a gift to be treasured.
She looked up as the veritable horde of armsmen withdrew. Colonel LaFollet, as the senior armsman present, watched with a faint twinkle of his own as the heavily armed, lethally trained bodyguards more or less tiptoed out of the nursery. He watched the nannies follow them, then held the door courteously for Gena and bowed her through it before he came briefly to attention, nodded to Honor, and stepped through it himself. She knew he would be standing outside it when she left, however long she stayed. It was his job, even here, at the very heart of Protector's Palace, where it seemed unlikely any desperate assassins lurked.
The door closed behind him, and she looked around at her audience in the big, suddenly much calmer and quieter room.
"Lawrence, Arabella," she said to the youngest Mayhews, "you haven't heard this book before, but I think you're old enough to enjoy it. It's a very special book. It was written long, long ago, before anyone had ever left Old Earth itself."
Lawrence's eyes widened just a bit. He was a precocious child, and he loved tales about the history of humankind's ancient homeworld.
"It's called David and the Phoenix," she went on, "and it's always been one of my very favorite stories. And my mother loved it when she was a little girl, too. You'll have to listen carefully. It's in Standard English, but some of the words have changed since it was written. If you hear one you don't understand, stop and ask me what it means. All right?"
Both toddlers nodded solemnly, and she nodded back. Then she opened the cover.
The smell of ancient ink and paper, so utterly out of place in the modern world, rose from the pages like some secret incense. She inhaled, drawing it deeply into her nostrils, remembering and treasuring memories of rainy Sphinx afternoons, cold Sphinx evenings, and the sense of utter security and peacefulness that was the monopoly of childhood.
"David and the Phoenix, by Edward Ormondroyd," she read. "Chapter One, In Which David Goes Mountain Climbing and a Mysterious Voice Is Overheard."
She glanced up, and her chocolate-dark, almond-shaped eyes smiled as the children settled more comfortably into their beds, watching her raptly.
"All the way there David had saved this moment for himself," she began, "struggling not to peek until the proper time came. When the car finally stopped, the rest of them got out stiffly and went into the new house. But David walked slowly into the back yard with his eyes fixed on the ground. For a whole minute he stood there, not daring to look up. Then he took a deep breath, clenched his hands tightly, and lifted his head.
"There it was!-as Dad had described it, but infinitely more grand. It swept upward from the valley floor, beautifully shaped and soaring, so tall that its misty blue peak could surely talk face-to-face with the stars. To David, who had never seen a mountain before, the sight was almost too much to bear. He felt so tight and shivery inside that he didn't know whether he wanted to laugh, or cry, or both. And the really wonderful thing about the Mountain was the way it looked at him. He was certain that it was smiling at him, like an old friend who had been waiting for years to see him again. And when he closed his eyes, he seemed to hear a voice which whispered, 'Come along, then, and climb.'"
She glanced up again, feeling the children folding themselves more closely about her as the ancient words rolled over them. She felt Nimitz, as well, sharing her own memories of her mother's voice reading the same story to her and memories of other mountains, even grander than the ancient David's, and rambles through them-memories he'd been there for-and savoring the new ones.
"It would be so easy to go!" she continued. "The back yard was hedged in (with part of the hedge growing right across the toes of the Mountain), but ..."
* * *
"I imagine it's too much to hope they were all asleep?"
"You imagine correctly," Honor said dryly, stepping through the massive, inlaid doors of polished oak into the palatial chamber which the Palace guides modestly referred to as "the Library." "Not that you really expected them to be, now did you?"
"Of course not, but we neo-barbarian planetary despots get used to demanding the impossible. And when we don't get it, we behead the unfortunate soul who disappointed us."
Benjamin IX, Planetary Protector of Grayson, grinned at her, standing with his back to the log fire crackling on the hearth behind him, and she shook her head.
"I knew that eventually all this absolute power would go to your head," she told him in a display of lesse majeste which would have horrified a third of the planet's steadholders and infuriated another third.
"Oh, between us, Elaine and I keep him trimmed down to size, Honor," Katherine Mayhew, Benjamin's senior wife said.
"Well, us and the kids," Elaine Mayhew, Benjamin's junior wife corrected. "I understand," she continued with a cheerful smile, "that young children help keep parents younger."
"That which does not kill us makes us younger?" Benjamin misquoted.
"Something like that," Elaine replied. At thirty-seven T-years, she was almost twelve years younger than her husband and almost six years younger than her senior wife. Of course, she was almost a quarter T-century younger than Honor ... who was one of the youngest looking people in the room. Only the third and most junior of her personal armsmen, Spencer Hawke, and the towering young lieutenant commander in Grayson Navy uniform, looked younger than she did. Prolong did that for a person.
Her mouth tightened as the thought reminded her why they were all here, and Nimitz pressed his cheek against the side of her face with a soft, comforting croon. Benjamin's eyes narrowed, and she tasted his spike of recognition. Well, he'd always been an extraordinarily sharp fellow, and spending eight T-years as the father of a daughter who'd been adopted by a treecat had undoubtedly sensitized him.
She gave him another smile, then crossed to the young man in the naval uniform. He was a veritable giant for a Grayson-indeed, he was actually taller than Honor was-and although she was in civilian attire, he came to attention and bowed respectfully. She ignored the bow and enfolded him in a firm embrace. He stiffened for an instant-in surprise, not resistance-and then hugged her back, a bit awkwardly.
"Is there any new word, Carson?" she asked quietly, stepping back a half-pace and letting her hands slide down to rest on his forearms.
"No, My Lady," he said sadly. "Your Lady Mother is at the hospital right now." He smiled faintly. "I told her it wasn't necessary. It's not as if this falls into her area of specialization, and we all know there's really nothing to be done now except to wait. But she insisted."
"Howard's her friend, too," Honor said. She glanced at Andrew LaFollet. "Is Daddy with her, Andrew?"
"Yes, My Lady. Since Faith and James are safely tucked away here in the nursery, I sent Jeremiah to keep an eye on them." Honor cocked her head, and he shrugged slightly. "He wanted to go, My Lady."
"I see." She looked back at Carson Clinkscales and gave his forearms another little squeeze, then released them. "She knows there's nothing she can really do, Carson," she said. "But she'd never forgive herself if she weren't there for your aunts. By rights, I ought to be there, too."
"Honor," Benjamin said gently, "Howard is ninety-two years old, and he's touched a lot of lives in that much time-including mine. If everyone who 'ought to be there' really were there, there'd be no room for the patients. And he's been in the coma for almost three days now. If you were there, and if he knew you were there, he'd read you the riot act for neglecting everything else you ought to be doing."
"I know," she sighed. "I know. It's just-"
She stopped and shook her head with a slight grimace, and he nodded understandingly. But he didn't really understand, not completely, she thought. Despite the changes which had come to Grayson, his own thought processes and attitudes had been evolved in a pre-prolong society. To him, Howard Clinkscales was old; for Honor, Howard should have been less than middle-aged. Her own mother, who looked considerably younger than Katherine Mayhew, or even Elaine, and who'd carried Faith and James to term naturally, was twelve T-years years older than Howard. And if he was the first of her Grayson friends she was losing to old age so preposterously young, he wouldn't be the last. Gregory Paxton's health was failing steadily, as well. And even Benjamin and his wives showed the signs of premature aging she'd come to dread.
Her mind flashed back to the nursery and the book she'd been reading, with its tale of the immortal, ever-renewed Phoenix, and the memory was more bittersweet than usual as she saw the silver lightly threading the Protector's still-thick, dark hair.
"Your offspring and my beloved siblings did quite well, actually," she said, deliberately seeking a change of subject. "I'm always a bit surprised by how they settle down for reading. Especially with all the other more interactive avenues of amusement they have."
Excerpted from At All Costs by David Weber Copyright ©2005 by David Weber. Excerpted by permission.
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